William Brooks Photographic: Blog https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) William Brooks Photographic (William Brooks Photographic) Thu, 30 Aug 2012 02:43:00 GMT Thu, 30 Aug 2012 02:43:00 GMT https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-5/u918758855-o874465127-50.jpg William Brooks Photographic: Blog https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog 90 120 40D & 40mm vs LX3 https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/40d-40mm-vs-lx3 40D & 40mm versus LX3 - up close and portraits

A few quick comments about taking snapshots with the Panasonic LX3 vs the Canon 40D where minimal depth of field is preferable. The test is twofold, firstly to try to figure out if the LX3 is at all capable of taking casual portraits when comparing to a cheap DSLR set up (Canon 40D and 40mm), and also to figure out if the LX3 and its fast lens can indeed yield nice background separation. The LX3 has it's work cut out, even with a 'fast' lens the sensor size is 1/1.63" or 8.3x6.2mm, as opposed to • 22.2 x 14.8 mm for the crop sensor 40D, so in total the LX3 sensor is about a 6th of the surface area of the 40D.



I may as well give you the conclusion up front, several conclusions in fact:


Firstly, the LX3 is not that great at creating pictures with shallow depth of field, even wide open with the subject close and the background far away. Strangely, I'd never really noticed this before because it's never been a use for my LX3 (which I've really just use as a travel companion). It's not awful, you can get some background blur, but it's nothing like what you can get easily with a DSLR at equal aperture, and when you look at images side by side the answers speak for themselves. 


Secondly, and this was also a bit unexpected, but the up close sharpness is not all that great on the LX3 - importantly, you can tell this from the pictures below, non of which are cropped at all. As just mentioned, I've used the LX3 for travel snaps, and therefore not really shot much at close focus distances, but the LX3 definitely seems a little softer at close distances and wide open than when shooting stopped down and at longer distances (perhaps not a surprise, but interesting nontheless).


And then finally, put those two points together and for quick portriats, the LX3 is really not the answer - you can't get good subject separation, and the shots aren't that sharp. The results you can get from an old crop sensor DSLR with a 40mm pancake versus a LX3 (which is also a few years old now) are just leagues better. I'll keep the LX3 for what's it's best for, decent snapshots in good light.



Here are some samples, firstly some "unposed" portraits, and then some shots of close focus subject. To try to make things comparable, all shots were taken with a Canon 40D and 40mm (64mm equivalent on 35mm) and then also a Panasonic LX3 at "12.8mm" (60mm equivalent). Therefore the focal length was very similar in both cases. I shot mostly wide open on both cameras, therefore at f2.8 (noting that this is the wide open setting on the LX3 at max zoom). None of the pictures are cropped at all.


Example 1. Here there is really no decent subject separation on the LX3 at all:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8


Example 2, subject separation getting better on LX3, but people in the background still very distracting, whereas not so much with the 40D:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8:


Example 3, probably the best example I managed to get where you can get some decent subject separation with the LX3. Subject is very close though, inside three feet:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8:



Some other detail shots. Example 4. I find the difference between f2.8 and f4.0 on the 40D shot interesting, pretty significant:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

40D & 40mm at f4.0:

LX3 at f2.8:

LX3 at f4.0:


Example 5:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8:


Example 6:

40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8:

Example 7:


40D & 40mm at f2.8:

LX3 at f2.8:


40D 40mm LX3 https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/40d-40mm-vs-lx3 Wed, 01 Aug 2012 02:14:00 GMT
40mm Pancake, what's all the fuss about https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/40mm-whats-all-the-fuss-about  

The Canon 40mm Pancake. Is it any good?



So, is Canon's first pancake lens any good? The verdict is already out there all over the web, and the answer appears to be, unanimously, Yes! In fact, it’s “surprisingly good”, “awesome”, “super sharp”, depending on who you speak to and what you read. But I'd like to pose some slightly different questions: "how good?" and "how does it compare to unfair competition?”


Let’s face it, the Pancake is just $200 and there is very little else in the Canon prime line up that you can get for that sort of money, the 50 f1.8 being the only prime that's cheaper, and that’s built like a piece of… plastic. So I’ve decided to compare it to two lenses I use, the 50 f1.2 and the 85 f1.8. It better not beat my 50L, I’ll be most displeased…


So here’s the rub. I’m interested in a couple of things in this investigation: Built quality, autofocus, bokeh, colour, and sharpness. Let’s tick the easy ones off first.


Build quality

The built quality is actually damn fine. Solid metal mount, solid construction and a focus ring that works surprisingly well for such a tiny lens. So no complaints. Slightly better build than the 85 1.8, but of course nothing on the 50L.



