Yet Another Miss America — Contrarian Musings on the Canon 5D Mark III

Ronn Aldaman

Recently on THEME there was an article which began something like, “Here she comesssss…” And of course, I could hardly miss the association, conscious or not, on the part of the writer. The more I thought about this, the more I started seeing the similarities between the Miss America pageants and the continuous thrusting upon the market of new camera gear, with each company trying its best to win the highest prize.

How to write an article on digital camera upgrades, betterments, new models, etcetera etcetera, is not as easy as it appears. Unless, of course, you want to jump on the bandwagon and praise everything to the skies. None of the big players will reprimand you, and your place in their hearts will be intact.

Like the aforementioned Miss America pageant each model does somehow present itself as being not only attractive but more complete and with some inner “smarts” too. Gone are the days a busty blonde with long legs and a smile glued on her face was enough.

Bag | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

Today each contestant must convince viewers she has something important to say, often about how sad she feels for the less fortunate than herself (hoping soon to be even more fortunate) and how she will save the world from starvation and undemocratic ideas.

In fact, she kind of tells you that if you buy into her spiel, the world will be a better place. And so will you for having elected her as the enjoy of beauty and benevolence. Not to mention compassion, diplomacy and an intricate thought process.

Every camera seems to say “I am the one. What came before me was good before, yes, even touted itself as the best. But now I am better yet! There is no way the world can be as good as it should be unless I am around.”

Back | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

Never mind that a year or two or three the same predecessor of each model convinced you this was the best possible device on planet earth, maybe the universe. Any professional worth his salt would be nothing, without the latest model.

Never mind talent, know-how, business savvy, a photographer’s eye (still occasionally needed) or any other silly detail. This model would elevate anyone and everyone to the highest possible pinnacle of photography. Even the garden snapshot’s during Billy’s birthday party would not mean anything unless taken by the cream of the crop.

I could conclude the article with one word: rubbish.

But that would be a too quick end to an article about any camera or any subject matter at all.

Brian | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

I am not at all “dissin’” the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I am though suggesting that few photographers, if any, would see much of a difference between the images taken with a 5D, 5D MII or 5D MIII. Unless they happen to be shooting brick walls and colored crayons lined up for test purposes.

Within a reasonable doubt I would suggest almost all professional photographers would honestly agree that any one of the above models, and probably a dozen others, would suit their needs well. None of them will take “better” photographs only because he or she has the latest model.

But there is a low-pro level, or semi-pro element, that comes into play. Take for example wedding photographers. In order to woe their potential clients, they often feel a need to display the latest technical gear. Again, most probably know this is for show and has little bearing on results. But if a potential client visits two photographers, one using a Nikon D200 and the other a Canon 5D MIII… they are probably well informed enough to know the 5D MIII is the latest thing on the market. And if not, in all likelihood the photographer owning the latter model will make sure they find out.

Fight Club | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

In fact in the world of wedding photography one wonders how photographers ever managed to satisfy clients before the first digital camera came along. Clients know little about evaluating an image except, from their POV of bride and groom, family members or invited guests. And that rarely has much to do with photographic know-how.

But the myth of the necessity of new and improved DASH… whoops, sorry, I mean camera gear is constantly imposed on the market’s buyers.

The other buyers of what is referred to as high-end camera equipment are those with enough money spend they really need (or think they need) the best and most recent gear available.

“Wow look at this honey, 3,000 frames a second.” Never mind he will never use more than one a minute and probably occasionally just use the option in situations which are meaningless.

“175 million MB, oh holy cow! I will be able to see every popped pimple on our little girl’s adolescent face.”

Or shoot brick walls. See if there is an ant carrying a butterfly wing back to the colony.

Sparring Partners | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

Most people just do not need all the new gadgetry or megapixels or speed or ISO at all. I would suggest 90% of all people taking photographs today would do well to stick with a simply $200 to $500 point-and-shoot. Or phone cameras for what they shoot. And why not? I do.

OK, enough of the dissin’ (true, I said I was not dissin’ the 5D MIII. And I am not. I am dissin’ the market that creates needs where none should be)

  • The Canon 5D MIII compared to the 5D MII. 1.5 ISO stops better.

Easier and “better” focusing as a consequence. More sharpness. Oh dear, don’t get me started on that.

