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The Canon 5D Mark III comes both as a body-only option or with the 24-105mm f/4L lens. With either option you get the following accessories:

  • eyecup Eg (not shown)
  • battery pack LP-E6
  • battery charger LC-E6
  • wide neck strap EW-EOS 5D Mark III
  • stereo AV cable AVC-DC400ST
  • USB interface cable IFC-200U
  • EOS Digital Solution Disc
  • software instruction manual

The kit lens on the 5D Mark III is the same as on the Mark II: the Canon EOS 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. This lens is great to shoot with, providing a very useful wide to portrait telephoto focal length. It has the USM motor and is ultra-quiet when autofocusing, benefiting greatly from the improved 61-point AF system in the Mark III. It offers a continuous maximum aperture of f/4 all the way through the focal length range. That gives it more utility when used for portraits, landscapes, and other similar shots. Pairing the kit lens with Canon's EF 35mm f/2 for around $350 more is a great way to get the shallow depth of field effects without breaking the bank on top of an already pricey camera.

The 5D Mark III is a full-frame camera utilizing Canon's EF lenses. It cannot accommodate EF-S lenses, as those are designed to work with some smaller cameras such as Canon's Rebel series. Those upgrading to the Mark III will want to keep that in mind, as some of their smaller lenses may not work on the Mark III.

The sensor on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a 22.1-megapixel full frame CMOS image sensor, with improved gapless microlens technology. The pixel size has shrunk somewhat from the 5D Mark II, but the improved processing and sensor construction should combat this. It features a fixed low pass filter along with a dust deletion and sensor cleaning functionality.

Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

The viewfinder on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III has improved from the 98% coverage model on the Mark II to now provide 100% coverage of your scene. It has a 0.71x magnification, 21mm eyepoint, and a dioptric adjustment scale of -3.0 to +1.0m-1. The new viewfinder is a very welcome addition, especially with the new 61-point AF system. The viewfinder has the typical shooting information readout beneath the image, with an added warning symbol that will flash when user-designated features have been activated that might be destructive to your image. For example, if you switch between lighting conditions frequently and shooting in JPEG, you can set the warning indicator to display when white balance shift is activated. Similarly, if you alternate between monochrome and color shooting, you can tell the camera to warn you when monochrome is on, so you don't accidentally shoot a day's worth of shots in black and white.

The rear display is the same 3.2-inch, 1.04 million dot display found on the Canon 1D X. It's bright and very clear, with the ability to detect great image detail. It offers automatic and manual brightness adjustment, with an angle of view of approximately 170 degrees. The LCD uses the image sensor itself (with the mirror flipped up) to display images in live view, so it has full 100% coverage of your frame.

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When using it for video you can get a nearly clean signal, though ISO speed does tend to stay on the screen. The 5D Mark III does allow you to use an external monitor for live HDMI out (including up to 10x digital zoom), as well. In this mode you can elect to see shooting information on top of your footage, nothing at all, or just your AF frame. When shooting with a "clean" signal output (no text or graphics overlaid) the frame is still slightly cropped to less than your display's size.

The Canon 5D Mark III does not include a built-in flash, unlike smaller DSLRs. The camera instead includes a full hot shoe, to which you can attach any number of Canon flashguns to complement your particular shooting setup. The lump you see on the top of the camera is there to accommodate the optical viewfinder's pentaprism.

The Canon 5D Mark III offers six input/output ports behind two separate rubber flaps on the left side of the camera. These ports include the standard USB 2.0, HDMI, mic input, flash sync (1/200th of a second flash sync speed), and remote terminal. The 5D Mark III also includes a headphone jack, a first for a Canon EOS DSLR. On top the Mark III also sports a typical hot shoe, with no built-in flash.

The Canon 5D Mark II has been, somewhat erroneously, described as a camera that lacks the durable features of the 1D series. While the Mark II did, in fact, offer some weather sealing and durable elements, the Mark III takes this to an entirely new level. The camera's obviously not waterproof, but Canon has adopted several features that make the Mark III less prone to the elements. The camera utilizes improved rubber sealing around the buttons and several sections, while the actual plates of the camera are also assembled to fend off dust and moisture. Canon stresses the 5D Mark III isn't as durable as the 1D X, which is evident by its shutter duration rating: 150,000 cycles as opposed to the 400,000 that the 1D X is designed for.

