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Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review #38651
04/30/12 11:28 PM
04/30/12 11:28 PM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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James Morrissey  Offline OP
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Carpal Tunnel

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NY, New York Pet Photographer, James Morrissey, of Wild Coyote Studio, provides an in depth review of the Canon EOS 5d Mark III Full Frame dSLR. This review takes us from the Brooklyn Mutt Show to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and finally to Death Valley, California. Thanks to our friends at Hunts Camera for getting us one of the very first models!


Dante's View: Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Canon28-70 F2.8 Lens. Settings: ISO 400, 1/13th of Second at F18, 70mm. Mirror Lock Up was used.


Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38652
04/30/12 11:31 PM
04/30/12 11:31 PM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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About the Canon EOS 5d Mark III
Resolution: 5760 x 3840 (22.3 megapixels)
Sensor photo detectors 23.4 Megapixels
Sensor size: Full Frame (24x36)
ISO Range: (50), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25,600, (51200), (102400)
File Formats: Raw, sRaw1, sRaw2, Jpeg
Autofocus: 61 Point AF (41 are Cross Type, and 5 are “X” Type)
Lens mount: Canon EF Mount
Screen size: 3.2 inch (1,040,000 pixels) fixed screen
Viewfinder coverage: 100%
Shutter Range: 30 seconds to 1/8000th, Bulb
Continuous Firing: Up to 6 frames per second (20 frame buffer with 600x Lexar Card).
Flash: None
Battery Life: Rated at about 950 Frames (See Below)
Storage Type: Dual CF and SD/SDHC card
Weight: 950 grams (Just a smidge over 2 Pounds) with battery
Retail Price – About $3500 from Hunts and other reputable camera stores.

Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38653
04/30/12 11:55 PM
04/30/12 11:55 PM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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James Morrissey  Offline OP
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Canon EOS 5d Mark III - Opposite of Dante's View at Sunrise

I have owned my Canon EOS 5d Mark II for over three years and I have been waiting for a new body to supplement it. I was waiting pretty patiently for the replacement to come out for the 5dII. My first reaction was that the price was a bit high as compared to prior Canon models. I will also admit that after the Nikon D800 specs were leaked that I thought long and hard about whether or not I would purchase the 5d Mark III now or wait for a higher resolution camera from Canon that I assume will be available in the coming months. Feeling like it was time for a new body, I bit the bullet and purchased the 5d Mark III. I received the body from Hunts Camera just 24 hours before the Brooklyn Mutt Show and within 24 hours of the ship date that had been published at the Canon Rumors site.

The features that I was most excited about with the 5d Mark III were the auto focus, frame rate and new high ISO capabilities that Canon was claiming were improved over the 5d Mark II. I was happy about new additions to the camera’s feature set that included improved weather sealing, 100% View Finder, and the dual card media slots. While I would have preferred dual compact flash cards, the additional SD card is fine. Also, I was pretty stoked about the addition of the in-camera level and the viewfinder grid. All of these features promise to make the 5d Mark III a much better tool than the 5d Mark II.

Auto Focus: Having shot with Canon since the original Canon EOS d30, Auto Focus in the professional arena has always been a significant issue. Sometimes I don’t remember how we actually did it. I still remember shooting weddings and looking for any sort of contrast points on the groom’s tux or on the bride as a means of getting an acceptable focus lock. The ST-E2 was also an invaluable aid. Coupled with really poor low ISO capabilities, it meant that we spent a lot of time shooting flash (not a style that I like for wedding photography). While Canon has addressed this issue somewhat over the years, there is no question that the 5d Mark II’s Auto Focus mechanism was a bit of a disappointment – particularly as the next crop frame camera (the 40d) blew the 5d Mark II’s AF out of the water.

Ladies and gentleman, Canon has finally produced a camera that will focus pretty much all of the time and without any problems. Shooting dogs can be very challenging for auto focus systems – particularly dark dogs. I have never been so happy with an auto focus system. Even when shooting landscapes, the wide autofocus array allows you to easily find a target for accurate focus without having to recompose the camera.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III, ISO 125, 1/200th of a second at F14, 70mm.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III, ISO 100, 1/160th of a second at F13, 70mm.

HIGH ISO:

I typically shoot in studio lighting at ISOs 100 or 200. When I shoot weddings and special events, I often shoot at ISO 1600 or 3200 and in a pinch ISO 6400 as I am shooting available light. The 5d Mark II was really good in this regard – and a huge improvement over older cameras that I have owned. The 5d Mark III though has been heralded as being a huge improvement in this area – particularly from jpegs. The claim is that the Canon EOS 5d Mark III will shoot ISO 102,000 and that files are ‘about two stops cleaner’ when shooting in jpg over a 5d Mark II. That is pretty amazing.

