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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review
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Review / 10/02/2014
Author: Photoleet avatarPhotoleet
recommendations 1, rating 4


 

BODY

 

Regardless of being a predecessor of the 5D Mark II, the body of the new camera is visually similar to a symbiosis of the predecessor, and the more advanced APS-C Canon, the EOS 7D, that lent its button layout and functions of the majority of its function, as well as the shape of the handgrip. The following orthogonal projections present the new body from all angles:

 

 

Dimensions are similar to the previous generation, and they are 152 x 116 x 76mm, while the weight has grown for as much as 100 grams, so now amounts to almost a kilo. More precisely – 950g. Apparently the new functions had impact on the overall weight. What we are positive about is the level of sealing and the use of the light alloy (magnesium) affect the weight, and robustness of the body to a high degree: 

 

Magnesium-aluminum body of Canon EOS 5D Mark III, with some plastic elements*

 

It is obvious that the goal is to place the 5D Mark III close to the top model from the same company, the EOS 1D x. This is why the design is uncompromised and aside from the basic sturdiness and significantly improved sealing which is put to a much higher level and guarantees the possibility of longer exposure of the camera to adverse weather conditions. It is important to note that there is a difference between adverse weather resistance and dipping the camera in liquid (read: water), so you still need to acquire proprietary equipment for underwater photography. The following image shows schematic representation of sealing points on the new body:

 

Schematic representation of sealing points of the 5D Mark III*

(sealing points are marked red, and the green represents additionally strengthened joints with reduced gaps)

 

The new camera has a 150,000-cycle shutter life expectancy, which fits into an average score of the class, and it keeps a discerning gap in relation to the EOS 1D x, with its 400,000-cycle shutter life expectancy.

Like all other Canon DSLRs with a 35mm sensor (so called full frame; hereinafter – FF), Canon EOS 5D Mark III supports all EF lenses made to this day, with all functions they harness. The EF-S lenses, dedicated to APS-C bodies, are not supported and it is physically impossible to use them. Metal thread, 1/4“ in diameter, designated for a tripod, is on the usual place, along the axis of the lens and the brunt of the camera.

 

SENSOR, PROCESSOR, AND FEW MORE THINGS

 

The new sensor (malicious people say “recycled”) has only 1 MP higher resolution than its predecessor. It hasn’t been used in any other camera till now, and Canon claims it is completely new and more advanced than before, if we disregard the EOS-1D x. As the 5D Mark II was the most popular camera in stock photography, we can conclude that the “new/old” sensor is rightfully criticized, though its reputation is not bad, it gives an impression that all cards are played on ISO performance, which wasn’t a primary point of interest for buyers of the 5D model, regardless of the generation. Thus we understand the general resignation of potential buyers. At least of the loudest ones.

We have already concluded couple of times before, and now we will repeat the fear that Canon has been in a rut for quite some time, the rut in which the main rival, and current technological leader – Nikon, has been years before. The same sensor is not at all improved in the class of APS-C bodies, and only slightly in the 35mm category. Is this a wise business decision, we are not called to judge, but a good question is whether the reason for this represents the technological problems or a simple lack of "on the spot info". Essentially, it is easy to understand that, if sales are going well, Canon really has no reason to dive into extremely expensive design of a completely new technology, a line that would go with it, and increase of capacities in order to render such a line competitive. But, let us go back to the topic…

This is a sensor from Canon’s factory, made in CMOS technology, with 22.1 megapixel resolution (5760 x 3840 pixels, to be precise) and a standard 3:2 aspect ratio. As this is a sensor from the 35mm family (dimensions are 36 x 24mm) crop factor does not exist (more precisely – it is 1x), so the equivalent values of focal lengths of the lenses are precisely as stated on them. This means that the field of view is just as it was planned to be during the design of the lens.

 

Completely new 22.1 MP Canon CMOS sensor* 

 

ISO range featured by the 5D Mark III hasn’t been seen much… This gives the new camera a level of exclusiveness, and it suggests extraordinary performance in the low-light segment. Basic ISO range goes from ISO 100 up to 25600, while the software extended values enable ISO 50 (L) as a lower value, and two values above the basic range – ISO 51200 (H1) and 102400 (H2). As the ISO range is drastically extended in comparison to the previously common values, it will be interesting to see the limits of the new sensor.

Electronic segment of the camera is taken from a higher-class model, the EOS 5D Mark III and is labeled Digic 5+. Its performance must keep up with the greater appetite of the new camera, and we have no doubts it will succeed.  It supports all current functions, including video recording with two basic types of compression, live-view, but also HDR, basic processing and in-camera RAW conversion, algorithms for in-camera corrections of geometric and chromatic aberrations, etc.

 

Canon Digic 5+ processor*

 

Reduction of dust from the sensor is entrusted to the verified technology Canon calls "EOS Cleaning System". The system includes a vibrating piezoelectric element, thus shaking off the dust from the low-pass filter, and it is placed in the chamber with the sensor, protected by a special antistatic coating, and grounded to the chassis of the camera, which reduces accumulation of static electricity, created by the charge of the sensor and friction of the mechanism of the shutter and the mirror. Unless customized otherwise, cleaning is activated every time you turn the camera on/off. Additionally, you can also activate it while you use the camera. The efficiency of the self-cleaning system is proven through years of presence in cameras of all classes, and a possible inability to remove certain particles can be compensated by using the software “cleaning” (Dust Delete Data) which can, combined with the dedicated software, help in removing the remaining dust, by mapping them on RAW shots.

