Baby Gunner . . . 

Newborn portrait session in the park. Canon 5D Mark III. 


Canon 5D Mark III…a.k.a. The Big Boy


Today folks, I’m going to give you my review of the wonderful, fantastic, amazing, incredible…. oh and BITCHIN Canon 5D Mark III. What’s it all about? Awesomeness! Is that too technical? The 5D Mark III is one of my absolute favorite digital SLR cameras. That is permanently in the gear bag. It is so versatile, but I prefer to use it for fine art portrait photography, weddings, and the occasional real estate/architecture photo shoot.

I first tried out the 5D Mark III on a portrait shoot that was becoming a bit of a challenge. The portrait shoot was turning out to be a much larger project than originally anticipated and I was worried I was not adequately prepared. Thankfully I was able to borrow a 5D Mark III from a friend to test out and aid in the photo project.

Wow…. just wow. Cue Angels singing. It did not take me long to adjust to the camera and find my groove. One thing I love about most Canon cameras is they are easy to use straight out of the box. If you are slightly savvy with technology, even just a little bit, Canon’s are typically straight forward and easy to use. I find I learn and master Canon products way faster than other brands. They are intuitive and the 5D Mark III is just that. The features on this guy are really smart and well thought out. Is there room for improvement? Sure, always. But really, this camera is set to step up your game and rock your world. Using this camera has definitely increased my confidence as a photographer.

My favorite feature on the camera is the quick access button. Upon pressing the Q button, the user has instant access to change any and all of the cameras features. It’s very different from trying to access features and settings from a general Menu option. Wanna see?

This feature alone has been such a help. Thank you, Canon!

Pretty darn cool, right? This feature allows the photographer to change settings incredibly fast. When I’m shooting portraits, more importantly, when I’m photographing children and family portraits, so much can happen in such little time. Candid family interactions are quick and kids move even quicker. This feature alone has helped me capture some amazing shots that I would have missed on another camera. I am able to focus on my subject and change settings all within a few seconds. More importantly, I spend less time prepping and testing prior to my photo shoots, allowing me to spend more time with my clients.

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A candid moment I’m not sure I would have caught with another camera.

Speaking of speed, the 5D Mark III focuses lightning fast. Occasionally, I become distrustful of it and I will intentionally blur the frame to make sure that it is focusing correctly. Granted, this also has to do with the lens you use, but I really haven’t noticed a huge difference between my set of lenses. This thing is fast and that makes me love it even more. Especially when photographing kids. Those little buggers are quick!

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Captured from a recent photo shoot.

Possibly my second favorite feature is the dual memory card slot. This serves a few different purposes. You can either set it to fill one card with images and then have it kick over to the second card, or you can use both cards at the same time but use one for RAW images and the other for JPEG. I personally like having a backup card in there. Since the camera also shoots video as well, which I must admit I don’t use so I can’t objectively review it, you could use one card for video recording and the other for still images. Yea, the camera is just that smart. Now, one card is a SD size while the other is a CF. I’m not exactly sure why they did that and if anyone knows, I’d love to hear why.

Moving on, the dial features all the usual options for shooting modes, but they also added three custom slots in order to access your custom settings easier. Wanna see?

Thanks again, Canon!


Now the body of the 5D Mark III is a bit hefty, but this is a professional camera. The body is actually based on the EOS 7D design. What I enjoy about the size is that it does not feel overbearing. It is heavy, but it’s comfortable and with the lenses I use, the weight feels well balanced. I have yet to feel awkward or experience any form of fatigue using it. It is a solid well-built camera with a comfortable grip. I have yet to travel with it and experience it in that manner, though. I do hope to take this on my next trip/adventure in order to test out landscape photography and just generally traveling with it more. I would think this camera is on the large size for traveling, but the images it provides will more than pay off for any possible awkwardness.

Let’s talk image quality now. During my first portrait shoot with it, I knew I had captured some quality images from what I could see on the LCD screen (which by the way, is an appropriate size with amazing clarity). It was not until I uploaded the images to my computer that I realized just how great they looked. I really enjoy the color that comes from Canon cameras. Skin tones always come out looking so natural and fresh. I feel it is both accurate and complimentary with a touch of warmth mixed in. Canon just knows how to create a very pleasing color palate that is complimentary to the subject.

This was taken during one of my first portrait shoots. The client and I were both excited with the quality and color of the images.


I love blue, but I do feel this image is complimentary in all forms. The blue, greens, and skin tones are pleasing.


Another photo from one of my first portrait shoots with the Canon 5D Mark III.

All in all, it’s a great camera. It’s so much fun to shoot with and the results are equally exciting. Shooting with this camera takes away any anxiety I may have prior to a photo shoot. The 5D Mark III allows me to just go with the flow and focus on my clientele. That being said, I believe Canon will be coming out with a Mark IV soon, and I am excited to see what the difference is between the two. Honestly, the 5D Mark III is a camera I can see myself owning for the rest of my days. Maybe not the only camera I will ever own, let’s be realistic, but certainly a long lasting partner in crime.

Technical Jargon

  • 22MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • 1040k dot 3:2 LCD
  • Dual card slots for both CF and SD cards
  • ISO 100-25600 standard & 50-102,800 expanded
  • 6 fps continuous shooting
  • Shutter rated to 150,000 frames
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 1080p video recording (stereo sound via external mic)
  • 63 zone iFCL metering system
  • 61 point AF system

Is That A Film Camera?

One of my AE-1 Programs.
     A little over ten years ago, a close friend gave me her old film camera complete with a few accessories, a telephoto lens, and a nice bag to go along with it. At the time, I was just beginning to get into photography but I was more interested in the new fancy digital age that was becoming so popular. I really liked the idea of having a film camera, but I was also nervous about it as well. I thought of film as a strictly professional tool only professionals used, not some twenty-something kid who didn’t know the first thing about film or photography. So I thanked her, and I was very grateful and excited, but the film camera just seemed too intimidating to me and it disappeared into my closet.