This seems to work, but not without some issues. On the one hand, it’s very quiet, but on the other it’s not that fast (bottom of the bunch here). Manual focus also works if you remember to half press the shutter first. This is frankly a little annoying though, I don’t see why you just can’t manual focus all the time the camera is switched on. Note, I don’t care much about the video capable AF feature that this lens offers because I can’t use this feature on my cameras.


I’ve also experienced the “I won’t focus at all” phantom menace that seems a lot of people have experienced with this lens, which is to say, at some point, the camera was switched on and the lens just refused to focus at all. Absolutely nothing happened until I removed and remounted the lens. Then Voila! all fine again… An annoying inconvenience but really nothing more.


So really, I don’t like the way the AF on the 40mm is implemented. 1 out of 5. Let’s give the 85mm 3  and the 50L 5 here because the 85mm focuses just fine but the 50L crushes both completely, and is especially impressive in low light!



I wasn’t going to include bokeh as a topic until I took a crazy picture in the park this past weekend where the bokeh is just terrible. Unfortunately I didn’t have any other lenses with me at the time so I couldn’t compare, and I've therefore got no idea if this was the fault of the lens or the tree in the background, but this bokeh is just horrible (look particularly at the 'smudging' on the left). Fortunately, it’s the only such example I’ve come across so I suspect it’s just unfortunate…

On the other hand, bokeh on the 85mm is great (4/5) and pretty good on the 50L as well (3/5). I’ll give the 40mm 2 out of 5 here, because of the above issue, and also, let’s face it, the 40mm is a slow prime and is never going to melt away backgrounds as well as faster primes.


Colour & contrast

OK, things are hotting up. Colour, contrast and sharpness are how I mainly judge my lenses. Build quality and AF is important, but this is where the rubber hits the tarmac for me…


I’m surprised. I wasn’t expecting much from a $200 lens in the colour and contrast world. Frankly, the number one reason I love L lenses is because of their colour and contrast, they just make pictures more vivid and appealing to look at. Yes I know, you can fix things in photoshop/lightroom these days, but I find fixing colour a pain in the behind and extremely time consuming, it’s the least enjoyable part of processing in my view – hence why I love it when a L lens gives me exactly the level of saturation and contrast I like straight out of the camera.


All of these pictures were taken at 8pm from my balcony in Brooklyn with the subset streaming up onto the neighbouring wall. The colours therefore are somewhat vivid to begin with and not really ideal for this sort of test (I'm mainly shot these for the sharpness test below). The 40mm fairs quite well in the 'colour' regard. This was shot wide open with no processing at all. What I like is that the colours are ‘right’ to my eye. I find usually my 40mm shots have needed a little tweak to increase saturation and contrast a smidge, but they are really perfectly fine straight out of camera. At f2.8 with no processing:

Compare this with the 50L. Here I really don’t feel I want to adjust anything colour wise, this is exactly how the evening looked, again at f2.8, no processing:

And then compare to the 85mm. Oh dear, how I hate this lens sometimes. These colours are just awful, the whites are too cool, the reds are too pink. Again, this is far from the best shot to emphasis my hatred for the colours from this lens, but it smacks of a 1990s cheap lens. Same reason why I switched from the 50mm 1.4 to the 50L (well, there were a few other reasons as well). Again f2.8, no processsing:

Scores? Out of ten this time as this is were things get important 40mm: 6 / 50L: 10 / 85mm: 1



Drum roll please… and the prize goes to… the 40mm, sort of! The story is a bit more complex though. Here’s some analysis based on full frame results. Note of course that there is always lens sample variation and these are results from my 3 lenses.


If you compare center resolution, all three lens can achieve amazing sharpness. The difference is when / how quickly you acheive that super sharpness. Here’s a quick summary based on my tests. 0 = awful, 5 = super sharp

Image center

f stop 40mm f2.8 50mm f1.2 85mm f1.8
1.2 / 1.8 - 1 3
2.0 - 2 3
2.8 3 4 4
4.0 4 5 5
5.6 5 5 5
8.0 5 5 5

So you can see that the 85mm is really the star of the show here, but the 50L is very sharp by 2.8 as well. The 40mm on the other hand takes a little while to warm up, it's not incredably sharp at f2.8, but bare in mind the shots below are 100% crops. View images at less than 100% and then the 40mm actually looks amazingly sharp wide open, much better than you would expect. Below are f2.8 and f8.0 center crop comparisons, these are near 100% crops...

