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5D Mark III – Quick Initial Thoughts

Me & 5DM3s. Princeton, NJ, March 22, 2012.

I got my 5DM3’s this past Wednesday (thanks again to Allen at Allen’s Camera) and jumped right in. After some initial tests and setting up the menus I shot a job with them the next day.

This is not a full review, it’s just some initial thoughts from the perspective of one who has been using 1D series bodies for the past eight years (1Ds I – III, 1D Mark IV.)

-I never went in for the 5D Mark II because I didn’t like it. The build quality, the focus system, the overall feel of it was not a match for a 1D series body. I love that the 5D Mark III feels like it is from the 1D gene pool. The weight of it is nice, lighter but not too light. Nothing on it feels cheap or flimsy other than possibly the on/off switch (not as smooth or indesctructible as a 1D one) and the mode dial (which is fine but time will tell if the 1D way of setting modes is better or just different.)

-The new autofocus system is spot on. Nothing I shot on Thursday was out of focus. I do miss the ability to set a reduced number of focus points (I think it was 11 on the 1DsM3?) and being able to quickly scroll through them. The 5D Mark III does let you reduce the number of focus points but at first glance they look to be too limiting. I’m sure that this is something I’ll get used to very quickly since it did not get in the way by the end of the day on Thursday.

-I bought two 5D Mark IIIs, I always shoot with two cameras and prefer to have two of the same (same batteries, same menus, same feel, etc.) In setting up the camera I was surprised to see one 1D feature missing, the ability to back up & save all of your camera settings to a memory card or to transfer the settings to another body. I may have missed that somewhere but from what I can tell it does not exist on the 5D Mark III.

-At first I was quite dismayed with the placement of the magnify button. On the 5D Mark III it is on the leftmost side of the camera which is inconvenient when shooting. With the 1Ds it was always been on the right, easily reachable by your thumb, and allowing you to activate/control it without taking your eye from the viewfinder or from a z-finder when shooting video. But there is an answer – in the menu Custom Function 2 Disp./Operation at the bottom is an option for Custom Controls. Here you can assign new functions to many of the camera’s buttons and you can make the Set button a magnify button. Very cool, it moves the magnify control back over to the right side of the camera.

-Similar to the above, other buttons you might want to change:

  • In movie mode, SHOOT 5 menu, you can change the Movie Shoot button from the Start/Stop on the back of the camera to the Shutter Release button. Not only will this speed up control it allows for the use of a Canon cable release to start and stop recording (e.g. it could be positioned on a shoulder rig grip arm.)
  • AF 3 menu, you can turn off the AF-assist beam.
  • Play 3 menu, you can change the Magnification to Actual Size.

-The high ISO ability of the camera is to die for. It will change the way you shoot. Not so much because of low light but because you can make creative decisions knowing that going up in ISO will not hurt you.

-I shot about 1500 frames on two 5D Mark IIIs over about eight hours. At the end of the day the batteries were still at about 1/2 power or just below.

-Coming from 1D series bodies it’s great to have something smaller and lighter. You will want the battery grip if you have to have to shoot a lot verticals. It’s just more convenient and comfortable.

-While the 5D Mark III’s battery packs a lot of punch the charger that comes with the camera gets its DNA from the consumer/prosumer side of the fence. It’s very small, needs no power brick, but it goes right into an outlet itself taking up a lot space (no cord, like a charger for a p&s.) It’s more of a travel charger than anything else. The 1D series chargers offer two battery slots which can charge the batteries consecutively. IOW, you can come back from a shoot, pop the batteries on the charger and not have to manage them. You know they will be good to go. Canon offers no options for charging multiple LP-E6 batteries but there are third-party options. I picked up a Dolgin TC40-DLSR-C from B&H. It charges four batteries simultaneously and is well made. It’s not cheap but if you get a B&H discount from ASMP or a similar organization it will save you another $40. It has bays for up to four batteries, something that will be helpful once the 5D Mark III battery grips are available (they take two batteries each.) Dolgin also makes a two-bay model.

-I’m an Aperture user and it does not support the 5D Mark III yet. Current options seem to be limited to Canon’s DPP  or a beta of Adobe Camera Raw. I tried the latter and it works fine.

Princeton, NJ, March 22, 2012. Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105 f/4L: f/5.0, 1/250, ISO 4000. Processed in ACR, click to enlarge.

Update 03/28/2012 – High ISO.


  1. This was helpful – thanks! Now can someone please tell me how to enable the camera to show the same type/# of focal points in “P” and other modes, as it does on full auto? I see the option to have them “all visible always” but I prefer it to show up when focusing/shooting only. Same way the 1D Mark iii and others work. This is really driving me nuts! ;)

  2. p. 73 in the manual, “Select the AF Area Selection Mode.” No?….

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