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Alvin Soon male Associate Features Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.

Highlights from Canon EOS 5D Mark III Interviews with Developers

At the Singapore launch event of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III last week, I received a booklet containing interviews with the 5D Mark III's developers and designers from Canon's IPC Development Center 2. The booklet's an interesting look into the development of Canon's brand new mid-range full-frame DSLR camera, there's really no other way anyone could get interviews with so many engineers and designers to get such an in-depth look at the making of a product.

Unfortunately, it's not available to the public, and there's so much good stuff inside I thought it'd be a waste to keep it to myself. Since I can't replicate the entire booklet and not break copyright laws, here are a few highlights I've found for you.

The 5D Mark III project had four goals:

Development focused on four themes: Mature, high image quality performance; Refined basic features that don't cut corners; Diversity that expands the scope of photography; and Authentic textures that appeal to all five senses.

The 5D Mark III took quite a few cues from the higher-end 1D X:

"We knew that increasing the AF performance and drive performance would place a greater burden on the firmware. The only way we could overcome this challenge was to approach it with the same design concept as the 1D series." (Hideya Takanashi) In other words, a dedicated microcomputer was used for the AF control. In fact, two microcomputers were adopted, each with the same strength as the EOS-1D X. 

When you read the booklet, the developers' passion for quality and attention to detail shine through. A quote from senior engineer Hiroshi Koiwai, who was responsible for enlarging the 5D Mark III's viewfinder's field-of-view from 98% to 100%, is philosophical:

"When you look into an optical viewfinder, you are looking directly at the light, texture, and atmosphere generated by the subject. This simply cannot be matched by any other device components, including an LCD display... The world of imaging in a 35mm full-frame camera is a kind of 'sacred ground' for photographers. Visual clarity in the viewfinder should be worthy of that title."

This work isn't easy. In order to develop a new mirror which would allow six frames per second capture:

Mr. (Kazuaki) Yamana, who was in charge of developing the mirror unit, carefully studied the components of past EOS digital systems one at a time. He thoroughly studied the layout, raw materials, and other aspects of every single gear bearing, from the motor to the mirrors. His goal was to create a short, efficient mechanism that could increase the drive speed using the same level of electrical power as before.

Attention was paid not just to the way the camera looks and feels, but also the way it sounds:

The next theme was finding ways to reduce vibration and make comfortable sound. "With the EOS 7D, Canon targeted the theme of 'comfortable sound,' and established methods for evaluating camera sound. We developed this method even further, and in the case of the EOS 5D Mark III, we tried to achieve a release sound that felt even better to the user." (Yamana)

Again, the level of passion from the developers really comes through. This quote is from Tomoya Yamashita:

"If you're going to do it, make something that cannot be beaten. Something that cannot be easily imitated. It would be extremely frustrating if we were quickly overtaken by our competitors, and we want to create a camera that the customers are really happy to use. With all that in mind, there is no room for compromise."

If you think the design of the camera doesn't scream for attention, that's because it's done on purpose:

Mr. (Keita) Sato, one of the lead designers, vows that this camera will never upstage the photographer. "This is the pinnacle of mid-range cameras. I would like to see its full potential expressed just as it is, with no artificiality." It would be easier to set some motif or theme, and design the camera around that. Instead, Mr. Sato wanted to create a new archetype for the modern digital single lens reflex camera, using a minimalist approach.

Throughout the booklet, the benefits of having cross-participation across teams and having key components developed in-house are emphasized:

"There was one other issue that needed to be overcome in the evolution of EOS movie: how to deal with the heat... Canon develops the key-devices in-house, so we conducted studies in collaboration with those development divisions to find ways of controlling heat from the perspective of power conservation." (Yasuhiro Harada)... Discussions were also held with the members of the instrumentation and mechanical design teams, to further improve heat release efficiency.

Some cool highlights there, right? But is the 5D Mark III really all that? To find out, watch for our review of the camera, coming soon.

P.S. Check out our own interviews with Canon Singapore about the 5D Mark III at its local launch event!

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