Canon 5D Mark II vs 5D Mark III
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2008 and March 2012. 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 megapixels, whereas the 5D Mark III provides 22.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|21 MP, Full Frame Sensor||22.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO 100-6400 (50-25600)||ISO 100-25600 (50-102400)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.2" LCD, 1040k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3.9 shutter flaps per second||6 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|850 shots per battery charge||950 shots per battery charge|
|152 x 114 x 75 mm, 850 g||152 x 116 x 76 mm, 950 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D Mark III is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size 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 III is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. Moreover, the 5D Mark III is markedly heavier (12 percent) than the 5D Mark II. 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 compare the optics available in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.
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.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark III«||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 6D« »||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1551 g||1120||Y||Oct 2011||6,799||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D610« »||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999||Nikon D610|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. 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.
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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend 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.
Technology-wise, the 5D Mark III uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 5+) than the 5D Mark II (DIGIC 4), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 5D Mark III offers a slightly higher resolution of 22.1 megapixels, compared with 21 MP of the 5D Mark II. This megapixels advantage translates into a 3 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the 5D Mark III has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.25μm versus 6.41μm for the 5D Mark II). However, it should be noted that the 5D Mark III is much more recent (by 3 years and 5 months) than the 5D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 50-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|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 III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88||Canon 1D X 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 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.0||11.7||854||66||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94||Nikon D610|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark II and the 5D Mark III 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same magnification (0.71x), but the one in the 5D Mark III has a wider field of view (100%) than the finder in the 5D Mark II (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D Mark III in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n||Canon 1D X 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 6D||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.5||n||n||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||14.0||n||n||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0||Y||n||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D610||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D610|
The 5D Mark II writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the 5D Mark III uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The 5D 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 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 5D Mark III and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D X 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 6D||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X||Y||mono||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D||Y||mono||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D610||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D610|
It is notable that the 5D Mark III has a headphone jack, which makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process. The 5D Mark II lacks such a headphone port.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 5D Mark II and the 5D Mark III have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark III, while the 5D Mark III was followed by the Canon 5D Mark IV. 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? Is the Canon 5D Mark II better than the Canon 5D Mark III or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 100g or 11 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 5+ vs DIGIC 4).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 850) out of a single battery charge.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 5D Mark III is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 2 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 before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D Mark III 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark II or the 5D Mark III. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
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.
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Fujifilm X20
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- Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D800
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Olympus E-PL9
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- Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony NEX-5R
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Fujifilm X-E1
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Leica T
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Leica V-LUX 3
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Sony NEX-C3
- Canon 5D Mark III vs YI M1
Specifications: Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III
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 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2008||March 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 3499||USD 3499|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||864 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||21 Megapixels||22.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5616 x 3744 pixels||5760 x 3840 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.41 μm||6.25 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||2.56 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-6400 ISO||100-25600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50-25600 ISO||50-102400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||DIGIC 5+|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||24.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||11.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1815||2293|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.2 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.9 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||150 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||950 shots per charge|
152 x 114 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in)
152 x 116 x 76 mm
(6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||850 g (30.0 oz)||950 g (33.5 oz)|
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