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Canon 1D Mark III versus Canon 5D Mark II

The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2007 and September 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark III) and a full frame (5D Mark II) sensor. The 1D Mark III has a resolution of 10.1 megapixel, whereas the 5D Mark II provides 21 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II

The physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Canon 5D Mark II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 1D Mark III – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II
Compare 1D Mark III versus 5D Mark II top
Compare 1D Mark III and 5D Mark II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D Mark II is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark III. Moreover, the 5D Mark II is markedly lighter (26 percent) than the 1D Mark III. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the 5D Mark II) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (1D Mark III). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark III gets 2200 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the 5D Mark II can take 850 images on a single charge of its LP-E6 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II« 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS R« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 7D« » 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« » 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- i Canon 5D
Canon 1D Mark II« » 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1535 g 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The 5D Mark II was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 22 percent) than the 1D Mark III, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark III features an APS-H sensor and the Canon 5D Mark II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the 5D Mark II is 65 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark II sensor measures

With 21MP, the 5D Mark II offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark III (10.1MP), but the 5D Mark II has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.41μm versus 7.21μm for the 1D Mark III). Yet, the 5D Mark II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the 1D Mark III, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

1D Mark III versus 5D Mark II MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the 5D Mark II has a markedly higher DXO score than the 1D Mark III (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II« Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« » Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912-22.911.1136871Canon 5D
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704-21.811.095463Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The 5D Mark II indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark III does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark II can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1D Mark III and the 5D Mark II are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 5D
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs

Both the 1D Mark III and the 5D Mark II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark IV, while the 5D Mark II was followed by the Canon 5D Mark III.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 1D Mark III better than the Canon 5D Mark II or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:

  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (2200 versus 850) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2007).


Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (21 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 44%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (152x114mm vs 156x156.6mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 305g or 26 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (22 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 6 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 5D Mark II is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

1D Mark III 03:09 5D Mark II

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 1D Mark III or the 5D Mark II. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II«91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« »88/100HiRecrevrev- Aug 2005 3,299- i Canon 5D
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »-HiRec--- Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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