Best Settings for Canon 5D Mark III

Best Settings for Canon 5D Mark III – Introduction

I should begin by saying that this article discusses settings for those who are using the Canon 5D Mark III for video production, videography and filmmaking purposes. If you’ve arrived here looking for the best settings for photography, you won’t find them in this article. This is a step by step guide for getting the most stunning movie clips out of your Canon 5D mark III.

If you’re still attached to the mark II and considering whether to make the leap, I was in your territory not so long ago. Truthfully, since NAB 2012, my eyes are beginning to wander toward the Sony NEX-FS700 out at the end of June 2012. But I don’t have any plans to sell my new Canon 5D Mark III yet. I’m glad I made the jump from the Mark II though, because moiré and aliasing are vastly improved to the extent it’s hardly noticeable anymore. Rolling shutter is still an issue, unfortunately, but is reduced. Lines seem to resolve closer to 1080p resolution, but are still somewhere between 750 to 800 true lines (similar to mark II).

Before we start on settings for the Canon 5D mark III, it’s worth mentioning that what you plan to do with the clips after you’ve shot them will determine the best settings for you in the menu screens. In other words, if you don’t plan to perform any work on them in post-production (eg. family clips stored directly on your computer), then your settings should be different from those users who plan to edit and grade the clips later for, say, a music video.

When you adjust these settings, remember to first set the dial to ‘M’ for manual, or you won’t be able to access the menus to change them.

Best ISO Settings for Canon 5D Mark III

The EOS Canon 5D Mark III is remarkably improved for low light over its mark II predecessor. For pro use, although I wouldn’t recommend using the 12800 ISO setting unless completely necessary, with some additional post work using Neat Video or other superior noise-reduction plugin, it is still acceptable. And whilst I would suggest 12800 is the maximum for pro-usability, 10000 is my personal ceiling setting limit for broadcast work. Noise can be detected from 6400 ISO, but it’s barely noticeable. When noise does appear, it is arguably more ‘filmic’ than noise on the 5D mark II.

If it’s for family clips, feel free to venture right up to 25600 because the noise levels are not so bad at all.
To compare different ISO levels, here’s a good video to watch:


Now, in my earlier post on ‘Optimising your Canon 5D Mark II for filmmaking’ it is suggested that you stick with several ISO settings to get the cleanest image. This is now no longer the case for the Canon 5D mark III and any of the ISO levels are acceptable with no optimal levels advantage.

ISO Max Setting for Canon 5D Mark III – Summary

Casual work: 25600

Pro work: 10000 (12.8K if you apply noise reduction)


Picture Styles for Canon 5D Mark III

If you’re a casual videographer and don’t plan to edit or grade your clips, I would recommend using one of the preset picture styles that befit the setting you are in. They’re pretty self-explanatory (descriptions in the manual if you’re not sure), and they work well enough under those conditions.

For professional use through  editing and grading the clips, don’t use the standard faithful or neutral styles. For greatest dynamic range, it’s best to shoot as flat as possible and modify the picture in post so the highlights aren’t blown out and you retain as much definition in the image as possible. Contrary to popular belief, ‘neutral’ isn’t flat, there is still some camera adjustment and sharpening going on. Whilst you may feel it’s right to have some sharpening in camera, it appears to introduce compression artifacts in post and over-expose the highlights. Trust me on this one, absolutely no sharpening in camera. Do it in post and you will have more of the image to work with – After grading this footage, it looks more beautiful and natural filmic, less video. The Canon 5D Mark III for video is very capable at producing sharp footage if this is done in post.

If you’d like to read a more comprehensive account of this, I would highly recommend reading Stu Maschwitz’ detailed investigation of this here:

I endorse his recommendations as I’ve put them to the test myself and he’s offered the most practical solution for the Canon 5D Mark III.

Professional picture style settings for Canon 5D Mark III

Sharpness all the way to the left (0).
Contrast all the way to the left (-4).
Reduce saturation by two ticks (-2).
Set colour tone as you desire, but I would recommend 0 and adjust to your liking in post.

To sharpen the image in post is really quite fast and simple. Both Adobe Premiere and After Effects have an ‘Unsharp Mask’ tool. Set this to around 125 with a radius of 1.1 or 1.2.

You can either place these settings in a custom picture style, or readjust the Neutral or Faithful picture styles to match the above settings.


Achieving slow motion (high speed) with the Canon 5D Mark III

For years I have loved over-cranking videos cameras to the max. I’ve always had a deep fondness for slow motion capture. Now with the release of the Sony NEX-FS700, everyone else seems to be bucking the trend. All of a sudden, everyone seems to be trending on achieving ultra-slow motion. With the Canon 5D mark III, you’re never going to get ultra-slow motion. However it is possible to achieve it to a degree…

For music video promos, the label usually asks me to give them some footage that is normal speed and mix it with slow motion capture. I achieve this using the same camera. For this technique, you need to know in advance what shots will be intended for slow motion and which are to be played at normal speed.

  • For normal capture, I shoot at 1080p, 25fps (PAL). For slow motion capture, I switch to 720p, 60fps (NTSC). Don’t forget to switch back again when shooting the regular speed shots.
  • In post production, take all the 720p acquired footage and place the clips in their own bin.
  • Use the ‘interpret footage’ feature to have the NLE see them as 25fps to match the 1080p acquired footage.
  • Place them on a 25fps timeline and scale up by 150% to match the size of the 1080p footage.Now you have beautiful slow motion clips alongside regular speed shots!


