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Canon 5D Mark II versus Canon 5D

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2008 and August 2005. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The 5D Mark II has a resolution of 21 megapixel, whereas the 5D provides 12.7 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 5D Mark II – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D front
5D Mark II versus 5D top view
5D Mark II and 5D rear side
Body view (5D Mark II on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D is somewhat smaller (1 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. However, the 5D is slightly heavier (5 percent) than the 5D Mark II. Cameras that are intended for semi-professional or professional use are sometimes a bit bulkier in order to provide them with the necessary ruggedness. 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 YES 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 YES 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 25.8 oz 960 YES 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 YES 2011 6,799discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 YES 2009 1,699discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 5D was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the 5D Mark II at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels 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 tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 5D Mark II offers a higher resolution of 21 megapixel, compared with 12.7 MP of the 5D. This megapixel advantage translates into a 29 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the 5D Mark II has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.41μm versus 8.24μm for the 5D). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the 5D Mark II is much more recent (by 3 years and 1 month) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

5D Mark II versus 5D MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the 5D Mark II has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 5D Mark II (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 1080/30p 23.7 11.9 1815 79
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 30.1 6720 4480 4K/30p 24.8 13.6 2995 91
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.6 13.2 1135 79
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.7 12.4 2381 87
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 23.8 11.8 2786 82
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.0 11.7 854 66

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

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 5D Mark II and the 5D 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 5D Mark II, the Canon 5D, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 3.9 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 7.0 no no
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 7.0 12 no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 no no
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no

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

Summary

So how do things add up? Is the Canon 5D Mark II better than the Canon 5D or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (21 vs 12.7MP) with a 29% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.9 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 400) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the 5D launch.

Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2005).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark II is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 1 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs.

5D Mark II 10:01 5D

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 5D Mark II and the 5D in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) 91/100 79/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 - 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2011 6,799discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 93/100 HiRec 84/100 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,699discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Other comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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