40mm, f2.8

50mm f2.8

85mm f2.8


And now at f8, 40mm

50mm f8.0

85mm f8.0


It's a different story when you compare the image as a whole though. I'm not going to put up lots of corner and border crops, there are plenty of review sites with far more accurate results than mine, but the bottom line is that the 40mm and 85mm have fantastic image-wide sharpness when stopped down, but sadly the 50L is hopeless. Here's a summary based on my tests:

Whole image

f stop 40mm f2.8 50mm f1.2 85mm f1.8
1.2 / 1.8 - 1 3
2.0 0 1 3
2.8 2 3 4
4.0 4 3 4
5.6 5 3 5
8.0 5 3 5


Getting a little more specific about it, the 40mm has incredible sharpness across the whole image from 5.6 onwards. At 2.8 it’s a little soft in the corners and still room for improvement at 4.0, but by 5.6 it really shines. It blows the 50L out of the water for sharpness across the image (noting though that the 50L has the best center sharpness of all lenses up to f4) and also debatably equals or edges the 85mm which is frankly remarkable.


Scores? Out of ten this time again. 40mm: 8 / 50L: 5 / 85mm: 8


Some real life Pancake examples

Here are a few examples of how the 40mm performs in real word conditions (i.e. not a sunset soaked brick wall). It's a really fun lens to use on both full frame and crop.

Full frame (5D3) at f2.8:

Full frame (5D3) at f5.6:

Crop camera (40D) f4.0:

Crop camera (40D) f2.8:

Crop camera (40D) f2.8:

Crop camera (40D) f3.5:


The “Do I like it?” test

So this part of the test is purely subjective but is just as (if not more) important than everything above. It aims to answer the question of whether or not the lens is enjoyable to shoot with and whether or not I like the results. Put another way, should you buy one?


The 40mm is fantastic, no doubt about it. It’s incredibly useable. It’s so small and light that if you place it on either a crop or a full frame camera it makes a very light package. It's so light in fact that you don’t even really notice it's round your neck because it’s so much lighter than what you’re otherwise used to. On full frame, it is just about capable of getting good background separation, it's a great walk around and it's surprisingly sharp. On a crop, it’s terrific. I almost prefer it on a crop actually because I like shooting in the 50mm to 85mm range a lot (full frame equivalent). The 40mm Pancake is slap bang in the middle of this range (64mm equivalent) and therefore an ideal everyday lens for what I like to shoot. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, it’s cheap, sharp, has great colour and contrast, and it's fun. It’s found a new home on my 40D and you really can take it anywhere. 8 out of 10.


The 50L is a completely different kettle of fish. It’s very heavy but actually not that large. It’s usually permanently planted on my 5D3 and there it shall remain. It is however a difficult lens to justify given it’s cost and apparent lack of sharpness. In another of my blogs I talk about this a lot and why frankly this doesn't matter. At the end of the day it’s still my favourite lens and therefore tops out the “Do I like it” test. 9 out of 10. I'd certainly recommend this lens as well, but with a whole bunch of caveats (people get stroppy otherwise...).


I kind of hate the 85mm. Yes it’s sharp, yes it’s light and yes it's great for portraits, but there are a couple of things that annoy me about this lens. Firstly, the colours and contrast are dreadful, which often prevents me from taking this lens out of the cupboard in the first place. Secondly, it’s dead boring to shoot with. It has zero X factor. At the end of the day, I’m really not sure why I still have it, perhaps I should sell it. For me, photography is about capturing great images whilst having fun whilst doing it, and this lens just doesn't do it for me. 1 out of 10.



So, where does that leave us after the somewhat subjective "do I like it" test:

Final scores

  40mm f2.8 50mm f1.2 85mm f1.8
Build 3 5 2
AF 1 5 3
Bokeh 2 3 4
Colour & Contrast 6 10 1
Sharpness 8 5 8
The "Do I like it" test 8 9 1
Totals 28 37 23


Big sigh of relief, the 50L takes the prize and runs away to fight another day, but the 40mm is an admirable $200 second place, leaving the technically good, but snore-boring 85mm at the back of the pack.


This is really about the 40mm though, the new star of the show, and when it comes down to it, the 40mm is so cheap, so sharp, so portable and so versatile, that it’s a no brainer. Try one, see what I mean…

40mm 50mm 85mm Pancake review https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/40mm-whats-all-the-fuss-about Thu, 19 Jul 2012 04:13:34 GMT
50L and focus shift, theory vs practice https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/50l-and-focus-shift-theory-vs-practice The "problem"

Does is? doesn’t it? yes, no, maybe, maybe not...


The question of whether the 50L focus shifts seems to come up every other day (week maybe…) so I thought I would provide my perspective on the matter.


Firstly, I don’t know a huge amount about lens design, but I know enough to say that focus shift is due to uncorrected spherical aberration and so by design, the lens will focus shift. Simple as that. But the real questions are “How much?” and “Does it matter in practice?”. These are the two questions I'm attempting to answer in this post.


The other common quote is that Canon ‘fixed’ the problem with later production runs. I suspect that’s a load of rubbish (because they would have had to change the lens design) but I have a recent date coded lens (purchased in 2011) so if they did make any changes, mine will have those changes.


How the test was performed

This section aims to explain a bit about how the tests were conducted, before we get to the test results themselves. Feel free to skip along if you prefer...


Cameras: I originally purchased my 50L to use on my 40D and my wife’s 5D2, but having recently acquired a 5D3, I’ve used the 5D3 to perform all the testing. As a side note, I've noticed that the lens performs amazing well on the 5D3, AF is far snappier and I’m getting a better hit rate than on the other cameras.


Theory vs practice: so in order to test out the focus shift theory versus 'real life' practice, I’ve decided to perform some testing on both test charts and a real life subject.


For the “test chart” exercise: I shot at a range of distances: minimum focus distance (“MFD”), 3 feet and 6 feet. The typical “problem” range for focus shift tends to be from MFD to 6 feet so I thought this presented good coverage. All shots were at ISO 400 on a tripod, default sharpening, no noise reduction, but a small amount of contrast and clarity applied in LR4 just to increase the definition and make the tests easier to analyse. Note that I initially took shots using camera phase detect AF and also live view manual focus. The results were identical, but in case there was any variation, all shots presented below were manual focused using live view - and not touching the focus after the first shot in each series. A word on lighting as well, the shots were taken under poor lighting, just a tungsten bulb, no flash. I did this partly to show the interesting differences in the lens as the apertures increase - I feel this effect is emphasized under poor light.


For the “real life” exercise: thanks goes to my daughter for presenting me with a pleasing subject! Conveniently though, babies are also pretty small, so they are ideal for testing within the MFD to 6ft range without too much difficulty – in all of these pictures the subject distance was inside 6 feet. Also worth noting is that whilst babies don’t run around, they do move limbs and heads remarkably quickly, so it’s not possible to spend ages setting up a shot. All pictures were hand held, AF always single point with the focus point selected to be on one or other eye (sometimes Al Servo, sometimes One Shot), no manual focusing. I deliberately shot a range of apertures and deliberating did not try to think about focus shift – in other words, compose, select focus point, half press and shoot – generally pretty fast.


Side note: I also took a whole bunch of “real life” shots of an iron fence near my house in Brooklyn, focusing on one spike and determining the impact of increasing aperture. I decided not to use these though because 1. They are boring, 2. They are test shots, not real life, and 3. They were far more controlled (the subject couldn’t move, the lighting was better etc etc) and therefore they didn’t present the same kind of available light moving subject challenges.


So let’s answer the questions:


How much?

So here I’m answering the question of how much the camera actually focus shifts under controlled conditions – on test charts. Higher resolution crops are available in the appendix at the end, but here are the highlights:

MFD, f1.2

MFD, f1.6

MFD, f2.0

MFD, f2.8

MFD, f4

MFD, f5.6

So, what do we see at MFD?

- At f1.2 and f1.6, focus is spot on

- By f2.0, it looks like the area in focus is shifting back a bit, and that “1” seems to be about the center of the area of focus, “0” is still in focus though

- By f2.8, it looks like the area in focus is shifting back a bit more, and that in between “1” & “2” seems to be about the center of the area of focus, but again, “0” is still in focus

- f4 is still experiencing some shift, but by f5.6 it gets kind of irrelevant

- Most importantly however, the black focus line is in focus in every shot! On to the 3 feet test...


3 ft, f1.2

3 ft, f1.6

3 ft, f2.0

3 ft, f2.8

3 ft, f4

3 ft, f5.6

At 3 feet?

- I find these a bit more difficult to judge

- f1.2 and f1.6 are not at issue. By f2.0, it looks like the area in focus is shifting back a bit so that everything between “0” and “5” appears to be in focus

- By f2.8, it looks like the area in focus is shifting back a bit more, and now everything between “0” and “8” appears to be in focus

- By f4 things are improving at the front, and by f5.6 it’s not an issue

- Again though, most importantly, the black focus line is in focus in every shot. On to 6 feet...


6 ft, f1.2

6 ft, f1.6

6 ft, f2.0

6 ft, f2.8

6 ft, f4

6 ft, f5.6

At 6 feet?

- Maybe the test is getting pretty poor at this stage, the images seem to be pretty awful due to my rather slap dash approach (poor light, no flash, propping the piece of paper on an envelope)!

-Nevertheless, concentrate on the black focus line and the “0”s to either side, they are all in focus, that’s the most important thing.

