5D Mark III Review

5D Mark III
So the much anticipated 5D Mark III has finally been released and there’s already lots of hoopla surrounding it. I guess everyone’s coming out of the woodwork to blog about it so I guess I’ll join in on the fun. πŸ™‚

I’ve been shooting with two 5D Mark II cameras for the last year. Prior to that, I’ve pretty much shot with most of the top-end cameras out there including the 1D Mark III, 1Ds Mark III, 1D Mark IV, D700, D3, and the D3s. Last year, I decided to go with the 5D Mark II because of its resolution and video capabilities. Of course the AF system left much to be desired but I already knew that going in. So needless to say I was pretty excited when the official specs came out for the 5D Mark III.

After using the 5D Mark III for just over a week including a walk in Central Park, a Wedding, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, here are my thoughts:

  • The AF system is indeed a huge…and I mean HUGE upgrade. It’s quite a leap from the not-quite-there 9 point AF system to the Β full blown pro-level 61 point AF system. I mean, Wow! I am so thankful to have all those crosstype AF points back again! Hurray! It’s also extremely configurable, like what you would expect in a 1 series camera. I am really loving the spot AF feature so that I can really dial in on smaller details. Testing AI Servo against moving cars in NYC and at the Wedding proved an easy task. It’s great to be able to accurately track a moving target with an outer AF point. I can’t emphasize that enough. The only AF point I trusted on the 5D Mark II was the center AF point and I always found tracking moving targets to be an iffy proposition on that camera. Gathering from all the positive comments by other owners, I think Canon got this one right! Finally!!! Low light sensitivity of -2 EV is also an improvement from the 5D Mark II’s -1 EV and even the 1D Mark IV. And of course I love that I don’t have to focus recompose anymore! One thing I am not happy about is when auto focusing is starting, the selected AF point does not light up red. I use the * button for focusing. On the 5D Mark II, as soon as I press on this button, the selected AF point lights up red, which I find helpful especially in low lights situations or when shooting against a darker backdrop. The 5D Mark III does not do this. It lights up red only when it acquires focus. Thumbs down on that. Definitely not a show stopper but something that I certainly hope that Canon would address.
  • 6fps is certainly a nice upgrade from 4fps. It’s no speed demon but I can definitely feel the increase in fps.
  • The camera is slightly bulkier and actually feels better in my hand.
  • The LCD screen is slightly bigger which is always welcomed.
  • 100% VF is also very nice.
  • I like the dedicated Live View/Movie button.
  • The dual card slot is a great feature to have for redundancy and backup.
  • I like the Auto ISO implementation. In Av mode, I am now able to specify minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO, which is great. Usability of Auto ISO in Manual mode is still a mystery for me however!
  • I love that I can assign the DOF Preview button to switching between Single Shot and AI Servo mode.
  • I am really digging the silent shutter mode. This will be perfect in churches!
  • I am not sure I like the menu system. I like all the custom functions to be under one parent menu. I think this is just something I’ll have to get used to.
  • I am not crazy about the zoom button. However, I like the fact that you can now zoom in close to 100% with a click of the zoom button.
  • I didn’t expect a noticeable IQ improvement. I was right.
  • I only expected an incremental improvement in high ISO noise handling. I was right.

Personally, I think the upgrade was worth it for me. I really wanted a 5D Mark II with a better AF system, so this is what I got in the 5D Mark III. To me, the 61 point pro level AF system is the star of the 5D Mark III. Time will tell how the AF truly is with regards to consistency and reliability. But for now, I am certainly liking what I am seeing.

Here’s how I initially set up my 5D Mark III. I’ll list off only the settings that are key to me. If it’s not listed, I left them the same as factory default settings.

  • Lens abberation correction: Both disabled
  • ISO speed settings: ISO speed range = 50-102400, Auto ISO range = 100-12800, Min shutter speed = Auto
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer: Disabled
  • Picture Style: Neutral
  • Long exp. noise reduction: Off
  • High ISO speed NR: Off
  • Highlight tone priority: Off
  • Selectable AF point: Only cross-type AF points
  • AF point display during focus: All (Constant)
  • VF display illumination: Enabled
  • Magnification (apx): Actual size (from selected pt)
  • Custom Controls: Shutter button = Metering start, AF-On button = AE lock, AE Lock button = Metering and AF start, DOF preview button = ONE SHOT <-> AI Servo, Multi-controller = AF point direct selection

Here’s a very informal high ISO comparison test between the 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III. I used Adobe Camera RAW 6.7 RC1 to convert the photos. I zeroed out the sharpening sliders as well as the Luminance noise slider. I left the color noise slider at 25 since it does a very nice job of removing only the color noise and not sacrifice any details.

Here’s the scene:


The following are side-by-sides between the 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III. 5D Mark II is always on the left side.






In my opinion, the 5D Mark III begins to pull away on the higher ISO values. That said, I am only seeing about a 1/2 stop improvement over the 5D Mark II. Some have claimed at least 1 stop, if not 2 stops of improvement. Clearly, this is not the case, at least in my sample shots above. However, I agree that the high ISO photos from the 5D Mark III are more workable, especially at ISO12800 and ISO25600. There’s less color blotching and I don’t find things like banding and pattern noise to be an issue for the 5D Mark III.

Not that I would ever use the H1 and H2 high ISO values, here they are.

Here’s a link to the 5D Mark III ISO25600 file resized to 12MP that I cleaned up using my NR workflow.

Looks pretty good to me. That said, I’ve decided that my “comfortable” high ISO setting will now be ISO6400. ISO12800 will be used on a as-needed basis with ISO25600 being the emergency ISO.

Here are sample shots from a walk in Central Park and NYC.

16 shot sequence in AI Servo mode. Lens used was the 135L. f2.8 1/3200 ISO100. Used the lower center column AF point to track the Yellow Cab.

Here’s the scene:

Sequence goes from left to right, then the next row. ZERO sharpning. 100% crops.
5D Mark III AI Servo 6fps

The cross-type AF points in the corners work well too.

5D Mark III AI Servo

100% crop

100% Crop

I tested out the HDR feature on a few shots. I am certainly not an HDR kind of guy, but it’s certainly fun to experiment with this feature. Here are the resulting JPEGs with a little bit of further processing.

Some other random photos from my walk. πŸ™‚

I was excited to get the opportunity to use the 5D Mark III at a wedding I helped shoot over the weekend. As I mentioned before, it was great not having to focus and recompose. Focusing in low light was great. AI Servo worked as it should. 6fps came in handy as well. In my opinion, this is an ideal camera for Wedding Photographers!

Here’s a 9 shot sequence of the guys jumping off a ledge. AI servo. 6fps. It nailed it. Now granted I was using my 16-35L MKII at 16mm and f4 so I had pretty good depth of field to begin with. πŸ˜‰

Using AI Servo at the ceremony was no problem.

5D Mark III AI Servo 5D Mark III AI Servo 5D Mark III AI Servo 5D Mark III AI Servo 5D Mark III AI Servo 5D Mark III AI Servo

ISO 10000 shot cleaned up nicely with my NR workflow.
5D Mark III High ISO
Using AI Servo for the first dance went without a hitch. I like the fact that I can actually select an outer AF point and still maintain accurate tracking. With the 5D Mark II I only trusted the center AF point and often resorted to cropping.
5D Mark III Wedding
Love being able to use the outer AF points and trust that they are going to nail it. Shot this one with my 85L MKII at f1.2.
5D Mark III Wedding
Just for kicks, I shot this only with ambient lighting at ISO 25600. Noisy? Sure. But it cleans up decently and it looks good when resized.
5D Mark III Wedding

Shooting this wedding with the 5D Mark III and the 5D Mark II side-by-side convinced me that I needed to trade in my second 5D Mark II for another 5D Mark III and that’s exactly what I did! πŸ™‚

Here are some shots taken exclusively with the 5D Mark III at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from a few days ago. This was my daughter’s first “road trip”. She’s only 1 month young so she doesn’t get out much! πŸ˜‰

  • Bjorn - March 30, 2012 - 9:09 am

    Thank’s for the review!
    I’ve had my 5D mkIII for a week now and agree with what you say about it. I would add the second memory card slot that I will use for backup during weddings, just as big an improvement as the AF in my point of view.

  • Nick Nishizaka - March 30, 2012 - 10:18 am

    Ah yes. The dual card slot is indeed a great improvement. I added that in my post. Thanks for the reminder! πŸ™‚

  • Matt McGuire - April 10, 2012 - 6:24 pm

    Thanks for the review Nick. I really want this camera. Combining the full frame features with the focus of my 7D. I just can’t justify the price since I don’t make a living with my camera.

  • Baltimore Wedding Photographer - April 12, 2012 - 11:06 am

    looks like a great camera. I just cant justify upgrading from the mk2 yet

  • Peter Hanowell - April 17, 2012 - 9:27 am

    Great review, and some neat images! I guess we are all trying to determine if an upgrade is ‘worth it.’

  • scott feierstein - April 24, 2012 - 5:20 pm

    Great review. Shooting my first wedding with the Mark III on saturday. Trying to figure out how to set up the auto focusing. I have one point set and I can move it around. Is that what you did with AI Servo? Thanks again!

  • Nick Nishizaka - April 24, 2012 - 9:30 pm

    That’s how I have mine setup up. Just one point. I have all crosstype AF points enabled and the 5D Mark III is able to track very accurately on any one of those points. So much better than the 5D Mark II!!!

  • John V - April 26, 2012 - 12:35 pm

    Many Thanks for your review Nick. Quick question… the shots of the couple walking down the aisle did you use flash or is that ambient lighting?


    John V.

  • Nick Nishizaka - April 26, 2012 - 7:00 pm

    John, yes, I did use a speedlite on that one. I will point out however since I was in AI Servo mode, there was no AF assist beam to help me out in focusing so it was the 5D Mark III that got the job done. In fact, it’s pretty much been bang on in AI servo.

  • RD - April 26, 2012 - 8:48 pm

    Hi Nick, Any thoughts on the reported “light leak” issue related to the 5DMIII? BTW-Nice pics and thanks for the review!

  • Nick Nishizaka - April 26, 2012 - 11:57 pm

    RD, thanks. I’m afraid I can’t really comment on the “light leak” issue because I simply don’t shoot in conditions where it would even be a factor. I really have no complaints about the 5D Mark III other than the AF point illumination issue I touched on in my review. But I am slowly getting used to that as well.

  • Dmitry - May 1, 2012 - 2:20 am

    Hi, you think that’s impossible to clean 25k on mark ii?

  • Nick Nishizaka - May 1, 2012 - 12:21 pm

    Depends on the scene. Something like what I posted, where everything is dark-ish, the noise will just be more apparent. It also depends on your final product. Smaller prints or web-sized images will be fine. ISO25600 is reserved for absolutely emergencies for me and the only time I’ve used it is just to play around with it to see how noisy it is.

  • Dafydd Hughes - June 14, 2012 - 3:18 am


    Thanks for taking the time and effort to blog about the 5d3.

    I currently use two 5d2s, and am seriously thinking about switching to the 5d3 (but it’s an expensive move πŸ™ ).

    Nice to hear that issues like banding are less of a problem. Do you feel that you can push and pull the raw images more than on the 5d2?

    I’ve just spotted your post on shadow recovery – I’ll read that now.

    Thanks again.


  • movers - June 24, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    Great Review ! Very detailed and great samples. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shiv - October 18, 2012 - 1:54 pm

    For a first time DSLR guy, i plan to start with a FF camera. I was thinking on 5D2 when D800 and 5D3 came up. The budget of 5d3 is a bit stretch though i would be able to make it. I may not make money out of the camera at least initially and think i will keep the camera at least for 7-8 years.
    What do you suggest ? Go for 5D2 which with the 24-105 lens is around $2500 or 5d3 which is around $3750.
    What say?

  • nicksan - October 23, 2012 - 11:38 pm

    Shiv, if you are going to keep the camera for that long, I would pick the 5D3 over the 5D2. This way, you’ll have more features to grow into. The biggest improvement is the AF system. No comparison.

  • SHIV - November 17, 2012 - 8:52 am

    Thanks Nick. I went with your advice and got the 5D Mark 3.
    Its just an awesome camera. Now heading for some real action.

  • Paul Liddement - December 28, 2012 - 9:58 am

    Hi, I love your website and what you have done in your review of the 5D Mkiii. You mentioned that you have a NR workflow. I have been working on one but i was never satisfied with it, do you care to share a bit more info on this?

    All the Best, Paul.

  • nicksan - January 5, 2013 - 9:59 am

    Paul, I describe my NR Workflow at http://www.nicknphoto.com/noise-control

  • syam - July 19, 2014 - 11:13 pm


  • Saiju Saidu Muhammed Vaikom - September 3, 2014 - 6:35 am

    Thank’s for the review

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