Canon 5D Mark III DSLR Review

It should be noted that the test results are based on a pre-production model. --Editor


The new Canon 5D Mark III has a large and handy grip on the right side. The body is a lot smaller than the new EOS-1D X because the 5D Mark III doesn’t use a “motor winder like” bottom for the rechargeable battery and therefore doesn’t offer a second shutter release button and setup dial, convenient for vertical shots. An additional battery grip is offered as an option, however.

The new Canon EOS 5D Mark III is an SLR system with a full frame sensor and a resolution of 22 MP (the forerunner Mark II had a 21MP sensor with 21 MP. It offers high quality images, a massive and robust body, a new operation system (a lot of new function buttons), sophisticated Full HD video capabilities and many more features.

The 5D Mark III uses a slightly different operating system than the 1D X.  A “Q” button helps change important image parameters very quickly. The AF modes (selection of single AF sensors etc.) are changed by pressing the “M-FN” button near the shutter release button and the AF-sensor button on the back, similar to what is found on the 5D Mark II. The On/Off button is now located directly beneath the mode dial on the upper left (instead in the lower third of the back). The On/Off button is now separated from the “Lock” switch, which was combined with the On/OFF switch on the 5D Mark II.

All interfaces are covered by two rubber caps. The camera offers a USB/TV combi port, an HDMI interface, a flash sync port, an interface for an external microphone, a headphone for perfect sound control when recording video and an interface for an optional remote control.

Some very new functional elements are added as well: A button for special image modes can be found beside the left side of the LCD screen. It allows the user to change the Picture Styles (“Standard”, “Portrait” and more) or to choose special image modes like double exposure images or HDR mode. In HDR mode the camera will take three images with different EV settings and combine these pictures to produce an image with high dynamic range.

The cameras offers two slots for flash media. It can be used with CF cards (including modern systems with UDMA) and SD/SDHC/SDXC-cards.

There is another very new function button on the left. The photographer can use this to rate images. Each press of the button adds a rating “star” to an image, all the way to five stars. This star tagging helps to evaluate and select images when using Canon’s “Zoom Browser” software.

The camera uses a very large LCD with ultra-high resolution. Compared to the 5D Mark II you will notice some different function elements, like an additional shutter release button for video recording, a “Q”-menu button for fast setup of most important image parameters and the new LOCK switch, which is now separated from the On/Off-switch on the top.

The new LCD screen on the back is very large (3.2 inches) and has an ultra-high resolution of 1,040,000 RGB dots. It displays brilliant and extremely detailed images. All menu elements are clearly visible with sharp and crisp text elements.

The new 5D Mark III uses the most advanced AF system made by Canon: This AF system offers 61 AF sensors (including cross sensors) and is very fast. The camera showed an excellent performance when shooting fast objects (cars on the street) and allows the user to keep objects in focus even when shooting with higher burst rates. The camera can take up to 6 images per second with claimed nearly infinite image rates (officially: “up to 16,270 images.”) We didn’t test this number in our tests because we couldn’t get a CF card with the required capacity.

The mode dial is now secured with a center lock button to avoid accidental change of modes. The “M-FN” button on the right helps change AF modes. The large status LCD is illuminated.

The camera offers many interesting video features. It is able to record Full HD video with standard H.264 compression or, in a special mode, allows for the recording of every single video frame instead groups of pictures (which are normally used by MP4 or H.264 compression). This allows a higher video quality, but also means higher data rate (less recording time for the same CF card memory size; higher PC requirements for video editing). Instead of using the SET button the new camera uses a special Start/Stop-button and still/video switch to switch between both recording modes.

Image Quality
The Canon 5D Mark III yielded an exact reproduction of the GretagMacbeth chart. The mean/average saturation is 101.1 percent, which is a little low for most consumers but perfect for precise color reproduction. The 5D showed a very tiny shift of the white balance into cooler colors, but most colors are reproduced with their given values in the chart. Only red nuances are a boosted by a higher yellow rate, but the shift is insignificant. The skin tones are reproduced in a very realistic way, which may be unsuitable for portrait photographers who would like to shoot more “stylized” skin tones – even if they are not realistic. For those photographers a different picture style setting may be appropriate. All our test images were shot in “standard” color mode.



The background of the portrait shot shows a slight shift into cooler colors. The skin tones are reproduced exactly, which might be a problem for portrait photographers who prefer richer rendition, although this is easily resolved by using a modified picture style with a slightly higher saturation setting.


Sharpness: The results of the resolution tests are excellent. The camera reproduced the ISO12233 chart with almost the maximum resolution of its sensor (3,698 lines in picture height; nominal resolution is 3,840 lines per picture height). The test image was taken in JPEG mode and “Standard” picture style setting which uses a little higher sharpness filtering than the Nikon D4. Nevertheless, there are only some minor overshot effects visible on extreme contrast lines like the on the Siemens star in our test box shot.

The high resolution and extreme sharp image reproduction is clearly visible in our standard test box shot and the portrait shot. The differentiation of red colors is clearly noticeable in the red spool and the fabric of the model’s t-shirt. The 5D Mark III shows a lot improvements in preventing color moirés and aliasing effects.

The standard test box was shot in P-mode. The automatic exposure settings are perfect; colors and white balance settings have a very natural and realistic look. Sharpness is excellent with perfect reproduction of fine details without any aliasing effects or color moirés.

Noise: The camera showed even better noise performance than the Nikon D4. The luminance noise is on an extremely low level even when using the highest ISO speed settings. Up to ISO 800 it is lower than 0.5 percent; up to ISO 12,800  it is lower than 1.0 percent (!). Color noise is also on a very low level.

The dynamic range results are very good but aren’t as excellent as the Nikon D4’s performance. The Canon showed a maximum of 11 f-stops and keeps a high level of about 10 f-stops up to ISO 3200. When using higher ISO speed settings the results decline rapidly.


This graphic should be used as a comparative measure of various camera attributes. Image quality is a subjective assessment taking color rendition, resolution and measured noise into account. Resolution is a tested measure using ISO 12.233 charts. Handling is an overall assessment of the field experience with the camera. Scope of supply refers to a value/benefits score in comparison to similar cameras tested.

* Excellent results in resolution test
* Very precise color reproduction
* Massive and sealed body
* A little larger than its forerunner 5D Mark II, better grip
* Full-HD video including Intra-Frame-Based in “ALL-I”-mode

* Higher price than forerunner 5D Mark II

Lab Tests and comments by BetterNet, our TIPA associated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub. For full specs visit

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