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Customer Review

1,307 of 1,347 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A home run for the 5D series, finally!, April 2, 2012
This review is from: Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p Full-HD Video Mode Digital SLR Camera (Body) (Electronics)
I didn't rush to make a review of this camera, as I wanted to really put it through it's paces first. I won't try to list every feature or go over every bullet point (the above description does a fine job), but instead try to go over a few things which make a big difference to me as a 5D Mark II owner. For some background, I bought an original 5D in 2007, a 5DII in 2008 and have been working with these bodies ever since then. I also have experience with all of the Canon 1-series up through the 1DIII and 1DsIII. I currently log about 60,000 photos per year with the 5D Mark IIs as a professional wedding and portrait photographer. I shoot almost exclusively with fast L prime lenses in my work.

So after a week of solid shooting with the camera, here are the areas which are of note relative to previous 5D bodies:

AF is the elephant in the room here so I'll address it first. Good news, we now have a focusing system worth of it's price point. The AF system here is identical to that in the 1Dx and is THE most sophisticated AF system EVER put in any Canon body. It is superior to that in the 1DV and all bodies before it.

I have tested the AF point in servo and one shot mode with my fastest lenses. Speed, accuracy, and consistency have been exceptional and better than anything I have used before. AF gets the job done with zero drama. NO focus jitter, NO frontfocus, NO backfocus, nothing but near-instant, dead accurate focusing with all of my lenses. Even with my Sigma 85/1.4 (which gives my 5DII bodies absolute fits) is 100% accurate with no jitter on the 5DIII. Center AF point and all peripheral AF points are all usable with fast primes. With the 5DII you just use the center AF point and hope for the best (with often mixed results). You could forget using the outer AF points with fast lenses on previous 5D bodies. That has all changed now.

Just to see how far I could push it, I took my most difficult to focus lens (24/1.4 II), put it on the 5DIII, and tried to focus on my black lab in my dimly lit apartment. At a distance of about 2 feet I would able to lock focus on the dog's eye with the far left AF point at F1.4, 1/40, ISO4000. Think about that. I was able to focus on a black eye on a black dog in a dimly lit apartment at F1.4. The 5DII would have hunted all day long trying to do this, even with it's center AF point.

I could sit here and write a book on how happy this performance makes me. For what I do, if this were the only upgrade from the 5D Mark II, it alone would be worth of the $3500 price tag. That said, there is more...

It's hard to put my finger on exactly what changed, but the 5DIII just feels more substantial. It feels like a chopped down 1-series instead of a buffed up 10 series. The contour of the body has changed to fit your hand better. The rubber is also a new compound which is much grippier than before. The 5DIII feels much better to hold and use than the previous 5D bodies.

I wasn't expecting a big improvement here, but the screen is drop dead gorgeous. The height is about the same, but it's wider than that in the 5DII and fits the aspect of horizontal images perfectly now. The screen itself has better coatings which allow you to see it easier outside. The contrast, viewing angle, color, and saturation have all improved noticeably. It has a very similar look to a high end smartphone screen. This is a substantial upgrade from the 5DII's screen.

Image quality is better than the 5DII, but not substantially so. Let me explain.

The 5DIII now natively amplifies the sensor data to ISO 25,600 whereas the 5DII only natively went to ISO 6400. This means that for anything higher than ISO 6400, the 5DIII is better. In RAW you are looking at an improvement of about 1/2 to 3/4 of a stop at high ISO. At lower ISOs, the noise level is about the same.

JPEG quality has improved much more though. The JPEG engine in this camera is staggeringly good and a solid 2 stops better at controlling noise at high ISO than the 5DII. It strikes the best balance of detail and noise control of any camera on the market right now. Note though that default NR in JPEG mode is fairly strong and that you will generally attain a better "look" from your files with the "low" NR setting.

As an aside, the nasty cross-hatch banding present in the deep shadows of 5DII files is now gone with the Mark III. There is still mild vertical banding, but it's similar to the original 5D and only visible when pushed heavily (3 or more stops).