The Canon 5D Mark III is a full frame DSLR, giving it an image sensor that is significantly larger than your typical entry-level and pro-sumer DSLR. That larger sensor area gives the came a lot more image data to work with, which Canon put to good use in the Mark III. We found that the camera produced excellent, accurate color rendition throughout our testing, with particularly strong results with darker colors. In our noise and dynamic range testing, the full frame sensor's ability to minimize noise in low light also showed, giving it one of the strongest sets of performance scores we've tested recently.

The Canon 5D Mark III is an interesting case study in the use of in-camera post-processing. We have to commend the Canon camera for featuring solid sharpness, with very little compulsory enhancement done to the images in the camera. It doesn't necessarily produce a subjectively better image, but if you have to shoot in JPEG the images will stand up to significantly more adjustment after the fact, as they're a more faithful rendition of the actual scene.

In our testing we saw that the center of the frame was capable of resolving detail (measured at MTF50) at a frequency of up to 1600 lw/ph. While we've certainly seen other cameras that have been able to surpass that, it's usually with a measure of oversharpening, with contrast artificially enhanced. The Mark III avoids that, but still puts up a respectable score, albeit one that can be improved with some careful post-processing where you want to bring out fine details with more contrast.

More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 5 Images

The Canon 5D Mark III's full frame sensor, excellent white balance metering system, and super processing allowed it to produce absolutely excellent color accuracy under friendly lighting conditions. With the 63-zone dual-layer metering system from the Canon 7D, the Mark III assigned accurate color values throughout the color range, with particularly strong results among darker colors. More on how we test color.

The Mark III features a number of picture styles, each of which provides a slightly altered value for sharpness, saturation, and color tone. The most accurate mode, "faithful," was able to keep color error to a superb 2.15, with a saturation level that was just a hair over perfect. This put the Canon 5D Mark III among the best cameras we have tested in this regard. That accuracy, combined with the camera's strong low light performance, gives you the ability to shoot in limited, natural light settings and get an image that accurately reflects the scene how it looked to your eyes.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The Canon 5D Mark III allows users to select from the usual complement of picture styles for JPEG images (and the JPEG preview image associated with RAW files) in all modes except for automatic+. The modes include auto, standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, and three user-definable settings.

The user-defined settings are set to standard by default, but like all the picture styles, they let you adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, and color tone on a +/- four-stop scale. You can access these picture styles (as well as multiple exposure and HDR modes) by pressing the new, dedicated picture style button just at the top left of the rear LCD.

The white balance feature on the Canon 5D Mark III was exceptionally accurate in most settings, with the automatic white balance failing only in one test. If you've shot with any Canon DSLRs recently, from the Rebel series on up through the professional cameras then you know the frustrating drill.

Canon still hasn't elected to design a new way to take white balance readings using anything but an image that has already been captured. This requires you to take a shot, go into the menu, go to white balance settings, tell it to use that particular image, and then switch the white balance setting to custom. Most cameras let you do this right from live view or from something similar to Canon's quick control menu, but Canon requires, by far, the most amount of steps to do this. Now, we can understand the extra legwork if the results were much more accurate white balance readings than the competition, but the 5D Mark III (as well as other Canon DSLRs we've tested) don't do much better than your average high-end point and shoot when it comes to white balance performance.

Automatic White Balance ()

We found that the automatic white balance performance on the 5D Mark III was very accurate, right in line with most interchangeable lens cameras. The main issue that we saw was in tungsten lighting, where the automatic white balance ran into its color temperature floor. This left shots under tungsten, incandescent lighting with a strong, warm hue and a color temperature error error of over 2000 kelvin. Under compact white fluorescent and daylight settings, the error was kept under 200 kelvin, which is barely noticeable in most shots.

Custom White Balance ()

Custom white balance performance was also very good, solving the issues the camera had under tungsten lighting. When going through the frustrating process of taking a custom white balance reading, the 5D Mark III had an average error of right around 100 kelvin, which is very near to perfect.