 

Proven efficient – the EOS Cleaning System*

 

Canon 5D Mark III takes pride in a well-known, iFCL 63-zone dual-layer metering system that, according to Canon, except incident light, meters the color specter and at the same time analyzes information received from each of 11 AF points and gives brunt to the object in focus, independently from the selected AF focus operation, implied by the acronym iFCL (intelligent Focus, Colour and Luminance). 63 zones allow a more precise metering, acquiring the average luminance from significantly smaller individual areas, and due to the fact that digital sensors are especially sensitive to red hues, additional balance is reached by dual-layer metering, each layer being sensitive to different wave lengths of light. One layer is particularly focused on red-green specter, and the other one is focused on the blue-green. In this way, wrong metering is maximally avoided in situations when red hues prevail, which is a commonly known fallacy of digital sensors. There are four metering modes: Evaluative, uses all AF points and provides light received by sampling the entire scene; partial, that measures 6.2% of the central zone of the frame; Center-weighted average, that measures the average with accent on the central zone; and spot, that measures only 1.5% of the area in the center. Metering is, according to specifications, functional in range from 0 to 20EV.

 

iFCL, 63-zone light metering sensor* and schematic representation of metering zones

 

Evenly leveled camera is key to many, even with the possibility to fix the tilted photo in processing, and that will be perfectly done by the Dual-Axis Electronic Level, Canon’s version of this useful function, with which the camera assists the photographer. Canon EOS 5D Mark III took over its performance completely from the 7D model. Dual-axis in the name implies that it boasts a double accelerometer, and the level is active for both horizontal axis and vertical angle of the lens in relation to the horizon. Function of electronic “level” is also active in vertical orientation, and review is available everywhere – in the viewfinder (as a separate scale projected in the frame itself, in the bottom right corner of the field), on the main display, and control panel. Accuracy of level metering of the camera is done in step of 1° for both axes, and responsiveness is very precise. Here is an illustration of the electronic leveling in action:

 

Electronic Level system in action – inside the viewfinder (left) and on the main display (right)

 

AUTO-FOCUS

 

We are not often able to talk much about a Canon autofocus system. The last time we had that opportunity with the 7D model, and the EOS Mark III is now alongside. Another curiosity is the fact that the new 5D is the first Canon outside the top category to offer the most advanced AF, not only compared to models from the same manufacturer, but in general.

The new AF is based on a phase TTL sensor with a total of 61 AF point, 41 of which are cross-type. In practice, this means a significantly higher accuracy, so the number of cross-type points is often connected with the overall reliability of the camera. The AF sensor operates in the range of -2 to +18EV, which might not be record breaking range, but it is exceptional and in practice means functionality even in extremely low light conditions.

 

AF sensor with 61 points 41 of which are cross-type*

 

Layout of points in the viewfinder covers the majority of the frame, and their functionality to a great extent depends on the used lens and a maximum aperture. Besides, selection of AF points can be limited with Selectable AF Point option, and the available options are all 61 points, then 41 (only cross-type), 15 and 9 AF points. The following photo shows the layout of the AF points, their arrangement in case when selection is limited, and the apertures on which they operate.

 

 

Canon 5D Mark III offers three (for Canon) standard focus operations. One-Shot is a focus operation that performs focusing at a one time basis, without additional corrections; AI-Servo is a focus operation of continuous focusing, which follows the pre-selected target, as long as it is covered by the assigned AF point; AI-Focus is a combination of the previous two focus operations and it initially confirms the focus similarly to the One-Shot focus operation, and then automatically switches to continuous focus operation if the sensor registers a change of distance of the selected subject.

Selection of AF points is performed in six different modes, set for various working conditions – from static, to very dynamic, and there are even those designed for absolute beginners, regardless of the fact that this model is obviously not for them. Each focus point selection (except Single-point AF) can be deactivated when needed, so it doesn’t hinder you:

 

Option to deactivate certain AF modes

 

61-point Automatic selection – completely automatic selection of one or more points from the group of 61, is the previously mentioned "beginner” focus point selection, which do not require too much user's involvement, but make the selection automatically, based on the priority determined by the AF sensor, light meter and CPU. The point is selected without user’s influence, based on a number of parameters, the most important of which is the distance of the closest subject in the frame.

