A drastic solution to increasing sharpness with the 5DmkIII…

My assistant on many of my shoots and a great cameraman in his own right, James Miller, has taken drastic measures to increase the disappointing sharpness results that he has found with his new Canon 5d mk3. I have sharpened in post with dramatic improvements, and I am much happier now I can see the mk3 footage sing…is this a better solution? No…it invalidates your warranty and is rather tricky but its results are fascinating…just not for me! I STRONGLY do not advocate doing this! I would call this Magic Lantern for the mk3 without the magic! 🙂

UPDATE: Video day 2


Description from Vimeo:

Popped down to Brighton, on the UK’s South coast today to shoot some footage with the 5DMK3. This camera has had one of the 2 OLPF removed.

Graded footage, no sharpening in camera or in post.
The images & stills from today suffered from heat rising on the ground and gives a shimmer, this is not aliasing.

Can’t remember how the pre mod looked now so you will have to judge.


Here is James with more:

Well it’s a little crazy really, opening up a brand new camera and ripping the insides out, but this is something I was wondering about for a while now. Going all the way back to when the Canon 5DMK2 came into production. But with the MK2 due to the way video image was created, line skipping etc, removal of the OPLF (Optical Low Pass Filter) or Anti Alias filter was a pointless exercise, well at least on the video front.

Some photographers prefer cameras without these filters or a camera that counter-acts the filters like the Nikon D800E. This has always led me to pixel peep various cameras over the years.

The filters are there to stop the high frequency detail reaching the sensor and making it, in the end, produce aliasing artefacts, that also cause the dreaded moire.
There are horizontal and vertical filters on the Canon together with an IR cut filter (that aqua colour one). They are made from lithium niobate and crystalline quartz and come in different thickness and layers depending on the application.

One US company that will remove or replace these filters is: MAXMAX  http://www.maxmax.com

One of the two OLPF removed

I knew that the sensor had gapless microlenses and did not suffer from the same line skipping of the older MK2, so after the initial disappointment of the softer than expected image I set about this daunting task.

It takes about 15mins to get to the sensor block once you know your way round. After removing the back case you set about removing the circuit board. A circuit board with about fifteen fiddly connections.

View once the rear cover is removed

Once removed, a small metal plate is all that is stopping you from accessing the sensor mount.

The sensor mount is a 3 point, sprung and screwed in aid to level the sensor flange distance. Removing three screws will release the sensor assembly from the body. Then I uncoupled the filter from its clip over mount from the sensor. The filter is also the anti dust system that vibrates when you turn the camera off, this will no longer function.

Sensor block and mount

You really need to replace the OLPF with a piece of optical glass of the same thickness to maintain the optical balanced path. As I did not have a replacement piece of glass, for now I screwed down the sensor to its smallest flange distance to try and achieve infinity focus.

So if this all didn’t work out and the image was an aliasing mess, I would put it all back together, probably with the help of a Canon engineer. I figured that a shutter assembly service/ replace would have to remove the sensor so to recalibrate the flange distance can’t be any more cost than this.

Canon 5Dmk3 Sensor Unit
Sensor unit removed showing shutter curtain

First results on Vimeo:

Canon 5Dmk3 OLPF removal, first results


Frame grab after removal
Before removal
After removal

Note images taken at different times. Contrast and light dramatically different on each shot.


Draw backs, If you don’t get the sensor inline and level set your image may suffer. This may result in poor AF performance, however the micro focus adjustment in the camera on Canon lenses really helps here. Dust, there is no self cleaning after the removal.

What is the aliasing like now? Well I was prepared for a terrible mess, but I was really happy with the first few tests. I can’t really hardly spot any problems of Aliasing and thus Moire. And also I think the RAW still images have benefited from this also.

I need to test more, and advice would be not to touch your lovely new Canon, as it will invalidate the warranty. But if you are feeling brave I would suggest contacting a company like MAXMAX who will advise you.

Based on Neutral preset zero sharpness, | -2 contrast, | -2 Sats


Quick next day update (1):

I have stripped the camera again to adjust the back focus, shame you have to take the main circuit board all the way to get to just one of the adjustment screws. That makes this the 4th time I have had to remove those wires!!

The camera is now fully back together instead of bits of gaffer tape. I can now get infinity focus a result, as I though I would need an additional piece of glass to maintain the focus.

Even the AF seems to function, I’ll test that later.

Off out to shoot now. I’ll post some more video later.


