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The Mark 3 is my first foray into the full frame world of photography. I started enjoying photography at university and soon jumped into the world of DSLR's to take better control of what I see and how to transfer that into my photos.
My purchase of a Canon 5D Mark 3 came as an upgrade from the crop sensor Canon 500d and as a result this review is aimed at those you are considering a similar upgrade.
Why did I chose the Mark 3? Full Frame. This DSLR is a big step up from my previous camera. Understanding how a larger sensor can allow a greater control of depth of field means you can get more creative with your portrait shots.
High ISO capability. This should also be a massive draw if you find yourself shooting in low light conditions. I do a lot of shooting of indoor sports where using a flash is prohibited. Having a sensor able to go to high ISO's with no noise is fantastic. I have since been able to use faster shutter speeds to capture the action successfully.
Super-duper auto focussing system. This is pretty much what you can expect from the flagship 1D series of professional cameras. There are 61 points to choose from, but fear not, the system has inbuilt, predefined groupings to make the most of the fast autofocus depending on what you are shooting and how the objects are moving. This was a steep learning curve for me from my previous nine point AF system, but eventually you will come to love the cleverness and for me shooting sports it is invaluable for generating more keepers.
Video Recording. Wow. the Mark 3 has an amazing video recording function. From my 500d, I was always able to record at 720p at usable frame rates, 1080p was at 20 fps for that body, which is not sufficient for smooth playback. So being able to record full HD video at up to 30 fps is a fantastic feature (720p video can be recorded at up to 60fps). Previously, I had seen what a 5D Mark 2 could achieve from a documentary my friend made with it, specifically using the cameras shallow depth of field ability to immerse the viewer like they are there. The Mark 2 was also used in mainstream Hollywood, including tv show House and movie Act of Valor. So surely the Mark 3 is iterative improvement? I'm sure eventually the Mark 3 will be used more often in these commercial films.
I'm no Spielberg but it is refreshing to have such great control over video production, you can turn even dull homemade clips into works of cinema art. I should stress that there is a 29 minute and 59 second limit to each video recording, so if you need to film longer videos, it will have to be split up. With two types of video compression available, ALL-I and IPB. These will produce massively different file sizes, but I would always chose the better quality that the ALL-I offers. But remember to by large enough memory cards (the 5d Mark 3 is compatible with Compact Flash and SD cards with its dual slots).
Lastly I want to talk about the handling of the camera. This is a large DSLR, much more so than the crop frame bodies. It was intimidating at first, because the large size also comes with a much larger weight gain. But handling this regularly, you soon learn that ergonomically this just makes sense, the hand fits perfectly around the grip with fingers resting just so on the function buttons. You then appreciate the increase in weight is due to the increase in build quality with a metal subframe and vastly superior innards. The weight is also important to counter balance the camera when you start using superior lenses, especially the L series glass.
So what do I think. If you are in the market to upgrade to Canon full frame, the Mark 3 is a fantastic choice. You may find a steep learning curve but as with anything, with regular use, you will become familiar with it and understand why even the professionals use this camera.
The 5d3 is a serious upgrade over the 5d2.
It improves the 5d2 in nearly every department.
The main improvements are to the cameras reliability- if you need a camera that just works, every time, then previously that meant a 1 series camera, now it can be extended to the 5d3 as well. The new AF system is inherited from the 1dx, it's built more ruggedly with better weather sealing, and the whole camera is build to perform, where as the 5d2 was built to a price.
Compared to a 1 series camera it's not going to be quite as hard wearing, and a 6fps burst still isn't as good as an aging 1dmk3- so if sports and high FPS are you bag the 1d3 with a ridiculous buffer is the perfect camera. But 6fps is still a considerable improvement over the 5d2, and with the af tweak you can shoot sports with the 5d3.
Ok onto the good things about this camera- the AF system is completely customisable, I like to set mine to be as simple as possible- 15 points linked to the joystick, with no fancy tracking- but if I shot more moving things i'd play around with the settings more.
I am a professional photographer so I need my cameras to perform, I don't shoot sports but I do shoot unpredictable events such as fashion shows, corporate speeches and theatre- I need quick reliable AF, and I need to be able to shoot in any condition- the 5d2 didn't let me do that so I was left shooting it in the studio and taking a 1 series out on assignment, with the 5d3 I can do anywhere and do anything- and it's a hell of a lot lighter than a 1 series.
Canon have produced a great camera in the 5d3, it's not really an image quality boost over the 5d2- even the high iso isn't really that much better, 1/3 of a stop maybe? But in terms of reliability it's as if they've taken a 1ds3 and a 5d2 and smashed them together. If you're not such a demanding user you can save a lot of money by choosing the 5d2 and putting the rest into good glass.