 

 

Distance is a key element in this focus point selection, so the focus priority in 99% will be the closest subject in frame, even if the photographer thinks that something else would be a better choice. As there is no good reason (unless you are a masochist) to force you (or to consciously want) to use this way of point selection and let the camera do the thinking, we recommend you to look for a solution in one of the classic ways to select AF points, that we will now describe. Singe-point AF will most probably be the most often used option, and it is a classic way that involves manual selection of any of the 61 AF points, as long as the lens supports them:

 

 

Selection is performed manually, and the selected AF point remains active until the user decides to change it. This focus point selection is the most often used on all DSLR cameras, and it is simple to use and more than reliable in practice. A very similar variant of this way of focusing is Single-Point Spot AF, a focus point selection intended to “hunt” for very small objects in the scene – all those objects that are small enough to disable you to spot them with a classic, large AF point. Single-point Spot AF in the viewfinder is marked with a small point inside a bigger one and at the same time represents an excellent visual illustration of the accuracy needed while tracking, in order to keep the desired object in focus:

 

 

In some cases you will have to focus a uniform area with low contrast, and a more advanced focus point selection such as AF point selection is recommended for those situations. It still prefers a primary point, but with four adjacent points that assist the selected one, by acquiring information on the distance when the primary is not able to do it, whether due to lowered contrast or any other nuisance:

 

 

For even more complex situations you can use AF Point Expansion with surrounding points, a focus point selection with a primary point, but with 8 points assisting it in adverse conditions:

 

 

 

The last but not least is Zone AF which divides the frame into nine zones with 12 AF points. As opposed to previous focus point selections (except Auto selection), zone focusing doesn’t use only one point, but treats all of them equally, which is why it is convenient for subjects with unpredictable trajectory, but provided there are no obstacles between them and the camera, due to the fact that the priority is automatically assigned to the subjects in the zone. Besides, currently active is also not selected directly, but the AF will dynamically track the subject, changing the AF point as long as the subject is inside the selected zone.

 

 

Aside from such a wide range of AF points selection, sophistication of the autofocus can be sensed through the wide specter of available accompanying options that improve control and cover more/less every possible scenario. One of them is the AF Configuration Tool, and option for more accurate defining the behavior of the AI Servo focus operation. The option covers 6 different predefined situations, which will adjust the AF parameters with one move. Canon described each of the scenarios, in order to enable beginners, but also the more advanced users to select the most appropriate one without problems. Each scenario is defined with three parameters (sliders), which set Tracking sensitivity, Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking (reaction to sudden changes of speed of the subject) and AF point auto switching (speed of the automatic change of the AF point). They are sorted by requirements, from the simplest to the most complex working conditions: Scenario 1 is universal, used for the widest range of action scenes that include moving subjects. Scenario 2 tracks relatively slow subjects and ignores possible sudden obstacles in the frame, in order to keep the focus on the desired spot. According to Canon, such are the cases with tennis players, swimmers, etc. Scenario 3 is completely opposite to the previous one and it is set to react in maximum speed to any object that "flies into" the defined focus field. Canon designed this scenario for bike races, skiing, etc. Scenario 4 is used for more dynamic sports, like basketball, football or moto races, where subjects are relatively easy to spot, but they often change trajectory. Scenario 5 is intended for all situations that include tracking a subject whose direction and speed change often. The last, sixth scenario is intended for situations when even the most experienced photographers can’t predict the trajectory of the subject which suddenly speeds up, slows down, changes trajectory or all this in one moment. Six predefined scenarios are designed to cover the majority of photographer’s needs but, if needed, each of them can be customized to one's preferences, by moving the aforementioned three sliders.

 

Display of predefined scenarios for a more accurate control of continuous focus

 

As other current high-end Canon DSLRs, the 5D Mark III features the possibility of independent selection of different AF points, depending on the orientation of the camera. This means that the camera can remember one selected point in horizontal orientation, and a completely different one in vertical, with the possibility to turn on the option for skipping from the far left point to a far right point with one move (or from top to bottom), as the selection “circles around”. The AF-assist lamp does not exist, and as Canon 5D Mark III also doesn’t have a built-in flash, the only modality of additionally illuminating a scene, for a more precise focus, is to use an external flash and its IR lamp.

AF-Microadjustment, an option for calibrating the focus, is already usual on these cameras, and the 5D Mark III features it in somewhat different shape than the one we saw on the 5D Mark II. The number of lenses that allow creating corrections is now doubled, and it amounts to 40, and setting is available in ±20 steps. The difference in relation to the previous solutions is that the calibration can be done for minimum and maximum focal lengths separately, in case you are using a zoom lens. Corrections in mid-range are in such a way done by approximation in relation to the predefined values at the ends of the range, which brings the accuracy to a completely new level and enables even greater number of successfully calibrated lenses in out-service conditions! Amazing!

Detailed perception of options, possibilities and functioning of such a sophisticated AF system, is key to the proper use and functioning in accordance with the needs. Up-to-date experiences show that the most frequent cause of problems with autofocus is not equipment, but the photographer who was reluctant to read the user manual.

 

VIEWFINDER

 

Bright and large optical viewfinder, in the shape of a pentaprism which covers 100% of the frame, with 0.71x magnification, visually very similar to what we could see n the EOS 5D Mark II, but with the functionality of a much more expensive model – the EOS-1D x. Focusing screen is not interchangeable, but equipped with a transparent LCD display that makes dynamic projections of the AF point to the visor and the grid pattern, and the markers of electronic level. Selection of AF points is intuitive and clearly visible in the viewfinder, and you can change the active AF point without the need to take your eyes from the viewfinder – for a camera designed for action photography, this is a priceless.

The focus points are shaped as large and clearly seen squares, and they flash bright red when confirming the focus, so that the focusing in bright light won't be much of a problem. The viewfinder permanently shows the central zone of light metering, and warnings will be displayed dynamically. The greatest distance from the eyepiece that allows you to see the whole frame is 21mm, which is particularly convenient for people with glasses.  There is also a diopter adjustment wheel, with a range from -3.0 to +1.0. Here is a representation of a look through the viewfinder of the new camera, including the AF points and parameters:

 

A look through the optical viewfinder of the EOS 5D Mark III

 

Below the projection of the frame, there are several symbols, numbers and indictors, which secure almost all important information, so that the photographer doesn't have to take his sight from the viewfinder too often. The image above, from left to right, presents: battery status, exposure lock indicator (AE-Lock); flash activity indicator; flash power lock in E-TTL mode indicator (FE-Lock); “highspeed” flash mode indicator; flash compensation indicator; current exposure; aperture; light meter scale of ±3EV whose marker also signifies that red-eye effect reduction and optical stabilization are activated; on the right hand side of the light meter scale is the Highlight-Tone-Priority indicator; current ISO value and the number of available shots in sequence. All the way to the right is focus confirmation indicator. Information will simultaneously change with the change of focus operation or at certain settings, so that the set of information is even greater than the illustration shows.

 

CONTROLS AND OTHER DETAILS

 

We have already concluded that the new body presents a kind of synergy of button layout and overall design of the 5D Mark II and the 7D and, except for some minor details, practically all solutions are taken over from these two models.

 

 

Looking from the front, conspicuously dominant position takes the EF lens mount, marked with a red marker, which signifies the position of leveling with the EF (full-frame) lenses. APS-C lenses (marked with the EF-S prefix) are not supported because of physical limitations they have. Next to the mount is a big button for unlocking the lens, and above it, is the prism housing. Just below the name tag of the camera is a built-in mono microphone. DOF-Preview key is, as on all recent higher-class Canon DSLRs, located on the left hand side (front view) of the lens mount, and its function can also be changed, depending on the needs. Except the IR sensor on the handgrip, used for remote releasing by compatible remote controllers, the space between the handgrip and the lens mount is occupied by a lamp for reduction of the red-eye effect and signalizing delayed release.

The top view again presents a classic design. Mode dial is placed on the left hand side of the prism and flash hot shoe. It contains a mechanical lever for turning the camera on and a central button that must be pressed in order to turn the dial whose purpose is to prevent accidental change of focus point selection. The dial itself has nine positions, three of which are Custom Settings programmable modes that user can customize according to his own needs, and the remaining six are the usual ones – Full Auto should meet the demands of amateurs, although it is completely obvious that this camera is not for them, and there are the four creative modes: Manual (M), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter priority (Tv) and Programmed Auto. Bulb (B), the mode for exposure longer than 30 seconds, has a separate position on the dial, which might be important for remote control owners. 

 

 

The area on the right hand side of the flash and the prism is loaded with buttons around the large control panel. Protruded on the top of the handgrip, lies the two-stage shutter release button. It is set to shoot at the second stage, while the first can be set to perform only metering, only focusing, or a combination of the two, which is default. Its purpose is to control basic shooting parameters, and it changes depending on the selected focus operation or currently active function on the camera. Between the mode dial and the shutter release button is the M.Fn button, taken over from the 7D and EOS-1 series, whose function can be customized, and the initial function is to change focus mode and activate electronic leveling.

In front of the control panel there are three separate buttons whose effect is different in relation to the used continuous dial. From left to right, the first button controls metering mode and the white balance, the other one controls AF mode and release mode, and the third one is used for ISO values and flash power compensation. All the way to the right is a somewhat smaller button for turning on the backlight of the control panel. 

Let us mention that shutter release mode has an extended list of items, and except the single shooting, burst mode, and the delayed shooting (from 2 to 10 seconds), you can choose the Silent Single Shooting, which is one of the quietest we have ever heard, as well as Silent Continuous Shooting, which is a silenced version of burst mode at the speed of 3fs. Except setting sensitivity of the sensor, ISO button gives direct access to AutoISO function, which automatically determines ISO value, depending on the working conditions and settings. In practice, if it is important to maintain only the shooting speed in order to avoid “shuddering” of photos, AutoISO will do an excellent job and keep with the unwritten rule that implies a focal length of 1/focal length. Unfortunately, setting that should work in situations when you need to define the lowest speed, is not well designed, and the 5D Mark III offers a maximum of only 1/250, which is actually insufficient for any serious action. To make things worse, the upper and lower limit of available ISO values in AutoISO mode can't be set outside the range ISO100 – 25600. Canon should definitely work on this.

 

 

Control panel offers a great number of information and rarely forces the user to reach for the system menu. Except for the mentioned set of parameters, such as exposure, aperture and ISO values, the following are also available: The white balance: ±3EV light meter scale; WB bracketing indicator; GPS status; Auto Lighting Optimizer; Highlight Tone Priority indicator, Mirror Lockup indicator; monochrome style indicator; Multi-exposure and HDR indicator; AF mode; shooting quality; release mode; bracketing function; light metering mode; battery status; active memory card; but also some other parameters that dynamically appear while working.

 

 

Back side is almost identical to the 7D, except for some buttons whose positions are changed. The prominent position, as usual, takes the 3.2 inch monitor and the viewfinder with visibly more rubber in relation to its predecessor. On the left hand side there are two buttons – Menu, which opens system menu, and Info, used for previewing the parameters, display of the electronic level on the main display or Quick Control Screen (controlling parameters through the main display). It is also used for turning off the display, if needed. There are five buttons on the left hand side, and only the top one is separated. In photo mode, it presents the color style menu, turns on the HDR or multiple exposure, and in preview mode can serve for comparison of two photographs or for direct printing of images on compatible printers. Rate button is slightly unusual, and it is used for rating individual images. Although there MIGHT be a replacement for these functions if we would preview the images on a large display in real time, we reckon its usability is quite questionable, considering the fact that not even the finest displays (to which group this display belongs) can present all faults of an image compared to some other. Luckily, the button can be mapped for something more useful (Lock – to protect the photographs from accidental deletion), and on the other side, they could make an effort to expand the number of functions, because we are sure that many would find it more useful than the Lock button.

The third button – Magnify, took over the part of the shared button in the upper part of the camera that used to magnify the image or projection in preview and live view mode, and now the same effect is created by cyclical pressing the new button. The same button can be set to automatically magnify the taken photos to a certain level in preview mode, including the 100% view. Very convenient! The fourth button is used to change to preview mode, and the last one, fifth, for deleting the shots with previous confirmation.

 

 

Buttons on the right hand side are positioned somewhat wider. Next to the viewfinder is the diopter dial, and not far from it is the rotary switch for changing from photo to video mode, in the middle of which is the Start/Stop button. In photo mode, it serves to activate/deactivate live view mode, and in video mode it starts and stops the recording process. All the way to the right are three buttons: the AF-ON button is initially used for focusing, and the function can be changed, and right next to it is the AE-Lock/FE-Lock button for locking the exposure or flash power. All the way to the right, in the corner, is the button for selecting the AF mode.

Close to the display is a well-known 8-directional joystick, used for navigating through the menu, taken photos, i.e. for direct selection of the active AF point in photo mode. A bit below is the Q button, for activating the Quick Control Screen, a function that presents the information from the control panel to the main display and it can be used to swipe through other options in the menu. The back control dial is multifunctional, and it is primarily used for controlling the basic parameters. Set, a button in the middle of the rear control dial, is mostly used to confirm the selection, regardless of the current focus point selection, and below it is the Lock switch, which locks the functions from the front and the rear control dial, but also those from the joystick, and thus prevents accidental change of the key parameters. Right from the Lock switch is an LE diode that signals that memory card is busy.  The rear control dial has a completely new function for the first time. In video mode, during recording (if the Touch-pad option is turned on), you can change the basic parameters (ISO, aperture and exposure) by simply touching the edges of the dial. By pressing up/down you select the current parameters, and pressing left/right you change them. This result in completely noiseless control of the basic parameters, as the shots wouldn’t capture the unwanted noise. Of course, if you can think of a reason to change them while recording.

 

MEMORY

 

Memory card slot is located on the right hand side of the camera, protected by a plastic cover, strengthened with a spring and covered with a layer of embossed rubber, identical to the one on the rest of the body. It is admirably sturdy and precisely built, so that there are no gaps between it and the body of the camera. The compartment is coated with a sealing material, which provides more safety in adverse weather conditions. Below the cover are two memory slots. The primary slot is Compact Flash (CF) and it is compatible with Type I version of cards, and with all current speed indexes and standards of transmission, including the UDMA. The other slot supports cheap and in size smaller Secure Digital (SD) cards, from the basic standard, and to all revisions such as SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-I, and it supports also the Eye-Fi technology of wireless transfer of shots, if a corresponding device is used, As the slots are equal in status, any of them can be used equally, or in combination with the other slot, whether it is a sequential storing of data or creating backup with writing the data on both cards. Likewise, it is possible to divide the written data according to the format, and save only RAW on the first, and JPEG on the other card.

 

Secure Digital and Compact Flash memory card slots

 

Speed demand of the new camera is slightly higher, as the memory controller should keep up with 6 frames per second, which is some 120 MP. For comfortable work you need to provide a card of at least 133x for CF, i.e. class 10 of SD cards. In video recording, for recording in IPB compression you need to provide a CF card of at least 66x speed index, and class 6 SD card, i.e. at least 133x CF and SD class 10 if you record in higher and better ALL-I compression. It is desirable to choose one of the UDMA (CF) or UHS-I (SD) cards that have enough reserves of speed, in case the flow rate becomes critical. Average memory requirement is similar to the one we saw on Canon's sensors of 20-22 M, so Canon 5D Mark III will pack about 330 RAW files on an 8 GB memory card, 1900 JPEG or nearly 300 RAW+JPEG files, of course – of the highest quality. With the growth of noise, the files require more space, so you can expect up to 30% bigger files in bad weather conditions. Video is, of course, more demanding, and an 8 GB card will be enough for 20-27 minutes of video recording in maximum quality –  1080p @30fps (fullHD, 1920x1080), including sound.

