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[Part 2] The Challenge to Suit the Optimal Operability and Expressive Power for the long-loved EOS 5D Mark III


After a long renewal process of about four years, the EOS 5D Mark III makes its appearance with further breakthroughs. In addition to enhancements made to the basic performance, the expressive power of the EOS 5D Mark III has also improved dramatically. Many must be curious how this new model came about. The following is a report of my interviews with the key developers on their passion toward the camera. Here is the long-awaited [Part 2], introducing the high operability and the challenge to define the expressive power of this new generation DSLR. (Based on the interview held in May 2012) (Interviewer: Ryosuke Takahashi/Photos by: Takehiro Kato)

Pages: 1 2

(Above, from left)
Noriaki Tsunai, Photo Products Group/ Makoto Kameyama, Camera Development Center/ Kentaro Midorikawa, Camera Development Center/ Shingo Nakano, Camera Development Center
(Bottom, from left)
Mie Ishii, Camera Development Center/ Masami Sugimori, Camera Development Center/ Keita Sato, Design Center/ Hiromichi Sakamoto, Camera Development Center

Interdivisional cooperation for coverage of approx. 100%

― Is a new design adopted for the pentaprism of the viewfinder?

Nakano In order to achieve approximately 100% viewfinder coverage, there was a need to increase the size of the pentaprism, so we designed it from scratch.

A: Pentaprism
B: Translucent LCD
C: Transparent liquid crystal illumination LED
D: Focusing screen
E: AF light-source detection sensor
F: LCD for displaying information in the viewfinder
G: Eyepiece lens
H: Metering sensor

In addition to a higher precision of each individual component, new technologies have also been introduced into the production process to achieve the goal of viewfinder coverage of approx. 100 %. At the same time, efforts were also made to maintain the accuracy throughout the assembly process.

― Was it a difficult task to achieve a viewfinder coverage of approximately 100%?

Nakano In order to achieve approximately 100% coverage, enhancing the precision of the components alone was not enough. Also, this wouldn't be possible too by just enlarging the size of the pentaprism. We could not have achieved the targeted specs without cooperation from the production division.

― Did you mean cooperation to achieve a stable production process?

Nakano Loosely speaking, yes. If the precision of the adjusted parts becomes inconsistent, it would not be possible to maintain a coverage of approximately 100%. We have developed special know-how to assemble the adjusted parts into the viewfinder while maintaining their precision throughout the process.

― Does the optical system of the eyepiece make use of any new technologies?

Nakano The optical system of the eyepiece for the EOS 5D Mark II made use of two aspherical lens elements out of a total of three lenses. The number has been increased to four on the EOS 5D Mark III, all of which are aspherical lens elements. The system was created by the designer with much enthusiasm, and effort was made to ensure that the clarity of the viewfinder is high.

― Is the "Intelligent Viewfinder" the same as that employed on the EOS 7D?

Sakamoto All models that are equipped with the system make use of different devices. For the devices employed on the EOS 5D Mark III, the responsiveness at a low temperature has been enhanced compared to the EOS 7D.

The Intelligent Viewfinder employed on the EOS 5D Mark III. This function is able to display information such as grid lines, AF points and electronic level in the viewfinder image. The responsiveness at a low temperature has been enhanced compared to the EOS 7D.

― The EOS 5D Mark III now supports continuous shooting up to 6 shots/sec. What is the biggest reason that made it possible to realize this spec?

Nakano The spec for this feature is largely attributable to the accumulated efforts in the respective areas. The mechanical system, for example, makes use of a dual-motor system which separates the shutter charge system and the mirror charge system to enhance efficiency. Also, the EOS 5D Mark III comes with a new mirror-bound suppression mechanism, which improves the continuous shooting performance by suppressing mirror bound at an early stage.

The shutter of the EOS 5D Mark III is more durable than the shutter seen in its predecessor, with 150,000 cycles. Crispier sound is realized for the shutter sound by tuning the mirror bound suppression mechanism.

― Is the mechanical system different from that employed on the EOS-1D X?

Nakano The main mirror bound suppression mechanism is comparatively similar, but nonetheless we have adopted different mechanical systems according to the characteristics of the two cameras. Above all, we have made dramatic improvements to the secondary mirror bound suppression mechanism on the EOS 5D Mark III. We employed a mechanism that folds the secondary mirror to facilitate the mirror bound suppression operation. Thanks to such a system, mirror bound can now be reduced efficiently.

A: Shutter charge system
B: Shutter charge motor
C: Double barancer
D: Mirror charge motor
E: Mirror drive system
F: Main mirror
G: Sub-mirror bound prevention mechanism

To minimize mirror shock on the large and heavy full-frame camera, a bound suppression mechanism has been built in for both the main and secondary mirrors. Not only is the shutter time lag shortened as a result, the time during which the light path is blocked by the mirror is also reduced, thus enhancing the focusing accuracy.

― I get the impression that the shutter sound is crisper than before, is it true?

