Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Camera Review$3,499.00
Speed and Timing
The Mark III now sports an all new shutter, along with Canon's DIGIC 5+ processor. This gives the user the ability to now shoot at a respectable 5.2fps in normal shooting modes with the 24-105mm kit lens. The shutter isn't quite as loud as the beast that apparently lived inside the Mark II, but Canon's not taking chances, providing a "silent" shutter continuous mode that limits shots to around 3fps while offering a less audible mirror cycle.
The 5D Mark III offers standard two and ten-second self-timers, continuous low speed, continuous high speed, silent single capture, silent continuous (3fps) capture, and regular old single capture. This mode can be changed simply by holding down the AF-Drive button and turning the rear control dial, letting you scroll through the possible modes on the top LCD.
The 5D Mark III does feature improved shot-to-shot speed over the Mark II, but we found that the claims of 6fps shooting were a little spurious. That isn't to say the camera can't accomplish those speeds, but Canon makes those claims under very specific circumstances. All cameras do this, but the Mark III pushes it to new heights. According to the manual approx. 6fps is available if you shoot at 1/500th of a second or greater, maximum aperture, with AF set to one-shot, image stabilization off (these last two are typical), and only with select USM lenses, not including the kit lens.
We found that the kit lens and all the same conditions produced a shot-to-shot time of approximately 5.2fps. This is close, but still under the approximately 6fps that Canon describes. This is in the high speed continuous mode, with Canon also offering a more intriguing silent continuous mode that shoots continuously, but with the shutter sound greatly reduced.
We found the best way to shoot that maintains speed while keeping noise down is to actually shoot in the normal 6fps mode but in live view. This reduces the need for a succession of loud mirror cycles, with speed that still registers close to 6fps. The only hitch there is autofocus, as the camera will resort to contrast detection autofocus in live view. To get around this with subjects that aren't moving too much, we recommend Canon's "quick" live view AF, which flips the mirror back down, establishes focus via phase detection, and then returns to live view where you can get the same quiet continuous speed.
The 5D Mark III doesn't include much in the way of custom self-timer options, putting it pretty firmly behind some other manufacturers in this regard. The on-camera options only include a standard two- and ten-second self-timer, without the ability to set a custom timer. For comparison's sake, Canon's $200 A-series point-and-shoot, the A4000, features a custom self-timer, but their $3499 (body-only) camera does not.
The focus speed is vastly improved on the 5D Mark III, with a new 61-point AF sensor that offers a latticed array of cross-type sensors that accurately track subjects in motion. Compared to the 5D Mark II, the autofocus is light years ahead in both responsiveness and accuracy. While the Mark III's increased price will draw some ire from the videography community without a giant improvement in some key areas, for still shooters the Mark III's new AF sensor may be worth the price of admission alone.
The Mark III's new autofocus functionality is mostly reserved for still shooting while utilizing the optical viewfinder. When shooting in Live View or taking video, autofocus is restricted to a jarring (if somewhat quick) opening of the aperture to maximum and hunting until contrast is at its maximum. This is somewhat effective, but not for any kind of transition that you would keep in a video.
Along with the new hardware functionality, the Canon 5D Mark III includes an incredible array of controls that will let the user fine-tune their autofocus performance. Included among these new controls are six case-based AF modes, letting you tweak tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking speed, and AF point auto switching, on a +/- scale. Each case is individually savable, letting users tweak autofocus to suit their needs in ways the Mark II could only dream of.