Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Bull Elk Are Good Test For 5D MKIII

The recent trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country was not only a chance to enjoy watching and photographing wildlife, it provided an excellent opportunity to test the performance of the Canon 5D MK III in the low light conditions that one often encounters while photographing and filming elk and whitetail deer.  Often large bulls or bucks are seen so late that in the recent past it was not possible to get an acceptable picture to simply use as a record of what one saw--let alone an image that could be classed as an artistic photograph.  This has changed dramatically with the advent of digital photography and the situation continues to improve fairly rapidly although not as quickly as some might hope.

The first photo was taken soon after daylight in a meadow along Winslow Hill Road.  This photo could have been taken with any of the DSLR cameras that I have used since 2003, although the Canon 10D would have shown a substantial amount of noise at ISO 640 under these lighting conditions.  Had I been using it, I would have used a lower ISO with a lower shutter speed in hopes of getting a better quality photograph, but it was possible have greater margin of safety against problems from motion-blur, with the MK III by using the higher ISO settings.

6x6 Bull at 6:08 a.m.:  Canon 5D MK III- 500mm F4.0 1/200 sec. F4 ISO 64
He paused before leaving the meadow twelve minutes later and I got the photo below.  The light had improved enough that I could increase the shutter speed to 1/500 sec., which further increased the safety margin against motion blur.

6x6 Bull at 6:20 a.m.:  Canon 5D MK III- 500mm F4.0 1/500 sec. F4 ISO 640
That evening I found a bull in a meadow across the road from where I saw the bull above was feeding in the morning.  I am not sure if it was the same bull or not, but this situation was a real challenge.  In this case I boosted the ISO setting to 12,800 and still had only 1/30 sec. shutter speed when using the 500mm F4.

6x6 Bull at 9:13 p.m. :  Canon 5D MK III- 500mm F4.0 1/30 sec. F4 ISO 12,800
There is nothing scientific about any of this and perhaps testing is not the right word. It is simply using the camera under the conditions which one ordinarily encounters wildlife.  I keep no detailed records except what is recorded in the meta-data of the file. This type of shooting does; however, give one a good ideaa of what to expect from the camera under a wide range of conditions.

 The last photograph does show quite a bit of digital noise and is not something that one would submit for publication or make a large print to hang on the wall from, unless it was of an exceptional animal.  It is a usable image and as such is a drastic improvement over any camera that I have used to date.  I do not claim to have a wide range of experience as financial considerations keep me from owning a wide variety of brands and I have not bought the top end Canon cameras either, but used the 10D, 30D, etc. class camera, until the 7D came along in 2009.  This is my first foray into using a full-frame sensor.  Everyone I have talked to that owns a full-frame camera has told me that they prefer them to the crop-sensors and my experience so far seems to bear this out.

I am less than thrilled with the full-frame for video under certain circumstances; however.  It is definitely better than the Rebel T3i or the 7D If one can get close enough, but that is a problem with wildlife in many cases.  Canon did not see fit to put a 3x Crop mode in the 5D MK III, as they did in the T3i, which really cripples it for long-range wildlife filming. 

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Ruth Hiebert said...

Even under less than ideal circumstances, these pictures turned out well. It also helps that you had a beautiful subject to shoot.

Unknown said...

Nice images-seems that the MIII is a real winner for low noise. CPS is loaning me one for September-I am looking forward to it-your images here sure show how crisp and rich the images are from it.

PaWingers said...

Looks like the 5D is performing flawlessly in your capable hands. Yes, there's always features that we'd like to have but overall I'm glad I made the move. Great pics once again!

Marci Geise said...

Very nice, Willard.

Altax said...

Excellent shots and wonderful pictures.

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