The long-anticipated update to Canon’s popular 5D2 arrived in the form of the 5D3 without too much of immediate interest to the intrepid architectural photographer. Or so I thought when glancing over the first reviews. Further reading however, revealed that the Japanese designers had incorporated an onboard electronic level, providing a readout directly onto the bigger and brighter, rear LCD screen.
This was potentiallygreat news as until now, we’d had to put up with those uncannily expensive, uncannily innaccurate, plastic jobs that slipped in to (and often out of) the camera’s hot shoe. My East Coast colleague Alan Goldstein sent me this image of his current collection
So what’s the big deal, I hear you ask, surely getting somewhere in the ballpark is good enough when you can tweak it later…?
To my way of thinking, the better I can get my initial capture, the less I have to smash the pixels around in processing to get things correctly lined up. For this reason, I mostly tether directly into a laptop, spending the time (and most importantly, battery power) lining the subject up as accurately as possible. The big hope for this new electronic level was the saving of the accumulated hours of shoot, review, tweak, shoot, review, tweak etc brought on by the inaccuracies of the plastic block levels. This time saved over the course of a few months would be, in my opinion at least, totally worth the price of the upgrade.
When first setting up the camera, a larger level can be made visible by pressing the INFO button twice in quick succession. The level has indicators for both left/right and forward/backward tilt.
Fine tuning can then be done with the camera in Live View mode. The indicators take a little getting used to but after a while, tweaking the tripod head in the right direction becomes second nature.
And happily, it indeed works extremely well, even untethered as with our first attempt below on a 24TS-E.