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Friday, December 23, 2011



According to some rumors floating on the internet we are on the eve of seeing a 5D Mark III and I’m only a few months into owning a Mark II. However, I still wanted to lay down some thoughts on spending over $2,000 on a camera body, because I know people will continue to ask me if it’s worth it. By the way, the price on B&H just dropped to $2,000 (from $2,500) so many people feel that is a strong indicator that something new is almost here.

So here’s what I think. For the kind of work I have been doing (magazine portraits, weddings, family portraits, headshots) the 5D has been a luxury more than a necessity. Before the 5D, I was primarily using a 40D, a very nice 10 megapixel camera. Before that was a 30D, and before that was a Rebel XT. I’ve shot magazine covers with the 30D and had a 24x36 inch print from the Rebel XT in an art gallery. I’m pretty sure that none of my clients have noticed a difference in photo quality or have needed a 21 megapixel image.

While my clients probably don’t see a difference, the 5D MkII does have some advantages that make my life a little easier. The most significant to me is being able to shoot at high ISO with much less noise. When shooting outdoors, this gives me about 10-15 minutes more time after sunset before it’s too dark to shoot without a flash. And it allows me to shoot wedding ceremonies in a dark church without a flash. Is that worth $2k? I guess it depends on how much work you do in dark settings without a flash! If you don’t already have fast lenses to work with, it’s really not worth it just for the ISO.

As a side note, I am very happy that I invested in fast, quality lenses before a 5D. The 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and 50mm prime had much more to do with the quality of images than which body I was using.

The other area that makes a difference to me is the full-frame sensor. My lenses are no longer magnified 1.6x and some seem more practical. The 24-70 never seemed wide enough—now it does. The 70-200 seemed like a lot of zoom for most situations—now it’s just right. I kind of liked the 50mm on the cropped sensor, which leads me to believe I should buy an 85mm as my next prime lens as that would be the similar length on the 5D. But the 50mm does work better in tight spaces now. And at wide open apertures the depth of field is more pronounced on all the lenses, so that’s nice.

A great reason to buy a 5D MkII is for the video features. I am not doing all that much filming with it so those features were not a good reason to buy for me. I’m hoping I can spend some time exploring the video functions and that will become a good reason to have spent the money.

If you’re a professional, you probably know whether a 5D is right for you. The majority of people who have read up to this point are probably not counting on their photos to put food on the table, and my advice is still this: any of the new Canon or Nikon SLRs are going to be good enough for whatever you are doing. Invest your money in several good lenses first because that will make the biggest difference in the quality of your images. If you can afford it, start with the 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, or 35mm f/2. Then, after you have a few good lenses, invest in a full-frame body. By that time you’ll be ready for the Mark III!

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