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5 Reasons Why the Canon 5D Mark III is $3500 and Why It's Worth It

03.5.12 @ 2:42PM Tags : , , ,

The Canon 5D Mark III was only announced a few days ago and many sites and blogs have weighed in on whether this full-frame low-light monster is worth the extra money over the 5D Mark II. Many users have commented that it is far beyond their budget compared to what they already have, or the updated specs aren’t worth the extra $800 over what the 5D Mark II cost in 2008 when it was announced ($2700). Many also say that clean HDMI and 1080 60p were deal-breakers at this price. I’ll give you 5 reasons why the Mark III is worth the price. But first, here’s a video showing the 5D Mark II vs. the 5D Mark III at 12,800 ISO:

This is one of the more remarkable things I’ve seen in the last few days. This video was taken with a beta 5D Mark III, and it’s clear that even in its unfinished form, it blows the doors off of the 5D Mark II. Some have commented about about the lack of resolution in the 5D Mark III compared to the Mark II in this video, but it’s possible for two reasons: proper down-scaling and noise reduction. The 5D Mark III no longer has the same aliasing problems as the Mark II, and with this, comes a slight reduction in “apparent” resolution. There is obviously some noise reduction happening in-camera, which could make the camera appear as if it has less resolution. This is only conjecture about this video as we have no other details about how it was actually shot (the details are in Japanese, if you can read Japanese, please let me know in the comments if I’m missing any details).

Here are the 5 reasons the Canon 5D Mark III is $3500, and why it’s worth it:

1. Low-light Performance/Reduced Noise

Based on the improvements Canon has made to noise reduction, the 5D Mark III could be the best performing full-frame camera at this price point in low-light situations. Color fidelity also looks to be much improved at high ISOs, and should retain more information. The FS100 is not full-frame and is another $1500 more expensive. For some, having this performance is not a necessity. They may never be shooting in reduced light like this video. Since it’s not about the high ISOs for these people, they should look at it another way: with an improvement in high ISOs comes an improvement in low ISOs. Based on what Canon has said about a two-stop improvement in noise overall, this camera is virtually noiseless at all normal shooting ISOs. ISO 1600 should look like ISO 400 did on the 5D Mark II (maybe better). That’s a big deal, because it means that your “base” ISO can be somewhere above where it would be shooting on cameras like the C300, FS100, RED Scarlet/Epic, and Alexa. No one has complained about those cameras shooting natively at around ISO 800. This camera “should” have similar dynamic range performance throughout its ISO range, unlike the RED cameras, where ND filters are necessary to shoot in daylight and have adequate dynamic range performance.

2. Resolution/HDMI at 1080p

The Canon 5D Mark II could resolve at best 650-800 lines of resolution. Aliasing helped tremendously to make this camera appear like it was shooting 1080p. In actuality, it was shooting 720p upscaled. For many purposes the aliasing sufficed, but it reared its ugly head on camera movements and straight lines. In this new generation of cameras, that type of performance would be unacceptable. Thankfully, Canon looks to have improved the down-scaling algorithm to the point where this camera will be resolving much closer to 1080p. The Panasonic GH2 has the most resolution of any “DSLR” at the moment, but it’s about to be matched by the 5D Mark III. Yes, the GH2 is a sub-$1000 camera, but the 5D Mark III is full-frame. Getting wide on the GH2 can be a pain, and getting a fast wide angle lens is a whole other story on M4/3.

Now that the camera is resolving closer to 108op, it has also become the best full-frame B-camera at this price point. The 5D Mark II, at times, would stick out when inter-cut with more expensive cameras. It’s likely that this camera can now be used on any production finishing in 1080p, and be inter-cut with any other camera without much issue (at least regarding resolution).

While not clean HDMI, the camera nonetheless will not go down to 480p when hitting the record button. Finally, it will be much easier to get focus with an external monitor than it was with the 5D Mark II. Not only was that camera limited in outgoing resolution, but the 480p would not fill the entire screen unless the monitor would adjust accordingly (SmallHD DP6).

3. Reduced Moire and Rolling Shutter

Both of these were miserable on the 5D Mark II. Now, it looks like they are either non-existent or less apparent to the point of being invisible. Moire could easily ruin many shots, and it wasn’t always possible to see it on the small LCD. Clothing, bricks, water – all of these could wreak havoc on the Mark II. Not so with the new camera, based on the promotional videos and what Canon has said, moire should be reduced to a point where we will not have to adjust our shooting to compensate. Same with rolling shutter. While not as good as the 4-times more expensive C300, rolling shutter on this camera looks to be as good, if not better, than any of the DSLRs out there, GH2 included.

