Trent Chau | Photographer and Instructor

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Canon 5D Mark III – Putting it through the fire

Crappy stuff happening in my life prevented me from finishing this, I will leave it up as is.

Want to see a lot of sample images from the camera(Some with notes)? – Click here for my flickr link, and please leave comments.

The Canon 5D mark III just came out, and it’s time to finally update this website with another review.  Before we began, I want to give a big shot out and thank you to for helping supply the camera for review and also supporting my photography.  If this review, or any past reviews in anyway, shape or form has helped you out, please consider the first place to rent your photography equipment from.

As with my Canon T2i review back years ago, this review is a LIVE active review.  Which means starting from today (03.21.2012) til about next week I will be putting this camera through some test, shoots, and updating as much as I can the night of.  You will see coverage from ergonomics, performance, aesthetics, and more as I shoot weddings, corporate events, portrait sessions, and potentially on a boat next week.  Why a live review?  The web will be full of great reviews (Dpreview,, and more) of the 5d Mark III, I wanted to show the camera used in the field by an active photographer.  So less studio setups and shooting the same scene, and more real world usage.  Considered this a review that compliments the other fine reviews you see written on the web.

With that I just got the camera a little ago so as a place holder here’s a picture of it 🙂  Expect something up asap.

Intial Impressions – Ergonomics, feel, and comparison to the 5D Mark II

As a long time user of the 5D mark II, and before that the classic 5d it’s extremely important to me that the transition to the newer camera doesn’t throw a curve ball.  The first thing I noticed was that the 5D Mark III grip and ergonomics feel the same as the 5D mark II.  The plastic composite material used on the camera feels a lot more textured than the Mark II which for some reason rubs me the wrong way. The Mark III uses the same button lock mode dial on top of the camera, along with having the power switch on top like the 7D and 60D.  Looks like this will be the standard from now on.

So here’s the important part to me, what changes are cool and what sucks:  If it’s green, it’s great, if it’s red, it sucks.  Yellow and it means interesting change.

Switch dial for movie or photos – Yay to Canon for bring this switch in from the 7D.  I love the movie functionality on the Mark II, but so many times have I accidently pressed but the liveview button and than hitting the set button to start recording.  I once had a 12 minute recording on the happenings inside my camera bag because of this….and trust me there wasn’t much happening.  So big thumbs up for having this option.

What?  You moved the image zoom option – Okay this is REALLY annoying.  Before hand on EVERY canon camera you can press the upper right buttons on the back of the camera to zoom into your image.  Now Canon has gone all NIKON on us and made it so you have to press a button on the left to start the zoom option, than use your mode wheel to zoom in and out.  Yeah once you get used to it it’s probably gonna be better…but it’s so different from everything from the 20d to the 60D….it’s just hard to break 8 years of habit.

That viewfinder is NICE – The new viewfinder is big, and it’s very D700 like.  The image area is just beautiful and the coverage seems to be the advertised 100%.  Even while shooting in a darkly lit area, I was able to see clearly through the viewfinder.

3.2 compared to 3 is a big difference – While it may not seem like much, the extra .2 of the lcd makes a huge difference and the new lcd is downright beautiful.  Images pop out on the back, and the comparison display mode is actually pretty useful.  Those who haven’t seen the flush on camera look that the 7D and Mark III has with the lcd will be taken aback a little, but you get used to it.

Picture Controls is 2 steps away – Not all photographers use picture controls, but as someone who shoots a lot of black and white, and also straight to jpg for some clients it’s nice having a dedicated picture control button.  Because Canon has introduced a HDR feature and a Photomerge feature to the camera, picture controls is now accessed the top left picture button, than one more step.  While this is far from a game ender, it was nice having a dedicated picture control button.

Menu is 6 buttons up – Being able to use your camera in the dark is what really makes a professional work quick, so having a button moved from where we have been used to it for 7 years is kinda annoying.  The menu button has been moved up.  It’s only half and inch away, but it’s a little annoying.

High Iso example, and some general photography

Touting 2 stops of iso performance difference, the Mark III has a lot of people excited.  I took a quick 12800 iso picture turning in camera noise reduction off.  Click to view the image below.  Also there are some samples of general photography.  This section will be further updated with more samples.


Becky at the Landmark Diner, available light. Iso 12800 – Click on the image to see the original image FULL size. No noise reduction done on photo, straight out of camera.  Canon 35 1.4L @ 1.4, 1/2500, iso 12800

Becky in black and white – Canon 24-70 @ 5.0, iso 50
Straight from the Camera using picture style black and white with high sharpness. Click on image to see full size file.

Elizabeth – Simple headshot – post in Photoshop CS 5.5
Click image for larger file

Solitude and a mixture of warm and cold – Monochrome picture style straight from camera. Click on image for larger version.

Comparing to a 5D Mark II

There are some physical differences between the 5d Mark III and II that you quickly get used too, but something else I really wanted to see was if there was a “Look” difference between the two.  The best way to do that was to shoot the exact same photo using both cameras, with the same lens, the same settings, and on auto white balance.  Here are the results.

