2 March 2012

Canon 5D MkIII - is it all we expected?

So, did we get what we wanted?  Not really.

Resolution:  The 5DIII has 22.3Mp, not the 36Mp that I predicted.  For practical purposes, that's not any real increase compared to the MkII, which has 21.1Mp.   No 41Mp sensor either, then.  This makes sense if Canon are targeting the movie producer.  You don't need 30Mp to record 1080 HD movies.  As a matter of fact, I'm surprised that Canon didn't use the same sensor as the D1-X, which is 18Mp with 6.95 micron photo sites.  We did get the variable resolution options though, 3840 x 2560, 2880 x 1920, 1920 x 1280, and 720 x 480.  Sensitivity is from iso 100 to 25,600, which is on a par with most cameras in this class today.  It's how the noise levels are handled that counts, and I'm pretty sure that we will be impressed with this aspect of the MkIII.

Auto-Focus:  As I predicted, the new camera has a similar AF system to the D1-X and the 7D before it, with even more cross-type focus points than I predicted - of the 61 focus points, 41 are of the cross type, with 5 dual type points.  The customisable AF configuration presets as in the D1-X are also available.  I just hope that the AF point markers on the focussing screen in the viewfinder are nice and discreet and not the big ugly black boxes of the 7D.

Processor:  One DIGIC 5+ processor.  I admit to being somewhat ignorant of the finer specifications of the new Canon DIGIC 5+ processor, but I am nevertheless surprised that the 5DIII has only one processor, and not the dual processor set-up of the 7D.  Is the DIGIC 5+ unit as capable as dual DIGIC 4's?  Doubtless, someone will tell us.

The maximum frame rate is in the region of 6fps - no big deal by today's standards, and so far I have not seen any reference to the buffer size. apart from the stated burst depth of 18 RAW images or virtually continuous JPG recording.  The rear LCD, while being larger than the MkII at 3.2 inches and 1,040,000 dots, is fixed, not articulated,  Is this because Canon didn't want to compromise the "ruggedness" factor, or because there are a number of after market video viewfinder attachments being produced by 3rd party manufacturers that would not be compatible with an articulated LCD screen?  Somehow, I think it's the former.

For file storage there is a UDMA-7 compatible CF card slot as well as a SD/SDHC/SDHX card slot.  No built-in Wi-Fi support though, which is a great pity.  One of the reasons that I have gravitated to using my Nikon D7000 for location shoots in preference to the Canon is because the client can view the captured images in real time on an iPad without compromising reliability or image quality, and I don't have to cart a laptop around with me.

For the movie buff, there are two video compression options supported - interframe ALL-I and IPB.  The addition of SMPTE timecode support is the thing that really impresses me.  It also means that Canon are listening to their customers!

According to the specs, the weight of the MkIII is the same as the MkII at 950 grams with battery, and the battery is the same model as the MkII and the 7D, the LP-E6.   

For those who feel the need to camouflage their lack of photographic ability by applying effects filters to their shots so that they can impress their friends as they shoot, the 5D MkIII has a new "Creative Photo" button.  This enables direct access to the quick HDR function, as well as the picture control feature for applying various picture styles to RAW files post-capture, as well as offering a side-by-side image comparison mode.  I don't know of a single pro or enthusiast photographer who would buy such an advanced camera and edit his pictures in-camera!  I certainly would never risk it.  News photographers are a different story, but they certainly don't apply effects filters to their images before transmitting them to their editors.

Following Nikon's and Pentax's lead, The camera firmware also applies corrections for lens axial and lateral chromatic aberrations, vignetting and distortions directly to the JPG images,   And according to Canon, "the new full-frame sensor combines with the vast processing power of DIGIC 5+ to improve image quality by virtually eradicating the presence of moirĂ©, false colour and other artefacts."

What about the anti-aliasing filter?  Canon's answer to Nikon's D800E is the miraculous ability of their post-capture RAW editing software, Digital Photo Professional 3.11, (supplied free with the camera) to apparently create image detail previously removed by the anti-aliasing filter!  I quote -

 "New in DPP v3.11 is Digital Lens Optimizer – a revolutionary new tool designed to drastically improve image resolution.  Digital Lens Optimizer (DLO) precisely imitates lens performance, with a series of complex mathematical functions replicating each stage of the journey of light through the optical path. Using this information DLO can correct a range of typical optical aberrations and loss of resolution caused by a camera's low pass filter, by applying an inverse function to each shot to take the image nearer to how the scene appears to the naked eye. This creates exceptionally detailed, high-quality images with highly manageable file sizes, providing photographers with maximum image quality and greater flexibility."  

Is there a tie-up with the makers of the Lytro Light Field camera here?  Or have Canon re-invented the laws of physics?  Whatever, in my opinion this is Canon's attempt to persuade potential buyers away from the Nikon D800E, which I find somewhat embarrassing.  Ho Hum.....

The list price is a little higher than the 5D MkII was when it was released, if inflation is taken into account - $3,500.  That's not bad compared to the $6,800 for the 1D-X.

I think that the 5D MkIII will take up the baton from it's predecessor and carry the flame to higher ground.  But I don't think it's as good as it could have been.