After publishing a detailed First Look at the new EOS 5D Mark III at the beginning of March, we eagerly awaited the chance to review a production unit. This was supplied at the beginning of April, allowing us to carry out our standard suite of technical and user tests. This report has been prepared to complement the initial review, adding comments about our experiences using the new camera plus the results of our standard tests. Links have been provided to enable readers to jump between the two reports.
As promised, the 22.3-megapixel EOS 5D Mark III, provides some incremental improvements on its predecessor for both still photographers and video shooters, some of which were not explored in our initial report. Owners of the EOS 5D Mark II will have a considerable amount of soul-searching as they decide whether to upgrade to the new model and decisions could be based on a number of important features.
Because the Mark II still has plenty to offer to both serious enthusiasts and professional photographers, it will remain on sale, at a reduced price of AUD$2799 for the body or AUD$3899 for the Premium kit with the 24-105mm lens, as we reviewed. As such, it still represents excellent value for money when you consider this camera had RRPs of $4299 for body only and $5799 with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens when it was first released.
We have also reviewed the EOS 5D Mark III with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, which will be included in the Premium kit (RRP: AUD$5,499 or US$4300). This is the same lens as we used for our review of the 5D Mark II, enabling us to compare the two cameras.
Front views of the EOS 5D Mark III (left) and the EOS 5D Mark II. (Source: Canon.)
Rear views of the EOS 5D Mark III (left) and the EOS 5D Mark II. (Source: Canon.)
On the basis of physical features, both cameras are similar, although refinements to the body design and many controls have made them easier to access and much more photographer-friendly. The table below compares key physical features of both cameras.
EOS 5D Mark III
EOS 5D Mark II
152 x 116.4 x 76.4 mm
152 x 113.5 x 75 mm
Weight (body only)
Dust- and water-resistant sealing on all buttons, dials and strap hooks and around the openings for the battery compartment, memory card slot and interface ports.
Dust- and moisture-resistant seals around the openings for the battery compartment, memory card slot and button controls.
Pentaprism with approx. 100% FOV coverage; -3 to +1 dpt adjustment; non-interchangeable focusing screen
Pentaprism with approx. 98% FOV coverage; -3 to +1 dpt adjustment; interchangeable focusing screen
3.2-inch Clear View LCD II with approximately 1.04 million dots (3:2 aspect ratio)
3.0-inch TFT LCD with approximately 920,000 dots (3:2 aspect ratio)
Rear panel controls
Buttons or dials for: Menu, Info, Creative Photo/Comparative playback, Rate, Index/Magnify or Reduce, Playback, Erase, Live View shooting/Movie switch, video start /stop, joystick multi-controller, AF start, AE lock, AF point selection, Quick Control menu, Quick Control dial with touch pad and Set button, multi-function lock switch
Buttons or dials for: Menu, Live View shooting/Print/Share, Picture Style selection, Info/ Trimming orientation, Playback, Erase, joystick multi-controller, AF start, AE/FE lock/Reduce, AF point selection/Magnify, Quick Control dial with Set/Movie shooting button, Power/Quick Control dial switch
Locking mode dial
Hi-Speed USB 2.0, HDMI/VIDEO, MIC, Gigabit-Ethernet, PC terminal, N3 terminal (for remote controller), Wireless remote control, WFT-E7 wireless file transmitter
Hi-Speed USB 2.0, HDMI, AV out, MIC, N3 terminal (for remote controller), Wireless remote control, WFT-E4/E4A wireless file transmitter
Dual slots for CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
Single CompactFlash card slot (UDMA-compatible)
LP-E6 Rechargeable lithium-ion battery; 7.2 V DC, 1800 mAh
Electronically-controlled, focal-plane shutter
30 seconds to 1/8000 second plus Bulb; sync speed 1/200 sec./ Approx. 150,000 cycles
Shutter release time lag
Max. burst speed
Approx. 6 shots/sec.
Approx. 3.9 shots/sec.
