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Old March 23rd, 2012, 10:25 AM   #1
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So, is the 5D3 soft?


I've been a little spoilt in terms of capturing image detail as the owner of an XF300 and Gh2, which in fairness both resolve appreciably more detail than the 5D3 (and its predecessor).

I purchased a 5D3 for other reasons - low noise, DOF control, that pretty full frame image - knowing it may be a little lacklustre in terms of sheer resolving power.

Even so, I was perturbed by early samples on the web that showed the 5D3 to be Soft with a capital S. And some of the early reviews (like Phil Blooms, just out) tend to support this impression.

Over the past couple of days I've shot a lot of clips with the 5D3, basically trying to determine whether to hold onto it (and my Canon kit) or invest more heavily in the Gh2 with external recorder, rig etc.

On day one things were looking pretty bleak for the 5D3; with its elder sibling's inclination towards aliasing and false detail heavily suppressed, footage really does look soft when sharpness is turned down full.

However, the more I've played around with the 5D3, the more I'm learning to love it, and it looks like it will be the Gh2 that gets the boot.

Two reasons really: pixel peeping aside, there's no denying the full frame image (combined with low noise and lovely colour) really is pretty. And secondly, once you get to know the camera, there's a lot of room to play with sharpness, both via the internal settings and in post.

I had a quick play with this shot of my lad, ISO800, f2 earlier today. Sharpness was set at 3 in camera (in future I'll dial this down further after learning more about what the codec can withstand in post).

The shot is repeated four times in sequence:
* the first is the unmodified clip
* the second is a quick FCPX grade plus a touch of sharpening
* the third solely applies Crumplepop Finisher with a touch of detail enhancement
* the forth solely applies Crumplepop Tonegrade, also with a touch of detail enhancement

While it's hard to see at 720p (1080 grabs attached below), adding a fine degree of sharpening in post really makes the image pop, and because the 5D3's codec appears to be relatively robust, and the noise performance so good, the image withstands post enhancement very well.

Overall, I'm increasingly finding this camera resolves all the detail I need to work with.
Attached Thumbnails
So, is the 5D3 soft?-night1.jpg   So, is the 5D3 soft?-night2.jpg  

So, is the 5D3 soft?-night3.jpg   So, is the 5D3 soft?-night4.jpg  

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Old March 23rd, 2012, 11:21 AM   #2
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

Interesting post Josh. I've read on other forums some posts by early adopters of the 5DMkIII that anything more than 1 on the in-camera sharpening setting introduces a halo effect.

The general consensus that appears to be emerging from my reading all over the place (and it's still shifting ground...) is that the actual resolution of this camera is somewhere between 700 and 800 lines, the lower figure seeming more tangible. I guess the evidence will emerge to prove what it is very soon, if it's not out there already.

Like you, a number of owners are suggesting that little to no sharpening in-camera is the route to take, with sharpening added in post (i.e. to avoid this Canon halo effect) in order to make the image "pop" 5DMkII style.

Keep sending us useful info Josh!
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 12:58 PM   #3
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

I think that colour, sharpness, tones, details within shadows/highlights etc are subjective and depend on the chosen subject matter, personal preferences and aimed audiences. Colour grading is one subject within video that often depends on the mood you are trying to convey.
I do like sharp images, but do not like the perchance lately for false tinting, cool blues, overly dark scenes, or washed-out colours that are often present in many recent films.

For example, I actually prefer the non-graded slightly softer unmodified clip. The warmer colour (although slightly on the yellow side of the spectrum) provides a warmer emotion to the scene, and the subjects skin tones are better.
The second FCPX clip is far too magenta.
The third clip slightly too blue (although probably the best in terms of balanced colours).
The fourth clip is too green.
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 02:04 PM   #4
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

I've never been bothered by the low level of detail in the mkII as long as the overall image looks good. I've never been able to use the in-camera sharpening at all though - even at it's lowest level I see haloing around highlights - so the fact that these were shot with sharpening on in camera is encouraging to me as I don't notice that in the uncorrected shot at all. I've also found a 10% sharpening after the grade in Color tends to make things pop better, but any more than that and the aliasing starts showing up (not just on horizontal lines, but tiny facial details as well, etc). It certainly seems that there's several improvements in the mkIII that give more room to sharpen the image if desired.
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 06:38 PM   #5
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

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Originally Posted by Tony Davies-Patrick View Post
I think that colour, sharpness, tones, details within shadows/highlights etc are subjective.
Yep... and I wasn't trying to suggest the graded images look any better necessarily - it was just an attempt to test how sharpening (using a few different tools) affects the image.

