Operation and Handling continued

Auto ISO settings

The 5D Mark III's Auto ISO mode now offers additional customization options. You can now set a minimum ISO as well as a maximum, and define a specific minimum shutter speed too. That latter is nowhere near as useful as it should be - the fastest shutter speed you can set is 1/250sec - however it's still an improvement over previous Canon implementations.

The ISO speed settings options are all accessed from one screen. You can configure the sensitivity range you'd like the camera to use in manual and auto selection modes entirely independently, and configure a specific minimum shutter speed.
One limitation is that the camera won't let you use the 'Extended' speeds (equivalent to ISO 50, 51200 and 102400) in Auto ISO.
You can select a specific minimum shutter speed as well as the usual 'Auto', unfortunately though Canon has missed a trick on this one. This option is most useful for 'freezing' fast-moving objects, but the selectable speeds only go up to 1/250 sec, which isn't really fast enough for that purpose, especially when using a telephoto lens. Nikon's latest iteration of Auto ISO on the D800 and D4 is still superior, with a wider range of minimum speeds and 5 selectable 'Auto' options.

Unlike the 5D Mark II, Auto ISO can be used in Manual shooting mode, allowing you to specify the shutter speed and aperture you want, and leaving the camera to worry about ISO. You can apply AE lock when working with Auto ISO in Manual mode and the viewfinder will show you the difference between the locked value and the current metered value. Unfortunately, though, there's no way of setting exposure compensation, despite the fact that it should be simple enough to offer via the 'Q' button.

Overall handling

With its chunky magnesium body and environmental protection, the EOS 5D Mark III feels like a real quality product. The sizeable hand-grip and the soft rubber surfaces feel comfortable in your hand, and while a 5D Mark III dangling from your neck all day would arguably result in severe neck pain the camera's dimensions and weight make it a well-balanced package with Canon's equally bulky L-lenses. For those who prefer the dimension of a full-on pro body such as Canon's EOS 1 series there is the optional BG-E11 battery grip.

All controls, button and dials, are sensibly located, with those controlling important shooting settings within reach of the index finger of thumb of your right hand, allowing for full control while composing an image through the viewfinder. Compared to the 5D Mark II most buttons are slightly bigger which is useful when operating the camera with cold fingers or gloves but the bigger buttons are very comfortable to use in any condition. Overall, in terms of handling, control layout and design the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is much closer to the APS-C DSLR EOS 7D than to its predecessor 5D Mark II.

With the movie mode/live view selection switch movie mode feels much better integrated into the camera's operation and the switch allows for seamless transition from stills to movie shooting. The 'Quick-menu' which has been standard on many lower level DSLRs and compact cameras for quite some time has finally made its way onto the 5D series and allows for quick access to a range of frequently changed parameters such as white balance, image quality or drive mode. Yes, there are hard buttons to change most of these settings but the Q-menu simply gives you some extra flexibility. The large depth of field preview button, placed for operation by the third finger of your right hand, is now much easier to reach when using large lenses or shooting in portrait format.

The depth of field preview button's larger size and changed location mean it's easier to operate when shooting in portrait format.

Like on the 7D the separation of the control dial lock and the power switch (which has moved under the mode dial) makes, compared to the 5D Mark II and previous models, things a little less confusing for first-time Canon shooters.

While Canon has maintained the general structure of the camera menus it has improved the layout and simplified things by moving some options from the previously overloaded custom function menu into the shooting menu and the new AF section. The latter, in combination with the expanded Auto ISO settings described above, allows for straightforward customization of the AF system and preparation for a variety of shooting scenarios, without diving too deep into the menu hierarchy.

While we couldn't find any real issues while using the camera we have two (quite minor) complaints. Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority are both functions that are useful in high-contrast situations, yet only ALO is accessible via the Q.Menu. You have to dive into the shooting menu to enable or disable HTP which seems a little inconsistent.

While the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer feature is accessible via the 'Q' button, you'll have to dive into the menu to enable Highlight Tone Priority.

In movie mode the new touch-sensitive 4-way controller is very useful when changing settings while recording. However, the controller looses its touch-sensitivity as soon as you stop recording. The user experience would be more coherent if, at least while in movie mode, the touch buttons stayed active, even after recording has ended.

In movie mode the rear dial becomes touch-sensitive. However, as soon you stop recording the touch-sensitivity is lost which can be a little confusing.

These very minor quibbles aside the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is overall a camera that offers an intuitive user interface and is very enjoyable to shoot with. Even if some of its default settings do not suit your personal style of shooting its abundance of customization options will almost certainly allow you to fine-tune the camera operation to match your requirements.