One thing pictures alone can't ever really describe is how a camera will feel in your hand, and the 5D Mark III is one of those cameras that just feels 'right'. The camera is comfortably chunky and the sculpted 'channel' on the rear provides a positive grip for your thumb and helps make the camera feel completely secure in your hand. Both control dials and an impressive number of buttons are within easy reach of either the index finger or thumb of your right hand. The design, dimensions and response of all controls ensure the camera is still usable even when shooting with gloves.
The 5D Mark III features a substantial grip with a comfortable soft-rubber surface.
As we've said before in this review the EOS 5D Mark III's construction is excellent, and it shows in the camera's weight. At 2.1lb body weight it's quite a hefty piece of equipment and in combination with one of Canon's equally well-made 'L' lenses it can weigh you down during the course of a long shooting day. That said, despite the build quality and the abundance of features the EOS 5D Mark III is smaller and more lightweight than Canon's 1-series cameras, and therefore makes a good alternative for those who don't want to compromise on image quality but don't quite need the 'war-zone' ruggedness of a 1D Mark IV or 1Dx.
The live view/movie mode switch allows to quickly access movie mode and/or live view shooting mode.
The Q-button provides quick access to a range of shooting parameters. The joystick above can be used to navigate the menus and move around in magnified images.
In terms of both design and operation the 5D Mark III is not so much an evolution of its predecessor but adopts many of the design cues and control elements of the newer EOS 7D APS-C DSLR. The 5D Mark III gains the 7D's more curvy design, the combined live-view / movie mode switch, a 'Q' button for quick access to the rear-screen control panel and a sliding lock switch for the rear dial. Like on the 7D there is also an On/Off switch behind the mode dial and a customizable M-Fn button beside the shutter release.
On-screen settings adjustment (Q-menu)
Like all recent EOS DSLRs, the 5D Mark III has an interactive settings display panel. This means there are up to three ways of changing settings - for many options you can press a dedicated button and then spin either the front or rear dial, alternatively, there are two ways of using the interactive settings display (the Q Menu). Both methods involve pressing the 'Q' button then using the dials or joystick to select the option you wish to change, at which point you can either roll the main dial or press 'SET'. This will bring up a dedicated screen, which can again be navigated using the joystick and selected using the 'SET' button.
The number of options available in the Q-menu vary with the shooting mode you are in. In the PASM modes (A-mode pictured on the left) you have much more control over parameters than in A+ mode (on the right).
To modify a parameter you can either turn the front or rear dial with the 'cursor' over the setting you want to change, or you can press the 'SET'-button to proceed to a dedicated screen.
User interface customization options
As you would expect from a camera at this level the Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers an abundance of customization options, most of which can be accessed in the Custom Function menu. The camera gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of button and control layout and the camera UI can be optimized for your personal shooting style. The 'Custom Controls' screen within the Custom Function menu allows you to customize the function of many of the camera's buttons and both dials. A comprehensive list of customization options is available on the menu pages of this review.
The DOF button at the camera front and the M-fn button next to the shutter buttons are two of the many controls that are customizable on the EOS 5D Mark III.
The 'Custom Controls' screen shows a graphical illustration of the camera's button and dial layout and allows you to customize the behavior of those controls. If you move the cursor over a button or dial and click the 'SET' button you see options available for this specific control element.
In addition, the camera's 'My Menu' function allows you to compose your own menu within the menu system. It's a good way of putting infrequently but repeatedly used functions in a place where you'll be able to find them the next time you need them. If you have a specific set of parameters that you use for specific shooting situations, for example in a studio-setup, you can also save those to the camera's C1 to C3 modes which are accessible via the mode dial.
Frequently used menu-settings can be added to the My Menu section for easy access.