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March 5, 2012

5 Reasons Why the Canon 5D Mark III is $3500 and Why It's Worth It

The Canon 5D Mark III was only announced a few days ago and many sites and blogs have weighed in on whether this full-frame low-light monster is worth the extra money over the 5D Mark II. Many users have commented that it is far beyond their budget compared to what they already have, or the updated specs aren't worth the extra $800 over what the 5D Mark II cost in 2008 when it was announced ($2700). Many also say that clean HDMI and 1080 60p were deal-breakers at this price. I'll give you 5 reasons why the Mark III is worth the price. But first, here's a video showing the 5D Mark II vs. the 5D Mark III at 12,800 ISO:

This is one of the more remarkable things I've seen in the last few days. This video was taken with a beta 5D Mark III, and it's clear that even in its unfinished form, it blows the doors off of the 5D Mark II. Some have commented about about the lack of resolution in the 5D Mark III compared to the Mark II in this video, but it's possible for two reasons: proper down-scaling and noise reduction. The 5D Mark III no longer has the same aliasing problems as the Mark II, and with this, comes a slight reduction in "apparent" resolution. There is obviously some noise reduction happening in-camera, which could make the camera appear as if it has less resolution. This is only conjecture about this video as we have no other details about how it was actually shot (the details are in Japanese, if you can read Japanese, please let me know in the comments if I'm missing any details).

Here are the 5 reasons the Canon 5D Mark III is $3500, and why it's worth it:

1. Low-light Performance/Reduced Noise

Based on the improvements Canon has made to noise reduction, the 5D Mark III could be the best performing full-frame camera at this price point in low-light situations. Color fidelity also looks to be much improved at high ISOs, and should retain more information. The FS100 is not full-frame and is another $1500 more expensive. For some, having this performance is not a necessity. They may never be shooting in reduced light like this video. Since it's not about the high ISOs for these people, they should look at it another way: with an improvement in high ISOs comes an improvement in low ISOs. Based on what Canon has said about a two-stop improvement in noise overall, this camera is virtually noiseless at all normal shooting ISOs. ISO 1600 should look like ISO 400 did on the 5D Mark II (maybe better). That's a big deal, because it means that your "base" ISO can be somewhere above where it would be shooting on cameras like the C300, FS100, RED Scarlet/Epic, and Alexa. No one has complained about those cameras shooting natively at around ISO 800. This camera "should" have similar dynamic range performance throughout its ISO range, unlike the RED cameras, where ND filters are necessary to shoot in daylight and have adequate dynamic range performance.

2. Resolution/HDMI at 1080p

The Canon 5D Mark II could resolve at best 650-800 lines of resolution. Aliasing helped tremendously to make this camera appear like it was shooting 1080p. In actuality, it was shooting 720p upscaled. For many purposes the aliasing sufficed, but it reared its ugly head on camera movements and straight lines. In this new generation of cameras, that type of performance would be unacceptable. Thankfully, Canon looks to have improved the down-scaling algorithm to the point where this camera will be resolving much closer to 1080p. The Panasonic GH2 has the most resolution of any "DSLR" at the moment, but it's about to be matched by the 5D Mark III. Yes, the GH2 is a sub-$1000 camera, but the 5D Mark III is full-frame. Getting wide on the GH2 can be a pain, and getting a fast wide angle lens is a whole other story on M4/3.

Now that the camera is resolving closer to 108op, it has also become the best full-frame B-camera at this price point. The 5D Mark II, at times, would stick out when inter-cut with more expensive cameras. It's likely that this camera can now be used on any production finishing in 1080p, and be inter-cut with any other camera without much issue (at least regarding resolution).

While not clean HDMI, the camera nonetheless will not go down to 480p when hitting the record button. Finally, it will be much easier to get focus with an external monitor than it was with the 5D Mark II. Not only was that camera limited in outgoing resolution, but the 480p would not fill the entire screen unless the monitor would adjust accordingly (SmallHD DP6).

3. Reduced Moire and Rolling Shutter

Both of these were miserable on the 5D Mark II. Now, it looks like they are either non-existent or less apparent to the point of being invisible. Moire could easily ruin many shots, and it wasn't always possible to see it on the small LCD. Clothing, bricks, water - all of these could wreak havoc on the Mark II. Not so with the new camera, based on the promotional videos and what Canon has said, moire should be reduced to a point where we will not have to adjust our shooting to compensate. Same with rolling shutter. While not as good as the 4-times more expensive C300, rolling shutter on this camera looks to be as good, if not better, than any of the DSLRs out there, GH2 included.

