Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review

Canon has revealed the long-awaited upgrade to its full-frame 5D Mark II digital single-lens reflex camera on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the EOS system. The 5D Mark III is packed with features for both photo and video shooters but comes at a significantly higher price point. The 5DM3 incorporates a variety of technologies, features, and design upgrades that were previously introduced in the EOS 7D and the more recent 1D X. This is to be expected, as you might imagine.

The end result is a camera that has a very similar appearance to its predecessor but has a great deal more features and better performance. However, when it comes to the fundamentals, such as photo and video quality, there isn’t as much of a difference as you might think. Since the Canon 5D Mark II already performs rather admirably in those areas, the lack of a significant upgrade is not always a negative thing.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p...

Last update was on: May 28, 2023 5:06 am

Image quality

Despite having a different sensor than the one found in the 1D X, it utilizes a lot of the same technology that Canon introduced for that model. Some of these technologies include gapless microlenses, improved quantum efficiency (which increases the amount of light that can be captured by the photodiodes), improved on-chip noise reduction, and faster data readout (dual four-channel readouts).

Despite the fact that it has 6.25-micron sites, as opposed to 6.4-micron sites on the older sensor, Canon claims that all of the other advancements, including the improved processing in the Digic 5+ engine, deliver overall better noise performance. This results in a two-stop improvement for JPEG and video. However, Canon claims that the 1D X is approximately one-stop cleaner than its predecessor.

There is no question that the 5DM3 produces photographs of exceptional quality. The raw photographs do appear to have less obvious color noise than the 5DM2, and when shooting at ISO sensitivities in the middle range to high ISO, the JPEGs do appear to be a little cleaner. However, I believe that the JPEG photographs taken by the 5DM2 appear a little bit better, with more realistically defined detail and fewer processing artifacts. This is the case at ISO settings ranging from low to middle.

In spite of this, the JPEGs produced by the 5DM3 appear very acceptable up to ISO 1600 and depending on the circumstances and your preferences, they can look fairly nice up to ISO 6400. However, raw shots continue to look fantastic and noticeably improved up until ISO 1600.

The tonal range is another advantage you get from shooting in raw with the 5DM3. Even when both exposures are well within acceptable boundaries, I observed that the JPEGs had a tendency to clip highlights and lose color and clarity on extremely light hues in as little as a 2/3-stop brighter. This occurred even when both exposures were adequate. You can try adjusting the option for Highlight Tone Priority, which is turned off by default, and the Auto Lighting Optimizer to see if it helps, but even if it does, I don’t think you’ll get nearly enough of a fix from it.

The raw files, on the other hand, do include a sizeable amount of color and highlight detail that may be reconstructed. It is true that increasing the complexity in the deep shadows will bring out a great deal of noise, but this is very common. Overall, it prevents contouring and clipping and maintains the dynamic range in the shadows even at higher ISO sensitivities. This is accomplished with very minimal clipping.

In a similar vein, the camera is capable of producing high-quality color reproduction. Standard Picture Style, which is the default, raises saturation and contrast just enough to cause some colors to shift slightly and clip some shadow detail, although this is easily remedied by switching to Neutral Picture Style. This is typical of most Canon cameras (I boost the sharpness in Neutral by two units, though).

Even if it’s merely because of the All-intraframe codec, which compresses the data less, the video quality is superior to that of the 5DM2 in my opinion. This is true regardless of whether you’re shooting in bright or dim light. To the best of my ability, I do not see any moiré, rolling shutter, aliasing, jitter, or any other artifacts that are very visible. The tone range appears to be accurate, and the camera produces far less color noise in low-light footage compared to either the 5DM2 or the D800.


In general, the performance of the 5DM3 is generally comparable to that of the D800 when it comes to shooting without bursts (they’re both quite quick), but it greatly outperforms the D800 when it comes to continuous shooting. Even though it has quicker focusing in low light and greater burst performance, it is not a significant amount of time faster than the 5DM2.

The time it takes to focus and take the picture is around 0.2 seconds when the lighting is adequate, but it increases to 0.4 seconds when the lighting is inadequate. JPEG has a shot-to-shot speed of 0.3 seconds, but raw is just slightly slower.

It has a new best in its class for continuous shooting at 5.6 frames per second, which it achieves. Even while it can’t keep up with the degree of speed required for action sports or bird-tracking, it could be quick enough to satisfy the needs of certain individuals who don’t want the size or the cost of a camera in the 1D class.

You can keep a steady clip even while shooting raw and JPEG using the burst shooting capability of the 5DM3, which is one of the many benefits of this feature. (The CF card that I used was a SanDisk Extreme Pro 90MB/sec model.)

The AF system is still easily fooled by fast, erratically-moving low-differentiation subjects (for example, a light-colored dog against the light-colored ground), which is one of the most difficult things to track; however, the new 61-point autofocus system is a significant advancement over the one found in the 5DM2 camera.

There are six different default settings of the autofocus (AF) system that you have the option of choosing from. These are general, obstacle-insensitive, objects moving within a defined range of AF regions, acceleration sensitive, erratic speed, and erratic speed and direction. You can manually alter the tracking sensitivity, acceleration tracking, and AF point auto switching settings, so basically, all of these other options are just different combinations of these three parameters.

Despite the improvements, the contrast autofocus in Live View continues to be practically unusable due to its slowness.

In addition, Canon reduced the size of the spot meter to take up only 1.5% of the viewfinder. In general, I consider it to be a benefit; but, if you are primarily a spot-meter user, you will need to make some adjustments to your old metering habits in order to take advantage of this feature. This is especially true if you shoot a lot of wide-angle photos. However, it is wonderful to have complete coverage at this point.

The viewfinder also features a grid overlay that can be turned on and off as well as the capability to provide alerts for a number of parameters that can have an impact on the overall picture quality.

Even though you still truly require a third-party viewfinder for taking video, the bigger LCD with a greater resolution is much better for assessing sharpness. I’d love to see a peaking capability, which would assist a bit.

Design And Features

With the exception of a somewhat tackier grip (as in sticky, not cheap), the body of the camera feels much like the 5DM2, and some of the control arrangement has changed, generally for the better. The mode dial and power switch reside on the left shoulder; now the mode dial locks, although with the center pushbutton that appeared in the 60D and which I find a bit odd.

While I have no issue with the position of the power switch, it does often flip from off to on while going in and out of my camera bag. That doesn’t seem to have reduced battery life, but it’s frustrating.

The settings for the metering, white balance, autofocus mode, drive mode, ISO sensitivity, flash correction, and a backlight for the status LCD are located on the right shoulder of the camera.

There has been some conversation concerning light leaking from the LCD backlight on the internet, which leads to altered exposure settings, but I didn’t have any issues with it (despite having a serial number within the affected group).

The top of the camera now features a tiny button that can be programmed, and the depth-of-field preview button, which can also be programmed, has been moved closer to the grip so that it can be used with the ring finger on your right hand. In addition to this, you may configure a button to show an electronic level based on the AF-point grid.

Every one of these configurations may be stored in one of the three different Custom slots that are available on the mode dial. And despite the fact that I really like how easily accessible the Canon’s custom settings are, I think it’s high time that the number of slots is increased to at least five from the current three. I need two more in order to capture video in addition to the three that I require for still photography (general daylight, general low light, and continuous shooting) (day and night). There is most definitely a wiggle area on the dial for them to take up.

A series of controls that are conveniently located and simple to use may be found on the right side of the rear panel. The switch and button for the Live View/Movie record mode are located just next to your thumb; immediately below them are the navigation multi-controller, the fast menu button, and a big lockable dial that serves as a quiet touchpad for altering the settings while the movie is being captured.

(The controller may be silent, but you may still hear operating sounds like the aperture changing.) There is a specific button for rating images, which get recorded into the EXIF data. In addition to a comparative playback view, there is also a separate button for rating photos.

Integrating Digic 5+ brings a great many useful new features to the table. These include compatibility for UDMA 7 CF; in addition, the camera now includes dual card slots that are compatible with both CF and SDXC, which is a highly convenient feature. And Canon incorporates it with the innovative capability of configuring it to capture raw or JPEG files of varying sizes and quality, which are then stored on individual cards.

There is also a three-shot in-camera HDR option, but with this one, you cannot save the source photos nor apply any effects to them. (For manual HDR, you receive an increase to seven-frame bracketing at +/-5 EV.) Additionally, it has the same strong multiple-exposure option as the Canon EOS-1D X.

In addition, the 5DM3 is equipped with a headphone connector, the ability to handle time coding, 64 different levels of audio control, and a wind filter. The camera only outputs the display view through HDMI, which means that you cannot get high-resolution video capture using that method, and it has a display overlay. This is one of the video’s few negative aspects. On the other hand, you are no longer restricted to clips of a duration of 12 minutes.

Aside from the previously noted poor HDMI output and the inability to store and load settings via memory card, which Canon mistakenly believes is only relevant to photographers using 1D-class cameras, it does not lack any essential functions that come to mind.

It would be good if the camera had a built-in flash that allowed for wireless control of distant flashes. In addition, as I’ve remarked in other places, I believe that cameras in this price bracket should truly include articulating LCDs. However, it comes with a wide range of great configurability choices, which is a significant step up over its predecessor.


In contrast to the D800, upgrading to the 5D Mark III is not an obvious choice for photographers who are currently using the 5D Mark II. However, I believe that this is more of a tribute to the excellence of Mark II than it is to any deficiencies in Mark III.

Having said that, it does boast a number of significant enhancements over its predecessor, including an autofocus system that is far quicker, increased video quality and controls, and a feature set that is significantly more adaptable. If any of those things are significant to you, then the additional cost above the now-reduced Mark II is unquestionably money well spent.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Specs

MSRPBody only: $3499, €3299, £2999 with 24-105mm: $4299
Body type
Body typeMid-size SLR
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Max resolution5760 x 3840
Other resolutions3840 x 2560, 2880 x 1920, 1920 x 1280, 720 x 480
Image ratio w:h3:2
Effective pixels22 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors23 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (36 x 24 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorDigic 5+
Color spacesRGB,Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayRGB Color Filter Array
ISOAuto, 100 – 25600 in 1/3 stops, plus 50, 51200, 102400 as option
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
Boosted ISO (maximum)102400
White balance presets6
Custom white balanceYes (1)
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, Normal
File formatJPEG (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant)Design rule for Camera File system (2.0)RAW: RAW, sRAW1, sRAW2 (14bit, Canon original RAW 2nd edition)Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaSelective single-pointSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampby optional dedicated Speedlite
Digital zoomNo
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points61
Lens mountCanon EF
Focal length multiplier
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size3.2″
Screen dots1,040,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typeClear View II TFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeOptical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.71×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Exposure modesAuto+Program AEShutter priority AEAperture priority AEManual (Stills and Movie)Custom (x3)
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes (Hot-shoe, Wireless plus Sync connector)
Flash X sync speed1/200 sec
Continuous drive6.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpotPartial
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±3 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes (3 frames in either blue/amber or magenta/green axis)
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps fps), 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (25, 30 fps)
Videography notes1080 and 720 intra or inter frame, 480 inter frame
Storage typesCompact Flash Type I (UDMA compatible), SD/SDHC/SDXC
Storage includedNone
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (HDMI mini)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
Wireless notesWireless File Transmitter WFT-E7
Remote controlYes (Remote control with N3 type contact, Wireless Controller LC-5, Remote Controller RC-6)
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion LP-E6 rechargeable battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)950
Weight (inc. batteries)950 g (2.09 lb / 33.51 oz)
Dimensions152 x 116 x 76 mm (5.98 x 4.57 x 2.99″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes (by cable and PC)
GPS notesWith optional GP-E2 unit

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Price

$1,539.95 42 used from $539.99 4 new from $1,539.95
in stock
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS...
$2,659.00 2 used from $640.00 2 new from $2,659.00
in stock
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS...


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