Canon 5D Mark 3 Review for Wedding Photography

I did a brief review of the Canon 5D Mark3 a few months ago when I first got one. After shooting several weddings, some sport and portraits, I am still convinced this was a great upgrade from my 5D Mark2. I thought I would post an update with a few photos showing some settings from a few shots that lend weight to my thoughts.

Here’s what I really like:

Fast accurate Focus – I was blown away right from the start by the auto focus. I continue to be amazed by the fast and very accurate focus. Here are some wide open shots with and without action that prove the point.

f2.8 ISO3200

f2.8 ISO3200

f1.6  ISO500

f1.6 ISO500

f1.8  ISO1000

f1.8 ISO1000

f1.8 ISO1000

f1.8 ISO1000

f1.8 ISO2000

f1.8 ISO2000

f2 ISO 1000 B

f2 ISO 1000

f2 ISO 1000

f2 ISO 1000

f2 ISO1000

f2 ISO 1000

f2.2 ISO 500

f2.2 ISO 500

f2.8 ISO 800

f2.8 ISO 800

f2.8 ISO2000

f2.8 ISO2000

My 70-200 2.8L IS is sharp and accurate even wide open with the Mark3. I was often stopped down to f4 on my 5D Mark2 if there was movement in the shot, simply to make sure I got a sharp shot. Now I’m happy to shoot wide open when I want to. I love shooting the bride getting ready wide open to remove distracting backgrounds. To be able to nail shots at f1.6 and f1.8 is helpful. I find f1.8 is a sweet spot on my 50mm lens and live there for most getting ready shots. I was interested in the 6D as a second camera, but the ability to focus accurately with even the widest focus points has me sold on another Mark3. All the cross point focus points nail fast focus. The Mark2 was definitely limited to the centre point and from what I have read the 6D is only a little better at centre and not much better on the wide focus points.

Good ISO Performance – I have read lots of blogs on the ISO performance of the 5D Mark 3. Some say you can shoot up to ISO 25000 and get usable prints. Some hate to go over ISO 3200. It is a very relative topic. For my style of shooting, I love that I can shoot up to 5000 safely in a ceremony where no flash is allowed. I did push up to 16000 on a recent wedding just to see what I would get in a low lit situation with no flash. It is usable, but not great.

f4 ISO16000

f4 ISO16000

It is seldom necessary to venture over ISO 5000 if you have fast lenses, and at ISO 5000 I think the images are still great. I would be happy to make small prints from as high as 6400 if needed. For receptions, I like the ability to shoot at ISO 1000 to 2000 all night. This keeps my off camera flash recycling fast, and the images are still pretty clean. I can get away with two canon flashes even in fairly large rooms and not need to blast the venue with mono-lights. I find ISO 3200 to still be fairly noise free and am happy to bump up if needed. Shooting details at ISO 6400 allows for natural light and still pretty clean images too.

f3.2 ISO2000

f3.2 ISO2000

f3.2 ISO6400

f3.2 ISO6400

f3.5 ISO2000

f3.5 ISO2000

f3.5 ISO3200

f3.5 ISO3200

f4  ISO1600

f4 ISO1600

f4 ISO 1250

f4 ISO 1250

Sharp Images – I have read complaints about the 5D Mark3 not being sharp. I find it as sharp as anything I have shot with, including the Nikon D3s.

f11 ISO2000

f11 ISO2000

CF and SD Card Slots – Yes I know if you use the SD slot is writes slow. I have tons of fast CF and when I shoot sport, I only use CF cards. But I really like the failsafe of having an SD card and a CF card at weddings. I set my camera to record Raw to both cards. I have several very high capacity SD cards I use for video, so I tend to stick a huge SD card in and change out CF cards a few times at a wedding. My iMac has a built in SD card reader, so I tend to then dump off one card into my iMac when I get home. Having a backup gives me peace of mind, and safety. I keep the SD card in the camera traveling home and the CF cards separate.

Good battery Life – I have a grip on my camera all the time. I find it easier to balance when my 70-200 lens is on. I average anywhere from 1500 to 3500 photos at a wedding and I am yet to run out of battery. I carry four batteries, but am yet to need the two spares. Really love that my Mark 2 used the same size batteries, as I use it as a backup still, and I can use the chargers for both cameras to get ready for jobs. It also means I can steal batteries from My Mark 2 on long traveling assignments when the Mark 3 gets low as I use the mark 2 a lot less now.

Stunning LCD – It’s big and it gives a pretty good idea of what you are gonna see on your computer at home. Better than the Mark2 by far. I certainly don’t miss the old 20D screen.

Love the Video – I have not shot as much video on my Mark3 as my Mark2 yet, but what I have shot, I love and the rolling shutter seems to be controlled much better.

Thats my five cents after a few months with my Mark3. I got used to the new menu pretty fast, I hated the new image zoom function, but love it now. I love the faster frame rate, but seldom need it at weddings. I paid $3500 for mine, and now it can be found for $2850 on Ebay I believe. (I don’t care) I got it before the prices dropped, but then I had it before having to wait for the drop. I did not like that my Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini TTs would not go to High speed sync at first, but thanks to new firmware that is fixed. I hope to get some RT600 flashes soon and keep the Pocket wizards as backup.

Looking forward to another great year of shooting.

3 thoughts on “Canon 5D Mark 3 Review for Wedding Photography

  1. Hi, thanks for taking time to do this review, I’m planning to get a 5D III for my wedding photography business but I’ve read (many) troubling reports about slow focus acquisition in low light when using a speedlight with the AF assist beam active (http://forums.usa.canon.com/t5/EOS/5D3-AF-assist-beam-slower-focus/td-p/2277), like taking 3-5 seconds to find focus, where the 7D for example with the same flash (either 580exii or 600ex-rt) would lock instantly. I see many of the photos you took were with flash, what has been your experience with autofocus performance when using the AF assist beam? Thank you!

  2. I have not used the Canon 7D, but I have used the Nikon D3s which is renowned for low light autofocus and I have found the 5Dmk3 to be faster in most situations, including low light. I have found the need to switch to single shot focus from servo to allow the flash assist to work. Several people do not realize the flash assist does not fire in servo mode. In most receptions I can stay in servo, but when it is really dark I switch to single and find the assist is great. There are several custom settings on the 5Dmk3 that if set wrong may account for some people having bad focus, but my experience has been great thus far. I’m no technical guru, but experience is hard to argue with in the shots I seem to nail, even at f1.8 during dancing in low light receptions with a 50 1.4 which is not as fast at focus lock as the 50 1.2L.

    • Wow, thanks for the fast response!

      Well I guess this is great news, currently I’m shooting with the old 5D (only on center point, almost always single shot) with primes and the AF assist on my flash has been invaluable in low light situations to help me lock focus. As you said, probably it is because user error, not knowing how to properly use the equipment, although some reported faster autofocus with the beam disabled, under same conditions, which I found rather odd. My primary reason to upgrade would be the better autofocus system and the dual cards, the AF alone is the reason I skipped the 5D II and it would be a huge dissapointment if the 5D III wouldn’t work properly in low light.

      Thanks again for your help and good luck with your business!

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