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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review


Review based on production Canon EOS 5D Mark III with firmware v1.1.2

In 1987 Canon unveiled the EOS 650 to the world. It was the Japanese manufacturer's first 35mm autofocus SLR and the start of the EOS system. With its fully-electronic lens mount, in-lens aperture and focus motors, and reliance on electronic button and dial operation, Canon's EOS system established a blueprint that all successive camera systems have followed. Now, 25 years later, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the latest model in the line.

Up until now, the 5D series has been a dynasty of slightly unlikely revolutionaries. The original EOS 5D of 2005 was the first 'affordable' full frame SLR, and the camera that cemented the 24x36mm sensor as the format of choice for many professional applications at a time when many were questioning its continued relevance. The 5D Mark II was the first SLR capable of recording full HD video, a feature that revolutionized the market in a fashion that no one could possibly have envisaged at the time - least of all Canon. On the face of it, though, the latest model offers little that looks likely to make the same impact.

The 5D Mark III has a 22MP full frame sensor in a body that's based on the EOS 7D design, and with a 61-point AF system borrowed from the flagship EOS-1D X. From the glass-half-empty point of view, this could be seen as an unambitious update that trails disappointingly behind Nikon's 36MP D800 which was announced around the same time. But for those whose glasses tend more towards the half-full, it might just turn out to be the camera that 5D Mark II owners always really wanted.

Indeed the 5D name itself is almost misleading; compared to its predecessor the Mark III is essentially a completely new model, with every major system upgraded and updated. In a way it's better seen as a full-frame 7D, with that camera's control layout, extensive customizability and 63-zone metering sensor. But it also gains a raft of additional tweaks and improvements in response to customer feedback; these range from dual slots for CF and SD cards, through a locking exposure mode dial, to a large depth of field preview button that's repositioned for right-handed operation, and can be reprogrammed to access a number of other functions.

Read on to find out out how the 5D Mark III performs in our studio and real-life tests, how we liked its handling and operation and if it is the right camera for your requirements and type of photography.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III key specifications

  • 22MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-25600 standard, 50-102,800 expanded
  • 6 fps continuous shooting
  • Shutter rated to 150,000 frames
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic
  • 61 point AF system
  • 63 zone iFCL metering system
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 1040k dot 3:2 LCD
  • Dual card slots for CF and SD

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and II key differences

Most of the key specs are substantially upgraded compared to the 5D Mark II. The new sensor, coupled with Canon's latest DIGIC 5+ processor, offers a standard ISO range of 100 - 25,600 that's expandable to 50 - 102,800. An 8-channel sensor readout enables continuous shooting at 6 fps. The shutter is rated to 150,000 cycles and has been refined for quieter operation; the Mark III also inherits the 'silent' shutter mode previously seen on the 1D-series. Viewfinder coverage is a full 100%, and the 1040k dot, 3:2 aspect ratio 3.2" LCD screen has improved anti-reflection properties and a hardened glass cover to protect against scratching. And let's not forget that 61-point focus system from the 1DX - the first time Canon has put its top-spec AF sensor into a non-1-series camera since the film-era EOS 3.

 

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Sensor 22.3 MP full-frame CMOS 21 MP full-frame CMOS
Processor Digic 5+ Digic 4
ISO range 50 - 102800 50 - 25600
Maximum shooting rate 6fps 3.9fps
Viewfinder coverage 100% 98%
LCD screen 3.2" - 1,040,000 dots 3.0" - 920,000 dots
AF Sensor 61 points 9 points
CA correction Yes No
All-I and IPV video compression options Yes No
Touch-sensitive rear dial Yes No
Headphone socket Yes No
HDR shooting Yes No
Multiple exposure Yes No
Silent shutter Yes No
Side-by-side image comparison Yes No

Movie mode turned out to be the 5D Mark II's trump card over its rivals, and its successor naturally offers improved capability in this regard. In terms of ergonomics, the camera gains the 7D's rear movie mode/live view switch, so you no longer have to compromise your stills Live View settings when setting up for video recording. There's a built-in headphone socket for audio monitoring, and rear control dial gains touch-sensitive 'buttons' that allow recording parameters (shutter speed, aperture, ISO and sound volume) to be changed silently. The video output specifications are essentially unchanged in terms of resolution and framerate (1080p30 maximum), but Canon says the processing is improved to minimise moiré and other artefacts, and has included the higher quality All-I and IPB interframe compression options introduced with the EOS-1D X. What you don't get though, is the uncompressed output over HDMI seen in the latest Nikon models.