As a raw shooter, I don’t really care about any software improvements that Canon has been able to produce (unless they can be replicated by others). When I do shoot jpg files, they are usually compressed and small in size. I have read that many others do not feel that the 5d Mark III images are that much better than the 5d Mark II’s. I am pretty happy with the over-all performance of this camera's High ISO settings. These next four photos were all taken during the Brooklyn Mutt Show. They were done in available light as I could not use flash during the event.

The following two images are taken at ISO 12,800. The first is without any noise reduction. The second is with noise reduction in Capture One. Please note that both images are 100% crops.





The following two images are taken at ISO 25,600. The first is without any noise reduction. The second is with noise reduction in Capture One. Please note that both images are 100% crops. Please forgive the color balance difference in the two images.





As far as I am concerned, the images at ISO 12,800 are surprisingly usable. Even though there is a ton of softening going on in the image, even the ISO 25,600 shots could still be used in the right circumstances.

Frame Rate and Buffer: When Canon announced the 5d III, one of the huge ballyhoos was new 6 fps frame rate. As someone who shoots mostly portraits, I don’t typically need 6 fps. My interests in this area were mostly juvenile. I imagine that for the Photo Journalists on a budget and for the wildlife photographers that this is a great feature. There have been times when it has been handy though. For example, the Starship Enterprise was flying over Manhattan last week (I always wanted to say that) and I wanted to capture the moment before it became a part of the Intrepid Museum here in New York. I rattled off several shots of the Enterprise as it looped around my building here in Northern Manhattan. Pretty cool.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Sigma 120-300 F2.8 OS Lens and 1.4x Adapter. Settings: ISO 400, 1/2500th of Second at F8, 204mm.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Sigma 120-300 F2.8 OS Lens and 1.4x Adapter. Settings: ISO 400, 1/2500th of Second at F8, 420mm.

Dual Card Media:
During the shoot, I accidentally had the camera set to shoot on the SD Card as opposed to the CF Card. My CF Cards are 32 GB Lexar Cards. They vary in speed from 300x to 600x (depending on the card). My SD Cards are Lexar 400x. For some reason, the SD cards do not seem to write as quickly as the Compact Flash Cards – even though the 400x speed rating should be ‘super fast.’ I found that I filled the buffer much faster than I do with the Compact Flash card as the primary shooting vehicle. When shooting with a 400x CF Card, I can typically get about 20 frames onto a card before the buffer fills. With the SD card, I got less than half that many – though I was admittedly more than able to keep firing as needed while shooting the event. The buffer empties very quickly. I am still trying to figure out if there is something I have been doing wrong on my side.

The other complaint I have with the dual card system is that if you open your card bay and take out a card, the camera defaults to the other card that is loaded. So, if you take out your CF card and dump your files and replace it with a new CF card, the camera has taken the liberty to jump to the SD card even though you may not have intended it. That caused quite an embarrassment at the Brooklyn Mutt Show as I could not figure out where the photos of the dog I was taking were going. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Focus Tracking:
Prior to the 5d Mark III, I never bothered with the AI Servo mode. Honestly, I am not sure why Canon even bothered putting it on the cameras. It was more frustrating than anything else. I realize that there are others with greater skill sets than mine who have used the older 5dII with AI Servo. However, better them than me. My 5d II essentially stayed on One Shot mode the entire time I owned it. With the new 5d Mark III though, the focus is so fast, and the tracking so effective, it really is now a valuable tool. It really works.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Sigma 120-300 F2.8 OS Lens. Settings: ISO 1600, 1/3200th of Second at F8, 300mm.


Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Sigma 120-300 F2.8 OS Lens. Settings: ISO 1600, 1/3200th of Second at F8, 300mm.

Shutter:
As a portrait photographer, one of the things that always annoyed me about the 5d Mark II is how loud the shutter was. The new 5d Mark III is much quieter. But wait, there’s more. The new 5d Mark III has something called a ‘silent’ shutter feature, which makes the shutter virtually silent. It is amazing and I fully expect to be using it when I shoot events in the future. The new shutter is rated at about 150,000 cycles. I figure that I am approaching that number on the 5d II currently, and it is still going strong. Some day, I expect to have to send it to Canon for a new shutter.

Auto White Balance: I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have not been using the 5d Mark III on auto white balance. I am almost always shooting in pre-sets these days, so I cannot effectively evaluate the auto white balance. I always felt that the AWB on the 5d Mark II was acceptable.