What I'm encouraged by is that an ISO800 image in the camera's native format can be manipulated quite easily without falling apart. And this is Evan's point really... I too have a preference for soft, graceful images, but it's nice to know the 5DIII offers more room to move than it's predecessor.
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Old March 24th, 2012, 12:44 AM   #6
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

I think the first, unmodified image is by far the best Josh.
The tone and latitude are superior and with a little work with curves it could look sharper with no "sharpening".

I'd stay away from any and all in camera sharpening.

I think if anything the first image shows that the 5D continues to offer a great 35mm image.

We shoot everything flat and create the final look in post and as long as you start with a solid exposure the 5D (either) stands up well to quality finishing and grading.
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Old March 24th, 2012, 09:35 AM   #7
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

I think in a way, yes, the 5DMKII & the MKIII are soft. It is the difference between detail and sharpening. You can not replace detail.

This reminds me of when I had an HPX-500. I dialed down the in-camera detail to take away the edge fringing and sharpened in post. It helped a lot but it is not the same as having a true, high resolution image.

The image is still very nice but I will say that I am disappointed Canon did not give the MKIII more detail. I think the full frame sensor helps things look more detailed due to the selective focus as well.

Thanks for posting and good luck with your decision. I am staying with the GH2.
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Old March 25th, 2012, 10:29 PM   #8
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

Film is often fairly soft, also. I think it's about choosing the right "tool" for the job. The 5D's will never be a good choice for wide, landscape shots (er, in video mode, anyways). But for interview shots... faces... there's nothing quite like it. Vista Vision DOF, subtle skin tone variations. We just don't need (or often want) lots of sharpness for these shots. APS and M4/3 sensors just aren't large enough (IMHO) to render faces the "cinematic" way I like to see them.

Is it possible to make a FF cam that's also sharp? I guess we'll soon enough see some head-to-head shots of Canon's new FF solutions vs. Nikon's .

Me? I'll settle for soft, FF, and little or no moire' in my shots. And pick up a different cam when I need sharp and wide. I guess my old XH-A1 might still do that. Or a GH2.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 05:26 AM   #9
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

Not wanting to flog a dead horse here, but (despite all the insightful responses above ), I note Philip Bloom has found that if you set the 5DIII to zero sharpening it does appear uber soft, but it responds very well to sharpening in post.

To quote Philip (http://philipbloom.net/2012/03/22/5dmk3/):

"Bit of grading and post sharpening the footage is coming to life beautifully. Detail that is not there before is coming out….thankfully!"

Moire/aliasing is practically gone and post work really livens things up, so there's no question it's capable of a superior image to the Mark II (not to mention ISO performance, which really is a dream).

I'm really loving the images I'm getting out of this camera, and I agree fully with Brian above, for many shots an elegant softness is highly desirable. However, I think for most users/applications there will be times that shots will benefit from some form of sharpening for 1080 playback.

With this in mind, my question is (having no experience/need to sharpen before), is subtle use of the simple "sharpen" filter in FCP7 and FCPX (for those who have it) all that's required here, or is there an alternative that's both easy and superior?

(Remember, the first ungraded image above already had sharpening of 3 applied in camera.)