Image comparison between the Mark III and Mark II. Click on the image for full size file. Warning the file is huge.

The image above was shot within a minute of each other with both the Mark III and Mark II.  The same lens, settings, white balance (auto), and as much as can be replicated between the two was dialed in. With that I see better dynamic range and color’s in the 5D Mark III.  The focus on the Mark III seems better, but I attribute this to maybe a misfocus with the Mark II.  Shooting wide open can lead to such things fairly regularly.  From most of my example photos this analysis was consistent across the board.

So what does this mean?  Well honestly I don’t think the 5d Mark III is worlds better in image quality than the 5d Mark II….the reason being is the 5d Mark II was and still is AMAZING when it comes to the files it produces.  People just love the look of the files and Canon has created a camera that not only gives you the same quality, but possibly even better.  They also gave you a camera that performs that much better so you can consistently get those amazing files.  This is what makes the camera worth the price difference to me.

The HDR Feature

The HDR feature on the camera is pretty cool.  I”m not a HDR fan, but HDR is something that’s been popular since digital went main stream.  Here’s a few samples of handheld photos using the HDR option.  Concerning ease of use, the HDR is SUPER easy.  And it’s can be really reasonable it in the image quality it provides.

HDR Mode on 5D Mark III – With futher post in photoshop 5.5 to finalize file (click on image for larger size)

HDR option on camera – Vivid – Straight from Camera – click image for larger size

Using the 5D Mark III for a corporate event and weddings

I’m going to simply say this.  The 5D Mark III WILL REVOLUTIONIZE the way Canon Event, Wedding, High Volume photographers will shoot and process.  The hyper fast and accurate autofocus, the massively impressive iso performance, the manageable file size, accurate metering, and all these small little things just make the 5D Mark III blow it’s older sibling the 5D mark II out of water.  The 5D mark III easily performed on par or better than the 1D Mark III I used to own back in the day, and without a doubt I was floored by the super clean iso 2000-3200 files from the camera.  Just the mere fact that you can now shoot iso 2000 files that look like iso 800 files and save battery life on your flash is wonderful to me.  I shot day one of the Hinman Dentist convention in Atlanta, took over 800 photos with my 580 ex II and it was still refreshing like it had new batteries in it.  This wasn’t the case with the 5D mark II.  Depending on the next few days of shooting, if this stays consistent I’m selling my 2 5D Mark II’s and not looking back.

ISO 2000 straight of camera, completely usable. Canon event photographers, our world just changed. Click on image for bigger image.

So how did I come to this conclusion?  Well as mentioned today was spent shooting a corporate event.  As much as it’s wonderful shooting beautiful models, that’s not the bread and butter in my photography life.  Events, Weddings, and all that pay the bills.  Because of that having a camera that makes my job easy, yet keeps my quality high is important to me.  The 5D mark II has been an absolute winner the last 3 years.  Other than some sporadic af issues in extreme situations like perfect darkness, and low contrast situations, I’ve been pretty successful using a CENTER POINT only system the last 3 years.  With the 5D Mark III I carried that mentality for today, and I will say wouldn’t miss a shot at all.  It locked focus ultra fast, and at 100% zoom post shot was spot on focus wise.  This thing is INCREDIBLE.

Something that really stands out to me with the 5D Mark III is how amazing the High Iso performance was.  Before hand I was happily shooting iso 800~1000to mix ambient light along with flash.  Now I get better results at iso 1600-2000 on the 5D Mark III and the flash lasted 8 hours of shooting before it even had issues.  That’s muy beuno in my book.

That weekend I also shot a wedding with the Canon 5D Mark III.  It was absolutely perfect and nailed almost every shot.  Unfortunately the couple is extremely private (my luck for this shoot) and our contract limits me from placing photos taken during the event up, but I can tell you that from iso 100 to 6400 the camera ROCKED.

So I’m currently writing this, and it’s taking a little bit.  Here are sample images shot the last week of using the camera.

Sample images –

HDR Shot of the 1010 Midtown in Atlanta

Jeanette – Library Room

HDR Mode

Canon 5D Mark III – Iso 3200

Julia walks on water – Canon 5D Mark III, Iso 50, 85 1.2L II @ 1.2
Click for larger

About trentchau

Photographer, videographer, and photography instructor in Atlanta. Born in New Orleans. I love food more than photography, but do love photography quite a bit.

3 comments on “Canon 5D Mark III – Putting it through the fire

  1. Peter
    March 28, 2012

    Thank you for great review, looking forward to more. When looking at the same shots from MKII and MKIII I noticed almost lack of CA in the woman’s hair in the MKIII whereas it was quite visible in MKII picture. As I also use 85L wide open, is this just a different time of shot, or additional benefit of new camera? Also, have you tried MF with it? I am using EG-S screen with MKII and my worry is manual focusing with fast primes. Thank you again for sharing.

    • trentchau
      March 28, 2012

      The shots were immediately one after another. Concerning MF, haven’t really tried anything. Wish I had more time with the cam.

  2. webster parinas
    April 16, 2012

    hey man, just wondering if you expirienced the light leak when you use your 5D mk3? thanks

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2012 by in Uncategorized.

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