Highlight Tone Priority

What this does is artificially increase ISO by approximately one stop and this (apparently) generates more detail in the highlights (and the extra noise to go with it). Personally, I’d leave this off altogether.  Go into the menu settings and disable Highlight Tone Priority.


Additional Considerations

Other things not to forget if you’re relatively new to shooting video:

  1. Keep your shutter speed at double the frame rate you are shooting at. Eg. If you are shooting at 25fps, check the shutter is set at 1/50. This is known as the 180-degree-shutter-rule. Note that you can increase or decrease this by one stop if artificial light is playing voodoo with your image (Tungsten flickering). If you’re shooting footage to be slowed later in post at 50 or 60fps, your shutter will be double this 1/120 for the footage to look right.
  2. Remember to check your white balance. If you’re unsure, use the AWB setting. But it’s good practice to always use the manual setting and set the right temperature yourself for the look you want. I like to custom tweak mine to produce a warmer or cooler image dependent on the style or mood I want to create.
  3. Use a variable ND filter to help control light coming into the camera on very bright days or for time lapsing shots. I recommend the Fader ND mark II by Light Craft. Be careful buying off eBay, there are fakes around and you don’t want to capture professional footage through cheap glass. Worth buying this from a reputable dealer. If you can afford it, buy the Singh-Ray vari-ND filter. I hardly ever have it off my camera lens on bright days. Just set the aperture to its sweet spot, set the frame rate correctly and then simply ‘dial in’ the exposure using the vari-ND’s outer ring. Absolute god-send!


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35 Responses to “Best Settings for Canon 5D Mark III”

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  15. shwana says:

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  17. Jane says:

    I have a canon 5d mark III , and i see a lot of noise with ISO 2000 & 3200
    what should i do ?
    I change all setting but i have noise :(
    please help me

    • Quentin Cooper says:

      You could try and use a SLR Magic lens, they have several with F stops as low as F0.95. This would give you more light and so you could bring down your ISO a little bit to clean up the noise a little.

  18. claus says:

    Hi Kris.

    I have just bought a Canon 5 D mark 3. You say that ‘For normal capture, I shoot at 1080p, 25fps (PAL). For slow motion capture, I switch to 720p, 60fps (NTSC).’

    How come you switch between formats PAL & NTSC?
    Isn’t it a hassle to have NTSC materiale in your timeline?
    When I try to shoot 50fps the camera doesn’t allow me to take it to shutter 50. Have you experianced that?

    Best regards claus

    • Ankit Aditya says:

      The basic formula is to shoot at double the frame rate you use which means

      24fps = 1/48 which means 1/50 fps(there is no shutter speed48)
      60fps = 120 shutter speed

      Hope this helps :)

    • Kris Koster says:

      Hi Claus,

      Don’t worry about NTSC and PAL digital footage on a digital timeline – I know what you’re thinking, but those analogue signal days are over for our digital era.

      Footage from NTSC and PAL will mix and sit perfectly side by side on your timeline. Canon kept the labels only to identify between the casual frame rates attributed to both.

  19. juan felipe garces says:

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  20. Hi, thanks for great info! It seems you shoot at 25fps, as do I, but I notice when I connect the camera via HDMI to a monitor or TV the images stutter really bad. It seems the HDMI output is i60 even when the camera is set to PAL….that could be the reason? Any way aroun it?

    • Kris Koster says:

      Hi Petter,

      I have not come across your situation before. I connect via HDMI link all the time and don’t have a stutter problem.

      I use it with a Zacutto EVF, but when I’m operating my Steadicam, I have it plugged into a HD monitor. No stutter problem their either.

      Have you checked your cable? Tried another? If the same result, also check it with a different monitor. Investigate the issue!

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    Has anyone else tried the canon picture styles from Milk Studios? They are specially designed for skin tones. I find them easier to use than flat picture styles. Here is some more information about them

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      Downloaded the picture styles from Milk Studios, cannot open it.
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  22. Usad_M_D1957 says:

    Wow – the mark III trounces on the D800 in that video for light tests

    • nycfilmmakersgroup says:

      Actually the Canon looks like its got some serious noise reduction going on in the background. The image of her skin looks a little plastic like to my eyes. If I ever need to shoot above iso 4000, then I will consider the Canon 5D mark 3 , but most of my shoots top off at the iso 800 range, occasionally ISO 1200 (dynamic range takes a serious hit the higher you go, look at the color of the eyes on both cameras as you go higher). Image quality with a wide dynamic range is what I am looking for, hence the preference for a lower ISO when shooting. Clean HDMI output is a serious consideration as well. To me, the Nikon is the preferable camera. On a different note, that Blackmagic camera that was released at NAB looks enticing. 13 stops of dynamic range with higher resoulution…I will watch it carefully.

  23. John Davies says:

    To afford the Canon 5D mark III is just half the problem!

  24. Julia_FotoCakes says:

    Vari-ND – I keep meaning to get one. Would never be able to afford a Singh-Ray, even the Lightcraft is over $150.

    • Kris Koster says:

      A Vari-ND is an essential piece of kit, really. I’m not sure I could do without mine now – Especially for timelapse photography where I have the shutter real slow in bright conditions.

  25. marjus abaetjiwan says:

    The mark III does the job very nicely. I hired one for a shoot where I was also using a couple of mark IIs. Some reviews have said there isn’t a lot of difference, but how wrong are they!


  1. Canon 5d MIII Video settings | Luis Power - [...] Canon 5d MIII Video settings [...]

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