Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test: After 4 years of development the Canon 5D Mark III digital SLR was released to the relief of many a wedding photographer only a few weeks ago. Surprisingly the camera was available to buy also immediately and I decided to take the plunge.
As a busy London Wedding Photographer I didn’t want to test the camera at a real wedding so decided to put the camera through its paces before and see how much of the new or improved functionality I will actually use. There’s lots of talk on the web of a two stop ISO improvement over the 5DMark II which in my opinion is exaggerated however still a considerable improvement, perhaps one stop.
One thing that is a remarkable difference is the new autofocus which is fantastically quick. This use to be the thing I really struggled with on the Mark II. I missed many a shot during the reception whilst the camera hunted for focus. Not any more.
I decided to use two churches in Central London today for my tests as I knew they would be a challenge due to very low light levels. As a wedding photographer in the London and Kent area I often have to deal with low light situations. So I was particularly interested in testing the higher ISO and the also the new HDR function. Normally I never go above 3200 ISO at a wedding so was hoping to see an improvement in noise at this level.
Most of these images you will see I have applied Lightroom 4 Noise Reduction as this is my normal workflow. Later on in the blog I will show two images one straight out of camera versus the same image with Lightroom 4 Noise Reduction applied. (n.b. Lightroom 4.1 is currently only a release candidate so this also reviews the RAW processing and noise reduction in Lightroom.)
Image 1, taken at ISO3200 on my 16-35mm Canon lens at 18mm, F2.8 and 1/60Sec. I wanted to see how the camera dealt with a high contrast scene that many of us wedding photographers will face. The dynamic range looks a considerable improvement over the Mark II:
Image 2, this shot was taken at ISO12800, 16mm F2.8 1/100sec:
Image 3, is the same image as number 2 however using the new inbuilt HDR, set at +/-3 stops and effect set to Art Vivid
Image 4, again ISO 12800:
Image 5 is another example of in camera HDR at ISO12800
Image 6, dropping the ISO to 2000:
Image 7… back to ISO12800
Image 8, HDR of Image 7
Image 9&10 are more examples of in-camera HDR at ISO12800
Image 11 is at ISO 3200 HDR
Image 12 is a normal image at ISO3200, F2.8 and 1/80 sec
So the following images you will see are taken at the following ISO settings
I have given you the straight out of camera images followed by the same image after noise reduction, as I imagine most of us wedding photographers will apply noise reduction. Click on the images for larger versions.
In summary what we have with the Canon 5D Mark III is fantastic wedding photography camera. It feels much more solid than the Mark II and the new improved autofocus alone is worthy of the upgrade IMHO. At a wedding I would be prepared to use ISO25600 for shots of the interior of the church but not of people. I will be happy to go to ISO 6400 include people and perhaps ISO12800, which is two stops more than the Mark II… this is a combination of the camera and noise reduction in LR4. I think ISO25600 is the limit for the Canon 5D Mark III, anything beyond this becomes unusable.
I am excited about the HDR functionality as I often like to do slide-shows at the end of a wedding and normally I would have to do the HDR conversion in software so this will save me time.
I love the fact that I can now set the minimum shutter speed, hopefully Canon will update the software so the functionality allows us to set the minimum shutter speed by 1/3 stops rather than whole stops. But for now this is great.
The new controls do take a bit of getting use to… for example the on/off switch has moved and there is a now a lock on the controller.. this is great as before I have, by accident, knocked the camera into a custom mode or TV…. I would highly recommend getting use to the camera before a real wedding.
So that’s it really for me, I hope the test/review has been useful.