My thoughts on the new Canon 5D mark III

Three years ago my wife who is a professional photographer wanted to upgrade her camera and purchased the newly released Canon 5dmk2.

I was a TV cameraman shooting mainly with 2/3″ broadcast cameras such as the Sony DVW970. I’d heard the 5D2 could shoot video but dismissed it as a gimmick for paparazzi photographers looking capture another drunken celeb falling out of a nightclub.

It was however only a matter of weeks before I would get a call to do a professional shoot on the 5D2 and change my opinions and career for ever.

Now the 5D3 has been announced – and it’s been a very long time coming for many – but how do the specs measure up to the huge expectations?

Now I’ve had time to read through the tweets and blogs I thought I’d throw in my two penneth…(and by the way these are just my initial impressions, not a review!)

 

There seem to be quite a few people who are disappointed with the 5D3′s specs, but I think maybe they were expecting too much;

So lets have a look at the new specs..

On the plus side it sounds like Canon have been listening..

Headphone socket and adjustable audio levels whilst recording: Finally we have a headphone socket and audio metering – albeit still only a minijack in – I cant imagine ever seeing XLR inputs on a DSLR  - they couldn’t even fit them on the C300 body! But, if the in-camera audio is good enough (let’s hope some in-camera tweaks have been done to improve the audio) these are probably the two features that make it most worth upgrading from the 5d2 if you are not going down the C300 route – it might also be the death knell for separate audio recorders, clapperboards and sound syncing software ,but editors can rejoice!!  I really like the sound of the touch sensitive scroll wheel to adjust levels during filming whilst minimizing handling noise.

Moiré, aliasing and rolling shutter: Those dreaded three things that have plagued DSLR’s ever since their inception are apparently much improved on the 5d3 – I’ll reserve my judgement until I actually get to shoot with the camera but 
looking at the 5D3 promo videos (linked below) some of the surfaces that are well known to produce moiré – dogtooth and mesh – seem to be free from those strobing lines. The roof tiles and brick work in the other video again look pretty good. The ‘Radball’ video has a lot of fast moving action with lots of vertical lines and there seemed to be little evidence of CMOS skew, obviously these are finished cleaned up promo videos but if true, this could be another big reason to upgrade.

 

 

 

Refined form factor: A 7D’esque movie function button – to confuse the 5D2 users :) – and mode dial lock to stop you fumbling into one of those ‘easy’ modes photographers use! (kidding!)

 

 

HDMI out that stays HD whilst recording: Great that signal is of a higher resolution for monitoring – lets hope you don’t get a break in the signal when you hit record like you do with the 5D2. BUT! NO CLEAN HDMI OUT… I know many people were hoping this – personally I couldn’t care less that there is no clean HDMI out for a separate recorder – having shot a lot recently with the Sony F3 with outboard recorder I found it unreliable at the best of times – and that was using a HDSDI – a broadcast connection! To me that feels like regressing 30 years when you lugged round a camera and a separate deck!  I want in-camera recording and that’s why I waited for the C300.  Also don’t forget that HDMI is a consumer connection that is meant to sit round at the back of your TV and not be touched. Anyone who has tried using a separate EVF or monitor with a DSLR will know how unreliable HDMI is – so seriously – why trust your precious footage with this inadequate connection??

Additional recording resolutions including 720/50 & 720/59.94: Another ‘missing’ feature I’ve heard most talked about on the 5D3 is lack of 1080p 50/60 fps – I’m sure it must have been possible with the new processor…  but it looks like maybe Canon are doing an ‘Apple’ here and saving it for later – maybe for their ‘ Cinema’ DSLR??  Yes it would have been nice, but then imagine you have just bought a C300 with only 720p at 50/60fps –  wouldn’t you be a bit pissed off at Canon for giving it to the £3k camera market??

Recording codec: Stays H.264 recording but now with a choice of Intra-frame or Inter-frame – vs description linked here 

Increased ISO range 100 – 25,600: (extendable range 50 – 102,800) Lets hope that includes less noise at higher ISO’s – I generally don’t shoot higher than 1600 on my 5D2′s  as the electronic noise is too much, but I’ve shot on the high ISO’s on the C300 and if the 5D3 ISO improvements are anything like those this is a massive plus.

SMPTE time code support: I’m assuming this will be usable for editing software and there also seems to be a suggestion that it could be used for multicam shoots but seeing as there is no way to lock the time code between cameras I’m not sure how this would work accurately.

