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Hands on: Canon EOS 5D MkIII Pre-production

This article is based on a Pre-production version of the Canon EOS 5D MkIII kindly supplied by Roger Machin of CANON South Africa.

Whenever I get a new piece of equipment in my hands I always get exited about the possibilities. It’s not unusual for me to be disappointed, in fact it is common. So far the Canon EOS 5D MkIII does everything but disappoint. The first thing I noticed was it’s weight and balance as I picked it up, it had no lens and I was surprised that it felt “right” straight away. I mounted the CANON EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens immediately and found it’s balance. Understand me, it is not a light camera, particularly paired with the battery grip and 2 batteries, however the later is  worth having for the extended battery longevity alone, not to mention the portrait  photography controls include the mini-joystick to select focus points amongst other things..


Full Frame sensor

I come from a long line of 1.6x crop sensors, in short, put a 16mm and take a few step back. With the full sensor, put a 16mm and step forward and than a little more. It will required a retraining of the brain, I used to be able to estimate distances from the lens to the subject relatively well, no more.
Than there is the depth-of-filed, it’s shorter, I heard about it before but really how can a sensor be that different? It just plainly is, at f/2.8 I feel like I am at f/1.4, I like that a lot!!!

Depth of field and low light
Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, Depth of field

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 105 mm
Exposure: 1/200sec at f/4.0
ISO: 12800
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, 20% Noise reduction

Colour rendition

I have an strange issue with colour rendition, I thought my Canon EOS 7D did very well, the Canon EOS 5D MkIII baffled me with accuracy and I noticed it immediately.

1.6 Crop vs. full sensors
Click on image to enlarge.
Camera: CANON EOS 7D
Lens: CANON EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L
Focal length: 24 mm
Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/9
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 24 mm
Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/11
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only.

Low light performance

This has been an issue with the Canon EOS 7D, past ISO 3200 it gets too noisy for my taste, doing fast moving sports such as Martial Arts in horrible lights has been a challenge even with a flash and a fast 2.8 zoom lens. Doing HDRs past ISO 1600 was just not an option. Now steps in the Canon EOS 5D MkII, a different beast all together, shoot at ISO 12800 as comfortably as ISO 1600 on the 7D. I did not believe it… Until I made an HDR with 7 brackets at ISO 12800 with very little noise, the noise is easily controlled in software from the raw images. That is opening opportunities, think about it, no tripod required, well that is not quiet true, read on!

Low light performance
Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, no edit.

Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, 25% Noise reduction edit.
This is a 1 to 1 pixel crop, click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II 
Focal length: 27 mm
Exposure: 1/5000 sec at f/11
ISO: 3200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only. Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, 25% Noise reduction


This would never affect 90% of the users but it affects me, 7 brackets? Why did I not have this on the 7D? Makes my HDR shooting just so much easier. Now will Canon update the 7D’s firmware to do that too? The only drawback is the frame speed at 6 frames a second, which I have yet to achieve, 7 frames handheld is going to be a challenge, over a second of absolute stillness. Out will come my tripod.

7 brackets HDR

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 24mm
Middle Exposure: 1/320sec at f/9.0
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, Photomatix Pro4.2 and Topaz Adjust

Focusing system

Blistering fast and pin sharp in any light situations, I suspect that the lens profiling helps too.

Dual card slots

CF and SD card slots are available, I write the RAW on the CF card and the JPG on the SD card. A word of warning though, it will slow down the burst speed of the camera dramatically. These 2 card slots are individually configurable, so they can act as one large card or be mirrored.
Unexpected but very welcomed is the full Eye-Fi compatibility, it can be switched on or off too, in camera, allow you to save battery life. This also allows me to transfer the JPEGs to my iPad, do basic retouch quickly and post them online without the need of a computer. Handy functionality that just works.

Surprises good and bad

The HDR mode, which I initially found futile, was a good surprise. It does a decent job which was rather unexpected. it gives me the opportunity to do quick and dirty HDR photography with a relatively acceptable result. I do not think I will use it much but time will tell.
The new button layout will catch me for a few months to come, the 7D’s “Q” button as now been replaced by the menu button and the Q button is a a more logical place next to the “Quick Control Dial”, some brain rewiring will be required.
To my surprise the auto focus mode is now out of the “Q” functions but is available a t a touch of the “Focus Point” button only. Will this be fixed in the final product?
Lastly, all the EOS that I ever used, make use the AE Lock and AF Point selection buttons for Zoom in and out in preview mode, that is gone, replacing it is a zoom button, I did not find that amusing.

Built in HDR a good surprise
Original Photograph. Click to see larger version.
In camera HDR Photograph. Click to see larger version.
Original Photograph

In camera HDR Photograph

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS
Focal length: 24 mm
Middle Exposure (Shown): 1/500 sec at f/4.0
ISO: 1600
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, resized and 20% noise reduction

The irritating

Originally I was going to leave this out and it may just be this pre-release model but it seems to be trigger happy, the shutter button is feather-sensitive.
Another point about the HDR mode, it is better to have the Fast Continuous Drive mode on, however in “1 shot” HDR it will disable the HDR functionality but not the continuous drive mode, I got caught out a few times with this lack of functionality.
Both these issues are memory card intensive at an average of 28MB per RAW image it stacks up fast.