In the Field:

Dante's View: Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Canon28-70 F2.8 Lens. Settings: ISO 400, 1/13th of Second at F18, 70mm. Mirror Lock Up was used.

I recently had the opportunity to take the 5d Mark III to Death Valley with Steve Kossack and his workshop. Death Valley must be lucky for me as it always seems that I am bringing new gear with me there. It was here that I got the opportunity to put the 5d Mark III through its paces as a landscape tool.

First things first, the positives. The new viewfinder is spectacular. While it is not head and shoulders above the 5d Mark II, it is definitely better. It is bright, and you can definitely tell the difference in viewfinder coverage. Also, I definitely like the new grid feature. It is a huge improvement that makes composition easier. It is also nice that you don’t have to purchase new AF screens in order to implement the grid.


Zabriskie Point, Death Valley California - Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Canon 28-70 F2.8 Lens. Settings: ISO 200, .1 Second at F16, 28mm. Mirror Lock Up was used.


Zabriskie Point, Death Valley California - Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Canon 28-70 F2.8 Lens. Settings: ISO 200, 1/13 Second at F16, 35mm. Mirror Lock Up was used.

Somehow, I forgot my bubble level and had to use the camera’s built in level for the entire workshop. It definitely works. My problem with it has to do with my own neurosis. When shooting with a bubble level, it is never really ‘perfect’ so you get over the fact that level is ‘nearly perfect.’ With the new digital level, it shows you ever single degree and which directions the camera is off by and it really does slow down my working style. Having said that, it really does work and it is implemented very well in the camera system.

One feature that has not been raved enough about is the movement of the Depth of Field Preview button from the left side of the camera to the right side. This means that I can now hold a Neutral Density Filter card with my left hand and use the DOF button more easily with the right hand. It makes the camera much easier to use in that regard.


Mesquite Dunes, Stovepipe Wells - Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III with Canon 70-200 F2.8 Lens w 1.4x Converter. Settings: ISO 200, 1/20th of Second at F14, 280mm. Mirror Lock Up was used.

The Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells is one of those places where you can really challenge a sensor. Much of the drama that is generated at the sand dunes are in the contrasts between light and dark. In the 7 to 10 minutes of ‘great light’ after the sun rises, this drama is easy to capture. Photographing the dunes in the pre-dawn light, however, provides very flat images without shadows or highlights. Creating this drama by collapsing the shadows and highlights definitely generates shadow noise. Fortunately, it seems that Capture One does a pretty good job at mitigating this in the software. One might ask why one would want to re-produce these flat pre-dawn images and the answer is easy. Sometimes I forget to re-create all of my practice compositions when the sun pops and I really like some of the practice compositions when I look at them on the screen.

Outside of these situations, I find that the sensor performs as expected. I never really had a complaint about the 5dII and I likewise have no complaint about the 5dIII. If I am not really punishing the image, it performs exactly as I want it to. There is, however, definitely something to wanting a bit more flexibility from the images produced by the camera. This is not to say that the Canon sensor is not very good – only to say that I think that sensor development between the 5d Mark II and the 5d Mark III may not be quite what would be hoped for in terms of dynamic range.


Aguereberry Point, Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III, Canon 16-35 F2.8 Lens, ISO 200, 1/13th of a Second at F20, 19mm.

Camping in Death Valley also allowed me to test the battery on the 5d Mark III. While it is rated at 950 photos, I got exactly 621 out of mine before it died. This was with a bit of chimping and bit more of using the live view as a focus aid. Not bad – but it still makes me long for the grip which I still cannot get. I was using the Live View a lot during the Death Valley trip because I was playing with Tilt/Shift Lenses and I find that the live view makes for a nice big screen to help determine that everything looks properly ‘tilted and shifted.’

On that note, the live view and the new control interface is really neat. It is much more efficient than what is on the 5dII. Controls are very logically laid out and it is very easy to get from point a to point b using the physical interface. This is a good thing because I find the menu system to be just bloated. There are so many sub menus that you pretty much are forced to create a custom menu. This is the first time I have ever had to do that on a dSLR. Now, I wish that Canon would give you TWO pages for your custom menu – not just one.

Resolution, at 22 megapixels, provides me beautiful 16x24s without any interpolation. Having seen Steve Kossack’s material in his house, I have seen 20x30s that are just spectacular. Stitching photos, as I am wont to do, I have produced 16x72 inch photos that I am really proud of. One of which, of the Manhattan Skyline, is now hanging in my office.


The Race Track, Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III, Canon TS-24, ISO 100, 1/30 of a Second at F20, 24mm.