The 5D Mark III includes several white balance presets, as well as automatic, custom, and direct kelvin temperature entry. You can quickly switch between white balance settings with a dedicated button on the top plate of the camera. These settings can also be accessed by using the quick control menu, which is found by pressing the large "Q" button on the back of the camera.

We found that the Canon 5D Mark III's full frame image sensor produced some of the best results we've seen at the minimum ISO of 100. At that speed the camera returned just 0.39% average chroma noise, and 0.41% luminance noise, which is a fluctuation that is imperceptible at any reasonable viewing distance. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 3 Images_2

The noise reduction on the 5D Mark III begins to kick in and really impact fine image detail at ISO 400 and above. The impact of this tactic will largely depend on what your final plans for the image are. If you're planning of taking an image and printing it to a very large size, or cropping it while maintaining fine detail in text, fabrics, leaves, and hair, then the noise reduction is going to impact the final quality of your shot. In these cases we'd recommend shooting with noise reduction off (preferably in the RAW format) and tweaking noise more carefully in a post-processing editing program.

Science Section 3 Images

The Canon 5D Mark III allows you to select from a native ISO range of 100-25600 in whole, half, and 1/3-stop increments. That can be expanded in either direction, as well, allowing users to select ISO speeds anywhere from 50-102400. ISO speed can be set on the camera via the menu, or by utilizing the direct ISO button on the top plate of the camera, identical in location and usage to the 5D Mark II.

As you might expect, the huge sensor on the 5D Mark III preserves a large range of tonal values, with low dark current noise. This leads to a large dynamic range, letting the Mark III handle scenes with wildly varying brightness with ease. We found that the camera was able to preserve most of this dynamic range through ISO 800, mostly keeping 8 stops of clean range (clean being patches on a stepchart with a a measured signal to noise ratio above a high threshold) through that point. After that point, noise begins to overpower the image, with dynamic range falling off significantly after that through the rest of the ISO range. More on how we test dynamic range.

The Canon 5D Mark III shows some small improvements over the 5D Mark II, with about a 3/4th stop improvement through ISO 800. Beyond that the two cameras both fall off, but the low ISO improvements show Canon has tweaked their sensor design to better eliminate dark current noise in areas where not much light is hitting the sensor.

In our shots with the Canon 5D Mark III we noticed some chromatic aberration throughout many of our test shots, often manifesting itself as a one or two pixel soft fringe on the lateral edges of slanted edge targets. We noticed a green fringing coupled with a purple/reddish hue on the opposite side in several of our test shots. This was rarely significant, only really noticeable at 100% magnification, and only appeared at the extreme ends of the zoom range (with the in-camera chromatic aberration correction turned off). The only issue here would be that images may lose some fine details due to misplaced foci. The one disappointing factor is this is an L-series lens, which should theoretically offer better performance for the price.

We noticed a fairly typical distortion pattern with the 24-105mm kit lens, with a barrel distortion at wide focal lengths giving way to a slight pincushion distortion ad the mid and telephoto points of the focal range. At the wide end of 24mm, the barrel distortion measured at a slightly noticeable 2.66%, falling to a pincushion distortion of around 1.8% through most of the rest of the zoom range. The 2.66% isn't a great score, but it's easily correctable in software, as the 24-105mm f/4L lens is a profile that's commonly included in such tools.

We found that the Canon 5D Mark III had no problems rendering motion effectively in either of its compression modes (IPB or ALL-I) with minimal noise and little artifacting both ways. The 24p video in our testing did not greatly differ from the 30p to our eyes, though the 24p recording did retain a little more of a filmic "flicker" outside of our controlled lab settings. We noticed some ghosting in our motion example, especially around the monochrome pinwheel, but it's a common effect that we are used to seeing on DSLRs. One aspect that is not improved is the rolling shutter effect, preventing the effective use of quick pans or capture of truly fast moving subjects. That's less a problem with software than it is the simple nature of using a rolling shutter on a CMOS sensor. Until global shutter technology (as used on most CCD sensors typically found in camcorders and high-end video cameras) catches up to the point it can be used on these sensors, we don't anticipate much improvement in this area for DSLRs. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Compared to the Mark II, motion is rendered quite similarly. One big advantage is the ability to select between IPB and ALL-I compression, as opposed to just the one compression type on the Mark II. You also have the option of selecting a 720/60p mode if you are planning on slowing down action in post-production. Out of camera the two motion examples look quite similar, but the Mark III will set you up better for editing after the fact.

