The 5D we've been waiting for, since, well, the EOS 5D Mark II came out
Video capture yields gorgeous-looking footage. Although Nikon actually gains an edge here (thanks to the uncompressed video output from the D4 and D800), unless you’re shooting a high-level professional-grade project, the video clips you get from this Canon will be all you’ll need. Heck, given how much the Mark II has been used professionally by photojournalists and Hollywood shooters alike, we’d guess that pros will cozy up to the Mark III’s video as well.
Simply offering a burst speed of 6 fps on a full-framer really changes the game for Canon in this class of camera. Combine this with the Mark III’s autofocus tracking functions, and many Mark II shooters will notice a big improvement. While the earlier model was iffy for shooting sports, the Mark III holds its own.
In our field tests, AF tracking performed flawlessly. You can select from six different “Cases” of tracking: You can let the camera know to ignore obstacles that temporarily obstruct your subject, or that the subject will enter the frame from a certain direction, or whether the subject is likely to move erratically or to change speed.
Moreover, you can adjust tracking sensitivity, acceleration, and AF point-switching sensitivity independentally for each Case. Indeed, the Mark III provides so many autofocus options that a whole section of its menu system, with five screens of settings, is dedicated to AF. Unfortunately, the contrast AF used in the live view and video shooting modes is still quite sluggish compared with the camera’s phase-detection system.
(While we were performing our tests, we read reports that some 5D Mark III owners have noticed a problem with light from the illuminated LCD display on the top of the camera interfering with the metering system. We encountered no such light leak in our test unit, despite extensive attempts to replicate it. If you notice any such problem with your camera, you should check with Canon’s customer support.)
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a serious improvement over the aging Mark II. With nominal gains in resolution, the new model adds two more stops of usable sensitivity, gives you a better video and live-view shooting experience, and provides major enhancements to the AF system.
Indeed, for the AF alone, it makes sense for most 5D Mark II owners to upgrade. And 7D shooters who have thought about stepping up to full frame now have an option that won’t make them feel as if the burst speed has been chopped.
But if you’re trying to choose between Canon and Nikon at this price level—that is, between the Mark III and D800—you’ll have a harder decision. The two manufacturers seem to have taken completely different approaches to these cameras: Canon held the line on resolution, while Nikon made a huge leap to a 36MP sensor on the D800 from 12.1MP on its predecessor, the D700. Given that files from the D800 are huge and take a long time to process, we find ourselves wondering whether fewer pixels are better. For amateur shooters, the Mark III’s more manageable file sizes mean they won’t have to spend as much on a fancy computer to deal with them. For pros, it means they can spend more time shooting and less time processing. Plus, smaller file sizes mean you won’t have to buy extremely high-capacity memory cards.
Of course, once you discover for yourself how much fun it is shooting with the 5D Mark III, we’re sure you’ll start filling up your cards plenty fast anyway.
Imaging: 22.3MP effective, full-frame CMOS sensor captures images at 5760x3840 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
Storage: CompactFlash and SD. Stores JPEG, CR2 RAW, or RAW + JPEG files.
Video: Records up to 1920x1080 pixels at 30 or 24 fps in MPEG-4 H.264 format with choice of ALL-I or IPB compression; built-in monaural microphone; stereo microphone input; approx. 1 hr, 20-min maximum clip size at highest quality.
Burst rate: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 16,270 shots at 6 fps; RAW, up to 18 shots at 6 fps; RAW+JPEG, up to 7 shots at 6 fps; using UDMA mode 7 CF card.
AF system: TTL phase-detection with 61 illuminated focus points (up to 41 cross-type points, varying by lens used); single-shot, continuous, predictive focus tracking; tested sensitivity down to EV –2 (at ISO 100, f/1.4); AF points can be grouped and selected by area.
Live view: Full-time contrast detection, or single-shot phase-detection AF with mirror interrupting view momentarily. Shutter speeds: 1/8000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments); shutter life rated to 150,000 cycles; flash sync to 1/200 second.
Metering: TTL metering using 63-zone sensor; Evaluative, centerweighted, partial (approx. 7.2% of finder at center), and spot (approx. 1.5% of finder at center); range, 1 to 20 EV (at ISO 100).
ISO range: ISO 100–25600 (in 1- or 1/3-EV steps), expandable to ISO 50–102,400.
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentaprism.
Viewfinder Test: Accuracy, 100% (Excellent); Magnification, 0.71X (Very Good).
LCD: Fixed 3.2-in. TFT with 1.04 million-dot resolution, 7-step brightness adjustment.
Output: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, mini-HDMI video, and stereo headphone minijack.
Battery: Rechargeable LP-E6 Li-ion; CIPA rating, 950 shots with optical viewfinder.
Size/weight: 6.0x4.6x3.0 in., 2.1 lb with a card and battery.
Street price: $3,500, body only; $4,300 with 24–105mm f/4L IS USM AF EF lens.