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Canon EOS 5D Mk III Digital Camera Review

canon20120518aa.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola 

It has been nearly 7 years since Canon introduced a new camera to the market simply named EOS 5D. On 22 August 2005, it was this camera that would change the full frame sensor game. Before the 5D there was an extremely large price gap between full the frame sensor and cropped sensor cameras, such as those found originally in the highly popular 20D and current 7D. Canon put the 5D Mk I right in the middle of the 20D and EOS 1D winning instant praise for its $3,500 price tag that included the use of EF lenses and a 13MP capture that delivered excellent resolution for its time.

It took Canon nearly 3 years to release a successor in the 5D MkII on 17th September 2008 and continued a celebrated legacy. The Canon EOS 5D Mk II introduced a sensor that almost doubled file capture to 21MP, increased the ISO up to 6400 (expandable to 25600 ISO), ntroduced FullHD video (video for the first time), added live preview  and improved almost every other facet of the 5D Mk I.

Fast forward to the 2nd March 2012 and Canon announce the 5D Mk III. With 7 years of history behind this single unit the announcement came on the back of a 25th anniversary for Canon’s first camera in the EOS series, the film-based EOS 650. With such large shoes to fill and great expectations based on two extremely successful models before it, the Canon 5D Mk III had only one direction it could take… Let’s see if it got there.. 


Appearance and functionality

canon20120518ab.jpgEverything about a professional camera’s grip, feel, weight and balance can be felt right here with the Canon 5D Mk III. It’s certainly not out of reach of any amateur looking to upgrade their entry level DSLR either. Although jam packed with functionality it is, by the same token very user friendly.

The camera body’s weight over the 5D Mark II is just 50g heavier. The rubber grips seem to be an improved quality with the contouring fitting your right hand ergonomically better than before. There is also the same rubber used in a strip on the rear where the photographer’s thumb sits to stablise the camera. The buttons are perfectly placed around this space avoiding any accidental setting change.

The overall styling has the camera designed with softer edges and smoother line work. It’s surface is with less shine opting for a smooth fine grain look, matt finish paint job. Definitely the best looking 5D produced to date.

Across the top a new LCD with finer text has been introduced, a likely move to fit in more camera setting information. On the opposite left, next to the Mode dial is where you’ll now find the power switch. There does not seem to be an obvious reason for the shift as there is still an aperture lock switch in the same place as the Mark II and Mark I. Furthermore, the Mode dial now has a safety switch button in the middle to stop accidental changes of settings. Again, now sure why the change has come about.

canon20120518aj.jpgAs a photographer holds the main grip with their right hand and lens with the left it seems a little odd that a safety measure like this would be implemented. Either way, it’s no downfall but rather just another tweak that would seem to assist the photographer to make absolutely sure that if they select a setting – it ‘aint changin’ accidentally!

On the side where the plugs are located Canon have added two extra slots, one for a Microphone and one for Headphones. Both primarily for video capture and an addition that will be very much appreciated by videographers globally upgrading to this device.

The opposite side also sees change, with the addition of SD card slot functionality. The original CF card slot has been retained but the option to shoot either in a single professional unit is an excellent upgrade. But does make you wonder if it’s not a step toward a Canon 5D Mark IV possibly running on just an SD card format only and weaning the user of the CF format… Give it 2 ½ years and we’ll see.

On the back there is the addition of new button, star rating. So if you’re out shooing a portrait of wedding and want to make mental notes, here’s a way to mark certain images from 1-5 stars. The information is store in the image’s EXIF data that can be used after in programs such as Adobe’s Lightroom.

canon20120518ac.jpgThe main Menu has, as expected increased in size. Across the board from DSLRs to compacts, to advanced compacts to interchangeables as the standards rise and functionality increases so do Menu options. With the 5D, this is no exception. The only new headache is how to improve the Menu layout and keep it to an absolute minimum, while making sure every single function is accessible.

Canon have drilled the 5D’s menu down to 6 key colour coded categories. From there are an additional 4-6 pages for each option totaling 21 subpages. There’s a lot packed in, but there’s a lot of camera too. And considering this was all in one long list when the 5D Mk I was first introduced it’s just another improvement Canon have made on the already successful 5D line.

Tested with the SANDISK x-model card we found not only were write speeds and image transfer quick but a noticeable increase in-camera card formatting speed too.