The Canon 5D Mark III is not substantially sharper than its predecessor, the Mark II. Shooting a standard sharpness chart, we found that the Mark III was able to render, at best, around 700 line pairs per picture height (LPPH) of sharpness horizontally, and 750 vertically with its IPB compression (utilizing a 50mm f/1.8 lens at f/7.1, the kit lens was less sharp, getting around 600 LPPH horizontally and 750 vertically). ALL-I compression actually looked a little bit softer here, though both types lost most of their sharpness when the camera was moving.

One big area of improvement over the 5D Mark II is the appearance of a moire effect caused by sampling errors in downsampling from a large, 22-megapixel image sensor to an HD video signal. This was a major issue in the Mark II, with the camera employing line-skipping processing in order to achieve the required speed. The Mark III is faster, and as a result is able to keep moire to an absolute minimum. The improvement is substantial, with the resulting footage able to stand up to subsequent editing much better than the video from the Mark II. If there's one reason to upgrade from a Mark II to a Mark III, this is it.

moirecomparison.jpg

While this isn't a 100% crop, we took 1080/30p footage from both the Mark II and Mark III with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Running the footage through Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 with the standard sharpening effect applied, it's clear just how destructive moire is on fine patterns with the Mark II. While shooting a high frequency test chart is a worst-case basis, the limitations on the Mark II are pretty severe, especially if you're planning on using the footage alongside high-end cameras or for professional work. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Under low light conditions with the standard 24-105mm kit lens we saw no difference in sharpness under low light (60lux conditions). This is despite the camera having to increase ISO to compensate for the drop in ambient light. Under these conditions we saw the same 600 LPPH horizontally and 750 vertically with IPB compression as we did under bright light conditions.

With ISO set to automatic, the 5D Mark III was able to render a visible image (defined as a white section in the center of the frame hitting 50 IRE on a waveform monitor) with just 6 lux of light. At this point, the camera was forced into using its maximum ISO for video recording, which is 12800 (6400 is the standard max ISO, but that can be pushed by activating ISO extension for stills). Even at this light level, noise was apparent, but didn't overpower the image. We wouldn't recommend using this setting in any feature films, but when you need video and light isn't there, the Mark III can do the job.

The 5D Mark III has been given a host of usability upgrades to better integrate into professional photography and videography workflows. The camera now features dual card slots (one CF, one SD), an image metatag rating button, integrated SMPTE timecoding for multi-camera shoots, and an autofocus system that is worlds ahead of the one found in the 5D Mark II. All this adds up to a camera that will do everything the Mark III did for professionals, but in a faster, safer, more efficient manner. The camera also features some simpler tricks for those who aren't experienced in photography, such as a full automatic+ mode and a creative photo button.

The 5D Mark III did not inherit the 100k-pixel metering sensor from the 1D X, but it does pick up the 63-zone dual-layer metering found in the Canon 7D. It does, however, get the 1D X's 61-point AF sensor (with a little less processing zip), which has 41 cross-type AF sensors.

When shooting, you can use full manual mode or the usual aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and program auto modes. Alternatively, novice shooters can opt for the green automatic+ mode, which will basically automate the entire camera such that anyone should be able to use it.

The buttons on the 5D Mark III are, for the most part, easy to manipulate and activate. The improved weather sealing around the buttons has aided durability, but the buttons also have no real haptic response when they've been activated. This can make some adjustments—especially those that require holding a button down while manipulating a control dial—a little more difficult to make.

It does, however, provide nearly silent control of the camera, as the buttons don't make much of a sound. If even that is too much for you, the camera also features silent controls during video, letting you manipulate some basic functions on the camera simply by tapping the control dial, as opposed to turning it and creating an audible click on the final video.

