Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II was one of the first DSLRs to offer 1080p full-HD video, making it an interesting option for videographers. A firmware update added manual control in video mode and, with its wide selection of EF lenses, the 5D Mark II became popular not only with video amateurs but also Hollywood cameramen. Famously an entire episode of the popular TV-series 'House' was shot with the 5D Mark II, establishing the camera as a viable tool for movie and TV professionals.
Although at first glance the video specifications of the 5D Mark III might look very similar to those of the 5D II, there are some important refinements. The more powerful DIGIC 5+ processor promises a reduction of moiré artifacts and less of the rolling-shutter effect that was very apparent with fast movement on the Mark II.
The Mark III also features the same, more sophisticated video encoding options that appeared on the 1D X, most notably the 'All-I' compression option, in which each frame is treated independently, rather than trying to identify and compress common areas for neighboring frames. This means higher playback quality and easier editing, though at the cost of larger file sizes (you'll fit 22 minutes of All-I footage on a 16GB card, rather than the 64 with the alternative IPB compression). The camera is also happy to record for its maximum 29:59 minutes without a risk of overheating in normal working temperatures, and can split a single clip across multiple files so that it isn't impeded by the 4GB file limit of the FAT 32 file system.
To go with this refreshed video spec are the additions of a headphone socket for monitoring audio recording, SMPTE time code recording (Rec-Run and Free-Run) and a touch-sensitive rear dial.
Video quality options
• ALL-I or IPB
|Audio||Monaural sound, Linear PCM, stereo sound with external microphone|
|Format||H.264 / MPEG-4|
|Max file size per clip||4.0 GB|
|Recordable time||29:59 minutes|
The basic process of shooting a video on the EOS 5D Mark III is very similar to the EOS 7D. You set the Live View/Movie switch to the movie position to enter the movie mode and then press the start/stop button to record footage.
In A+ mode that's all there is to do but in PAS modes you can set exposure compensation by turning the lock switch to the left and turning the rear dial, as you would do when taking stills images. You can do so while recording. In Tv mode ISO and Aperture are set automatically, you select shutter speed by turning the front dial. In A-mode you turn the same dial to change aperture. In M-mode you turn front and rear dials for aperture and shutter speed respectively. You can change shutter speed and aperture while you are recording. However, this is not recommended as it will result in 'exposure jumps' in the footage.
In A+ mode the ISO is set automatically and uses the ISO range between 100-12800. In PASM modes you can expand this to ISO 25600. The way to achieve this is a little counterintuitive. You will actually have to select the 'H' setting for ISO, as in movie mode ISO 25600 is regarded as an expansion setting. If you set the ISO limit to 25600 in movie mode the camera will only use up to ISO 12800.
|When setting ISO in movie mode ISO 25600 becomes the maximum setting. You can only see on the rear LCD screen which one of the 'H' settings has been selected, as on the top LCD 'H' will be displayed for ISO 16000, 20000 and 25600.||In movie mode ISO can only be set manually in manual mode. In Av,Tv and P-modes it is set automatically and you get this message when pressing the ISO button.|
You autofocus with a shutter half-press or by pressing the AF-On button. The camera uses the current AF mode it is set to. Continuous AF is not available.
If you press any of the hard buttons, such as White Balance or AF mode, while you are in video mode the settings screen is overlaid on the live view images. Which buttons are active in video mode depends on the shooting mode you are in. Like in stills mode you can also use the Q-menu. A press of the Q-button will give you access to the Auto Lighting Optimizer, memory card selection, still image quality, movie quality and size, and the sound recording level.
|The 5D Mark III's movie mode offers a choice of ALL-I and IPB video compression.||Sound recording levels can be monitored via a headphone-socket.|
The rear dial on the 5D Mark III may look (and behave) like the standard Canon rear dial but it also gains a nifty trick - in movie mode it becomes a touch-sensitive 4-way controller, with 'buttons' on the inner rim. This allows you to make changes to settings without having to rotate it or click any buttons that might disrupt your footage or be audible on your soundtrack. It can be used, via the Q menu, to adjust shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation or audio level without interrupting the stability of your video. Unfortunately the touchpad is only active while recording. During live view mode you'll have to navigate the Q-menu with the joystick which seems like an inconsistency. You should at least have the option to use the touchpad in live view as well.
