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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review

We review the brand new Canon EOS Mark III Digital SLR - the highly anticipated upgrade to the Mark II, how does it perform? Find out in our review.

| Canon EOS 5D Mark III in Digital SLRs


Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-front 50mm Lens

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the long awaited update to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 4 years in the making, it is more of an evolutionary update, rather than a revolutionary update like the Mark II was to the Mark I, but does the Mark III have enough updates and upgrades to make it worth the investment? Find out in our full review...

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Features

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-24-105mm L Lens
Canon EOS 5D MarkIII 24-105mm L Lens

The Canon EOS Mark II took the film and video world by storm by providing Full HD video recording in a Digital SLR body, this combined with access to Canon's vast range of EOS lenses made it an extremely popular choice for video. Many love the Mark II for it's full frame sensor and high image quality, although perhaps not so much for it's slow auto focus in low light conditions.

The new Mark III adds a new sensor, a larger screen, quicker continuous shooting, SD card slot as well as Compact Flash, additional video options, expanded ISO range (50 - 102400), improved battery life, improved viewfinder (100% vs 98%), 61-point AF (vs 9-point), as well as a new price with an RRP of £2999.

The new camera also sees a subtle but noticeable redesign of the layout of controls and buttons on the front, back and top of the camera. There are additional buttons on the top and back, and a re-positioned on/off button which has been moved from the back to the top.

Key Features

  • New 22.3 megapixel full frame sensor
  • 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot screen
  • 61 Point / 41 f/4 cross-type AF points inc 5 dual cross type at f/2.8, -2 EV
  • Up to 6fps continuous shooting
  • Native ISO 100-25,600 sensitivity, expands to ISO 50 to 102,400
  • 100% coverage Pentaprism viewfinder, 0.71x magnification
  • CompactFlash / SD/SDHC/SDXC Card slots
  • Full HD video with manual control
  • Lens aberration correction
  • 14-bit DIGIC 5+ processor
  • Enhanced Weather sealing
  • HDR mode with presets
  • Microphone / Headphone sockets
  • Magnesium body

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Handling

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Top
Canon EOS 5D MarkIII Top

Handling - The camera feels very well built with a solid construction and good handling, the ergonomics of the camera are good with a reassuring grip at the front and back with ample room for your hand. The balance feels very good with a lens such as the 24-105mm used in testing the camera. The optical viewfinder is large and bright giving you a very good view of the subject. A large number of the buttons on the camera can be customised, including the three rear buttons (AF-on, AE Lock, AF point), middle set button, multi-controller joypad, the top M-fn button, as well as the depth of field preview button. The zoom button has been moved compared to the Mark II, and when compared to other Canon Digital SLRs, such as the 600D, 60D, 7D etc.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-rear Direct
Canon EOS 5D MarkIII Rear

Menus – Each section in the menus is colour coded so that you can quickly find the settings you want to change and there are a large number of settings and options, which may mean it's a good idea to spend some time reading the manual. To quickly get access to options, you simply press the Q button, and a control panel is shown on the rear screen. You can set the auto ISO mode so that you control the ISO range available as well as the slowest shutter speed used by the camera before it boosts the ISO setting. It works well and can give you additional confidence that a fast enough shutter speed will be used. Another very useful feature for anyone shooting a lot of images is the ability to rate your images on a scale of one to five on screen.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III features auto focus (AF) scenarios built into the camera so that you can choose the most appropriate for your shooting situation. The choices optimise the following three options: Tracking sensitivity, Acceleration / Deceleration Tracking, AF point auto switching - each can be increased or decreased +/-2. The menus have built in help that can be accessed by pressing the INFO button.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Battery
Canon EOS 5D MarkIII Battery

Battery life - CIPA life is rated at: 950 shots. We were able to take over 930 shots before the battery went flat.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Memory Slots
Canon EOS 5D MarkIII Memory Slots

Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced.

  Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Shutter Response 0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.5
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.6
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting (JPEG) 6fps (19 before slowdown*)
Continuous Shooting (with Flash) N/A
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 6fps (11 before slowdown*)

* Tested with a Class 10 SDHC card.

Focus speed is very good at wide and telephoto using the Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens, although when using the live view mode focus is noticeably slower. To get the best write speeds a high speed UDMA 7 CompactFlash card is recommended as RAW files are between 22 and 45mb, with JPEGs between roughly 3 and 11Mb.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review: Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Ports
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Ports

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own photos, review and product ratings. Additional sample photos from the Canon EOS 5D Mark III can be found in our Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Lens Review.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colour reproduction is excellent with extremely pleasing flesh tones and saturated colours. Detail is very good with the camera capable of resolving fine details in textures. Shots in a variety of lighting conditions show very good dynamic range.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Lens test images

Lens test images - Dynamic range appears to be very good with excellent exposure helping here. Centre and edge quality appears very good with the 24-105mm f/4 L lens. Flare was not a problem with no noticeable signs of distortion. Focusing was good with the camera producing sharp images, although sharpness could be increased by altering the cameras settings.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise performance is excellent until you hit ISO3200 where you can start to see chroma noise appear in dark colours. At ISO6400 you start to see the grain effect of noise in certain darker colours as well as the slight loss of detail. At ISO12800 noise increases and detail is lost again, although overall colour is good and noise is lower on the Canon, than on the Nikon D800 and D4. It's at ISO25600 that colour saturation drops as noise becomes much more dominant and at this ISO setting it may be best to resize the image, convert to black and white or apply additional noise processing. ISO51200 is best avoided unless absolutely necessary. The highest ISO setting should be avoided entirely.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset giving similar results to the auto setting. Results under tungsten lighting give warm results whether using auto white balance or the tungsten preset and for more accurate colours custom white balance is recommended.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital filters

Built in HDR creation - This has a variety of options: Auto / 1, 2, 3 EV, Auto-align images, Effect: Natural, Art standard, Art vivid, Art bold, Art embossed. The camera takes three photos and automatically combines the images to create the HDR image. There is an option to keep the original images or just the HDR creation. If you don't want to use HDR, then you can also use Lighting Optimiser to expand dynamic range in images.

Colour modes: Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, as well as 3 user defined picture styles whereby you can adjust the sharpness (0 to +7), contrast, saturation and colour tone (each can be set from -4 to +4). For monochrome images you can select the filter (none, yellow, orange, red, green) and toning effect (none, sepia, blue, purple, green).

Video - Options include 30/25/24fps at full resolution (1080p), with 60/50fps available at 720p. IPB - compresses multiple frames, or ALL-I - compresses one frame at a time. Maximum record time is 29minutes 59 seconds. Microphone level is adjustable, there is also a wind filter option for the built in mono microphone. You can use the rear scroll wheel as a d-pad while recording if you enable silent operation. The camera supports time code settings as well as automatic time code correction called drop frame.

For low light video recording, the Canon allows the use of ISO25600, an example of this can be viewed on the ePHOTOzine YouTube channel, with performance, image quality and the lack of noise being very impressive.


Value For Money

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is available for £2999 body only, and at this price point, competitors include the full frame 36.6 megapixel Nikon D800 available for around £400 less than the Mark III. Another camera that could be considered is perhaps the 15/46 megapixel Foveon sensor Sigma SD1, although this doesn't feature video. The Sony Alpha A77 is the current top of the range Digital SLR from Sony and features a 24.3 megapixel sensor, full HD video and is available from around £1089. You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.



Canon EOS 5D Mark III Verdict

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is an excellent camera, capable of taking stunning photos in a wide variety of situations and has a wealth of lenses available to go with it. The 5D Mark III may not be as ground-breaking as the 5D Mark II, but this is simply because the Mark II was so good, and where the Mark III has been improved is noticeable. It has a number of very welcome (and some would say needed) updates, importantly to focus points, speed, continuous shooting, HDR, improved processing, ISO performance and an extended range, as well as a high resolution 3.2inch screen.

The 5D Mark III would make an excellent choice for anyone with an investment in Canon lenses and equipment, as well as those upgrading from the Mark II, although the new higher recommended retail price may make it more of a stretch financially. The 22.3 megapixel sensor has excellent noise performance, excellent colours and very good detail and does not necessarily demand premium priced lenses for excellent performance (unlike higher resolution competitors), although certainly benefits from it. A number of improvements have been made for videographers with the microphone and headphone sockets being welcome additions, as well as the other advanced options available in the camera.

  Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review:
  The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is an excellent Digital SLR capable of excellent image quality and fast performance.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Pros

6fps continuous shooting
Full HD video at 25/24 fps
Built in HDR creation
Great 3.2inch screen
Weather sealed magnesium body
Excellent noise performance
Excellent image quality
Full printed manual
Built in help
Built in electronic level
Ability to rate images in playback

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Cons

RRP compared to Mark II


Canon EOS 5D Mark III Specifications

Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
Pixels22.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)5760
Pixels (H)3840
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)36mm
Sensor Size (height)24mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution1040k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning (Micro Adjustment)
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Multi Pattern
  • Partial
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
ISO sensitivity50 - 102400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting6fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS29.97, 25, 23.976 fps
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • CF1
  • CF2
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery LP-E6
Battery Life (CIPA rating)950shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The CloisterWatching the SunsetThe Old TownA Carpet of WhiteCromer Pier...Hunstanton SunsetHickling Broad BoathousesThe Old TownHunstanton SunsetCromer PierSunset at the PierNorfolk SeascaperyA Carpet of BlueWyming GreensSwallow hunting

