Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Podcast 328 : Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Review

Last week I picked up my Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR camera on the day of the launch, and I took some lenses, a fully charged battery and a CF card with me to Shinjuku, so that I could start using the camera right away. A Starbucks lunch with...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Chris
    Posted at 16:30h, 27 March Reply

    Thanks for this excellent review Martin. It’s a shame about the autofocus at F/8.0, this is something Canon need to address on cameras in this price bracket.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:48h, 28 March Reply

      Thanks Chris! I too hope that something is done about that f/8 focusing issue.

  • Kevin Vuong
    Posted at 06:02h, 28 March Reply


    Thanks for the great review of the Canon 5DIII. I am looking forward to mine, due to arrive this Monday.

    Also, I do enjoy your work very much. It is very well done.

    Just a minor correction to your review; I think you meant “higher” signal to noise ratio, not “lower”.


    “…and larger 6.25 µm (micrometer) pixels which means a lower signal to noise ratio…”

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:51h, 28 March Reply

      Hi Kevin,

      You’re very welcome, and thanks for pointing that out! I actually was thinking “Improved” when I wrote the manuscript, but as you can see, this confuses me. Of course it should be higher, i.e. more signal to noise. I personally wish this was “noise to signal”, so I could say higher! Higher seems better to me than lower. 🙂


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:29h, 28 March Reply

      I actually just updated the audio too. I don’t often update the audio, but I think that one was bad enough to warrant it.

      Thanks again for pointing out that slip Kevin!


  • Julian
    Posted at 06:18h, 28 March Reply

    Thanks for the podcast and images. It does come across that the upgrades this time round,provides the photographer with additions of a more serious nature than has been handed down in the past from the pro level cameras.I hope this becomes a trend rather than a one off move.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:54h, 28 March Reply

      I agree Julian. This does seem to be a new direction, and I like it.

  • Tim L
    Posted at 06:58h, 28 March Reply

    Very nice review, Martin. It is easily the best I’ve read with great explanations and sample images that are based on RAW captures rather than JPGs. I appreciate the work you put into this.

    I found your explanation of the focus modes particularly useful. I don’t know why but my eyes glaze over reading the Canon manual so it was nice having the information translated into something more readable!

    You talked briefly about the HDR mode. In-camera HDRs don’t excite me too much but the thing that really interests me about this feature—assuming that it works as advertised—is that it can analyze a scene and automatically determine the correct exposure increment between the different shots in order to capture the entire DR of a scene. I can then create an HDR from the saved RAW images back on my workstation.

    You’ve got me pumped up to get out and shoot with a 5D Mark III! Fortunately, mine arrives tomorrow. 😀

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 10:10h, 28 March Reply

    Thanks Tim! I’m pleased you found this useful.

    I was actually asked once to help proof read the English versions of the Canon Manuals. I had to turn down the offer because I was too busy at the time, and I don’t really like that sort of work, but it would have been nice to clean them up a little, for the sake of the photography community. 🙂

    I’m actually the reverse when it comes to HDR. I think I’ll do more now that I can do it in camera. I’m not one for spending much time working on things like that in post, but if the camera would just spits out something useable, I might just use it. I also agree that it’s great that we have the original RAW files too, so that we can re-cook it ourselves if necessary.

    By the way, the Auto mode when shooting HDR does do exactly what it says on the box. I hadn’t tried it yet, but I just shot an image half of inside my studio, and the other half outside. The dark inside was automatically calculated and shot at 1/50, the half-way point was 1/400 and the outside was 1/3200. It automatically calculated that I needed a three stop bracket!

    Enjoy your 5D Mark III Tim! I know you’re going to love it!


  • Alan Cutler
    Posted at 11:56h, 28 March Reply

    I just want to say thanks for such a detailed and informative review of the new Canon 5D Mark III (mine is scheduled to be shipped tomorrow). Your review is by far the most thorough I have read anywhere.

    I was so impressed with your review that I started watching your podcast on the 2012 Snow Monkey & Hokkaido.

    Thanks again for all the time you put into the review.


  • Daniel Cinque
    Posted at 16:49h, 29 March Reply

    Hi Martin. Thanks for continuing to share your journey.

    I’m a D700 shooter and must admit the new Mk III has me thinking about switching. In any case after listening to your podcast I wanted to ask a focus related question.

    Out of interest do how do you manage focus? Do you use a centre focus and then recompose or do you use a focus selection point? I wondered because you are shooting wildlife which can move very quickly yet you achieve such sharp focus so I am assuming the latter method?