The 5D Mark III features the same picture control modes you've grown to know and love on other Canon models, with options for auto, standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, and three user-defined colors modes. Each mode has options for adjusting contrast, sharpness, color tone, and saturation on a +/- 4-stop scale.

The menu on the Canon 5D Mark III is understandably dense, with nearly as many options as the flagship 1D X. The camera features the same horizontal arrangement of tabs along the top of the screen, with various pages within each tab. The 5D Mark III includes tabs for shooting settings, autofocus settings, playback, custom controls, system settings, and a customizable "My Menu." The menu has just about every option you'd need to get the camera to work the way you want it, and there are few changes from the 5D Mark II in this regard, save for the massive new autofocus menu.

The AF menu is actually going to be one area Mark II upgraders are going to want to spend some time on, because unlocking the potential of the 61-point sensor is actually quite easy. The AF menu is organized into five (!) pages of options, though only the first page is actually filled from top to bottom. The first page lets you configure the autofocus performance based on six user-configurable "cases" with options for adjusting tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking, and AF point auto switching on a +/- or two-stop scale.

The other pages feature typical AF options, including lens-specific microadjustments, options for servo tracking, manual AF selection pattern, AF point display while focusing, and viewfinder display illumination.

The Canon 5D Mark III comes with a full printed manual in both English and Spanish, checking in at a whopping 300+ pages. It's not designed in any kind of linear fashion, so it's much more of a small reference guide for your camera, good to have on you in case some of the new features aren't working the way you expect.

The 5D Mark III builds off of the design of the Mark II, with a very similar grip, but enhanced controls throughout the body. The most notable additions are the "Q" quick control button on the back of the camera, the addition of a start/stop record button (and live view/video lever), and the "RATE" playback key for rating images.

The body of the camera is as sturdy as ever, without that much weight to it (the 24-105mm kit lens, however, is quite heavy). The camera features a contoured grip that slots perfectly into the hand, with a rubberized groove on the back of the camera that just hugs around your thumb, making handling the camera (even with the weighty kit lens) a breeze.

Handling Photo 1

We were left impressed with the changes Canon has made to the 5D Mark III. Like most people who have used a Mark II, we'd expect people have few complaints about the previous model. Once you begin shooting with a Mark III though, especially when you're poring over the menu and customizing the settings for the first time, you'll appreciate the additional controls. That isn't to say it's really all that different from the Mark II, with the same secondary LCD, top plate control scheme, and dual control dial setup. In the end it's a collection of small changes that, in summation, improve the usability of the Mark III considerably.

Handling Photo 2

The buttons on the 5D Mark III are, for the most part, easy to manipulate and activate. The improved weather sealing around the buttons has aided durability, but the buttons also have no real haptic response when they've been activated. This can make some adjustments—especially those that require holding a button down while manipulating a control dial—a little more difficult to make.

It does, however, provide nearly silent control of the camera, as the buttons don't make much of a sound. If even that is too much for you, the camera also features silent controls during video, letting you manipulate some basic functions on the camera simply by tapping the control dial, as opposed to turning it and creating an audible click on the final video.

Where the 5D Mark III really improves on its predecessor is in the amount and availability of controls. The back of the camera closely resembles a mix between the Canon 7D and 1D X now, with a (slightly different) rear control joystick, control dial, and "Q" quick control button. As always, you can also use the top LCD to get a quick readout on the camera's shooting settings, with all the top plate controls in the same place as the Mark II.

Completely new to the Mark III is the addition of a "RATE" key and a new creative photo button. The rate key lets you, during image review, press the button to apply a metatag rating to any image. Pressing the key multiple times ups the rating, on a 5-star scale. The creative photo button replicates the picture control button on other models, simply bringing you directly to the color mode selection screen.

The rear display is the same 3.2-inch, 1.04 million dot display found on the Canon 1D X. It's bright and very clear, with the ability to detect great image detail. It offers automatic and manual brightness adjustment, with an angle of view of approximately 170 degrees. The LCD uses the image sensor itself (with the mirror flipped up) to display images in live view, so it has full 100% coverage of your frame.

