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Canon EOS 5D Mark III: First Impressions

First Impressions

At last the replacement to the Canon EOS 5D MKII is here and it’s called the Canon EOS 5D MKIII. After months and months of rumour and speculation, we finally have the full specification.

As there has been so much discussion perhaps the biggest surprise is that the 5D Mark III’s specification seems so familiar and there are no really major revelations.

Nevertheless those who have been contemplating investing in an EOS 1DX now have reason to rethink their prospective purchase and perhaps save themselves a bob or two.

Although with the latest arrival having a list price of £2999.99 they will find them spending more than Nikon users investing in a D800 which is available for pre-order for £2399.


One difference between the EOS-1DX and the 5DMKIII is the sensor, the 5D has a higher pixel count with 22.3 million pixels. It also has just one Digic 5+ processor rather than two, which in combination with its 8 channel readout means that it has top continuous shooting speed of 6fps.

This is half the rate of Canon’s top-end camera and it may disappoint those hoping for something in the region of 8fps or more. It’s a big jump from the 3.9fps of the 5DMKII though and the burst depth is an impressive 8 raw images or over 16,000 JPEGs (when a UDMA 7 card I used).

The fact that the pixel count doesn’t compete a little more closely with the Nikon D800′s 36Mp and is only a little higher than the 21.1Mp of the Mark II may also disappoint a few Canon users, but as with the 1DX, Canon may have opted to go down this route to ensure cleaner results in low light and at higher sensitivities. Time and testing will tell.

Looking on the bright side, it also means that the files are smaller and quicker to download and adjust.

Canon eos 5d mark iii first impressions


The EOS 5D Mark III has the same 61-point wide-area AF system as the flagship EOS-1D X. This is a big improvement on the 5D Mark II which has 9 user selectable AF points and 6 assist points, giving a total of 15.

Of these 61 points, 41 are cross-type and five are dual cross-type points, which is good news for accuracy. The customisable AF pre-sets introduced in the EOS-1D X are also available, which Canon claims helps when shooting more challenging subjects – something we look forward to testing.

It doesn’t offer the f/8 sensitivity of Nikon’s latest system though, it only extends to f/5.6, which restricts the use of teleconverters.

Canon eos 5d mark iii first impressions


Predictably, Canon has upgraded the metering system to it’s iFCL metering. If this performs in the same way as it does in other Canon cameras, existing 5D Mark II users may find it takes a little getting used to as it reacts in a similar way to centreweighted metering and puts greater emphasis on the subject under the active AF point.

In some situations this is a blessing, but with exceptionally dark or light main subjects the results may not be the same as the 5D MK II would produce in its evaluative metering mode.


Its video capability was one of the big successes of the EOS 6D Mark II and Canon hasn’t changed much of its specification for the Mark III version, but there are some significant improvements. Firstly there’s the introduction of a live view/movie switch on the rear like on the EOS 7D to speed up movie activation.

There’s also a headphone socket for monitoring the stereo audio which can be adjusted in the same way as on the EOS-1DX.


Until now Canon hasn’t had an SLR with in-camera HDR recording, but the 5D MKIII is capable of recording and merging three shots to produce a high dynamic range image. It will be interesting to see whether the company has opted for a blend or a more dramatic look. We are hoping for subtlety with the ability to adjust for stronger effects.

Canon eos 5d mark iii first impressions

Build and ergonomics

It’s great to see that Canon has upgraded the weatherproofing for the new camera. Photographers that invest nearly £3000 in a camera expect it to be able to withstand some exposure to the elements.

We are also pleased that Canon has given the 5D Mark III the same 3in 1,040,000-dot LCD as the 1DX. This screen provides a sharp, clear view and although we have yet to test it outdoors, the fact there is no gap between the LCD and the glass cover should mean that reflections are kept to a minimum.

Given the 5D’s reputation as video camera, it’s a shame that Canon wasn’t bold enough to give the Mark III version an articulating screen. Perhaps the hinge is considered too much of a weak point, or maybe Canon is saving that for the 4K capable camera it announced was in development back in November last year.

In recognition of some of its new features Canon has given the EOS 5D Mark III a Creative Photo button. This enables users to select Picture Styles, capture multiple exposures and access the HDR shooting mode. For enthusiastic chimpers, pressing the Creative Photo button in playback mode displays two images side-by-side to allow photographers to view, magnify and compare the quality of different exposures mid-shoot – that could make the journey home from a shoot much more productive.


On paper the EOS 5D Mark III seems like a very capable camera, but we can’t help feeling a little disappointed that Canon hasn’t added any major wow factors. Although the upgrades from the EOS 5D Mark II are very significant, this camera has seemed a little out of step ever since the EOS 7D was introduced way back in September 2009.

On the whole the upgrades for the 5D Mark III are fairly predictable; for example introducing the iFCL metering system which has been spreading throughout the EOS range and adding the new AF system from the EOS-1DX.

However, because we have seen many of the systems and features before it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the 5D Mark III offers much of the technology of Canon’s flagship camera in a more affordable package.

Roll on the end of this month and the arrival of a test sample!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III: First impressions

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