Pro Settings for the Canon 5D MkIII

“How do you optimally set up a Canon 5D Mark 3?”, asks a student.

OK. Glad to help. Because yes, you do need to make a few changes. Canon has most options set up right, but there are a few exceptions, and a few settings that make this excellent camera significantly better for pros.

So let me take you through them.

  1. Shooting Menu 1: Image Quality. I recommend you write RAW to card 1, and Large Fine JPG to card 2, as a backup. You could make the backups raw as well, but then you need a lot more storage. (Note, you should do item 7 on this list before you can set this).
  2. Shooting Menu 2: Turn Auto Lighting Optimizer OFF if you are shooting RAW images. Otherwise the camera will “Photoshop” your images, so you will not even see that you are, for example, underexposing the background.
  3. Shooting Menu 3: Turn Highlight Tone Priority OFF. Unless you want the camera to make exposure decisions for you, that is.
  4. AF Menu 4: Select AF area selec. mode: I suggest you turn all options ON.
  5. AF Menu 5: VF display illumination: suggest you turn it ON.
  6. Playback menu 3: suggest you turn Histogram disp to RGB. That way you also see if you overexpose just one colour channel (which leads to bad colour). Looking at jusyt the average histogram, you miss this.
  7. Wrench menu 1: Record func+card/folder sel: suggest you set Record func. to Rec. separately,
  8. Wrench menu 1: Set File name to something meaningful (mine is “MW5D”) and select it instead of the default.
  9. Wrench menu 1: Set Auto rotate to the middle option (do not auto rotate on playback).
  10. Wrench menu 2: make very sure your LCD Brightness is set to manual. (Else, you will make bad exposure decisions).
  11. Wrench menu 4: Enter your personal Copyright information. Set Author to your name and Copyright to “All Rights Reserved”.
  12. Custom Functions 2:  Set Multi function lock to Main Dial and Multi-controller. That way, you lock both aperture and shutter when you wish to lock your settings.
  13. Custom Functions 2: Custom Controls. Set the bottom right option (Multi controller) to “AF point direct selection”. That way you can select an AF point just by using the little joystick.
  14. Custom Functions 2: Custom Controls. Set the SET button to change ISO. That way, press and hold the SET button while you are composing your image and immediately change the ISO value without removing your eye from the viewfinder, so you can see the effect on your actual image.
  15. Custom Functions 2: Custom Controls. You may optionally want to set the Main Control to Av and the Quick control dial to Tv. That way, the main control dial changes your aperture whether you are in manual or aperture-priority mode—and those are a pro’s most used modes.

Finally, set your personal menu to contain some useful options. Personal choice. Mine are, in this order:

  • Battery info
  • External Speedlite Control
  • Beep
  • Sensor cleaning
  • Highlight alert
  • Format card

That’s it. You are in business.

Of course settings are personal, so you can set anything you like, any way you like. But I am sure you will find most, if not all, of these suggestions very helpful.


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