EDIT: I have now done my full video review and I have changed my opinion on some of what I have written below. Watch the video and see what I have changed opinion wise and do check out the footage!!
The reaction from some quarters to the mk3 has been astonishing. Some rants have been so out of perspective it’s almost chucklesome. A devoted DSLR video community has built up over the past 3 and a half years and followings to certain cameras is reminiscent of MAC vs PC…but we must not forget the most important thing. These are just cameras! You are the most important part!
I will be doing some tweaks to this review (as always) but will be out of contact completely from the 31st March to the 8th of April so I won’t be able to answer any questions during this period.
The MkII as we all know changed the whole industry enormously. The progressive thinkers amongst us say it was for the better, the more stuck in the mud ones who wanted the industry to never move forward said it was a bad thing. Democratisation of filmmaking and gear for me IS a good thing, as it gives everyone a chance to create rather than only the elite who can afford the gear. Yes, we do end up with a lot of crap, but we also end up with whole lot of great new work that would never have existed had it not been for this revolution. If just 1 out of 100 new shooters is creating said great new work, then that is one more talented individual who has been discovered.
The DSLR video market has been interesting to watch evolve, but it’s been mostly frustrating. We have had incremental improvements in features from Canon, but zero improvement in image quality since day one. Nikon have been incredibly slow to act, despite coming out with the first DSLR with video, the D90. The D7000 was the first half-capable DSLR from them to shoot video, but that has been it! The D800 and D4 I have yet to try. Hopefully soon, but I am hearing incredibly mixed reports.
Panasonic and their consumer “DSLR,” the mirror-less GH2 has been an odd one. Out of the box it’s a nice camera. Nothing incredible. It has taken very talented hackers and programmers to release the potential of its excellent (albeit smaller than we would want) sensor. The detail from it at the high bit-rate of 170mb/s has been astonishing as you can see in my Christmas shootout.
Sony have been very lacklustre. I like the picture out of the mirror-less NEX5N and shot this little piece with it and I love the image, but it has many issues. No audio in, terrible rolling shutter artefacts and low bit rate. I also have the NEX-7, a nicer camera to use but the image quality is not much better, perhaps even inferior? I have some footage that has needed editing for about 2 months now and my review is WELL overdue. I do promise to get it up soon, but it too suffers terrible rolling shutter issues and the low light sensitivity is worse than the 5N due to the increased MP count. I bought and sold the A77. I loved the viewfinder, hated everything else about it. Even though all the Sonys have 50p at 1080p, the bit-rate is halved when you turn that into slow motion, meaning a miserly 14mb/s or less, which falls apart very easily in post. I also could not get an adaptor to use my Nikon lenses with that camera that didn’t have glass in it (softening my lenses) which meant having to buy just Alpha/ Minolta lenses. No thanks.
Large sensor camcorders have come along, first the nice but flawed AF100 (an update must be due soon!). Then the rather excellent but chunky F3, under-performing in camera but with S-Log and a 444 recorder it’s right up there with the best cameras out there. There’s the very impressive image-wise FS100 from Sony again, a pain in the arse to shoot with as there are no ND filters, a poorly placed LCD and a myriad of buttons pretty much all in the wrong places…BUT very impressive never the less, lovely detail and image with 28mb/s 1080p 50fps overcrank. Much better than their DSLRs.
The Canon C300 is the king of the crop for me out of these, not taking into account it’s almost 2.5x more than the FS100. It’s a joy to use, shoots wonderful footage, and has great build quality. It’s just priced out of a lot of people’s budgets. Especially current DSLR shooters.
So along comes the MkIII finally. It’s been 3 and a half years since the release of the MkII and oh does the DSLR video market DESPERATELY need its champion back and better than ever…the question is “is it any better, and if so how much better?”
I received it in Auckland at a Canon sponsored event I am holding about the C300. Canon New Zealand were kind enough to grab me the first one that landed in the country, so I bought it from them and started shooting as soon as I could.
I have yet to edit anything together, as the stuff I have shot so far has been pretty bitty. Mostly of high detailed shots with a few low light ones. Much, much more needs to be shot before I can form a really solid opinion. But I can certainly give you my first impressions.
Thanks to Sarah Estela for her photos here!
Let’s start with the good stuff. Always good to be positive first…right?
Sound is MASSIVELY improved. We now have a headphone jack. The ability to monitor audio WHILST recording is basic but essential, and this is the first DSLR on sale to do this. I recorded lots of ambient sound with the excellent new Rode Stereo Video Mic Pro. You can adjust levels WHILST recording, and there are meters on the screen. Sound recording in camera is now a reality. Are the pre-amps any better? Hard to tell with the limited sound recording I have done, to be honest. But the systems works well. I will show all this in action in the full review.
No obvious moire or aliasing that I can see. I have not shot a lot of 720p 50p stuff, but from what I have seen it looks a lot better than the 7D equivalent. Great to have it in a full-frame body. I need to fully test moire and aliasing on more man-made things than the nature I have shot. But no coloured moire on water or on other previous culprits have appeared.
