Canon EOS 5D Mark III specifications

MSRPBody only: $3499, €3299, £2999 with 24-105mm: $4299
Body type
Body typeMid-size SLR
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Max resolution5760 x 3840
Other resolutions3840 x 2560, 2880 x 1920, 1920 x 1280, 720 x 480
Image ratio w:h3:2
Effective pixels22 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors23 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (36 x 24 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorDigic 5+
Color spacesRGB,Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayRGB Color Filter Array
ISOAuto, 100 - 25600 in 1/3 stops, plus 50, 51200, 102400 as option
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
Boosted ISO (maximum)102400
White balance presets6
Custom white balanceYes (1)
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, Normal
File format
  • JPEG (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant)
  • Design rule for Camera File system (2.0)
  • RAW: RAW, sRAW1, sRAW2 (14bit, Canon original RAW 2nd edition)
  • Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Optics & Focus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Phase Detect
  • Multi-area
  • Selective single-point
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lampby optional dedicated Speedlite
Digital zoomNo
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points61
Lens mountCanon EF
Focal length multiplier1×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size3.2
Screen dots1,040,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typeClear View II TFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeOptical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.71×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Auto+
  • Program AE
  • Shutter priority AE
  • Aperture priority AE
  • Manual (Stills and Movie)
  • Custom (x3)
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes (Hot-shoe, Wireless plus Sync connector)
Flash X sync speed1/200 sec
Continuous drive6.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Spot
  • Partial
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±3 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes (3 frames in either blue/amber or magenta/green axis)
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps fps), 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (25, 30 fps)
Videography notes1080 and 720 intra or inter frame, 480 inter frame
Storage typesCompact Flash Type I (UDMA compatible), SD/SDHC/SDXC
Storage includedNone
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (HDMI mini)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
Wireless notesWireless File Transmitter WFT-E7
Remote controlYes (Remote control with N3 type contact, Wireless Controller LC-5, Remote Controller RC-6)
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion LP-E6 rechargeable battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)950
Weight (inc. batteries)950 g (2.09 lb / 33.51 oz)
Dimensions152 x 116 x 76 mm (5.98 x 4.57 x 2.99)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes (by cable and PC)
GPS notesWith optional GP-E2 unit

Key Technologies

The biggest single upgrade on the 5D Mark III is its autofocus system, and it's the area that most needed it. The original 5D's 9-point AF system seemed a little under-specced when it was launched, so its reappearance in the Mark II was a considerable disappointment, especially when the 7D arrived a year later with a much more sophisticated 19-point setup. The 5D Mark III's AF eclipses both, gaining the 61-point AF sensor from the company's flagship 1D X.
It's not the entire 1D X AF system - because the 5D Mark III doesn't have the 1D X's 100,000 pixel metering sensor to gain tracking information from, nor a dedicated DIGIC 4 processor to make sense of it all. However, even without them, it's still one of the most comprehensive AF systems on the market and, most importantly, brings the camera much closer to the level of contemporary Nikons.
The 5D Mark III uses the same AF sensor as the more expensive EOS-1D X.
The 76 bright regions on the sensor are the light-sensitive areas.
Once focused through the lenses that are placed in front of them, their pattern relates more closely to the AF point pattern you see through the viewfinder.
And, if you overlay the AF point pattern, you can see how the 76 strips on the sensor give rise to the 61 selectable AF points.
It's worth bearing in mind though that, while Nikon has long used high pixel count metering sensors to improve tracking accuracy, the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV was competitive with the D3S even without this capability. Crucially, in addition to this added sophistication, the 5D Mark III also inherits the 1D X's subject-based configuration presets, to make it easier to get the best out of the system.

22MP image sensor and Digic 5+ processor

The pixel count may be similar to that of the 5D Mark II, but the Mark III's sensor is entirely new. The pixel architecture is changed, with a promised increase in photoelectric conversion rate (light is more efficiently converted to readable charge).Canon has also applied its gapless microlens array, meaning more of the light hitting the sensor gets directed down into the photodiodes. Finally there's a newly-developed on-chip noise reduction system to improve the quality of the information coming off the chip.
Image data captured on the 5D Mark III's 22Mp sensor is processed in the new Digic 5+ processor.
Canon isn't making specific claims for how much of an improvement these changes make to the raw output but, once subjected to the DIGIC 5+'s processing, it will claim a 2-stop improvement in the JPEG images.
The camera uses the latest DIGIC 5+ processor, as used in the 1D X. It's 30% faster than the DIGIC 5 chip starting to appear in recent Canon cameras but, more to the point, it's 17x faster than the DIGIC 4 processor in the 5D Mark II. This not only helps support the camera's 6 frame-per-second shooting but also has time on its hands to conduct moiré-reduction when shooting movies.
In addition, the extra processing power allows the 5D Mark III to apply chromatic aberration correction to its JPEGs. This correction is based on Canon-created lens profiles, up to 29 of which can be downloaded and saved onto the camera. These profiles allow correction not only of lateral CA but also of the harder-to-fix axial CA.

New shutter/mirror mechanism

The 5D Mark III features a totally redesigned shutter and mirror mechanism. The shutter is still rated to 150,000 cycles despite the faster continuous shooting speed. The camera also gains a revised mirror return mechanism designed to ensure the sub-mirror (that redirect light down to the AF sensor), is in place and stable as quickly as possible after each shot, to increase focus accuracy during continuous shooting mode.
The 5D Mark III also acquires the 1D X's silent shutter mode, allowing it to shoot in both single images and continuously (at around 3 frames per second) with greatly reduced shutter and mirror noise. This may not sound like much, but it should be very welcome to photographers shooting at noise-sensitive events.

Upgraded LCD Monitor

The rear screen is the same 3.2" 1,040,000 dot LCD as on the EOS-1D X. It's a 3:2 aspect ratio screen that uses the latest design in which the panel is bonded directly to the toughened glass screen, so that there's no air gap between the two (which could cause internal reflection - worsening glare). The result is one of the best screens currently available - clear, sharp and high-resolution.

Body & Design

The 5D Mark III is very similar in size to its predecessor, but marks a distinct departure in layout from the previous models in the 5D line. It most closely resembles the EOS 7D, with its combined live view/movie control beside the viewfinder and power switch beneath the mode dial, but also borrows features from other recent Canon designs. So the 60D's mode dial lock reappears, along with the 1D X's little Q button between the joystick and rear dial. However there's further evolution of the EOS design that's entirely new to the 5D Mark III, including the repositioned depth of field preview button and revised playback controls.
The 5D Mark III's construction is excellent - it may not have quite the same level of disaster-proofing as the 1D X, but it certainly feels better-built and more substantial in your hand than the Mark II ever did. Perhaps the best way of describing this is that it's very much like the difference between the 50D and 7D - you wouldn't have said there was much wrong with the 50D in isolation, but the 7D is clearly better-built. The magnesium alloy shell certainly feels like it would come survive a pretty serious beating.
The top of the 5D Mark III resembles that of the EOS 7D, which means that the control set familiar to 5D Mark II owners is joined by an easily-reached customizable M-Fn button just behind the shutter release. The On/Off switch has migrated to a point where it's less easy to knock accidentally - but also less easy to reach when supporting a large lens with your left hand.

Top of camera controls (right)

The 5D Mark III's top controls will look immediately familiar to existing Canon owners. Behind the shutter release is the main control dial - this changes the primary exposure parameter, e.g. aperture in Av mode. Between the two is the customizable M-Fn button that can be set to operate functions such as Flash Exposure Lock.
Behind this is a row of three buttons which each activate two functions, changed using the front and rear dials. From left to right there's metering / white balance, AF / drive modes, and ISO / flash exposure compensation. The latter button is especially well-placed for changing ISO with the camera to your eye. Beside these is a smaller button that illuminates the top-plate LCD.