  • More focusing points

OK, once you figure it all out by reading a manual as thick as War and Peace go ahead use them as you will. I manual focus almost everything to make sure I am in control and not the camera, which seems at times at have a mind of its own.

Punch | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

  • Better e(r)gonomics

True. The grip and the feel of the camera are better. However, as for ergonomics, if this is the acid test; get a Nikon.

  • Silent mode

A tough one. Silent for what? Are you shooting in a court room? A hospital? A clinic for the criminally insane? But OK. Cool.

  • Better screen

Yesssss, this is true. The screen IS better. But as I almost only shoot film, and have for most of my life, why do I even need a screen?

When I do a workshop or go with someone for a private session, one of the first things I often do if the person/people has a digital camera with a screen is tape it shut. You will not learn photography more quickly by shooting a thousand shots a day and hoping to get lucky, tossing out whatever displeases you.

You might even consider shooting a month with the tape left on it. You may never open up the screen again.

  • Color rendering. It is sad the color rendition is better than the 5D Mii. This may be true. The fact is, I have always liked the colors of Canon over, say Nikon. But preferring black-and-white for me it makes no difference.

Yes Canon colors are attractive, but as most people open up post-processing as soon as their files are in the computer, this too makes little difference.

  • Lightroom 4 not ready

At first Lightroom 4 was not ready for the 5D MIII, but of course that has changed. Someone should figure out why they cannot work together to mutually benefit one another by synchronizing more efficiently.

Ninie | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

Yes I did. Absolutely.

Yes he did, what you are asking. I took the camera out for a test run. Of course!

In particular at a Muay Thai kickboxing school I went through 16GB in two hours. I can tell you. This is absurd. I came away with a few good shots. And that depends on the viewer’s agreement.

Therein lies one of the ridiculous aspects of digital photography. No matter how determined you are to think before you shoot, the ability to shoot like a warrior on a mission in a video game is irresistible to most. OK not really true. I want to see how people would use this and, not being particularly drawn to digital photography, I figured hey, why not.

I really must add though. I could have taken three or four rolls of film and probably ended up with more decent photos. I say “decent” because what I consider keepers is well under 1% of my images.

Files into the computer… LR… DxO. Voilà. You do not know what “voilà” means? Well there you go. Voilà. Look it up if you still do not get it.

In the final analysis, unless you are pro and think you need it, or unless you are a pro or semipro and want to make your clients think you are better than the competition by owning the latest gear, or unless you are rich, foolish, arrogant, overly-optimistic about your future as a result of owning one… don’t bother.

As I once wrote, I owned a 5D and would be perfectly happy with it.

But (there is always a but; voilà) the questions is: did I like it?

Yes. I did. Sure. If I owned a 5D still or a 5D MII, I would not rush out to buy the new MIII. But yes, I liked it. I like photography. In a way, whatever camera is in my hands, I like. Holga. Leica. Nikon. Rolleiflex. Hasselblad. OM1. Pinhole. Speed Graphic… 5D MIII.

One thing is sure. It will probably not make you take worse photos than its predecessors.

This is not, after all, a Miss America contest.


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Proof | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

Ronn Aldaman grew up in Europe and the U.S. Although his travels took him to Africa many times, his stomping ground was northern Europe. In Sweden he was taken under the wing of various people involved in photography, some of whom studied at Christer Strömholm’s photography school.

“Despite my youthful arrogance which I mistook for strength and my evident immortality,” as Ronn says, “some of their knowledge managed to rub off on me. A few have remained friends to this day. For these things I am grateful”.

Although for a lengthy period Ronn did not pursue photography, when a personal tragedy struck, he sold what he had and returned to the photography he had never quite completely abandoned. That was twelve years ago.

Since then Ronn has been traveling, mainly in Southeast Asia where Bangkok has become his jumping off spot for the last six years. With the exception of a one-year foray into the world of digital photography with a Canon 5D, Ronn uses film exclusively. This he does with 35mm film, medium format and occasionally 4×5 large format.

He likes to quote Ara Guler: “When I’m taking a picture of Aya Sofia, what counts is the person passing by who stands for life.”

Fence | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2
Cart | Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 35mm F2

  • Mark Carey

    A very interesting review Ronn.