Both of these could really ruin a shot, but now that we can shoot almost freely without worrying about them, it makes for a much, much better and consistent shooting experience.

4. ALL-I Codec at 100mb

While not exactly 100mb (it's still a variable codec from my understanding, but close enough), it should blow away not only the D800 internal codec (obviously) but the native internal codec of any other camera below $10,000 - besides, of course, the Canon 1DX. I say native internal because we all know that some of these cameras can be hacked (GH2, Canon DSLRs with Magic Lantern) or can shoot uncompressed from HD-SDI or HDMI (D800). This codec is well above the broadcast standard of 50mbps, and in bitrate alone, will actually beat the $16,000 C300 (50mb internal). For many people and situations, dealing with an external recorder is just not possible. Many also just don't want the hassle. Now with the Mark III we can shoot internally to the CF cards and have an image that should be almost indistinguishable from the uncompressed HDMI (which we obviously can't record because of overlays). Color will still be limited to 8-bit 4:2:0 internally (to my knowledge), but as we all know the much more expensive Sony F3 is also limited internally to a 35mb 4:2:0 codec. In practice, 8-bit 4:2:0 color sampling is less of an issue than a low bitrate codec.

Not only is the bitrate high with this codec, but the intraframe nature of the ALL-I codec is a tremendous improvement over every other Long-GOP compression system. Each frame is compressed individually instead of relying on frames around it. This keeps the results much more consistent, especially in darker scenes. This addition alone is worth the extra money over the Mark II, as this internal codec is better than any camera under $10,000.

5. Audio Monitoring/Record Limit Up to 29:59

I put these two together because in practice, for many people, they tend to be less of an issue than the other 4 reasons. Audio monitoring is much, much better than it's ever been on a Canon DSLR. Not only do we have a headphone jack, but we can now monitor and adjust the audio during a take. The most incredible part is that for the first time in a DSLR, we can adjust audio silently, because the scroll wheel is touch sensitive for this very purpose. While audio recording might not be much improved, the actual process of recording audio is leagues ahead of what it was on the Mark II. Magic Lantern does a great job on the Canon DSLRs, but it's far more of a hassle and not as intuitive as having those options in camera.

The record limit being raised to almost 30 minutes will be a blessing for many documentary folks out there who couldn't stand the 12 minute limit. While it would be nice to have an unlimited record time, because of crazy European tax laws, if the camera records 30 minutes or more it is considered a video camera and would have to cost more to compensate. 30 minutes is much more doable for documentary work, because it allows interviews to go on much longer and have more fluid breaks in between. For live events, it's still a pain, there's no getting around that - but at least you will have less clips in the long run with this camera if you're shooting a concert or other live event.

Conclusion

If you compare the feature set of this camera not only to the previous 5D Mark II, but to cameras that cost much more, you can see why the Mark III is worth the price. The C300 is the next large-sensor camera that can record internally at more than 30mbps. But at $16,000, it's nowhere near as affordable as this camera. In terms of low-light performance, there isn't another full-frame camera out there at this price point that can match it, and the next closest camera is another $1500 (FS100). We'll have to wait and see if this camera can be hacked, as I'm positive there is more capability under the hood. Let's hope the people at Magic Lantern don't have another 7D on their hands.

The improvements made may seem slight at first glance, but when you really take into consideration what else is out there at this price point, you start to realize that it's almost a bargain. There is not another camera below $3500 with an internal codec at 100mb, and clean ISO at 1600. These are simply tremendous improvements, and it's the reason why I say the Canon 5D Mark III costs as much as it does, and is worth every penny.

If it's not in your budget range, I think now is a good time to understand why. Do you shoot for fun - or not very often? What are your requirements in a DSLR: low-light, record time, resolution? If these improvements don't affect your shooting style or your final product, then by all means stick to the camera you have or wait for a price drop. This camera will not make you a better shooter, but it will certainly improve your workflow if nothing else. Gone are the limitations of the 5D Mark II. Now the only thing stopping us from shooting beautiful full-frame video is imagination.

[via planet5D]

Your Comment

94 Comments

Are you sure about the "ALL-I Codec at 100mb", I mean the 100mb?
That could really convince me :)

March 5, 2012

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This is from Canon's website on the 5D Mark III:

Based on 8GB Card:
[1920 x 1080]
24 fps ALL-I: 11 min. (685 MB/min.) / IPB: 32 min. (235 MB/min.)

685MB x 8 = 5,480mb/min
5,480mb/min divided by 60 seconds per minute = 91.33mbps

I say 100 because it's a much nicer round number, and it's possible with being a variable bitrate that we could see situations higher than 91mb. (not positive but this is normally how variable bitrate codecs work)

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
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LOL - We wrote this at the same time and came within .12 of each other.. 2 different ways of deriving the answer as well. Nice.