Top of camera controls (left)

On the other side of the pentaprism you'll find the power switch and mode dial. This has the familiar four exposure modes - Program, Aperture priority, Shutter Priority and Manual - plus Bulb shutter mode and three custom positions into which you can save camera settings for specific commonly-encountered scenarios. There's also the Auto+ mode previously seen on the EOS 600D that offers a range of results-orientated creative control - we can't imagine many 5D Mark III owners will use this much, but it does make the camera a bit more 'shareable' with non-experts.
At the bottom of the picture is the new image effects button that offers access to Picture Styles, multiple exposure mode and in-camera HDR. The latter is unusually well-designed - it saves all of the original files (not just the in-camera processed version), including RAWs. Unlike Canon's PowerShots, the 5D Mark III auto-aligns shots when processing, so you can shoot hand-held. There's also a range of processing 'looks' on offer, from 'Natural' through to, well, distinctly unnatural.

Rear Controls

The rest of the 5D Mark III's major shooting controls are on the back, arranged for operation by your thumb. The combined Live View / Movie mode button comes from the 7D - if you flick the lever to the Movie position the camera enters live view with a 16:9 preview, so you can compose in the correct aspect ratio. Pressing the button at its centre then initiates recording. With the lever in the Stills position (as shown), pressing the button enters Live View.
The Q button brings up an interactive controls screen while shooting, that allows you to change camera parameters that can't necessarily be accessed directly through external buttons. It also brings overlaid option menus in Live View and Playback modes, offering rapid access to features such as in-camera RAW conversion.
The rest of the buttons and dials will be familiar to Mark II owners. The large rear dial sets exposure compensation in P, Av and Tv modes, and changes the aperture in Manual. The AF area mode selection button at the top right of the camera acts in conjunction with the index finger dial at the front of the camera to change AF area mode. Both the AF-ON and AE/FE Lock buttons can be assigned to customized functions. The multi-controller joystick is used to move the AF point around the frame, either in concert with the button on the top right corner or, if you prefer, directly (via a menu setting). We think the latter makes much more sense for fluid shooting, and find it odd that this behavior is not enabled by default.
There are also three new buttons on the back of the 5D Mark III, including the mysteriously-marked 'Rate'. Here's an overview of what they do, from top to bottom:
During stills shooting, gives direct access to Picture Style, Multiple Exposures, and in-camera HDR.

In playback, enters side-by-side image comparison mode. Here you can compare composition and focus of two versions of the same shot, compare histograms for exposure, or check sharpness of different areas of the same image.
In playback, allows direct 'star' rating of images (1-5) in a format recognized by many image management programs, i.e., Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Can be reassigned to Protect/Deprotect images if you prefer.
Magnify button - replaces zoom in / zoom out controls on camera's shoulder. In play mode, hold down and spin a dial to enlarge/reduce image.

In live view, cycles through full screen, 5x, and 10x views.

Body & Design continued

Viewfinder size and crop

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in usability - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
The EOS 5D Mark III's viewfinder size has, with its 100% coverage, slightly increased in size over the 5D Mark II's (98%), although magnification stays the same. It's not quite on the same level as the EOS-1D X, but close, and substantially bigger than the viewfinders in APS-C DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 7D. It offers 100% coverage of the final image, with no crop - what you see is what you get.
The viewfinder in the 5D Mark III has been improved over it predecessor, now offering an approximately 100% coverage, rather than 98%. Magnification remains the same at 0.71X but the viewing angle has been increased and the eye point raised to 21mm.
Set below the prism itself is a translucent LCD that can be used to show different grid lines and to give a clearer understanding of which AF points are active. The focus screen is now fixed, though, so there's no equivalent to the 'S' type screen for more-accurate focusing with fast lenses.
The other advantage to the viewfinder's electronic overlay is the addition of a customizable warning. Depending on how you like to shoot, you can configure the camera to show a warning exclamation mark (!) in a small triangle at the bottom right of the viewfinder. It can be configured to signify one of the following shooting parameters is active:
Monochrome shootingISO Expansion
WB ShiftSpot Metering
One-touch QualityAuto Lighting Optimizer

Body Elements

At the heart of the 5D Mark III is its newly-developed 22MP 24x36mm CMOS sensor. It offers a standard ISO range of 100-25600, expandable down to ISO 50 (with the loss of a stop of highlight range) and right up to 102,400.
The 5D Mark III gains the customizable M-Fn button first seen on the EOS 7D, that's now standard on high-end EOS models. This can be used to activate a range of functions, including the electronic level display in the viewfinder.
The mode dial now has a central lock button, and the previous 'green square' full auto and 'Creative Auto' positions are consolidated to a single 'Auto+' mode (as seen previously on the EOS 600D).

Underneath it is a 7D-style power switch, that's now completely separated from the rear dial-lock switch.
The IR remote control receiver is now on the front of the handgrip, where it's easier to activate when working from behind the camera.

The red lamp beside it is the visual indicator for the self-timer. The 5D Mark III has no built-in AF illuminator.
Below these is the large depth of field preview button, placed for operation by the third finger of your right hand. It's now much easier to reach when using large lenses or shooting in portrait format.
As usual there's a hotshoe on top of the pentaprism, that accepts Canon's EX series flash units such as the newly-announced Speedlite 600EX-RT.

Like previous 5D-series cameras, the Mark III doesn't have a built-in flash and therefore can't control external flash units remotely - you need to use the ST-E2 or new ST-E3-RT transmitters (or a controller hotshoe flash).
The 5D Mark III gains dual SD and CF card slots. It allows the same file management options as 1D-series cameras, so you can duplicate all files to both cards, or record JPEGs to one and RAWs to the other, for example. You can alternatively set the camera to auto-switch to the second card when the first is full.

You can also use Eye-Fi cards in the SD slot.
The comprehensive bank of connectors adds a headphone jacket for monitoring audio when recording video. Aside from this there are USB and HDMI connectors, a stereo microphone socket, PC studio flash and the familiar E3-type remote control socket.
The Q button brings up a context-sensitive Quick Control screen, e.g. to change shooting parameters.

The rear control dial gains a new trick - becoming a touch-sensitive 4-way controller when shooting video (with the 'buttons' placed on the inner rim of the dial). This allows use of the Q menu without jogging the camera, and because it doesn't click, it shouldn't disrupt your soundtrack.
The microphone is repositioned on the camera's shoulder, and as on the Mark II it is monaural.
The 5D Mark III uses the same 7.2V, 1800mAh LP-E6 battery as its predecessor. As with most Canon SLRs, it's housed in the handgrip. The compartment door is sprung, and has foam sealing around it to help prevent water ingress.

The compartment is also sufficiently far from the tripod socket for the battery to be changeable on many heads.
The tripod socket is positioned in-line with the lens axis, and is surrounded by a decent-size rubber pad for a quick release plate.

New accessories - Radio-Controlled Wireless flash and grip

Alongside the 5D Mark III Canon has also introduced a range of accessories, most notably a new wireless flash system that's based on radio, as opposed to infrared communication. Spearheaded by the weather sealed Speedlite 600EX-RT and the WT-E3-RT wireless transmitter, the switch to radio control greatly increases the system's operational range to 30m, removes the requirement for unobstructed line-of-sight communication between Speedlites and the controller, and increases the number of units that can be used to 15 flashes in 5 groups. There's also a hot-shoe-mountable GPS unit, the GP-E2, and a WFT-E7 Wi-Fi transmitter.
Rounding off the story is a new vertical grip for the 5D Mark III, which has an almost-complete set of replicate controls for portrait-format shooting, including the all-important joystick for AF point selection (only a DOF preview button is missing). It can hold a pair of LP-E6 batteries for double the battery life, or run off a cassette full of AAs.

Design compared

Compared to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The 5D Mark III bears a clear family resemblance to its predecessor, but it's been improved in many ways. Indeed its relationship to the 5D Mark II is much like that between the EOS 7D and EOS 50D - the Mark III just feels like a proper high end camera (finally).
From the front the 5DMark III looks much like its predecessor, with the most obvious change being the large, repositioned DOF preview button. The overall body shape is a bit more rounded and 'organic'.
From the top, the biggest differences (aside from the Mark III's more curvaceous form) are a 7D-like On/Off switch behind the mode dial, and the addition of a customizable M-Fn button beside the shutter release.
The most changes are on the back. The 5D Mark III gains a combined live-view / movie mode switch like the one on the 7D, a 'Q' button providing quick access to the rear-screen control panel, and a separate sliding lock switch for the rear dial. The column of buttons to the left of the 3:2 monitor hints at a slew of functional tweaks in playback mode - more on these later.