    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:43h, 29 March Reply

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      How I focus really depends on the situation. For most of these recent bird shots, I used the Single Point Spot AF, which is the center AF point with a spot in it. The reason for that is because I was often focusing through holes in cherry blossom petals, and as you say, these guys move fast, so I just needed quick, accurate focussing, then recomposed.

      When I can though, I select the focus point closest to the most important part of my subject, usually the eyes, and try not to recompose, because it can send the focus off if shooting wide open at relatively close distances. If the subject is far away though, the problem doesn’t really happen.

      Also, for birds in flight I often use the center focus point, but in AI Servo mode. That way once you lock on your subject with the center AF point, the camera will move to any of the rest of the focus points as you recompose. This method is much more accurate than using all 61 AF points, as you can focus on the head, then recompose. If you use all 61 points, you might focus on a wing tip, and the head could be out of focus.

      I hope that makes sense!


  • Sakari K
    Posted at 20:06h, 01 July Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for both the 5D mark III and 1D X reviews.

    Have you had a chance to “shoot” flying birds now with 5D mark III, and can you comment that how good it is compared to 1D X?

    Yours, Sakari

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 15:31h, 02 July Reply

      Hi Sakari,

      I haven’t shot flying birds with the 5D Mark III, but it did extremely well with the birds in the blossom tree, and as the 61 point system is very similar to the 1D X, I don’t expect much if any difference. Of course, the 1D X has the RGB metering to help, so I can’t say for sure, but the 5D Mark III has been very good.

      I’ll be updating folks via this blog and podcast as I get more experience with the 5D3, but it will probably be a few months out now, as the summer months in Japan are a bit dry for me bird-wise. Stay tuned though!


  • Sunny
    Posted at 23:19h, 20 July Reply

    Hello Martin-

    Thank you for your in-depth reviews on canon’s most recent releases (1DX & 5DM3) I apologize if you have already answered this question, but what are your thoughts on image quality between the two bodies? From your reviews, it seemed as if the 5DM3 had a wow factor, where the 1DX did not pack as much of a punch.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 01:20h, 21 July Reply

      You’re welcome Sunny!

      The 1D X and 5D Mark III images are very similar indeed, and there is certainly the same wow factor when viewing the image without magnification, but with 4 megapixels less, I can’t get over excited about the 1D X images. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, but the camera is built for speed and ruggedness over resolution. When image quality if the highest priority, and frame rate and weather conditions not an issue, I’ll reach for the 5D Mark III.


      • Sunny
        Posted at 10:10h, 24 July Reply

        Hi Martin-

        Thanks for your feedback. Looks like I will most likely reach out to the 1DX. Mind sharing your thoughts re: the appropriate CF card brand you use with your 1DX?

        Thanks again for your time and I really enjoy checking out your podcasts.

        Avid fan!


        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 10:42h, 24 July Reply

          No problem Sunny!

          I believe to get the best performance from the 1D X, you have to have UDMA 7 cards, so I bought the SanDisk 128GB CF card here:

          I haven’t tried doing any scientific speed tests or anything, but I also use a 64GB SanDisk UDMA 6 card in the 1D X, and don’t really notice a drop in write speed.

          Thanks for checking out the Podcasts too!


  • Rachael
    Posted at 23:20h, 21 September Reply

    Just got my mark III this week and I am delighted with it. The improved ISO and frames per second were what got me interested in upgrading from my mark II. I didn’t expect to find the autofocus to be so much improved but I am noticing improved accuracy and overall image quality in my insect shots right from the get go. Your review will help me get the hang of some of the more complicated functions. Thank you.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 12:18h, 26 September Reply

      Hi Rachael,

      I’m pleased the review helped, and that you are enjoying your new camera! It really is a beautiful machine!


  • Ronnie Temple
    Posted at 23:53h, 25 September Reply

    Hi Martin

    I’m just about to upgrade from a 5D MkII to a 5D MkIII, largely on the strength of your excellent review. But … I’m totally confused by your comment that the MkIII won’t allow auto-focus at f8. Can you please elaborate?

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 12:20h, 26 September Reply

      Hi Ronnie,

      This just means that when you use certain lenses with a 2X Extender, which increases the widest aperture by 2 stops, the aperture of say an f/4 lens becomes f/8, and when that happens, the lens will not autofocus. If you use a 2X Extender with an f/2.8 lens however, it only becomes f/5.6, and you maintain autofocus.

      Hope this helps!


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