March 5, 2012

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Tom

Yeah that's pretty funny - I just saw that. At least we arrived at the same answer!

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
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284

IPB bit rate is very low compared to the 70 or so mbps with magic lantern CBR 1.5x with 600x cards.

The ALL-I is always going to be much larger without necessarily more information

IPB: 32 min. (235 MB/min.)

235MB x 8 = 1880mb/min
1880mb/min divided by 60 seconds per minute = 31.1mbps

March 5, 2012

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Greg Greenhaw

Wouldn't you multiply the "685 MB/minute" by the amount of minutes, not the size of the card?
Based on 8GB Card:
[1920 x 1080]
24 fps ALL-I: 11 min. (685 MB/min.)

685MB x 11(min) = 7,535mb/min
7,535mb/min divided by 60 seconds per minute = 125.58mbps

Which of course is still an approximation, due to the possibility of VBR and such.

March 5, 2012

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My bad.

No sleep + Me = very bad math skills.

March 5, 2012

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Yup. For All-i to even work it needs a data rate of over 600 MB (megabytes) per minute of footage. I recall seeing a number like 685 MB per second.. I believe on this website, I can't find it right now.. but I am 100% sure it was well over 600 MBpm. So lets take 685/60 = 11.4 megabytes per second or 92 megabits per second. (Since computational space is calculated on a 8 base scale 11.4 * 8 = 91.2)

March 5, 2012

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Tom

Ill wait for the five reasons why the Nikons own the 5D :)

March 5, 2012

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Paul

You'll never get it. ; )

March 5, 2012

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That will be great if all the hopes connected with MarkIII are fulfilled in the shooting!

March 5, 2012

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Edward

I think it's way too early to be posting articles like this! How is everyone arriving at this crazy 100Mb recording? Canon has stated 30's to 40's using intra-frame! The c300 records 4:2:2 50Mb - huge difference! BOTH of the new Nikons record clean 4:2:2 out to external recorder of choice - this is the main feature we needed from Canon! Trying to protect the c300 may mean giving away a huge piece of the DSLR pie to Nikon this round. Most indie DSLR shooters aren't going to upgrade to a $16k camera - that's why the DSLR revolution is a... revolution!

We can assume this camera is a substantial upgrade over MkII, for $1,000 price hike it better be, but until we see some true 1080p demos it's just too early to tell how good this camera is...

March 5, 2012

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Lance Bachelder

More exclamation points!!!

March 5, 2012

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Canon states in their specifications the space required per minute for ALL-I on an 8GB card. With some math done (check out the numbers I did above) you arrive at 91.33 mbps.

http://usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/slr_cameras/eos_5d_m...

4:2:2 would be wonderful, but in practice, you can still get fantastic results from 8 bit 4:2:0.

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
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"Since it’s a variable bit rate, the range, according to Westfall, is in the “40s”, which is similar to the bit rate of a 7D. "

From HDVideoPro article. This is what Chuck Westfall from Canon says, let's hope he's wrong.

I'll wait for 1080p demo's and reviews before making a final decision whether to go Canon or Nikon - doesn't matter which brand to me, just which fits the needs of my next project.

I'm very familiar with 4:2:0 workflow having shot one of the 1st 7D features - which is why I'm leaning toward Nikon and external recording or just renting a couple of c300 packages for my next feature.

March 5, 2012

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Lance Bachelder

That doesn't really make any sense based on the specifications on Canon's own website. If it were only in the 40s, then the max record time would be much higher. The Canon website states 11 minutes for ALL-I on an 8GB card, but let's say it was only 40mbps. At 40mbps, you could record for 26 minutes. That's a HUGE difference. Bitrate is bitrate - it's always going to be equivalent math - no matter the compression scheme. You'd think Canon would want to overestimate record times - since that's the only statistic they actually give (we have to do the math for bitrates). I read the HDVideoPro post, and I'm hoping there was a misunderstanding, because it doesn't benefit Canon to not give bitrate information but then underestimate record times.

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
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I hope you're right. But since it's variable Canon may be being safe on their website. For instance an action scene would be much larger than a talking head scene - this is the same way MPEG-2 works for DVD's - like DVD's perhaps Canon has set a VBR range of low to high and gives us the card space based on worse case scenario?

Again... looking forward to 1080p demo's and reviews - I'm sure the camera is going to be great either way.