- Bare in mind things are getting pretty far away at this stage, here’s the whole image for comparison:


Does it matter in practice?

So one of the things you will have already noticed from the shots above is that, with the best will in the world, the 50L is not exactly sharp wide open. It really only gets properly sharp at f2.8 or thereabouts. This is obvious with 100% crops but is far less relevant when you consider the whole frame – however, if you want ultra sharp pictures at 100% at all apertures, do not buy the 50L, you will be disappointed!


With that said, this is the sort of real world sharpness I’m getting hand held with the 5D3 and 50L at fast apertures, see for yourself. Note that I have touched these up a little (WB, colour & exposure mainly), but I have tried not to adjust sharpening or noise at all (with the exception of the final image):


Full frame f1.2

100% crop f1.2

Full frame f1.6

100% crop f1.6

Full frame f2.0

100% crop f2.0

Full frame f2.8

100% crop f2.8

Full frame f3.2

100% crop f3.2 (bit of noise reduction here, sorry about that, ISO 1600 I think...)



I have to say, I was expecting worse! Every single eye seems to me to be in focus, even though the depth of field in some instances is waffer thin. Again, do not concentrate on how sharp the lens is (or is not!) at 100%, concentrate on the area of focus, that's what's being tested here.


I’ve actually been kind of baffled with the real world shots I’ve been getting with the 5D3. In the two months I've had the 5D3 there appear to be comparatively few examples where the 5D3 hasn’t nailed focus, and in these few “out of focus” cases, I can confidently predict that it’s more likely to have been the user rather than the camera that has been messing things up (mainly due to me moving, the subject moving etc).


I think when you look at the test charts you can see why the focus is generally spot on in the real life examples. The simple fact is, whilst there is evident focus shift in the test shots, the critical focus point always remains in focus (albeit sometimes right at the front of the whole focus area).


So is it an issue? For me, it really isn’t. I’m not a perfectionist (you can tell that by the quality of the test charts!) and my photography is more about capturing images that I’m really pleased with than it is about technical perfection. That said, I still love good glass, and if the focus shift problem was really an issue for me then firstly I would have been a bit unamused at shelling out significant cash for a lens that didn’t operate adequately, and secondly, I would have noticed it when I originally bought the lens, and then I would have sold it! 


So for those in doubt about focus shift, don’t be, it’s not worth the worry. I hope I’ve shown that in both a slap dash test environment, and in more real world examples, it’s just not that much of an issue!


Caveat: I should point out that these are my personal conclusions based solely from using my own equipment - I don't unfortunately have a large number of samples to test! Therefore my conclusions may well not apply to every camera and lens combination.



Below are the highest resolution examples I was able to upload for the test shots whilst still ensuring that the full width of the test sheet is presented. In each case (MDF, 3 ft and 6ft), there are 15 pictures, shot in order at the following apertures:

f1.2, f1.4, f1.6, f1.8, f2.0, f2.2, f2.5, f2.8, f3.2, f3.6, f4.0, f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16




3 ft


6 ft



50L 5D3 5DIII https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/50l-and-focus-shift-theory-vs-practice Tue, 05 Jun 2012 19:14:54 GMT
5DIII vs 40D: Impressions and “review” https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/5/5diii-vs-40d-impressions-and-review Introduction

This may seem like a pretty unusual comparison but I thought I’d pull some thoughts together for the benefit of any others out there considering similar dramatic upgrades (maybe from 30D, 50D or 5D classic – not saying those are necessarily the same – but similar era). I’m going to say from the outset that these are my personal views, using LR3 processing the way I like to process, and the review may not tell you a whole lot you can't already guess! I should also point out that whilst I’ve been using a 40D for the past 4 years, I’ve also had the frequent use of a 5DII, so this upgrade was not quite the leap it otherwise may seem…


My reasons for the switch

I came into the digital age late. I shot with an EOS3 for a long time and loved it. It was a highly impressive beast and really was the perfect film camera for me. I then went directly to a 40D and quickly got caught by the digital bug, being very satisfied by the results the 40D pushed out – this lasted for a long time.

Unfortunately times change, my wife got a 5DII and suddenly the high ISO and resolution benefits of FF became apparent in a rather stark way - we took a trip to the national parks in Utah and Arizona last year with a Zeiss 21mm and the 5DII pictures were stunning - so I felt the yearning need to upgrade.

And then came the 5D3, a camera that on paper threatened to be the digital EOS3 – the specs were all there, great AF, decent resolution and great image quality, fantastic built (very important) and most importantly of all (and something the EOS3 was incapable of...) high ISO. In truth, the 5D3 looked like it had everything I wanted from my hit list of features, so I jumped.


