I’ve been thinking about writing a review about the 5D Mark 3 for a few weeks now. We’ve been using these camera bodies for a couple of months now, and have shot 6 weddings so far on them, which gives us a decent amount of experience to make a judgment on their pros and cons. Now, before I go into the detail about the Mark 3, I should point out 2 things. Firstly, we upgraded from the Mark 1 to the Mark 3, which I appreciate is a big jump. I have however used the 5D Mark 2 before, when I worked at Canon UK, so I do know a lot about that particular model. Secondly, I’m not going to give you a really ‘techie’ or detailed analysis about this camera body. I’m not interested in whether there’s a tiny bit of colour fringing when you view files at 100%, or if there’s a small chance of a tiny fluctuation in exposure readings when you point the camera at the moon. What I am interested in is how this camera performs in a professional environment. In other words, when it comes to shooting weddings and portraits, day in and day our, does it cut the mustard?
Well, in a word, yes. It cuts some bloody hot mustard actually. As a wedding photographer the 5D Mark 3 spec ticks almost all of the must have boxes. Firstly, it has a weatherproof, solid build that its very much suited to the wear and tear of everyday professional use. The ergonomics of using the camera take some getting used to, particularly when moving from the 5D Mark 1, but you do adapt to them quickly. In general, the buttons are well laid out, and the menu system works well too. I would say, however, that I do slightly prefer the ergonomics and usability of the Nikon range of DSLRs. I think that they are just a little more ‘user friendly’ and built with the pro in mind.
The Auto Focus system is stunning, particularly when compared to the Mark 1 (though also a big improvement over the Mark 2). In practice during weddings shoots, the AF is more accurate, is faster to lock, and is much better at tracking moving subjects. This translates to a higher ‘keeper’ rate. There’s nothing more frustrating than missing that dream shot because the AF just wasn’t up to the task.
The high ISO performance is excellent. We’ve recently produced a 12”x12” album for a client with a double page spread where the shot was taken at 12,800 ISO. And whilst the noise is there if you look closely, clients just won’t notice it. What I would say is that your exposure has to be good to maintain clean looking files at higher ISO’s. This is just good practise however.
The introduction of a ‘silent’ shutter mode is a great addition. Whilst its not exactly silent, the sound of the shutter is far quieter than the standard shutter noise. This is great if you are looking to work discreetly at a wedding, grabbing those unguarded documentary shots that clients love. So good is this mode, that we shoot in silent shutter mode at weddings by default.
Another new feature that we LOVE is Auto ISO. This feature enables you to dictate a minimum shutter speed and a maximum ISO. Then, you simply select the aperture you want to shoot at in AV mode, and the camera automatically selects the ISO for you, ensuring that your shutter speed does not fall below the speed specified. This feature is a life saver, and is made very much with wedding photographers in mind. On numerous occasions in the past we have gone from shooting in a dark church to outside the church, forgetting to lower our ISO! You then end up with files at an unnecessarily high ISO.
The new dual card slot is a great new feature. We use this to simultaneously write files to both cards, thus ensuring a backup in the case of any card failing. We’ve yet to experience a card failure, but I would hate this to happen. It’s always sensible to mitigate any possible risks, and this is one area where you just don’t want to take risks.
When it comes to image quality, its not just at high ISO that the Mark 3 rocks. Files under 1600 ISO just look stunning. The colours this camera produces are fantastic, particularly when teamed up with some quality glass. They have a ‘painterly’ quality that I just love, and you really can extract a lot of detail when shooting RAW and using Lightroom.
Do I have any criticisms of the Mark 3? Yes, just the one. Like many Canon cameras, I find that the exposure is a little too conservative, and generally underexposes in order to retain highlight details. I generally shoot a lot with between +2/3 to 1 stop exposure compensation to ensure that skin tones are exposed properly. This may just be my personal taste though!
So all in all then, this is a fantastic piece of kit, that’s almost perfect for shooting weddings. Its sturdy, quick, with an accurate AF systems, is capable of producing amazing images both at low and high ISO, and is packed with features that makes it that much easier for you to get those winning shots. Now, all I need is that 35mm L f1.14! Anyone feeling generous?
Matt and his wife Brenda are wedding photographers based in Surrey. They work througout the UK, offering a style that combines fine art photography and documentary style work.