Additions/changes vs the 5D Mark II

  • EOS 7D-like control layout (power switch, rear dial lock lever, live view/movie controller)
  • Electronic levels display in viewfinder and LCD
  • Customizable button and control layout
  • 3:2" screen with reduced reflectivity
  • Locking mode dial
  • Revised playback mode with side-by-side comparison displays
  • Expanded bracketing, in-camera HDR shooting, multiple exposure mode
  • In-camera RAW conversion

Compared to the Nikon D800

The 5D Mark III is a similar size to its main competitor the Nikon D800 and as we'd expect from two DSLRs of the same generation its control layout is very similar. Obvious differences are the D800's built-in flash, the exposure mode dial of the 5D Mark III (the D800's exposure modes are accessed via a 'mode' button on the top plate) and the 5D III's rear control dial - a feature of high-end EOS SLRs for more than 20 years.
Both the 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 are solid, purposeful cameras which carry a reassuring 'heft' which sets them apart from their lower-end stablemates. Note the D800's AF mode switch to the left of the lensmount - like all EOS D/SLRs the 5D Mark III's AF modes are accessed via a button and screen interface.
This view shows the differences in design philosophy between Canon and Nikon very clearly. The 5D Mark III lacks the D800's built-in flash, and features an exposure mode dial on the left side of the top-plate. The D800's exposure modes are changed using the 'mode' button just aft of the shutter release.
All of the same controls, not necessarily in the same place. From the rear the 5D Mark III and D800 are very similar, but arranged slightly differently. The 5D Mark III features a control dial rather than the D800's 4-way controller, and although both cameras have a button to activate live view (and an accompanying switch for still or movie mode operation) Canon places it up by the viewfinder, and Nikon down close to the rear of the body.

Live View displays and operation

Live view mode on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III works in a very similar way to the EOS 7D. There are separate live view and movie modes, selected using a switch next to the viewfinder. Once in Live View mode you can choose from a variety of views and AF methods. You can opt to use either the conventional phase-detection AF sensor (AF Quick) or the slower contrast detection method that uses the main imaging sensor. This second, 'AF Live' method is potentially more accurate and flexible (not being constrained to the 61 points of the AF sensor); it also has a face-detection option.
While the 'AF Live' and 'AF Live Face detection' AF modes are still significantly slower than the phase detect system in 'viewfinder mode' considerable improvements have been made over previous implementations of the system. You still get a lot of focus hunting but the system is definitely not prohibitively slow anymore and good to use at least in situations when focus speed is non-critical. The performance of the face detection system has improved as well. It's better now at detecting faces with glasses and from an angle. In out testing it reliably detected faces from almost a 90 degree angle.
But even if the improved live view AF performance cannot convince you, 'Live View only' features such as the on-screen magnification for fine-focusing, or exposure simulation to help judge image brightness, are genuinely useful and make Live View an invaluable tool for certain photographic application such as macro shooting or studio work.

Live View function settings

The most useful live view parameters such as exposure simulation, grid display and AF mode can be accessed and modified in the Live View tab of the shooting menu.
The Live View tab of the shooting menu

Live View display modes

Pressing the INFO button while in Live View toggles between the available display modes, each with differing levels of overlaid information. You can also enable optional gridlines.
No overlayShooting settings
Full informationExposure information + histograms (luminance or RGB can be chosen in the playback menu)
A choice of three grids can also be overlaid on the live view image. These are selected using a menu option in the live view/movie tab of the record menu.Pressing the 'Q' button allows you to change the Auto Lighting Optimizer setting and the image size/quality.
All other settings can still be changed via direct-access buttons with full settings screens being overlaid on the live view image.

Live View magnification and Digital Level Gauge

Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by pressing the enlarge button to reach 5 or 10x magnification. While magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the live image. Unfortunately as on previous Canon DSLRs you cannot magnify right out to the extreme corners.
The EOS 5D Mark III also has two accelerometers to offer a level gauge that shows pitch (up/down tilt) as well as roll (left/right tilt), overlaid onto live view image.
5x and 10x Live View magnificationDigital Level Gauge

Exposure simulation

In the shooting menu you can optionally enable Live View exposure simulation mode where the Live View display will attempt to simulate the brightness of the final exposure. In this mode changes to exposure compensation or exposure (in manual mode) are simulated. If enabled you can also view the live histogram.
The 'During DOF preview' option is new on the EOS 5D Mark III. It allows you to 'switch on' exposure simulation while the DOF button is pressed. This is useful for quickly switching between standardized brightness for composition and exposure simulation for preview. Exposure simulation in combination with DOF preview is also the closest thing you get to a WYSIWYG preview of your shot.
Exposure simulation can be set in the Live View tab of the shooting menu and simulates the effects of exposure compensation or manual exposure on the LCD screen.


Record review & play displays

By default the EOS 5D Mark III provides a two second review display immediately after the shot is taken, this can be disabled or extended to 4 or 8 seconds or as long as you hold the shutter release button. During record review you can press the erase button to cancel / erase the current image. Record review and play share the same display modes, just press the INFO button to select between the four available modes (see below).

Display modes

There are four display modes available in record review / play, you can also optionally enable 'Highlight alert' (blinking highlights) and / or 'AF point display' in the play menu.
1: Large image, no information2: Large image + status line (aperture, shutter speed) + image number
3: Small image + status line + lum. histogram + detailed shooting info. You can define in the playback menu if you would like to see the RGB or luminance histogram. This setting will be the same for the histogram in live view shooting mode.4: Small image + status line + lum. histogram + RGB histogram + detailed shooting info

Play magnification

The EOS 5D Mark III uses the magnification button and the top dial to zoom in and out. There are 15 steps of magnification. You can define the initial magnification after pressing the magnification button in the play menu. You can also define if you prefer to zoom in to the center of the frame or the chosen focus point. The latter allows you to quickly check focus at the touch of a button. If you set the OK-button to magnify you don't have to change your hand position to check focus.

Play thumbnail index

The 5D Mark III provides two levels of thumbnail index, the initial view being a four image 2x2 index, turn the top dial further to the left to switch to a nine image 3x3 index. You can use the multi-controller or quick command dial to move around images or the main dial to jump images (ideal if you have the 'screen' jump mode selected).

Side-by-side playback modes

The playback mode for side-by-side comparison of images is an all-new feature on the EOS 5D Mark III. That said, it's not the first time we've seen such a thing - indeed it bears more than a passing resemblance to Pentax's version introduced on the K20D - but Canon's implementation is arguably more easily accessible and flexible.
When in playback mode you press the Picture Style button to access the side-by-side mode. You can select an image for each 'window', switch between windows by pressing the SET button and drag and magnify each image individually. By pressing the Q-button you can lock the magnification level and position between the two images which is very useful for comparing compositions and checking sharpness and focus. You can also see the histograms side-by-side. In combination with the RATE button (see below), this allows you to assess and rate your images without a computer - in a preliminary fashion at least.
You can compare focus between two images......or at different points in the same image.
It's also possible to check focus and composition of a single image.Basic exposure information can be displayed for both images.
The active AF point can be displayed, along with an alignment gridAlternate cropping guides can be shown too - here 1:1 (square) format.
Rounding off the display modes are a couple of histogram options, either luminance......or RGB, depending upon your preference (set in the playback menu).

Image rating

Images and movies on the 5D Mark III can be rated using the RATE-button. When viewing an image in playback mode you simply press the button 1 to 5 times to give an image the corresponding star rating. It's a good way of filtering your images on the go and can save you some time at your home work station. In the playback-menu you can set the 'Image Jump' function to only display rated images, the same can be done for slide-shows. You can sort images by rating in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software. Ratings are also displayed in the Windows Vista and Windows 7 image viewers.

