Today I had a play with the new Canon 5D III. How do I feel, underwhelmed at best. But perhaps that is its purpose. Or is it all Nikons fault?
Nikon have recently announced the D800/D800E and D4. I had a good play with them today as well and can’t wait to get using the D4 as a photographer I work with has one on order. A quick review.
The D4 is an 16 mega pixel photon eating monster. It has a low pixel count so it has large pixels on the sensor. Larger pixels allows the camera to be more sensitive to light, you can shoot at ISO 6400 and the image is clean and it will also give a larger dynamic range. The D800/D800E has 36 mega pixels, which makes the pixels far smaller so will be worse in low light. From a professional perspective the D800 is either a studio or daylight camera, the D4 is to be used where light conditions cannot be controlled, in low light where contrast is low when dynamic range needs to be large, in jobs such as editorial where the camera is going to get knocked around a lot.
A professional Nikon photographer would have a D4, and if they are not shooting medium format already a D800 as well. They are two cameras for two different applications. Nikon have made sure they make the gap between the two cameras as big as possible. Consumer and prosumer may not understand this concept and think the D800 is all they ever need, I’d much rather push them in the direction of a D700 or D7000.
The D4 has other features that are designed for its application. It is better weather sealed, it has more robust mechanisms (photo journalist or sports photographers may take 100,000’s of photos in the cameras lifetime, a studio photographer will not). It has backlight buttons for when you work in the dark. It has half the wi-fi system built in and 10/100 Ethernet. Built in networking is useful for event or sport photographers but not landscape photographers that would use the D800.
Then we have Canon. They have announced the 1Dx. Again I have had a go with this, today was my second in fact. It is a perfectly capable camera. It is a 18 megapixel low light camera and it has the exact same application as the D4. I’d be happy to use the D4 or 1Dx as both are perfectly capable cameras. However, we then have the 5D III which is a 22 mega pixel camera. It’s not a high resolution camera like the D800 and its not designed for low light either. A 1Dx owner would not also use a 5D III. The gap isn’t as big as the D4 to the D800. The 5D III also misses a lot of the features and technology of the 1Dx, the D800 does not when compared to the D4. It’s an odd lineup. Perhaps Canon should do what Nikon did with the D3s and D3x but with the 1Dx and then release a high megapixel 1Ds, oh no, Canon did do that with the 1D IV and 1Ds, but they killed that lineup and came up with the 1Dx. We know that didn’t work for Nikon either, many photographers were not keen on the expense of having two D3 series bodies. Nikon appear to have got it right by having one expensive camera for being knocked around and a cheaper one which will be better looked after in the studio. Canon have some thinking to do. The 5D III is in direct competition with the D700 in my opinion. Canon could release the 3D series bringing back the old EOS-3, but the 5D III is already £600 more expensive than the D800 and £1,200 more than the D700. It’s priced all wrong Canon! That’s why a feel underwhelmed.
As for how good is the 5D III. I’d say, a stop better in sensitivity at most, no better than the D800 when pixel peeping, dynamic range unsure. It finally has good AF. it worked fine with a 50mm f1.2 and 85mm f1.2, the old 5D did not. The disconnected AE (same as 7D) from the AF is a disappointment. 6fps, that’s ok. Video, it needs testing, it also has no clean HDMI out or crop mode. Build, it was tethered by wire so couldn’t drop it to find out. It does feel like a full framed 7D with the AF sensor of the 1Dx as it has a full sized prism, Canon didn’t want to design and manufacture a different one being the only real difference.
EDIT: Some commas removed. Also, a photographer I work with has now has his hands on his D4. Meanwhile, I’d like to point you over to this video http://vimeo.com/39459861 showing how good the video low light performance of the D4 is over the 5D III.