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« Canon 5D Mark III review | Main | Best gloves for cold weather photography »
Saturday
Mar312012

First impressions of the Canon 5D Mark III

I've had my Canon 5D Mark III for ten days now, and after three large assignments, am able to share my first impressions.

But first, the back story.  Over the last few years, the Canon 5D Mark II has been my primary camera.  It's been a real workhorse, creating lovely images for my commercial clients and for gallery prints up to 30x40 inches. 

The only real issue I had with the camera, though, was the focusing system.  Not that is wasn't accurate, it's just that it did not have enough capability for the lifestyle work I do.   With only 9 AF points, I often found my subject was not being read.  That meant I would have to change to manual focus to get a sharp image.  In addition, with lifestyle there is bound to be a lot of movement.  Tracking was just not something the 5D Mark II was designed to handle well, so I often had to rent a 1D Mark IV to handle those situations.

Enter the new Canon 5D Mark III with lots of important improvements over the Mark II. 

First, the Mark III has 61 focus points compared to 9 of the Mark II.  Of those, 41 are cross point sensors which are able to read both vertical and horizontal contrast and detail for focusing.

61 point AF layout with the 41 cross-type points highlighted 

In addition, the Mark III sports high precision AF points.  By design, each AF point has two sensors. By moving these apart in the high precision AF point, there is 2-3x greater accuracy than that of a normal sensor. 

More great changes.  21 cental AF points are cross-type with lenses f5.6 and faster.  And the central 5 AF points are diagonal cross-type and high precision with lenses f2.8 or faster.

Plus, in the smaller grouping of sensors to the left and right of the central area, there are twenty high precision AF points that work with lenses f4 or faster.  I love this because I use the 70-200 f4L IS for my lifestyle work.  So I get high precision with a lens that is half the size and weight of the 70-200 f2.8L IS. The image above was shot using the high precision AF points in the left side grouping of sensors.  It's something I could not have captured with the Mark II.

Another key improvement in my mind is that the AF points now cover 53% of the viewfinder vs 41% in the Mark II.  What that means is that the AF system covers more area to the sides in a horizontal composition and top to bottom in vertical one.  My fantasy is that at some point cameras will have AF sensors throughout the whole frame, but that is not possible with current camera design.  Increasing the coverage to 53% though is a big help with the subjects I shoot and for the way I like to compose.

There's lots to talk about, and I'll be posting more about the capabilities of the camera as I do more editing from these jobs.  I'm excited to share what I've learned.

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