Operation and Handling

One thing pictures alone can't ever really describe is how a camera will feel in your hand, and the 5D Mark III is one of those cameras that just feels 'right'. The camera is comfortably chunky and the sculpted 'channel' on the rear provides a positive grip for your thumb and helps make the camera feel completely secure in your hand. Both control dials and an impressive number of buttons are within easy reach of either the index finger or thumb of your right hand. The design, dimensions and response of all controls ensure the camera is still usable even when shooting with gloves.
The 5D Mark III features a substantial grip with a comfortable soft-rubber surface.
As we've said before in this review the EOS 5D Mark III's construction is excellent, and it shows in the camera's weight. At 2.1lb body weight it's quite a hefty piece of equipment and in combination with one of Canon's equally well-made 'L' lenses it can weigh you down during the course of a long shooting day. That said, despite the build quality and the abundance of features the EOS 5D Mark III is smaller and more lightweight than Canon's 1-series cameras, and therefore makes a good alternative for those who don't want to compromise on image quality but don't quite need the 'war-zone' ruggedness of a 1D Mark IV or 1Dx.
The live view/movie mode switch allows to quickly access movie mode and/or live view shooting mode.The Q-button provides quick access to a range of shooting parameters. The joystick above can be used to navigate the menus and move around in magnified images.
In terms of both design and operation the 5D Mark III is not so much an evolution of its predecessor but adopts many of the design cues and control elements of the newer EOS 7D APS-C DSLR. The 5D Mark III gains the 7D's more curvy design, the combined live-view / movie mode switch, a 'Q' button for quick access to the rear-screen control panel and a sliding lock switch for the rear dial. Like on the 7D there is also an On/Off switch behind the mode dial and a customizable M-Fn button beside the shutter release.

On-screen settings adjustment (Q-menu)

Like all recent EOS DSLRs, the 5D Mark III has an interactive settings display panel. This means there are up to three ways of changing settings - for many options you can press a dedicated button and then spin either the front or rear dial, alternatively, there are two ways of using the interactive settings display (the Q Menu). Both methods involve pressing the 'Q' button then using the dials or joystick to select the option you wish to change, at which point you can either roll the main dial or press 'SET'. This will bring up a dedicated screen, which can again be navigated using the joystick and selected using the 'SET' button.
The number of options available in the Q-menu vary with the shooting mode you are in. In the PASM modes (A-mode pictured on the left) you have much more control over parameters than in A+ mode (on the right).
To modify a parameter you can either turn the front or rear dial with the 'cursor' over the setting you want to change, or you can press the 'SET'-button to proceed to a dedicated screen.

User interface customization options

As you would expect from a camera at this level the Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers an abundance of customization options, most of which can be accessed in the Custom Function menu. The camera gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of button and control layout and the camera UI can be optimized for your personal shooting style. The 'Custom Controls' screen within the Custom Function menu allows you to customize the function of many of the camera's buttons and both dials. A comprehensive list of customization options is available on the menu pages of this review.
The DOF button at the camera front and the M-fn button next to the shutter buttons are two of the many controls that are customizable on the EOS 5D Mark III.
The 'Custom Controls' screen shows a graphical illustration of the camera's button and dial layout and allows you to customize the behavior of those controls. If you move the cursor over a button or dial and click the 'SET' button you see options available for this specific control element.
In addition, the camera's 'My Menu' function allows you to compose your own menu within the menu system. It's a good way of putting infrequently but repeatedly used functions in a place where you'll be able to find them the next time you need them. If you have a specific set of parameters that you use for specific shooting situations, for example in a studio-setup, you can also save those to the camera's C1 to C3 modes which are accessible via the mode dial.
Frequently used menu-settings can be added to the My Menu section for easy access.

Operation and Handling continued

Auto ISO settings

The 5D Mark III's Auto ISO mode now offers additional customization options. You can now set a minimum ISO as well as a maximum, and define a specific minimum shutter speed too. That latter is nowhere near as useful as it should be - the fastest shutter speed you can set is 1/250sec - however it's still an improvement over previous Canon implementations.
The ISO speed settings options are all accessed from one screen. You can configure the sensitivity range you'd like the camera to use in manual and auto selection modes entirely independently, and configure a specific minimum shutter speed.
One limitation is that the camera won't let you use the 'Extended' speeds (equivalent to ISO 50, 51200 and 102400) in Auto ISO.
You can select a specific minimum shutter speed as well as the usual 'Auto', unfortunately though Canon has missed a trick on this one. This option is most useful for 'freezing' fast-moving objects, but the selectable speeds only go up to 1/250 sec, which isn't really fast enough for that purpose, especially when using a telephoto lens. Nikon's latest iteration of Auto ISO on the D800 and D4 is still superior, with a wider range of minimum speeds and 5 selectable 'Auto' options.
Unlike the 5D Mark II, Auto ISO can be used in Manual shooting mode, allowing you to specify the shutter speed and aperture you want, and leaving the camera to worry about ISO. You can apply AE lock when working with Auto ISO in Manual mode and the viewfinder will show you the difference between the locked value and the current metered value. Unfortunately, though, there's no way of setting exposure compensation, despite the fact that it should be simple enough to offer via the 'Q' button.

Overall handling

With its chunky magnesium body and environmental protection, the EOS 5D Mark III feels like a real quality product. The sizeable hand-grip and the soft rubber surfaces feel comfortable in your hand, and while a 5D Mark III dangling from your neck all day would arguably result in severe neck pain the camera's dimensions and weight make it a well-balanced package with Canon's equally bulky L-lenses. For those who prefer the dimension of a full-on pro body such as Canon's EOS 1 series there is the optional BG-E11 battery grip.
All controls, button and dials, are sensibly located, with those controlling important shooting settings within reach of the index finger of thumb of your right hand, allowing for full control while composing an image through the viewfinder. Compared to the 5D Mark II most buttons are slightly bigger which is useful when operating the camera with cold fingers or gloves but the bigger buttons are very comfortable to use in any condition. Overall, in terms of handling, control layout and design the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is much closer to the APS-C DSLR EOS 7D than to its predecessor 5D Mark II.
With the movie mode/live view selection switch movie mode feels much better integrated into the camera's operation and the switch allows for seamless transition from stills to movie shooting. The 'Quick-menu' which has been standard on many lower level DSLRs and compact cameras for quite some time has finally made its way onto the 5D series and allows for quick access to a range of frequently changed parameters such as white balance, image quality or drive mode. Yes, there are hard buttons to change most of these settings but the Q-menu simply gives you some extra flexibility. The large depth of field preview button, placed for operation by the third finger of your right hand, is now much easier to reach when using large lenses or shooting in portrait format.
The depth of field preview button's larger size and changed location mean it's easier to operate when shooting in portrait format.
Like on the 7D the separation of the control dial lock and the power switch (which has moved under the mode dial) makes, compared to the 5D Mark II and previous models, things a little less confusing for first-time Canon shooters.
While Canon has maintained the general structure of the camera menus it has improved the layout and simplified things by moving some options from the previously overloaded custom function menu into the shooting menu and the new AF section. The latter, in combination with the expanded Auto ISO settings described above, allows for straightforward customization of the AF system and preparation for a variety of shooting scenarios, without diving too deep into the menu hierarchy.
While we couldn't find any real issues while using the camera we have two (quite minor) complaints. Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority are both functions that are useful in high-contrast situations, yet only ALO is accessible via the Q.Menu. You have to dive into the shooting menu to enable or disable HTP which seems a little inconsistent.
While the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer feature is accessible via the 'Q' button, you'll have to dive into the menu to enable Highlight Tone Priority.
In movie mode the new touch-sensitive 4-way controller is very useful when changing settings while recording. However, the controller looses its touch-sensitivity as soon as you stop recording. The user experience would be more coherent if, at least while in movie mode, the touch buttons stayed active, even after recording has ended.
In movie mode the rear dial becomes touch-sensitive. However, as soon you stop recording the touch-sensitivity is lost which can be a little confusing.
These very minor quibbles aside the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is overall a camera that offers an intuitive user interface and is very enjoyable to shoot with. Even if some of its default settings do not suit your personal style of shooting its abundance of customization options will almost certainly allow you to fine-tune the camera operation to match your requirements.

