Canon 5D Mk III Specs and What They Mean

It is here!

Canon 5D Mark III pre-orders available at and at B and H Photo (my affiliate links – thanks for supporting this blog by using them!):

pre-order your Canon 5D Mk III from Amazon

pre-order your Canon 5D Mk III from B and H Photo


It is expected to be available and start shipping on March 22, 2012.


The long awaited and highly anticipated Canon EOS 5D Mark III has finally been announced!  There has been wide speculation of what the camera will include (including predictions at one time that it would be split into two camera lines for still vs. video).  It seems that the most current leaked specs were accurate, and the new 5D boasts such features as a whopping 61 point autofocus system, improved exposure metering system, fast DIGIC 5+ processor, and dual card slots for CF and SD.

I myself made some educated guesses back on August 5, 2011 as to what the camera was likely to offer.  I have included my predictions below in red, and my reactions and comments are in blue:

Canon EOS 5D Mk III specs:

  • 22.3 MP Full Frame Sensor. (26 to 28 MP Full Frame sensor.)  This is a surprise that they didn’t increase the sensor resolution very much, but as anyone who has used a 5D Mk II is aware, it already has amazing resolution and great high ISO/ low noise performance.  It appears from early test samples that this new sensor is going to show significant improvement in the high ISO/ low noise area, with perfectly acceptable, low noise, usable images all the way up to 12,800.  Yes, 12,800 ISO.
  • DIGIC 5+ Processor. (Single or Dual DIGIC 5 processors).  A nice, fast processor to keep up with the 6 fps frame rate, HD video, and all the image info coming from the high resolution sensor either in RAW or JPEGs that are being processed in-camera to include various settings such as Auto Lighting Optimization, Picture Controls, and other user-set adjustments such as the newly included Lens Aberration Correction.  This higher processing speed will also allow long continuous bursts even with the in-camera processing settings being used on JPEG images as they are being captured.
  • Full HD Movie – ISO 100-12800 H:25600.  (Full HD video at all the frame rates, perhaps with RAW video, perhaps with full time autofocus).  With two different compression formats to choose from, time codes with multiple options, and audio control plus a new headphone jack.
  • 6.0 frames per second high speed continuous shooting.  (7 frames per second high speed continuous shooting.)  Not quite as fast as I expected, but this is actually a much more useful rate for most situations.  This higher fps rate combined with the new 61 point AF system is going to allow the 5D to be used a bit more as a sports and action camera.  It does not appear the this desired feature that I hoped for is included:  Ability to customize Continuous Low and High settings so that you can choose your own rates.
  • ISO 100-25600, expandable to L: 50 H1: 51,200, H2: 102,400.  (ISO 100 to 12,800 or more, and then expandable.)  The new sensor, as mentioned, is likely to have tremendous performance in low light, high ISO situations with minimal noise, and preliminary samples and tests indicate this is indeed the case.
  • 3.2″ 1.04 million pixel Clear View II LCD screen.  Not articulating.  (3” very-high resolution LCD screen – Non-articulating?  Articulating?  Touch screen?)  A nice, high-resolution rear LCD screen, with a wider ratio to match the sensor and great for video shooting.
  • 61 point autofocus system with up to 41 cross type sensors.  (19 point (or more) autofocus system, all cross-type, with numerous configurations and customization options, as taken from the 7D.  Plus the new Autofocus menu system of the new 1D X to make configuring and taking full advantage of the AF system much easier.)  This is the biggest surprise for me.  I expected something like the19 point AF system of the Canon 7D, maybe with 20-30 AF points – but the 61 points is a shock.  While this will be awesome for tracking moving subjects and action, it is also customizable to reduce the number of choosable AF points and make it reasonable workable for “still” photography, as demonstrated in this still grabbed from a Canon video.
      Canon 5D Mk III mark III autofocus points 61 41 15 9
    Still from Canon video on the 5D Mk III

What this is showing is that if you wish to manually select a single AF point – which you should typically do in non-action-tracking situations to ensure that the camera autofocuses exactly where you want – you can limit the number of selectable AF points so that you don’t have to  manually click across dozens of points to quickly get to the one you want.  You can limit it to 9 points (as with the 5D Mk II or 60D), 15 points (similar to the 19 points of the 7D and likely the one I will most often use), just the cross-type points (which will number up to 41 depending on which lens you are using), or all 61 of them.

