The last test I did on the Canon 5D Mark III camera to check its Auto White Balance I got some people commenting that I should shoot raw, that the result I got was to be expected from AWB. I’ve shot raw ever since my first DSLR would allow me to, that was the Canon 10D. But sometimes it would be nice if the AWB would work better than it does because just shooting raw or shooting a custom white balance, still doesn’t help you from having to manually adjust just about every image. So an AWB comparison test was in order.
Take for example an event I shot a week after getting my 5D3. It was a restaurant in the bottom of an office building with very high ceilings. They had large windows that went from the floor to the ceiling that faced West. When it first started the sun was high enough in the sky that it was the main light source streaming into the bar area. But as the event went on the sun was setting and the color temperature of the light was changing. Then its brightness started to fade also as the bar area began to be more and more illuminated by the flourescent lights – a different color temperature.
The end result was the entire time the color temperature of the light was slowly changing, whether it be because the sun was setting or because of the mix of light from the flourescent light vs the sun light. In these types of situations, shooting raw is great because you can adjust the white balance in post. But since the temperature is constantly changing you can’t just batch adjust all the images. And shooting a custom white balance image doesn’t help a lot either. Because in about 10-15 minutes the color temperature will have changed again, so you’ll need to shoot another custom white balance image. In these situations having a camera that does a decent job at AWB would be great.
I decided to do a test, using a CFL 2,700K temperature bulb I shot the casino chips again on a white background. I used three different cameras, the Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, the Canon S100, and the Canon PowerShot D10 – yes the point-n-shoot underwater camera! I set all to ISO 400, for the 5D3 I set the lens to f/8.0 and let the shutter adjust to where it needed to be. All cameras were set to AWB. The 5D3 and the S100 were shot in raw and converted in DPP 22.214.171.124.
Here’s the comparison between them:
There is a difference between them, but not enough that really matters. The D10 looks a little underexposed compared to the 5D3 and would probably be closest if the exposure was bumped up just a little. The S100 is even more underexposed compared to the 5D3.
Now here is the 5D3 when the color temperature is set to 2,700K in DPP:
The surprising thing is there’s a vast difference in price between these cameras. The Canon 5D Mark III was just released and body only is $3,500. The Canon S100 was announced in Sept 2011 and it’s $400. The Canon PowerShot D10 was announced in Feb 2009 and can be bought for $250. While there is a difference in price (14 times more for the 5D3 compared to the D10), there isn’t much of a difference in the ability of the cameras to perform AWB!