Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Canon 5D Mark III Unboxing & First Report and the truth about the AF performance (Updated: 3/22/12)

My Canon 5D Mark III has arrived from Adorama and will be reviewed over the next few days. Come back frequently for updates as I offer my initial impressions. Currently I’m super impressed with the build quality (feels more like a pro camera) and the controls are excellent. I’m also pleased that the cryptic custom function menus have been expanded out to be more easy to follow. Finally I’m thrilled to see some features from the 1D X have made it to this body – this thing rocks!

Canon 5D Mark III Unboxing Video

Click here to order yours from Adorama and enjoy my 5D Mark III announcement article about the changes you’ll find in this new body.

Yes, the AF is gonna be awesome

I had a chance to ask Chuck Westfall (the real one) of Canon USA about a rumor that he said that the 5D Mark III’s AF system is better than the 1D Mark IV’s. Here’s what he had to say about that:

I didn't say so in so many words, but for the most part the 5D Mark III's AF system *is* better than the 1D Mark IV's. Here is the comparison:

The number and distribution of high-precision cross-type AF points has increased on the new 61-point AF system relative to the 45-point AF system used by the EOS-1D Mark IV. Moreover:

  • The overall AF system speed of the EOS-1D X including lens drive is superior to that of the EOS-1D Mark IV on a lens for lens basis. The overall AF detection speed of the EOS 5D Mark III is superior to the AF detection speed of the EOS-1D Mark IV.
  • The level of AF precision for 5 of the central area AF points on the 61-point sensor (i.e., the dual X-shaped cross-type points) is superior to the level of precision for any of the AF points on the 1D Mark IV.
  • 21 cross-type AF points in the central area of the 61-point sensor are functional with maximum apertures as small as f/5.6; None (zero) of the cross-type points on the EOS-1D Mark IV are functional as cross-type sensors at maximum apertures smaller than f/4.
  • The 61-point AF sensor has twice the low light sensitivity as the 1D Mark IV’s 45-point AF sensor (EV -2 vs. EV -1).
  • The 61-point AF system supports AI Servo III, which is superior in subject tracking stability and consistency compared to AI Servo II found on the EOS-1D Mark IV.
  • The 61-point AF system adds a greater degree of user control for subjects with various characteristics of acceleration and deceleration such as birds in flight. There is also more user control for the way the camera handles switching between AF points in automatic focusing point selection mode.
  • The 61-point AF system not only has 16 more AF points than any of the 45-point systems, it is also 20% wider in coverage (19mm vs. 15mm), making it easier for photographers to keep their subjects within the active AF area.

There are only two areas where the 1D Mark IV has an edge over the 5D Mark III in terms of AF. They are:

Lens drive speed: Because of its higher voltage battery, the 1D Mark IV can supply an initial burst of power to select L-series USM telephoto lenses (limited to EF super telephotos) that drives them twice as fast as normal for the first second of operation. The 5D Mark III can't do that because its battery is lower voltage, and also because the camera body is not designed to accept higher voltage even if it was available.

Frame rate: Obviously, the 1D Mark IV can fire at 10 fps vs a maximum of 6 fps for the 5D Mark III.

Early 5D Mark III vs D800 Comparisons

Here’s an ISO 3200 comparison of the 5DM3 vs D800:

The D4 high ISO performance looks better than the D800 to my eyes:

But if you go compare it on imaging-resource you’ll find that it’s step back from the D3s performance.

I’d say that the 5DM3’s ISO 12,800 beats the D800’s 3200 ISO. Here’s a comparison file:

You have to get to ISO 25,600 on the 5DM3 before the D800 seems to have the advantage (mostly in the sharpness of the text, the Canon still has less color noise)

When you look at it this way it seems like the 5DM3 is totally usable up to 25,600. After that it gets ugly though.

Here’s what DPreview has to say on the subject as well:


Time to become friends with as good stuff is coming and it’s not gonna be cheap. I’ll be back tomorrow to give you my thoughts about the new camera to say if I think it’s fact or hype.

Order Yours Today

Click here to order yours from Adorama and enjoy my 5D Mark III announcement article about the changes you’ll find in this new body.


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Alan said...

Hi Ron. Please seek to determine when/how the 1DX's more advanced 100,000-pixel RGB Metering Sensor may provide an advantage over the 5DIII's iFCL 63-Zone Dual Layer Metering Sensor. Supposedly this will effect the respective cameras' ability to track moving targets, particularly in low light environments. I'm sure there's more to it, but this capability is one of the reasons I'm waiting on real world reviews and comparisons of the two bodies. said...

Hi Alan,

I will when I get one. In fact, CPS is also going to send me 300 f/2.8 II to use with the 1D X (assuming it doesn't take an insane amount of time for that body to arrive).

I will say that the 5DM3 is blowing me away. Stay tuned to my blog post tonight.