 

BATTERY

 

It premiered back in 2008, together with Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the LP-E6 smart battery is still current. Commendable! The internal chip, boasted by the battery, is responsible for “smart” capabilities that enable the communication of the battery with the body. This allows a detailed monitoring of the battery status, as well as its lifespan. Based on this information you can precisely predict the period of discharging and time for replacement, when the battery drastically loses its capacity. Information about the batteries is kept in camera’s internal data base, after registering each under a unique code.

 

LP-E6E charger with LP-E6 Li-Ion “smart” battery

 

Capacity of the battery is 1800 mAh, and after charging which takes around two and a half hours, the battery will provide energy enough for around 950 shots, if we are to believe the specifications provided by CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) tests. In practice, when live-view is reduced to a minimum, and you don’t preview the photographs, you can expect up to 1100 shots with one charge, and that number is drastically lower is you use combined RAW+JPEG recording. Intensive use of LV mode drastically weakens the autonomy, and according to specifications you may expect between 180 and 200 shots until the battery goes flat. Video recording is more demanding, not only because it requires the use of the monitor (because it is recorded in live-view mode), but also due to the fact that the recording process itself is not continuous, but implies permanently active live-view, even when you are not recording. This is why Canon gives a more realistic estimate that the battery will withstand around two hours, and the average in our tests was between 90 and 100 minutes of effective recording, which is acceptable, especially with the size of the sensor and the monitor that need separate power supply.

 

CONNECTORS

 

The connectors are located on the left side of the body, below the two-part rubber cover. There are six of them. On the left hand side there are 3.5mm microphone and stereo in jack, pc-sync connector for studio lighting and N3 connector for remote controls, and on the right there are a 3.5mm headphones stereo out jack, mini-USB and mini-HDMI port. Mini-USB is multifunctional. It is used for transferring files to a computer without a card reader, as an interface for controlling the camera from a computer via a dedicated EOS Utility application or as an A/V interface for sending signals from the camera to an external display, be it a monitor, a TV, or something else. These devices can be used for previewing the files in the camera or as a bigger monitor for live-view mode, with all positive and negative sides of the originals, except the image is much larger and in higher resolution. There is no need to emphasize that this type of work can be useful in controlled studio shooting. Mini-HDMI terminal has the same purpose, too, only its image is in digital form, which guarantees higher quality, but, also some characteristics like HDMI-CEC compatibility, which enables you to control the camera in preview mode, via a remote control of some TV sets.

 

Connectors: 3.5mm stereo microphone in, pc-sync and N3 for remote control (left) and

3.5mm stereo in, a combined USV-A/V and miniHDMI (right)

 

DISPLAY

 

Displays are traditionally a strong argument in favor of Canon DSLRs, starting from quality of the preview, resolution and viewing angle, and up to the aspect ratio provided by the format of the sensor. Canon 5D Mark III features a 3.2” display (8.1 cm), resolution is 1.040.000 pixels and 3:2 aspect ratio, because of which the preview is 100%, whether it is in live-view mode, or preview of photographs. Contrast and illumination are high enough so that the display is usable even in bright sunlight, and colors are as true as possible. In practice, we might say that the 5D display can be trusted. In terms of both exposure and colors. No matter how high the resolution is, a small display can't compensate the preview of photos on a desktop monitor, but it can help with determining focus, white balance or exposure. The EOS Mark III display will be more than helpful in these situations.  

Canon 5D Mark III features an ambience lightning sensor, and in situations that imply often change of surroundings, the new sensor will provide adequate illumination without the need for the user to intervene. If you still happen to have to adjust illumination manually, you can do it in 7 steps. 

 

 

Regardless of the main display, the Quick Control Screen function and the main display can be used as a kind of control screen, providing a wider specter of information. Quick Control Screen is activated by pressing the “Q” button, located right next to the back control dial. Aside from the layout, you can change the parameters interactively, by repeated pressing the same button, after which you navigate and choose them via cursors and SET button, as well as change the individual parameters.

 

Display of the basic parameters in the Quick Control Screen

 

The number of parameters that can be accessed in this way varies depending on the currently active focus operation, and the most of them are available in manual mode (M). Aside from the basic ones – exposure, aperture and ISO values, there is also the ±3 EV light meter scale; flash power compensation; AE-Lock/FE-Lock indicator; Highlight tone priority indicator; Auto Lighting Optimizer option; shutter release mode; picture style; focus mode selection; light metering mode; shooting quality; active memory card and format selection; WB Shift/Bracketing and a shortcut for reassigning functions to the buttons of the camera. 

As using the main display instead of the LCD panel requires more power, it is advisable to use it only when then there is a valid reason for it. Otherwise, the battery will drain faster than in regular conditions.