Video mode is easy to get to now and there are lots more options, including an i-frame recording format which gives us up to around 90 mb/s compression. Way better than before.
Stills mode is massively improved but that is not the reason I bought the camera. It’s all about the video quality for this review, but wow the stills function improvement is HUGE.
Build quality is just superb. It feels like a solid camera, and so far it has got rather wet due to the New Zealand weather and it is still working just fine!
Low light is ENORMOUSLY improved. I have not gone all the way to 12,800…it’s noisy but usable if absolutely needed. More importantly 3200 is pretty damn nice… the mk2 compared to this is just plain ugly!. We can’t go up as high as an FS100 or C300, both of which look pretty damn good considering the absurdly high ISOs at that level…but this is a big improvement…
No drop in resolution when you hit record on the camera. Very useful for monitoring, but not clean….more on this shortly.
General functionality in video mode seems much better, and we now have clip spanning meaning we can record clips up to a length of 29 minutes and 59 seconds (the limit imposed by the EU for tax reasons to keep duty from being applied to it, as 30 minutes or more would mean it is classified as a video camera meaning more tax). We now finally have a proper over-heating warning on the camera which the MkII didn’t have. Noise would seep into the image when the camera overheated without letting us know!
The not so good stuff
Resolution, as in detail of the image, looks maybe a tiny bit better but that could be purely psychological as I want…no, need it to be!! My good friend and fellow mk3 owner James Miller has posted his thoughts on this and says the Mk3 looks softer than the Mk2! I need to do more testing and side by side to check this out. James, like myself owns an FS100 which is WAY sharper, and he has shot with the C300 which makes the mk3 look like standard definition in comparison. It’s not standard definition at all, and there are reports of about 800 lines being resolved on this camera…but when you use a high end camera like the C300, it’s hard to look at the mk3 resolution and like it. Once you have tasted Hendricks gin it’s hard to drink Beefeater…Gin drinkers will get my analogy!
For me, resolution was the thing I wanted to really see an improvement with. I shoot a lot of deep depth of field high detailed shots. Yes the moire and aliasing is gone it seems, and this is wonderful, but the detail is rather muddy on high detail shots. There are loads of slightly graded frame grabs below this section for you to have a look at. Heavily compressed though, as the internet here in NZ is slower than a snail on a day off. Once I get my video cut, you will get a better sense. That will be next week as I have work getting in the way! PLEASE CHECK MY EDIT BELOW AS TO REVISED THOUGHTS ON RESOLUTION…
Rolling shutter artefacts seem barely improved. Still clearly visible. A disappointment for sure.
No clean HDMI output. Both the Nikon D800 and D4 have this. Yes, using an external HDMI recorder, especially one connected via the god-awful mini HDMI connector is not ideal (I would rather have a fantastic internal codec) but I want it and this camera needs it. Obviously with the C300 Canon has a market to protect, but these cameras are so starkly different that I don’t see a conflict. Canon….please update firmware to give us this…don’t let Nikon have the upper hand here!
For the some reason, they have moved the punch in button for focus check from top right to the left hand side. Odd and impractical. It doesn’t work whilst recording still, so no confidence check there.
The Sony NEX 5N, 7 and A77 offer peaking to help us get focus whilst recording. None of that fancy stuff here! A real shame. A Zacuto EVF will help you here.
This camera needs a screen that flips out. Look at this photo below as this shows how I had to shoot today. Silly! From what I gather it is to do with the weather proofing of the camera.
Lots of NLEs are struggling with the new codec…this will be addressed with time though.
So that’s it for now. Loads for me to look at and digest. Disappointing in a few areas, very pleasing in others. A bit of a mixed bag really. The problems is that the mk2 blew us away. In 3 and a half years our expectations have been raised enormously. We have been dreaming of things, of improvements…things that won’t make us better shooters BUT will make our life easier. After all, the full frame image for me is still a thing of incomparable beauty that even the C300 cannot replicate!
I will be shooting some more over the next few days with my proper review up after that. I may change my opinion on some of the above…I may not! First impressions are important, but any camera takes time to get to know how to get the best out of it.
In the meantime, is the camera worth the upgrade from the MkII? Well the positives are pretty positive, the sound and lack of moire and aliasing are huge. The big question is really the resolution. I will know more once I have done my side by sides. If you want to order one, then I am always grateful for any purchases made through any of my affiliates. This site is very expensive to run and every little helps! So, thanks! The blog is not my day job. Shooting is, and this takes up almost as much time!
EDIT: After doing some experimenting do some work on it in post. Bit of grading and post sharpening the footage is coming to life beautifully. Detail that is not there before is coming out….thankfully! I am still shooting footage and testing camera out. I will update this review in a few days…
Check out the before and after below and another shot with sharpness added back in post…works a treat!
BELOW ARE SOME FRAME GRABS…some minor colour work to make them sexier…compressed though!