We've covered the main changes in detail in the Build and Ergonomics section of our detailed First Look, which can be accessed via this link.
As an existing 5D Mark II owner, we found the new body’s handling to be comfortably familiar and welcomed the fact that both camera bodies use the same battery. We were also delighted with the changes to the user interface, particularly the addition of the Q (Quick Control menu) button, which makes it much faster and easier to adjust key camera settings.
The Quick Control menu. (Source: Canon.)
While the LCD monitor on the Mark III was slightly larger and offered higher resolution than the Mark II's, we didn't see much difference in brightness between the viewfinders of the two cameras. Being able to see the sensor's full field of view provided a slight advantage when precise shot composition was required. One very welcome feature was the ability to display warnings in the viewfinder to alert you to situations where an inappropriate control may be engaged. The screen below shows the settings covered.
Viewfinder warnings. (Source: Canon.)
Because it incorporates many of the features promised in the EOS-D1 X, which is due for release soon, the Mark III is a more capable camera than its predecessor in many key areas. Most notable of these is the AF system, which we found to be both faster and more capable than the Mark II's.
Some potential buyers may find the complexity of the AF system daunting. But once you've used the camera for a while and experimented with different settings, its advantages are pretty obvious. When you need a quick AF configuration, the 'Case' settings in the camera's menu make it easy to match the focusing controls to a range of common shooting situations – and they can be fine-tuned to suit different types of shots.
An example of the 'Case' setting options in the AF menu. (Source: Canon.)
You also have plenty of configurations for selecting AF points, either singly or in clusters, as shown in the screen grabs below. When the camera settings matched the subject, the system worked like a charm.
AF point selection via the menu. (Source: Canon.)
AF point display via the Quick Control menu in Live View. (Source: Canon.)
Autofocusing in Live View wasn't quite as fast, with lag times averaging 0.6 seconds in Live Mode. However, as with the Mark II, you can choose between contrast detection (Live Mode) and a phase-detect system (Quick Mode) which is slightly faster but interrupts the live view briefly when the dedicated sensor is engaged.
The advantage of the Mark III is that it uses 61-points instead of the 9-point array plus 6 Assist AF points on the Mark II. Average lag times were around 0.4 seconds with this system.
The iFCL ('intelligent' Focus, Colour and Luminance) metering system was as competent as the EOS 7D's, from which it was derived, handling a wide variety of lighting conditions with aplomb. The expansion of the bracketing options from three to five and seven frames on either side of the metered reading is another big plus.
A new Final Image Simulation option in Live View provides a quick and easy way to fine-tune key settings on the run instead of having to resort to the menu system. A new Creative Photo button on the rear panel replaces the Picture Styles button on the Mark II and contains three sub-menus: Picture Style, Multiple Exposures and HDR.
Aside from the addition of an Auto setting, the Picture Styles are largely unchanged. Three User Defined settings enable users to store customised styles with adjustments to sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone as well as filter and toning effects for monochrome images.
Pressing the Creative Photo button displays a screen with three options: Picture Style, Multiple Exposures and HDR. (Source: Canon.)
Unlike the Mark II, the Mark III provides facilities for converting CR2.RAW files into JPEGs in the camera. They work with all three raw file sizes and can be handy for photojournalists who need to send sample shots back to base when they're in the field. Adjustments available during conversion include brightness, white balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimiser, high ISO noise reduction, image quality, colour space, peripheral illumination correction and distortion correction.
Picture Style adjustments when converting raw files into JPEGs in the camera. (Source: Canon.)
The HDR settings were interesting, albeit a little perplexing to use since they only appear to work with multiple exposures – and only on JPEG files. Selecting the HDR mode brings up a sub-menu of controls, the top one of which is 'Adjust dyn range', which defaulted to Disable HDR after each sequence of shots was recorded. This seems counter-intuitive since the other settings in the sub-menu are only applied when the camera records a sequence of shots.
The dynamic range adjustments provided in the HDR mode. (Source: Canon.)