March 5, 2012

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Lance Bachelder

Great article Joe. You've summed up all the salient points of exactly why I'll be buying one at the first opportunity. Canon have really listened to what people asked for, uncompressed HDMI was never going to happen, and I wouldn't be surprised if the 720 60fps actually looks better than some of the cameras doing 1080 60fps. The videos although not full-res look great and it sounds to me they cracked a lot of the issues with the previous generation. I'm sure once people get their hands on it they'll realise just what an amazing camera it is!

March 5, 2012

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The difference between the 2 cameras when comparing iso is crazy, never thougt it was so dramatic!
Great article by the way!

March 5, 2012

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For shooting in really low light, I wonder how the quality compares if you shoot with the new 5D Mark III versus a lower-cost DSLR and just use Red Giant's Magic Bullet Denoiser or similar noise-reduction software. I imagine getting a better image in-camera will always be superior, but I already have the Magic Bullet Suite and it's paid for! :-)

March 6, 2012

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Peter O.

Remember, that the Canon C300 50 Mbit/s is not mpeg4/H.264 like 5D Mk III, but mpeg2 which is half as effective.

March 5, 2012

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Simon Falkentorp

That’s a good point – I had forgotten that the C300 was MPEG 2 – it does make a difference, the H.264 is more compressed but also more efficient. Apples to apples comparisons are not easy, but yes, 50mb MPEG 4 should be better than 50mb MPEG 2. The Sony F3 is also MPEG 2 for example, at 35mb.

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
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You can't make a review without hands on testing first lol.

March 5, 2012

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Donald F.

man i'd love one of these. I suppose i'll have to save up for ages. :/

March 5, 2012

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most people expect the electronics products to be improved over the previous generation and the price to be the same or lower.
the reason Canon raised the price is that the dollar value to the yen. years of the US government borrowing from Japan and China to pay for wars has seriously devalued the dollar.

so many Japanese companies are loosing money because of the strong Yen. so the companies see a new product release as a way to gain some on the losses.
this is inflation. expect many Japanese made products to go up.

March 5, 2012

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Daniel

It doesn't make sense. Why then did D800 drop in price compared to D700 at introduction?

March 7, 2012

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Axel

the 5d Mark II is still an extremely relevant and capable camera, and there have been multiple feature films shot with it entirely, and have gone on to win awards; (Rubber, etc).

I feel that, at this point, the differences between the two cameras, in a real time, production situation, are nominal at best, and I wont even consider getting one until the price goes down considerably.

That being said, I am getting a used 5d 2 in the next few weeks, finally. Sick of putting up with my noisy ass t2i

March 5, 2012

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John Jeffreys

I feel like the 5d can be a noisy ass camera and am excited to see the mark iii is not even at very high iso

March 5, 2012

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Ryan

Noisy compared to what? An Alexa or C300? Sure, maybe. But compared to other DSLR's, the 5d 2 and 3 are both literally noiseless, unless you shoot in stupidly dark conditions/out in alleyways

March 5, 2012

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John Jeffreys

did you not see the posted video above?

March 5, 2012

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Ryan

All of those vimeo/you tube videos have no noise when the screen is that small.

March 5, 2012

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Baron

Im not going to restructure my entire argument based on a vimeo test of a stationary subject for 30 seconds

March 6, 2012

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John Jeffreys

Your argument? I was substantiating mine, 5d mark ii is noisy

March 9, 2012

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Ryan

Just the fact that this camera is at all compared to the GH2 just proves how good of a camera the GH2 is. A sub-$1000 should not have similar features to a $3500 camera. Just look at non-DSLR cameras for a comparison. $1000 gets you a crap tiny camera for hobbyists. $3500 gets you an HPX with all the bells and whistles of a pro camera (minus the interchangeable lens).

March 5, 2012

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Chuck

For those of us who come from film, not digital or video, and are used to work with lighting and a professional crew, film or HD, the differences are nil. I have used the Mark II for most of my recent work and I am still amazed at the quality I get from it. I don't like to go over 400 ISO. Maybe for available light, RODE on camera weekend filmmakers it will make a difference.

March 5, 2012

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Luis

I think you make a very valid point particularly if you take my view that we are on the cusp of a series of breakthroughs in video technologies. ( anyone following what Nokia have just introduced of their phones ? could be applicable to other devices, ie cameras). Sure the new 5d is an improvement but I already have a 5d and am comfortable using my creativity to get around its weaknesses, (like any other camera). So, I'm gonna wait and see what happens over the next few months. If I suddenly absolutely need a b-cam, then I'll probably have an internal discussion re 5d111 vs c300. But, i bet, due to the influence of the 'real' world, the decision will come down to the issue of cash flow. If I can afford it, probably c300, if not, new 5 d...and I won't care too much, after all, they are only cameras

March 5, 2012

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the funny thing is 4/5 of all of these reason are now standard on all new DSLR's coming out. And 5/5 of the solutions are on all new DSLR's coming out, making the 5D not stand out at all IMO.