Both of these could really ruin a shot, but now that we can shoot almost freely without worrying about them, it makes for a much, much better and consistent shooting experience.

4. ALL-I Codec at 100mb

While not exactly 100mb (it’s still a variable codec from my understanding, but close enough), it should blow away not only the D800 internal codec (obviously) but the native internal codec of any other camera below $10,000 – besides, of course, the Canon 1DX. I say native internal because we all know that some of these cameras can be hacked (GH2, Canon DSLRs with Magic Lantern) or can shoot uncompressed from HD-SDI or HDMI (D800). This codec is well above the broadcast standard of 50mbps, and in bitrate alone, will actually beat the $16,000 C300 (50mb internal). For many people and situations, dealing with an external recorder is just not possible. Many also just don’t want the hassle. Now with the Mark III we can shoot internally to the CF cards and have an image that should be almost indistinguishable from the uncompressed HDMI (which we obviously can’t record because of overlays). Color will still be limited to 8-bit 4:2:0 internally (to my knowledge), but as we all know the much more expensive Sony F3 is also limited internally to a 35mb 4:2:0 codec. In practice, 8-bit 4:2:0 color sampling is less of an issue than a low bitrate codec.

Not only is the bitrate high with this codec, but the intraframe nature of the ALL-I codec is a tremendous improvement over every other Long-GOP compression system. Each frame is compressed individually instead of relying on frames around it. This keeps the results much more consistent, especially in darker scenes. This addition alone is worth the extra money over the Mark II, as this internal codec is better than any camera under $10,000.

5. Audio Monitoring/Record Limit Up to 29:59

I put these two together because in practice, for many people, they tend to be less of an issue than the other 4 reasons. Audio monitoring is much, much better than it’s ever been on a Canon DSLR. Not only do we have a headphone jack, but we can now monitor and adjust the audio during a take. The most incredible part is that for the first time in a DSLR, we can adjust audio silently, because the scroll wheel is touch sensitive for this very purpose. While audio recording might not be much improved, the actual process of recording audio is leagues ahead of what it was on the Mark II. Magic Lantern does a great job on the Canon DSLRs, but it’s far more of a hassle and not as intuitive as having those options in camera.

The record limit being raised to almost 30 minutes will be a blessing for many documentary folks out there who couldn’t stand the 12 minute limit. While it would be nice to have an unlimited record time, because of crazy European tax laws, if the camera records 30 minutes or more it is considered a video camera and would have to cost more to compensate. 30 minutes is much more doable for documentary work, because it allows interviews to go on much longer and have more fluid breaks in between. For live events, it’s still a pain, there’s no getting around that – but at least you will have less clips in the long run with this camera if you’re shooting a concert or other live event.


If you compare the feature set of this camera not only to the previous 5D Mark II, but to cameras that cost much more, you can see why the Mark III is worth the price. The C300 is the next large-sensor camera that can record internally at more than 30mbps. But at $16,000, it’s nowhere near as affordable as this camera. In terms of low-light performance, there isn’t another full-frame camera out there at this price point that can match it, and the next closest camera is another $1500 (FS100). We’ll have to wait and see if this camera can be hacked, as I’m positive there is more capability under the hood. Let’s hope the people at Magic Lantern don’t have another 7D on their hands.

The improvements made may seem slight at first glance, but when you really take into consideration what else is out there at this price point, you start to realize that it’s almost a bargain. There is not another camera below $3500 with an internal codec at 100mb, and clean ISO at 1600. These are simply tremendous improvements, and it’s the reason why I say the Canon 5D Mark III costs as much as it does, and is worth every penny.

If it’s not in your budget range, I think now is a good time to understand why. Do you shoot for fun – or not very often? What are your requirements in a DSLR: low-light, record time, resolution? If these improvements don’t affect your shooting style or your final product, then by all means stick to the camera you have or wait for a price drop. This camera will not make you a better shooter, but it will certainly improve your workflow if nothing else. Gone are the limitations of the 5D Mark II. Now the only thing stopping us from shooting beautiful full-frame video is imagination.

