EOSHD at DPReview – final summary of 5D Mark III’s video abilities

5D Mark III at DPReview

Read the full comprehensive Canon 5D Mark III review at DPReview

DPReview have now delivered their verdict on the 5D Mark III, with a contribution to the video section (as an independent voice) by myself, Andrew Reid. I felt it necessary to be frank over the shortcomings, as it is only right you are aware of them on a $3500 DSLR body. But do keep in mind that the 5D Mark III is still capable of stunning video, like the 5D Mark II before it but a little bit more refined.

Here’s how Canon can do a better job in the future…

  • Fix the sizeable resolution loss in 1080p. It is not right that much cheaper cameras such as the GH2, OM-D E-M5 and small chip consumer camcorders under $1000 resolve more detail. The GH2’s 1080p output looks like a moving 2MP still – exactly how full HD should be.
  • Reduce the still very significant loss of dynamic range in video mode. I’m not expecting raw video, far from it (well not that far as Black Magic Design are offering it for $3000!) but again this should at least be level with JPEG
  • Improve the codec so it is at least a match with the similarly priced Sony FS100’s AVCHD. By the way, the cheap GH1 has 4:2:2 colour sampling in MJPEG as long ago as 2009 so why is this absent on the powerful $3500 5D Mark III come 2012?
  • Convergence is a good thing –  there’s no need to compromise on video to satisfy stills or visa versa. Just make them both as good as they possibly can be. Put everything in one camera body, please! Video on Canon DSLRs is still too much of a ‘side show’ and not an integral part of the camera like it is on the GH2 hybrid cam.
  • An articulated screen (whilst maintaining waterproofing) is absolutely necessary, no excuses, as is a more sophisticated manual focus assist. These are handling improvements which don’t just benefit video shooters, but also a great deal many stills shooters.
  • As in JPEG mode, noise reduction is destructive and I’d like to see a much finer grain of noise in video mode. Even with noise reduction turned off at 80Mbit/sec in ALL-I mode grain stills looks very blotchy and compressed… why? I don’t want a clean plastic JPEG look to a shot – some fine grain is part of the cinema look.

Will any of this stop me shooting serious projects on the 5D Mark III? No of course not. It is still a lovely camera for video, like the 5D Mark II still is.

The positives about the 5D Mark III

  • The image has an ‘x-factor’ which is hard to quantify – it is the result of a lot of positive aspects. Tonality, gradation, colour, sensor size, frame rate, intra-frame compression, and so on
  • Softness can be more flattering for close-ups
  • Softness is the lesser of two evils – it is preferable to electronic harshness and an over-sharpened digital looking image
  • It is the only full frame consumer DSLR without moire in video mode
  • The sensor is the best in any current DSLR for video, bar the 1D X derived $15,000 1D C
  • Full frame rendering of your photographic lenses can result in a more characterful image (relative to using glass designed for full frame on a crop sensor or Super 35mm cinema camera). Some of the most ‘characterful’ traits of a lens are toward the edge of the image circle, not the centre, and you don’t notice this on a smaller sensor with full frame optics.
  • It is an improvement on a camera that was already producing great stuff in the right hands
  • HDMI is much improved for monitoring purposes
Don’t forget the old 5D Mark II

The 5D Mark II has almost identical image quality in video mode to the 5D Mark III at ‘normal’ ISOs (though with the added worry over moire and aliasing on shots there it can be a problem). Though the 5D Mark II is a very old camera now, released at the end of 2008 the 2012 model is not an improvement in terms of 1080p – there’s effective resolution and there’s pixel count, and both haven’t really gone up!

The new Mark III is still awkward to shoot with bare bones (with no add-on monitor or EVF) because of the lack of articulated screen and no improvement to the primitive manual focus assist. Again in this sense, ergonomically it isn’t much different to the older, cheaper model.

The alternatives

Two headline grabbing specs – resolving power in both video / stills mode, and the quality of HDMI output – are better on the 5D Mark III’s chief rival the Nikon D800. Soon I’ll be comparing the Nikon D800 to the 5D Mark III with a hands on shoot in Berlin. Regular readers of EOSHD will have seen enough of the D800 to know that it resolves more detail in video mode and is much closer to an effective 1080p resolution rather than just a theoretical one (after sharpening in post!). What will be interesting here is whether my removal of the optical low pass filter can finally get the 5D Mark III on level terms with the D800, with none of the drawbacks of moire.

I’ve not seen an increase in moire since removing the anti-aliasing filter.

And finally…

Zacuto’s new shootout is like the blind Pepsi challenge test. I once read that the boss of Pepsi, when asked to take the test himself, chose Coke. Indeed many seasoned pros who have their self esteem and money invested in such expensive gear were found back-tracking after mistakenly labelling the GH2 shot scene in Zacuto’s Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout as coming from the 5K RED EPIC.

Resolution is such a big issue. 1080p needs to be effective 1080p, otherwise you will notice the shortfall. This is why I’ve made such a big deal of this short coming on the 5D Mark III. It is a headline spec.

But there is another side to this, and that is that a softer look is a genuine creative tool and one that can suit certain scenes. It is about matching the aesthetic of the camera to the job at hand.

If the detail is resolved organically – and it is on the 5D Mark III with hardly detectable moire and very little aliasing – a soft image might not be a massive problem for certain shots.

In terms of the lesser of two evils, I’d prefer to have a softer image which is stable and organic rather than something which is sharp but very electronic looking with a lot of compression artefacts (like video from the Olympus OM-D EM5). That camera actually resolves as high a level of detail in 1080p as the GH2, but the codec (and possible lack of B-frame compression) as well as a low bitrate causes too much fuzz and mud. Add that to the recording format of 60i from a 30p-only sensor output and you get a very ‘video’ feel.