Camera Check: The Canon 5D Mark III08/14/2012
Canon rocked the indie filmmaking world in 2008 with the debut of the 5D Mark II, the first DSLR camera to have full HD video. This gave filmmakers the tools to start making movies with a large sensor camera, achieving the shallow depth of field we love in Hollywood films, as well as have a camera with high end interchangeable lenses that didn’t require a second mortgage. Between now and then we’ve seen a range of APS-C, or “crop”, sensor cameras come out with the same features and improved frame rates but there hadn’t been an update to the 5D since 2008. Now, with the 5D Mark III out in the world we’re seeing filmmakers embracing a wide range of new features.
One of the biggest complaints with DSLRs is the lack of audio adjustability, not being able to change levels while recording or monitor that sound to make sure its clean. With the Mark III Canon added a headphone jack so you can listen while filming and silent, touch sensitive buttons on the scroll wheel to adjust those levels without destroying your sound with obnoxious clicks that come from pressing camera controls while recording.
Another problem that has plagued these types of cameras is moiré, that strange, shiny rainbow effect that comes from certain fabrics or patterns too fine for the camera’s photo sites. Aliasing occurs when fine lines, such as those on roof tiles or bricks, are distorted by the camera downsampling its movie image. Since the resolution of the sensor well exceeds 1920×1080 the camera skips the in between lines, producing unsightly jagged edges. Thanks to a new Optical Low Pass Filter with Anti-Aliasing the 5D Mark III shows a significant decrease in these image imperfections, leaving only finicky pixel peepers unhappy.
The 5D Mark III adds a host of other features as well for both video and photography. A new internal codec allows for video files with a little bit less compression, though nothing close to the 4:2:2 colorspace seen in the C300. The new Digic 5+ image processor combined with expanded ISO range improve upon on an already phenomenal low light performance.
Here’s an awesome video showcasing the 5D Mark III low-light prowess:
The 5D Mark III is clearly an improvement over the Mark II but is it worth an extra $1,000? Many camera companies are trying to meet the demands and hype of the era of digital cinema. The Panasonic GH2 recently was identified as one of the most pleasing images in a side by side, randomized camera shootout. Will larger companies embrace the hacking with programs like Magic Lantern? With these tools we’re able to has turn a still-photo camera into a powerhouse with adjustable audio levels, focus peaking, false exposure, and a built in intervalometer for time lapse. Perhaps we’ll soon see these features and many more officially included as filmmakers continue to pushing these cameras to the next level.