  1. if i spend all my money on this camera, break it open to sharpen it and this turns out to be an april fools joke im gonna run to the nearest living thing and kill it. I think the wisest thing would be to wait a week and see if this thing plays out as true and not a very mean joke. Thanks for everything so far though Philip. 🙂

  2. So James, what you’re saying is that the MKIII that I ordered (and will probably arrive any day now) will have the same softness issues as my Canon 7D (which I’m trying to sell for that exact reason?!)
    I hope not…… but seeing those comparisons…..

  3. Hi Phillip,
    Maybe you could start a post that would vote on how many people would buy a Canon 5D Mark 3 with the low pass filter removed. Maybe Canon may respond?

    Honestly I am quite disappointed that the 5D3 image is softer and needs a post sharpening to look good. I am looking to buy a 5D3 but I am hesitate because of the softer image.

    Many Thanks,

    1. If you liked the look of 5D Mark 2, then the Mark 3’s sharpness is the same.
      With Mark 3 you have new upgrades like the low light, moire, audio out, etc…
      I shot a 5d2 and 5d3 comparison test here:

      5d3 is slighty warmer in tone, that’s really the main difference.
      They are both shot at 100 iso with daylight white balance.

  4. If you hadn’t tweeted about this yesterday I’d have thought it was an April 1st joke! I can’t believe Canon have overdone this filter to such an extent the camera looks totally soft. I realise the aim was to reduce aliasing but that defeats the object. I’m starting to wonder if this camera is intentionally crippled for video? Good work on ripping yours apart. I can see a lot of others trying it now as well.

  5. Surely this has to be an April fools joke.

    The anti-aliasing filter on the Mk III is designed for 22 megapixel stills, so it clearly can’t be the cause of low sharpness for 1080p video. I guess the reason for softness must be the sensor sampling and/or post processing in video mode.

    1. I have not watch the video samples closely yet (I am currently in the wild with very slow internet….) but wouldn’t increase the sharpness on a MK3 picture profile achieve the same result than removing the OPLF filter or sharpening in post?

  6. Was the IR filter removed also..that should have an opposite effect (reducing sharpness). Anyway I guess this is preferred over sharpening in post since 1) an OLPF erases fine detail you can’t get back, and 2) artificial sharpening looks ugly. Thanks for this great post.

  7. Phillip, How similar is this to what the Nikon guys have done with the D800E? Maybe they saw this coming? Will this amplify any moire in video mode? Your sample seemed very clean and crisp. Any thoughts?

  8. Hi Philipp, and all of you. I personally think that it is crazy. To try and find new ways to improve the camera, that was manufactured in certain way.
    Any camera manufacturer on the planet should drop something in order for the camera to produce image or resolution. Even red or alexa or any other camera.
    I personally an owner of to 5d mark ii and a lot of gear. And I’m not seeing any risen to upgrade yet. But my point is that I do not believe the image from the mark iii is a really horrible. It is still an dslr camera! And no movie camera. I think canon has fixed some issues! Not all important issues.
    End this is enough for them to make money from a poor independent filmmakers like me . 🙁

    But as you say Philipp, the raith camera for the right job.
    By the way sorry for my poor English I’m from Israel, and by the way those cameras are more expensive here that in Europe or America because of the taxes so stop saying ” ouu it is so expensive ”

    Tanks you all.

  9. Is this an April 1st joke?
    If not, the man is insane (no disrespect intended).
    If there’s already a Sharpness Solution figured out, why make a new one and tentatively risk loosing your Warranty or even worse your Camera?
    It’d be like hacking a camera to enable ProRes Recording when the Camera already has a clean HDMI out.

    I respect your friend’s courage, but I’m with you Phil, NOT a solution for me!


  10. Do large sensors have large circles of confusion which makes them soft. Is the softness unavoidable. Must large sensors trade detail for low light sensitivity (and depth of field). The fs100 is great in low light but is softer than the af100 which has 6x the pixel density. This would seem no excuse for the mkIII though, which looks softer than the fs100 yet has 2.5x pixel density.


  11. Unfortunately the minor improvements that they made to the MKIII doesn’t justify the roughly 1300.00 price increase.

    Softness should not be a problem in this camera, but as we all see it clearly is. Really.. 3,400.00 for a camera thats softer than my MKII? Really? Buy wait, i got a really cool headphone jack now. Its a good thing they added those additional focus points, what on earth did we all do when we only had one focus point?

