Entry 170 : Review - Canon EOS 5D Mark III


I finally got my hands on a Canon body to review, and what better way to transition into Canon body reviews than to start it off with a review of arguably the top all-around camera on the market today:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Shot using a Nikon D7100 + 70-200 f2.8G VRII

Not only did I get to review the 5D MkIII, I got to use it in the real world, on location at the beautiful Puteri Harbour, Nusajaya.

It doesn't get better than this

One minor setback, though.
The 5D MkIII is already close to being replaced some time this year.
With rumors of the 5D MkIV coming soon and also with the release of the 5DS and 5DSR, there really isn't much reason for me to write about the MkIII.
Even so, I do have some points that will more or less help you guys out if you're in the market to snatch up any one of the models from the 5D line-up.

Specs & Features

5D Mark III
22.3 MP (approx.. 24x36mm) full-frame CMOS sensor
AF points
61 points (41 cross type)
Digic 5+
Viewfinder coverage
Shutter speed
30 sec. – 1/8000 sec.
Frame rate
6 fps
ISO range
Native: 100-25,600 (expandable to 102,400)
Group area AF
Video recording
Full HD 1080p at 60/50/30/25/24p
3.2” TFT color, liquid-crystal monitor, 1.04m dots
Touch sensitive screen

Overall, the 5D MkIII makes for a very versatile and well-round camera.
A lot of the specs are major improvements from the previous MkII.
However, because this camera has been around for more than three years, a lot of these specs are considered common in most new DSLRs today.
Comparing these specs with cameras like the Nikon D5500 and Nikon D7100, you get more or less the same specs, albeit some differences, especially the sensor size.
Even so, a lot of these specs can be trounced by the new Nikon D750, which has a higher megapixel count (24.3MP), faster burst rate (6.5 fps) and possess a tilting screen and built-in WiFi; all the while costing RM3,8000 less.
You can read my review of the Nikon D750 here.

Design, Operation & Feel
I love the feel and handling of the camera.
A lot of times with the more advanced Canon cameras, the grip feels much better due to how the bodies are wider and slimmer than Nikon bodies.
My fingers can relax while holding the camera whereas for Nikon bodies, it always feels as if I'm making a fist.
Plus, the magnesium alloy frame gave the 5D MkIII security, where you can actually trust yourself to not break the camera if it falls or gets bashed into walls.
The downside to the wider body, though, is I have to stretch a bit to reach the buttons; especially the ones at the top.

Personally, after shooting mostly Nikon bodies, it was extremely tedious to keep checking the top plate every time I wanted to change my drive and ISO.
It took a lot of getting used to, but I guess it comes with owning the camera.
The more you're used to fiddling with the top buttons without looking, then the faster you are at operating the camera.

The menu in Canon cameras is something I have always despised as they keep changing from one model to the next.
The layout and UI are always counter-intuitive, which was most apparent in the 5D MkII.
However, from what I've seen in the 7D MkII and 5D MkIII, it seems like Canon is beginning to understand the need for a more streamlined UI, and I'm hoping that with more reviews that I do of Canon products, this becomes true.
But for now, I was happy with the menu and back screen of the 5D MkIII.
It had everything I wanted to know and was easy to maneuver.

Auto Focus, Tracking & Burst
The focus on the 5D MkIII is snappy, but at f/2.8, it struggles to keep its focus.
A lot of my images were in focus, but it wasn't focused on the subject I had intended.

Canon EOS 5D MkIII + EF 50mm f1.4 USM | f/2.8 | 1/2500 sec. | ISO-100 | 50mm

In the photo above, my focus point was directly on the trees on the hill in the middle of the frame.
But when I reviewed the photo in Lightroom, it was obvious that my focus had shifted onto the boat furthest from me.
This had also occured in some of my other photos that I took while using this camera and lens combo.
I don't know if it's a lens thing, but it was pretty disappointing to see it do something like that.

One thing that I hated about the focusing is that it's difficult to change focus points on the fly.
To change focus, I would have to first press the AF area button on the top right side of the camera before using the D-pad/nipple to change the location of the focus point.
With Nikon bodies, all I have to do is half-press the shutter button, then move the focus point to wherever I want it.

Other than that, the 5D MkIII shoots at 6fps.
From my test, I got 13 frames out of a full burst before the buffer filled up.

