Today we will take a closer look at the Canon 5D Mark III iconic full frame that has a quite significant demand even now. I’ll try to question its performance and value in comparison with other second-hand rivals and find out is it still a valuable alternative in 2019? I will write everything here.
Let’s start by mentioning the critical specs of 5D Mark III. It has a 22MP Full-frame CMOS sensor, 61 point AF system, video recording up to 1080p at 30p. You can probably tell that my unit is pretty worn out, but don’t worry much since it’s just a matter of use. I am sure it was heavily used for professional purposes in the past. Like you would expect from a full-frame DSLR, the camera is quite bulky and heavy. Having almost one kilogram + lens in one hand is not really a super comfortable feeling, but that’s just how it is with this type of camera.
The body is made from magnesium alloy and gives the impression of quality, solidity, and robustness. The paint coating is definitely a weak point. It should be much more durable or more integrated into the material since that sign of wear is not acceptable in this class. There are few posts about that on the web, so I don’t think it’s the only matter of my unit. Like in most professional-grade DSLRs Canon has operating style meant towards professional use. To switch, for example, white balance or ISO, you just press a dedicated button and then use a dial. Information is displayed on a little screen on the top of the camera.
After getting familiar with that, you start to notice it’s a great thing to have, but I have to say I liked Nikon way even more. There, you just use a combination of button and dial; it was easier and faster to switch multiple things at once. There are also some quirks in terms of handling this camera. For example, having two different size joysticks to browse through the menu when it could only have just one. I also don’t like the way of changing the aperture by using the joystick near the LCD panel, where it’s more challenging to reach. Back in 2012, when 5D Mark III was introduced, it got a lot of approval for its software speed: how fast it was to turn on, turn off, to take a photo and browse settings. I have to admit that I was quite skeptical about all that, but it turns out to be true. Even now, for 2019 standards user interface is really quick and works like a charm.
On the other hand, user experience is not at the highest level. The settings menu in Nikon and Sony is a little bit more intuitive and straightforward to use from my perspective. Using viewfinder is pure fun. It still has more advantages over EVF for me. Keeping in mind it’s a full-frame camera vision gets even more significant, and so the experience is getting better. The quality of 3.2 inch LCD on the back is more than enough to preview photos. It has excellent color reproduction and contrast, but sadly, it lacks articulation. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about its autofocus since I was limited to a 50mm portrait lens in my testing period. But as far as I can tell it was pretty accurate and reliable. 61 autofocus points are also plenty enough for me. When it comes to the image quality, I have to point out that I would love to test 5D Mark 3 or its successor in the future once again. This is because poor weather and limited lens selection didn’t allow me to see its full potential truly.
That said, I took more than 200 photos with different settings and so I will present you my honest impressions. I have to confess that I always somewhat preferred Nikon, Sony, and other manufacturers much more than Canon, because of my experience with few Canon APS-C models like 1200d, 760d, 70d and etc. They always seemed to be worse than the competition, producing flat pictures, often with blown-out sky highlights. But I think objectivism in those kinds of reviews is much more important than personal preference, so it’s always important to be open-minded, especially when looking at different unfamiliar models. In the end, I slightly changed my mind about Canon.
Surprisingly, the overall dynamic range was actually pretty good. There were moments when the camera would blow out skylight a little bit, but given weather conditions, I cannot fully speak about that aspect. Photos come out saturated, vivid, and very well balanced in terms of color accuracy. Both in good and poor lighting conditions. Sometimes automatic white balance would make photos have that blueish tint, but that was rare and not so disturbing. Pictures have an outstanding amount of detail, and they indeed look sharp as you can see from those examples.
By the way, most of the time, I shoot at f.4 to get the most sharpness out of this particular lens. The major problem of this camera for me is that after a close inspection of all of my shots I came to the conclusion that Canon lacks the ability to reproduce the depth of textures and objects on the same level found in comparable Nikon. Sometimes making them look as they were cut and paste in post-production, in my opinion. The previously tested Nikon D810 made me blown-away by its quality because photos were not only sharp like in Canon. Instead, they contained a lot of nuances, details, and clear definitions.
I would call this: a more preserved three-dimensional look, especially visible in magnification. Of course, D810 has more megapixels than Canon 5D Mark III, but I think more things are accounting into that different than that, to be honest. I know some people prefer that more flat Canon look, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have to say I much appreciate how some photos came out, especially from combination with that Canon 50mm f. 1.4 lenses. Nice bokeh, very fresh, kind of dramatic look and like I said earlier lovely color tones. Performance across the ISO range in low-light is also excellent. Once again, we have a lot of advantages to a full-frame sensor. There is hardly any noise up to ISO 800. Above that, results are also good, like you would expect from a camera in this class. Out of the box, Full HD videos from Canon are of very unsatisfying quality for me. There are not many details and sharpness is far from 2019 standards. They’re looking very dated.
Although I have to admit that low-light performance on higher ISOs seems to be pretty excellent. On the other hand, that plus shallow depth of field might give you some reliable results, but I am far from recommending this camera for video recording to anyone. I heard there is some custom firmware that improves its quality, but it’s not official, and I have no experience with that. In summary, the camera is designed for professionals and so build quality, functionality is mostly excellent. Image quality hasn’t really dated much. It’s still an excellent tool for professionals and amateur photographers. The beauty of full-frame is definitely noticeable when taking photos. Canon 5D Mark III is absolutely worth the money for people that are heavily into the Canon system.
I have to admit that I was positively surprised by its performance. However, as much as I changed my mind about this flagship product from Canon I honestly cannot advise you buying this camera over Nikon D810 or Sony A7 for example. I think mentioned rivals offer better photo, video quality, and more. Because of 5Ds popularity be aware that many units have been very much exploited and so their expected lifespan might be limited. In the end, it all depends on what you prefer. Thank you for reading!