When using it for video you can get a nearly clean signal, though ISO speed does tend to stay on the screen. The 5D Mark III does allow you to use an external monitor for live HDMI out (including up to 10x digital zoom), as well. In this mode you can elect to see shooting information on top of your footage, nothing at all, or just your AF frame. When shooting with a "clean" signal output (no text or graphics overlaid) the frame is still slightly cropped to less than your display's size.

The viewfinder on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III has improved from the 98% coverage model on the Mark II to now provide 100% coverage of your scene. It has a 0.71x magnification, 21mm eyepoint, and a dioptric adjustment scale of -3.0 to +1.0m-1. The new viewfinder is a very welcome addition, especially with the new 61-point AF system. The viewfinder has the typical shooting information readout beneath the image, with an added warning symbol that will flash when user-designated features have been activated that might be destructive to your image. For example, if you switch between lighting conditions frequently and shooting in JPEG, you can set the warning indicator to display when white balance shift is activated. Similarly, if you alternate between monochrome and color shooting, you can tell the camera to warn you when monochrome is on, so you don't accidentally shoot a day's worth of shots in black and white.

The shooting mode dial on the 5D Mark III hasn't changed much from the Mark II, save for the addition of a locking mechanism that prevents infuriating accidental mode switches. This was available as a hardware upgrade from Canon on the Mark II and 7D models, but has been made standard on the Mark III. The camera features just the basic shooting modes, with manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, program auto, and automatic+ modes. You can also save the camera's current state at any time to one of three programmable custom modes that are available right on the mode dial, letting you reconfigure the camera to your heart's content, able to call up a block of settings with a single dial turn.

The 5D Mark III features just about all the manual control you could ask for on a camera, with options for manual exposure across a massive range of shutter speeds and ISO. The camera also features a digital zoom for assisting with manual focus (5x or 10x selectable) on a subject.

The best way to access the camera's shooting settings quickly, to us, is their "Q" quick control mode. From here users can select picture style, exposure compensation, ISO, flash exposure compensation, custom controls, white balance, white balance shift, auto light optimizer, AF type, metering mode, drive mode, media record settings, and image size/quality settings.

The focus speed is vastly improved on the 5D Mark III, with a new 61-point AF sensor that offers a latticed array of cross-type sensors that accurately track subjects in motion. Compared to the 5D Mark II, the autofocus is light years ahead in both responsiveness and accuracy. While the Mark III's increased price will draw some ire from the videography community without a giant improvement in some key areas, for still shooters the Mark III's new AF sensor may be worth the price of admission alone.

The Mark III's new autofocus functionality is mostly reserved for still shooting while utilizing the optical viewfinder. When shooting in Live View or taking video, autofocus is restricted to a jarring (if somewhat quick) opening of the aperture to maximum and hunting until contrast is at its maximum. This is somewhat effective, but not for any kind of transition that you would keep in a video.

Along with the new hardware functionality, the Canon 5D Mark III includes an incredible array of controls that will let the user fine-tune their autofocus performance. Included among these new controls are six case-based AF modes, letting you tweak tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking speed, and AF point auto switching, on a +/- scale. Each case is individually savable, letting users tweak autofocus to suit their needs in ways the Mark II could only dream of.

The 5D Mark III offers quite a bit of control over the type and quality of images you're shooting, as you'd expect. The camera features a maximum resolution of 22.3 megapixels, with the ability to capture 14-bit RAW files. You can also shoot in standard JPEG (with two quality settings) or in Canon's M-RAW and S-RAW formats. M-RAW and S-RAW are still RAW files, but they are of a reduced resolution. They're downsampled to reduce file sizes and give professionals more in-camera options for saving space while retaining quality.

With the dual card setup users can elect to record RAW images to one card while JPEGs go to another, record to both cards simultaneously, or record to one card and then use the second card as an overflow when you run out of space.

The Mark III now sports an all new shutter, along with Canon's DIGIC 5+ processor. This gives the user the ability to now shoot at a respectable 5.2fps in normal shooting modes with the 24-105mm kit lens. The shutter isn't quite as loud as the beast that apparently lived inside the Mark II, but Canon's not taking chances, providing a "silent" shutter continuous mode that limits shots to around 3fps while offering a less audible mirror cycle.