 

LIVE VIEW

 

Since video recording became an essential part of almost every modern DSLR, live-view mode (hereinafter, LV) is common, and few people give it too much credit. Not because it is unusable (as it used to be) but simply – because it is a default item. For uninformed, it is a mode that eliminates the need to use optical viewfinder, and it transforms the main display into a main means of communication between the photographer and the camera. Projection yielded in such way, is identical to the resulting image. In other words, live-view on DSLRs is only one of the iterations of a system familiar from compact cameras, with all advantages and disadvantages that a DSLR brings.

Display simulation, as its main advantage, is improved to the level where there is no room for remarks. Everything is simulated, from scene illumination, white balance, aperture, and some parameters are permanently present, such as influence of the ISO values, color styles, and generally, all parameters that affect the result. The advantages offered by this mode are especially appreciated in studio conditions, because you can use your laptop for remote shutter release, when its large display serves as a gigantic version of the LV display.

Shutter release mode, along with the already standard ones, offers two modes of silent release. As the mirror in LV mode is already in the upper position, shutter release is spared of the sound of mirror folding, and only the curtain performs mechanical movement, and the sound is maximally silenced and close to the operation in "mirror lockup" mode. It is convenient in situations when you need a minimal level of vibrations or simply don’t want to bother or draw any attention.

The main drawback of this mode is still the autofocus, though only when you take Canon and Nikon in consideration. We are witnessing that some manufacturers, Olympus being the first, have been successfully working on improving contrast focusing, regarding both speed and accuracy. As the live-view doesn’t rely on the system, phase autofocus system, the technique of sharpening is reduced to contrast detection method (Contrast Detection Auto Focus; hereinafter CDAF), which performs its function by moving the focus plane until it reaches the sharpest transitions between neighboring contrast areas, without metering the distance of the selected object. This type of focusing stands for a very precise one and its main defect is tardiness, due to the need of the algorithm to “move” the focus plane all the way through focus range, in order to perform sharpening. The speed of the CDAF focusing system because of that is far from something DSLR cameras can take pride in. The problem lies in the shallow depth of field, which is why the algorithm has more difficulty bringing the focus plane to the wanted distance. This is the reason why continuous focus is almost a mystery in the CDAF of the DSLR world, and the first baby steps belong to Nikon that ventures to implement continuous contrast focus in its D3100 and D7000 cameras. Except for the default focus points selection, which places the focus plane on a previously determined focus field, there is also the „face detection“, the algorithm with which the camera can recognize up to 35 faces in the frame and focus them automatically. Let us repeat again: Astonishment over that option on DSLR cameras will hardly ever stop, but it can be categorized as “keeping up with the market trends”.

Luckily, phase autofocus is still available and all defects of contrast focus can be eliminated by simply activating the classic AF, be it through the appropriate option in the menu, or simultaneously, while shooting. When the phase focus is used in combination with the LV mode, the procedure of focusing works similarly to classic shooting, with a difference that, by pressing the shutter button half-way, the mirror descends for a moment, the focus is brought to the desired position, and then the mirror goes back to its original position, and the LV mode returns to the main display. Although relatively noisy, this system offers significantly quicker focusing, but also brings a number of errors, because it is necessary to keep the selected point on the subject all the time during focusing. 

When performance is not essential, the highest accuracy (in absolute terms) can be achieved by manual focus, which receives a completely new dimension in the LV mode – it is possible to magnify the image 5 and 10x, and move the focal plane for tens of millimeters. If the image is static, what more could you wish for:

 

Magnification in LV Mode

 

LV can also display standard parameters in photo and video modes, and you can turn them off if you want:

 

Parameters in LV Mode

 

Other tools are also available, such as grid pattern for easier framing. It is available in variants of standard 3x3, 6x4, but also a new 3x3 field with diagonal lines. There is the electronic level, which can also be seen in the LV mode:

 

Grid pattern and display of electronic level in LV mode

 

Unfortunately, even with the sensor and orientation of the camera, display of parameters on display still doesn't follow the rotation of the camera into a vertical position, though not inexcusable, still casts a shadow to the overall impression. Selection of photo format is almost standard in Canon's version of LV, and by cropping from selected 3:2 aspect ratio you can get 16:9, 4:3, and 1:1. The option is intended for JPEG format, but the information on the selected subject is also stored as RAW, and the corresponding format will be retained in post-processing, if there is a need for that, and if the accompanying software (Canon Digital Photo Professional) is used.

 

VIDEO

 

Canon 5D Mark III brings some innovations in terms of video recording, though we can’t call them revolutionary. The basic characteristics are (in theory) more or less the same – aspect ratio of the video is 16:9 and it is available in two popular HD resolutions and one classic VGA.  FullHD at 1920x1080 (i.e. 1080p) can be recorded at 24/25 frame rate for PAL, or 30fps for NTSC standard, and the lower HD resolution at 1280x720 (720p) at 50fps for PAL, and 60fps for NTSC standard. 4:3 VGA (640x480) resolution can be recorded only at 25 or 30fps. 

The recording is encoded realtime in MPEG-2 (H.264) format and together with the uncompressed PCM sound at 16-bit and 44KHz, stored in a MOV container. The difference in relation to previous Canon models is in the way of compressing video files. EOS 5D Mark III is the first to present the option to choose between the IPB and ALL-I methods of compression. The IPB requires less space, because it performs stronger compression of several frames simultaneously. In this way it prolongs the maximum duration of an individual recording, at the expense of quality. If the ALL-I method of compression is used, compression is performed frame by frame, rendering a larger file, but also a higher quality, thus making processing easier. Unlike the two HD resolutions, VGA is available only in IPB method of compression.

