Canon 1D Mark III vs 5D Mark II
The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, 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 megapixels, whereas the 5D Mark II provides 21 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|10.1 MP, APS-H Sensor||21 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO 100-3200 (50-6400)||ISO 100-6400 (50-25600)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 230k dots||3.0" LCD, 920k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|10 shutter flaps per second||3.9 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|2200 shots per battery charge||850 shots per battery charge|
|156 x 157 x 80 mm, 1155 g||152 x 114 x 75 mm, 850 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
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 compare the optics available 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. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark III has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the 5D Mark II, Canon provides the BG-E6 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.
|Canon 1D Mark III»||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 5D Mark II«||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark IV« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||43.4 oz||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||5.9 in||6.3 in||3.1 in||48.9 oz||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||55.2 oz||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D« »||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1D Mark II« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||54.1 oz||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||44.6 oz||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999||Canon 1Ds|
|Nikon D3« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999||Nikon D3|
|Nikon D2Xs« »||6.2 in||5.9 in||3.4 in||44.2 oz||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699||Nikon D2Xs|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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.
Technology-wise, the 5D Mark II uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 4) than the 1D Mark III (DIGIC III), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
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.
The resolution advantage of the Canon 5D Mark II implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 5D Mark II for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 28.1 x 18.7 inch or 71.3 x 47.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 22.5 x 15 inch or 57.1 x 38 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.7 x 12.5 inch or 47.5 x 31.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 1D Mark III are 19.4 x 13 inch or 49.4 x 32.9 cm for good quality, 15.6 x 10.4 inch or 39.5 x 26.3 cm for very good quality, and 13 x 8.6 inch or 32.9 x 21.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1D Mark III has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 50-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63||Canon 1Ds|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81||Nikon D3|
|Nikon D2Xs||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||none||22.2||10.9||489||59||Nikon D2Xs|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. 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.
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 viewfinder in the 1D Mark III offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 5D Mark II (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the 5D Mark II has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.58x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. 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.
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||optical||Y||2.0||120||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds|
|Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3|
|Nikon D2Xs||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Nikon D2Xs|
The 1D Mark III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the 5D Mark II uses Compact Flash cards. The 1D Mark III features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 5D Mark II only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS-1D Mark III and Canon EOS 5D Mark II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1D Mark II||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds|
|Nikon D3||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3|
|Nikon D2Xs||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D2Xs|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
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. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1D Mark III or the Canon 5D Mark II – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (2200 versus 850) on a single battery charge.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- 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).
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 4 vs DIGIC III).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.58x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (152x114mm vs 156x157mm) 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 number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark II is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Canon 5D Mark II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
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 shooting 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon G1 X Mark III
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon G7 X Mark II
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon Rebel
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Fujifilm X-A10
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Panasonic FZ2500
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Panasonic GF5
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Panasonic GX1
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony HX80
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Fujifilm X-E3
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Fujifilm X-T20
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D90
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony RX100 VII
Specifications: Canon 1D Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2007||September 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 4499||USD 3499|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.1 x 18.7 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||525.47 mm2||864 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||33.8 mm||43.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10.1 Megapixels||21 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3888 x 2592 pixels||5616 x 3744 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.21 μm||6.41 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.92 MP/cm2||2.43 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-3200 ISO||100-6400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50-6400 ISO||50-25600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC III||DIGIC 4|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||23.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||11.9|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1078||1815|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||3.9 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDHC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||2200 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
156 x 157 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
152 x 114 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||1155 g (40.7 oz)||850 g (30.0 oz)|
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