Nine months ago, in a piece about the just announced Nikon D4, I wrote “Chief amongst these features is a clean, uncompressed 4:2:2 HDMI feed with simultaneous output to the D4′s rear monitor…a clean uncompressed 1080p output…[is] MAJOR news, both in terms of what the Nikon D4 can offer filmmakers and because it could force Canon to reverse its decision not to provide a clean, uncompressed HDMI output on the 1D X. In fact, it could mean, dare I say it, a clean, uncompressed HDMI output on the Canon 5D Mark III…” Well nine months later, Canon has given birth to (the announcement of) a new firmware update that will provide the EOS 5D Mark III with a clean uncompressed (8 bit) 4:2:2 HDMI output.
Canon Rumors are speculating that “Maybe the recent clean HDMI out software from Magic Lantern forced their hand.” Maybe, however, it is also notable that US Network television shows and Hollywood feature films have started using the (subsequently announced, cheaper, ‘clean’ HDMI out) Nikon D800 and Nikon lenses, rather than the 5D Mark III and Canon lenses…
Until now, the choice between the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 / Nikon D600 has not been an easy one for HDSLR orientated filmmakers. One the one hand, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III seems to have solved the moire and aliasing issues that affected the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, unlike the Nikon D800 & Nikon D600, which seem to exhibit some moire and aliasing (albeit less than the Canon 5D Mark II). On the other hand, the Nikon D800 offers a clean 4:2:2 HDMI output (as does the cheaper Nikon D600, though the D600 crops this output), whereas the Canon EOS 5D Mark III does not. So does one choose the camera without the image artifacts that records to a compressed format, or the camera with the image artifacts that can record to an uncompressed format? To complicate things, there are, reportedly, issues with ‘live view’ and the usability of focus magnification on the Nikon D800′s and Nikon D600′s rear LCD screens, whereas this just works on all Canon cameras with this functionality.
This firmware seems to answer this dilemma by providing the Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a key benefit of the Nikon D800, without the downsides. Of course there are still other factors to consider – the dynamic range and colour depth of the Nikon D800 (for stills at least) is, according to DXO Mark’s somewhat controversial testing, significantly better than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, whilst the low light image capture and low light focussing of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is better than the Nikon D800 and Nikon D600, so, as with any purchase, one must carefully determine their needs before deciding what to buy.
This firmware will also enable the EOS 5D Mark III to auto focus lens configurations that have a maximum aperture of F8, instead of F5.6. This is of particular relevance to nature and sports photographers who routinely use very long (and consequently slow) lenses with teleconverters that result in maximum apertures of F8 and it has been something of a bone of contention amongst some of them that the Nikon D4, Nikon D800 and Nikon D600 can all autofocus at F8.
Unfortunately this firmware will not be available until April 2013 and given that timing it will be very interesting to see if the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EOS 700D/T5i (the replacements for the Canon EOS 7D and Canon EOS 650D/T4i that are rumoured to be announced/forthcoming within this timeframe) offer clean HDMI output. It will be equally interesting to see if Nikon announce firmware to address the cropped HDMI output of the D600, it’s inability to pull aperture on non manual lens whilst recording (and, if it is possible, the live view/rear LCD focus magnification issue that affects it and the D800)?
One thing’s for sure though, this firmware update, when Canon release it, will, for many, significantly enhance the functionality and appeal of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and make it an even more well rounded camera than it is already.
© 2012, Paul D. All rights reserved.