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Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

Audley Jarvis




  • Recommended by TR

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 100
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 200
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 400
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 800
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 1600
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 3200
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 6400
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 12800
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 25600
  • Canon 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • Canon 5D Mark III sample image
  • 5D Mark III sample image
  • Canon 5D Mark III sample image
  • Canon 5D Mark III sample image
  • Canon 5D Mark III sample image
  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 1600
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 3200
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 6400
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 12800
  • Canon 5D Mark III ISO 25600


Our Score:



  • Vastly improved AF module
  • Addition of 'headphones in' socket
  • Enhanced ISO range/performance
  • Faster DIGIC 5+ processor
  • Built like a tank
  • Exceptional image quality
  • Fantastic video performance


Key Features

  • 22.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Canon DIGIC 5+ image processor
  • ISO 100 - 25,600 (50 - 102,600 in exp. mode)
  • 1080/30p Full HD movie recording
  • New 61-point AF system (41 X-type)
  • 3.2in, 1040k-dot LCD monitor
  • Weather-sealed aluminium chassis
  • Manufacturer: Canon
  • Review Price: £2,999.99

Canon has a long tradition of producing innovative and groundbreaking DSLRs. In 2003, for example, the 6.3MP Canon 300D became the first consumer-grade DSLR to sell for under £1,000. Two years later the introduction of the original 12.5MP 5D signalled the arrival of the first ‘affordable’ full-frame DSLR.

The 5D was replaced by the 5D Mark II in the autumn of 2008, with the new model offering nearly double the resolution (21.1MP) a greatly increased ISO range and, for the first time on a full-frame DSLR, the ability to record Full HD video with an external microphone jack also offering stereo sound recording.

Needless to say the Mark II quickly became a firm favourite, not only with still photographers drawn by its fantastic image quality but also video enthusiasts (and indeed professional film and TV production companies) who were keen to exploit the creative opportunities provided by the Mark II’s class-leading (at the time) video abilities and Canon’s vast lens universe.

Fast forward nearly three and a half years, and we now have the successor to the 5D Mark II – the imaginatively named 5D Mark III. For the time being at least the latest model will sit alongside its predecessor, with prices on the Mark II now as low as £1,200 body-only. The Mark III, however, currently retails for £3,000, and given the high level of demand you can expect this launch price to stand firm for some time yet.

So then given that it costs twice as much, what major hardware upgrades does the Mark III enjoy over its predecessor? Well, for starters the latest model gets an all-new 22.3MP full-frame (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor that shares the same gapless microlens technology as the flagship Canon 1D X, which allows for enhanced performance in low light. Effective resolution gets a boost too, albeit a fairly conservative one, up to a total of 22.3MP (compared to 21.1MP on the Mark II).

Another major upgrade the Mark III enjoys over its predecessor is its 14-bit DIGIC 5 image processor – the same engine that’s also used in the Canon 1D X. The only major difference between the two models (aside from the £2,300 price differential) is that the 1DX contains two processors while the 5D Mark III gets one. That’s still a lot of processing power, mind. Indeed, Canon claims that the optimised DIGIC 5 processor is 5x faster than the standard DIGIC 5 chip and over 17x faster than the DIGIC 4. Employing an 8-channel readout and 14-bit A/D conversion, the Mark III is able to shoot at a maximum 6fps – up from 3.9fps on the Mark II.

Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 25,600 in standard mode, with ISO 50 to 102,400 available in expanded mode. In terms of high ISO performance, Canon claims that the Mark III offers a 2-stop advantage over the Mark II. In other words, ISO 1600 on the Mark III should produce the same image quality as ISO 400 on the Mark II. We’ll have more to say on the Mark III’s ISO performance later on, but for those looking for a quick spoiler we can reveal that its among the very best we’ve yet seen on a DSLR.

Another big specification upgrade is that the Mark III comes with a total of 61 AF points – as opposed to nine on the Mark II. Of these 41 are cross-type sensors, meaning they are equally as responsive regardless of whether the camera is being held in portrait or landscape orientation. The AF points are arranged in a cross shape (as opposed to a diamond formation) which is primarily concentrated in the central area of the viewfinder.