As on other cameras, video is, regardless of the selected quality, limited to a maximum of 4GB each, due to the limit imposed by the FAT32 file system, used on memory controllers of today’s cameras. If this limit is reached during recording, the camera will stop recording, automatically creating a new file in sequence. Logically set limit is still the same, and that means 30 minutes of continuous recording. We would say – more than enough for a continuous recording. For the sake of information, reasons for this can be found in the regulations of EU, whose regulatory body considers devices that can record videos more than 30 minutes are video equipment, to which different customs rates are applied. Hence the limitation mentioned above. 

 

 

Recording control is flexible and available in full auto or manual focus operation, with shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/8000. For less informed – the faster the shutter the visually smoother the video, and the most alike the one rendered by a TV camera. As opposed to this, a slower shutter (closer to the selected frame rate) yields blurred frames, which results in “softer” projection, closer to film shooting technique. Aperture can be set to any value limited by the lens, but it is not recommended to change it during recording, because of leaping shifts, characteristic for diaphragms of camera lenses. ISO value in video mode is limited to the basic range, which is logical, because additional illumination of each frame for a certain number of degrees would be almost impossible without a maximum involvement of processor, and the camera's battery. AutoISO mode is also available, but with a limitation that imposes the maximum value of ISO 12800. 

Classic, phase focusing is available only when taking photographs, and you are “sentenced” to use the CDAF when recording video. Pretty sloppy performance of this way of sharpening (though it is better with the use of newer STM lenses, such as EF 40mm f/2.8 STM), will easily convince you that it is advisable to listen to the manufacturer and finish focusing prior to recording. Unless you decide to leave everything to chance, and perform sharpening manually, which is often seen with video of this class.

Audio is recorded at 44 KHz with 16-bit depth, and it is written uncompressed in PCM format. Without additional equipment, sound recording can be turned off or left to the built-in microphone, whose output signal can be controlled manually or automatically. There is also the option for filtering the noise produced by the wind, and it is intended exclusively for the built-in microphone. It is too sensitive in most situations, which is understandable due to its position inside the body. As unwanted sounds from the body cannot be eliminated, it is advised to obtain an appropriate external microphone for any serious recording, and the support is provided by the 3.5mm stereo in terminal. Condenser microphones that require additional power from the connectors are not supported, so you need to obtain the corresponding external equipment for them. A novelty is a 3.5 mm stereo output intended for headphones for monitoring the recorded audio in realtime.

The rest of the possible settings include all predefined and subsequently defined color styles, white balance, vignette reduction for the lens in the internal base, and the Auto Lightning Optimizer and Highlight Priority options. Noise reduction in not supported during recording because it is too demanding for the processor, and you need to rely on postprocessing.

In preview mode, you can perform some basic operations on video files, such as basic trimming of the recorded video and recording it under a different name on the memory card, and keep the original intact. A nice possibility for instant processing without getting into too many details, that will be welcomed by beginners and all those in need of instant results without turning on the dedicated software.

 

FLASH

 

EOS 5D Mark III, as expected, doesn’t feature a built-in (pop-up) flash. For this reason, prospective buyers of the camera will be forced to buy an appropriate flash if they need additional lighting. All E-TTL/E-TTL II compatible flash models are supported. AF-assist on an external flash is performed by an IR lamp, whose help is exceptional in situations with very little light.

 

 

Maximum speed of flash synchronization is still limited to a relatively meager 1/200. In aperture priority mode aperture can be set to 1/60, 1/200 or automatically determined. It is possible to release at first (at the beginning of exposure) or second curtain (at the end of exposure, but only for speeds from 1/25 and slower), and the so called high-speed sync is also supported, when the flash can be used synchronized with any speed, but with a reduced flash power.

Flash exposure bracketing (FEB), multiple shooting with predefined set of flash intensities, can be set for three shots in sequence, and there is also support for Multi flash, burst shooting with the selected intensity, at a certain frequency. Flash power compensation can be set in the range of ±3 EV, in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 stops, and if it is set on the flash itself, it has a priority over the in-camera settings.

Canon 5D Mark III has a system support for the new generation of Canon flashes and remote controllers, so it will cooperate with recently presented Speedlite 600EX-RT flash and ST-E3 RT Speedlite Transmitter, which can be used for compensating the lack of wireless flash control. Speaking of which, during the first days after the premiere it wasn’t clear whether the new camera features built-in external flash wireless control, but in the end it was discovered that it doesn’t. Though radio wireless control doesn’t require having a built-in flash, Canon didn’t provide this option, although that would definitely place the new camera to the leading position of middleclass reporter and action photographs. 

All supported E-TTLII flashes and their functions can be controlled directly from the camera, practically without the need to set anything on the flash.

Even with a bunch of separate radio flash controllers available on the market, the 5D Mark III nevertheless features a PC-Sync connector, intended exactly for this purpose.