Canon 5D Mark III Review

 
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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Video Recording

Canon's 5D Mark II proved extremely popular with professional videographers for its combination of creative options, and its relatively compact, affordable body compared to dedicated movie cameras. The 5D Mark III takes that heritage and builds upon it, with a robust feature-set indeed, and an important addition slated to arrive from April 2013. The 5D Mark III's offers both automatic and manual exposure control, single autofocus (but not full-time AF), audio levels control, internal and external microphone support, audio monitoring, timecode support, a choice of interframe / intraframe compression types, and more. A promised firmware update will add uncompressed HDMI video output to the list. There are still a few things absent that we've seen from competitors, such as full-time autofocus, the ability to capture still images during video, and to shoot 720p video at frame rates below 50p, but we're nitpicking. The Canon 5D Mark III's video feature set is comprehensive, as you'd expect given its price point and target market. Here's a quick rundown of its video capabilities, along with our usual selection of sample videos at the bottom.

Canon 5D Mark III Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080p); 1,280 x 720 (720p); or 640 x 480 (VGA) recording
  • MOV file format, with variable bitrate MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding
  • Choice of two compression types; ALL-I (intraframe) or IPB (interframe)
  • Minimal rolling shutter and moiré / aliasing
  • Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, or Manual exposure are possible
  • Manual mode allows automatic or manual ISO control; sensitivity is controlled automatically in all other modes
  • Exposure compensation and lock are available
  • Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 down to 1/30 seconds
  • Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800, and can be expanded to ISO 25,600 under automatic control
  • Features like color space, white balance, picture control, auto lighting optimizer, peripheral illumination correction, chromatic aberration correction, and highlight tone priority are all available for video
  • If the attached flash strobe has an LED light, the 5D Mark III can automatically enable it in low-light shooting
  • TTL (through the lens) evaluative or center-weighted average metering using the main image sensor
  • Metering method is fixed, and set automatically depending on the focusing mode
  • Single autofocus with face detection and adjustable AF point, available before or during movie recording; continuous autofocus is not possible
  • Manual focus is also available
  • Capture can be started and stopped with dedicated movie button, main shutter button, or optional RC-6, RS-80N3, or TC-80N3 remote controls
  • Seven-step LCD brightness adjustment available, plus automatic brightness adjustment with three-step override based on ambient light level sensor
  • LCD brightness must be adjusted before capture starts
  • If lens supports optical image stabilization, this operates at all times before and during capture unless switched off on the lens
  • Optional 16-bit, 48KHz, 1,536 Kbps Linear PCM audio from internal monaural microphone or external 3.5mm stereo mics
  • Automatic or 64-step manual level control
  • Touch-pad settings control allows instant, near-silent adjustment during shooting.
  • VU (audio level) meter display before and during recording
  • Optional wind cut filter function reduces levels for low-frequency audio
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone connection with 10-step volume adjustment for audio monitoring
  • Records time code, and can be set to continue to increment code regardless of capture status, or only while movie capture is underway.
  • Time code is recorded in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames, and can be reset, set to camera time, or set freely
  • Time code can be displayed on-screen during capture and playback
  • Drop frame function will correct time code slip at 29.97 or 59.94 fps, but not at 23.967 fps
  • Cannot currently output uncompressed feed via HDMI, but Canon has promised a firmware update due in April 2013 that will allow an 8-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 video feed without any overlays via HDMI
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and optionally saving it as a new file, but edits must be made in one-second increments, not at precise frames
  • Video duration limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds
  • File size restricted to 4 GB maximum; new file is automatically created when the 4GB limit is reached
  • If sensor temperature threshold is exceeded, shooting may stop before either limit is reached; camera warns before threshold is reached
  • Dual card slots; can select which movies will be recorded to, but there is no overflow or mirroring capability for movies
  • Still images can be capturing during video recording if your flash card is fast enough, but will interrupt the video feed for approximately one second, and won't fire the flash strobe
  • Continuous bursts of stills can also be shot, but they won't be reviewed on the monitor
  • Histogram is available in manual mode, but only before capture starts
  • Dual-axis level gauge is available in all exposure modes, but only before capture starts, and not if using face-detection autofocus or HDMI output
  • Three grid displays (3x3, 6x4, and 3x3 plus diagonals) are available, but only before capture starts

Canon 5D Mark III Video Speeds & Feeds: Image size, frame rate, and file format

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers three different video resolutions and five frame rates, although only two or three rates are available at any given resolution.