Camera Menus

For this latest generation EOS Canon has slightly updated the presentation and structure of its menu system. Camera settings are still separated across a series of sensibly ordered, color-coded tabs but an increase in menu functions required the introduction of a second level of organization. Below each top level tab there are now 'sub-pages' within each category. In the previous system each tab represented a menu page. Some of the really fine-level camera customization has been moved out of the Custom Functions which, as a consequence, are now less comprehensive. Notably the AF-system got its dedicated AF-tab and some image parameter settings have been moved into the shooting menu.
As before the menus are context sensitive, with different menu options provided depending on which shooting mode you're in. There is a simplified menu structure if you shoot in the more automated modes - in this instance that means the Creative Auto and Auto modes. The fourth and fifth page within the shooting menu also change depending on whether the camera's mode switch is set to movie or live view.

Shooting section (red)

Values / Actions
Shooting tab 1
Quality • RAW
Large Fine
Large Normal
Medium Fine
Medium Normal
Small1 Fine
Small1 Normal
- JPEG Large = 5760 x 3840
- JPEG Medium = 3840 x 2560
- JPEG Small1 = 2880 x 1920
- JPEG Small2 = 1920 x 1280
- JPEG Small3 = 720 x 480

- RAW = 5760 x 3840
- MRAW = 3960 x 2640
- SRAW = 2880 x 1920

Turn front dial to change RAW image, turn rear dial for JPEG.
Image review • Off
 • 2 sec
 • 4 sec
 • 8 sec
 • Hold
Beep • Enable
 • Disable
Enables auto focus confirmation beep. Also used for self timer.
Release shutter without card • Enable
 • Disable
Allow shot to be taken without memory card inserted.
Lens aberration correction • Peripheral illum.
 • Chromatic aberration
Corrects vignetting and chromatic aberration depending on the attached lens.
External speedlite control • Flash firing
 • E-TTL II meter
 • Flash sync speed in Av mode
1/200-1/60 sec auto
1/200 sec (fixed)
 • Flash function setting
Flash mode
Manual flash
MULTI flash
Shutter sync
1st curtain
2nd curtain
Flash exposure compensation
+/– 3.0 EV
Flash exposure bracketing
+/– 3.0 EV
 • Clear flash settings
 • Flash C.Fn setting
Only with compatible flash
 • Clear external flash C.Fn setting
Only with compatible flash
Mirror lockup • Enable
 • Disable
Shooting tab 2
Expo. comp./AEB • +/–3 EV  Rear dial changes exposure compensation, front dial changes AEB settings.
ISO speed settings • ISO speed
100 - 25600
H1 (51200)
H2 (102400)
 • ISO speed range
Minimum (50-51200)
Maximum (100-102400)
 • Auto ISO range
Minimum (100-6400)
Maximum (200-25600)
 • Min. shutter speed
Auto Lighting Optimizer • Off
 • Low
 • Standard
 • High
Press Info button to disable during manual exposure
White balance • Auto
 • Daylight (5200K)
 • Shade (7000K)
 • Cloudy (6000K)
 • Tungsten light (3200K)
 • White fluorescent light (4000K)
 • Flash
 • Custom
 • Color temp. (Kelvin)
Custom WB • Set custom WBSelect image for custom WB.
WB Shift / BKT • Shift: B9–A9, M9–G9
 • Bracket: BA+/–3, MG+/–3
Configures WB shift and WB bracketing.
Color space • sRGB
 • Adobe RGB
Shooting tab 3
Picture Style • Picture Style
User Def. 1
User Def. 2
User Def. 3
 • Detail set
Sharpness (0-7)
Contrast (-4-+4)
Saturation (-4-+4)
Color tone (-4-+4)
Press Info button to access Detail Set mode
Long exposure noise reduction • Disable
 • Auto
 • Enable
High ISO speed NR • Standard
 • Low
 • High
 • Disable
Highlight tone priority • Disable
 • Enable
Dust Delete Data • Cancel
 • OK
Multiple exposure • Multiple exposure
On: Func/Ctrl
On: ContShtng
 • Multi-expos ctrl
 • No. of exposures (2-9)
 • Save source imgs
All images
Result only
 • Continue Multi-exp
1 shot only
HDR mode • Adjust dyn range
Disable HDR
+/- 1 EV
+/- 2 EV
+/- 3 EV
 • Effect
Art Standard
Art Vivid
Art Bold
Art Embossed
 • Continuous HDR
1 shot only
Every shot
 • Auto Image Align
 • Save source imgs
All images
HDR image only
Live view tab
Live View shoot. • Enable
 • Disable
AF mode • Live mode
 •  Live mode
 • Quick mode
Grid display • Off
 • 3x3
 • 6x4
 • 3x3+diag
Aspect ratio • 3:2
 • 4:3
 • 16:9
 • 1:1
Expo. simulation • Enable
 • During DoF button
 • Disable
Silent shooting • Mode 1
 • Mode 2
 • Disable
Metering timer • 4 sec
 • 16 sec
 • 30 sec
 • 1 min
 • 10 min
 • 30 min
Movie tab 1
AF mode • Live mode
 •  Live mode
 • Quick mode
Grid display • Off
 • 3x3
 • 6x4
 • 3x3+diag
Movie rec. size • 1920 x 1080 (30/25fps)ALL-I
 • 1920 x 1080 (30/25fps) IPB
 • 1920 x 1080 (24fps) ALL-I
 • 1920 x 1080 (30/25fps) IPB
 • 1280 x 720 (60/50fps) All-I
 • 1280 x 720 (60/50fps) IPB
 • 640 x 480 (30/25fps) IPB
Selects movie recording size and frame rate. Frame rates of 30/60fps are recorded in NTSC mode, 25/50fps in PAL.
Sound recording • Sound recording
 • Rec. level (1-5)
 • Wind filter
Sound recording levels are displayed underneath the settings.
Silent LV shooting • Mode 1
 • Mode 2
 • Disable
Metering timer • 4 sec
 • 16 sec
 • 30 sec
 • 1 min
 • 10 min
 • 30 min
Movie tab 2
Time code • Count up
Rec run
Free run
 • Start time setting
Manual input setting
Set to camera time
 • Movie rec count
Rec time
Time code
 • Movie play count
Rec time
Time code
Silent control • Enable
 • Disable
Movie shoot button • Start/Stop-button
 • Start/Stop-button / shutter

Picture Style

The Picture Styles are a range of pre-programmed image parameter sets intended to deliver the best results in different situations. Each Picture Style has its own preset mapping for tone and color response as well as providing the ability to tune sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone for each. For instance the default sharpening for the Standard Picture Style is level 3, if you prefer less strong you can just adjust it downwards. Sharpness has 8 levels, contrast, saturation and color tone all have have 9 levels.

