Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

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:

 

Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

ISO3200 18MM F2.8 1/60SEC

Image 2, this shot was taken at ISO12800, 16mm F2.8 1/100sec:

 

Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

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

 

Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

ISO12800 16MM F2.8 1/100SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 4, again ISO 12800:

Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

ISO12800 16MM F2.8 1/100SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 5 is another example of in camera HDR at ISO12800

 

Canon 5D Mark III High ISO & HDR Test

ISO12800 16MM F2.8 1/100SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 6, dropping the ISO to 2000:

ISO2000 16MM F2.8 1/500SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 7… back to ISO12800

ISO12800 17MM F2.8 1/200SEC

Image 8, HDR of Image 7

 

ISO12800 17MM F2.8 1/200SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 9&10 are more examples of in-camera HDR at ISO12800

 

ISO12800 16MM F3.2 1/100SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

ISO12800 16MM F2.8 1/125SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

ISO12800 16MM F2.8 1/125SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HDR

 

Image 11 is at ISO 3200 HDR

 

ISO3200 16MM F2.8 1/100SEC Canon D Mark III In camera HD

 

Image 12 is a normal image at ISO3200, F2.8 and 1/80 sec

 

ISO3200 16MM F2.8 1/80SEC

 

So the following images you will see are taken at the following ISO settings

 

ISO1000

ISO 2500

ISO 3200

ISO 4000

ISO 5000

ISO 6400

ISO 8000

ISO 10000

ISO12800

ISO 16000

ISO 20000

ISO 25600

ISO 51200

ISO 102400

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.

ISO1000 16MM F3.5 1/25SEC

 

ISO1000 16MM F3.5 1/25SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

ISO2500 16MM F3.5 1/30SEC

 

ISO2500 16MM F3.5 1/30SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO3200 16MM F3.5 1/40SEC

ISO3200 16MM F3.5 1/40SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

 

ISO4000 16MM F3.5 1/40SEC

ISO4000 16MM F3.5 1/40SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO5000 16MM F3.5 1/50SEC

 

ISO5000 16MM F3.5 1/50SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO6400 16MM F3.5 1/60SEC

 

ISO6400 16MM F3.5 1/60SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO8000 16MM F3.5 1/100SEC

 

ISO8000 16MM F3.5 1/100SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO10000 16MM F3.5 1/100SEC

 

ISO10000 16MM F3.5 1/100SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

ISO12800 16MM F3.5 1/125SEC

 

ISO12800 16MM F3.5 1/125SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO16000 16MM F3.5 1/200SEC

 

ISO16000 16MM F3.5 1/200SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO20000 16MM F3.5 1/250SEC

 

ISO20000 16MM F3.5 1/250SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

ISO25600 16MM F2.8 1/250SEC

 

ISO25600 16MM F2.8 1/250SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

ISO51200 16MM F3.5 1/1000SEC

 

ISO51200 16MM F3.5 1/1000SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

ISO102400 16MM F3.5 1/2000SEC

 

ISO102400 16MM F3.5 1/2000SEC LR4 RC NOISE REDUCED

 

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.

 

Iain

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5 Comments

  1. Steve Hargreaves March 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Great post Iain, very tempted now – thanks for sharing!

  2. Jim DDavies March 31, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Nice review Iain. I think if you’ve used the 7D you would feel right at home as the 7D has many of the same functions like on/off and the AF button next to the shutter and also feels more solid than the 5dII. Great review and yes I want one – Bank manager though may not permit the acquisition though just yet! lol Thanks for posting.

  3. Barry Paffey March 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Great article Iain, really well presented and explained. The images from the camera look great but just haven’t made my mind up between the MkIII or 1Dx?

  4. bycostello April 1, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    i want one…

  5. Invogue Weddings February 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Very good article. The Mark III is my next purchase – not sure about using it in low light if I can. It really is an amazing bit of kit.