The Race Track, Death Valley, California. Canon EOS 5d Mark III, Canon 16-35 F2.8 Lens, ISO 100, 1/200th of a Second at F11, 27mm.


Conclusion:

The Canon EOS 5d Mark III presents as an evolutionary model rather than an revolutionary one. It sounds like Canon was really listening to feedback from people like me who said to make the next camera more usable and not focus on additional resolution. If I look at the 5d Mark III in that vain, it is an unadulterated success. However, the 5d Mark III reminds me of how the Canon EOS 30d was an upgrade to the 20d. Like the 30d, the Canon EOS 5d Mark III provides a host of usability features that truly makes it a better camera than its predecessor while leaving the core engine essentially the same. As I recall, I skipped the 30d because of this.

A lot has also happened in the last three years. Canon’s preeminence in the full frame market has been significantly challenged by Nikon. Nikon recently announced the Nikon D800, a 36.2 megapixel camera, which by all accounts has spectacular image quality. The dynamic range is also considered better than the Canon 5d Mark III. To boot, the Nikon D800 is priced more than $500 less than the Canon EOS 5d Mark III. At $3500, the 5d Mark III is practically $1400 more than a 5d Mark II. Throw in the problems with the light leakage issue that has been publicized and all of a sudden the 5d Mark III looks even less attractive. For someone with a host of Canon lenses looking to buy a new camera body, that is a pretty big pill to swallow.

There are rumors that Canon will announce a 3 level body come this Fall with significantly higher resolution. However, the rumors of a 3 series body have existed for years. I am very hesitant to make (or not make) purchases based upon a rumor. If you need a tool, then you really need it. The more appropriate question then is whether or not you would be better served purchasing an older Canon EOS 5d Mark II for significantly less money and banking the excess until Canon comes out with a higher spec’d (megapixels) body. I think that given how much noise has been made in the various gear head forums will mean that Canon will produce something sooner rather than later and that the 3D may finally become a reality.

Before I sound as if I am panning the 5d Mark III, let me clearly say that I definitely really like this camera. It does everything I need it to do - and more. I also suggest that it is odd that I am even mentioning the Nikon D800 in this review or rumors about the vaporware EOS 3D. I have never mentioned a competitive product while doing a review before, attempting to judge a product in its own right. It is just that the D800 is such a huge entry into the market that it colors pretty much everything as a result - and that is pretty wild if you think about it. The end result is that I find myself ambivalent about a camera that I really like as a tool. That is - I hope you agree - somewhat irrational. My guess is that my feelings mirror many of the same themes that have been raised in the different gear head forums. The trick is distinguishing what are legitimate gripes versus more existential issues. So, I own the 5d Mark III and choose to get rid of the existential angst. It is a great camera - even though I think it might be priced a bit higher than it should.

The End.

If you liked the article, please take time to check out the rest of the forum. We are always looking for new members with constructive things to share. You can also check us out on Facebook.

Sincerely,
James Morrissey
Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum

PS Just a friendly reminder that the images and text contained in this article are (c) 2012, James Morrissey.
www.NWPPhotoForum.com


Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38667
05/01/12 12:11 PM
05/01/12 12:11 PM
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From another perspective (granted, I have an investment in Canon glass). I see the 5DM3 as a 1DMIV with full frame, a slower fps, and better AF, rather than seeing it as an incremental 5DM2 upgrade. So, the price seems very reasonable given the $5000 selling price of the 1D.

Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38669
05/01/12 12:56 PM
05/01/12 12:56 PM
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James,
first of all, congrats on such a thorough and thoughtful review of the 5D III. I found your perspective to be very enlightening given the range of what you shoot. Asking any camera to be ideal for everything from landscapes to weddings is quite a request and it appears the 5D III is up to the task.

However, your need to compare it to the Nikon D800 shows where the state of technology is today as well as our need to compare what we have with what else is out there. So, on that point, I'll have a few comments. Let me start off by saying that the D800 appears to be an amazing camera. But let me also point out that back in 2000 when I got into digital, I bought a Canon D30 (no, not a 30D) and Nikon didn't have a competitive product. When Canon came out with the 1D and then the 1Ds, Nikon didn't have a competitive product. So many of us have come up the digital curve with Canon because of our investment in glass that, for some, actually dates back to film days. And for that reason alone, it's important to see where Canon's "state-of-the-art" is by itself. And to understand that the market never stays static. If you think that Canon won't come up with a D800-beater in the near future, you haven't been paying attention. And then Nikon will come up with something "better". The beat will, indeed, go on.