All in all the CANON EOS 5D MkIII impresses and outperforms most my expectations. I will post more in the next few weeks,  expect a string of “Living with” posts.

HDR Photographers worth looking at.

We all know the controversy around HDR, I personal have heard them all. I believe that HDR has a place in the photography world. I thought that I would show you rather than explain to you why HDR photography appeals to me so much.

Here are some HDR photographers from around the world worth following, each of these people has either influenced or inspired me in some ways. These photographers are unafraid and bold in the art that HDR is but none are fringe artists that use HDR to distort our world. Most are after the reality of what we see and make our perception of this world better and I thank them for it. If you know of more please add to the comments area.

In no special order here is my list, I follow each of these photographers and always look forward to their next post.

Author name: Elia Locardi
Marina Bay Sands and The Helix Bridge - (Singapore)
Some great travel photography that will make you wish you were there with the added bonus a few words of photographic wisdom well worth reading.


Author name: Miroslav Petrasko
Website: HDR Shooter
Everything is blue
Great photography from and around Europe with a really simple to follow tutorial.


Author name: Jim Nix
Website: Nomadic Pursuits
Stroget shimmers
Exquisite travel photography from around the globe that makes you dream and inspires.


Author name: Trey Ratcliff
Website: Stuck in Customs
The Secret Workshop of Jules Verne
The travel photographer that turned me onto HDR. Photography, stories and tutorials all worth the time.


Author name: Klaus Herrmann
Website: farbspiel photography
Klaus Herrmann’s by-line is “View. Learn. Connect”. Need I say more?


All photographs show here are done so with the express authorisation from the copyright holder or/and are holding a CC licences.

Handheld Panoramic Photography

In my previous post I covered why I often do not take a tripod along with me. But there are other considerations worth the look when talking of panoramic photography. You will be told that to do a good panoramic photo you need some equipment that will help you greatly, a panoramic rotation unit and a Panoramic Head to get to the nodal point (pivot point), this is to avoid distortions and have better stitching and I agree then I look at my wallet and decide to do with what I have.

The truth is with a little practice and good photo stitching software, you can get amazing results and save on weight in you bag as well as avoiding to lighten up your wallet. As most photography techniques it all starts at the moment you press the shutter, the post-process will not be able to fix everything that you did not bother to take care of when you pressed that shutter, particularly with panoramic and HDR photography. my philosophy in photography is get the maximum right in camera.

Cape Town

Here are some tips I learned along the panoramic way:

  • Before you pick up the camera to do the panoramic, look around, pre-visualise the final panoramic photo.
  • Be careful, look up and down too, there might be something in the way.
  • Turn around, there might just be a better place to take it from.
  • Do your panoramic photograph sections in portrait
  • Do a sweep or two of the scene through the viewfinder, it will give you the beginning and the end points. Again though the viewfinder as you sweep look up and down too.
  • Try to avoid glare, flare and the sun.
  • Be careful of moving objects as they may appear more than once in your final product.
  • I usually take a shot of my left index finger or hand a the beginning of the panoramic sequence and my right one at the end, it makes it easier to identify the sequence in my asset management tool, Lightroom in this case.
  • Set your focus to about 1/3 of the scene.
  • Set your aperture as low as possible for handheld speeds relative to your lens, f/9 to f/22 and lower. for the speed, I use the length of the lens x2.5 for the speed, for example I have a 35mm I will not drop my speed bellow 90s on a non stabilised lens and I never allow to go below a 60th.
  • Get the exposure average through the scene and lock it or go manual! Most cameras have an exposure lock function, on Canon cameras it’s a star on the top right of the camera back, make use of it.
  • Most modern cameras have a “rule of thirds” grid in the viewfinder, use it to keep level.
  • Include about 30% more to the left and right of the panoramic.
  • Overlap each section by about 30%.
  • Stand steady and move on your hips, for each 4 sections or when you start stretching your back reseat yourself by moving you feet in a shuffling motion (in a small circle) whilst keeping your eye in the viewfinder and keeping the camera in the last position. This is a tip given by Scott Kelby that helped me a lot particularly in loosing less of the top and bottom part of the image when stitching and I am no longer twisting my back.
  • Consider using the widest distortion free lens in your arsenal but not fisheye lenses as fisheye type effect is an example of unwanted distortion. The panoramic post process creates it’s own distortion, you do not want to add more to it.
Danger Point Lighthouse

Breathe and take your time, don’t expect to get it right first time, practice.

The post-processing is an entire different beast but if you get most of it right in camera, Photoshop Elements or CS will do the stitching brilliantly, both these programs have free trials at You do not have Photoshop Elements or CS and you own a Canon? Try Canon Photostitch, it’s not as good as Photoshop but it’s free. You cannot argue with that price!

Fishing boats of Houtbay

Want more details in a difficult one shot photograph? Have you considered doing a panoramic? The ones above and bellow are even if it does not look like one.

Graffiti under the bridge

One last word, all the photo shown in this post are handheld panoramic but also HDR, simply because I do both. Understanding the relationship between the two means both need to be learned individually first, I will be talking more about HDR photography soon.