Initial impressions – first 30 seconds with the 5D3

It’s a hefty beast! Put a battery and lens on it and it’s actually quite heavy, it certainly feels much more solid than the 40D or the 5D2 for that matter. I’ve mounted it with my 50L and there’s a very pleasing amount of heft to the camera. I can feel the inertia, it feels very well balanced. The grip’s nice too, with a little outpost against which your thumb rests. Gorgeous screen as well, and oh yes, there’s the 100% full frame viewfinder, I can see again! Lovely.


Reach and resolution

There’s no real fun in comparing 100%, max resolution at 100 ISO because the 5DIII squashes the 40D, so I thought I’d address a couple of different scenarios that frequently crop up.

OK, now the maximum reach I have with my current suite of lenses is 200mm using a 70-200mm f4IS. What I want to test here is the relative merits of the 5DIII for shooting a far distance subject. Again, you can say all you like about whether this is a worthwhile test (just buy a longer lens etc), but it’s a fact that crop cameras will always give you more reach that FF for any lens you’re using. So here we go, see that air-conditioning unit over there, let’s see whether the resulting (deliberately unscientific) crop looks better from the 5DIII or the 40D (should be pretty close, 22MP / 1.6 squared = 8.6MP against the 10MP 40D, but of course the sensor on the 5DIII should be much better… ). I’ve processed both raws through lightroom, both shot at 200mm, iso100 and f6.3.

Total image from the 40D

40D 100% crop

5D3 100% crop


  • Cropping to give the same image at 100%, the 40D picture is only marginally bigger than the 5D3 picture as expected (and reflecting the awesome cropability of the 5D3)
  • I give sharpness here to the 5D3 which at 100% is extremely impressive. The 40D is just a tiny bit soft which is a bit surprising, and you can see in another test below that this may just be a little bit of camera shack as below the sharpness is completely comparable.
  • Colour faithfulness is very good in both which is good to now, though from the variety of shots I've taken to date, the 5D3 shots do tend to be a bit more saturated than both the 40D and the 5D2. Verdict still out as to whether this is a good thing...
  • Overall, if I had just one lens and needed the reach, I'd be perfectly happy shooting either camera, so long as the light was good.

Here's another similar test, this time deliberately shooting a subject in shadow. The reason I'm testing this is to see if there's any low ISO noise hanging about and to see the dynamic range in a real life situation. Both of these were shot at iso100, 200mm at f6.3. They are processed in LR3 with noise turned right down to zero and a reasonable and equal amount of sharpening:

Total image from the 40D

40D 100% crop

5D3 100% crop


  • Sharpness perspective, there’s really very little difference although the 40D is picking up more detail here, but both are very sharp crops. Unlike the test above, this is more consistent with my experience with the 40D and the 70-200, it's just an astonishingly sharp lens.
  • Colour and contrast, very similar in fact, I set blacks and white balance to be the same but it still seems the 5D3 is slightly more saturated.
  • Noise: Something that was always a bit of a puzzle for me was that the 40D had base iso noise in out of focus and darker areas, and you can see it here a lot on the leaves and lamp above – note though that I've deliberately turned noise reduction to zero, so this is worst case. It's much less prominent with the 5D3.
  • Conclusion: the 40D crop may be slightly larger due to higher pixel density, but then its a trade off between sharpness, colour and noise.  Too close to call.

Max resolution

There's no point in posting a comparison here, the 5D3 would simply destroy the 40D, however, I do just want to post an example of the cropping and resolution power of the 5D3 which is simply incredible. Here you go, here's a nice cow picture, and then the 100% crop (helpfully also showing the extremely accurate AF as well).

5D3, iso100

5D3, iso100, 100% crop

High ISO

OK, here are some high ISO images. I am completely blown away by the 5DIII. Firstly, just to showcase the 5D3, here are a few images I took at iso1600 and iso3200 with the 5D3. What amazes me is that I can quite happily shoot with these isos inside all day long and have no real worries about the sharpness, noise and focus of these images. This photo I particularly like, my daughter and brother. It also emphasizes very nicely the cropping power of the camera. You can end up with 2 completely different images purely by cropping. And just look at the 100% detail at iso 1600 - inside!

