I like to shoot at the Durham skatepark, especially with a new camera with much-talked about autofocus, because it is a nice mix of action and environmental portraiture. I like the skater aesthetic, I like the customized and weathered boards, I like the tattoos, the scabs, the banter. It’s a good test for autofocus, as things are moving all around, sometimes unpredictable. Additionally, my three year old likes watching the skaters, too, so he tolerates me trying out new toys!
I’m not one to go out and iterate with a camera, old or new. Rather, I like to take it out for a test drive, get a feel for it, figure out what familiar buttons are still in familiar places, and what buttons have moved. I am coming from the original 5D, so there are a lot of differences and changes with the 5D Mark III. Still, it feels pretty familiar in hand, and after about an hour of playing around, I had started to get things figured out and dialed in.
First things first: So far, I have only been shooting in best quality, large JPEG with the standard picture control. Adobe is supposedly releasing RAW profiles for Lightroom next week, and then I’ll go back to shooting RAW. But in the meantime, I’m not shooting anything critical, so shooting JPEG is easier, quicker, and more enjoyable. For that reason, I can’t make any definitive or conclusive judgements about absolute image quality so far, but I like what I“m seeing.
I have shot at the skatepark successfully with both my old 5D and the 1D Mark III–the 5D is always great when I need that little extra bit of wide angle field of view, and the 1DmkIII is great for everything else. Now, with the 5D Mark III, I effectively have the best of both worlds, something before reserved only for the few who used a 1Ds Mark III. The autofocus bests even that of the 1DmkIII–I haven’t tested them side-by-side, and the 1DmkIII may still be faster, but the configurability of the 1Dx-sourced autofocus of the new 5D makes it a generally more powerful tool.
So far, the only things that have really caught me up are the new playback method (very different than any other Canon), and the placement of the m-Fn button. I love the multi-function button and its ability to quickly change autofocus point modes, but I’m not used to reaching for it and it’s a little hard to find with your eye up to the viewfinder. I also wish there was a way to configure the orientation-dependent AF point so that it would be the same equivalent point either horizontally or vertically. Being able to set them independently is nice, but I’d like to be able to quickly change orientations and have the AF point in essentially the same place. Not a big deal, and I’ll figure it out, just a wish.
The list of things to love is long and I won’t weigh down this post with boring list. Suffice to say that the sum equals more than the parts, and a lot of little things add up to create a really beautiful camera. And I’ll remind you again that I’m coming from the original 5D, so my mind is sufficiently blown. There was nothing wrong with that groundbreaking camera–indeed, I will continue to use it even now–but there are so many tweaks and helpful features with the 5D mark III.
In the end, I think you’ll find that my images haven’t changed much, which is something I address regularly on this blog. I never expect cameras like the 5D mark III to make my photographs better. I just expect them to be more flexible, and allow me more creative possibilities, and to spend less time fighting against me and more time helping me make the images I want to make.