My Initial Thoughts on the Canon 5D Mark III

Canon officially announced the new 5D Mark III camera body today.  I haven't gotten to try one just yet, and as such this is more of my first impressions based upon the spec sheet and a handful of hands-ons that I've read this morning.  Honestly, I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed about the whole thing, especially after a 3 year wait since the last one. That said, there are a few small features that have me doing a double-take. So let's do a quick and dirty rundown of it's Cool new features and it's Whatevers, keeping in mind that I'm going to be looking at it based upon how I use my camera. I'm sure some of the features I brush off are must haves for someone else.

First the Cool

100% Viewfinder with new tricks It's about time. This is one of the few things I missed from my 1Ds3.  Hopefully it's bigger and brighter as well, though we'll see. They've also added heads-up style grid functionality and the ability to turn off all of the information if you want as well. I can imagine that being pretty cool. I almost never look at the exposure information in the viewfinder anyway.

61 Point Auto-Focus Also desperately needed.  The 9 point system in the Mark II, which it inherited from the Mark I, was sub state-of-the-art way back in 2005. It was a big disappointment to me when they didn't upgrade it last time. It hunts around too often, and can be a little sluggish when you really need it.  That said, I'm a center-point and recompose kind of shooter so 60 of the new points will be largely unused by me, but if that one in the middle is better, faster, and more accurate then I'm very excited.

New Shutter/Mirror So the new camera does 6fps. That doesn't matter to me, I never shoot in burst mode anyway, but what it does do is force them to upgrade the shutter and mirror system.  The one in the 5D and Mark II always felt really shoddy to me. They've never failed on me or anything like that despite over 100,000 frames on the old camera and 80,000 or so on the new one, but all the while it always sounded like there was an old drunk cartoon character inside my camera pulling it up and letting it slap back down into place by gravity alone. Not confidence inducing.  So if the need to shoot fast makes the mirror blackout time shorter and the whole thing feel tighter, then that's good enough for me.

They've also added some silent shooting modes, which my 1Ds3 had and were handy while taking pictures during and interview and such.  Again, not everyday sort of feature for me, but could be very important in certain situations.

Locking Mode Dial One of the little things I miss from the 1D series is the fact that it's difficult to change shooting modes. You had to hold down a button with one hand while turning a dial with another.  That this does it make it less likely that you camera isn't in the right mode when you bring it to your eye because the settings got shifted in your bag or while it was slung over your shoulder.  I can't tell you how many times I would pull up the camera, take a picture, get garbage, only to then notice that I got moved from Av to Tv for example.  Well the new camera has a locking button in the middle of the Mode dial. I guess the question is how easily the locking button can be turned off inadvertently

Now the Whatevers

22.3MP Sensor with better Low-ISO performance A very small bump in resolution over the 21.1MP in the Mark II. I'll take all the pixels I can get within reason, but the step up won't be noticeable. Perhaps if they also tweak the AA filter the files might be a little sharper out of the camera, but that's never really been a big problem for me as I do so much post-production to my final images anyway.

I guess I can't complain about lower noise, but honestly, noise is not really a problem I now have. I rarely shoot above 800 all that often, and when I do it's more for fun or a special situation. I'm sure this is huge for wedding and photo journalists, but unless it makes mind-blowingly more clean files at low-isos (to which I often add grain as it is) then it's a 'whatever'.

New Video Codecs and Improved Quality, 60fps @ 720P The 60fps thing is neat and I'm sure the new codecs will make my friend Claude happy, but I don't really shoot video, and when I have done on my Mark II the results have been delightful.  There are dedicated video buttons on there too, and a headphone jack to monitor audio, but 'whatever'.

Dual CF/SD Slots Dual card slots, kinda neat.  I guess I could get an SD card and stick it in there to record backup jpegs or something, but I like the size and speed of CF. SD feels too small to me, I end up losing them all the time. Again, handy for essentially doing RAID-1 on shoot or as a physical backup if you run out of space, but not the kind of thing I'd spend extra money to get.

ON/OFF Switch and Lock Switch I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the 7D style on/off and lock switches. I like that that switch was down by my thumb on the Mark II. I guess you could ignore the on/off switch by the mode dial, just leave it on, and use lock the same way you used to.  Just as long as the on/off switch doesn't get thrown easily while getting the camera in/out of your bag.  If that's the case, it'll negate much of the usefulness of the Mode dial lock.

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And then there is the one bad thing on the list.  The price.  $3499.

I bought my Mark II right when it came out for $2699.  Canon has basically raised the price by 30% while in my eyes not really adding all that much in revolutionary features.  In fact, it's a pretty mild update all things considered.

So let's say you've got a Mark II. They're going on eBay for about $2000 right now. Let's say that by the time the Mark III is available they're down to $1700 or so.  You've still got to pony up $1800 to get an upgrade to a better autofocus system and viewfinder? I tend to think of it as "Would I pay to upgrade my current camera, 'Pimp-My-Ride' style, with those features?" . I'm honestly not sure.  Maybe that'll change once I play with one.

That said, if you're thinking of taking the plunge and want to support the site, use the Amazon.com links below:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera (Body)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens