As expected, the 5D Mark III is responsive from start-up through read and write times. Thanks in part to the new Digic 5+ processor, the 5D Mark III is generally faster than its predecessor. While it won’t come close to outperforming the 1D X, of course, and isn’t designed for pro sports shooters, it can handle action shots very well.
Continuous shooting speed has been increased from 3.9 fps to about 6.1 fps on high speed, which is a noticeable boost and applies across the board to large/fine JPEGs, RAW and RAW + JPEG fine. Shooting speed and maximum burst capture will vary according to a number of different parameters including card type, speed and size, as well as file sizes (the 5D Mark III offers several RAW size options as well). A high speed, high capacity CompactFlash card will deliver the best continuous shooting experience (speed and maximum number of frames). But if capturing more frames per burst is more important than speed, you can switch to Low, which drops the frame rate to 3 fps.
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon 5D Mark III||0.10|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||0.16|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||17||10.8|
|Canon 5D Mark III||∞||6.1|
Perhaps one of the most important and useful updates to the camera is the auto focus system. Like the 1D X, the 5D Mark III now offers a 61-point AF system, with 41 cross-type points a major improvement over the 5D Mark II’s 9 focus points. While the use of a high number of cross-type points is often restricted to fast lenses, the 5D Mark III utilizes 21 cross-type points with f/5.6 or brighter lenses. An f/4 or faster lens will utilize all 41 cross-type points. Fast lenses (f/2.8 or faster) further take advantage of this AF system and its diagonal cross-type configuration. (Canon’s digital learning center has some great articles explaining the AF system in detail)
Auto focus is responsive under almost all shooting situations, even under low light although there s no AF-assist illuminator. (Live View AF still lags behind a bit but is perfectly fine since it’s unlikely to be used for moving subjects.)
In conjunction with the new AF system, Canon has implemented an AF Configuration Tool. This simplifies the process of customizing auto focus for different scenarios and offers a half-dozen customizable presets, including the ability to set tracking sensitivity and acceleration/deceleration. It’s really a handy tool that is easy to understand and use. And with the ability to configure auto focus to different shooting situations, you’re more likely to get consistently focused shots.
Metering has been updated to Canon’s multi-layer 63-zone iFCL (Intelligent Focus Color Luminance) metering system. This works in conjunction with the AF system and incorporates the color and luminosity surrounding the AF points to ensure exposure accuracy. As long as you select the appropriate metering setting for shooting conditions, the 5D Mark III does an excellent job of exposure.
Canon issued product advisory about the possibility of the light from the LCD panel changing the displayed exposure value (some people have been referring to this as a light leak) and are offering a fix. The problem seems to only affect cameras with 1 or a 2 in the sixth place of the serial number. Our review unit is one of those cameras but, even when we tried illuminating the top LCD panel in a dark room, we noticed no change in the exposure value. And Canon states that under almost all shooting conditions this phenomenon will not affect your captured images. Again, we noticed no changes but, as of the posting of this review, Canon will inspect and, if needed, fix the camera at no charge.
Battery life is estimated at 950 shots per charge when using the optical viewfinder. For extended shoots or heavy use of Live View, an optional battery grip (BG-E11) is available and doubles the battery life from 950 shots to about 1900 and is highly recommended since Live View drops single battery life to about 200 shots.
Video capture has been improved, with much less rolling shutter and very little moire. Footage is generally clear and noise levels aren’t bad even at higher ISOs. Manual exposure is available during video capture, with options for full HD (1920 x 1080 at 30/25/24 fps), 1280 x 720 (at 60 or 50 fps) and 640 x 480 (at 30/25 fps). Other options include the ALL-i or IPB codecs (the latter produces smaller file sizes, while the other is supposed to produce better image quality we couldn’t really notice a difference, though). Overall, however, color rendition was accurate and with the decrease in rolling shutter and moir as mentioned above, there is an improvement over footage from the 5D Mark II.
A headphone jack is available but you’ll need an external microphone to record stereo since the Mark III only captures monaural sound. Audio levels can be adjusted in-camera and a wind filter is available. Although Canon added a headphone jack, it doesn’t offer some of the extras available on the Nikon D4 like uncompressed HDMI output. Granted, the D4 is a different class of camera (and costs several thousand dollars more) but we expected Canon to be ahead of the DSLR video game with the 5D Mark III.
However, a surprising discovery was Canon’s excellent Silent Control option for video capture. While recording, and when Silent Control is enabled from the menu system, the inner ring of Quick Control dial on the rear of the camera allows you to (really and truly) silently change settings such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV and sound recording levels. That means the audio track won’t record the clicks of setting adjustments. It’s a great feature and shows that Canon is paying attention to detail.
The Canon 5D Mark III is capable of producing excellent still images and, of course, with so many parameter adjustments, you can tweak image capture to the finest levels. Colors are natural but nicely saturated and exposures were, thanks to the advanced metering system, generally spot on.
At default settings, dynamic range was good under all but the most extreme conditions (such as a NYC street, with buildings casting shadows on one side and bright, high-noon sunlight clipping details in the rest of the scene).
It’s hard to give an upper limit of ISO since it depends on the image, the intent/output, among other factors. You can see from our lab tests how noise affects image quality.
With a native ISO range of 100-25,600 and expandable to 102,400 (the 5D Mark II was expandable to 25,600), there are plenty of options. We feel fairly comfortable shooting at up to about 6400 in JPEG (although details definitely suffer from noise reduction, even when it s set on low). But RAW files processed in Adobe Camera Raw 7.1 delivered the best results. And it’s really up to you whether you’d rather see a little grain and maintain details or if you would rather eliminate more noise and sacrifice some fine details. All in all, however, the Canon 5D Mark III produces some very fine images.
Additional Sample Images