Canon 5D Mark III: Low Light Performance

With the plethora of museums and galleries in the Los Angeles Area, there are abundant opportunities to photograph fine art. However, most museums prohibit the use of flash to prevent the bleaching of color pigments. Tripods are also not permitted, as they can be a hazard to foot traffic.

This poses a dilemma for photographers: most works of art by master artists are very old and delicate. Color pigments on these pieces are often dark and faded, and museums purposely keep artwork dimly lit. Under these circumstances, the only way to take memorable photos of masterpieces is to use fast glass and a very light-sensitive sensor.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or LACMA) houses one of the finest art collections in Southern California, so I paid it a visit this weekend and tried to challenge the low-light performance of the Canon 5D Mark III. The following are all hand-held photos taken in relative haste to be unobtrusive to the swell of weekend museum visitors.

The first challenge was a piece by Flemish painter Jan Steen, who utilized a very dark color palette representative of Dutch masters of the 17th century in the vein of Rembrandt.  When viewed with the naked eye, the details of this painting, completed in 1668, are very difficult to discern. However, even without direct lighting, this photo of Samson and Delilah taken by the 5D Mark III in fully automatic mode actually appears over-exposed!

Canon 5D Mark III, 1/50 Sec, f/2.8 ISO 1600

Canon 5D Mark III: Superb Image Resolution

The Canon 5D Mark III is now a well-stocked item at most major retailers, which was not the case until just a few weeks ago.  The problems found in early production batches have been ironed out. I was hoping that this camera could provide a refreshing boost over the quality of images produced by my venerable but aging stable of cameras. In my next few posts, I will discuss my impressions of the various features of this camera. As always, I'd like to know what you think of this camera too.

The feature that most intrigued me about this camera was the 22 megapixel sensor: I was very anxious to take photos of some complex scenes and and analyze the details produced by this camera. Here, I have selected three images from my first few outings. They are all handhelds, and the camera settings were not necessarily optimized for maximizing resolving power. There is much to learn about the complex but powerful autofocus system of the Canon 5D Mark III. Nevertheless, I have found the image resolution to be AMAZING!

Photo 1: Taken from the Manhattan Beach Pier just last weekend. The time of day was unfortunately somewhere close to 1pm, hence the flatness of the image. Nevertheless, mission accomplished.

Canon 5D Mark III Manhattan Beach Lifeguard Station
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/800 Sec at f/5.6, ISO 100, 200mm