Meet the Canon EOS 5D Mark III

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We have all been waiting for this DSLR for ages. Its predecessor was announced three and a half years ago. Today, Canon finally unveils the EOS 5D Mark III, which makes a huge leap in quality and functions, compared to the Mark II. It borrows to its APS-C and pro DSLR brothers EOS 7D and EOS-1D X the latest refinements in camera technology.
Meet the Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Canon EOS 5D Mark II : meet the new 24x36mm 22-MP sensor

22-megapixel, that is the resolution of the EOS 5D Mark II. Where is the improvement here over the 5D Mark II ? Well, not in pixel count but Canon product manager promised me that image quality makes a quality leap : both in sensibility and small details resolution. The 5D MKIII sensor is a CMOS, with a new design :

  • Pixel matrix is different with narrower edges between photodiodes. As a result, this new 22-megapixel sensor gathers more light, almost 100%.
  • Each photodiode gets a transistor to process the sensor’s signal and reduce noise in a first layer at the single pixel scale.

Expect outstanding image quality, even at ISO 25,600, a high ISO setting that, they said, can be used without scarifying image quality. The EOS 5D Mark III sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 with extended modes (ISO 50, ISO 52,600 and ISO 104,200).
The sensor has been designed to improve its own cooling exhausting the heat. A useful technology in video mode where heat may affect image quality.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III : new Full Frame CMOS sensor, 22-megapixel

Canon EOS 5D Mark III autofocus derived from the EOS-1D X

Just like Nikon employed the D4’s AF system on the D800, Canon is improving the 5D AF : the camera gets the EOS-1D X 61-points autofocus including 41 cross type sensors and 5 central double cross type ones. But it does not get the color detection measurement assisted algorithm.
With 8x19mm, the 5D Mark III autofocus covers a larger part of the field in the viewfinder, an other great improvement over the poor and slow 9-points AF of the Mark II.
Note that in AI Servo mode, the 5D MK III AF is predictive. It is the first Digital SLR with this feature in Canon’s range, a feature that was used in analog SLR like the EOS 1, EOS 1n and EOS 3. This system anticipates the position where the subject will be when the photo is actually taken.
Autofocus micro adjustment will be linked to the lens’s serial number so that big photographers agencies can use the same camera with different lenses of the same model, each one of them having their customized back / front focus setting.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III : new DIGIC 5+ processor and burst rate

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III needed a powerful engine to ensure fast focus, optimal signal treatment, to recognize scene patterns… and it got a brand new one : meet the DIGIC 5+. If DIGIC 5 is 17 times faster than DIGIC4, its “plus” version is an other 3 times faster.
If you want fast burst rate, you may want to go for the EOS-1D X and its 14 fps mode. While the Nikon D800 is stuck at 4 fps with its huge 36-megapixel sensor, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers a comfortable 6 fps. The burst duration is 18 RAW consecutive RAW images and in JPEG, it is almost limitless, a few hundreds. For these rates, you need to use a UDMA7 CompactFlash memory card.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III LCD screen won't swivel, is not touch-screen, but has 1,044 Kdots resolution, is 3.2" wide and gets a resin layer to prevent glare.

Read the entire technical specs of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

New Quiet mode and shutter

The new shutter of the DSLR is very smooth by nature as I could experience on Monday when I put my hands on the first 5D Mark III of the country. But Canon has also improved it with a Quiet mode that lowers the sound level from 60dB to 50dB. The 5D Mark III in Quiet mode is very very silent. That is a good job that will be appreciated in many occasions. Of course, as this mode slows the mirror’s speed down, the max burst rate is 4 fps.

Full HD video recording

That was the key to the 5D Mark II success : the 5D Mark III gets Full HD video recording, either in 24p, 25p or 60p. Slow motion lovers that need lots of frames to compute their movies on software like Twixter may want to use the 720p mode which has a 60p available frame rate.
In 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30p, the bitrate is 28Mbps and 24 Mbps in 30i.
The built-in Microphone is mono only. So you may want to plug-in an external stereo mic. Speaking of sound, the good idea : the EOS 5D Mark III has a headset plug and a vu meter.
ISO 12,800 is available in video mode with results advertised as breathtaking. A higher ISO position is also possible in extended mode (ISO 525,600).
Movies are H.264 encoded and the compression can be set to ALL-I or IPB, the second being lighter but a bit more destructive.
Video sequences length are still limited to 4GB (FAT file system), which corresponds to approx. 12 minutes. The camera automatically creates a new file every 4 GB without interrupting the recording.
You may ask, so here is the answer : no, unlike the Nikon D4 and D800, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III does not offer HDMI uncompressed video output. You have to go for the EOS C300 for that.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers a much better built quality and is weather proof.

UPDATE : Canon EOS 5D Mark III review available.

Canon EOS 7D DNA inside

With this third generation of prosumer Full Frame DSLR, Canon finally did it right : they have improved the body. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III gets a lot of the EOS 7D DNA :

  • a 100% coverage of its optical viewfinder, bright and large (0.71x magnification). It displays more information thanks to a small LCD screen like the horizon.
  • the color based iFCL exposure measurement appeared on the 7D.
  • a magnesium alloy body with weather sealing gaskets and a new production process that improves its waterproof capabilities : the EOS 5D Mark III is weather resistant. It is a pro body, finally we got rid of the cheap 5D body. I had the opportunity to test it and I assure you : the 5D Mark III is what we were all expecting : an EOS 7D body with a Full Frame sensor.

In-camera editing

The 5D Mark III improves its user interface with a new menu system (smart changes), a LiveView button, video recording through the shutter release button to allow the use of threaded remote control, a new 3.5″ LCD screen (aspect ratio 16:9) of 1,044 Kdots, a single button to set HDR, Picture Style or multi-exposure etc. But what I really like is that the Canon EOS 5D Mark III has some basic editing functions. You can rate images with the “rate” button and get half of your job done, things you won’t have to do later on when you get back to the studio in Lightroom. This in-camera star rating is compatible with the majority of photo management softwares.
The Mark III screen is big enough to let you display two images to compare them and choose your pick. You can even zoom in one image, compare the histograms or the histogram of the zoomed selection with the histogram of the entire image.
Some may appreciate that the 5D Mark III gets a scene detection iA+ mode.
If you have experienced the mode selection dial which was way too loose on the 5D, then, you will be happy to see that Canon has redesigned this inspired by the EOS 60D with an unlock switch in the middle.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers a dual memory card slot (SD and CompactFlash)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III battery and battery life

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III uses the same batteries as the Mark II and the 7D, the LP-E6 which provides enough power to the camera for 950 shots. That is 100 more than previous generation. Yet, the optional handgrip is different. As a symbol of all limitations of the EOS 5D Mark II that are corrected on the 5D Mark III, Canon has placed a dual memory card with a CF and SD slot.

Canon EOS 5D mark III price and availability

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III was ready be launched. Obviously, Canon was waiting for Nikon to fire their D800. That is now done and the first EOS 5D Mark III will be available early April. Its price is now official :

  • $3,499 / USA
  • €3,299 / EU
  • £2,999 / UK

In the same time, Canon unveils new accessories :

  •  The new optional handgrip called GP-E2 with a new joystick.
  • 2 new flashes : Canon Speedlite 600EX and 600EX RT (radio transmission compatible) with a guide number of 60.
  • WFT-E7 : new Wi-Fi module that is also Bluetooth and offers an Ethernet connection. It is compatible with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n standards and can dialog with your computer/tablet/smartphone thanks their web browser. It is a bit huge… well, it is HUGE. But the good point is it works with the same batteries as the camera : the LP-E6.
  • GP-E2 : a new GPS sensor. Huge again…. It will geotag your images and movies. It has a “log” mode that keeps track of your path every 2 seconds. The GP-E2 reminds the camera’s orientation. That can be useful for panoramic photography.

Canon EOS 5D mark III main technical specs

  • 22.3-megapixel CMOS 24x36mm  sensor
  • Canon EF mount/ no crop factor
  • ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 (extended ISO 50, ISO 51,200 and ISO 102,400)
  • 14-bit A/N conversion
  • Burst rate :  6 fps (4 fps in Quiet mode)
  • 61-points Autofocus (41 cross type sensors / 5 double cross type sensors)
  • 63 points iFCL exposure metering
  • Full HD 24p, 25p, 30p video recording / built-in mono microphone / stereo through external microphone / headset plug in
  • Magnesium ally camera body
  • Weather sealing
  • HDR
  • Multiple exposure
  • Flash hotshoe (no built-in flash)
  • 1/200s flash sync speed
  • Live View
  • Optical viewfinder : 100% actual image coverage, 0,71% magnification ratio
  • Battery : LP-E6
  • Battery life : 950 images
  • Connexions : USB, HDMI, stereo line in, headset out, accessory port, flash sync
  • Weight : 950 grams with battery and memory card

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