     Once in a while I would take it out, examine everything and think, one day I’ll use this. I moved around frequently during this time in my life and I always took it with me, not ready to use it but definitely not ready to give it up.

     A little over a year ago, I was having dinner with my photography mentor and we were discussing film. He had been encouraging me to shoot film for some time and I just didn’t feel like I had it in me. Isn’t it expensive? Isn’t film dead? Depends and No! As we were talking about it, I casually mentioned I did have a film camera, but it probably didn’t work and would need to be cleaned at the very least. He asked me what it was and I said, “I think it’s a Canon AE-1.” Boom. I thought he was going to jump out of his seat. He gushed over the camera’s quality and popularity. Next thing I know, he hands me a few roles of film and that was it.

     I took the camera in to be cleaned and check to see if it even worked. It passed with flying colors. So I loaded up some film and started hunting for shots worthy of film. Having only 36 exposures to work with, I felt really limited and did not want to waste anything. I didn’t even know if I had my settings right (enter photo mentor to the rescue again). Next thing I know, I’m over at a friends house taking photos of her niece and nephew.

From the first roll I shot with the Canon AE-1, Kodak Portra 800.

     It was different and it was fun. A lot of fun.

     I had become so used to viewing my photos right away thanks to digital cameras, that I felt totally in the dark. I had no idea what was going to come out and if I had set everything right. But all those worries just disappeared and I began to enjoy the camera. It forced me to slow down and take time framing my shots. My AE-1 has a standard 50mm lens on it (which I use all the time), and that forced me to physically move around more. It completely changed the way I approached photography, digital or film. It was a really wonderful experience and I learned a lot that afternoon.

     Since then I’ve taken the Canon AE-1 with me just about everywhere. I primarily use the Kodak Portra film, but I have used Fuji film before. Both are excellent, but I lean towards the Portra because I feel my images come out a little warmer, whereas the Fuji tends to lean on the cooler side. Really, it just depends on what I’m shooting and who the subject is. Eventually, I plan to branch out and play around with other films, but for now I’m happy bouncing between the two.

     Shooting film has been a wonderful experience for me.  And it’s not just the photography part. When I am out in public using this camera I am constantly stopped and asked about it. I’ve met some great people and have had some really interesting conversations with random passerby’s, always asking, “Is that a film camera? Can you even buy film anymore?” Yes and YES!

Mariposa, CA – Canon AE-1, Kodak Portra 800

     I’ve been asked a few times what film means to me, and the truth is… I don’t really know. But I know it makes me feel things. I feel excited and anxious to have a roll developed, wondering what turned out and what didn’t. I’m ecstatic when something works or turned out better than imagined. I just feel inspired and refreshed to use it. It’s like meditation, but for photographers.

     A real bonus are the sounds it makes. Snapping a pic gives off an old mechanical sound that is just so pleasant to listen to. Hearing the film advance with the pull of a lever is oh so satisfying.  The camera body itself just feels right in my hot little hands. It’s just a really cool camera that was designed well enough to stand the test of time.  

     Prior to using film, I was feeling kinda blah about photography. I was very uninspired and not feeling challenged. I knew I needed a change, but I just wasn’t sure what. I’m glad I hung on to this camera for all that time. I also wish I wouldn’t have been such a wuss and dived into film sooner, but what’d ya gonna do? 

Mariposa, CA – Canon AE-1, Kodak Portra 800…One of my favorite photos I’ve taken.

     I take this camera with me everywhere now. Every professional shoot I do, traveling, friends parties, anywhere and everywhere. I feel my images have a bit more emotion to them that I can’t always get with digital.  What I’ve noticed with digital is that I either get the shot or I don’t. Digital is either perfect or it’s not. But with film, there’s flexibility. When I’m playing around with the AE-1, some images come back over exposed, a little blurry, or even old-fashioned looking… but it looks great.  A little more artistic, if you will. Occasionally, I get a bad roll of film, causing light streaks or double exposures, but that all works to my advantage. Thanks to the Canon AE-1, I’m now feeling more challenged and connected to my passion. It is by far one of my favorite cameras. 

Hornitios, CA - Bad roll of film
Cemetery in Hornitios, CA – Bad roll of film… it happens….Or is it a ghost? Dun dun dunnnn!

A little tech for ya:

This is just a brief technical overview. I’m not a tech writer, so I may leave out some things others might find more interesting. This post is more about my experience and use of the camera. I do encourage you to do your own research on this awesome camera and consider adding it to your bag of tricks. Thanks for reading!

The Canon AE-1 was first introduced in April of 1976 and was in production until 1984.  It was a breakthrough design that pushed Canon ahead of the competition. The first of its kind to use a microprocessor or specifically an electronically controlled electromagnet horizontal cloth focal plane shutter, which sits right in front of the film/sensor (a.k.a. fancy gizmos work together to form awesome pics). The exposure control system consists of a needle pointing along a vertical f-stop scale on the right side of the viewfinder to indicate the light reading (this is actually one of my favorite features). The split prism focusing screen is an excellent feature and aids manual focus. 

The AE-1 was an instant hit reaching over a million units sold and changed Canon’s image for the better. They were officially playing with the big boys now. While it was never meant to be a professional camera, its ease of use and manual control options appealed to the more experienced as well as newbies to the craft. 

In 1981, Canon developed the AE-1 Program. The major difference between the two is the addition of the Program AE mode which sets shutter speed and aperture automatically. The viewfinder changed from the needle reading (which I prefer) to an LED display. Many are still around today. I (ahem) have three myself:   an AE-1 and two AE-1 Programs.