Canon EOS 5D Mark III review: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

On the back right are a set of well-placed and easily operated controls. The Live View/Movie record switch and button sit right next to your thumb; just below is the navigation multicontroller, quick menu button, and a large lockable dial that doubles as a silent touch pad for adjusting settings during movie capture. (The controller may be silent, but you might still hear operational sounds such as the aperture changing.) In addition to a comparison playback view, there's a dedicated button for rating photos, which gets written into the EXIF data.

Programmable function buttons
I really like Canon's interface for configuring all the programmable buttons, which also serves as a quick reminder of how they've been set.

Incorporating Digic 5+ adds a lot of important features. These include support for UDMA 7 CF; the camera now has dual CF/SDXC card slots, which is a really useful feature. And Canon implements it with the novel ability to configure it to record different sizes/quality of raw or JPEG files saved to each card. There's also three-shot in-camera HDR, but you can save the source images as well as add some effects. (For manual HDR, you get a bump to seven-frame bracketing at +/-5 EV.) Additionally, it offers the same powerful multiple-exposure mode as the 1D X.

The 5DM3 also gets a headphone jack, time code support, and 64 levels of audio control plus a wind filter. One video disappointment: the camera only outputs the display view via HDMI, so you can't get high-resolution video capture that way and it has the display overlay. On the other hand, you're no longer limited to 12-minute clips.

  Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 1D X Nikon D700 Nikon D800/ D800E
Sensor (effective resolution) 21.1- megapixel CMOS
4-channel readout
14 bit
22.3- megapixel CMOS
8-channel readout
14-bit
18- megapixel CMOS
2-line, 16-channel readout
14-bit
12.1- megapixel CMOS
n/a
14 bit
36.3- megapixel CMOS
n/a
14 bit
36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 23.9mm 35.9 mm x 24mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 6400/25,600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 25,600/102,400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ 100 - ISO 51,200/204,800 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25,600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 6400/ 25,600 (exp)
Continuous shooting 3.9fps
14 raw/310 JPEG
6fps
13 raw/65 JPEG
12fps
n/a
5fps
17 raw/100 JPEG
4fps
n/a
(5fps with battery grip)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
100% coverage
0.71x/0.71x
100% coverage
0.71x/0.71x
100% coverage
0.76x/0.76x
95% coverage
0.72x/0.72x
100% coverage
0.70x/0.70x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
1 cross type
61-pt High Density Reticular AF
21 center diagonal to f5.6
5 center to f2.8
20 outer to f4
61-pt High Density Reticular AF
21 center diagonal to f5.6
5 center to f2.8
20 outer to f4
51-pt
15 cross type
51-pt
15 cross type; 11 cross type to f8
AF exposure range -0.5 - 18
EV
-2 - 20 EV -2 - 20 EV -1 - 19 EV -2 - 19 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (est) 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 400,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles
Metering 35-zone TTL 63-area iFCL 252-zone RGB 1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II 91,000-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering III
Metering exposure range 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV (est) 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
None H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p/ 25p/24p
Rated estimated max HD video length at best quality 4GB
(approx 12 minutes)
29m59s 4GB
(29m59s)
n/a 20 minutes
Audio Mono; mic input Mono; mic input; headphone jack Mono; mic input; headphone jack n/a Mono; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3.2 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC 2 x CF (UMDA mode 7) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 6) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash No No No Yes Yes
Battery life
Viewfinder/Live View (CIPA rating)
850/
n/a shots
(1,800mAh)
950/200 shots
(1,800mAh)
n/a
(2,450mAh)
1,000/
n/a shots
(1,500mAh)
900/
n/a shots
(1,800mAh)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 6.1 x 4.6 x 3.0 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.3 5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2
Body operating weight (ounces) 32.9 33.5 n/a 38.7 31.7 (est)
Mfr. price $2,499 (body only) $3,499 (body only) $6,800 (body only) $2,199.95 (body only) $2,999.95/ $3,299.95 (body only)
n/a $4,299 (with 24-105mm lens) n/a n/a n/a
Ship date November 2008 March 2012 April 2012 July 2008 March 2012/April 2012

Except for the aforementioned disappointing HDMI output and the missing ability to save/load settings via memory card, which Canon erroneously thinks only matters to 1D-class photographers, it's not lacking any key capabilities that I can think of. A built-in flash to enable wireless control of remote flashes would be nice, and as I've mentioned elsewhere, I think cameras in this price class really should supply articulating LCDs. But it's got excellent configurability options -- much improved over its predecessor.

Conclusion
Unlike the D800, the 5D Mark III isn't a no-brainer upgrade for 5D Mark II shooters, but I think that's more of a testament to the quality of the Mark II than anything lacking in the Mark III. That said, it does have some important advantages over its predecessor, including a much faster autofocus system, improved video quality and controls, and a far more configurable feature set. And if those are important to you, it's definitely worth the price premium over the now-reduced Mark II.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
JPEG shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Nikon D800
0.1 
0.3 
0.3 
0.4 
0.2 
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
0.3 
0.4 
0.3 
0.4 
0.2 
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
0.3 
0.4 
0.4 
0.6 
0.3 
Nikon D700
0.2 
0.5 
0.4 
0.6 
0.3 


Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
5.6 
Nikon D700
4.9 
Nikon D800
3.9 


Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar. 5, 2012
  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 22.3 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 24 x 36mm
Hot Products