Canon 5d Mark III arrives!

March 23, 2012

I received my pre-order of the Canon 5d Mark III, the second in the 5d series to shoot video. When the Mark II came out, I purchased two the instant they were available. I raced to do the same again this time, and the day after release I've had the chance to play with the camera a bit. *UPDATE: At the bottom are some new notes after more time with the camera.

So far, I'm blown away by what It does when taking PHOTOS. The camera has a phenomenal autofocus, which was always my largest complaint about the previous camera.

The video functions however haven't got me that excited. The main "upgrades" Canon has added to the new camera:

-Manual audio levels and headphone monitoring DURING recording!
-Incredible new auto-focus system (doesn't apply as we only shoot photos for fun!)
*UPDATE: I'm not a photographer anymore, but I have photographed around 150 weddings. I want to reiterate how amazing the new auto-focus is. Photographers will be VERY happy with this camera!

-Reduced Moire and Rolling shutter (this was a big one for me)
-New file format with less compression (I have yet to test this, though the bitrate is VERY high!) This compression is IPB, where every frame is compressed separately
-Incredible high ISO performance and low light performance (See the short video below)
            Note: you can download this 1080p original file on my vimeo.
-60 frames per second at 720p (the 60d, t2i, t3i and 7d ALL had this feature too)
-more rugged body and a deeper grip which my large fingers love *UPDATE: I like this more and more. It feels extremely solid compared to the 5dII.
-dual card slots (which won't auto-switch in video)
-29:29 run time (due to a lousy Europe regulation and tax on video cameras)

Now, here's what I HOPED FOR and a few of my complaints:

-More resolution: It's very clear to me that this camera does not resolve any more than the previous 5d II. This may sound somewhat confusing as it's a "1080p" camera. It does give you a 1080p file, however this file really only holds roughly 800 lines of resolution (and not 1080). This is sad Canon. You should have fixed this.

-Cost: From a video standpoint, this camera is $3500, which makes it at least $1500 more than a 5dII, especially if you're willing to pick up a used one (photographers are going to be dumping the old 5dII's like a barista with a bad shot of espresso).

Pamela and I have learned to deal without the audio levels while recording, and I'm not that into slow motion. What's left? The excellent low light performance is great- but is it worth selling and upgrading all of our cameras? We shall see.

-Buttons changed: I can't tell you why, but canon has changed the zoom button for checking focus. This is driving me crazy! You can map it to the "set" button, but it's really not as convenient.

Bottom Line: It's a camera. It's an amazing camera regardless. Is it worth the extra $$$? Time will tell, as will more testing but my gut is saying no (for the videographer). It's been three years Canon, I own nine of your lenses, and a ton of other accessories. You're going to have to try harder than this to get me to jump on two more of them. It's been three and a half years, these improvements are so minimal in my opinion, when they ought to have been revolutionary. Canon has a 4k cinema camera coming out next, perhaps it will have the bells and whistles I'm asking for.

I'll update with more thoughts as I learn more about the new camera.

A few more notes:
1. I'm in love with the "silent" touch capacitance (think the old iPods and how they worked) while recording. You can adjust aperture, shutter, ISO and audio levels without disturbing the sound! It's incredibly useful for events like weddings.

2. There is a MAJOR glaring audio issue. The preamp in the camera ads a large amount of hiss when you go below what I would call the %52 mark. To simplify, it at %53 it sounds fairly clean, when you drop it one notch to around %52 it gets VERY noisy. Something to keep in mind. It happens with both external microphones and the built in mic.

3. Time limit: Canon has really helped us here. You can now record just shy of 30 minutes. Not only this, but it blinks at you for two minutes BEFORE it turns off. When it does finally turn itself off a message in large letters displays on the screen "Recording has stopped automatically." If you're anything like me, you've probably recorded on the 5dII before and not realized that your recording had stopped! This can be very problamatic. These are little things, but they can make a huge difference while shooting.

4. External monitoring: This camera does not switch resolutions or black out while recording. You can monitor, get focus and hit record and instantly see what you're doing. This is a huge perk for many such as myself. I have a Small HD monitor, which will pair very well with this camera.

5. Bit rate and Record times: The data rates aren't what canon has been saying. I need to do further testing, but my first test was to fill a 32GB card recording a tv show (camera pointed at the screen). This simulates a wide variety of situations (I think). The data rate for ALL-I (the least compressed format) at 24/1080p seems to hover around 45Mbps (Mega bits per second). This translates to under 6MB/second. This leaves me very confused. I was able to record 1 hour and 40 minutes on a 32GB card. This is completely off from what Canon says in the manual (44 minutes for a 32GB card). How can this be so off?

*Update: I think Canon must be erring on the high side. I looked through the data rates of all my files, and I do have some that are as high as 98Mbps. It seems that the compressor is good at saving data when there are repeat frames.

*UPDATE: New test for noise comparison here: (download entire file for best viewing)


  1. Your review echoes some of the others I have read. Actually, you are probably even more generous than some of the other video dslr enthusiasts. I'm guessing that you'll be seeing a few 5DIII's popping up on the used market before long.


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