I took this photo with Canon 5D MK III during blue hour. The tree was lit by the lights of the hotel situated nearby what resulted in a bit surreal look.

For more than a year I was using Canon 5D Mark II but very recently I switched to its successor – 5D Mark III. Was it worth the switch? Read my short review below.

Just after starting up 5D MK III you notice one thing – it is much more professional than its predecessor. From menu layout to AF system and weather sealing. Everything is more complex and looking much more professional than in Mark II. And complex doesn’t mean worse or more difficult – extra options are welcome as they are creating some very nice opportunities.

The size and weight of the camera is very close to that of 5D MK II. Most of the buttons are in the same places but there are still some nice ergonomics and layout improvements and additions, like:

  • ON/OFF switch is now situated in the same place where mode dial is. At first I wasn’t sure if it’s good but after longer use I really prefer it to the older way. It’s much more difficult to switch it on/off accidentally, eg. in a photo bag. What’s more now this switch is bi-state instead of tri-state from 5D Mark III.
  • Mode you’re shooting in is now locked. If you want to turn mode dial you first need to press small button at the top of it. Again it helps in preventing accidental changing of the mode.
  • Slightly bigger LCD screen (3.2 inch vs 3.0 in Mark II) this is great as it makes reviewing photos easier
  • Depth-of-field preview button is now on the right of the lens what makes it more easier to access. It’s also slightly larger.
  • Rate button which allows you to rate your photos in a camera. It’s a really great feature because then these marks will show, eg. in Lightroom what makes rejecting and picking best photos much easier and effective

    New Auto Focus System

    There was much talk about new auto-focusing system in 5D Mark III and I can only confirm what you probably know already – it’s really superb. 61 AF points give a lot of opportunities and given the fact that many of them are cross type and double-cross type (41 and 5 respectively) you no longer need to stick to the center AF point because other are usable and accurate as well.

    Also continuous AF is finally usable! It’s fast and have a lot of options for different types of movement. In my tests it performed very well even with fast moving subjects.

    The only issue with AF is that the points could be wider spreaded in a frame because they are still gathered quite close to the center.

    For me quite important change is increasing number of frames to 7 in auto-bracketing mode. It’s a significant improvement over just 3 frames available in 5D MK II. Combined with very fast burst mode (6 frames per second) it makes for a great HDR camera.

    Moving subjects were a big problem for AF from 5D MK II. In 5D MK III this is no longer an issue. This beautiful tiger was walking quite fast in my direction but the image still is very sharp and correctly focused.

    HDR

    There is also a HDR mode but frankly speaking I don’t like it. I much prefer to have better control over the creative process and this of 5D MK gives almost no options. Also it isn’t as sophisticated as eg. Photomatix and it can’t be given computing power of regular PC vs computing power of DSLR. However, this mode can be quite useful to check how your HDR might look, if you exposed the shadows and highlights correctly etc.

    Image Quality and low-light performance

    But what about image quality? It’s almost the same as in 5D MK II, dynamic range is also very close to that and it’s about 11 EV. Compared to some Nikons (eg. D800 with 14 EV of dynamic range) this value isn’t impressive. So that’s rather disappointing.

    I did notice some improvements in case of low light shooting. For me the maximum usable ISO on 5D MK II was 6400. On 5D Mark III both 12800 and 25600 (which are now native ISO) are fully usable. There is some noise of course but it’s very easy to get rid of it with Lightroom or any other noise reduction tool.

    Other changes

    But there are plenty of other improvements. Below are a few I especially like:

    • Virtual horizon which makes levelling the photos much easier.
    • Videos with up to 60 FPS (although 60 FPS isn’t available in Full HD)
    • Ability to develop RAWs inside camera
    • ISO expandable to 102.400!
    • Multi-exposure mode – you shoot a few photos and they are combined into one. Although one can do that in Photoshop of course, having such option in camera is great

    Summary

    Pros:

    • a lot of great additions and improvements
    • fantastic AF performance
    • fast burst mode (6 FPS)
    • auto-bracketing up to 7 frames 
    • great low-light performance
    • dual card slot

    Cons:

    • dynamic range could be better
    • AF points could be spaced a bit wider 

    So summing up it’s a really great camera. If it had dynamic range of Nikon D800 it would be ideal. It isn’t but I believe it’s still worth a switch because it’s packed with a lot of useful features that make taking photos much easier and that also help in achieving better results.