Nakano Basically, as I have just mentioned, this is because of the more effective mirror bound suppression mechanism. The fact that the operation sound quiets down instantly affects how the shutter operation sounds to us, while the convergence of the impact sounds produced plays a crucial part too. When deciding on the shutter sound, we created different patterns to select the best choice. This includes extremely thorough adjustments, such as by changing the material of the operating components.

― Can you tell us how the system works for the new silent shooting modes?

Nakano Generally, the source of the force for driving the mirror comes from the spring load. But in the silent shooting modes, the mirror is moved up and down gradually by the force of the motor instead of the spring load. The mirror is driven by intricate movements while using a cam to make sure that as little sound as possible is produced during the process.

― The EOS 5D Mark III now supports silent continuous shooting. Can I say that the mechanical system is more advanced compared to EOS-1D X, which only supports silent single shooting?

Nakano I would not put it that way. Rather, the mechanical design for the EOS 5D Mark III had to be made simple, and it was this reason that made silent continuous shooting possible. The EOS-1D X, on the other hand, requires a high level of durability, hence a more complex mechanical design. The approach that we adopted is fundamentally different for these two cameras, and the silent continuous shooting mode for the EOS 5D Mark III was created during the process.

Silent continuous shooting is now available on EOS 5D Mark III. You can set it from the Drive mode menu.

― From the viewpoint of the electronic devices, what are the key factors that contributed to the achievement of about 6 shots/sec.?

Sakamoto The CMOS sensor and image processing capability of DIGIC 5+ play a part of course, but yet another major hidden factor is the enhanced power efficiency. The process of reading data through eight channels and processing image based on the data consumes the largest amount of power, so the crucial point was how power management should be performed to reduce power consumption in this process.

― The EOS 5D Mark III comes with dual card slots. What were the reasons for the combined use of a CF card and an SD card?

Nakano Since the EOS 5D Mark II generation, we have received a lot of voices asking us to incorporate a dual card slot design, which is why we wanted very much to materialize this on the new model. While there was also the idea of introducing dual CF card slots, doing so would result in a bulkier body size. Considering the fact that SD memory cards now have a larger capacity and higher functionality, we decided to adopt a CF + SD dual card slot design.

― One of the most distinctive changes on the EOS 5D Mark III is the position and operation of the Magnify button. Can you tell us more about the changes that were made to the way of operation?

Tsunai There was much controversy over this topic within our team. This part was developed jointly with the EOS-1D X team, and we weighed both the pros and cons of changing the operability of the button. The reason behind the relocation of the Magnify button was the decision to consolidate all the playback control buttons on the left to improve the operability during batch browsing and sorting of images. Based on this consideration, we settled on a layout that uses the right hand to scroll the images with the Main Dial, while allowing the left hand to rate and erase images. Another significant advantage of this new layout is that during the quick review immediately after an image is captured, you can enlarge a part of the image instantly to check the accuracy of the focus. This is therefore the conclusion we arrived at after considering ways to facilitate image search and operability of the controls.

A: Live View shooting/Movie shooting switch Start/Stop button
B: Quick Control button
C: Touch pad
D: Multi function lock switch
E: Creative Photo/Two-image display button
F: Rating button
G: Magnify/Reduce button

Renewal of the button layout is done with the EOS 5D Mark III. Buttons for Playback functions are on the left side while the buttons for shooting functions are placed on the right side.

HDR and multiple exposures

― I have the impression that image production is more precise compared to the EOS 5D Mark II. Is this simply because of the difference in pixel count?

Sugimori I would not say that it's solely due to the pixel count. Another main reason is because we have optimized the sharpness. If we simply increase the pixel count, the image would not appear sharp if the lines remained thin. To tackle this issue, we made some slight adjustments in our approach to image production so that the apparent resolution obtained balances well with the pixel count.

The EOS 5D Mark III not only have high pixel count of 22.3 megapixels, but the sharpness is also finely adjusted according to the pixel count to realize the high apparent resolution.

― I remember that when the EOS 5D Mark II was released as a successor model to the first-generation EOS 5D, the image produced seemed to have transformed from one with a crispy impression to one that appears moist. Is this change on the EOS 5D Mark III related in any way to the transformation from EOS 5D to EOS 5D Mark II?

Sugimori Yes. In fact, a higher pixel count produces a softer image in some cases, and it may be for this reason that creates a different impression on the viewer.

― Which parts did you work on to produce a different apparent resolution for each model?

Sugimori One of the characteristics of the Picture Style on EOS cameras is that it produces almost identical effects regardless of the model in use. This is why we needed to fine-tune the sharpness in order to bring out the different apparent resolution due to the characteristics of the image sensor. This was how adjustments were made for the 22.3-megapixel CMOS sensor of the EOS 5D Mark III.

― The EOS 5D Mark III is equipped with an EOS Scene Detection System, as well as an additional [Auto] Picture Style. What principles does the EOS Scene Detection System operate on in the first place?

