Canon 5D Mark III AKA, Old Faithful

As you might already know, I’m a Canon guy. I’ve been using their equipment for my entire photography career thus far. They have been there for all my best moments, and more importantly, have stood the test of time.

First of all, I want to tell you about how this camera is hands down the best thing I have ever purchased. The way it sits in my hand, the speed and the technicalities are more than I could've ever dreamt of. It just does everything I need in a DSLR and more. From its high-speed shutter to dynamic 1080p video recording. This camera has it all.

Granted, if you’re not willing to have a heavy camera swinging around your arm for a day or 4, this camera isn’t for you. If you need a camera for a studio or something robust that you use at either end of your travels then I would definitely recommend it. If you’re somewhere in the middle of this description and don’t mind the weight at all, this is a no-brainer.

 Cross section of a Canon 5D Mark II. I own both models and there are both flawless.

Cross section of a Canon 5D Mark II. I own both models and there are both flawless.

Okay, let’s look at the speed and durability of this beast. So far I haven’t experienced much if any lag with the Canon 5D Mark III hardware or firmware itself. There was one time I was shooting a timelapse for a client and the card speed couldn’t keep up with the camera's next interval. I stopped the camera momentarily while the shutter release was still counting down to the next frame, about 10 seconds until the next frame. This is an external unit, you can read more about the Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss the next interval frame. I flicked the camera off gently to make sure I didn't bump the tripod. I slid open the card tray, softly ejected the card and inserted a better, faster more reliable storage device.

You’re probably wondering, why didn’t you use that card in the first place. Simple answer, why didn't I? No excuses here really, just learn from your every mistake and hope you’re more prepared next time.

Of course, I closed the card tray gently again, powered the camera back up, and checked my focus and shutter speed accordingly. That’s one thing I love about this camera, as it remembers what settings you were last using before powering down. Sounds kind of obvious and a rather simple task, but it’s these types of features that can take you from go to whoa while the client is standing right next to you. Less technical dramas equal more enjoyable photo shoots.

An important point to make here is that you should always clearly communicate and walk through what you're doing while your client is on set. It doesn't matter how technical they are, the last thing you want to do is blindside them on a technical glitch, that could potentially ruin an entire shoot. These things can and do happen to the best of us but can usually be rectified by working smarter and not hard.

So, where are we? Ah yes, speed. I guess it’s a good time to talk about the shutter speeds and shutter functions. If you're interested in a camera like this then I don't necessarily need to go into depths about how a camera works. What I'm more interested in sharing with you are the different shutter drive modes that can be accessed from the buttons on top of the camera.

Typically you want to use the 'normal' single frame mode, as this will replicate exactly what you have keyed into the camera's settings. There are a series of other modes such as burst frame, and timer functions for both 3 and 10-second countdowns, however, one thing I really love about this drive customisation is the silent mode. It can be used when you're shooting discreetly at an event where you don't want to disturb the speaker or audience, or maybe you just want to go into an incognito mode for a completely different reason.

I have noticed that if you are using a slow shutter speed with this silent drive, it tends to give a somewhat even 'slower' shutter speed to counter the sound that would otherwise be created by the shutter mechanism in its normal mode, so be wary here. It's not a terrible amount of difference, however, something to keep in mind if you don’t have a tripod. With a little practice, patients and previous camera experience you can counter this quite easily between the various camera settings. This silent drive is available in both single and burst frames.

One feature that I have really come to love is the video capabilities. This has complete changed the way I see my photography and where I can take my photo sets turning them into video sets but the flick of a switch. I am in no ways a cinema director, but creating short little loops has been a really eye opening experience.

I have listed a few more technical features of the Canon 5D Mark III below; 

  • 22MP full frame CMOS sensor

  • 6 frames per second continuous shooting

  • 61-point AF system. Image type: JPEG, RAW, RAW + JPEG

  • ISO 100 - 25600 range with 50 - 102,800 expansion

  • 1080p HD video recording with manual controls

Durability is next. The weatherproof finish is great when you're caught out running for cover, however by no means is it build to be dunked in a puddle, but the Canon 5D Mark III design team really have worked out how to protect the longevity of their cameras life. Importantly enough if something does happen out of your own free will, I've found that even a low drop of the camera on to something relatively hard, barely takes a scratch. What you do have to look out for is the glass in your lens, and of course so when holding and placing your equipment, always be cautious. I talk more about the different camera products and features to help move and hold my cameras here.

The proof is in the pudding, where sometimes you have to go into stealth mode and immerse yourself taking pictures and not think so much about the camera settings and way it all works under the hood. You shouldn't get too caught up with what cameras can do for you, but become so comfortable with it that you don't really need to think while you're shooting. It should come naturally.

Back to the camera. Another thing I love about this beautiful camera is the customisation. Although all the buttons on the back of the camera already have a clear icon and purpose, I found myself in situations where my hand and brain just works differently to the logic of the default factory settings. Most of the menus you can basically make any single button do anything’s you want it to. I don’t think there is anything you can’t do, at least that I know of. If anyone does, please let me know below.

The way I use this customisation is by enabling the A/F-ON button on the back side of the camera instead of it being triggered when by the shutter button like most digital cameras.

Why do I do that? Well, for me it has a number of benefits, I can check and lock focus even as I am moving parallel to subject, in this case, sometimes flying at 1500ft in a helicopter. It's also very handy when walking around, and can help you use capture fast moving objects. You're probably thinking, but that's only if you're using autofocus right? Not necessarily.

Do I use autofocus? Sometimes. It definitely has its purpose in certain scenarios. However, enabling the A/F-ON button allows me to use my right thumb to trigger the autofocus checker independently from my trigger finger on the shutter release. Separating the shutter release from the focus control allows me to use the lens in manual again without needing to refocus everytime I want to capture an image. I don't want the camera to do that at all. I want the camera to do less for me so I can have more control. This might seem more like a creative type decision, but I have a feeling it might also be why my batteries last as long as they do. Win, win. Instead of the drive train working and possibly not being able to find a sharp point by itself, I get a quick little red flash of light showing me exactly where the sharpest point is on the sensor as verification. The best way to understand the power of this is trying for yourself.

One last thing while I think of batteries. Sure I've said it before in other articles that I try not to overshoot which might in turn flaw this point of view, but in my experience, the battery life is very, very, good. Since I got this camera back in 2015, I haven’t needed to buy a new lithium cartridge. Maybe I’m lucky, or maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you enjoyed this article. The links in this article are linked to Amazon, any purchase you make behind this wall goes toward supporting me and my work. You can see what else is in my bag here to find other products I use on a daily basis. Thanks, Tim.