5D3, iso1600

5D3, iso1600, partial crop

5D3, iso1600, 100% crop

Here’s another example, iso3200. This is inside again but at night, so just an overhead tungsten light for illumination. Firstly, the noise is non-existent, and even in the blacks which is impressive. Admittedly these are processed, but the point is, you can get to a very clean image. Personally, the ‘model’ here looks a bit ‘waxy’ at 100%, but focus, lack of noise etc are all spot on:

5D3, iso3200

5D3, iso3200, 100% crop

Now for a quick comparison 40D to 5D3. I'm in the process of compiling a lot of comparison images in another blog (alongside the 5D2 as well), but here a few test shots. The lighting is deliberately awful, and there is a wide range between the highlights and lowlights here. Up to 12,800, these are all processed through LR3 from raws, but above that they are 5D3 out-of-camera jpegs - in the short time I had available to do this review, the camera jpegs simply ended up better than my processing (which, now that I think about it, means I should definitely always shoot raw + jpeg for high ISO images)! In LR3, I used as much noise reduction as I felt necessary to balance lack of noise with maintaining detail:

40D, then 5D3, iso1600  

40D, then 5D3, iso3200

Just 5D3 form here on (40D only goes to 3200), iso6400, 12,800, 25,600

Now it gets very bad, 5D3, iso 51,200, 102,400 


  • Now this test is obviously woefully inadequate. For a start, there are no 100% crops, but the point was really to provide a quick and dirty test of what is possible in very bad light.
  • I'm actually quite impressed by the 40D, which traditionally I try and avoid shooting at iso1600, let alone 3200 because it's just not that good. However, I'd take both of those images above if the worst came to the worst...
  • Look closer at the 5D3 images though, particularly towards the bottom. At this size, you really can't fault the images at all up to 6400 and I'd easily take 12800 as well
  • It's after 12800 that things start to fall apart though, so time to beware
  • From the (limited) shooting I've done so far I've been very happy with 1600 and 3200 pictures - even at larger sizes they are extremely clean, but it's too early to call whether I'd be consistently happy shooting above this...


Build quality

I guess I should start this by stating that in the 4 years I’ve had the 40D, it’s performed almost flawlessly through hot, cold, drizzle, snow, high altitude, sea water, you name it. Two exceptions though – the shutter eventually failed recently (common 40D problem) so that had to be replaced, and once last winter I got the camera so wet in a snow storm that it stopped working completely for 12 hours until it had dried out (in a plastic bag with rice inside…). I’ve therefore been hugely impressed by its performance. On the other hand, I like to think that I won’t have either of these issues with the 5DIII (until about 8 years time or so…). I’m expecting it to be more weather resilient and if there’s a shutter issue before I hit 200,000 images I’m going to be upset - all because the 5DIII is just in a completely different league, simple as that. It feels like a completely new design (OK, similar to 7D blah blah) that handles like a sturdy tank whilst the 40D feels like it was designed in 1995 (which given the modeling is not too dissimilar from the EOS30 back in the day, is not far off).

Unfortunately, after a week now of shooting the 5D3 exclusively, I picked up the 40D again. It was a sad feeling. It felt strangely archaic, I looked through the viewfinder and couldn’t see anything it’s so dark in there, and the screen is just awful in comparison. I felt very slightly ashamed, for years I’ve been totally happy with the output and functionality of my 40D and now I know I won’t be able to go back to crop. The image quality of the 40D is still very much there for low ISO, but the feel, the usability, the fun, may never quite return…


The screen and liveview

Just a quick note here. One of main reasons I waited for the 40D was that cameras were starting to pop up with liveview and I thought this looked like a really great feature. Then the 40D came out with liveview as well so I finally took the plunge. Sure enough, liveview was great, and the 40D's implementation was reasonable enough. I feel though that it was somewhat let down by the screen. It is possible to zoom in 10x on the 40D and it is possible to focus pretty accurately in manual (or using phase detect), but the 5D3 implementation is way better. Firstly I can now use contrast detect, though in all honesty it's pretty slow and really, it's just easier to use manual focus - by the time you've set everything up on a tripod you may as well use manual focus anyway. What makes the real difference is the amazing screen. The resolution is so high that you can't really see any pixelation and therefore when you zoom in at 10x, the limiting factor starts to feel like subject movement and the lens rather than the screen.

The other point of note is that even though the screen is not that much larger, 3.2in vs 3in, because of the 6x4 format, it just appears so much bigger, especially in review mode. It's really incredably good.



 I don’t shoot sports or many birds so on the one hand I don’t have a great need for a snappy Al Servo system, but I do shoot a lot of low light (and have also done with the 5DII) and this new 5DIII rocks in that regard. No more lens hunting in the dark, and during the day it snaps on instantaneously. Very pleased. In every way it's miles apart from the 40D, with one exception – center point and good light and there’s no difference apart from a slight speed advantage to the 5D3. The 40D is always good in such ‘easy' scenarios.

