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Canon 5D Mark III digital camera image
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Canon 5D Mark III

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Canon 5D Mark III Performance


Timing and Performance

Generally very good speeds for a high-resolution prosumer digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~0.5 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

~0.3 second
2.3 seconds with sensor cleaning enabled

How long it takes camera to turn off with empty buffer. Enabling sensor cleaning on shut-down increases delay.

Buffer clearing time
2 seconds
after 63 Large/Fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
4 seconds
after 18 RAW files*
4 seconds
after 7 RAW+LF JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB UDMA7 (100MB/s) CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

The Canon 5D Mark III turned in fast startup and shut-down times, fast enough that they're difficult to measure. The Canon 5D Mark III's buffer clearing times were surprisingly good, but of course depend on the image quality and size, as well as the speed of the memory card. (We used a very fast UDMA7-compatible card for our tests here.)

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.17 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

~1.0 second

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

~0.4 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

The Canon 5D Mark III's Play to Record mode switching time was very good, though Record to Play is a bit sluggish.

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Optical Viewfinder

Full Autofocus
Single Point (center) AF

0.120 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. All AF timing measured with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

Full Autofocus
61-point Auto Selection AF

0.142 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture.

Continuous AF
0.122 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.095 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

Prefocused

0.061 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Live View
Full Autofocus
"Quick Mode"
(Phase Detect)
0.823 second
This is phase-detect autofocus, the camera drops the mirror to focus, then raises it to grab the shot.
Full Autofocus
"Live Mode"
(Contrast Detect)
0.780 second
This is contrast-detect autofocus, the camera reads Live View data from the image sensor to determine focus.

Prefocused

0.060 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

The Canon 5D Mark III's full autofocus shutter response was excellent at 0.120 second using our standard single-point AF test. Full 61-point auto selection AF only slowed to 0.142 second, which is still very fast. Continuous AF lag was also fast, at 0.122 second. Shutter lag in manual focus mode was a swift 0.095 second, and "Prefocusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure resulted in a lag time of only 0.061 second, also quite fast.

The Canon 5D Mark III's AF lag time in Live View mode was longer, but not as slow as we're used to seeing. We measured 0.823 second using "Quick Mode" (phase-detect AF), and ironically contrast-detect mode was a bit faster, at 0.780 second. Prefocused shutter lag in Live View mode was a very fast 0.060 second, slightly faster than with the optical viewfinder.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.28 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.27 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 3 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG
0.29 second

Time per shot, averaged over 10 shots, 3 seconds to clear.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous Hi mode
Large Fine JPEG

0.17 second (5.99 frames per second);
63 frames total;
2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 63 shots.

Continuous Hi mode
RAW

0.17 second (5.99 frames per second);
18 frames total;
4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 18 frames, then slows to about 0.36s or 2.79 fps.

Continuous Hi mode
RAW + Large Fine
JPEG

0.17 second (6.00 frames per second);
7 frames total;
4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames, then slows to 0.5s or 2.0 fps.

Flash recycling

N/A

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB UDMA7 (100MB/s) CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times in the Canon 5D Mark III's single-shot mode were very good, ranging between 0.27 and 0.29 second for JPEGs and/or RAW files. Buffer length was more than 20 shots for JPEGs and RAW files (we didn't test until buffer full here), but dropped to 10 for RAW + LF JPEGs.

Continuous Hi mode speeds were good considering the large files, at about 6 frames/second with any file type. Measured buffer depths were 63 frames for Large Fine JPEG, 18 frames for RAW, and 7 frames for RAW + LF JPEG. (Note that in our cycle time testing we shoot a target consisting of a fine-grained digital noise pattern, designed to be very hard to compress. This gives us worst-case buffer capacity numbers: You're likely to see greater JPEG buffer capacity when shooting more normal subjects.)

Buffer clearing was extremely fast with a fast card, despite the large files.

Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

11,147 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Fast USB 2.0 download times.

Bottom line: Good to excellent performance for its class; a noticeable improvement over the 5D Mark II.

Battery

Battery Life
Very good battery life for a lithium-ion SLR design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery,
(CIPA standard, Optical Viewfinder)
950
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery,
(CIPA standard, Live View LCD)
200

The Canon 5D Mark III uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Keep in mind the 5D Mark III doesn't have a built-in flash, so CIPA battery life numbers here aren't directly comparable to models that do. Although the Canon 5D Mark III's battery life is very good when using the optical viewfinder, we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand if you plan on using Live View or wish to shoot movies.

The table above shows the number of shots the Canon 5D Mark III is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))