In addition to Disable HDR, the Adjust dyn range contains four settings: Auto, +/-1EV, +/-2EV and +/-3EV. The Auto setting adjusts exposure increments based on the subject brightness range. The other settings in the sub-menu are Effect, Continuous HDR, Auto Image Align and Save source images, which are largely self-explanatory.
Accepting the default Save source images causes the camera to save each shot in the sequence along with the processed image resulting from combining three shots.
Saving source images gives you plenty of scope for post-capture adjustments in an image editor that supports HDR merging and provides some degree of fine-tuning as shots are merged. Aside from making it easier to record an HDR sequence of shots, the HDR setting can be used with five effects, illustrated below:
Natural simply records the three frames at the designated exposure intervals and applies no further processing.
Art standard reduces contrast and tonal gradation to make the subject 'look like a painting'. Bright or dark outlines are added to most edges.
Art vivid produces a similar result to Art standard but with more saturated colours.
Art bold increases saturation even more to create a picture that 'looks like an oil painting'.
Art embossed dramatically reduces brightness, saturation, contrast and tonal gradation, resulting in a picture that looks ' faded and old'. Bright or dark outlines are added to most edges.
We can't think of any practical use for any of these effects beyond their basic novelty value (which could provide a point of interest for wedding and fashion photographers). Even then, we didn't find them particularly attractive and would probably avoid them, partly because it takes a couple of seconds to process each set of images and you can't do anything with the camera while this is happening.
Sensor and Image Processing
We've covered the new 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+ processor in our detailed First Look, which provides all the information we were able to source on its capabilities. You can find all this information via this link.
The improvements to ISO sensitivity place the Mark III among the best cameras available for low-light shooting. Whereas the Mark II struggled to contain noise at ISO settings beyond 6400, the Mark III delivered printable image files right up to ISO 25600.
Overall functionality for recording movies is greatly improved, as is the quality of the resulting clips. The new Still/Video switch and Live View/movie start-stop button made it much easier to control how clips are recorded and keep the camera steady when recording video clips.
Recording options for movie clips. (Source: Canon.)
Recording options have been extended, as shown in the screen grab above. You can also display overlays showing shooting information plus an electronic level while recording video clips to help you to keep horizons level.
The Info and electronic level overlay displays available while recording video clips. (Source: Canon.)
We were unable to explore fully the wider range of high-bit-rate compression settings the Mark III offers as we don't have a full editing suite. However, we have been able to include still frame grabs from clips recorded with intra-frame (ALL-I) and inter-frame (IPB) modes in the image samples section below.
Soundtracks from the built-in microphone were significantly clearer and audio can be monitored as you shoot, thanks to the new headphone jack. You can also tweak audio recordings as you go using a silent touch pad and on-screen graphic indicators.
Time coding is another feature that will be welcomed by photographers who shoot video clips that will be edited into movies. Wedding photographers, in particular will be delighted with the new camera's capabilities in this area.
Even though the time code functions on the Mark III are fairly basic, they should be consistent and accurate enough for synching multiple cameras. Users can also select between rec run and free run, synch the time code to the camera's internal clock or pre-set a starting time code.
The Silent Shooting function in the Mark II has been improved for shooting video clips. We found it easy to adjust camera functions via the touch pad on the inner ring of the Quick Control dial. This allows you to change settings while shooting without recording camera sounds in the soundtrack.
As with the Mark II, you can capture still shots while recording movie clips by pressing the shutter button down. However, there is a gap of approximately one second in the video footage, which interrupts the flow of any action recorded.
The maximum recording for each clip is 29 minutes and 59 seconds, with a capacity limit of 4GB. This is unchanged from the Mark II. If you continue beyond the 4GB point, the camera will keep on recording but a new file will be created for the overflow.
Video footage shot with the review camera was sharp with plenty of contrast and vibrant colours. Improved processing significantly reduced the incidence of moiré and false colour as well as most other artefacts. (The only thing we could find to complain of in the footage we shot was a slight rolling shutter effect in one clip.)
