It was soft, hard to hear. You had to be listening carefully to have heard it at all. It was quick, ephemeral, but distinctive. It was the sound of my 1D mark III shuffling to the number 2 position. Still respected, still relevant, but no longer the top dog.
I just finished reading Zack Arias’s review of the Fuji X-Pro1, a camera that was definitely on my radar and wish list. He loves his, but has some reservations about it. He also loves his x100–he says “my minimalist heart still sings when I’m shooting with the x100.” He loves the Fujis in spite of their quirks. They inspire him, enthuse him, energize him. What does this have to do with me, with anything I’m writing?
Well. About that.
I have now had the 5D Mark III for about two weeks. In that two weeks, I used it for 80% or more of a wedding shoot, and have shot it in all the usual situations in which I would usually be shooting a camera. I have used it at base ISO, I have used it at ISO 12,800 (I haven’t gone beyond that, though. Why? Because it’s #&%&^%#!! ISO 12,800, that’s why! I can’t SEE in less light than that). I have used it with on-camera flash. I have used it with off-camera flash. I have of course used it with no flash. And you know what? I LOVE THIS CAMERA. I loved my 5D and the 1D Mark III as well, but never have I had a camera that gets so many things so right.
And no, I’m not going to parse it all out and tell you why this is great and why this isn’t great, etc. And I’m not going to say it’s perfect, either. For one, the live view/movie button is too close to my thumb. For another, I had some continuous autofocus issues while shooting dancing at the wedding reception in low light. For yet another, it’s harder now to see your selected autofocus point in the finder, which makes switching between points sort of difficult sometimes in marginal light.
On the other hand, I can toggle between autofocus points on a 5D and THEY WORK. No more center point focus and recompose and hope that your subject or you haven’t moved too much during that time for focus to be off while using your fast primes with unforgiving depth of field. A lot less missing things, period. And then there are the files. The color, the detail, the richness. OMG.
Though I’ve been shooting Canons for four years now, I didn’t expect to fall in love with this camera. I expected it to be competent, excellent even. I expected it to be the tool I could rely on in virtually any situation and come out with acceptable results. I DIDN’T expect it to stir my soul, sing to me, collaborate with me. I thought those duties would more likely be filled with something like the OM-D, or an X-Pro1, or some other of the very excellent mirrorless cameras coming on the scene. I was done with DSLRs. Through. I was supposed to get the X-Pro1, shoot with it, fall in love, and renounce Canons and bulky DSLRs forever. But that hasn’t happened. Just like an aging celebrity, the DSLR’s moment of fame may be over, but they’ve still got some mojo.
And so that brings me back to the 1D Mark III and how it came to be demoted. It’s still faster, tougher, bigger, more macho. But it’s bigger, heavier, more of a PITA. I have less autofocus points that I can choose (which is both good and bad), and impossibly, its amazing autofocus suddenly feels pedestrian. It’s still great, but it’s being outshined by a more capable and lithe new little brother.
And then there’s the old 5D, my first love. I was always charmed by its simplicity, its straightforwardness, its magical image quality. It had no need for 964 autofocus points, a virtual level, eleventybillion cross-type sensors, or Digiexspeed 9x++ processing. It is a camera with few frills, and still great image quality. I will still love it, use it, take it on trips with me. But suddenly, those ISO 1600 files lack something. It’s not that they’re too noisy, or have banding, or anything like that. The photos still look good. But there’s just something that the 5D Mark III has that it’s grandfather does not. Part of it is the richness of tones, and the colors all the way up into the stratosphere. I don’t know. I’m no expert.
The bottom line is this: I devote a huge amount of time and space on this blog writing about how the tools aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, and I’m in agreement with the legion folk who say that glass is far more important than bodies. But the tools that you do choose have to work with you, collaborate with you, get out of your way when you need to see things. Simple or complicated, they need to be intuitive, and flexible. I still dream of the day that Fuji or Olympus or Panasonic (or, maybe even Canon!) will make something like this 5D in a package the size of the Xpro, because I’d love to give up that weight. But after shooting with this camera for a few weeks, I will happily shoulder its extra burden a while longer. We are thick like thieves already, and I am positively bursting with excitement as I think of all the mischief we can get into.