Mar 122012

The long wait and endless rumours have come to an end. Canon has announced its replacement for its 5D Mark II camera, imaginatively called the Canon 5D Mark III. I am sure Ron Howard will be gushing over that.

The 5D Mark III boasts a 22.3 megapixel full frame sensor, a 61-point AF system borrowed from Canon’s flagship 1DX camera, a 63-zone metering system and the ability to shoot at 6 frames per second. The enhanced video specifications mean absolutely nothing to me, so there is no point in me mentioning them.

Nor am I going to comment on the fact that the Canon 5D Mark III lags some 14 megapixels behind its Nikon rival the D800 and D800E. To be honest, I would be quite happy with the 18 megapixels of the 1DX but not so happy with the bulk of the camera or its $6,000-plus price tag.

According to Canon UK’s press release, the specifications of the 5D Mark III are allegedly the result of Canon listening to the wishes of photographers from all over the world.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Kieran Magee, Marketing Director, Professional Imaging, Canon Europe, stated:

The EOS 5D Mark III is an exceptional camera and we’ve listened carefully to feedback from its passionate community of users to improve performance in every area. This camera has been designed to meet virtually any creative challenge – it’s faster, more responsive and features the tools to adapt to everything from studio photography to creative videography, while producing results of the highest quality.

That all sounds fine and dandy but there is one group of photographers whose wishes have been completely ignored, namely those who shoot with Zeiss ZE manual focus lenses.

Like all DSLR camera manufacturers, Canon make no provision for focusing aids in their viewfinder but hitherto have provided interchangeable focusing screens to aid manual focus.

Most people shooting with Zeiss ZE lenses on their 5D Mark II swap the standard focusing screen for the Eg-S Super Precision Matte Focusing Screen. A similar screen, the EF-S, is available for the Canon 40D and one is fitted to mine. It is optimized for lenses f/2.8 and faster. Once this screen is installed, a custom function in the camera’s menu must be changed so that the exposure correction matches the focusing screen.

With the Canon 5D Mark III it will probably be possible to install a third-party screen to aid manual focusing, but with no provision for changing the exposure correction, metering issues could be a problem.

So it appears Canon has ignored the wishes of those photographers who love to shoot with the Zeiss ZE lenses. Now it could be that the improved AF on the Canon 5D Mark III might yield AF confirmation that is spot on. I will not be holding my breath on that one but would love to be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, the 5D Mark II is still available and is a credible alternative. However, with electronic equipment – let’s face it cameras these days are a computer with a lens attached — I always like to buy the latest model available just to keep ahead of the technology curve if only briefly. That is precisely the reasons I have been hanging on to see just what the 5D Mark III offered. And while it offers a lot, and is a great improvement on the 5D Mark II, the lack of an interchangeable focusing screen is a big minus for me. The only other option would be to go for a Canon 1DX. Yeah, right! For one thing, the price is close to $7,000, virtually double the price of the Canon 5D Mark III, which is already considerably more expensive than the 5D Mark II. More importantly, do I really want to lug a heavy professional camera round with me all day long? If I were 35 years old, I probably wouldn’t think twice but I am not.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The Canon 5D Mark III is available for pre-order and will go on sale on March 22 in the USA and Canada. I hope some of the contributors to the Alternative Gear & Lenses Forum at Fred will be among the early adopters and provide some feedback on the use of Zeiss ZE lenses with the 5D Mark III.

If you are interested in pre-ordering a Canon 5D Mark III, you can help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link.