Although the review is about the Canon 5D Mk III, we were provided the Speedlite 600EX-RT flash unit and 24-105mm f4 EF lens. The flash unit now comes with a filter attachment and two orange filters to warm up the flash colour. The results were excellent reducing ambient light colour in most indoor situations providing more neutral, clean images. The flash produced great results as a bounce option, fill-in or sole light source.

Image Quality / Lens Quality


At the end of the day no matter what camera you purchase the most important consideration every time must be the delivery of image quality.

Luckily for Canon, the 5D Mk III delivers this in outstanding fashion. Given that this camera was put through its paces at a skate park where the objects were unpredictable and fast moving, the 5D Mk III focused beautifully time and again delivering some unbelievably sharp imagery.

canon20120518ad.jpgAlthough the megapixel count from the Mk II to the Mk III has increased by only a single megapixel (from 5760 x 3840 pixels to 5,616 x 3,744 pixels), the new 22.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and DiG!C 5+ image processor really are an excellent development step forward.

Another major improvement to increase the strike rate of sharp images is a 61 Point AF + 41 Crosstype AF compared to a 9 Point AF + 6 Assist Points – for the geeks! The new Canon 5D Mk III now has a 63 zone dual-zone sensor as opposed to 35 metered segments in the Mk II. In short, this is excellent news on an exposure control front.

The new 5D Mk III autofocus system can thank it’s big brother the 1D X. For Canon this marks the first time since the EOS-3 film SLR that Canon has passed on its top-of-the-line autofocus system in a non 1-series body.

When testing the ISO range we were very impressed with how deep toward the 102,400 ISO range we could go before deciding that images were being compromised. Previously the Mk II had a maximum 25,600 ISO which is a 2-stop improvement. So wedding photographers listen up. How would you like to shoot at 6,400 ISO speed in a church without thinking twice? The 5D Mk III does it beautifully. For those who once produced images using 800 ISO film this development is 3 full stops difference. For those who don’t understand the magnitude of a 3 stop gain, basically Canon turn the lights up a bit brighter for you when shooting in a low light location. So in Winter, rather than shooting in near darkness at 6:30pm Canon turn the clock back for you to 4:30pm.

canon20120518ah.jpgEven when pushing the ISO up to 12,800 surprisingly good results were achieved without the grain dominating the image. Going a step further to 25,600 ISO (5 stops after 800 ISO) again the images were still hanging in there as usable, but not on a professional level. As long as you keep your printed images at this high ISO to the smaller print standard sizes of 4x6 and 5x7 inches you’d be right to shoot away.

The camera’s ISO continues to climb further but be warned, it should be used for either experimental or artistic purposes only at the (H1) 51,200 mark. Should you dare to go further and top out at the phenomenally high (H2) 102,400 ISO then expect the image quality to be completely compromised.

Considering Canon are willing to allow ISO use at this high level it’s actually interesting as gives us an insight as to where their R&D is heading and what might be in store for future camera releases.


View sample street test images Set #1 and Set #2 on our Facebook page.


LCD / Viewfinder

canon20120518af.jpgThe optical viewfinder too has improved and now enjoys a 100% field of view coverage, compared to 98% coverage in the Mk II. This is achieved using a 0.71x magnification and a 21mm eye point, to naturally reflect the view of the naked eye.

The viewing area is bright and clear with a handful of relevant on screen display options from Shutter, Aperture, ISO and exposure levels to battery power, focus point options and frames remaining before your CF or SD card is full.

The LCD is larger than the Mk II, increased to 3.2-inch (81 mm). Canon have adjusted the aspect ration to 3:2 compared to 3.0-inch (76 mm) at 4:3. Still images are displayed in full with no black boarders and video in full frame, which will also be appreciated by videographers.

The screen brightness and colours are punchy. The Canon 5D Mk III is fit out with a new 3.2-type monitor displaying a 1.04 million pixel resolution improving clarity..




Videographers will praise Canon for two new small but logical additions; a headphone out jack to monitor audio, and a microphone jack to record audio.

The 5D Mk III also allows you Shoot FULL High Definition movies (1920x1080: 30p/25p/24p) utelising the new DiG!C 5+ Image Processor, which equated to faster processing and much improved noise reduction at high ISO levels.. 








