Apr 062012

With the new Canon 5D Mark III in the hands of early adopters, some indications of this camera’s ability are beginning to emerge. Since Canon announced that it would not be possible to change the focusing screen on the 5D Mark III that brought into question its compatibility with the Zeiss ZE manual lenses.

Quite a few hearts fell when camera enthusiast and former software engineer Lloyd Chambers pronounced that the focusing screen on the 5D Mark III made it impossible to achieve accurate focus, although he did concede that the green dot focus assist worked well for chipped lenses, such as the Zeiss ZE lenses.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The difficulty I have with people like Chambers is their lack of credentials. He is simply a self-appointed expert answerable to no-one. The sheeple flock to his site and hang on his every utterance as if he were some kind of a technology shaman.

I do not for one minute doubt the technical competence and knowledge of Chambers but he is simply expressing his opinion as a camera enthusiast, a more knowledgeable hobbyist, if you will, than most hobbyists who frequent the Internet.

But it took a hobbyist on the Alternative Gear & Lenses forum at Fredmiranda.com to reveal that the Canon 5D Mark III is perfectly suited to the manual Zeiss ZE lenses.

Philippe, based in France, who posts under the name of Philber wrote:

I do not find that the standard VF screen makes it any harder to focus than my 5DII’s Eg-S. BUT the much improved AF is a game changer for MF! Now I haven’t had the time to micro-adjust my lenses, or to select the best AF configuration for my needs (essentially landscape). I just turned noise reduction off, and started shooting JPEGs to see if I could focus my MF lenses. And the result blew me away, because of the MF assist. The AF will focus even in an almost dark room. It will lead the camera in P mode to go for f:1.4, 1/80s and ISO 12.800 with my ZE 85, and the focus is spot on every time, something that was simply not possible on the 5D II.

Bob Israel went even further and posted some photographs taken with the Zeiss ZE 2/100 Makro shot wide open.

Tongue-in-cheek, Bob wrote:

According to some recent writings, I must have been one lucky SOB to nail the (manual) focus!

With Bob’s photographs, the proof of the pudding is there for all to see. And it seems that the fears many Canon 5D Mark II shooters had about the 5D Mark III have proved to be unfounded.

Canon has at long last rectified the poor AF system associated with the 5D Mark II. The 5D Mark III borrows the AF system of Canon’s flagship model , the soon to be released Canon 1DX, and it appears to deliver the goods.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

In a comparison between the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D800, Calgary-based fashion and portrait photographer Nathan Elson said that AF focus on the Canon was faster and more precise than the Nikon. For the record, Nathan shoots with Nikon cameras.

And, as a working photographer, Nathan considers both the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D800 to be fine cameras. One can almost hear the cries of “Sacrilege!” emanating from the respective forums of DPReview.

Happy Easter!

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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 Miranda.com will be among the early adopters and provide some feedback on the use of Zeiss ZE lenses with the 5D Mark III.

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