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AlanJohn 11 1 England
11 May 2012 4:38PM
Very poor review - totally lacking in depth and technical analysis of results for such a sophisticated camera. Not worth reading. Better, by far, is the review on the website.
patters 18 1.8k 1 United Kingdom
11 May 2012 10:41PM
it also does some cool things that I've never heard of before, like corrections for lenses with common know problems lens by lens, and the ability to adjust focus for a given lens and register it with the camera, coolio!
LenShepherd 15 4.6k United Kingdom
15 May 2012 1:19PM
Responding to the AlanJohn comment - I think the comment is perhaps just a little tough - but very fair.
Perhaps the lack of forum comment so far has most to do with the anything other than limited basics not being mentioned in the review. The camera is one which I think deserves more than limited comment about photographic basics Sad
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
15 May 2012 8:26PM
Hi - we have carried out further testing and will be adding additional content to the review shortly.
chris_c1 14 10 United Kingdom
15 May 2012 9:12PM
Think you need to look at this one its more true to what both cameras can do, as you have some of your info posted is not true, as the canon takes more photos than the D800 in jpeg and raw before it slowa down the D800 stops for some time to catch up. (and you put White balance performance could be better it's better than the nikon D800)
ianrobinson 13 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
15 May 2012 9:49PM
Not sure what your comment means, that the white balance could be better, if its that off then use custom white balance.
I do agree with comments made here that i was expecting a much better review of this sophisticated camera.
For starters i want to know if the ISO goes above 400 on auto ISO in manual, because in the 5d mark ii it is set at 400 iso only.
The 7d however goes to 3200 iso on auto ISO in manual mode.
This is the sort of Answers i need before going out and spending £3000.00 on a camera.
I believe that the ISO does actually go to 3200 in auto iso on manual mode, but it would be nice to see more info on this lovely camera.
A better review please guys Smile.
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
15 May 2012 10:35PM
After re-assessing the test images, we've updated the review, specifically the auto-white balance section (and updated the D800 review).

Regarding ISO Auto settings this is what the camera does in each mode:
A+: Automatically set within ISO100-12800
P/Tv/Av/M: Automatically set within ISO100 - 25600
B: Fixed at ISO400
SteveBB 17 31 United Kingdom
16 May 2012 3:33PM
I would like to have seen some "in camera" generated HDR images in each mode if that may be possible please.

16 May 2012 4:25PM
The very short and low level of revue does throw up many questions. I reviewed this after seeing it at the F.O.I show this year, not in depth by any means, but having owned both Mk 1&2 I wanted to know what the difference was and was it worth the money. No mention is made here about the auto focusing in video mode which has not changed from the mk2 and has many shortfalls, it is things like this that need to be explored before someone thinks about spending so much more money on "Just another version of the same thing". The other question I asked Canon on the stand is for a high end/priced camera what difference is there in the enviromental aspect, using it in inclement weather, dust restriction and ingress, same as the Mk2 they replied so no update to a !ds type exclusion zone.
A lot of money for not too much more of a camera from the Mk2, I am sure that someone will be shouting that down, but before that think what information Canon have put out on this upgrade, not too much, that says volumns. My personal choice (mine only) would be to buy a pair of trusted Mk2s with the same money as 1 Mk3, I cannot justify the price tag for not much more of a camera.
puertouk 11 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
16 May 2012 4:31PM
Chris_c1, maybe the Canon is faster, but the Nikon D800 is not for sports photographers! It's for landscape and portrait work where you don't need to churn out shot after shot. Also the D800 has a massive 36.3 Mp to sort out, with detail that will blow the Canon out of the water and is also £400 cheaper than the Canon.
chris_c1 14 10 United Kingdom
16 May 2012 4:47PM
Stephen (puertouk) itís not even a landscape camera, as it suffers from white spot on long exposures, have a look at this link you will see what I am on about.

and dont forget it has the problem of the locking up when your trying to take a photo.

16 May 2012 6:44PM
There is an elephant in the room that was only eluded too in the last paragraph of the review.

Buy a Canon and you get to keep your Prosumer lenses. Buy a Nikon D800 and you will need to upgrade to 'top of the range' glass to benefit from the 36 million pixel censor.

It may be £400 pound cheaper, but you're going to need to spend £1000's on new lenses and £100's more on memory cards and computer storage.

Have Nikon really got their sums right? Canon on the other hand are taking a gamble! Betting they can match image quality without additional expense, storage and slower processing speeds.....Things are just getting interesting.
16 May 2012 7:11PM
what a camera great pics canon is brillSmile
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
17 May 2012 4:58PM
Thanks for the feedback, if there are any aspects you would like to see covered more fully, please let us know as we are continually trying to improve our reviews and provide coverage and additional aspects requested, for example this review features a video test at ISO25600 in addition to the standard video sample. Although due to often limited time with the camera(s) we are not always able to be as thorough as we would wish.

We have added additional sample photos, above in the review, and additional photos can be seen in our 8-15mm Fisheye lens review:

As well as in the equipment database:

We've also looked at the technical differences between the Mark II and Mark III previously:
tonyb6122 9 1
7 Apr 2014 11:02PM
2 Years in & a few comments. I upgraded from the the 5D so did not mind paying $3200 as my 5D cost in excess of $2600 AU all those years ago.All improvements especially AF are worth the extra as far as I am concerned. A more difficult choice if a 5DIII owner. Awesome with 24-70 vII, 300 f2.8 L IS & 70-200vII. I have tried D800E & Sony A7r both of which have their faults as far as I am concerned but nevertheless good cameras if they fit your bill. I am not a Canon fanboy just heavily invested with & satisfied with my Canon gear. If I were starting out again the choice would be much more difficult unless I was an action shooter & then Canon wins-just because of the system as a whole.

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