The 5D Mark III

In developing the EOS 5D Mark II, Canon wanted to give AP still photographers the ability to capture video while on their photo assignments. Little did they know that professional cinematographers would flock to the camera because of its VistaVision-sized sensor. Released back in September of 2008, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was a landmark camera that empowered indie filmmakers and changed the entire production industry. Even people with no association to the filmmaking and photography communities became aware of the 5D Mark II. The camera, along with the Canon EOS 7D, helped create the DSLR revolution, which helped create an entire industry of cinema-style lenses, Look Profiles and camera supports.

Even though DSLRs have dominated the low-budget camera space for the past couple of years, the marketplace has evolved. Video cameras like the Sony F3 and FS100U, RED Scarlet-X and Panasonic AF100 were a direct result of the 5D Mark II. Recently, Canon has launched Cinema EOS with its professional C300, C500 and new 1D C motion-picture cameras. For Canon, the update to the 5D Mark II had to be big.

So, was it worth the wait?

Two 1920×1080 frame grabs of nighttime street exteriors shot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The scenes were captured using the EF 24-105mm kit lens wide open at an ƒ/4, 1⁄50 sec. shutter at ISO 12,800. The noise was surprisingly minimal.


In March of this year, Canon announced the long-awaited successor to the landmark 5D Mark II. The 5D Mark III ($3,499) contains a 22.3-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor and a new high-performance DIGIC 5+ imaging processor. It’s the third full-frame camera in the EOS line and sits between the 5D Mark II—which is still available at a lower price point ($2,199)—and the flagship DSLR, the 1D X. As a still camera, the 5D Mark III has a new 61-point AF system, which blows away the Mark II’s nine-point, and can capture 6 fps, compared to the Mark II’s 3.9 fps. What’s most impressive is that the native ISO ranges from 100-25,600, which is two stops higher than the standard range on the Mark II. In other words, ISO 25,600 on the Mark III will be in the same ballpark as the Mark II’s 6400, making the 5D Mark III one of the best cameras for low-light shooting.

In terms of user experience, if you’ve spent any time with the 5D Mark II (or any Canon DSLR), the Mark III is pretty similar, so I don’t need to go into too many operational functions. On the body, there are a few cosmetic changes, including a larger LCD screen, a locking exposure-mode dial and a Live View/Movie mode switch that’s similar to the switch on the 7D. Although the Mark III’s body style is a little rounder and a touch heavier than the Mark II, I couldn’t really detect a difference in handling.

The Mark III captures 1080p full HD at 24p, 25p and 30p, 720p HD recording at 60 and 50 fps, and SD recording at 30 and 25 fps. In terms of memory, the camera accepts CompactFlash Type I and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and you can capture up to 30 minutes across multiple 4 GB files.

It’s important to remember that technical specs don’t always tell the whole story. As a video camera, the 5D Mark III’s specs didn’t jump off the page for the many DSLR shooters who have waited three years for the update. Seeing new digital motion-picture cameras from RED, Sony, Canon and Blackmagic Design, game-changing technology would have been 4K/RAW motion capture, but at the moment, it’s still wishful thinking for the 5D Mark III.

But don’t despair because what the 5D Mark III adds are subtle, yet significant adjustments and features that experienced DSLR filmmakers will appreciate, like much improved low-light shooting capability, more audio control, and less artifacting and moiré due to the elimination of line skipping. A good comparison between the Mark III and II might be the third generation of the iPad versus the iPad 2. Although it looks the same, Canon put in some impressive new features "under the hood" that you have to see rather than read about.