[via planet5D]

Related Posts

  1. Canon 5D Mark III/X Confirmed at 22MP and $3500, Announcement February 28th
  2. Canon 5D Mark II, Still the Best Full Frame HDSLR, Goes on Sale with Free Bundled Accessories
  3. Canon 5D Mark III Update: Maximum Video Frame Rates and Compression Confirmed


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  • Larry Vaughn on 03.8.12 @ 3:34PM

    It’s hard to tell what is true, so many people are biased or have some financial incentive to pass along misleading information or generally don’t really know what they are talking about.

  • All the sudden the 5D MarkII sounds unusable (doesn’t cut with better cameras.. Moires and Rolling Shutters are miserable). Funny these didn’t seem to be real problems not until a week ago….
    Anyway I get it : Great improvements with the MarkIII. 3,500$ is still a very, very low price for pros.

  • The D800 has a 4.2.2 output, hard to compare the two as yet since neither body is in real world trials day to day.

    Canon’s specs on paper (Questioned in practical world) versus Nikon’s, are the stuff of mud-pit fighting legend for the two camps.

    The MP resolution issue for 2k (1080p) files is still up in the air (Cropped from 36/24/18/) and the D3S, even at 12+ MP, has carved out a niche for stills, which because of Sony’s build, both Canon and Nikon have been tooling to upstage.

    Much has been made (in some threads) as to the focus points in Nikon being able to deliver rapid fire in very low light situations (D800 and D4) again, too soon to tell.

    Then, as ever, there is the glass debate.

    Not sure the changes in Canon’s canon, would be enough away from the D800 or D4 to warrant dumping many times that worth in glass, to reset the rig, but we shall see.

    My $.02 cents.


    • Nikolaj Christensen on 11.27.13 @ 1:18PM

      Let’s not forget the new Magic Lantern Raw feature (; 14bit 1920/1080 raw :3

  • Ross Wilson on 03.9.12 @ 3:12AM

    It’s a great camera for sure but 4:2:0 negates the faster codec, there’s a big difference even between 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 so the C300 at 50mbps would preferable in my eyes given the choice. however for the price the MK3 is going to do 90% of what most people need.

  • 1) The GH2 cost me just about 4 times less than this camera will sell for. I could have bought 4 GH2s.
    2) The GH2 still gets a nod when comparison times comes.
    3) I have less than $150 in 3 lenses that are great quality (for the money). True I have to deal with the M4/3 crop issue but that extra work is worth it.
    4) This camera will be adopted by hollywood, Canon fanboys will jump on the bandwagon, and they will claim that since hollywood is using it that it is the best camera in the DSLR range. What they will fail to address is the fact that hollywood loves the MkII because you can do things like shoot bullets at it because it is a $2300 body. Also, they will fail to recognize the fact that hollywood is still spending lots of money on lenses and custom machined adapters. Money that we low-budget’ers don’t have.
    5) Sexy camera no doubt, but I really think somebody needs to develop a “value for the money” article or list.

    Anyone feeling froggy and want to jump on this?

    • Joe Marine on 03.9.12 @ 4:00PM

      If you want fast and wide M4/3 is a killer. The plastic lens 50mm 1.8 on either Nikon or Canon, is a good lens and it’s around $100. That lens on M4/3 looks like a 100mm lens on full frame.

      Want a fast normal lens on M4/3? A 25mm 1.8 is not going to be a $100 lens.

      Canon makes a 28mm 1.8 for under $500, try finding a 14mm or 12mm on M4/3 that’s cheaper and faster.

      I really like the GH2, I do, it’s an amazing camera – but if you want fast and wide, or at least fast and normal, you’re going to have to pay for it – and it’s possible the equivalent doesn’t exist at all. It’s also not even in the same league as Canon or Nikon in terms of build quality – you pay extra for that, certainly.

      Even if you don’t need the speed – a 50mm 1.4 at f/2 is going to be a better lens than a 50mm f/2 wide open. (Unless it’s a cinema prime, then that’s a whole other story.) But I much prefer a fast lens that I can stop down 1 or 2 f-stops, say to 2.8, and it’s going to be sharper and perform better than if I started at 2 or 2.8 on M4/3.

      You’re also paying for the color science that Canon has in the camera – which in my experience is much more pleasing out of the box than Panasonic footage. Let’s also not forget that if you’re shooting stills as well, then there’s no comparison anymore – Canon full frame wins over the GH2 in quality.

      That’s what I mean when I’m saying it’s worth the price. I’m not saying the GH2 isn’t an amazing deal for the money, but let’s really consider the equivalent investment in lenses – do you really want to invest in a whole new set of fast lenses at $1000-$2000 that will only work on M4/3 – that’s a waste to people who already own a 5D Mark II or planned ahead and have been purchasing full frame still lenses.

