Upgrading from a Canon 5D Mark II to a 5D Mark III
If you currently own a Canon 5D Mark II, I’m sure you absolutely love your camera! Your probably also wondering if it’s worthwhile to upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark III. The question is often asked, and as the 5D Mark III continues to age the answer becomes easier. I’d like to cover a few things that really make the 5D Mark III stand out above the 5D Mark II. There are thousands of reviews on the internet for the Canon 5D Mark III that walk through each and every feature and specification, but the purpose of this article is to specifically address the items that make the upgrade worth it.
As a bonus I’ll also let you in on a secret on how to buy a Canon 5D Mark III at half price (assuming you own a Canon 5D Mark II).
To avoid wasting any time, buying a 5D Mark III will not automatically make your pictures better! With each version of new DSLR’s the low-light sensitivity slightly improves, exposure evaluation slightly improves, focusing speed slightly improves and so on. While this is all great, unless your coming from a camera a few generations older than a Canon 5D Mark II, then your not going to ‘automatically’ notice any significant improvement in any pictures you shoot. I think it behooves you to remember that the 5D Mark II is an incredible piece of technology and there are volumes of amazing photos and videos that this camera has achieved.
Here is a list of things I find that made the 5D Mark III an incredible upgrade option for my purposes. Perhaps you won’t find these things to be of much importance, in which case perhaps you shouldn’t bother upgrading.
Silent Shooting Mode:
With silent shooting mode available on the 5D Mark III, your camera shutter sounds become significantly dampened. This should not be confused with the silent mode available on the 5D Mark II in live view mode. On the Mark II the silent shutter simply grabs a frame while in live view mode, while the mirror is locked up. The Mark III actually reduces the speed of the mirror motion, with the only side effect being a reduced burst-mode. With that said, you can still shoot in burst mode while in the silent shooting mode.
Another function of the silent shooting mode allows multiple exposures to be taken without the mirror dropping. If your taking several photos and don’t need to recompose, the mirror will not drop until you remove your finger from the shutter. A good example where this is beneficial would be in a quiet environment where you’d like to take a series of photos. I was recently at a classical concert and took a series of photographs of the soloist. It’s not silent, but it’s much more quiet without the mirror movement. After a few shots, I released the shutter, the mirror drops (at the slower rate), than I was able to recompose and take another sequence of photos.
On the Canon 5D Mark III, countless buttons can be assigned to perform tasks other than what they are assigned by default. We had a few options to do this on the Mark II, but not nearly as comprehensive as on the Mark III.
I’ve been using the Mark III for about 6-months now, and have not made significant use of this feature other than one key area. Other than shooting product photography, I rarely ever use the depth of field preview button. I was able to assign the DOF preview button to toggle between the one-shot auto focus mode, and AI servo mode. When assigning the button in this fashion, it doesn’t switch the mode permanently, but instead while the DOF preview button is being depressed it forces the focus mode into AI servo. Once the button is released it immediately goes back into one-shot mode.
This is extremely useful in event and wedding photography. More often than not I’m shooting in one-shot focus mode. I press the shutter halfway with only center point to focus on my subject, then hold and recompose. There are many approaches that can be taken with focusing, but this approach is what works best when I’m behind the camera. However, there are often times when subjects are moving, be it someone walking up to accept an award, the bridge and groom walking down the isle, or countless other scenarios where I’d stumble trying to switch modes quickly. Now, with the DOF preview button assigned, I nudge my middle finger down and continue to fire away while the subject is moving ensuring solid focus.
As I mentioned, this is just one application that I find useful. You can assign this function to other buttons, and other functions to yet other buttons. The bottom line is the 5D Mark III interface is extremely flexible and customizable.
Low Light Performance:
This is a game changer for some people. I was never comfortable pushing my 5D Mark II beyond 1600 ISO. On occasion shooting concerts in dark halls I’d push it 3200 and apply noise reduction in Lightroom or Photoshop to correct the noise. The few times I shot at 6400 ISO with the Mark II the pictures were more or less unusable.
The 5D Mark III can shoot 6400 and is more comparable to 1600-3200 on the Canon 5D Mark II. I won’t get into a scientific analysis of the quality differences between the high ISO photos, there are several great YouTube videos that show comparisons of the low-light performance. The bottom line is for the work I do, including concerts, weddings, and events in dark venues the low light performance made upgrading this camera a no-brainer. If you’re a landscape photographer shooting great day scenes in bright light, then this will not benefit you in the lease.
Another aspect of this, which could really be a bullet point itself is that 5D Mark III also has built noise reduction, lens correction, and defringing. While these were always easy things to correct in Lightroom very quickly, it’s still a nice step as it saves a step in post production.
Increased Dynamic Range:
While it may not be the best solution to a lighting problem, sometimes as a photographer we start to think about how far we can ‘correct’ a photo in post. A picture that is corrected is better than not having any picture at all! Restoring detail in an underexposed or overexposed photograph is a great benefit of shooting in RAW. RAW images contain far more information than a .JPG, and slight over or under exposures can easily be corrected by adjusting either the exposure, highlights, shadows or combination of all three.
Again, this is not a scientific test as to exactly how much improved the dynamic range is on the 5D Mark II over the Mark III, however you should be aware that there is a notable difference with the Mark III having a wider dynamic range. This means a very dark or light picture has a better chance of being adjusted in post to correct the exposure issues.
These are the few things that make this camera a giant upgrade for my purposes! As I mentioned earlier, it may not be relevant to you if your not shooting in these situations. There are a ton of other features and specification enhancements such as new focus modes, built-in HDR, faster burst mode, dual memory card slots, a nicer LCD screen, highlight zebras options, and much more. Some of those features maybe a deal breaker for different photographers. The sports photographer may find the burst mode increase to be significant in their career. A real-estate photographer may find that the built in HDR is a useful feature.
Before running out and spending money, think about the primary application you will be using your new camera. You maybe better off saving some money and holding onto your Mark II.
Finally, I mentioned how you could get a 5D Mark III at half price if you have a Mark II. I know this sounds stupid, but I know many people who miss the boat on technology turnover. As of this writing, a used Mark II in good condition is going for between $900-$1200 on Ebay. Couple selling your old camera with the new price drops on the 5D Mark III and the rebates offered sporaticaly throughout the year and you may be able to score that upgrade for a touch over $1000. If you wait a few more months until the 5D Mark IV is introduced, then you immediately lose substantial value in your old camera.
The best time to upgrade is now! The 5D Mark II is reaching the end of it’s useful life as it becomes two generations old. At this moment it’s still a great camera, but we all know technology moves extremely fast. What’s cutting edge at this moment, is old-hat a short time later.
I hope my experience can help someone looking to upgrade! If your thinking of upgrading, please consider purchasing using a link on my site to help contribute to the cost of running this site.