AF section (purple)

Values / Actions
AF tab 1
AF 'Cases'Select from the following AF 'cases':
 • Case 1 : Versatile multi purpose setting
 • Case 2: Continue to track subjects, ignoring possible obstacles
 • Case 3: Instantly focus on subjects suddenly entering AF points
 • Case 4: For subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly
 • Case 5: For erratic subjects moving quickly in any direction
 • Case 6: For subjects that change speed and move erratically
Press the 'Rate' button to change settings for each case:
 • Tracking sensitivity (-2-+2)
 • Accel./decel. tracking (0-2)
 • AF point auto switching (0-2)
AF tab 2
AI Servo 1st image priority • Release priority
 • Equal priority
 • Focus priority
Release timing for the first image when using AI Servo AF
AI Servo 2nd image priority • Shooting speed priority
 • Equal priority
 • Focus priority
Release timing after first image in AI Servo AF continuous shooting
AF tab 3
USM lens electronic MF • Enable after One-Shot AF
 • Disable after One-Shot AF
 • Disable in AF mode
AF-assist beam firing • Enable
 • Disable
 • IR AF assist beam only
One-Shot AF release prior • Release priority
 • Focus priority
AF tab 4
Lens drive when AF impossible • Continue focus search
 • Stop focus search
Selectable AF point • 61 points
 • Only cross-type AF points
 • 15 points
 • 9 points
Select AF area selec. mode • Manual selection: Spot AF
 • Manual selection: 1 pt AF
 • Expand AF area
 • Expand AF area: Surround
 • Manual selection: Zone AF
 • Auto selection: 61 pt AF
AF area selection method • M-Fn button
 • Main dial
Orientation linked AF point • Same for both vert/horiz
 • Select separate AF points
AF tab 5
Manual AF pt. selec. pattern • Stops at AF area edges
 • Continuous
AF point display during focus • Selected (constant)
 • All (constant)
 • Selected (pre-AF, focused)
 • Selected (focused)
 • Disable display
VF display illumination • Auto
 • Enable
 • Disable
AF Microadjustment • Disable
 • All by same amount
adjust (-20-+20)
 • Adjust by lens
adjust (-20-+20)

Playback Section (Blue)

Play tab 1
Protect imagesProtect mode, allows you to browse images either in a single image or thumbnail view and mark each image as protected (or un-protect). This simply sets the read-only flag on the CF card file system.

 • Select images
 • All images in folder
 • Unprotect all images in folder
 • All images on card
 • Unprotect all images on card
RotateRotate mode, again, this can be performed in either single image or thumbnail index view. This option allows you to rotate an image on-screen by 90 or 270 degrees. Doesn't actually rotate the JPEG file, but marks its orientation.
Erase images • Select and erase images
 • All images in folder
Select folder
 • All images on card
Print orderAllows you to create a DPOF print order file, for use with compatible printers or photo finishers.

 • Select images
 • By folder
Mark all in folder
Clear all in folder
 • All images
 • Set up
Print type
File no.
Image copyAllows you to copy images between SD and CF memory cards in the camera

 • Select image
 • Select folder
 • All images
RAW image processingAllows you to process Raw-images in-camera and adjust the following parameters:

 • Exposure
 • White Balance
 • Picture Style
 • Auto Lighting Optimizer
 • Noise Reduction
 • Image quality
 • Color space
 • Peripheral illumination correction
 • Distortion correction
 • Chromatic aberration correction
Play tab 2
Resize  • Select image
M (9.8M)
S1 (5.5M)
S2 (2.5M)
3 stars
S3 (0.3M)
Rating • Select image
1 star
2 stars
3 stars
4 stars
5 stars
Slide show • Select files
All images
 • Set up
Play time
1 sec
2 sec
3 sec
5 sec
Image transfer • Image sel./transfer
Select image
Select folder
All images
 • RAW+JPEG transfer
JPEG only
RAW only
Image jump w/ control dial • Select number of images
1 image
10 images
100 images
 • Select files
Image rating
Play tab 3
Highlight alert • Disable
 • Enable
AF point disp. • Disable
 • Enable
Playback grid • Off
 • 3x3
 • 6x4
 • 3x3+diag
Histogram • Brightness
 • RGB
Movie play count • Rec time
 • Time code
Magnification (apx) • 1x (no magnification)
 • 2x (magnify from center)
 • 4x (magnify from center)
 • 8x (magnify from center)
 • 10x (magnify from center)
 • Actual size (from selected pt)
 • Same as last magnification (from center)
Ctrl over HDMI • Disable
 • Enable

Setup Section (Yellow)

Values / Actions
Setup tab 1
Record func+card/folder sel. • Record func.
Auto switch card
Rec separately
Rec to multiple
 • Record/play
Slot 1
Slot 2
 • Folder
Select folder
Create folder 
File numbering • Continuous
 • Auto reset
 • Manual reset
Controls the numbering method used for filenames.
File name • File name
IMG+image size
 • Change user setting 1
Enter string
 • Change user setting 2
Enter string
Auto rotate • On (play mode and EXIF)
 • On (EXIF)
 • Off
Chooses whether orientation information is recorded and if the camera should rotate in play mode.
Format • Select card slot
Format the CF card
Setup tab 2
Auto power off • 1 min
 • 2 min
 • 4 min
 • 8 min
 • 15 min
 • 30 min
 • Off
Sets camera power off time, this is the amount of "idle time" before the camera powers itself off. In the power off state the camera can be woken by half or fully depressing the shutter release (or turning the power switch to Off and back to On).
LCD Brightness • Auto
Adjust brightness
 • Manual
1 to 7
Date/Time • Set Date & Time
 • Set Date format
Language • English
 • German
 • French
 • Dutch
 • Danish
 • Portuguese
 • Finnish
 • Italian
 • Ukrainian
 • Norwegian
 • Swedish
 • Spanish
 • Greek
 • Russian
 • Polish
 • Czech
 • Hungarian
 • Romanian
 • Turkish
 • Arabic
 • Thai
 • Simplified Chinese
 • Traditional Chinese
 • Korean
 • Japanese
Select menu language.
Video system • NTSC
 • PAL
Select video system for video out connector.
Sensor cleaning • Auto cleaning
 • Clean now
 • Clean manually
Defines the settings for the built-in cleaning system, by default the system is enabled and cleans at startup and shutdown (although can be interrupted).
The 'clean manually' option locks the mirror and shutter up.
VF grid display • Disable
 • Enable
Setup tab 3
Video system • NTSC
 • PAL
Battery infoDisplays remaining battery capacity and recharge performance
Sensor cleaning • Auto cleaning
 • Clean now
 • Clean manually
INFO. button display options • Displays camera setting
 • Electronic level
 • Displays shooting functions
Rate button function• Rating
• Protect
Setup tab 4
Custom shooting mode (C1-C3) • Register settings
 • Clear settings
 • Auto update settings
Clear all camera settings • OK
 • Cancel
Copyright information • Display copyright info
 • Enter author's name
 • Enter copyright details
 • Delete copyright information
FirmwareSelect to load new firmware from CF cardAlso shows current version, on our camera 1.0.7

Custom Functions

The custom functions on the EOS 5D Mark III are split into four sub-pages - exposure, Display/Operation, Others and Clear. It's less long-winded than in previous EOS cameras as some functions have been moved elsewhere and the AF settings now got their own menu tab.

C.Fn1: Exposure

Exposure level increments • 1/3 stop
 • 1/2 stop
ISO speed setting increments • 1/3 stop
 • 1 stop
Bracketing auto cancel • On
 • Off
Bracketing sequence • 0, -, +
 • -, 0, +
 • +, 0, -
Number of bracketed shots • 3
 • 2
 • 5
 • 7
Safety shift • Disable
 • Shutter speed / Aperture (Tv/Av)
 • ISO speed

C.Fn2: Disp./Operation

Warnings in viewfinder • When Picture Style Monochrome set
 • When WB is corrected
 • When one-touch image quality set
 • When ISO expansion is used
 • When spot metering is set
LV shooting area display • Masked
 • Outlined
Dial direction during Tv/Av • Normal
 • Reverse
Multi function lock • Main Dial
 • Quick control dial
 • Multi-controller
Custom controls • Shutter button half-press
Metering and AF start
Metering start
AE lock
 • AF-On button
Metering and AF start
AE lock
AF stop
FE lock
AE lock
 • AE lock button
AE lock
Metering and AF start
AF stop
FE lock
AE lock
 • DOF-preview button
Depth-of-field preview
AF stop
AE lock
One Shot / AI Servo
IS Start
Switch to registered AF func.
One-touch image quality
One-touch image quality (hold)
FE lock
VF electronic level
Switch to registered AF point
AE lock (hold)
 • Lens AF stop button
AF stop
Metering and AF start
AE lock
One Shot / AI Servo
IS start
Switch to registered AF func.
AE lock (hold)
Switch to registered AF point
 • M-Fn button
FE lock
AE lock
One-touch image quality
One-touch image quality (hold)
VF electronic level
AE lock (hold)
 • Set button
Image quality
Picture Style
Menu display
Image replay
ISO speed
 • Main dial
Shutter speed setting in M mode
Aperture setting in M mode
 • Quick control dial
Aperture setting in M mode
Shutter speed setting in M mode
AF point direct selection
ISO speed
 • Multi-controller
AF point direct selection

Custom Controls

The Custom Controls settings can be found within the Custom Functions menu and let you customize the function of many buttons and both dials of the camera.