Actually it’s funny, the AF was not the primary driver for me behind the 5D3 purchase, but it’s one of those things where you don’t know you miss it until you have it. The ability to select any point you want is fantastic, no more focus and recompose necessary. I really feel like it’s advanced my composition because i can focus on exactly what I need to without moving the camera.

One quirk though. I use a Canon 100mm macro a fair amount (the non-L version) and I have to say that the outside focus points ended up hunting a lot with this lens. If you look at the manual, you can see why, there are no cross types being used with the 100mm on the outside points, but this is a slight annoyance that I don’t really understand the basis for.



The 40D doesn’t have it, the 5DIII apparently does, but who cares.


Behaviour with lenses

I’ve said it above, but I immediately planted a 50L onto the camera. This thing works incredibly with the 5D3. With the 40D, you needed good light and frankly you needed to stop down to get reliable focus. With the 5D3, focus is spot on, I have proper focus throughout the aperture range, and the greatest improvement of all: the detail and sharpness at higher ISOs. Above ISO 800 with the 40D and the 50L struggles to produce good pics at f2. The 50L can produce great detail and lively pictures right up through ISO 6400. It’s such a great combo. Really pleased.

Focus shift with the 50L? From the quick test I did, it’s there, but from my test pics it’s not really an issue. Why? Because even though the middle of the focus area (i.e. middle of the depth of area in focus) moves away from the camera, the front of the area of focus is still the part of the picture I want to be in focus. And regardless, that’s really only the case for pictures taken within 5 feet.



Just a couple of final points on image capture (colour and HDR below). Have a look at the pictures below. What I particularly like about these is the way that the reds render. In my experience, reds are captured particuarly badly on digital cameras, but the 5D3 manages to address this issue well. Too early to tell if this is universal in more wide spread situations, but it looks good so far.

5D3, iso800, 100mm, 1/80, f4.5


100% crop


HDR mode

I wasn’t going to put anything in here about HDR (mainly because I generally hate HDR images) but I thought I would because on certain occasions it works really very well. For me, the most important thing about an HDR picture is that it shouldn't look like an HDR picture, and the 5D3's "natural" mode is capable of making that happen. It didn't work in all the situations I tried, but here's a situation where it did, and where ordinarily it would have been pretty pointless even trying to make a capture. The top picture is the standard exposure, and the second picture is the 5D3s HDR mode (set to auto I believe). I have to say I'm very impressed with this (bare in mind these are hand held as well, so the camera is making the alignment adjustments as necessary)

f/4, 21 mm, 1/200 & 1/160, ISO 1600



So what do I particularly like about the 5D3:

  • First up, high ISO shooting ability, it’s just fantastic and leaves the 40D in the dust. I've haven't tested much in the really high ISO ranges yet but from what I've seen so far, it's fantastic. The only concern I have here is processing high ISO images, as getting as good results out of Lightroom as the camera's doing is taking time! 
  • Second, and I wasn’t expecting to rate this so highly, but the AF just makes shooting so much easier, and just nails focus virtually all the time. One of the biggest benefits I found was the ability to combine the amazing AF with low light and get crisp, in focus pictures with great detail.
  • Third, build quality is just superb and the viewfinder and screen are a joy. I felt the 40D was solid enough but the 5D3 is something else, a reassuring lump of camera. In particular, liveview works great, it's much better implemented, and the screen image much crisper and clearer, than both the 40D and 5D2.
  • Runners up: Resolution. To be honest, I would have been happy with 18MP and I’m very glad it’s no more than 22MP, my computer would have struggled and I simply don’t need more MP, however, I do love the fact you can take a heavy crop and still have a lot of detail left. In my mind it negates the only advantage of crop cameras, but then I don’t shoot a lot at long focal lengths...
  • Colour. Actually the verdict is still out on colour. It’s sometimes different to the 40D and 5D2. I think it’s more saturated and I haven’t quite decided whether this is a good thing or not. I typically didn’t increase any saturation on my 40D & 5D2 pictures, so I may end up dialing down the saturation on the 5D3 on occasion. It works both ways though, the pictures are super punchy, but is it just a bit too much?
  • Then there's the toys: the HDR mode which is unexpectedly competent, the multi-exposure which I've yet to play with, and video mode which again apparently exists and I'm sure one day I might use...

So there you have it, I’ve come full circle from my EOS3 to its digital equivalent and am incredibly pleased with my new toy. It's everything I hoped for, it's brought new life to my beloved 50L and I really do think this will keep me happy for many years to come (plus a few more lenses of course...). But is it really better than the old 40D? Maybe not quite in every way - it's ten times the price...

40D 5D3 5DIII review https://wskbrooks.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/5/5diii-vs-40d-impressions-and-review Thu, 03 May 2012 13:27:48 GMT