The 5D mk 3 at Mai Po

I could not have chosen worse conditions to give the camera its maiden bird outing. Dreary light with some glare of the mudflats and a very fast tide that meant we saw very few birds at close quarters (unless you thrive on Avocets). Many birds have grey or white as a dominant colour so white / grey against grey / glare….. hmmmm. Not much contrast there to work with. To get any sort of shutter speed (usually I target 1/1000s+) I needed ISO 800-1000. The 800mm lens was always wide open at F5.6. In these conditions I had to help the AF by pre-focusing as it resolutely refused to kick in on occasions. So these images are not great but they are a real demonstration of what I managed with the camera.

Lets start with an Avocet as that is what I saw most of today.


See how the white borders of the bird are almost lost against the background? Nice detail though. Shame about the absence of eye catch light.

Even worse, a Curlew…….


The tail is almost completely lost against the grey sky and I used a layer of soft light to give this any impact whatsoever.

Can I offer you a stilt?

Black-winged stilt

I have nicer shots of the stilts from this morning but I wanted to test a bird walking towards me to see how the AF tracked. This one was sort of crabbing sideways but it’ll do. On the subject of tracking my experience so far has been surprisingly good. After the debacle of the 1D mk III and the only marginally better 1D mk IV I was prepared to be disappointed but on the contrary, the AF locked and held pretty well. I set my AF first focus priority to Release and the second focus priority to Focus.

Let’s try cropping: in order of full frame, half crop (roughly) and tight crop.

Garganey - full frame


Garganey - cropped


Garganey - tight crop

Well it was a long way away and the sensor in the 5D mk III is full frame so no benefit of a 1.3x or 1.6x factor (1D mk IV  & 7D respectively.)

Gulls were pretty tough due again to the colour white out.

Gull against grey sky

Now I had stayed the course longer than most but at this point I gave up and went back towards the car park. On the way I stopped off at the Tower Hide and took a couple of fairish shots of a Prinia and a Koel.

Yellow-bellied prinia

I’m not quite sure what he was so angry about.


I love the red eye of this male bird.

So. $64,000 question. Would I sell my 1D mk IV and buy a second 5D3? Not so fast. I’d like to see the 5D3 at work in better conditions. If I shoot all day I’d like to see how the battery life goes although it takes the same ones as the 7D so that helps. I lose 0.3 extra on the crop factor although I contend these files are cleaner and better than my 1D mk IV’s but this is not scientifically tested 🙂  I didn’t really feel that 6fps rather than 9fps was a big loss. So this is a definite maybe. Watch this space.

One thought on “The 5D mk 3 at Mai Po

I'd be delighted to hear what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s