      • But can’t all those lenses be adapted to an M43 camera? Doesn’t that kind of moot your point?

  • Canon, fortunately, hasn’t completely forgotten about still photographers, which is my primary focus. Higher ISO performance, better AF, locking button on the mode dial, and other improvements make it an attractive camera, but jacking up the price another $800 in a weak economy is a slap. IMO Canon should continue the 5DII at the current price point. Better to be have the 5DIII’s sales cannibalized by another Canon product than another brand’s.

  • For those of us that don’t do much video, the extra $$ just aren’t justified. Given your points above, Canon may succeed at growing its video market somewhat, but it seems to me that unless the ergos of shooting video on this are big improvement (comared to the 5d mk II and even the 7D), true video pros will actually spring for a bona-fide video camera. IMHO, given the rigs needed and klunky controls, the current DLSR approac for video is a square peg in a round hole, despite the ability to use glass. For those of us that are primarily still shooters, the cost is just not justified, even with the improved low light performance. Now that I’ve had time to let the announcement sink in, I find myself increasingly disappointed. Given the global economy, it will be interesting to see how this price point plays out in the market. It is true that video seems to be seriously displacing stills, and maybe that’s why Canon has targeted video so aggresively. If I wasn’t already heavily invested in Canon glass, I’d probably be jumping ship to the Nikon D800. Maybe we’ll see a 3D or a 5Dx at Photokina to bring joy to still shooters?

    • I know plenty of wedding photographers who don’t use flash (or try not to) who were dying for a camera that excelled in low-light. The improved AF is also a big deal for them, as the 5D Mark II can’t really focus in low light (or even that well in good light). It might be a pain to have two different kinds of cards in the camera, but I also know a lot of people who would pay extra money to have dual slots for redundancy while they are shooting.

  • I have heard that the 5D iii looses one frame every 4 minutes when filming for 29 minutes. Is that true?

  • It wasn’t worth it for me.

    Worse, now that the Mark III has come out, it has cost Canon a few lens sales from me. I was going to get a Mark III as a primary and have my current Mark II as a spare, pick up a few more lenses, etc, but when I found out that the Mark III wouldn’t do uncompressed out all of my plans changed. At first I was disappointed, but then I started considering Cine lenses that could be used with any back, and that’s the direction I’m going in. Camera backs come and go, but lenses are forever, as they say.

    Canon didn’t just cost themselves 4k$us for a camera back when they decided not to do uncompressed hdmi out, they cost themselves another 5-10k$us in lenses, at least from this customer. I still might get the 14mm, but I want that for stills more than video.

    People can argue what they might do, etc, but this is a real live human being who really was going to purchase a 5d Mk III and DID NOT, and now I have no plans to, and no plans to buy more Canon lenses in general save the 14mm.

  • Since a wedding is longer than the 30 minute video limit, how quickly can you start shooting again after replacing the first card?

    • Immediately, but the limit is not a card limit, so you wouldn’t have to replace the card unless you ran out of space.

      • Thank you. How many seconds of lag is there if you hit record immediately after hitting your limit, or can you stop recording after 28 minutes and then have another 30 minutes “in the bank” so to speak?

        • Exactly, but there really isn’t any lag at all, it’s almost immediate.

          • Thank you. I’ve been searching for days for this answer. I’ll just have to time my stop and start for a dull moment in the ceremony!

          • I’ve shot ceremonies with the old Mark II, and you just had to keep restarting after every 12 minutes, but as long as you have another camera or you do it at the right time, doing it with the Mark III is a lot easier.

  • “but as we all know the much more expensive Sony F3 is also limited internally to a 35mb 4:2:0 codec”
    – Joe, I think you’re mistaken. The Sony F3 records in 4:4:4 not 4:2:0, HUGE difference.

  • Lawal adetola on 12.11.12 @ 9:40AM

    I can see that canon 5d mark111 is a very good camera how can i get mine online cos i will be very happy to have it this is my email in case or this is my contact 08168280440.

  • I agree with the previous poster who said all was good and golden with the mark ii until the mark iii came along. And the mark iii will be all glitter and great until the mark iiii comes along. Funny how that works. I say suffer along with your mark ii until the price drops into the upper 2k range. I ‘d say that will be in early 2014.

  • Let’s not forget the new Magic Lantern Raw feature (; 14bit 1920/1080 raw :3

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