Home / Cameras / Camera / Canon EOS 5D Mark III / Handling, Performance and Verdict

Canon EOS 5D Mark III: Handling, Performance and Verdict

Audley Jarvis

By Audley Jarvis



  • Recommended by TR
Canon EOS 5D Mark III


Our Score:


Picking it up for the first time, the initial impression is of a very solid and well-built professional-grade DSLR. On its own the body weighs in at just under a kilo, however with a suitably pro-grade lens attached, such as the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom (as pictured) you’re looking at closer to two kilos. In keeping with previous incarnations of the 5D, the Mark III is protected by an aluminium chassis and fully sealed against dust and moisture, thereby enabling pros and enthusiasts to work in all weathers.

Compared side by side with the Mark II, the new model is a bit taller and deeper and also gets a slightly deeper handgrip. It’s also around 150g heavier. Thankfully the ergonomically designed hand-grip offer ample space to wrap even a large hand around, with a small groove cut into the grip where your middle finger naturally sits, adding some extra purchase. Meanwhile, on the back of the camera a sculpted ridge gives you something to brace your thumb against. Together the grip and thumb rest give you a pretty comfortable and secure hold on the camera, although you'll still need two hands to support it properly.

This being a pro-grade DSLR the 5D Mark III sports a generous range of external controls and buttons, allowing you direct access to regularly used settings without having to open the main in-camera menu. While the basic button layout remains similar to the Mark II, there are a couple of key differences and additions. For example, the on/off switch is now found behind the exposure mode dial and there’s also a new Multi-Function button next to the shutter release that can be assigned to a range of functions from one-touch Raw recording to activating the camera’s built-in electronic spirit level.

Should you need to enter the in-camera menu you have the choice to either open a Quick menu (accessed via its own dedicated button), or the main in-camera Menu (again via its own button). As might be expected of a professional-grade DSLR options within the in-camera menu are especially deep and wide ranging, with plenty of scope for advanced users to customise a large range of settings to their own individual preferences – right down to the nitty-gritty such as AF tracking speed sensitivity and the like.

Those photographers who prefer to shoot at eye-level will find the Mark III’s viewfinder pleasingly large and bright, with a 100% field of view and a magnification of 0.71x. In practice it’s a really useable viewfinder that enhances the overall user experience. Should you wish to compose using live view then the good news is that the rear LCD screen has been enlarged to 3.2in (from 3in on the Mark II) and also benefits from an increased resolution of 1040k-dots (compared to 920k-dots on the Mark II).

Helping you to switch more seamlessly between stills and video mode – or indeed live view and optical viewfinder – is another new switch positioned just to the right of the viewfinder. While the camera is being used in stills mode the button that’s inset within this switch can be used to toggle between live view and the optical viewfinder. However, flick the switch over to put the camera into movie mode and the same button will then act as a one-touch record button. Overall, it’s a really neat and intuitive system.

General performance, at least in terms of start-up and processing speed is exceptional. Start-up is instantaneous of course, and processing speeds are also noticeably speedy thanks to the DIGIC 5 processor. The number of simultaneous JPEGs that can be recorded at full-resolution before slowdown occurs is seemingly infinite (we gave up counting after recording over 100 consecutive shots), while in Raw mode it’s possible to shoot around 15-20 (depending on the complexity of the scene the camera is faced with) before the buffer fills and the camera starts to slow down.

Overall image quality is nothing short of exceptional, with high ISO performance especially impressive. Set to the ‘Standard’ Picture Style setting, the Mark III produces pleasingly vibrant and punchy colour (a trait common to all Canon DSLRs) but without making things look in any way oversaturated or un-lifelike. Of course, you can always choose to tone down the colour, or even to increase saturation levels via the Picture Style sub-menu should you want to.

Paired with the professional-grade Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 and Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lenses the 5D Mark III delivers impressively sharp results. There is perhaps room for little bit of extra sharpening, especially when using the ‘Standard’ Picture Style, although again it’s a fairly simple fix as the sharpness levels of each individual Picture Style can be adjusted to suit your preferences.

At 22.3MP the Mark III is able to resolve plenty of fine detail, from the texture of fabrics being worn by subjects posing for a portrait to the architectural detailing on faraway buildings; if you want to aggressively crop your images post capture then the 5D Mark III gives you the scope to do so. The Mark III also features built-in correction for chromatic aberrations so you can expect fringing to be absent from high-contrast borders. In addition, the Mark III also offers a Distortion Correction feature to lessen the effects pincushion or barrel distortion.

New for the Mark III is an automatic HDR function that can be set to record consecutive images with up to three stops between them, which the camera will then blend together into a single image. In addition, the Mark III also offers Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority tools should you want to give shadow detail a bit of a lift or increase tonality in the brightest parts of the image.

One area where Canon has lagged behind Nikon in recent years is in high ISO performance. However, with the 5D Mark III, Canon can justifiably claim to have caught up with its main rival. Of course, with a top setting of ISO 25,600 the Mark III can’t go as high Nikon’s flagship D4 (ISO 204,800) however it can match its more immediate rival, the Nikon D800, which also offers a top setting of ISO 25,600.

At sensitivities of up to ISO 1600 noise is almost totally absent from JPEG images. Above this and noise levels are still hugely impressive, with ISO 3200 also offering excellent performance with only the merest hint of softening and then only when viewed at 100% or more. At ISO 6400 this softening increases slightly as noise starts to become more pronounced, although images still remain very useable. At ISO 12,800 there’s a slight loss of colour saturation as noise grain becomes more noticeable. The top setting of ISO 25,600 takes the loss of colour saturation a step further with a further increase in visible grain at the expense of detail. It’s not great and something you’d only really want to use in an emergency, but for ISO 25,600 it’s not at all bad either.


The Canon 5D Mark III is a professional-grade full-frame DSLR that builds on the strengths of previous models in the range to deliver a hugely impressive camera that is sure to appeal to video enthusiasts as much as stills shooters. With the recent arrival of the Nikon D800, Canon needed a bit of a showstopper model – with the 5D Mark III, the company has delivered one. At £3000 it doesn’t come cheap, but in cameras as in most walks of life you get what you pay for. If you’re in the market for a pro-spec DSLR that offers excellent handling, fantastic image quality, impressive low-light performance and excellent video abilities then the Canon 5D Mark III definitely deserves to be on your shortlist.


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

We provide convenient, cost-effective way to purchase your camera. you email us and obtain information about the latest products at a very competitive price.

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

Email: globalshot11@gmail.com

Skype: techgalore

comments powered by Disqus