The 5D Mark III offers standard two and ten-second self-timers, continuous low speed, continuous high speed, silent single capture, silent continuous (3fps) capture, and regular old single capture. This mode can be changed simply by holding down the AF-Drive button and turning the rear control dial, letting you scroll through the possible modes on the top LCD.

The 5D Mark III does feature improved shot-to-shot speed over the Mark II, but we found that the claims of 6fps shooting were a little spurious. That isn't to say the camera can't accomplish those speeds, but Canon makes those claims under very specific circumstances. All cameras do this, but the Mark III pushes it to new heights. According to the manual approx. 6fps is available if you shoot at 1/500th of a second or greater, maximum aperture, with AF set to one-shot, image stabilization off (these last two are typical), and only with select USM lenses, not including the kit lens.

We found that the kit lens and all the same conditions produced a shot-to-shot time of approximately 5.2fps. This is close, but still under the approximately 6fps that Canon describes. This is in the high speed continuous mode, with Canon also offering a more intriguing silent continuous mode that shoots continuously, but with the shutter sound greatly reduced.

We found the best way to shoot that maintains speed while keeping noise down is to actually shoot in the normal 6fps mode but in live view. This reduces the need for a succession of loud mirror cycles, with speed that still registers close to 6fps. The only hitch there is autofocus, as the camera will resort to contrast detection autofocus in live view. To get around this with subjects that aren't moving too much, we recommend Canon's "quick" live view AF, which flips the mirror back down, establishes focus via phase detection, and then returns to live view where you can get the same quiet continuous speed.

The 5D Mark III doesn't include much in the way of custom self-timer options, putting it pretty firmly behind some other manufacturers in this regard. The on-camera options only include a standard two- and ten-second self-timer, without the ability to set a custom timer. For comparison's sake, Canon's $200 A-series point-and-shoot, the A4000, features a custom self-timer, but their $3499 (body-only) camera does not.

The focus speed is vastly improved on the 5D Mark III, with a new 61-point AF sensor that offers a latticed array of cross-type sensors that accurately track subjects in motion. Compared to the 5D Mark II, the autofocus is light years ahead in both responsiveness and accuracy. While the Mark III's increased price will draw some ire from the videography community without a giant improvement in some key areas, for still shooters the Mark III's new AF sensor may be worth the price of admission alone.

The Mark III's new autofocus functionality is mostly reserved for still shooting while utilizing the optical viewfinder. When shooting in Live View or taking video, autofocus is restricted to a jarring (if somewhat quick) opening of the aperture to maximum and hunting until contrast is at its maximum. This is somewhat effective, but not for any kind of transition that you would keep in a video.

Along with the new hardware functionality, the Canon 5D Mark III includes an incredible array of controls that will let the user fine-tune their autofocus performance. Included among these new controls are six case-based AF modes, letting you tweak tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking speed, and AF point auto switching, on a +/- scale. Each case is individually savable, letting users tweak autofocus to suit their needs in ways the Mark II could only dream of.

The 5D Mark III improves on the Mark II in several key areas, with additional controls, improved hardware, and some more powerful processing. The camera's biggest improvements come in the areas of speed, autofocus, and its guts, with a vastly improved AF system, 6fps shot-to-shot time, and a new 22.1-megapixel sensor and processor that push its native ISO range all the way to 25,600.

The Canon 5D Mark III can record full 1080/30p video in ALL-I (intraframe) or IPB (interframe) compression, using the H.264 codec. The Mark III can record for a maximum of 11 minutes using the less compressed ALL-I format and an 8GB card, as it records a whopping 685 MB/minute. If you bump that down to IPB, the camera can push that to a continuous 32 minutes. You can't hot swap cards while recording video, but the camera can overflow video from one card to another. Also, while individual movie files can't exceed 4GB due to the folder structure, the camera will simply begin a new movie file without stopping recording. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

The 5D Mark III features full manual exposure in video, including full use of the PASM shooting modes. In full manual mode the user can adjust shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity mid-recording. Autofocus can be re-established at any time while recording video, but it requires the aperture to open fully while a contrast detection method is employed. The result is a jarring disruption of the tone and flow of any video, with no continuous AF option available.

Auto Controls

The Canon 5D Mark III allows you to shoot video in any of its shooting modes, including program auto and automatic+. When shooting video in an automatic mode you are allowed to change certain settings, though the range on some (ISO, for example) is limited. In the full automatic+ mode, however, exposure control is left entirely up to the camera, without user input. In this mode the user can merely select image quality and type, video compression and resolution, recording media destination, and little else.

Zoom

Zoom control on the 5D Mark III is limited, of course, to just manually zooming with the lens. The zoom ring on the 5D Mark III's kit lens is nice and large, with large grooves that make it easy to zoom in and out. The 24-105mm f/4L kit lens offers a very useful focal range, with a zoom ratio close to 5x. The 24mm wide angle is very useful on the full frame sensor, letting you get a wider angle of view than you would otherwise have on a cropped APS-C or APS-H image sensor.

Focus

The harshest criticisms about the 5D Mark II were generally reserved for its autofocus system, which wasn't up to the standards that most professional photographers (at least the ones who need autofocus, like sports and news photographers) want it to be. The Mark III remedies this by adopting the same 61-point autofocus sensor (41 cross-type sensors) as the new 1D X. It doesn't have all the same autofocus features as the 1D X (largely due to a smaller degree of processing power), but it features the same sensor.

When shooting video, however, you are restricted to using manual focus or single AF with contrast detection, including while recording video. There's no continuous autofocus in the camera while in live view or video mode, but by pressing the AF-ON button, the camera will refocus on whatever is within the AF frame. The contrast detection AF is significantly worse than the phase detection system, as is to be expected. It will not provide any kind of smooth focus pull, as it tracks subject sharpness and goes a fair bit past the correct focus point before retracing its steps.

Exposure Controls

The 5D Mark III can automatically and manually exposure for almost its entire shutter/aperture/ISO range while in video. The ISO range is limited slightly, with a max in video recording of 12800, with expansion to 25600 in program, bulb, and aperture-priority mode. The only other limitation is to shutter speed, which can not be set to slower than 1/30th of a second for video.

The 5D Mark III includes both a 3.5mm mic jack and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This gives you the ability to use external audio recording devices and any commercially available headphone to monitor audio that is being recorded in the camera. The camera also features a built-in microphone, but it is just a monaural mic.

The Canon 5D Mark III follows up on the incredible success of the Canon 5D Mark II, a staple in the kit of almost every DSLR videographer (and many photographers) for the past three years. It's not hyperbole to suggest that the Canon 5D Mark III is the most anticipated digital SLR of the year, by far. The question is, can it live up to that hype?

While not a radical overhaul or a dramatic leap in technology, the Mark III shores up most of the gaps in the Mark II's performance, improves video quality, while offering far better controls for videographers. Still photographers aren't left out in the cold, though, as they gain the benefit of a faster shot-to-shot time, dramatically improved autofocus, and superb metering.

We found the Mark III to be, as expected, excellent. It still doesn't produce video as sharp as the top camcorders, but compared to the Mark II its video stands up to significantly more post-production work, and moire is miles better. For still shooters, the new autofocus system and shot-to-shot speed alone is worth upgrading, leaving the Mark II in the dust.

The reception for the Mark III has been tepid so far, with many saying it doesn't dramatically alter the DSLR landscape the way the Mark II did. That's an unfortunate side-effect of the Mark II's success, but we'd counter that the Mark II didn't do anything dramatically different than the competition; it just did it better. Three years later, the Mark III enters a very different era, one in which many videographers, professional and amateur, are already integrating DSLRs into their workflow.

The Mark III may not blaze new trails as the Mark II did, but the improved ergonomics, control, and video features make the Mark II look positively stone-age in comparison. That improvement comes at a price, however, and the extra $1000 or so for a Mark III is going to make the Mark II look very appealing to those on a budget.

Make no mistake: the Mark III is a better DSLR for stills and video than the Mark II in almost every way. It handles better, it shoots faster, it offers more control, and it's better designed to integrate into all kinds of still and video workflows. Is that worth the extra money? We'd say that it is, whether you're an amateur or your livelihood depends on working behind a camera.

Meet the tester

TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews

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