Last edited by Josh Dahlberg; March 26th, 2012 at 07:28 AM.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 06:09 AM   #10
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

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Originally Posted by Brian Brown View Post
Film is often fairly soft, also. I think it's about choosing the right "tool" for the job. The 5D's will never be a good choice for wide, landscape shots (er, in video mode, anyways).
For landscape photography, the Canon 5D Mark II, matched with the highest quality lenses, is one of the best cameras that you can buy. I also love the detail it delivers in landscape photography when small apertures are used...far better than most camcorders that have tiny sensors.

The Canon 5D Mark III does I'm sure match and exceed the stills performance of the Mark2 version, so would be a great choice for both stills & video landscape photography, especially wide vistas using wide angle lenses. The video and stills quality from a prime wide angle or high performance wide zoom lens matched to either of these camera bodies is pure magic...especially at this price point.

Another good choice for landscapes and wide vistas would be the latest Nikon D4 or D800 matched with the best Nikkor lenses.

We all hunt constantly for tiny jumps in improvements from previous camera models, but in reality we are at a golden age of digital imaging.

It is astonishing just how fast digital video & digital photography has improved during the past decade. Photographers and videographers have never had it so good! :)
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Old March 26th, 2012, 06:29 AM   #11
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

This is interesting footage in view of the fact of not how well it was shot but the various subjects (flash car, brick walls, lots of man-made structures and objects, fine repetitive textures and lots and lots of wide shots etc.). I'm sure some of you may have already seem it but watching it in YouTube's 1080p gives us some good insights about the 5DMkIII and its performance capabilities with things that can be challenging for most DSLRs.

This would have looked pretty horrid on my 7D - it would have been aliasing hell - well apart from the Bugatti Veyron, that'd look good on any camera!!!

Sure, some jello as he shot it hand held - and it got a bit shakey at times!

Canon 5D Mark III - Image Quality Shots in Beverly Hills - YouTube

The footage does not scream "soft" to me. Sure, my EX3 would have been sharper, but not by that much.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 07:09 AM   #12
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

Just to reiterate Andy, the very video you point to keeps this theme going among 5DIII owners. Quoting from the description:
"The 5D Mark III produces excellent quality when sharpened in post with in-camera sharpening turned off."

I'm starting to really dig this camera. Shot some indoor footage tonight in a dim bedroom, all f2 handheld at ISO 1250-1600. In camera sharpening at 0 with a tiny touch of sharpening and curves added in FCPX. Tonight really sealed it for me - this camera can produce gorgeous images... no need for me to keep conjuring up means to attain a C300.
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So, is the 5D3 soft?-d.jpg   So, is the 5D3 soft?-c.jpg  

So, is the 5D3 soft?-b.jpg   So, is the 5D3 soft?-daz4.jpg  

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Old March 26th, 2012, 09:39 AM   #13
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

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Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
... and it got a bit shakey at times!
Youtube is filled with yuppies carrying expensive DSLR gear and filming scenes as if they are experiencing an earthquake... :)

I can still never understand why people buy such good equipment and then waste time filming handheld extremely shaky footage. If you are going to use a DSLR, then try to at least make sure you're able to keep it steady...if not, then buy a camcorder with IS or clamp it to a tripod.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 09:49 AM   #14
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

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Originally Posted by Tony Davies-Patrick View Post
I can still never understand why people buy such good equipment and then waste time filming handheld extremely shaky footage. If you are going to use a DSLR, then try to at least make sure you're able to keep it steady...if not, then buy a camcorder with IS or clamp it to a tripod.
or at least shoot with IS lens,
men i hate those shaky videos,
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Old March 26th, 2012, 10:56 AM   #15
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Re: So, is the 5D3 soft?

Yep agreed. The thing is, think how much worse it would have looked if you had all the dancing colours of moire and the moving/stepping aliasing!!! Yet, despite the questionable hand holding skills/no rig these were mostly absent - and the technique of zero sharpening in camera (and then selective sharpening in post) gave otherwise good images where previous Canon DSLRs would have really struggled with.

As an aside, someone else has now posted a comparative video between a hacked GH2 and 5DMkIII shot in the UK and specifically focussing on resolution. He is still pretty scathing about the Canon for those that want to ready it - so look out for that (I won't directly link it here).
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