Canon 5D Mark III: What We Know and Think We Know

Canon 5D Mark III Press Invite

Above is a supposed to be one of the press invites for the 5D Mark III due out at midnight Thursday night. (via CR)

Something is coming Thursday night at midnight EST.  Of course, I’ll have full details up as soon as I know something official.  We may even get some leaks ahead of time (usually the case).

What we’re expecting is the Canon 5D Mark III – a 22MP full frame DSLR that captures 1080p video with the same codec we see in the 1D X (edit-friendly ALL-I and the more compressed IPB).

Expected Key 5D Mark III Specifications

  • 22mp
  • 61pt AF
  • 100% VF
  • 3.2″ LCD
  • Dual CF/SD Card Slots
  • Headphone Output
  • Wireless radio communication for Speedlites

The below photos were revealed a few days ago and appear to show off the real deal 5D Mark III in the wild.

Canon 5D Mark III

Big 5D Mark III Specs for the Still Photographers

Additional rumors suggest that Canon will be adding the 590EX to its lineup of Speedlites and that the new flash will incorporate a radio communication feature for wireless triggering of the flash.  It seems to reason that the introduction of such a Speedlite would accompany a camera (e.g., the 5D Mark III) capable of communicating with that flash.  Why Canon chose not to include the feature on its flagship 1D X introduced last Fall is beyond me.

I’ve been talking about Canon’s patents on this technology for years now.  The patent applications in question reveal that Canon has been working on a radio-based solution for its wireless flash system with transmitters built-in camera bodies. (See USPTO Appl. No. 12/700,098)

From the patent:

“The camera also includes a wireless antenna for transmitting and receiving data to/from a camera accessory such as an external flash unit, a remote control unit and the like using radio waves.

. . . . The flash unit . . . performs emitting control based on data from the camera. The flash unit includes a wireless antenna for transmitting and receiving data to/from the camera using radio waves.”

Canon Radio Trigger Speedlite Patent Diagram

Canon Radio Trigger Speedlite Patent Diagram

The patent application tells us that Canon’s proposed wireless flash system is based off of the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which is more commonly known as a wireless standard applied for low-rate wireless personal area networks operating at 2.4GHz, 915MHz and 868MHz.  The 802.15.4 standard is the basis for the likes of the ZigBee specification, which these little chip antennas use to garner an impressive range of 300 feet (using the 2.4GHz band).

This is not a whole lot different in concept from the good ole 802.11 WiFi; however, power management, critical latency and cost are key concerns in the 802.15.4 standard, which makes it a seemingly ideal fit for something like TTL flash radio communication.

So, what Canon is getting at here is radio communication between its cameras and flashes in what would, hopefully, be a more reliable manner than the current light-transmission method and maybe even edge out what RadioPopper and PocketWizard have been doing.  It certainly would be attractive to buy a camera with that feature built-in.

What’s more, the patent applications further discuss the ability to remotely trigger one or more camera bodies using the same wireless radio tech via a single remote control unit.

Canon Radio Trigger Remote Patent Diagram

Canon Radio Trigger Remote Patent Diagram

If this tech comes packaged with the 5D Mark III, I think its plausible to see an independent remote as one of those accessories.  I doubt it will be cheap though.  You think that $130 TC-80N3 time lapse remote is pricey? Just wait until Canon drops the official price for this accessory.

Something else that seems to be a little overlooked in the build-up to the 5D Mark III is high-ISO performance and Canon’s decision to stick with 22MP instead of bumping it up to compete with the resolution of the Nikon D800.  When I looked at the 1D X last Fall, I was blown away by what ISO 12,800 images looked like in a dimly lit room.  I really think this next generation is going to be pushing 2-stops better performance that what we saw in the prior generation.  To me, that says a lot because I was already impressed with what both Canon and Nikon did with the last gen DSLRs in low light – up to about ISO 3200.  If the 5D Mark III is close to the 1D X in high ISO performance, then I think we’re going to be in for a real treat.

Big 5D Mark III News for the HDSLR Shooters

Nikon delivered a smackdown in 1-upmanship to Canon with the D4 and D800 one-two punch thanks to the inclusion of both a headphone-out for audio monitoring and clean HDMI-out for capturing a clean signal from the camera on devices like the Hyperdeck Shuttle,Atomos Ninja and AJA KiPro.

Canon 5D Mark III Headphone Output

We know now thanks to the leaked photos referenced above that the 5D Mark III has a headphone-out jack on the side of the camera.  What we hope is that this isn’t all-for-nothing.  That is, we’re expecting to be able to actually make adjustments to the audio levels during recording as we monitor them on the back of the camera’s LCD.

If Canon took care of this feature properly on the 5D Mark III, then that’s one big bullet dodged and probably a few more sales saved from the Nikon D800.

Rode VideoMic HD

It’s true that the best way to capture audio for HDSLR productions is using a dual system and sync in post.  That’s what I do most of the time; however, that’s not necessarily what that I want to do.  I’d rather get my audio sync’ed in camera and not have to fool with a separate track in post.  With Rode killing it with on-camera mics like the upcoming VideoMic HD, it may be a realistic possibility to capture final audio in camera . . . assuming that camera makers will give us something that is usable from both a quality and control aspect.

Next up is the HDMI-out signal.  There have been no leaks or rumors concerning this feature.  The market (Nikon in particular), however, has put Canon’s back against the wall.  Canon said it wasn’t possible because of processing power limitations in the 1D X.  Then Nikon delivered the direct-competitor D4 and the D800 (at half the price) – both of which feature clean HDMI output for full HDMI capture.

Is it a feature that everyone needs or even the majority of users will actually use? No.  The storage requirements for capturing full HD off an HDMI signal are cost-prohibitive for a lot of users.  I recently looked into this for the FS100 and opted against picking up the Hyperdeck Shuttle thanks to the storage requirements even with my relatively light usage.  However, pro markets that need it when they need it will likely lean toward the manufacturer that offers this.  Then, bragging rights take over and marketing starts poking fun at the red headed stepchild.  Sales will be lost if this feature is excluded without some kind of wiz-bang trump card.

Wrap-Up and To Be Continued…

We’re less than 24 hours away from what we expect to be the unveiling of the Canon 5D Mark III and an unknown number/type of accessories.  Expect to see lots of news and analysis around the Internet of the new camera.  I figure that we’ll see plenty from the likes of Vincent Laforet, Shane Hurlbut and more as the news breaks. I’ll pass along relevant links, samples, pre-order options and more as it appears.



  1. Jerry says

    This will be great for wedding photographers, but what about landscape photographers, lower noise would be great but if you print big you need more pixals! This is not what we need. Hopefully there is another model yet to be announced for those who go big!