Canon 5D Mark III Video Options
AVCHD Format (H.264, .MOV files)
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
Average Bit Rate

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

29.97 frames per second
(progressive)

ALL-I: 91 Mbps
IPB: 31 Mbps

25 frames per second
(progressive)

23.976 frames per second
(progressive)

1,280 x 720

16:9

59.94 frames per second
(progressive)

ALL-I: 81 Mbps
IPB: 27 Mbps

50 frames per second
(progressive)

640 x 480

4:3

29.97 frames per second
(progressive)

IPB: 10 Mbps

25 frames per second
(progressive)


All of the 5D Mark III's video modes are progressive scan, meaning that every video line is scanned, one after the other, for every frame. Compared to interlaced scanning, progressive scan video is much better for viewing videos on a computer screen. (Interlaced works fine for high-definition TVs, but some computer video players that de-interlace poorly will produce bad tearing of moving objects.)

Note that you can't match the frame rate to the shutter speed for any frame rate other than 60p. For 50p capture, the slowest shutter speed is still fixed at 1/60th second, even though the camera is capable of a 1/50th second shutter speed for still imaging. For 25p or 24p capture, the slowest shutter speed is 1/30th second.

The 24 frames/second mode is popular with some people, who feel it gives a more "movie like" look to their videos because 24fps is the frame rate for cinema. The lower frame rate can look choppy, though, particularly when shooting in bright light with fast shutter speeds.

The 60 / 50 frames/second frame rates available in 1,280 x 720 mode are great for capturing smooth-looking action, but won't be as good in low-light situations, because the camera can't use a shutter speed longer than 1/60th second.

The Canon 5D Mark III saves its video files in the MOV format, using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding. The variable compression rate is preconfigured and can't be controlled by the user, but two compression methods are available: ALL-I or IPB.

ALL-I is an intraframe compression scheme which, much like Motion JPEG, separately compresses each individual video frame. This yields higher quality video, but does so at the expense of a huge increase in file sizes. IPB compression, meanwhile, is an interframe scheme that compresses the video across multiple frames, inserting a key frame from which compression begins anew every 12 to 15 frames. In between these occasional keyframes are predicted frames, which require data from the previous keyframe and any intervening frames to reconstruct the final image. (Unlike the IPP scheme used in the 5D Mark II and other earlier Canon models, the IPB system can also predict which data will remain unchanged in subsequent predicted frames.)

Most computers and editing programs made within the last few years should be able to play 5D Mark III files with little problem, but high-def files may strain older systems, especially during editing of IPB video. File sizes for ALL-I video, meanwhile, will stretch storage to the limit.

Canon 5D Mark III video quality


Canon 5D Mark III: All-I Mode
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
(All-I mode not supported by YouTube at this time)
Download Original

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III yields video of excellent quality, capturing plenty of fine detail, and with very minimal rolling shutter artifacts. Our sample clips of Charlotte the wonder dog catching a frisbee show a crisp image with pleasing color. To our eye, though, the 5D Mark III doesn't quite match the competing Nikon D800 in terms of the finest detail, despite the much lower compression possible for 5D Mark III videos. The 5D III's video looks to have had moderate noise suppression applied, along with thresholded sharpening that gives the impression of more detail than is actually present. We're nitpicking, though. Both cameras turn in an impressive result.

At higher sensitivities, the noise suppression clearly pays dividends, as the EOS 5D Mark III's video is impressively clean even towards the upper end of the range at ISO 12,800 equivalent when shooting in low light. This is clearly a camera that's well-suited to night shooting, especially thanks to the ability to control exposure manually. In the daytime, the 5D Mark III biases automatic exposure in an attempt to attain a slower shutter speed. That yields smoother-looking video, because keeping the shutter open for longer means there's more motion blurring, something which our eyes interpret as being more natural. However, it also means greater depth of field, and less blurred-out, creamy backgrounds by default. Of course, you can override the 5D Mark III's chosen shutter speed by switching to Manual or Priority exposure, if you prefer to prioritize bokeh over smoother video.

Canon has made a big step forwards since the EOS 5D Mark II in terms of moiré / aliasing. The 5D Mark III turns in an impressive performance here, and unlike some competitors, it does so even when you trade off some resolution for a higher frame rate. (Many SLRs show significantly more aliasing and moiré issues when shooting 720p50/60 video than they do for video at 30fps or below. That's great news for anybody who doesn't need Full HD resolution, and prefers to capture smoother video. (And with well-known directors like Cameron and Jackson talking up the advantages of higher-frame rate video these days, we'd imagine more than a few videographers will be keen to give it a try.)

File sizes for the 5D III's ALL-I clips can be massive; expect around 10-11MB/second of video shot. Interframe IPB compression brings files down to much more manageable sizes, with around 3-4MB/second of video. If you can handle the storage requirements, though, ALL-I video does capture noticeably more detail than does IPB. Canon recommends at least 10MB/second or faster cards for CompactFlash, and 6MB/second or faster for Secure Digital, but if you plan to shoot ALL-I then you'll need 30MB/second or faster for CF, and at least 20MB/second for SD. Even faster cards will be needed if you plan on shooting stills during video capture, which happens with a brief interruption to the video feed. If your card is not fast enough, a five-step buffer fill warning will appear.

Canon 5D Mark III video focusing

  • Single autofocus operations can be triggered before or during movie recording by half-pressing the shutter button or pressing the AF-ON button
  • Depending on the lens in use, on-camera audio will likely pick up significant autofocus drive noise. This can be minimized by using an external microphone, however.
  • Continuous autofocus is not possible for movies
  • Face detection autofocus is available, and continues to track face locations during capture
  • AF point can be positioned with joystick before or during recording, but cannot be placed at the extreme edges of the frame
  • Manual focus is also available during movie recording

Canon 5D Mark III video exposure control


Canon 5D Mark III: Depth Of Field
640 x 480
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, f/1.8
Download Original
640 x 480
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, f/22
Download Original

  • Defaults to fully automatic Program exposure in A+, P, or B exposure modes
  • Aperture and shutter priority modes give access to either aperture control or shutter speed
  • Manual mode gives access to both shutter speed and aperture, and allows automatic or manual ISO control
  • ISO sensitivity is controlled automatically in all other modes
  • Exposure compensation adjustment is available with a +/-3EV range in 1/3 EV steps in Program or priority modes, but not in A+ mode
  • Exposure can be locked with the * button and cancelled with the AF point button, except in A+ mode. This also applies in Manual mode if shooting with Auto ISO sensitivity
  • Adjustments to all exposure variables can be made either before or during recording, but they are applied immediately, so the effect is not subtle. On the plus side, handling noise can be greatly minimized by using the touch-pad on the inner ring of the Quick Control dial whenever the Quick Control screen is active, allowing near-silent adjustment during shooting. (Obviously, aperture mechanism noise will vary depending on the attached lens.)
  • Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p or 50p, and 1/30s for 30p, 25p or 24p
  • Apertures depend upon the lens in use
  • Sensitivity varies from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800. This can be expanded to ISO 25,600, but only under automatic control, and not in Shutter-priority or A+ modes
  • Highlight tone priority is available, but disables the ISO 100 position
  • Color space, white balance, and Picture Control settings apply to movie recording. Picture Control types are Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Def 1-3, and each can be adjusted for sharpness and contrast, plus saturation and color tone for color styles, and filter / toning effects for monochrome
  • Picture Control, white balance, exposure, auto lighting optimizer, peripheral illumination and chromatic aberration correction, and highlight tone priority effects are all previewed on LCD monitor
  • If the attached flash strobe has an LED light, the 5D Mark III can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in all except Manual mode

Canon 5D Mark III audio recording

  • Audio is recorded as 16-bit, 48KHz, 1,536 Kbps Linear PCM
  • Internal monaural microphone
  • Defaults to automatic level control
  • Manual level control available via Shooting Menu item, with 64 levels available. Left/right balance is not possible.
  • Touch-pad on inner ring of Quick Control dial can be set to provide access to audio levels whenever the Quick Control screen is active, allowing instant, near-silent adjustment during shooting.
  • VU (audio level) meter display also available on the same screen, and includes peak hold indication
  • VU meter display is also available as an overlay during recording by pressing the Info button
  • External 3.5mm stereo mic input. Use external mics for better sound quality, control over stereo effect / directionality, and to eliminate camera / lens noise
  • Audio can be turned off entirely
  • Optional wind cut filter function reduces levels for low-frequency audio
  • Audio can be monitored via a 3.5mm stereo headphones, with a 10-step volume adjustment available before or during recording. (There's no visual display of the monitoring level, however, and Canon notes that monitored audio may differ from that recorded as noise reduction is not applied to it.)
  • In A+ shooting mode, audio levels are controlled automatically, and the wind cut filter is always active

Here are some examples of video shot with the Canon 5D Mark III:


Canon 5D Mark III: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, ISO 6,400, IPB mode
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, ISO 6,400, IPB mode
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, ISO 12,800, IPB mode
Download Original

Canon 5D Mark III video rolling shutter artifacts ("Jello effect")

Pretty much every DSLR on the market distorts moving objects, or the entire scene, if the camera is being panned. The technical term for this is "rolling shutter artifacts," but many users simply call it the "Jello effect," because the image can jiggle and sway like Jello as the camera is moved. This occurs because the image is captured and read out line by line, so the bottom of an object may no longer be underneath the top of it by the time the camera gets around to capturing that part of the frame.

Rolling shutter artifacts can be very annoying if they're severe, but as noted, all digital SLRs show them to one extent or another. In the case of the 5D Mark III, rolling shutter is well-controlled at 1080p, and very minimal indeed at 720p; much less than we've seen with some cameras. Unless you have fast-moving subjects or pan rapidly while filming, you're not likely to notice them much, if at all. If you drop the resolution to VGA, rolling shutter is much more prominent, but we can't imagine many 5D III owners shooting at this resolution.


Canon 5D Mark III: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original

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