With resolution only a shade higher than the Mark II's, users won't gain significant improvements in the size of the prints they can produce from still shots taken with the EOS 5D Mark III. However, they will gain from improved image quality, particularly with moderately high ISO settings.
JPEG files straight from the camera with the default Standard Picture Style setting were very clean. Colours were rich and traditionally difficult to record colours were captured with good fidelity. Detail was finely rendered, although images were slightly soft straight out of the camera and benefited from a little unsharp masking in post production.
Images captured in daylight were slightly more contrasty than shots from the Mark II with the same lens and camera settings. CR2.RAW files had plenty of depth and provided plenty of scope for fine-tuning in post-production and the Mark III's raw files are supported in the latest version (v.6.7) of Adobe Camera Raw, which was available as a release candidate when we reviewed the camera.
When compared side-by-side, JPEG and CR2.RAW files converted into JPEGs with no additional tweaking looked quite similar at low ISO settings. This similarity was confirmed by our Imatest evaluations. (Unfortunately, we were unable to access the extended ISO range in the review camera and were restricted to a top setting of ISO 25600, which is still pretty high.)
Imatest showed the review camera to be capable of meeting expectations when JPEG files were analysed – and slightly exceeding them with raw files. Resolution held up extremely well across the camera's ISO range, as shown in the graph of our test results below.
Slight differences in image quality began to appear from between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 as noise-reduction processing was applied. Sharpness appeared to be gradually sacrificed to control colour and luminance noise. Luminance noise was evident in a loss of detail in JPEGs shot at ISO 25600, although it was less obvious in raw files.
Both the Mark III and Mark II appeared capable of recording a similar range of tones in subjects with extended brightness ranges. And both were superior in this respect to many cameras we've tested. Blown-out highlights were rare in JPEGs, regardless of whether Highlight Tone Priority was applied.
Details were similar in both sets of shots, although the Mark III's shots appeared very slightly sharper (even though they actually were not). The Mark III apparently applies more in-camera processing than its predecessor, which may account for the low lateral chromatic aberration values we obtained in our Imatest tests.
In general use, the Mark III's auto white balance delivered pleasing colours with a wide range of light sources, both indoors and out. It came very close to correcting the orange cast of incandescent lighting and produced neutral colour rendition under fluorescent lights. This camera is the first we've encountered in which the orange cast of JPEG files shot in incandescent lighting was instantly corrected with the Auto Tone adjustment in Photoshop.
Plenty of pre-sets are provided for dial-in corrections with daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent and flash or you can take custom measurements or use Kelvin temperature settings. Each setting can be fine-tuned in the camera.
Our timing tests were carried out with a 32GB Kingston Ultimate 266x CF card, which is the fastest CF card we own and also with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 card. The review camera took about the same time to power-up ready for shooting as the Mark II: roughly 0.1 seconds.
Shot-to-shot times with both cards averaged 0.45 seconds, while the delay between when the shutter was pressed and shots were taken averaged 0.1 seconds without pre-focusing. This delay was eliminated by pre-focusing the lens.
Image processing times were roughly 30% faster than the Mark II, with the CF card delivering marginally faster processing times. It took an average of 1.8 seconds to process a single JPEG file and 1.9 seconds for a raw file with the CF card and 1.9 seconds and 2.0 seconds respectively with the SDHC card. For a RAW+JPEG pair, processing time extended to 3.1 seconds with the CF card and 3.2 seconds for the SDHC card.
In the high-speed continuous shooting mode with the CF card, the test camera recorded 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 1.6 seconds, which equates to 6.25 frames/second. It took 7.3 seconds to process this burst. For raw file capture, the camera also recorded 10 shots in 1.6 seconds but it took 12.4 seconds to process this burst.
Swapping to the SDHC card, we recorded 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 1.75 seconds, which equates to 5.7 frames/second. It took 9.7 seconds to process this burst.
