Here is a first review based on the specifications and our first impressions about this new Canon flagship camera. We are really looking forward to getting a production sample in our lab to be able to test it.
Between the 21Mpix of the Mark II and the 22.3Mpix of the Mark III, there has been a lot more progress than meets the eye (given how nearly identical the two iterations seem to be on the surface).
But as a matter of fact, nearly 4 years have gone by since the release of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon has integrated a new-generation CMOS full-frame sensor which is characterized by two important developments:
To avoid overheating while shooting in Live View and video modes, Canon has exploited the potential of heat dissipation via an exothermic body.
Treating the EOS 5D Mark III with all the dignity due a camera outfitted with a demanding autofocus, with an iFCL meter, and especially with a new 22-megapixel sensor, Canon has endowed it with a new processor, the DIGIC 5+. The “plus” here is important, because while the DIGIC 5 is 17 times more rapid than the DIGIC 4, the DIGIC 5+ is 3 times more rapid than the DIGIC 5. Still...
Even if it can’t come close to catching the shadow of the EOS-1D X’s 14 fps burst frame rate, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III can still shoot in bursts at 6 fps, a medium speed that starts to become interesting for certain kinds of action photos. In RAW, the burst duration is limited to 18 consecutive photos when using a CompactFlash UDMA-7 card. In JPEG, burst shooting is essentially unlimited (i.e., one can take several hundred consecutive photos).
Canon is starting to encroach on Nikon’s territory, events photography. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III has a new shutter and a new, carefully-worked and quiet mirror mechanism that will be praised for its silence (and we can confirm this). In classic mode, it is already nearly noise-free. In silent mode, the sound is completely suppressed, going from 60 dB to 50 dB — a technical success. Naturally, when shooting bursts in silent mode, the rate is reduced to 3 fps, because to achieve this level of noiselessness, the EOS 5D Mark III slows down the mirror action. The shutter, by the way, has been tested through 150,000 cycles.
In the same way that Nikon put the autofocus of its D4 camera into the D800, Canon has put the high-density (61-collimator) reticular autofocus of its EOS-1D X camera into the hands of 5D MKIII buyers, with a few limitations. This autofocus module offers very strong detectivity in its center, with 41 collimators in a cross array and the 5 ultra-central collimators arrayed in a double cross. Unlike the 1D X, however, it loses the coupling of color measurement to exposure.
The range covered by the Mark III’s autofocus in the viewfinder (8x19mm) represents a big step forward with respect to the EOS 5D Mark II.
The Mark III also brings with it a well-thought-out ergonomic innovation for its autofocus: a simplified set of parameters in a very visual menu and the ability to store settings for six different use cases according to the subject’s type of movement — e.g., regular, erratic, etc.
Following the subject is predictive just as it is with high-end reflex analog cameras: with AI Servo, the autofocus anticipates the subject’s movement in order to adapt the focus to the distance at which the subject will be when the photo is actually taken, in order to compensate for the slight delay between triggering the shutter and the actual shot.
To facilitate its entrance into the agencies whose photography pools frequently change cameras and lenses, the EOS 5D MKIII can couple the microadjustments of the autofocus (i.e., back focus / front focus) to the lens series number. So a reflex calibrated for a 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, for example, can store and use the settings specific to this particular 70-200mm F/2.8 lens.
The Mark III features the Full HD video mode that was such a big surprise success for its predecessor, in 24p, 25p, and 30p. For certain needs, such as for super-slow-motion, a 60p mode is available in 720p. The integrated microphone is mono, but one can use an external microphone for stereo recording, controlling the sound level via the meter on the screen, or even better, via headsphones — because just like the Nikon D800 and D4, the Mark III offers a headphone jack. Video can be shot at high sensitivities at (announced) unparalleled quality and if the claims hold true, it’s on these grounds that the 5D MK3 will be able to challenge its competitors by offering direct access to 12,800 ISO and even to 25,600 ISO.
The video stream is encoded in H.264, leaving the choice of compression to the user:
And if you’re wondering... no, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III does not offer video output via HDMI nor RAW video recording. And no, the 5D Mark III doesn't offer full-time AF in video, just like the 5D Mark II.
Videos are stored in a file allocation table (FAT) with a limit of 4 GB per file (around 12 minutes on average). However, the HDSLR stores the video and creates a new file every 4 GB without interrupting the recording.
This is what the “Canonistas” have been waiting such a long time for: the third-generation EOS 5D has finally borrowed some of the refinements that have made the the EOS 7D so attractive, to wit:
The 5D Mark III is now ready for launch; it seemed as if Canon had been waiting to see what Nikon was going to do in this market segment. The EOS 5D Mark III will be available the beginning of April, and — no joke — on April Fool’s Day at that. Its price will be confirmed in the course of the day, but it is expected to cost $3500. The Mark II will continue to be sold until the end of 2012 and can be found for under $2000.
The release of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is enhanced by a complement of new accessories: