This year, just prior to NAB, turns out to be a breakthrough moment for DSLR photography and video. While many of the important innovations have come over the past few years, we’re now in a time when DSLR makers are prepping their gear for video as well as photography.
You can probably imagine there will be announcements of other new gear that we don’t know about yet at the April show. But right now the noise continues around the release of the much anticipated Canon 5D Mark III, generally to positive reviews, but with a few going negative.
Meanwhile the first in depth video tests are coming in on the Nikon D800, which features a new sensor by Sony. Some consider it a consumer model compared to the top of the line D4, but the D800s video chops might turn the tables.
As an added treat, Adobe, for the first time ever, is offering a public beta of its upcoming Adobe Photoshop CS6. Curious? You can download a copy from Adobe Labs.
While it’s taken Canon nearly four years to produce since the prior model, the new Canon 5D Mark III isn’t a radical change, but marks a straightforward, evolutionary path from the Mark II. I tested a pre-production unit, and noted a much-improved image that offers two stops more latitude than before and slightly higher resolution.
In movie mode, the Mark III pretty much eliminates aliasing and moiré, two common problems with CMOS sensor-based systems. While sharpness for stills is superb, the camera surprisingly falls down in movie mode; the look varies from wonderful in scenes with less detail to a definite softness in more complex scenes such as full landscapes. That might be related to the codec’s compression, but after all these years you would have thought that they would have solved this.
If Canon opens up the HDMI to a clean output then we would know for sure. But that’s one of the problems with the 5D Mark III; you might think that by this time you could pull an uncompressed video signal out of the camera, something increasingly common — that new Nikon D800 can do it, for example. But the HDMI connection limits output to a 720P signal with added information overlays. Good for monitoring but don’t expect to record the highest quality image uncompressed.
With better places to put your hands and a more balanced feel, the body is nicer to hold and easier to use. The power switch, for example, has been beefed up and moved to the top of the camera next to the mode dial. It’s easier to find, and harder to accidentally flip. The Mark III not only accepts Compact Flash cards like the previous model, but also adds in recording to SD cards. You can even create a backup as you write to one card
One of the things that distinguished the 5D Mark II was its amazing low-light performance. That’s surpassed in the Mark III with an amazing ISO rating of 102,400 for stills (with expanded ISO enabled) and ISO 25,600 for video (again, with expanded ISO enabled). That’s said to be the result of a gapless micro lens setup borrowed from the 1D X.s While you might not want to use the image at that extreme, it does mean that you have even more flexibility in shooting where you want.
The autofocus is also greatly improved from the previous 9-point AF system to a potent 61-point version.
I plan on testing the Nikon D800 soon and will report back on that. I’ll have a look too at the Photoshop beta and I’ll be testing that as well. NAB’s coming up soon too, so there will be postings on the many things that will turn up at the show that will interest DPs and others curious about the latest gear.
Mark Forman Productions