Record limit up to 30 mins in 1 take: Apparently the 4gb files are joined seamlessly in-camera. Having shot tons of single and two camera interviews on my 5D2′s this is a really welcome feature – there’s nothing more annoying than having to stop cameras and re-sync just as an interviewee is mid-flow! This feature I’m sure will be a welcome addition to wedding/events shooters who have to keep rolling for extended periods of time.

Two card slots, 1 x CF and 1 x SD: I like the idea of this feature for several reasons – you can shoot 2 cards simultaneously for an instant back up or shoot consecutively – reducing the frequency of card changes. If you are upgrading from any other Canon DSLR you’ll have either format card, plus SD cards seem to be a lot easier to get hold of in an emergency!  Also if you are a Mac user you may already have an SD slot in your computer, which is convenient!

1,040,000-dot screen: A welcome improvement if you still use the rear screen as your viewfinder then this should improve focusing etc.  Peaking and zebra would of been nice and if Trammell Hudson can do it so could Canon – but again I guess this is being kept for their higher end video line.

Better weather sealing: I’ve shot in all sorts of conditions with my 5D2′s, never owned a rain cover and never had any problems, but this can only be a good thing.

Uses LP-E6 batteries: If you are a 5d2/7d/60d owner great news – you don’t have to go out and buy another load of batts!

 

If you intend to use the 5D3 for taking photo’s you might be interested in these specs too…

22.3 Megapixel full frame sensor: not a major resolution hike but its still more than the 1Dx!

61 point autofocus system: same as the 1DX – hopefully a big improvement as autofocus is Canons weak point compared to Nikon.

6fps continuous shooting: even cooler for shooting something like Philip Bloom did here

HDR mode: this will be a boon for time lapser’s too – HDR video would have been even better :) (as if)

 

As I said at the beginning this is not a review, just my thoughts on what I have read about the specs. I think that the camera seems right for the position it now occupies in the market bearing in mind the other cameras in Canon’s current range and what is likely to be announced in the near future.

I think the the 5d3′s was never going to be the game changer that the 5D2 was. 3 years ago Canon had no similar high end video products to protect – now they have the C300 at 4 times the price and seemingly at some point soon a ‘Cinema’ series DSLR, So why would they give us our entire tech spec wish list??

I see the 5d3 being used pretty much as the 5d2 has  - Having run a number of DSLR video workshops I’ve found that most of the people coming along are mainly in the convergent market – professional photographers wanting to shoot corporates, weddings, promos and short films. (It is interesting that Canon has chosen to give the 5d3 its first public outing at the Focus on Imaging event www.focus-on-imaging.co.uk - maybe the audience here are the 5D3′s main market?   The camera also looks even more suited to travelling photographer/filmmakers because of the better audio options and of course  it’ll always be good for those low key situations.  If you are a low budget filmmaker then you might have to raise your budget a bit as the 5d3 is double the current price of the 5d2!

Television, news and higher end corporate shooters like myself seem to be moving to the C300 (although I’ve shot a considerable amount of content for TV on my 5D2′s and there’s no reason to suppose broadcasters are going to suddenly stop taking DSLR footage)  …plus we wait with interest for the ‘C’ series DSLR!

 

If though you are  in the market for a truly convergent camera with that lovely full frame 35mm sensor look, then the 5d3 has to be on your wish list!

As soon as I get a hands on I’ll post a proper review.

The Canon 5D3 is available pre-order priced at £2999.00 UK  and US $3499.00

 

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III official preview from Hireacamera on Vimeo.

EOS 5D Mark III: Radball from Canon France on Vimeo.

 

4 Comments

  1. Mark J P says:

    Great write up. I’ll look forward to reading your hands-on thoughts.

  2. Fred says:

    Thanks Paul, a good overview. I upgraded from a 5D to the Mk2 as a stills camera and bought a 7D for the video features, but as soon as they upgraded the software to shoot 25fps, the 7D moved to be second camera. (Used for a wide in 2 camera shoots, I prefer the skin tones on the 5D2 for closeups). I’ll upgrade now to the MkIII for all the reasons you mention.

  3. Tim Spencer says:

    Nice blog PJ… Interestingly I am cutting a LOT of F1 footage shot on DSLRs (with nice lenses) – you are simply able to put APs and runners all over the place with them and get blanket coverage… (and occaisionally capture the shot you are looking for). I guess it’s possible to do that because it’s cheap.

    Had a chance to use an Arri Alexa or Red?

  4. Yes I’ve seen that SkyF1 trailer – one shot had terrible CMOS skew!! :) You’ll be glad to know I’m signed up to watch more of your handywork this season though!

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