When shooting RAW+JPEG pairs with the CF card, we recorded seven image pairs in 1.1 seconds before the camera hesitated. It took 10.1 seconds to complete the processing sequence. With the SDHC card, it took 1.25 seconds to record a burst of seven shots and 14.6 seconds to process the sequence.
Given the success of its predecessor, the 5D III enters the market with an advantage, which it builds on by adding features that are genuinely useful to photographers as well as radically improving existing functions. Once you've used it for a while, these improvements fuel a real desire to make it your own.
Currently, there's only one other camera that presents any competition in this market sector: the Nikon DE800. We've provided a table comparing key features of both cameras in our First Look at the 5D III but until we receive a D800 to review, there's nothing more to say.
Buy this camera if:
- You want a large-sensor DSLR that’s capable of professional performance but has a smaller, lighter form factor than the professional cameras.
- You will take full advantage of the many user-adjustable controls this camera offers.
- You want to record video clips that meet professional editing standards in addition to taking still photos.
- You’re a wedding or news photographer or photojournalist.
Don’t buy this camera if:
- You only have EF-S lenses.
- You’re a point-and-press photographer. (What a waste to ignore the array of functions provided by this camera!)
- You require faster continuous shooting speeds than 6 frames/second.
- You need 'uncompressed' video output from the HDMI port.
Image sensor: 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor with 23.4 million photosites (22.3 megapixels effective)
Image processor: DIGIC 5+
A/D processing: 14-bit
Lens mount: Canon EF
Focal length crop factor: 1x
Image formats: Stills – CR2.RAW (with M-RAW and sRAW crops), JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies – MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264), Variable (average) bit rate
Image Sizes: Stills – JPEG: 5760 x 3840 (L), 3840 x 2560 (M), 2880 x 1920 (S1), 1920 x 1280 (S2), 720 x 480 (S3); RAW: 5760 x 3840, 3960 x 2640 (M-RAW), 2880 x 1920 (sRAW); Movies: 1920x1080 (Full HD) at 30p/25p/24p, 1280x720 (HD) at 60p/50p, 640x480 (SD) at 30p/25p
Image Stabilisation: Lens based
Dust removal: Canon Integrated Cleaning System; Auto, Manual, Dust Delete Data appending
Shutter speed range: 30 seconds to 1/8000 second plus Bulb; sync speed 1/200 sec.
Shutter ratings: Approx. 150,000 cycles; 59 ms shutter-release time lag
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 EV or 1/2EV steps
Bracketing: +/- 3EV AEB, 2, 3, 5 or 7 frames in 1/3 EV or 1/2EV steps (can be combined with manual exposure compensation); WB bracketing
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
Focus system: TTL secondary image-registration, phase detection AF system with 61 points (up to 41 cross-type points); available AF points and cross-type points vary depending on the lens
Focusing brightness range: EV -2 - 18 (with centre f/2.8 AF point, 23°C/73°F, ISO 100)
Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF); AF Microadjustment possible; AF area selection modes include Single-point Spot AF (manual selection), Single-point AF (manual selection), AF point expansion (manual selection; up, down, left, and right), AF point expansion (manual selection; surround), Zone AF (manual selection), Auto selection of 61 AF points; AF Configuration, AF Microadjustment
Exposure metering: 63-zone TTL full-aperture metering with Evaluative (linked to all AF points), Partial (approx. 6.2% of viewfinder at centre), Spot (approx. 1.5% of viewfinder at centre), Centre-weighted average modes
Shooting modes: Program AE (Scene Intelligent Auto, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure, Custom (x3), bulb exposure
HDR shooting: Auto, +/-1 EV, +/-2 EV, +/-3 EV dynamic range adjustment; Natural, Art standard, Art vivid, Art bold, Art embossed effects, Auto image align
Image processing during shooting: Picture Style (Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1 - 3); Noise reduction (long exposure and high ISO available); Auto Lighting Optimiser, Highlight tone priority, Lens aberration correction (Peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration)
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
Custom functions: 13; C1/C2/C3 custom shooting modes (registration of settings), My Menu registration, Copyright embedding
