Canon 5D mIII potential reluctant upgrade

Yeah, the Canon 5D mIII got announced. I am aware none of you are likely to be hearing about this for the first time here. This post will not include a spec list – plenty of places you can find that on line. This post is just going to be my thoughts about why I may or may not upgrade to this camera.

A brief history. I ordered the 5D (the first one) within a few months of it coming out to use at my own wedding and for our honeymoon in Hawaii. Okay, I wanted it for business, too, but it was a great excuse. Well, the soon to be wife fell for it anyway. Just kidding, sweets. I pre ordered the 5D mII the second it was announced. I think I was the 5th pre order at Adorama. I was ready to do the same again for the mIII. Now that I’ve seen the specs, I’m not so sure if I’ll ever upgrade to this camera.

I don’t shoot much commercially anymore. I mostly shoot fine art portraits, occasional product shots,  lots and lots and lots of shots of my 3 year old (about 15,000 last year – poor kid), and tons of video. So keep this in mind when you read my +’s and -‘s about the 5D mIII.

First the pluses:

  1. Huge improvement in video quality when it comes to jelly-cam – thanks to no more line skipping when down scaling to video – and you can set the recording format to a higher quality.
  2. 2 stop low light improvement!
  3. Not sure, but I think at last we can shoot stills in manual – you know pick the shutter speed and aperture – and let the camera auto set the iso. I don’t know why on the mII if you try to shoot a still in manual mode and auto iso it only shoots at 400 iso. For all wedding, street photography, and anything where creative visual choices outweigh the importance of low noise from low iso this is the perfect way to shoot. I want a 1/120 shutter to make sure my son isn’t suffering motion blur while he’s up to his monkey shines, but still want to pick for myself what depth of field I want – boom the new auto iso in manual mode (if that is how it works – and it seems that way) is the ticket.
  4. Headphone jack! This is a big one. At last you can monitor the sound you’re recording into the camera, you know in case you want to make sure you are recording at a level your audience will be able to hear.
  5. 720p out during record so you can monitor with an EVF or a HD monitor and actually see enough detail to pull focus. You know, in case you want what your shooting to be… in focus.
  6. Speaking of focus… The disturbingly bad focus technology of the mII has been upgraded to fancy pants 61 points. Thank goodness. Equally exciting for me: it seems you can auto focus in live view even while recording video using a few different technologies including the handy for the way I shoot about half the time face tracking. Sweet.
  7. No more 12 minute time limit on the videos – now it’s 30 min before the video just stops recording on it’s own like a ghost came over and sat on it with it’s big, fat ghost butt. I haven’t often had to worry about hitting the 12 minute limit because of the way I shoot, but when I have it was a pain.
  8. Hooray! Dual-Axis Electronic Level. I tend to get lost in the moment and find it difficult to get a perfectly level shot when I’m laying in the mud, head all tweaked to get the lowest angle possible for a shot – yes, this happens to me quite often. This electronic level feature has been on my wish list for a long time. Sadly, much of my wish list was left behind like an unplucked virgin.

The frustrating minuses:

  1. Sync speed for flashes has not changed from the sickly 1/200 sec. This makes me want to weep. For $3500 I would like a camera that is at least 1/250 and really, if it was 1/500 sec I’d have already put my pre-order in. If you don’t know why I want a fast sync speed, then you don’t need one and you can disregard this minus. If you know why, then you know why this would have been a show stopper for me.
  2. No RAW video. Yeah, I know, it’s probably going to be a few more years before DSLRs are coming with RAW video. I girl can dream though, can’t she? (Yes, I realize I am not a girl. Oh, never mind.)
  3. 60 fps. Yeah, we finally get 60fps at 720. I would have loved to have it on my mII, but that was over 3 years ago. I was expecting 1080 60p and secretly thought they would deliver another shocker and give us 720 at 120fps. Sadly, no. 720 60p is most definitely not a upgradable worthy feature for me.
  4. No clean hdmi output. That means we won’t be able to record uncompressed video to a hard drive for super high end work. That, as my 3 year old would say, is a stinky poo poo. Hopefully this is something someone can hack or can be “fixed” with a firmware update.
  5. The locking setting knob. I have NEVER needed one of these and am not happy they put it on here. I’m sure I’d get used to it, but I’m unreasonably annoyed by it already.

All in all I’m disappointed. I was hoping for more, or should I say different. Yes, it’s got lots of great improvements, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever get everything we want all at once, but I really thought they were going to deliver something mind blowing like they did with the first and second 5D’s.

So am I going to upgrade? I don’t know. Not right away. I have a sneaking suspicion that a 5Dx (or similar) will be announced in the next 4 months or so that will be more of what I’m looking for. If not, I can always upgrade then. In the meantime check out this very nicely shot short film shot entirely with the 5D mIII.


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  1. Interesting article and I kind of feel the same way.

    I may end up with a 5DMKIII at some point and there are certainly some worthwhile improvements but not enough to have me desperate to get hold of one at the earliest opportunity.

    My 5DMKII will be fine for the foreseeable future I imagine.

  2. Great post.

    We also expected some more improvements that Canon CAN really make real.

    If they don’t want to deliver 1080p60, why at least not 1080p48 for a smoother filmmaking option?

    Video Crop mode: This is available even in much lower-end Canon DSLRs… Even Nikon implemented it in their recent cameras. Why to use it? well, there are many reasons and benefits you can get from it.

    Higher Sync speed? Really weird that Canon didn’t make it in a camera for $3,500!

    Canon at last gave more frames in bracketing mode and Auto-ISO limiters…. well, it was time to do it indeed! We’d be paying $3,500, not $900…. So it’s great to have those features, but well deserved since long ago.

    No clean HDMI output….. THAT’S simply UNBELIEVABLE. Why Canon does not allow to users get a clean HDMI output? At this point it’s completely ridiculous, again we’re talking about a $3,500 camera!

    Of course there are many great improvements for stills and video, but we all wonder why there still aren’t some additional improvements that SHOULD be there.

  3. Agreed….

    Canon $3,500 for a friggin headphone jack?

    After a great run of impresive products Canon – this falls squarely under the heading of LUNCHBAG LETDOWN – IF video/DSLR is your professional world.

    no 1080p 60 fps, no 4:4:4 or even LESS than that would be an improvement, no 10 bits, no true HDMI out, etc., etc.,

    I have the money but no need for this minimal upgrade.

  4. Seems to be that mostly video shooters are unhappy with the MKIII. I’m a sports/concert photog and the locking setting knob is a big deal for me. I know it’s only worth about $125 of the upgrade (that’s what they charged to put it on my 7D), but you can’t ignore the focusing system. HUGE upgrade. 2 stops of light sensitivity, also big. And 6 fps puts it in the game for sports and concert shooting. I look at it as an ‘almost’ 1DX at half the price!

  5. I have to agree with photo goofer.

    As a photographer, it’s an amazing piece of gear. I held off upgrading to the 5D series due to the focus issues (I’m a wedding shooter – I get one chance to nail a shot – its gotta be in focus)

    For me, this is the 5D I’ll own. My 7Ds will be retired this year for a brace of these, without doubt.

  6. If I didn’t have the 5DmII I would DEFINITELY have already pre ordered the mIII. It looks to be amazing. And if I was going to get a 3rd back up camera – I’m not – I’d get the mIII not the mIII. I just needed more to make me get the m3 to replace the m2 I already have and love. :)

  7. Sounds like it’s time to trade in the Canon gear and buy a Nikon D800