Best full-frame DSLR: 8 cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony compared

Top pro and consumer models rated

Best full frame DSLR

Price: £2,340/US$3,500/AU$3,600 (body only)
Specs: 22.3MP, Full HD video: 1080p, 61-point AF, ISO 50-102400

Back in 2005, the original Canon 5D brought full-frame digital photography to the masses. Two generations later, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III brings Canon's latest round of refinements to the mid-price DSLR sector. Like the Canon 6D and Canon 1D X, it boasts Digic 5+ image processing, although the upmarket 1D X has two processors rather than one.

The pixel count is marginally higher than the preceding 5D Mark II, at 22.3MP instead of 21.1MP. But, despite this, the maximum drive rate gets a hefty boost from 3.9fps to 6fps.

Further improvements over the Mark II include a more generous sensitivity range, stretching to ISO 25600 instead of ISO 6400 in the standard range. And whereas the Mark II only had a nine-point autofocus system, the Mark III boasts a 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type points, in common with the mighty Canon EOS-1D X.

Direct-access controls here are more wide-ranging than in the EOS 6D and, whereas the EOS 6D only has a single SD/HC/XC memory card slot, the EOS 5D Mark III has dual slots for both SD/HC/XC and CompactFlash.

Best full frame DSLR

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is also better built than the Mark II, with a full magnesium alloy body that feels more tough and rugged, being similar in size and weight to the Nikon D800.

Metering on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is very accurate but, as with other current Canon DSLRs, it's based on the company's iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) system. It's massively biased to the active AF point, which is good for capturing tricky shots such as backlit portraits. In general shooting, however, the centre-weighted metering mode can be more predictable.

HDR shooting modes are quickly becoming more common, but the implementation is particularly good on the Canon 5D Mark III. All the source shots are saved, as well as the merged image.

Autofocus performance and image quality are very impressive in low-light conditions. Fine details are retained well and there's excellent control over noise, even at high ISOs.

Outdoor images

Best full frame DSLR

Results are very similar to the mighty Canon EOS-1D X, with very smooth tonal graduations and a natural look to the colour balance.


Best full frame DSLR

Very good overall, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III's resolution only really drops off at ISO 25600 and into the expanded sensitivity range.


Best full frame DSLR
ISO 6400

Image noise is slightly more noticeable than with the Canon EOS 6D at very high ISO settings, but retention of fine detail is better.

Colour error

Best full frame DSLR

There's very little to choose between in terms of colour rendition from this camera and from the Canon EOS 6D. They're both very natural, if warm.

Image test verdict

Excellent image quality is assured in all sorts of lighting conditions, with results generally being almost as superb as from the 1D X.

Read our Canon 5D Mark III review