User impressions for the Canon 5D Mark III for architecture/industrial photography

Just this week, I upgraded one of my Canon 5D Mark IIs to a 5D Mark III. I'm not always an early adopter, and the Mark IIs have performed admirably for both stills and video in a variety of very demanding environments, from airplane cockpits, deep inside hydroelectric dams, dusty construction sites, and swanky top-floor condominiums.


From a user standpoint, the new camera is very similar to my existing ones, with some great updates. My favorite among them is are the locking features for many of the common controls (camera mode dial, and the main control rings), as I was forever knocking them out of position when I'd stow or retrieve the camera from its case or bag. Other often-used controls have been maddeningly relocated; chief among them the power switch and the review/display zoom buttons. Switching between old and new will require conscious effort for the next few weeks as my brain learns the new pathways around the back of the camera. Knowing where all the controls are, in the dark, backwards and upside-down, is essential to working in dark or confined areas.


The camera body, although very close in physical dimensions to the old model, is shaped slightly differently, such that my trusty and indispensible Really Right Stuff L-bracket won't work with the new camera. A new bracket is already on order. Mercifully, Canon had the good graces to standardize batteries among cameras of similar ranges, so my current collection of spares is quite readily usable. The addition of a second memory-card slot is a great bonus, too - it was one of the features I missed the most when I traded in my old 1Ds Mark II for my first 5D Mark II back in the spring of 2009. 


The vast majority of my work is done on a beefy tripod at f/11 or greater, with correspondingly lengthy exposures that frequently run into multiple seconds. The Mark III's high-ISO capability (25,600 vs. 102,800) is something I'll likely use very little for stills, but my tests have proven it to be quite impressive just the same. I'm really looking forward to taking advantage of it on my next video project, a use for which the capability seems perfectly designed.


The sensor size and resolution are pretty much the same for both the Mark II and III (21MP vs. 22.3MP), but the processing is better and the noise much lower and cleaner when it does appear. The internal level will save me from having to dig out one of the many hotshoe levels I keep in my camera cases, and the shutter is considerably quieter, which will help a great deal when I'm working in a quiet office environment or at a live event.


The rear display is about the same size as the old one, but is is much crisper and brighter — another welcome update. The menu system has been updated, too, mitigating one of my long-held gripes about Canon's user interface, especially as compared with Nikon's, which I've always felt was superior. Happily, I no longer feel this way.


Canon has finally created a usable auto-bracketing function, with up to seven shots over a +/- 8 EV range. External speedlite controls, a touch-sensitive rear dial, and a bunch of great video options and tweaks round out the major improvements. 


Clients will notice some improvements in overall image quality and more flexible options when it comes to documenting active construction sites, etc., where auxiliary lighting isn't always a realistic option. 


All in all, it's a worthy addition to the camera bag.