Canon's 5D series is arguably one of its biggest success stories.
It gave us a full-frame imaging sensor at prices considerably lower than its professional 1D series.
The result was stunning image quality, making the 5D series, and certainly the 5D mark II one of the most popular professionally used cameras on the market. In fact, yours truly uses one on a daily basis and many of the pictures you'll find on this site have rolled out of a 5D mark II.
Because of its popularity, the world of photography has been speculating over the 5D mark III's specifications for quite some time. Finally we need to wait no longer. Canon just released its specifications and the first cameras are due in stores by the end of the month with a price tag in the region of 3500$. Certainly a hefty premium over its predecessor, but we can expect the price to come down a bit over time.
To many photographers' relief, Canon has decided to keep the megapixel count relatively humble on the mark III. There is a very small increase compared to the mark III, it boasts 22.3 megapixels compared to 21.1 of the previous generation. The reason that many photographers are not waiting for higher resolution sensors is that higher resolution inevitably impacts low-light performance negatively. And 21 megapixels was already plenty for large prints. When given the choice between better performance in dark conditions or more megapixels, the first option will be more useful for the majority of professionals.
The very recently released Nikon D800 goes the opposite direction and features a new 36,3 megapixel sensor. It will be interesting to see actual reviews in the coming weeks that can show us the actual image quality differences between these cameras and their predecessors.
Perhaps the most important change in the 5D mark III is the autofocus unit. If the 5D and 5D mark II had one achilles heel, it was most decidedly the outdated autofocus. It was often slow and struggled in low light, and Canon has finally given the 5D series an autofocus worthy of the camera. It inherits the 61-point autofocus out of the 1Dx, which is a massive upgrade over the old system. It also suggests (along with the camera's price tag) that Canon is positioning the 5D mark III a bit differently in the market this time around. It now fills the space that the 1Ds mark III has occupied since 2007. It seems that Canon has recognized how well the 5D had established itself in the professional market, and has upgraded the specifications accordingly.
Other notable changes include a speed increase to 6 frames per second continuous shooting, a full magnesium body and upgrades to the backside of the camera in the form of a new larger display with higher colour accuracy and a 7D style button lay-out. The viewfinder now covers 100%, which might not sound like much considering the previous 5D had 98% coverage, but it's still a very much appreciated feature. The HD video function has also received tweaks to make it even better than it was, although it is still manual focus only that will not bother professional videographers. There's also the addition of in-camera HDR and auto bracketing which was absent in the previous incarnations.
All in all, the 5D mark III does not leave us wanting for much. In fact given its price point it might be one of the most perfect all-round professional cameras we have seen yet. I certainly can't wait to try it out.