There's a couple of entirely new features too; the 5D Mark III becomes Canon's first SLR capable of in-camera High Dynamic Range shooting, in an unusually well-implemented and flexible fashion, and gets expanded autobracketing options too (up to 7 frames covering a vast +/- 8 EV range). It can also record multiple exposures, if you so desire. The introduction of DIGIC 5+ means that JPEG processing (finally) includes chromatic aberration correction, based on lens profiles which are stored in-camera (and therefore limited to Canon's own lenses). Last but not least, playback mode adds the ability to compare images directly side-by-side, in a number of different views.

The 5D Mark III also gains a refreshed menu system, essentially based on that of the EOS-1D X. It's not entirely dissimilar to the 5D Mark II's (so existing users will still feel at home), but it gains a completely new tab for managing its complex AF system, based on a range of usage-scenario presets. The ordering of options has been rationalized, and a number of functions that were previously hidden deep within the custom functions have bubbled-up closer to the surface as top-level menu items, perhaps most notably mirror lockup and Highlight Tone Priority.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 9
Vmo9
By Vmo9 (2 months ago)

I have used the 5D Mark III for over a year and have just finished selling my Nikon gear (sad day after being a Nikon enthusiast for 30 plus years). From auto-focus to camera build to overall quality, this camera can do it all! Even with the slow burst rate, it works well for sports and nature shooting! I can't recommend this camera enough. I have found the auto-focus system to be quick enough for Equestrian events with long lenses, such as Canons 400mm f2.8 or new 200-560mm.

1 upvote
Rob728
By Rob728 (3 months ago)

I have just bought a 5d mkii, and when doing a comparison test (nothing scientific) against my 50d I find that the 5d3 seems to under expose by upto 1stop, is this normal?

0 upvotes
schutzaphoto
By schutzaphoto (4 months ago)

I work in Nyc as a fashion photographer and I have to say the the 5d series are the most used cameras out side of medium format cameras .Ive been shooting with the mark 3 for over a year after shooting with the mark 2 for 2 years great both great cameras. You can see the shots I've taken with it on my website www.brianschutzaphotography.com hope it helps!!

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
VABMAN
By VABMAN (1 month ago)

Nice shots,...I've always dreamed to be a fashion photographer.

0 upvotes
Cyrus the Great
By Cyrus the Great (5 months ago)

Nikon D800 is clear winer over 5D iii in every things. Nikon has much sharper lens.
don't know why some people buy Canon???!!!!!

1 upvote
R D Carver
By R D Carver (5 months ago)

'Some people' buy Canon because they earn their living using a camera. Oh man, you should see those forests of white and red-ringed lenses in the pro pit at every major sporting, media and news event! 'Some people' are winning the major competitions, filling the fashion and nature magazines and filming box office busting movies with Canon. "Nikon has much sharper lens" Which lens exactly? Give a photographer a Canon 5D MKIII and an EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens and he can take on the world. Nikon is good, Canon is good why get tribal? it is so petty and amateur. At work I can pick up a Nikon/Sony D800 body or a Cannon 5D MKIII. I prefer the Cannon because I don't like the white balance on the Nikon. Others are happy to use the Nikon, but the die hard Nikon enthusiasts are disappointed that Sony make the sensors for Nikon. In comes Sony in comes the green tinged white balance.

4 upvotes
WillieG
By WillieG (4 months ago)

No cameras white balance is perfectly neutral. That's why we have the ability to manually change it on the camera and even fine tune on some of the higher end models. Nikon cameras do run slightly toward the cool side, but they can always be fine-tuned to be neutral in-camera. Canon cameras have always leaned towards the orange color tint. Luckily for Canon the end result is a slightly warmer image that many photographers like the looks of. Few pros would buy a camera that couldn't be made to produce true colors. And that forest of white lenses has been thinning out quite a bit since the advent of the Nikon D3. I'm one die-hard Nikon enthusiast who's ecstatic with Sony sensors. No other brand can even match their dynamic range.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
solomonshv
By solomonshv (5 days ago)

why is the D800 is the clear winner? because of a few test charts? which camera do you own? the 5DM3 or the D800? i switched from nikon to canon because i liked canon's lenses better.

ever been to a major sporting event or a press conference? if you did you'd notice an abundance of off-white telephoto lenses with red rings on them. saying that "some people buy Canon" is misleading because pretty much everyone who makes a living off their camera gear uses Canon. and believe me, there are very good reasons for that. if you don't know what they are then it will be a waste of time trying to explain them to you. you still wont get it because you are too busy looking at test charts.

0 upvotes
mufflon
By mufflon (6 months ago)

thx for putting the Shadow noise test in your review. it was time to show that quite big difference.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 9