Canon 5D Mark III Announced with Brand New 22MP Sensor and Digic 5+ Processor

Canon 5D Mark III Announced with Brand New 22MP Sensor and Digic 5+ Processor

Canon has announced the new 5D Mark III DSLR camera, the successor to the three-year old 5D Mark II. The 5D Mark III sports a brand new 22.3MP full-frame sensor, as well as the Digic 5+ processor. The camera shoots at higher native ISOs, from 100 to 25,600 (expandable to ISO102,400). It also shoots faster, the Mark II shot at a maximum of 3.9 frames per second, the Mark III shoots at six frames per second.

While the 5D Mark III might not seem as significant an upgrade as Nikon's D800, it is still a formidable camera. The 22.3MP 5D Mark III doesn't offer much more in terms of megapixels from the 21.1MP 5D Mark II, unlike the upgrade Nikon's 36MP D800 offers from the 12MP D700. But it is slightly faster than the D800, shooting at a maximum speed of six frames per second compared to the D800's four.

While Nikon has decided to offer high resolution with a 36MP D800, Canon has decided to focus on image quality, auto-focus accuracy and speed. In comparison, it seems the Nikon D4 and D800 are contrasting niche models, while the Canon 1D X and 5D Mark III are complementary versatile cameras.

The 5D Mark III is noticeably more expensive than the D800 though. Since the Mark III's local retail price has not been announced, we'll use the US pricing for comparison: the Mark III costs US$3,499 while the D800 costs US$2,999. It will be interesting going into 2012 to see how the two full-frame cameras fare, going head-to-head against each other - whether consumers will favor a higher resolution camera or a faster one.

Key Differences Between 5D Mark III & Mark II
Specification 5D Mark III 5D Mark II
Sensor 22.3MP Full-frame (36 x 24mm) 21.1MP Full-frame (36 x 24mm)
Max. Image Size 5760 x 3840 5616 x 3744
Image Processor Digic 5+ Digic 4
Max. Frames Per Second 6fps 3.9fps
ISO Sensitivty ISO100-25,600 (expandable to 102,400) ISO100-6400 (expandable to 25,600)
Auto-focus System  61-point high-density reticular AF (up to 41 cross-type points) 9-point TTL (1 cross-type point)
Exposure Metering Sensor iFCL metering with 63 zone dual-layer sensor TTL full aperture metering 35 zone SPC
Viewfinder Coverage 100% 98%
Storage Media  1x Compact Flash and 1x SD  1x Compact Flash
LCD Size  3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD  3.0″ diagonal TFT-LCD 
LCD Resolution 1,040k dots  920k dots
Weather Sealed Yes No
Battery Life With viewfinder shooting: 950 shots at 23°C, 850 shots at 0°C With viewfinder: approx. 850 shots at 23°C, approx. 750 shots at 0°C
Dimensions 152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm 152 x 113.5 x 75mm 
Weight (body)  Approx. 860g  Approx. 810g 
Recommended Retail Price  US$3,499  US$2,699


Brand New 22MP Sensor & Digic 5+ Processor: Faster & Cleaner Images

The 5D Mark III's sensor is brand new, with a new gapless microlens array and improved photo diodes, which promises higher dynamic range and less image noise. The 5D Mark III's native ISO sensitivity gains two stops from the Mark II, now up to ISO25,600 and expandable to ISO50, ISO51,200 and ISO102,400.

The camera also comes with Canon's Digic 5+ image processor, which is 17 times faster than the Digic 4 processor found in the 5D Mark II. The Digic 5+ processor is also found in the high-end 1D X, which has two of them. Canon claims that thanks to newly-developed image processing algorithms, an image taken at ISO25,600 on the 5D Mark III will look equivalent to an ISO6400 image taken with the 5D Mark II.

The Digic 5+ processor also helps with in-built image correction, with peripheral illumination correct and distortion correct similar to the 1D X, and real-time chromatic aberration correction with info for 27 lenses registered by default.

New Auto-Focus & Auto-Exposure Systems

The 5D Mark III comes with the same 61-point High-Density Reticular AF System found in the flagship 1D X. It promises enhanced subject tracking and more accurate focusing. The new 63-zone dual layer iFCL metering system is supposed to achieve exposure without being affected by backlights or point light sources. AF information helps determine which area of the scene is most important when determining exposure.

Improved Handling (Sounds Better Too)

The 5D Mark III's LCD back monitor is slightly larger, 3.2" compared to the Mark II's 3" screen, and has a higher 1,040k dot resolution compared to the Mark II's 920k dot LCD. The screen also comes with an optical elastic polymer between the LCD and protective panel which reduces reflections and cuts down on glare in bright environments. The Mark III is dust and water resistant while the Mark II was not, and the camera gains an extra 100 shots while using the same battery pack (LP-E6) as the Mark II. The Mark III is only slightly larger than the Mark II and about 50g heavier.

The Canon engineers even spent time to make the camera produce "comfortable sound". The 5D Mark III's mirror box underwent more than ten design evolutions, and each time the body had to be reassembled by hand. The team then checked the sound, vibration and overall operations of the camera, to find the most pleasing shutter sound and vibration combination when using the camera.

Built for Video

When the 5D Mark II was released, it kick-started the HD DSLR video revolution. The 5D Mark III continues that video-making tradition with a few improvements. Canon says the Mark III reduces color and moire artifacts and now records without a 4GB file size limitation - sort of. When a video file reaches the 4GB limit, the 5D Mark III will automatically start a new video file. There's now a headphone jack, which gives videographers the ability to monitor audio levels as well as adjust them in-camera.

While the rear command wheel turns as normal, making a clicking sound as it does, it also functions as a touch-sensitive d-pad for silent use when shooting video. Various resolutions and frame-rates now come with the camera, unlike the 5D Mark II (which didn't expect itself to become a video flagship), Full-HD video can now be shot at 30p/25p/24p, but higher frame-rates are only available at 720/60p/50p.

Like the 1D X, the 5D Mark III supports both ALL-I and IPB compression methods for recording video. ALL-I produces larger file sizes, but editing is made easier as each frame is individually compressed and saved, when IPB compresses frames in groups, which gives you smaller file sizes but increases processing time when editing. Unlike the 1D X, there is no option to output non-compressed footage to an external recording device via HDMI.

Sample footage shot with the 5D Mark III can be seen at Canon's website.

HDR, Multiple Exposures & Improved Previews

The 5D Mark III is Canon's first DSLR with a in-built High Dynamic Range (HDR) shooting mode (Sony and Nikon DSLR cameras have already had this feature, as do some of Canon's compact cameras). HDR mode combines three images shot at different exposures, images can be saved individually or as a single HDR image, the camera can combine and align images in-camera. The camera can also shoot two to nine multiple exposures to create a multiple-exposure image right in-camera.

The 5D Mark III will also allow you to compare two images on screen to preview and compare. Enlarging photos to view and deleting them is also made easier, and 'delete' can be custom set to be the default command when the delete button is pressed, instead of 'cancel'.

Price & Availability

The 5D Mark III will be available in Singapore in end March. The local suggested retail price has not been finalized, but the US pricing is $3,499 (which is currently a conversion of S$4,367).

The press release follows on the second page.

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