Exposure modes extend to the regular DSLR quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual, alongside an Auto setting for fully automatic shooting and three user-defined Custom settings. Maximum output at full resolution in the default 3:2 aspect is 5,760 x 3,840 pixels, although there are of course options to reduce JPEG size to as little as 720 x 480 pixels should you be shooting purely for small use on the internet or suchlike. In addition, the Mark III can also be set to record lossless Raw files at one of three resolution settings – Large (5,760 x 3,840), Medium (3,960 x 2,640) or Small (2,880 x 1,920).

While the original 5D didn’t offer any video shooting capabilities the Mark II made history by becoming the first full-frame DSLR to offer 1080p Full HD video recording. Thanks to this (and also to the large number of premium-grade fast Canon lenses) the 5D Mark II has in recent years become the “go-to” model for serious DSLR video enthusiasts and professional-film production houses looking to shoot with a DSLR.

However, with Nikon now deliberately and aggressively targeting the DSLR video market with its full-frame D800, the 5D Mark III was always going to have to up its game to stay ahead. Thankfully, it appears to have done just this. The new model retains the same 1080/24p and 25p Full HD capabilities of its predecessor but also offers 720/50p HD recording, with a further choice of either intra-frame or inter-frame compression.

Continuous AF, stereo sound and external microphone jack are all present and correct and, in addition, the Mark III also gets an external headphone jack so that audio can be monitored in real-time. The Mark III also offers full manual control over audio levels with the ability to make the main control wheel on the back of the camera touch sensitive for silent operation while recording.

Canon 5D Mark III

Shooting full-resolution JPEGs you can expect individual images to measure around 6-10MB in size, depending on the complexity of the scene being photographed, while RAW files come out at 63.3MB. Storage isn’t a problem with the Mark III sporting dual SDHC/XC and UDMA compatible CF card slots. It’s possible to use one as an overflow for the other, to use one for stills and the other for video or even to record to both cards simultaneously.


March 8, 2012, 2:15 pm

"The original 5D Mark I was the first DSLR to offer 1080p Full HD movie recording".
- Excuse me? I havent yet found that feature in mine after abt 4 years... gosh :)


March 12, 2012, 11:25 pm

What an absolutely USELESS review! You're reviewing a CAMERA.... I kinda like to know how the images compare with the Mark II. And as the previous poster questions...HD movies on the original 5D...? What? Clearly, you have no business doing reviews for Canon products.


March 13, 2012, 12:43 am

Sorry, it should've more obviously said that this is a hands on preview not a full review.


April 20, 2012, 4:45 pm

I think it's about time you stopped these 'Hands on Previews'. In my opinion, they are not helpful & often inaccurate. You also have this 'story' listed under your 'Review' section. Misleading.

You do reviews, right? It's not called 'Trusted Hands on Previews'. Do your news article prior to release then do a full on, extensive, professional review with your perceived pros & cons and marks out of ten & verdict. (Preferably using a professional photographer's experience along side an enthusiastic technology writer, to give a more qualified opinion.)

Telling you how to suck eggs, I know...but things are slipping.


April 20, 2012, 5:03 pm

Hi electricsheep,

The full review is up. Just a minor technical niggle - the pages haven't updated from the hands-on yet. Should be fixed shortly.

We do hands-on previews to give you an earlier insight to products that we might not get to review for weeks, or even months. They are not meant to in any way replace full reviews.



April 20, 2012, 5:16 pm

I have to agree with the other commenters, this is a long way short of what I would expect when reviewing such a great full featured camera - you give it the same amount of copy as you do a point and shoot crapomatic. Referring to shooting JPG's on a 5D just makes me wince.

I actually have the 5D MK3 already and agree with the conclusion though. It is my first full camera and I am very impressed with the clarity jump from my 60D.


April 20, 2012, 5:39 pm

So this is the new "goto" DSLR for video recording ? Apparently it has kept ahead of the competition and held its "goto" status due to implementing (wait for it) 720p HD at 50fps.

Yet the Sony A65 for 5x less money implements 1080p at 50 and 60 fps with a superior autofocus (during video) system and even the ability (with stills) to take 24Mp images at 10fps.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the picture quality and the full frame format benefits. But these features are far from groundbreaking.


April 20, 2012, 6:14 pm

Thanks for the clarification Andrew.

I must admit that I'm not a fan of the hands-on previews on TR's. They so often just quote spec sheets and offer vague insights & very little else. But I know they are here to stay. Would like to see a separate 'Preview' column just to distance it from the full reviews.

Couldn't agree more with the sentiment of the review, although anyone who buys this camera and then shoots JPEGS, needs having a little chat with. I'm replacing my 5D2 with one of these and even thinking of buying a second to replace a 1D4 instead of a 1Dx. Canon won't be able to make these fast enough.


April 20, 2012, 7:00 pm

I'm not entirely sure that's fair. It's inherent to the nature of hands on previews that you can only observe so much when you have maybe 15mins with a product, and as much as possible we try to give you impressions on how a product feels in that first instance more than list its specs.

Also, we are planning to have the hands on articles retained as extra tabs in the final review, so there's less cause for confusion.

As to shooting jpgs... nothing wrong with shooting jpg on a camera like this. Primarily you're buying it for the full frame sensor and the inherent quality it brings. Whether you choose to use it for a few quick jpg snaps or professional shoots using raw is up to you.

Admittedly, if you're just after good bokeh and low light performance for more amateur snapping then you're better off spending the money on fast lenses and using a smaller APS-C body, but if you fancy taking a step up then a body like this is tempting.

Furthermore, there are plenty of professional situations where speed is of the essence so you'll shoot jpg+raw, firing off the jpgs asap and retaining the raw for later use if required.


April 20, 2012, 7:43 pm

Fairly bland review of a highly anticipated product from one the leading camera manufacturers known to man.

Your website is really going downhill, with skates on.

The MkII review a few years back was a great one and even managed to include some much needed humour into it.

No video footage for this? Why not? dontchathink some test footage using a variety of lens would have been relevant to this review? Especially low light footage, kinda critical when arguing for and against the competition.

Instead we get pictures taken on someone's lunchbreak and words befitting a bloggers'.

D- must try harder.


April 21, 2012, 5:21 am

Fair? Sorry Ed. TR's first posted the short 'hands on preview' under your review section, by accident, which was what I was commenting on initially. Most people can draw their own conclusions from the specs alone and I do remember a time (retrospective rose tinted glasses?) when the reviews were more thorough and more accurate. The full review is not much more than a listing of the camera features with a few sample JPEGs. Certainly nowhere near as detailed as it could / should have been. I think the other comments reflect this.

I guess it's tricky because as an old frequenter of this site, it seems as if a lot has changed. It's lost a fair bit of its mojo. Like I said, I would love to see semi & professional cameras reviewed by a pro-photographer with a lot more data, details, image samples, video samples & video reviews.

Speaking of video reviews, could you increase the bit rate and resolution? Any chance of being able to go full screen with them? Sorry it all sounds so negative! It's still one of the best tech sites on the web!


April 21, 2012, 6:54 pm

Sorry, think I muddled my replies up. Kind of ended up replying to everyone and noone at once.

With regards the hands on thing, we try to make it as clear as possible that these articles are just that. They're posted in the reviews section of the site because of how the structure of the site works. We're looking to make this less restrictive though so there should be less confusion in future.

Otherwise, point taken. We'll see what we can do.

As to video reviews, we can't increase resolution or add fullscreen yet, to my knowledge, because we need the dev team to enable it in the player but I'll bring it up again as a priority for those guys.


April 21, 2012, 6:59 pm

A very good point raised about video. I'll talk to Audley on Monday and see if we can sort out sourcing some footage - I don't currently know if we still have the camera.


April 24, 2012, 12:03 am

Unfortunately our review sample has gone back to Canon so we can't provide further image and video samples at the moment. We'll see if we can get hold of it again, though.


April 26, 2012, 4:08 am

Good stuff, appreciate the feedback. It's good to know that it's all being thought about.

Thanks Ed.

Suthap Klomrod

January 4, 2013, 10:42 pm

I will say that this is the consummate professional or professional amateur's Camera. It uses both the compact flash as well as the SD memory modules. Purchase a professional sped memory card for this Camera for high speed high resolution video recording. Go to canon.com for a full explanation of this unit's fun functions. Even I can take great pictures now! Special Offers Details http://amzn.to/Z6kpoD

Reina Dan

May 29, 2014, 6:37 am

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III key specifications

22MP full frame CMOS sensor

ISO 100-25600 standard, 50-102,800 expanded

6 fps continuous shooting

Shutter rated to 150,000 frames

1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic

61 point AF system

63 zone iFCL metering system

100% viewfinder coverage

1040k dot 3:2 LCD

Dual card slots for CF and SD

Brand new Canon EOS 5D Mark III (body only) cost $1250usd

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