C.Fn3: Others

Add cropping information • Off
 • Aspect ratio 6:6
 • Aspect ratio 3:4
 • Aspect ratio 4:5
 • Aspect ratio 6:7
 • Aspect ratio 5:6
 • Aspect ratio 5:7
Default Erase option • Cancel
 • Erase

C.Fn4: Clear

Clear all Custom Functions • OK
 • Cancel

My Menu

The 'My Menu' feature on the EOS 5D Mark III allows you to produce a custom menu made up of any of the cameras menu options (including custom functions) which means that previously buried but useful options can now be brought to a top level menu.


Overall Performance

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is powered by the new Digic 5+ processor and it shows in every area. The camera's response to user input, whether via buttons or one of the menus, is as good as instant. Image browsing, magnification and comparison in playback mode is very swift as well.
The Digic 5+ combined with the sensor's 8-channel data-readout also does a good job at pushing the camera's huge 22MP image files through the imaging pipelines and buffer. Despite combined JPEG and Raw file sizes of over 30MB, with a fast CF card the camera can sustain its very respectable 6 frames per second continuous shooting speed for approximately 7 frames. If you limit yourself to shooting JPEGs you really don't need to worry about burst sizes and buffers at all.
The new 61-point AF system offers a much higher level of sophistication and customization than the 5D Mark II's. It works reliably in single AF mode, even in low light levels, and we found it to be performing well when tracking moving subjects in AI Servo mode. There are plenty of customization options and with the right technique sports and action photographers will be able to get consistently good results with the Canon's AF system.
Overall the EOS 5D Mark III is snappy and responsive at all times and simply performs impressively. The camera is not specifically targeted at sports and action photographers, but with its highly customizable and responsive AF system and 6 frames per second continuous shooting, it certainly gives you all the tools you need to capture some impressive action shots.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

In terms of continuous shooting the EOS 5D Mark III is not quite on the same level as dedicated sports and action cameras such as Canon's EOS-1D Mark IV, but nevertheless its 6 frames per second in Continuous Hi mode still make it a capable tool for shooting fast moving subjects. It's also quicker than the Mark III's closest competitor, the Nikon D800 (4 fps / 5fps in DX mode) or the 5D Mark II (3.9 fps).
With the 5D Mark III's large images files it is advisable to use a fast CF memory card, especially if you are planning to shoot bursts in Raw+JPEG mode. We've noticed that the CF cards slot makes use of the fastest cards that are currently available while this is not the case for the SD-card slot. There was no difference in performance between SD-cards with 45mb/s and 95mb/s transfer rates. That said, when shooting JPEGs only you don't need to worry about the number of frames in a burst, no matter what card you are using. If you need to shoot continuously for sustained periods of time and can make do with a slower frame rate you can switch to the Continuous Lo mode. It offers a speed of 3 frames per second and, with a fast card, you can shoot at that speed until you run out of storage space on the memory card.

Continuous Hi - CF Card

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate6.0 fps6.0 fps6.0 fps
Number of framesuntil card full177
Buffer full raten/a2.72.0
Write completen/a4 sec4 sec

Continuous Hi - SD Card

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate6.0 fps6.0 fps6.0 fps
Number of frames42147
Buffer full rate2.60.70.5
Write complete111712

Continuous Lo - CF Card

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate3.0 fps3.0 fps3.0 fps
Number of framesuntil card full2316
Buffer full raten/a2.52.0
Write completen/a3 sec3 sec

Continuous Lo - SD Card

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate3.0 fps3.0 fps3.0 fps
Number of framesuntil card full168
Buffer full raten/a0.70.6
Write completen/a17 sec12 sec
All timings performed using a 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDHC card (90MB/s) and a 128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro UDMA 7 CF card (100MB/s).
The 5D Mark III's silent shooting mode is available, as 'Continuous S', in continuous shooting. This mode reduces shutter noise and vibration by slowing down the shutter and mirror reflex action. The shutter is noticeably quieter which makes this mode very suitable for noise-sensitive occasions and events, but the continuous shooting performance is the same as in 'Continuous Lo' mode. On the downside there is a slight increase in shutter lag and viewfinder blackout time. We've had a closer look at Silent Shooting on the Features page of this review.

Battery life

The EOS 5D Mark III comes with the same LP-E6 lithium-ion battery pack that was used in the predecessor It's got a capacity of 1800 mAh which, according to Canon, is good for 950 shots (CIPA standard) or approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes of movie shooting time. While shooting our sample images for this review we found the battery life to be approximately in line with Canon's figures and, when leaving the office with a fully-charged battery, never had to worry  about running out of power. Of course battery life will to a large degree depend on your shooting conditions and operational habits but for those who prefer to have some backup-power the optional BG-E11 battery grip might be worth an additional investment.


The 5D Mark III comes with a new AF system that is, in terms of specification, very close to the flagship EOS 1D X. It comes with 61 points, 41 of which are cross-type points and, uniquely to this sensor, five of them are diagonally sensitive (for these double cross-type, imagine an X overlaid on a + shape).
When used with lenses with a maximum aperture of F5.6 or brighter, the 5D Mark III is unmatched in terms of the number of cross type points it offers (21). Use an F4 or brighter lens and the advantage becomes even greater, with the camera gaining another 20 cross-type points that are further out from the center of the frame (Nikon's system only features cross-type sensors near the middle of the frame). Fit an F2.8 or brighter lens and the five central double-cross-type sensors become available.
The 5D Mark III only loses out to the Nikon D4 and D800 when it comes to use with slower lenses or long lens/teleconverter combinations, in that its cross-type points can only be used with lenses that are F5.6 or brighter. Canon says there's a trade-off to be made and that its approach allows the sensor to be more accurate with the large aperture lenses it expects its customers to use, and allows the F4 cross-type sensors to be placed further towards the edge of the frame.
And, while the system doesn't have the 1D X's 100,000 pixel metering sensor, it still has a 63-point, color-aware metering sensor (a Foveon-esque two-layer affair), to help the camera track subjects.
F2.8 or brighter
F5.6 or brighter
The other key improvement is the simplification of the AF configuration. Previous high-end Canons have had very capable AF systems but have required fairly extensive training to correctly optimize them for the subject being shot. The 5D Mark III, like the 1D X, has a greatly simplified system for configuration, based on use-case presets.
AF configuration is complex compared to the 5D Mark II. But it's greatly simplified compared to the EOS-1D Mark IV, with a choice of 6 use-cases. The three parameters (tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking and willingness to switch AF points) can all be adjusted to more precisely tailor the presets to your favoured subject and shooting style.
The AF menu allows you to configure in detail precisely how you'd like the AF system to function, across fully five tabs of options.

