The Canon 5D mk3 is going to start hitting shelves in a week or so;March 22nd to be exact!But the question is, …should you buy one?Well, what kind of photography do you do?While a traditional landscape / architecture / fine art / studio / portrait photographer is probably diving at the opportunity to scoop up the 5D mk2 for a jaw-droppingly low $2200, other photographers may be VERY wise to hold out for the 5Dmk3 even though it’s going to be a record-setting $3500.(Record setting for the 5-series, anyway)

One of the main areas where all of us “other” photographers (weddings, etc.)are looking for significant improvement from the 5D mk3 is in high ISO performance.The rest of the specs are all pretty straightforward; just one extra megapixel, etc.So for the 5D mk3 to be worth $1300 MORE than the 5D mk2, there had better be AT LEAST a whole entire stop of extra low-light image quality.Preferably two, if Canon can pull that off.

Of course low-light, high-ISOimage quality is VERY subjective.ISO 1600 might be barely acceptable to some people on the same camera that many others regularly push to 3200 or 6400.So, let’s try to talk in relative terms, not in absolutes.Basically, if you used to find ISO 1600 barely acceptable, can you now use 3200?Or if you used to find 3200 acceptable, can you now use 6400?

Usually there isn’t much improvement in ISO below ISO 1600.Or I should say, most EVERYONE already finds ISO 1600 to be quite acceptable on pretty much any DSLR today.But above ISO 1600 is where I believe we will see some major changes in this new generation.Personally, I’m an “acceptable ISO 3200” kinda guy, for the line of work I do with the two main cameras I use.(Nikon D700 and Canon 5D Mk2)Yes, I can use ISO 6400 on either camera, if I really need to.But it’s marginally acceptable.So the question is, …will the 5D mk3 allow me to start freely using ISO 6400, and pushing to ISO 12800?From the samples I’m about to share with you, that would be a definite YES.In fact, ISO 12800 might even join my “acceptable ISO” club.Again it may or may not for you, depending on your line of work / hobby.My time-lapse hobby (1080p, 2 megapixels) will probably take me to ISO 25,600!

At any rate, here is a collection of what I think are the best, most reliable online pages with sample images from the 5D mk3.Keep in mind that MANY of them are still JPG captures, and RAW noise reduction may be even better, especially in the new Lightroom 4



…That should be enough for you to draw a general conclusion-The 5D mk3 shows considerable improvement in it’s low-light image quality.Thanks in part to Canon’s tactful decision to add no more than ONE megapixel compared to the 21 MP 5D mk2, even while Nikon cranks it up to 36 with the D800.(And decidedly LOSES any ISO tests versus the 5D mk3, in my opinion)

But wait, now that I mention it-What about the other new cameras that are out?How does the 5D mk3 compare to the Canon 1DX?The Nikon D4, or of course the Nikon D800?

We’ll have to wait to know for sure, but if I were to give a quick analysis based on all the various tests I’ve seen so far; I’d say that we are indeed heading into the territory of “acceptable” ISO 6400 and even 12800. To many Canon sports shooters, that is totally worth $6800To others, it is at least worth $3500!To many Nikon shooters, well, they’re still happy with their 12 megapixel D3s and the decision is a bit tougher. But that’s another article for another day…

Take care,

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