I don't have any hard data on this, but I'm fully convinced the metering of the 5DIII is better than that of the 5DII. I find myself correcting with exposure compensation MUCH less now with the new body than with the mark II. Shooting with the two side the newfound metering accuracy of the mark III is very obvious. I found the 5DII metering very similar to the original 5D. The new 5DIII is much improved here.

Camera startup and operation is near-instant. Shutter lag and mirror blackout is now faster than before and leads to a more instant, responsive feel while shooting. This, combined with the vastly improved AF make for a radically different experience from previous 5D bodies.

Dual memory card slots mean you can now either backup your data to a 2nd slot *OR* you can "span" cards. Spanning means that once one card is full it will automatically swtich to the second card. SUCH a nice feature. I can't tell you how many times my card has filled up at the most inopportune moments and shooting stopped. No more.

Shooting speed is either 3fps or 6fps and the buffer is about 18 frames deep in RAW only with a fast CF card. You can shoot almost indefinitely in JPEG mode without hitting the buffer. For RAW I would recommend a 60MB/s CF card to take full advantage of the CF slot speed. The SD slot is slower, but still capable of about 30MB/s write speed.

The 5D Mark II had a slight magenta color cast. This was easily correctable in post processing and wasn't a huge deal most of the time. I now report that color cast is gone and that the 5DIII's color is much more neutral. Skin tones in general look better due to the more neutral tone.

Additionally I have found auto white balance to be improved over previous 5D models. I've noticed that while post processing I'm having to correct color less with the 5DIII files than the 5DII files. This is very exciting, as it will save me a fair amount of time in post processing. Per usual, all of the cameras struggle under tungsten lighting. However, AWB is able to get color surprisingly close with anything that contains natural lighting.

I would strongly advise reading the manual because there are a lot of new settings and options which won't be familar to 5DII users. There are also a LOT of different ways to set up your AF system, so a little experimentation is needed. In general, the menu system is more complicated that before, but this also allows a much greater degree of customization of the camera. In that regard, the 5DIII is much closer to a 1-series than before. Take the time to learn it and set it up correctly.

You now have the option to one-click zoom to 100% at your AF point. This means you can instantly check focusing with one button push. This saves a lot of time and frustration while shooting. There is also a "silent" shutter mode which only makes about 1/2 the noise as the standard shutter. You can do one-shot or 3FPS in silent shutter mode. 6FPS continuous is only available with the standard shutter mode.

Another brand new feature that's exciting is the ability to re-map buttons on the camera to perform other functions. The options are very extensive. One in particular I'm excited about is the ability to toggle one-shot with AI-Servo by clicking the DOF preview button (which is now on the right hand side of the camera, in perfect reach of your middle or ring finger). If you are shooting a still subject in one-shot and they start to move, simply push the DOF preview button and you're instantly in AI Servo mode. There is no need to move your hand, or even look away from the viewfinder. When you are done, simply release the button and you're back in one-shot mode.

Canon finally woke up with the 5D Mark III. The completeness of this refresh is hard to overstate, as there is no part of this camera that was left untouched from the Mark II. The overall experience of using the camera has been transformed to an entirely different level. You will be faster, better, and more efficient with a 5D Mark III relative to its predecessors.

The improvements here will most cater to those who shoot in demanding environments which require high ISO and fast, accurate autofocus. Canon basically fixed most every complaint anyone ever had with the 5DII while maintaining the things which made the 5DII great (resolution, image quality, small body).

The price of this body is probably about $500 too high compared to its primary competition - the $3000 Nikon D800, which is likely to annoy some people. Though individually they cater to different types of photographers and have different strengths over the other, overall these two cameras are comparable products. If you are starting from scratch or have minimal gear investment, the D800 is worth a hard look at. If you are heavily invested in one system or another, you would probably do best just to stick with your current brand. Both are fine cameras and you can't go wrong with either one.
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Tracked by 13 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 40 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 2, 2012 8:50:25 AM PDT
Very helpful and useful review. Thank you very much. I am using 5D makr II at the moment but will upgrade once Amazon catches up with orders- one to two months waiting time at the moment. Your review was an eye opener from pro-photographer. Thank you one more time.

