Canon 5D Mark III: High ISO With Balloon Bots

It is no secret that the most discussed camera topic among POPCulture Online’s team over the past 2 weeks has been the Canon 5D Mark III after attending the launch event. Boasting an improved AF (Auto Focus), better high ISO performance and a movie mode that builds on the 5D Mark II’s success, it is the camera every Canon user is looking forward to.

Finally after much waiting and drooling over reviews by many photographers using a pre-production test set, POPCulture Online has its first retail Canon 5D Mark III set in its possession. While we are sure that many of the popular camera review websites will have their in-dept review soon, we decided to do a little something different while we wait for the experts to conclude their review.

Deciding on a quick initial “real world” situation test in an indoor situation where light would not be in abundance, Kenneth Wong heads out on a gloomy Saturday night to capture some shots of an official attempt at the Guinness World Records.

* Just for this article, we have increased the photos to 1200pixels max side so do click on the photos to see a bigger version. Camera photo profile / jpeg have been left at the basic default settings with and photos are only re-sized with no additional post processing  done.

Held at Marina Square over the course of the week, a group of some 50 balloon artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore will spend 4 days to create the largest 3D balloon sculpture. The sculpture is made up 65,000 balloons of different sizes and colour and would be made into the shape of a robot that will occupy a space of 18m by 11m. Members of the public can then view the completed sculpture after that.

Armed with my trusty EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II, I decided to head to down at about 8:45pm when there would be a crowd and also where the place would be somewhat darker. Starting with the ISO value of 6400, I went around shooting smaller robot balloons.

As expected from a full frame sensor camera, photos came out decent with no big concern in the colours of the balloons. AF was also fast enough to get a lock on almost immediately after half pressing the shutter button. Once I was done with my shots, I went one stop higher to ISO 12800 and continued to capture any interesting sights that caught my eyes.

Balloon sculptures have always captured the interest of adults and children alike and it is common to see many taking out their cameras, smart phones and even tablets to take photos. I took the chance to see how fast the auto focus could lock onto the tablet as the child took it out to snap a photo.

Before leaving the place, I decided to head to one level up to get a general overview shot of the place and to push the ISO to its max native range of 25600.

As seen in the photo, while the image quality is what most would call “50-50”, you got to admit that it is still usable for those extreme cases where light is a luxury.

Overall I am happy with the camera’s overall performance during the short trip to Marina Square. The camera feels solid in my hands and Canon have sure answered many photographers’ cry for better auto focus in the 5D series.

High ISO performance is also very decent considering that the sensor is packed with 22 megapixels and these are out of camera jpegs at basic default settings with no post processing done. I am sure once popular post processing tools such as Apple’s Aperture 3 and Adobe’s Lightroom 4 / Photoshop officially support the raw files, even more can be done to increase and fine tune the image quality.

Definitely one to get for photographers who shoot indoor stuff like weddings, events and concerts, the Canon 5D Mark III looks to be a worthy addition to any serious photographer’s arsenal.

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