    Its a real shame you had to go through all of this just to get sharper images and video. At least i can get the Optical Anti Aliasing Filter from Mosaic Engineering to take care of that moire issue.

    Shame on you Canon… shame on you.

    1. “shame on you…” a bit over the top no?

      If you are looking at it purely as a video camera then the lack of aliasing/ moire, proper audio, much better low light and better recording are HUGE improvements.

      If you are looking it as a stills camera it is night and day better.

      So perhaps the “shame on you” is rather OTT?


      1. Philip your completely right. The 5d3 is much improved. Blueclearsky, do you own a 5d3? have you
        tested it? I have a 5d3 and ive shot with a 5d2 and the 5d2 is not sharper than the 5d3.
        And what ever sharpness your referring to is not clean sharpness anyways. The 5d3 has a much cleaner
        image. Have fun converting your footage too. With the 5d3 i can grade all over the ALL-I files and they hold
        up so well even at 3200, if not 6400. And believe me if canon offers to remove these filters, watch out!
        And is there 720 60p on the 5d2? Without moire? I dont see the need to badger cameras unless
        you yourself can make a better camera.

        Anyways Philip do think canon might offer a service to remove these filters? Even at a small fee? This is
        blowing up the net right now. They responded with 24p on the mark 2, why wouldnt they offer 5d3 owners

  12. I’ve seen the frame captures from your video, and the detail improvement is amazing! I think it rivals the Nikon D800.
    Would this work for still photography?

  13. Why is this better than shooting with the Nikon D800E that has already removed the OPLF filter? Why go through all of this and possibly screw up your camera when Nikon has already done it for less money?

    Just saying.

    1. It’s more complicate than that. Not that I am advocating this AT ALL!!

      The 800e more and aliases all over the place and is next to useless for video. It NEEDS the olpf.

      The mk3 is a totally different beast in its dealing with moire/ aliasing. James seems very happy with doing this. He is of course nuts!

  14. Could a bitrate hack boost resolution in the future?. Did Canon hack-proof the 5d…i would.. You don’t want 5k cameras looking better than 20k cameras.

  15. Did a comparison between 5d mk2 video and still image. With post sharpening you can make the video nearly as sharp as the still without making it ugly!

    If there is an issue with soft video in mk2, it seems to be the case for stills also. Some moire and aliasing can be seen in the video in the snow near the shore in the distance but that is the only major difference between the pictures in my opinion. Look at the comparison below and let me know what your eyes can revolve. As usual the original file looks better, especially the sharpening.


    The still was downscaled to 1920×1024 in Canons Digital Photo Professional and imported to FCP7. Picture style Cinema with the same settings for both, no sharpening, contrast -2, saturation 0, time 1/125, aperture f11, Canon 24-70 L. In order to get the pictures to look as identical as possible I adjusted exposure an did post sharpening in FCP7 with different settings: sharpening15 for the video and 10 for the still and exposure +9 for the still.

    Btw I love Mr Blooms way of testing and explaining things. Very professional! The discussion about sharpness is perhaps not so crucial. For me colours and perspective are the nicest features in a 5d, as it is in a Cinemascope and Technicolor movie like the Searchers.

  16. It looks like deep depth of field is the new shallow depth of field! Also, the price of this camera really isn’t that bad. I think the DSLR generation, myself included, have developed unrealistic expectations for performance and price. I can see how some people are underwhelmed by screen grabs and comparisons, but I think Philip has proven how important the lack of aliasing and moire really is in his review. Not to mention the incredible low light performance and improved audio. As soon as I can afford it, I want one of these bad boys!

  17. I’m still waiting for my MKIII to arrive from B&H. No clue as to ETA. The footage looks amazing, and I smile at the potential of this camera with what you’ve done. I don’t have the balls to do what you did, plus my wife keeps them tucked away. But my primary use is still photography, and by removing that filter, I would like to know more about your still photography experiences. You loosely mentioned improvement to RAW images. Can you elaborate? How is light sensitivity effected at high ISO? (for video and photography)

  18. Please do your D800 review soon! Although, I pre-ordered the 5D Mk III, I am dying to know how it compares to the D800 from your perspective. Lord knows when the Mk III will ship as the backorder is massive, but I want ample time to potentially return/exchange it, should the D800 prove better. Online web comparisons indicate Mk III has superior low light performance, but either way – I’m curious to know your findings.

  19. These guys found the “ultimate 5d set-up” using nikkor lenses. I won’t argue with their results. Looks spectacular but what do i know (no grading, except in-camera sharpen +1).

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