Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review: First Impressions

Jessica Claire Takes Her New Baby on Its First Shoot

Pro photographer Jessica Claire eagerly unboxes her new Canon EOS-5D Mark III, brings it with her to a photo shoot, and shares her first impressions and some really cool images.

I eagerly tore into the UPS box to get my hands on the pristine Canon EOS 5D Mark III inside. I carefully lifted it out, dusting off a few styrofoam pieces so as not to mar the pristine packaging. I peeled the tape back carefully and opened the lid slowly...and there it was. Wrapped in a thin layer of gauzy wrap, my new adopted family member, just waiting for me to play with it!  I couldn't have been happier with Adorama for sending it overnight at my request, as waiting one more day would have just been impossible.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review

The first thing I did was to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III owner's manual cover to cover while maneuvering my hands around the both familiar yet unfamiliar dials before taking it on its first shot the same day. You see, I never upgraded from the original Canon 5D to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but rather leapfrogged right to the Canon 5D Mark III as soon as it became available, this week. So this is a first impression, not very techy, based on my own personal thoughts and experiences with the Canon EOS-5D Mark III as I put it through its paces in a real-world assignment.

I was looking for three main things in order to upgrade my camera:

1. The camera needed to be able to focus quickly and reliably;
2. The camera needed to be full frame;
3. The camera needed to have excellent high ISO performance.

In my opinion, none of these things should be that hard to build into one camera, and none are negotiable for wedding photography in order for me to do the best job possible. But unfortunately, this camera did not exist within the Canon line. Until now.


Video Comparison: Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs. Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Editor's note: Jessica's review doesn't discuss the Canon EOS-5D Mark III's video capabilities, but AdoramaPro's Nathan Lee Bush has put together this video comparing it with its predecessor, the Canon EOS-5D Mark II:




The Canon EOS 5D Mark III focuses on a fashion show

This Wednesday I had the pleasure of shooting an event held for The Women of Chapmen, coordinated flawlessly by Carolyn Chen of The Special Day.  The event was to be a fashion show where Youngsong Martin owner of Wildflower Linens (who did the linens for the “Twilight” wedding!!!) would be taking her linens and wrapping them into gorgeous dresses on models! Confused?  I'll explain further below. Mille Fiori did the gorgeous florals, and Good Gracious did the catering.

I arrived to the location, a large warehouse-type space, with floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall that provided the room with lots of natural light. I shot at higher ISO's than I really needed to in order to see how the files would look. But that wasn't my primary concern.

The most difficult issue I've had to overcome with the original Canon 5D is the autofocusing system. I'll just say it—the darn thing is really hard to focus. Even when it locks on, it's still not trustworthy. Close up, it's about 50/50. My initial reaction while shooting details and setup of the room is that Canon EOS 5D Mark III's focusing system in good light is excellent. For the first time in my photography career, I've am now able to reliably use focus points other than the center one. For years, I've been focusing and recomposing, which is part of the reason I've ended up with so many shots that are unusable because they weren't tack sharp. I didn't have that issue Wednesday with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III at all.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

I went backstage to photograph the models getting ready to see how it performed with moving subjects. This is the type of shot I've had a lot of trouble with in the past because it requires using a focus point other than the center to even have a shot at being crisp. It was nails on the first try (and all the subsequent ones as well) using the outermost focus point. 2000 ISO, Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens shot at f/3.2, Shutter 1/1250 second.

Wide shots used to be extremely hit or miss for me because of the aforementioned focusing issues with the original 5D. Among the images I shot Wednesday, every image was useable. That says a lot.

Color quality

The second thing I was looking for in the Canon 5D Mark III was the SOOC (straight out of camera to those not into abbreviations) color. The color on the original Canon 5D, in my opinion was the best SOOC on the market. That is, until I saw the files from the Canon 5D Mark III yesterday. The SOOC color is soft and lovely, clean and crisp. I have long thought that the combination of the Canon 50mm f/1.2 and the 5D original produced the best SOOC color available digitally. On Wednesday I shot with the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L, the Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II lens, and the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. All of the photos from all of the lenses looked consistent and beautiful.


The images I'm posting here today had very minimal post-production—auto white balance on a few of them, exposure on a few of them, and that's it. Otherwise, these files are exactly as I shot them.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III review Jessica Claire

200 ISO, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L Lens shot at f/1.4, Shutter 1/400 second.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review Jessica Claire

200 ISO, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L Lens shot at f/1.4, Shutter 1/250 second.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

Left Photo:  3200 ISO, Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens shot at f/3.2, Shutter 1/1000  Right Photo:  3200 ISO, Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens shot at f/3.2, Shutter 1/800 second. Both images are straight out of the camera, no post-processing.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

The camera did do a bit of hunting when I shot this mostly backlit photo. Still, it is a huge improvement from the Canon 5D, and extra points for the fact that even when it does hunt for focus, when it locks, it's reliable. 2000 ISO, Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens shot at f/2.8, Shutter 1/1250 second.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

These were shot at fairly close range, a situation where I probably wouldn't have even snagged a shot, let alone ones in focus with the original 5d. Plus, isn't that cute hair?? 3200 ISO, Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens shot at f/2.8, Shutter 1/2000 second.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review Jessica Claire

Here's the thing with the Canon 5D Mark III:  I don't think anyone needs it. I don't think a camera makes the difference between being a good photographer and a bad one. I could have captured this shot with any camera. (Exposure: 500 ISO, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L Lens shot at f/1.4, Shutter 1/160 second) However...


Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

Locke has loved to cuddle with a stuffed elephant while sleeping since he was about three months old. I've always wanted to photograph him sleeping like that, but I would never have dared to wake him by turning on the lights and then clicking a shutter. The Canon 5D Mark III has a silent function that makes the shutter noise almost imperceivable. It has the ability to shoot at extremely high ISO's (the image below was shot at 16000 ISO at f/1.4. Because I had this particular camera, I was able to capture an image that I'll treasure for the rest of my life!

Because I had this camera, I have this memory. And that's what makes it worth it for me to have—the ability to capture a memory for someone else even though the situation may be difficult, whether it be at a wedding, a baby shoot, or something else.

Thank you Canon, for giving me the camera I will be able to use to capture life as I want to remember it.

Conclusion and recommendation

In summary:

Focus:  Not perfect but vastly improved from the 5D
High ISO Performance:  Excellent up to 3200, Good up to 12500, Usable in a pinch up to 16000.
Color:  Quite delicious when correctly exposed
Button Placement:  Takes some getting used to—I don't like that the SET button can't be used to change the picture styles without hitting an extra button. The zoom button has also moved from the 5D which made that take longer. It seems like too many steps to reformat a card or view the timestamp.

Overall Rating:  Go buy one!

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