The next issue is the one of does it do the job you need it to do. I base that evaluation on what I shoot, how I shoot and what products do I produce from those images. I've never owned a 1-Series Canon because both versions are more camera than I need based on all the criteria above. While I love my 7D -- because of the wildlife and action photography I do -- the 5D III is on my radar because of my show portraits and weddings. I like that combination. And I like the file sizes from both cameras. I don't need to invest in more hard drives simply to handle the 36 mpx files I shoot of my puppies playing in the back yard smile!

So, from what I've read and from Preston's real-world experience of shooting show portraits, I'm thinking the 5D III is a pretty capable tool for those of us with an investment in Canon glass. If I didn't have that investment -- and wasn't happy with what those lenses produce -- I'd be hard-pressed to decide between Canon and Nikon these days. But, back in the infancy of pro or semi-pro DSLRs, there was only one choice. And it appears that the 5D III is an excellent evolution of that 3.4 mpx D30 I bought back in 2000.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: Jim Garvie] #38672
05/01/12 08:33 PM
05/01/12 08:33 PM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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James Morrissey  Offline OP
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Carpal Tunnel

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Originally Posted By: Jim Garvie
let me also point out that back in 2000 when I got into digital, I bought a Canon D30 (no, not a 30D) and Nikon didn't have a competitive product. When Canon came out with the 1D and then the 1Ds, Nikon didn't have a competitive product.


100% agreed Jim.

Originally Posted By: Jim Garvie
The next issue is the one of does it do the job you need it to do.

Absolutely! That is kind of what I was trying to make in my summation. The 5d III does EVERYTHING I need it to do - and really well. I think that there has been a communal sense of existential angst because the D800 is such a good camera. However, that does not mean that the 5dIII is not an excellent tool. It is - in all respects - a better camera than the 5d Mark II....but it is also $1300 more comparing brand new bodies...so you would expect it to be better.

James

PS Glad to see someone else learned to make a living with the D30!!! LOL, those were difficult times and yet it was so amazing because it was all so new.

Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38675
05/02/12 12:12 AM
05/02/12 12:12 AM
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James,
we were the first guys to go digital in Dog Show Photography and we did it from the "back end". We were very capable in PhotoShop (V 1.0 actually) and could bring up the black dogs and adjust for the white ones. At that time, if you got your prints from the film guys, your Rottie was a black blob and your Great Pyrenees was a blown out white thing in the middle of two people: the handler and the judge. We were good photographers. We were even better in post. Even managed to get a decent ring candid or two. Hard to believe that was 12 years ago. Today we compare 22 mpx vs 36 mpx and 6 fps vs 10 fps. In those days, it was 3.4 mpx and 3.5 fps and that was the entire state-of-the-art.

I understand your frustration that the 5D III isn't somehow better. More. Wait a few months. It will be. But isn't it really about whether or not we need to have the best, most current equipment to be good photographers. My photography isn't about my equipment as much as it is about my vision and my ability to create images that reflect that vision. Don't get me wrong: I'm as much of a techno-freak as the next guy. But I could go out tomorrow with a Leica M3 and create images I'd be proud of. My equipment has never gotten in the way of my creativity. And today's equipment is better than ever. We should appreciate what we have and spend more time taking pictures than wondering whether or not somebody has a better camera/lens than we have wink.

Cheers,

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: Jim Garvie] #38676
05/02/12 02:37 AM
05/02/12 02:37 AM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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James Morrissey  Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: Jim Garvie
I understand your frustration that the 5D III isn't somehow better. More. Wait a few months. It will be.


Hey Jim,

I don't think I am expressing myself well somehow. I am not complaining that the 5d Mark III is not enough somehow. It is. I think I am talking about a larger issue of 'existential angst and price point.' I think I also pretty much am saying that it is completely irrational that we are all infected with it - myself included. The camera does everything I need it to - even though there are other cameras (such as the D800) that out spec it for less money. As I mentioned in the review, I think we all need to get past the existential issues and focus on whether or not the tool does what we need it to - which it does. Is that better said?

James

Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38677
05/02/12 03:45 AM
05/02/12 03:45 AM
Joined: Feb 2005
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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James Morrissey  Offline OP
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LOL, I just re-read my 'explanation' and I am not doing anywhere near as well, I think, as I did in describing the camera. :P

James

Re: Canon EOS 5d Mark III Field Review [Re: James Morrissey] #38679
05/02/12 10:45 AM
05/02/12 10:45 AM
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James Morrissey Offline OP
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Preston,

I recently read that there is a problem pulling shadows with the Adobe raw converter. As I use Capture One, It could explain why I am not having the profound issues some are having with shadow tones on the 5d3.

James

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