Stop Shooting Video on the Canon 5D mk III

6 minute read

by Jon

November 15, 2015

The Canon 5D mark III has been one of the most popular cameras for shooting video in low-budget applications ever. In 2012, it was the camera to use for reality, corporate, interviews, B-roll, and even some commercials.

Since 2012, it’s been completely outclassed, eclipsed, and out-priced.  It’s always been a great stills camera, but it’s time to send that dinosaur back to the still photographers.  In 2015 so far, I would guess I’ve been asked to use the 5D mark III as an A or B camera more than a dozen times. Whenever I can convince a producer/editor to make the move to something newer, I do.

Here’s a few reasons why producers are still shooting video on the Canon 5D mark III, and why they don’t make sense any more.

  1. “It’s the most affordable.” This is a straight-up myth. The list of video cameras that are cheaper, with better video quality and better video features keeps getting longer. The notable cameras on the list are the Panasonic GH4, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC), and multiple full frame Sony mirrorless cameras (like the A7s). The large sensor on the 5D mark III is great, but the video encoder is pretty terrible. There’s a reason why networks like BBC, NatGeo, and Discovery always left it on the “naughty” list when it comes to HD quality.
  2. “It’s what we’ve already been using.” This is a terrible justification for anything, but it’s even worse in the quickly moving field of video production. If you’re worried about matching other cameras to your 5D3 look, don’t. It’s simple enough to match most 1080p cameras with a simple color corrector tool. If your choose a camera with a log color space, your only compromise will be in making the footage look bad enough to match the Canon’s limited dynamic range. Workflow-wise, I know not every editor is ready for 4K footage. But any modern camera can shoot in 1080p if you simply can’t handle the extra data.
  3. “It looks really good.” Just like Zach Galifianakis in a bikini, the image is certainly unique. But, put the $2500 5D3 up against a $1000 BMPCC and the 5D3 doesn’t have a chance. You need to hack the Canon into a RAW video mode just to get close. The 5D3 can look good in ideal conditions, but in nearly any real-world situation, a more modern camera will get a better-looking video. And if you’re still in love with the f/1.2 on a full frame camera look, it’s time to find a new aesthetic. Video is about telling stories, not bokeh blobs in your backgrounds. Not to mention that properly focusing in HD is virtually impossible at f/1.2 without a cinema lens and an assistant camera operator.


    The 5D mark III was a sexy camera in 2012 (left). The years have been unkind.

  4. “It’s easy to shoot with.” To a camera operator, “easy” means you have tools to gauge exposure and focus. You can record quality audio without a second system bolted to the camera. You can hold the camera without adding tons of rods and rails and shoulder pads. You can record for as long as you want without the camera shutting off or overheating. And ideally, it doesn’t weigh a ton when it’s ready to shoot. While it may have unintimidating auto modes, and a familiar form factor, to a professional camera operator there is no comparison to a “real” video camera, or at least a stills camera that includes some video features.

    Magazine 16 Camera

    It took some research to find a camera that was more difficult to shoot with than the Canon 5D mark III.

  5. “It’s the only camera we have.” You can rent your choice of better camera, that uses the same lenses, for $100 a day or less. Many owner operators have upgraded from their 5D3 already. Many camera operators who still own one also own something newer, but keep the 5D3 only because producers keep asking for it. The best reason to upgrade from the 5D mark III now is that there are a lot of stills photographers buying them on the used market. That means you can unload your used camera for around $2000. Which happens to be enough to buy plenty of other video cameras that look nicer.


What cameras are you considering moving to in 2016? What are some of the challenges you’ve had convincing other people on your team to move beyond the Canon 5D mark III? Let me know in the comments!