|When recording video the camera's rear dial becomes touch sensitive. This allows for changes of settings without any clicking noises recorded on the soundtrack.|
You can take stills images while shooting video. A half-press of the shutter button will display still image shutter speed and ISO at the screen bottom. If you full-press the image is recorded but will result in an approximately one second long 'still moment' in the video. Therefore taking stills images can only be recommended if you plan to edit and cut your video footage in post production.
Audio monitoring is a new feature on the 5D Mark III and extremely useful for keeping an 'eye' on your sound levels and quality. If you headphones to the camera's socket you can hear the sound as it is recorded and adjust the recording levels. The latter can be done via the touch-sensitive rear-dial while you are recording. The headphones also work when watching videos in playback mode.
As mentioned above the 5D Mark III offers two types of video compression. IBP compression compresses multiple frames at a time which results in smaller file sizes while ALL-I compresses only one frame at a time. This results in significantly larger file sizes but gives you more flexibility when editing the video files. That said, in terms of image quality we found it very difficult to spot a difference between the two mode.
When viewed at full size the 5D Mark III's video output looks a little soft compared to some other video capable DSLRs we have tested. However, exposure tends to be be spot on and the new DIGIC 5+ processor reduces moiré artifacts, giving very clean output. The footage gets noisy at higher ISOs but, as you would expect, the performance at higher sensitivities has improved over the Mark II and you can use all ISO settings up to ISO 25600 when shooting video.
The EOS 5D Mark III's 35mm full frame sensor brings with it all the depth of field pros and cons that come with larger sensors. It allows for much easier isolation of subjects and gives you, in combination with Canon's extensive range of EF lenses, better creative flexibility than the smaller sensors of APS-C or smaller sensor cameras.
Like all DSLRs with a CMOS sensor the EOS 5D Mark III can suffer from distortion caused by its rolling shutter. The readout of the sensor means movies are created with a rolling shutter (horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go). The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so moving vertical lines can be rendered as a diagonals. That said, the new sensor shows much less of the rolling-shutter than the Mark II. You have to pan the camera unnaturally quickly to make the effect noticeable.
Below you'll find some examples of videos taken with the 5D Mark III for you to view, download and draw your own conclusions.
Sample video 1
This video was shot at 1080p and ALL-I compression to demonstrate the Canon EOS 5D Mark III's video quality in good light. The built-in microphone is good enough to capture the ambient noise but for serious video work an external microphone is recommendable.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 16 sec, 190.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 2
This video was shot indoors in low light at 1080p with IPB compression. Despite the high contrast situation exposure is good and image noise is well under control but all full viewing size the image looks a little soft.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 15 sec, 162.2 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 3This video was captured at 720p and 60fps in good light. The music sounds a little 'tinny' when recorded with he built-in microphone.
|1280 x 720 60 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 29 sec, 275.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 4This is another video shot at108p/IPB in good light.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 13 sec, 53.5 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 5This video was shot at F4 on the 24-120mm lens and shows the shallow depth of field you can achieve when shooting video on a DSLR with a full-frame sensor.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 12 sec, 135.1 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
- 16 HDR modes
- 17 Lens Corrections
- 18 Noise and Noise Reduction
- 19 Dynamic Range
- 20 Resolution
- 21 Raw Mode
- 22 High ISO
- 23 Image Quality Tests
- 24 Movie mode
- 25 Video opinion (EOSHD.com)
- 26 Image Q. Compared (JPEG)
- 27 Image Q. Compared (Hi ISO)
- 28 Image Q. Compared (RAW)
- 29 Conclusion
- 30 Samples gallery