Failed panning
Canon EOS 5D MkIII + EF 50mm f1.4 USM | f/4 | 1/40 sec. | ISO-1600 | 50mm

13 or 14 frames a burst is quite alright.
It's useful for when you want to use multiple bursts of maybe 3 to 4 frames.
I would have gotten more frames out of a burst if my CF card was compatible with the 5D MkIII.
I use a SanDisk Extreme CF card but it doesn't work with the 5D MkIII or even the 7D MkII.
It works perfectly fine with the Nikon D4s and PhasOne IQ140, though.
Anyway, the camera was able to lock focus on the moving subject throughout all 13 frames, so that's a really good sign of what it's capable of doing in other situations.

Thank you, random driver, for smiling in the last frame.

Image Quality
22.3MP in the 5D MkIII isn't much of a big step up from 21MP in the 5D MkII. 
But that really isn't the issue with Canon's line-up of cameras.
Before we get into that, here's a look at some samples.

Safety first


Beautiful day at Puteri Harbour

The 5D MkIII blew me away with its color retention and punchy contrast.
Even in RAW, the files already had a lot of color in it.
The best thing about the Canon sensors is that it truly captures people's skin tones perfectly.



I have to admit, I usually have to do some treatment with skin color when shooting with Nikon bodies but the 5D MkIII was a perfect tool to capture the true skin color of my subjects.
Usually, the skin may come off as too greenish or yellowish.
With the 5D MkIII, I spend less time worrying about skin color adjustments.

Futhermore, the 22.3MP sensor captures quite good detail.

Thanks for lending me the 5D MkIII, Jeffri

Jeffri, 100% crop

However, the HUGE setback in Canon sensors (that Canon seems to have no intention of working out) is the dynamic range.
Anything overexposed or underexposed is as good as garbage.
Well, maybe a stop under can still be saved but overexposing only spells death for your photos.
I tested this and the results were horrifying.
Even more horrifying than the diorama grandma.
A lot of other reviewers have done a more intricate analysis of this subject, but the solution is simple: Get your settings right!

High ISO
Natively going from ISO-100 to ISO-25,600 is insane and it works really, too.

Highly flammable
Canon EOS 5D MkIII + EF 50mm f1.4 USM | f/2.5 | 1/8000 sec. | ISO-25,600 | 50mm

The noise in the shadow area is obvious but the overall photo doesn't show signs of deformed lines or color loss.
I shot this in an environment with considerable available light with minimal shadows, so noise and grain is difficult to spot.
However, in a darker environment, you will see much more of them.
Also, pushing the 5D MkIII, or anything for that matter, to the expandable ISO is definitely unwise.

Is This Camera For You?
Unless you're a Canon shooter and have no plans on changing systems, I wouldn't recommend this camera for you.
Not that I'm saying you shouldn't buy it, I'm saying that you have a lot of better options out there.
As I said earlier, this camera's specs is outperformed for the price it holds.
With the same amount of money, you could get a Nikon D750 and a brand new lens.
And this doesn't only apply to those who want to shoot stills, too.
Even with video, the new Nikon bodies are offering a lot of what Canon bodies have to offer.
Mic + headphone jacks, full manual control, ungraded + uncompressed video and even 60p.

I used to really lust after the 5D MkIII, for everything that it was.
It had everything I needed and with the ultra luxurious L glass it may be partnered with, it has always been on my mind.
But now, I guess I can get the same performance and results by not even changing systems.

Moreover, because advancement in DSLR technology has moved so rapidly, the 5D MkIII is ready for a replacement.
The new 5DS and 5DSR are not its natural replacements, with mediocre high ISO capability and a steroid-injected sensor size.
The new 5D MkIV has the potential to beat out all competition if Canon puts the right effort into doing it.

At the end of the day it really depends on what you need in a camera.
Some reasons why I would still want to buy the 5D MkIII would be its 61 AF points, image quality (true skin tones), feel & handling, ruggedness, and the potential to be partnered with super fast glass such as the 50mm f1.2L and 85mm f1.2L.

The Canon EOS 5D MkIII is a complete camera.
It has everything you need and boasts a great deal of premium performance.
But because it's already three years old, competitors have been producing bodies that are up-to-par if not better than it.
It was delightful to shoot the 5D MkIII.
It's definitely not a bad camera to buy and will deliver in every aspect (except dynamic range, of course).
A lot of photographers, filmmakers, designers and journalists use the 5D MkIII for all their work and it has helped them in every situation imaginable.
I am excited to see what the 5D MkIV has in store for us and I really hope I get to use one for a review.

Check out all the HIGH RES photos from this review and more at my Flickr gallery here.

DISCLAIMER: I do not represent Canon, or any other brand that might be showcased in this review. This review is written for THE FEAR and is of no significance to any sort of argument that may or may not ensue. I deliver this with utmost honesty and sincerity.