    There are a few things I would disagree with however.There is a huge iso difference between the mark 1 and mark 3. If I did not have such a difference there are very many situations I would not have been able to shoot it. You simply wouldnt have the light. I see here you are shooting slow shutter on a 35mm – where would you have been if you wanted to shoot at 85mm or longer. You would have needed more light – opening the aperture and slowing the shutter would probably not have been appropriate on a longer lens so we need more ISO.Say you want to shoot the 35 with more DOF – we need more ISO

    Taping up the screen? I use the screen to check my histogram and also whether I have ‘nailed’ the shot I was trying to get so I can move on. I know what shot I want and I may take many trying to get it. If Ive got it I can move on to the next shot. Also, my best ultimate images in digital are those that have not been pushed in processing, so I need to get those exposures just right. For this I need to do a quick review of the screen. It really does has a function beyond taking loads of shots and hoping you will get lucky as you say.

    Silent mode????
    I practically bought this camera specifically for this feature – you clearly do not see the benefit. Being unnoticed or at least unobtrusive is how I get a great deal of my shots, either at a wedding or on the street. I want candid images and clearly a quiet camera allows you to be more stealthy when you are shooting close to people. That shutter click alerts people very quickly and moreover if you are taking several images will irritate them. Both alerting them and irritating them will affect your image and so it may end up not being all that candid after all.

    Dont worry about the RAW files – convert the images to DNG’s and open in any version of Lightroom.

    Great images Ronn, I love the use of the slow shutter and the processing is very much to my own taste.


  • Thanks for your input Mark. As you know I almost need use anything longer than a 50mm lens.

    You did buy it so in a sense you now must justify it. Personally I see no difference between your (very good) wedding photography before having this 5D Miii and with it. If it makes you feel more comfortable in the situations you are in my bet is that is part due to your perception. But that makes no difference. If it makes you feel more fluid then it does just that.

    But again, reading what you write, and surely others will agree with you, I am left wondering how photographers ever managed to work at all before!

    I will risk it and do not actually mean to point out anyone in particular but, with photography as is with singing:

    It’s the singer…not the song, or rather;

    The right person singing Old Man River will outshine anything the current music studios have in their pre-programmed computers.

  • mark carey

    I totally agree it is primarily the singer not the song. I disagree with you that because I bought it I must justify it. I move from camera to camera purely on functionality – if they dont stand up I take it on the chin and sell them. This 5d offers functionality above my d3s for me. I have not shot with a 5d mark 1 for years. My own switch to this camera has also been for other reasons, not least the weight difference between this and the d3s.

    My main point is that this camera offers more than you give it credit for I think for people who need to shoot in a different style from you. You come from a film background and are familiar with all the joys and pitfalls associated with that. I come from a digital background and have learned to get the best out of cameras in a different way.In normal everyday light, yes you will see little difference in the files. The point is that when you are stuck in very tricky lighting situations this camera will sing whilst the 5d1 and to an extent 5d2 will be struggling to perform. You may not be able to focus with them and the files may be unusable at such high iso’s.
    Photographers working before simply did not have the range of abilities that these modern cameras – of course they were able to function – they can just function better now because these cameras offer more functionaliy. I can now shoot at f.5.6 in low light where before I might have been forced to shoot at f2 for example.

    Im am not wedded to any camera including this one. It has its faults. The focus point is indiscernible in many situations, replacing a bright red dot for a black square – a big fail for Canon which many are hoping they are going to fix. Ergonomics are not as good as Nikon I agree. Its a little bigger than I would like – compared to a d800 its a monster. All in all its a good effort from Canon but far from outstanding for me and my style of shooting.

    Regarding silent mode, people turning around and noticing you shooting with a loud shutter and not doing so with a silent shutter is not ‘perception’. It is a simple reality.

    Ronn is a good friend of mine I hope people will realise that we were born to disagree, but always in good humour. ;)

  • good humor? Ha!

    Well OK looking on the bright side at least we know your shutter will no longer cause a stampede of happily tipsy penguins…

  • Well the digitization of photography, what a boon for the makers. Now they’re able to sell a new camera every invention cycle — a.k.a. every three years or so. Add the latter-day micro analysis of pixels. Minor improvements sell big time.

    One even gets the impression there was no good photography before digital cameras were invented.

    But then again, who doesn’t love high ISO becoming a no-brainer. Or 10fps capturing that perfect moment. Before it was a question of, well, mastery…?!