Sugimori The EOS Scene Detection System does not rely solely on image processing. In fact, it utilizes all functions of the EOS camera to yield the optimal results, such as information on AF and AE. Information obtained from the various functions is then consolidated for image processing, and images are produced while applying corrections such as by using the Auto Lighting Optimizer.

A: EOS Scene Detection System
B: Face
C: Color tone
D: Movement
E: Color saturation
F: Brightness
G: Contrast
H: Distance
PS: Picture Style
AWB: Auto Whtie Balance
ALO: Auto Lighting Optimizer
AF: Auto Focus
AE: Auto Exposure

The EOS Scene Detection System utilizes all functions of the EOS camera to yield the optimal result for AE and AF information.

― The HDR mode and multiple-exposure feature are introduced for the first time. Can you tell us why they were added?

Tsunai The largest group of users for the EOS 5D series is constituted by advanced amateurs, who, in many cases, aim to pursue creative photographic works on-the-spot at the shooting locations. All the while, we have been receiving a lot of requests from users who are enthusiasts of such a shooting style to include both the multiple-exposure feature and the HDR mode. It was this reason that propelled us to offer these features for users to produce photographic works through trial-and-error while they are shooting.

― Other competitors have also been making attempts to come up with similar features. How does Canon set itself apart from the rest with regard to these features?

Tsunai Indeed, this was one of our considerations when developing the features. For multiple exposures, Canon introduced the original [Bright]/[Dark] options in addition to [Additive] and [Average]. As for HDR, five different effects are available, including the [Natural] option, which simply widens the dynamic range, as well as other patterns with an added touch.

The effects of Multiple exposure function of the EOS 5D Mark III can be selected from four options which are [Additive], [Average], [Bright], and [Dark].

― Besides the [Natural] option in the HDR mode, how did you arrive at the patterns for the other four effects?

Tsunai We started by sorting out HDR photographic works that were released via different means. From there, we decided on a number of potential patterns, and requested the image design division to create the patterns.

Sugimori While we could have come up with effects that are even more radically different from each other, this may not be in line with what the market demands. We had a tough time in the sorting work. For example, two images would end up looking alike despite having sorted them into different patterns. It was a process of repeated trials and errors. Eventually, we arrived at the decision to create these five patterns based on the scene where the shoot is to take place. For instance, [Art embossed] is ideal for locations such as ruins, while landscapes look good with [Art vivid]. Needless to say, the resulting image quality is not impeccable, and as a camera manufacturer, it was a tough challenge to determine the extent to which such imperfections are to be considered as part of the character of the effects.

The HDR function combines three images with different exposure levels inside the camera to obtain a wider dynamic range. You can select from 5 options from the menu screen on the EOS 5D Mark III.

― The bundled software. Digital Photo Professional, comes with a new "Digital Lens Optimizer" feature. How does it work to enhance the resolving power by reducing aberrations?

Sugimori With the release of the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X, chromatic aberrations of the lens can now be corrected in real time. The next step that we are considering is the use of the "Digital Lens Optimizer." In particular, it is able to address complex aberrations for which correction has been deemed difficult in the past, as well as reviving images for which sharpness has been lost as a result of diffraction. Canon has accumulated all kinds of data for each lens, and we are therefore able to grasp the type of aberrations that may occur as well as their extent under specific shooting conditions. Having a thorough understanding of the design specifications of the lenses helped us to create functions for canceling these aberrations.

― I see. The Digital Lens Optimizer is described as a feature that "corrects influences from different optical elements." Can you elaborate on this point?

Sugimori Light travels through the lens elements and the optical low-pass filter before reaching the image sensor, and goes on to pass through the micro lenses and primary color filter. Each of these can be seen as "a single optical element." Also, it is a fact that the image quality of a digital camera ultimately hinges on the pixel pitch. These are all factors that may cause the resolving power to deteriorate. For example, while the optical low-pass filter is capable of eliminating moiré, it is also one of the reasons that lead to the loss of sharpness in the details. Based on the perception that eliminating these influences will help to restore the incident light to its original state, we converted the light transmission characteristics into a function, developed it into a filter, and named as "Digital Lens Optimizer."

A: Light souce
B: Lens
C: IR-absorbing/UV-blocking glass
D: Low-pass filter
E: Primary color filter
F: Shape of CMOS sensor opening

Principle of the "Digital Lens Optimizer" is based on the perception that eliminating influences from optical elements such as aberration, diffraction, and low-pass filters, this new function helps to restore the image information to its original state to realize optimal image quality. This feature can be used on the supplied software "Digital Photo Professional".

― Lastly, can I have Mr. Tsunai to give a message to all the EOS 5D Mark III users?

Tsunai Canon has, with much passion and no compromise, developed the EOS 5D Mark III for users who are always in pursuit of products with a higher quality. We hope you will put the EOS 5D Mark III to heavy use, as you will be able to appreciate the qualities better the more you make use of it.