  • When using Center AF Point with an f/2.8 lens, the 5D Mark III is able to focus in EV -2, which according to Canon, “is the equivalent of shooting by the light of a full moon.”  This is an incredible improvement over the autofocusing abilities of the 5D Mk II, which struggles in low light.
  • 63-zone dual layer metering sensor.  (Improved 63 zone+ exposure metering system)  This is a similar metering system as in many of the current Canon cameras, such as the 7D and 60D, which has proved to be excellent as determining the proper exposure even in challenging lighting situations.  This metering system takes into account color, luminance, as well as information provided by the active AF point(s) to best determine the exposure.
  • Magnesium alloy body with improved durability, water, and dust resistance.  (Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing – already has this, not much improvement required.)  A durable, go-anywhere camera is now even more durable and resistant!

Additional features of the new 5D Mk III:

  • “Intelligent viewfinder” which means it includes the 7D type viewfinder with the LCD grid that can be turned on or off, sensitivity to light and dark to automatically illuminate the AF points when needed, if desired.
  • Silent and Low Vibration Modes.  These are likely designed to enable one to use the camera more stealthily – not just surreptitiously, but in situations such as dance and theater performances where you need the shutter and mirror to be quieter.  Low vibration is handy for optimal sharpness in certain hand-held and tripod shooting situations.
  • Dual memory card slots – CF and SD.  This is a new feature for the 5D line.  (It will likely and hopefully retain the CF card)
  • LP-E6 battery – thankfully they have retained the same battery as the 5D Mk II and 7D.  (It will likely retain the LP-E6 battery)
  • HDR Mode – This is an in-camera feature that will take and combine 3 images, either at auto-levels of exposure or user-selected EV increments.  You can then choose from various options of how you wish the camera to process the final image.  The original 3 images will also be saved for your own use.  The camera also offers an improved 7 stop EV latitude of exposures for auto bracketing, for those who wish to do more with HDR using other software and post-processing themselves.
  • Multiple Exposures – Nikon has had this feature for a while, so it is nice to see it on a Canon.

The 5D Mk III has also incorporated many of the menu and Custom Function features of the 7D, such as the ability to customize many of the buttons and controls of the camera, as well as the new, easier to use and comprehend Autofocus Menu system as the one seen in the Canon 1D X.  By putting all the AF options in one menu, it makes it considerably easier to take advantage of the powerful AF system options without having to access and understand various menus items and Custom Function options (as you do with the 7D).  There are also AF “presets” so you don’t have to remember and set the variables such as “Tracking Sensitivity” and “AF Point Auto Switching.”  The Custom Functions of the 5D Mk III have also been grouped into 3 categories now for ease of use.

There is also an image comparison feature where you can compare two images side by side on the rear LCD to see the effects of your adjustments – double chimping!

Hopefully there will be the options to customize the size of the Center-Weighted, Spot, or Partial Metering circles, and to adjust the Hi Speed and Low Speed Continuous shooting rates, and perhaps some additional WB options such as more Fluorescent option.

Built-in GPS, wireless flash, or wi-fi?  No, they all still require optional, external devices.  But we will see these in-camera features eventually.

I will soon be starting to write an e-book user guide for the Canon 5D Mk III to join my current Full Stop camera guide line-up which includes Canon 7D Experience and Your World 60D. You can check out my Full Stop bookstore website to learn more:

full stop dslr photo photography camera manual guide for dummies canon nikon

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BandH Photo

Direct Link to Canon 5D Mark III pre-order at B and H Photo.

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