The Canon 5D started out as an affordable high quality full frame alternative. It evolved phenomenally in a single upgrade when the Mk II arrived offering more functionality, raising the bar on image capture quality and the big one, the introduction of FullHD video capture. The humble 5D which once sat in the shadows of the 1D rocketed to stardom being used in US by television networks as a credible video capture tool for programs watched by millions across the globe. Surely, a feat thought possible only in Canon’s wildest dreams during the 5D’s inception.

From brilliant FullHD video to 6400 ISO grain equivalent to that of old school 800 ISO film the Canon 5D Mk III is truly a remarkable unit. Silky smooth, sharp imagery is just the beginning with this camera as its days tagged as an entry level full frame camera would now seem long gone as it pushes on the heels of many top 35mm full frame digital cameras.

The Canon 5D Mk III offers beautifully sharp, vibrant full frame digital photography and for its price range is unrivalled. This camera simply, can’t be recommended more highly.


Accessories Used During Testing:

Tamrac Evolution 8 / 5788l Bag 

SanDisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s CF Card


Recommended Retailer:

View / Buy The Canon 5D Mk III Now  


Appearance rating 5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
5 stars
Video quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
Street Price - Body Only $3,999.95
Street Price - Body & Lens 24mm - 105mm
Effective Pixels 22.3 Megapixels
Sensor Type
CMOS sensor
Image Sizes 5 Sizes / 5 Aspect Ratios
Lens 15.1 (W) - 60.4mm (T) (35mm film equivalent: 28 (W) - 112mm (T)
Lens Mount
Resolution Settings: Stills (L) Large. Approx. 22.10 megapixels (5760 x 3840)
(M) Medium. Approx. 9.80 megapixels (3840 x 2560)
(S1) Small 1. Approx. 5.50 megapixels (2880 x 1920)
(S2) Small 2 (S3) Small 3 RAW M-RAW. Approx. 2.50 megapixels (1920 x 1280) Approx. 350,000 pixels (720 x 480) Approx. 22.10 megapixels (5760 x 3840) Approx. 10.50 megapixels (3960 x 2640)
sRAW. Approx. 5.50 megapixels (2880 x 1920)
RAW & JPEG Simultaneous Recording
Resolution Settings: Video 1920x1080 (Full HD) 30p/25p/24p
1280x720 (HD) 60p/50p
640x480 (SD) 30p/25p 
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Shutter Speed: 1/8000 sec – 30 Sec, bulb, sync speed 1/200 sec.
Shutter Release: 59ms shutter-release time lag
Shutter durability: Approx. 150,000 cycles 
ISO ISO range of 100-25600 (L:50, H1:51200, H2:102400) Manual ±5, AEB ±3 1/8000 sec – 30 Sec, bulb, sync speed 1/200 sec. 59ms shutter-release time lag Approx. 150,000 cycles
LCD Monitor 3.2-type, approximately 1.04million dot (3:2 wide)
Custom Functions/Settings
Integrated Cleaning System 
Live View 
Viewfinder Coverage (vertical/horizontal) Approx. 100%
Dioptric Adjustment -3 to +1 dpt
Flash No
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance (1) Auto (AWB), (2) Daylight, (3) Shade, (4) Cloudy, (5) Tungsten light, (6) White fluorescent light, (7) Flash, (8) Custom (Custom WB), (9) Color temperature
Self Timer 10-sec. or 2-sec. delay
Stills Format/s
Still Image: JPEG, RAW (14-bit Canon Original), M-RAW, S-RAW, RAW+JPEG, M-RAW+JPEG, S-RAW+JPEG
Video Format/s Video: MOV (Image data: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC; Audio: Linear PCM)
Video Recording Time/s -
Storage Type - External CF Cards (Type I); Compatible with UDMA CF cards; SD, SDHC, and SDXC Memory Cards
Storage Type - Internal
Connectivity Hi-Speed USB 2.0/ HDMI•VIDEO / MIC / Headphone socket / PC terminal / N3 terminal
Power Source AC Adapter Kit ACK-E6
Battery Options Lithium Ion LP-E6
Battery Life Viewfinder Shooting Approx 950 Shots
Live View shooting Approx 200 Shots
Dimensions 152mm (W) x 116.4mm (H) x 76.4mm
Weight 860 grams (excluding battery)



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