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Monday, 03 August 2009 21:05

Canon 5D mark II or 1D mark III for wildlife photography?

I have dreamt about a full-frame DSLR for a while and was decided to get one after Canon 5D mark II was announced last year. Still postponing the purchase I finally bought the camera shortly before we left for the Scotland trip – Scotland is a dream country for landscape photography and that also was mainly the reason I was buying the camera. Now, after coming back from Scotland I know that the quick decision and purchase was a good thing! I thought of course about using 5D mark II for wildlife photography but I was sure 1D mark III camera was to still be my prime camera for bird photography.

 

This article is not intended as any serious review or test of both Canon cameras, it is just my humble evaluation of the picture quality that both cameras can deliver in real situation. At several occasions I have tried out both cameras at similar conditions just to see how they perform and how they compare to each other. The impulse to write up this short “test” was the amazement while I was watching the first bird pictures from 5D mark II on PC – the results simply surpassed my best expectations!

Although both cameras are intended to be used for different type of photography and cannot be easily compared, I try to compare them:

 

Main pros of 5D mark II over 1D mark III:

- resolution and the picture quality (22.1 Mpix and resolution 5616x3744 for 5D mark II compared to 10.7 Mpix and resolution 3888x2592 for 1D mark II

- perfect colors and contrast rendition

- better image quality for higher ISO setting

- 14-bitt color depth in RAW

- lower price and weight

 

Main cons of 5D mark II compared to 1D mark III:

- slower focus

- position of focus points close to the center

- AF working only up to F 5.6

- worse weather sealing

- slower continuous shooting (3.9 fps for 5D mark II compared to 1D mark III)

- shorter battery-life

- missing shutter release when shooting in portrait position (Battery grip solves the problem)

- large image files

 

The video function is not of a great interest for me now so I do not mention it as a pro.

 

To sum up concisely my humble and limited experiences with 5D mark II, this camera would be perfect for wildlife photography. It is full-frame but the high resolution compensates for more convenient crop factor of 1D mark III camera – you get approximately the same image size when cropping down. The detail and contrast rendition is just amazing for 5D mark II. The focus reaction, speed and reliability is a bit worse but completely sufficient for usual situations; in some cases the focus oscillates and cannot reach the flying object (shooting fast-flying birds in flight with 5D mark II in combination with 500mm lens). I would hesitate to take the camera into the water while 1D mark III survive some water with no damage.

Nowadays, when going out to take pictures of birds I prefer 5D mark II over 1D mark III.

Here are some examples – on left there is always the whole scene and on right there is a 100% crop from the scene (exported from RAW format without sharpening or color hue adjustment; the only adjustments applied are white balance compensation and adjustment of levels and curves). Because the image quality can hardly be assessed only from the small crop, the full-size image in JPEG format can be downloaded by clicking on the links below the images (again just the basic adjustments are applied to RAW before export):

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Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), Bass Rock, Scotland, June 2009

Canon 1D mark III + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS, handheld

1/1328 s, F 9.1, ISO 400

1D3_2898PSframe 1D3_2898PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 5.84 MB)

 

 

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Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), Bass Rock, Scotland, June 2009

Canon 5D mark II + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS, handheld

1/664 s, F 9.1, ISO 500

IMG_1890PSframeIMG_1890PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 12.7 MB)

 

 

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Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), Bass Rock, Scotland, June 2009

Canon 1D mark III + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS, handheld

1/664 s, F 7.0, ISO 400

1D3_2596PSframe1D3_2596PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 5.13 MB)

 

 

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Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), Bass Rock, Scotland, June 2009

Canon 5D mark II + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS, handheld

1/790 s, F 10.0, ISO 500

IMG_2022PSframeIMG_2022PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 11.9 MB)

 

 

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Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), Runde, Norway, July 2009

Canon 5D mark II + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS + Canon TC 1.4x, handheld

1/1024 s, F 9.1, ISO 500

IMG_2570PSframeIMG_2570PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 11.8 MB)

 

 

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Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), Runde, Norway, July 2009

Canon 5D mark II + Canon 500mm F 4.0 IS, handheld

1/664 s, F 5.6, ISO 100

IMG_2716PSframeIMG_2716PScut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full-size image in JPEG (size 10.2 MB)

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________

If I should make the decision today, which camera to buy for wildlife photography and should buy only one camera I would go for 5D mark II for sure. Of course 5D mark II is missing some “finesses” of 1D cameras but it is a versatile camera that is not only perfect for landscape and portrait photography but with certain limits on mind also great for wildlife photography (lower price is also important).

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 03 August 2009 23:02
 
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