ISO range: Auto; ISO 100-25600 (expansions - L:50, H1:51200, H2:102400); ISO 100-12800 (H:25600) for movies
White balance: Auto Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom, Kelvin (2500-10000K); White balance correction and white balance bracketing possible
Flash: External flash only; E-TTL II Autoflash control available
Flash exposure adjustment: Yes; +/-2 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
Sequence shooting: Max. 6.0 fps high speed continuous shooting; Burst capacity: 65 JPEG (Large/Fine), 13 CR2.RAW, 7 RAW+JPEG; multiple exposures supported
Storage Media: Dual slots for CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards; UDMA-compatible
Viewfinder: Pentaprism with fixed focusing screen; approx. 100% FOV coverage; 21 mm eyepoint; approx. 0.71x magnification (-1 m-1 with 50 mm lens at infinity); -3 to +1 dpt adjustment; electronic level, grid display and AF status indicator displays
LCD monitor: 3.2-inch Clear View LCD II with approximately 1.04 million dots (3:2 aspect ratio); brightness adjustment - Auto (Dark, Standard, Bright), Manual (7 levels), electronic level display, feature guide displayable
Live View: Yes; Quick AF with phase-difference detection, Live & Live face detection AF Modes (contrast detection); Manual focusing (Approx. 5x / 10x magnification possible); Silent shooting (Mode 1 and 2); Grid display (three types)
Data LCD: Yes
Playback functions: Single-frame, Index (2, 4 or 9 frames), Enlarge (1.5x to 10x), Slideshow, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Shooting information, over-exposure alert (highlights blink), jump by single image, 10 or 100 images, by shooting date, by folder, by movies, by stills, by rating; Movie playback (LCD monitor, video/audio OUT, HDMI OUT) with audio via built-in speaker; image protect, image copy; In-camera processing of raw files; image transfer (JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG images & movies)
Interface terminals: Digital terminal (analog video NTSC/PAL plus Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7, GPS Receiver GP-E2 connection), HDMI mini OUT Type C (Auto switching of resolution), 3.5 mm MIC stereo mini-jack, 3.5 mm Headphone stereo mini-jack, N3 terminal (for remote controller); Wireless remote control; Eye-Fi card compatible
Power supply: LP-E6 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 950 shots/charge with viewfinder, approx. 200 shots/charge with Live View shooting; approx. 1 hr. 30 min. movie recording
Dimensions (wxhxd): 152 x 116.4 x 76.4 mm
Weight: 860 grams (body only without battery and memory cards)
JPEG image files
Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
32mm focal length, ISO 100, 30-second exposure at f/4.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
32mm focal length, ISO 800, 15-second exposure at f/5.6.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
32mm focal length, ISO 3200, 10-second exposure at f/7.1.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
32mm focal length, ISO 12800, 6-second exposure at f/11.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
32mm focal length, ISO 25600, 6-second exposure at f/16.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
Skin tones: 85mm focal length, ISO 12800, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
Traditionally difficult colours, like purples were accurately recorded. 58mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/4.
88mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/100 second at f/11.
85mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/11.
48mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/14.
70mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/80 second at f/11.
80mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/14.
35mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/30 second at f/16.
105mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/8.
24mm focal length, ISO 25600, 1/160 second at f/16.
Still frame from Full HD video clip captured with ALL-I compression.
Still frame from Full HD video clip captured with IPB compression.
Still frame from VGA video clip.
RRP: AUD$4399, US$3499 (body only); as reviewed with 24-105mm lens AUD$5,499, US$4299
RATING (out of 10)
- Build: 9.5
- Ease of use: 9.5
- Autofocusing: 9.0
- Still image quality JPEG: 9.0
- Still image quality RAW: 9.5
- Video quality: 9.5
- OVERALL: 9.0