Posted on Jun 9, 2012 9:00:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 9, 2012 8:30:38 PM PDT
Anil Bakshi says:
Just curious to know your views on the need, merit, + or minus of stuffing 14 million more pixels in same real estate ie D800 36 mega pixels vs 22 million on a full frame sensor.

A $3500 body has to stay for a life time : for me.

Posted on Jun 9, 2012 5:06:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 9, 2012 5:10:32 PM PDT
Scorpius says:
Really good review that covers the fundamentals ,To anyone reading this that is buying into 35mm digital for the first time and trying to decide between D800 and 5D mk3 you should think about the lenses very carefully as they will be the most significant investment,bodies come and go and Canon and Nikon constantly change position in the two horse race but the glass is a long term investment..

another aspect to carefully consider is ergonomics,you may prefer Canon over Nikon or vice versa,it's very subjective but also important that you like the feel and set up of the camera...

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2012 7:06:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2012 7:07:15 PM PDT
What are your requirements? Do you need to crop your images a lot? Are you planning on blowing your images up to mural wall size? If not the 22mp of the 5D3 will be more than enough, certainly for displaying on computer screens and even for blowing up to 16 x 20. Even a poster size 36 x 24 will look "good" with 22mp. That's because you need to stand back to view something that large, compared to viewing a 5x7 image, for example.

If you plan on routinely printing larger or do a lot of major cropping then you might want to consider the D800. The main consideration though, it what lenses you already have. If you have a large investment in one brand or the other, stick with that brand. If you're starting from scratch you should definitely consider the D800 instead because it's $500 less and has better dynamic range. Don't focus on the megapixels alone, though, that's not a good way to buy a camera.

The downsides of 36 MP: Storage and processing time. I see this as a major negative if you don't need that much resolution because who wants to deal with those large files? The files are 64% larger and you only gain 28% actual, linear resolution. And after you take your pictures you will no doubt be resizing them down for final use and in the end no one will notice that extra resolution.

Having said all that, I'm invested in Canon glass and I prefer the ergonomics of Canon, but if I were starting from scratch today I would take a hard look at the D800--mostly because of the superior dynamic range, though, NOT because of all those 36 megapixels. Good luck.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 1:18:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 28, 2012 1:20:31 AM PDT
Anil Bakshi says:
I got married to 5D MkIII in June this year, with Canon's F1.4(50mm), F1.8(85mm), F2.8(70-200) IS II, 430 flash, LR4. Happy!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2012 5:22:37 PM PDT
J. Howell says:
It really depends on what you do. Personally I don't need or want the extra pixels for my work. About the only time I might actually use them would be for a double page spread in an 11x14 bridal album (28" wide print). The other 99% of the time they would go to waste my slowing my camera down, slowing my processing time, and clogging up hard drive space.

As far as the specific quality of the D800 vs 5DIII, from what I've seen on the image level (equal print size), the cameras are just a bout equal in terms of clarity and quality. However on the pixel level (100% magnification), the 5DIII is superior. The former metric is generally considered more useful, so take that for what it's worth.

Posted on Oct 15, 2012 2:47:47 AM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Oct 20, 2012 11:21:56 AM PDT
I have been reading camera reviews for about a year now and yours is absolutely the best and most complete. Thanks for taking the time. I was struggling between buying the mark II because of price but you have convinced me that the the Mark III is worth it

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2012 7:56:07 AM PDT
AMP says:
Thanks for your review. I found it very informative. I have a question about the "superior Dynamic Range" of the Nikon D800. How much better is it than Canon's 5D Mark iii?

Posted on Nov 18, 2012 7:42:44 AM PST
Just want to thank you for an exceptional review which covered the relevant points exquisitely. I currently own the 5D and 5Dii and have been wondering if I should invest in the pricey iii. Your review tells me that yes, absolutely it is worth the investment. While I am not happy to be plunking down that amount of cash, I will be so happy using this state of the art camera. Like you, I don't care about the increased pixels. Its the focusing and practical ease of use that sells me on it. I do a lot of active dog photography and your comment about creating a dedicated servo button sold me.

Thanks so much for taking the time to go over the fine points. It really helps to have reviews like yours when thinking about an outlay of cash this size.
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