Some of these have simply been ordered more coherently compared to where they were on the 5D Mark II, but there's a load of additional settings too, most of which are shared with the EOS-1D X.
You can choose which AF points you want the camera to use or allow you to select manually. The second setting - 'Only cross-type AF points' - takes into account the maximum aperture of the lens you're currently using.
AF microadjustment now allows you to program-in different settings for the two ends of a zoom. You can also enter an identification number for the specific the copy of the lens you're using.
We are no sports photographers but we can say that the simplified AF options are a great help when shooting moving subjects. We tested the EOS 5D Mark III's AF system with a 70-200mm F4L lens at an amateur soccer match, and even with our limited sports shooting skills got a very large proportion of usable shots. With the AF mode set to 'AI Servo' and the AF Case 4 'For subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly' the camera locks onto a subject and tracks it reliably while shooting a burst.
The sample series below is representative for the kind of results we got. We locked focus on the player in the red shirt. The AF system tracks the subject but appears to get slightly confused when the subject is surrounded by other players. As a result in frames 5 and 6 the subject is very slightly soft, but even these shots would be usable on the web or at smaller formats. The AF also recovers quickly, with the subject in perfect focus again in the following shots.
Frame 1
Frame 2
Frame 3
Frame 4
Frame 5
Frame 6
Frame 7
Frame 8
In single AF mode the EOS 5D Mark III's AF performs very well, too, even in very low light, despite the lack of an AF-assist lamp. Rated down to EV-2, which is equivalent to moonlight, we've been constantly impressed by the ability of the 5D III's AF system to get solid focus in light where the 5D Mark II would have been completely unable to operate.
However, one thing to be aware of when shooting with wide apertures on a full-frame camera is the very little tolerance you have in terms of depth of field. When focusing on an image area outside the center of the frame it is advisable to move the AF point rather than using the center point and recompose. If you get consistent focus errors the camera's micro adjustment function can help, but in general it can still be a a good idea to focus bracket when shooting at longer focal lengths and wide apertures.
The camera's AF system works reliably and swiftly, even in low light. This picture was taken indoors at ISO 6400, 1/60 sec and F4.
And here's an even lower-light shot. Taken at ISO 25,600 at a shutter speed of 1/100sec and an aperture of f/5.6 the image in the viewfinder was barely bright enough for image composition yet the 5D III has captured a perfectly focussed, well-exposed image.
The contrast detect AF in Live View is still significantly slower than the standard phase-detect system. But this latest generation is now fast enough to make Live View a viable alternative for specialist applications such as macro or studio still life, or when the positioning of the camera makes it difficult to use the viewfinder.

Multiple exposures

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers a multi-exposure mode that is easily accessible via the 'Creative Photo' button to the left of the camera's LCD monitor. It allows you to blend between 2 and 9 exposures in one single images. You've got the option to only save the end result or all images including raw files, so you've got the option to composition the images again in post-processing, using customized blending parameters.
You can either select an image that is already on your memory card and then take one or more shots to combine it with, or you can take all shots to composition in one go. You cannot blend two or more images that are already saved on the card.
The EOS 5D Mark III's multiple exposure mode offers a variety of parameters.You can blend between 2 and 9 images and have a choice of four different blending modes.
The samples below demonstrate the blending modes available for the Canon 5D Mark III's multiple exposure mode. Image 1 was taken and saved on the memory card. We then took four pictures of the same scene (Image 2) and each time used a different blending mode - Additive, Average, Bright and Dark.
Image 1
Image 2

Picture Styles

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers six Picture Style color response presets, shown in the table below.
These presets can be applied prior to image capture via the Q-menu or the Picture Style button, or when converting a raw file in-camera. There is also an 'Auto' setting which automatically picks the best style for a given scene and three user definable settings.
Within each of the Picture Control options you can make adjustments to sharpness, contrast, saturation and hue settings.

In-camera raw conversion

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III comes with a fairly comprehensive in-camera raw conversion mode. You can pick any raw file on the memory card and modify the following parameters: brightness, white balance, picture style, ALO, noise reduction, image quality and size, color space, vignetting correction, CA correction and distortion correction. The latter can only be applied to images this way as it is not available while taking an image. Once you've selected your settings the new image is saved onto the card.
The 5D Mark III's in-camera raw conversion offers a comprehensive set of parameters.
The image above was converted with the EOS 5D Mark III's in-camera raw conversion. On the left you can see the out-of-camera JPEG, taken at default settings. For the right image we converted the raw file and in the process changed the Picture Style to Monochrome, increased contrast, applied a Green filter and added a Sepia tint.

Silent shooting

For 'noise-sensitive' situations the Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers various silent shooting modes. In these modes the Canon's shutter sound is significantly quieter than in the standard mode which is, compared to for example the Nikon D800, not particularly loud anyway. The more silent shutter actuation is achieved by slowing down the shutter and mirror reflex action and as a downside there is a slight increase in shutter lag and viewfinder blackout time.
Silent shooting modes are available in the menu for live view shooting......and in the Q-menu or via the drive mode button in standard shooting mode.
In Standard shooting mode you can select the 'Silent single' and 'Silent continuous mode' via the drive mode button or the Q-menu. The latter mode captures images at the same rate as the 'Continuous Lo' mode - 3 frames per sec. Below you can download MP3 sound files of the Silent and Standard continuous shooting modes.
Continuous Lo shooting mode - download .mp3 (68KB) here
Continuous Silent shooting mode - download .mp3 (79KB) here
When shooting in live view the sound generated by pressing the shutter button is quieter as the mirror does not need to be moved but in addition you have a choice between two LV silent shooting modes which can be set in the LV-tab of the shooting menu.
In Mode 1 the shutter sound is only marginally quieter but the camera shoots in the drive-mode that is currently set, i.e. you can shoot at 6 frames per second in 'Continuous Hi'. In Mode 2 you can suspend any further camera operation after an image has been taken by keeping the shutter button pressed. In a very quiet shooting situations you can therefore keep the button pressed until ambient noise increases and the camera sounds will be less noticeable.

Dynamic range expansion

Like previous Canon DSLRs the Canon EOS 5D Mark III comes with the dynamic range enhancement modes Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) and ALO (Auto Lighting Optimizer). The former improves a scene's highlight detail, while the latter increases shadow detail in high-contrast scenes. The High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode is a new feature on the 5D Mark III and increases a scene's dynamic range by combining several exposures into one.

Auto Lighting Optimizer

The 5D Mark III comes with the same Auto Lighting Optimizer feature that has been included in a few generations of Canon DSLRs now. The function lifts shadow detail in high-contrast scenes but in less contrasty conditions, the feature is not doing anything worth commenting on. Here is an example of a high dynamic range situation, and the effect of having ALO off and switched on to its various settings. Looking at the detail of the boat's hull there is difference in the shadow area, but it is subtle, even at the 'Strong' setting.



ALO Standard

ALO Strong

Highlight Tone Priority

The EOS 5D Mark III features the same 'Highlight tone priority' option that's found all current generation EOS cameras. It is activated on the third page of the shooting menu, and improves a scene's highlight detail. In our studio tests, it adds an additional stop of dynamic range in the highlights. In the real world it produced a clear, if subtle improvement, allowing the user to retain some detail in highlight areas where they would otherwise have been lost. This can be seen in the texture of the white tarpaulin on the boat on the left.


Because of the way Highlight Tone Priority works, it limits the minimum available sensitivity setting to ISO 200; it's also unavailable with the extended (H) settings. One point worth noting is that the extra highlight range is retained in your Raw files too, making HTP a very useful option to give you a 'buffer' in contrasty conditions (we often leave it on by default).

HDR mode

The EOS 5D Mark III is the first Canon DSLR to offer a built-in HDR mode. When pressing the shutter button in this mode the camera takes three shots - one correctly exposed, one over- and one under-exposed. The three shots are then combined to an HDR image. Moving subjects in your scene will result in 'ghosting' effects and Canon recommends the use of a tripod or fast shutter speeds when shooting in HDR mode. That said, on the 5D Mark III the mode can auto-align images (which it can't on Canon' compact cameras), and unlike almost any other camera, it lets you save RAW files for later processing.
The 5D Mark III's HDR mode lets you fine-tune your HDR shooting experience through a range of parameters in the shooting menu.
The mode is accessed via the Shooting Effects button on the camera's left shoulder, and offers a range of parameters to play with. You can select the bracketing range (1 to 3EV or 'Auto'), the HDR effect (Natural, Art standard, Art vivid, Art bold or Art embossed) and you can specify if only the HDR image should be saved to the memory card, or all three captured shots plus the end result.
The effects on offer range from fairly natural to pretty surreal. Which ones you like most will depend on your personal preferences. While the effects differ quite substantially from each other the impact of the selected EV range is much more subtle. Below you can see an overview of all possible effects/EV range combinations.
Standard 1
Standard 2
Standard 3
Vivid 1
Vivid 2
Vivid 3
Natural 1
Natural 2
Natural 3
Bold 1
Bold 2
Bold 3
Embossed 1
Embossed 2
Embossed 3