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Canon 5D Mark II versus Canon 5D Mark IV

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and August 2016. 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 Mark IV provides 30.1 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 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark IV

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D Mark IV is provided 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 – the 5D Mark II – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark IV
Compare 5D Mark II versus 5D Mark IV top
Compare 5D Mark II and 5D Mark IV 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 IV is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. Moreover, the 5D Mark IV is markedly heavier (5 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 find an overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 5D Mark II gets 850 shots out of its LP-E6 battery, while the 5D Mark IV can take 900 images on a single charge of its LP-E6N power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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 5D Mark II» 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i 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 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 6D Mark II« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i 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- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« » 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- i Canon 5D

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark IV

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 tend to be more expensive and 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 IV uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 6+) than the 5D Mark II (DIGIC 4), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D Mark IV sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 5D Mark IV offers a higher resolution of 30.1 megapixel, compared with 21 MP of the 5D Mark II. This megapixel advantage translates into a 20 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the 5D Mark IV has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.36μm versus 6.41μm for the 5D Mark II). However, it should be noted that the 5D Mark IV is much more recent (by 7 years and 11 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.

5D Mark II versus 5D Mark IV MP

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 IV offers substantially better image quality than the 5D Mark II (overall score 12 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
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 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
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 6D« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
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

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the 5D Mark IV provides a better video resolution than the 5D Mark II. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the 5D Mark II is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark IV

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark II and the 5D Mark IV 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 Mark IV, and comparable cameras. 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 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 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
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 6D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
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

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The 5D Mark IV has a touchscreen, while the 5D Mark II has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The 5D Mark II writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the 5D Mark IV uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The 5D Mark IV 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.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon 5D Mark II»YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV«YmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 6D Mark II« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon 6D Mark II
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D X
Canon 7D« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 5D

The 5D Mark IV is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the 5D Mark II has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 5D Mark II was succeeded by the Canon 5D Mark III.

Review summary: Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark IV

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 5D Mark II better than the Canon 5D Mark IV or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).


Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (30.1 vs 21MP), which boosts linear resolution by 20%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 6+ vs DIGIC 4).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • 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 (1620k vs 920k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 11 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark IV is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 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 before making a camera decision.

5D Mark II 01:17 5D Mark IV

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 5D Mark II or the 5D Mark IV handle or perform in practice. 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews 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 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 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
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 6D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
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

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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

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 your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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