March 5, 2012

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Nagato

35mm full frame DSLRs? The D800 is the only comparable one. I guarantee that there won't be any DSLRs coming out in the next year or two under $3500 with a 91mbps internal codec.

March 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
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Thats true, I think the majority use APS-C, so full frame wise I think Sony will re-enter the game giving us 3 FF cameras to choose from. But solutions wise, and camera universe as a whole. Even mirrorless cameras with video are performing very well. Based on the 5 or so cameras released so far from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and Sony. All 4/5 of these reasons are addressed no matter what camera you choose. So the only uniqueness for Canon is the codec choice.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 has some incredible features and technology in it. A 3D camera tracker for focusing, axis stabilization. Camera manufacturers are coming hard this year, even in the prosumer market of $900 and up. I'm actually going to sell my Canon t3i for the Olympus E-M5 because of those ass saving features. Not sure what to do on the high end yet....

Also, in that test the 5D2 is way sharper than the 5D3, the 5D3 is doing some heavy noise reduction and making the image blurry and unrealistically smooth. Did anyone else notice that?

March 5, 2012

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Nagato

A little advice guys on purchasing, I'm sure there are many more people out there in my situation.

I am a professional (graphic/web design) but amateur in videography/photography. I do make money on video as well as stills for weddings and the equipment write-offs help tax wise. The reality of it is, if I am to continue to do stills for weddings, it is imperative to have 2 camera bodies.

The other reality is, why mix brands when you already have great EF glass? (so goobye Nikon).

Also, why would I invest in another MKII or 7D when I know the MKIII is better and in a way, any purchase in that area is a purchase in old tech?

Finally, buying a MKIII not only keeps the stills business going, it seems to be a great investment for growing the videography department.

Thoughts? I certainly can wait 6 months or more to see if the price will drop any. I doubt the price will drop in the first year though.

March 5, 2012

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I completely agree with you!

March 5, 2012

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It's like this: for those of us with a mkII or 7D currently looking for another camera, why spend $2,000+ on a 3+ year old body? Why not let that $2k be a nice down-payment on a new camera that fixes problems in video that wreck shots (so many ocean sunset shots killed by moire!)

On the other hand, if you are purely a stills shooter and getting into photography, a new MKII is a fine fit I'd say. Though in my experience, low light focusing is its Achilles heel and I've had trouble even at slow paced events such as weddings...

March 5, 2012

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Hey guys, here is ISO 5000, looks super clean. Very rich colors as well.
https://vimeo.com/37931539

NOTE: at 48 seconds, there is aliasing on the diagonal boom mic!

It was shot at 720p 50 fps, All-I.

March 5, 2012

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Resolution isn't very good in this video.

March 6, 2012

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OMG thanks allot for this very good article, looks like we are back on track. Now i have to wait until second half of april to have this camera here in latin america (a canon rep said) but yes I'm upgrading without doubt

March 5, 2012

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Oneris

I was wondering where you got your info for the 1st point regarding the comparison between the Canon 5D mIII vs. Nikon D800? I saw some D800 footage at 3200 and it looked pretty good to me. Are you saying that Canon footage is clean at 12800 and 25600? (two to three stop advantage as you say?) Where is the link to this test footage, I'd like to confirm what you say. Perhaps a side by side comparison?

March 5, 2012

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Patrick

The article includes a video comparing 5D2 to the 5D3.. It shows both cams at 12800 ISO.

March 6, 2012

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Tom

I read the article and saw the video but it only tells me that the 5dmIII is cleaner than the 5dmII. It doesn't tell me that it is up to two stops better than the Nikon. Also, there also seems to be a lot of noise reduction at the expense of resolution, at least to my eye.

March 6, 2012

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Patrick

If nikonrumors to be believed (http://nikonrumors.com/2012/03/05/another-nikon-d700-vs-nikon-d800-high-...), D800 handily beats D700 in HI ISO, so 5D3 might have only slight advantage if any at all.

March 7, 2012

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Axel

That's pretty much what I was thinking. If canon's solution to noise reduction is zapping the hell out of the footage to get less noise, resolution will really suffer. From the footage I've seen thus far, I don't see this 1 or 2 stop noise reduction that Joe Marine is talking about. I see two cameras with similar noise. I will have to wait until further tests are done comparing the two, especially with Nikon with it's uncompressed footage and Canon set to it's larger bitrate setting. Then we can make undisputed factual statements.

March 11, 2012

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Patrick

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