Canon 5D Mark III First Impressions

It's finally here! Today, Canon formally announced the availability of its newest full frame camera, the 5D Mark III. Why is this so important? It has been over 3 years since Canon released a full-frame DSLR camera that was:

1. HD Video capable.
2. Relatively lightweight and wieldable for long periods of time compared to the 1Dx.
3. Relatively affordable for the enthusiast who wants a camera significantly more substantial than a Rebel.

When reviewing the specifications, this camera appears to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Let's look at the three specifications that matter to most photographers. In pixel resolution, it has only increased from 21 to 22 megapixels. Secondly, for low-light photography, the stated maximum standard ISO has been pushed to 25,600: however, the real improvement will have to come from the newly designed photodiodes, which may only provide incrementally better performance. Finally, the Mark III's new and faster DIGIC5+ processor only allows for an increase in continous shooting speeds to 6 frames per second, up from the Mark II's 3.9: will it be fast enough to capture just the right moment in action photography? Or do we still have to depend on luck, as I did when I captured this image on a recent trip to Manhattan Beach.

Manhattan Beach Surfer caught with a Canon
Catch the wave if you can!

What Canon Fans May Not Like about the 5D Mark III

What might Canon enthusiasts find somewhat disappointing?  From a pure photography point of view, this camera has a full frame sensor that has only 61% as many pixels as its direct competitor, the Nikon D800, which sports an amazing 36 megapixels. This is a significant concession in resolution, especially for landscape and portrait photographers whose goal is to develop hightly detailed prints. Also, the idea of having a swiveling LCD to enable users to frame photos and videos from difficult angles in live viewing modes (think of raising your camera above your head to see above crowds) was once thought of as a gimmick for cheaper camera models, but has become a desired feature that will be missed in the Mark III.

The Mark II version of this camera really changed the world of video production, and some of released production video can simply be described as inspirational, such as this beautiful short by well-known director Vincent Laforet. Canon fans have enviously watched as the competition catch up with game-changing technologies. Sony, for example, has used their Translucent Mirror technology to allow their cameras to achieve continuous autofocus during HD video recording, as described in this detailed review of the Sony Alpha 77. Canon does not appear to have responded as well as had been hoped: though very well appreciated as a step up over the Mark II, it remains to be seen what focusing feats can be achieved with a DIGIC5 processor and the new 61-point focusing system that the Mark III has borrowed from the top-of-the-line Canon 1Dx.

What Canon Fans Will Love about the 5D Mark III

Thankfully, 5D Mark III has not followed the miscues of its lesser family member, the 60D. This camera lost much of its predecessor's solidity and feel of quality when its chassis was downgraded from metal to plastic during the upgrade cycle last year. The Mark III body looks like it may have been improved over the Mark II. Additionally, the LCD will be touch-sensitive, which may make menu navigation easier.

Though not built in, the wireless transmitter and GPS options are going to be two very welcome additions that will make the Mark III favored workhorse for professional photographers. The optional microphone jack will really help videographers by facilitating higher quality audio that does not require syncing with video. The embedded time code feature will make this camera extremely versatile as a video platform by allowing footage from separate cameras to be easily synced during the editing process.

Final First Impressions of the Canon 5D Mark III

Ultimately, a photographer's lens collection will determine whether they decide to purchase the Mark III or Nikon's D800. From a cost perspective, many of you Canoners out there who would love to step up to a full frame camera may suffer some sticker shock. One of my favorite rumor sites,, has compiled a comprehensive list of online retailers, all of whom are offering the Mark III at its full MSRP of $3499.

Oddly enough, Canon has left a pricing gap in the full-frame camera market that may poach some Mark III sales. The Mark II had been offered for as little as $1999 during recent Christmas sales events, a mere 500 shells more than a 7D, which has a much inferior APS-C sensor. For those who are unable to convince their significant other that the Mark III is a "good investment", the Mark II will become a very viable alternative.

If I ever purchase a Canon Mark III, I will definitely post a review on this blog. However, until one of us gets our hands on one later this month when it is available for shipment, we can only speculate how far it will push the performance envelope, and whether it is worth the premium over its predecessor. Do you think it will be worth it?


  1. A side by side comparison of the Mark 111 and the Nikon D800 will be anticipated much more than usual by potential buyers. Nikon might gain some business from the hefty cost of the Mark 111: $3500US in the USA; $3800US in Canada; $4500US in the UK, for the body only. I think the Mark 111 is worth around $3200, tops, and believe that Canon's pricing will end-up turning buyers away. Too bad, as the Mark 111 probably takes great photos, and that's what it's all about.

    1. Thanks for the comment. It is remarkable how high prices are in other parts of the world. I believe that both manufacturers are pushing the limits on pricing. Yes, the Mark III will probably be great, but for the price, I could probably get the Mark II and add a new 85mm F1.2L. Decisions Decisions!