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Canon 5D Mark III versus Olympus E-M1 II

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2012 and September 2016. The 5D Mark III is a DSLR, while the E-M1 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (5D Mark III) and a Four Thirds (E-M1 II) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 22.1 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 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 III vs Olympus E-M1 II

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Olympus E-M1 II is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions 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 side – the 5D Mark III – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1 II
Compare 5D Mark III versus E-M1 II top
Compare 5D Mark III and E-M1 II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 II is considerably smaller (31 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the E-M1 II is substantially lighter (40 percent) than the 5D 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 will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark III) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M1 II, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 5D Mark III gets 950 shots out of its LP-E6 battery, while the E-M1 II can take 440 images on a single charge of its BLH-1 power pack.

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 camera comparisons 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)
Canon 5D Mark III» 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i
Olympus E-M1 II« 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i
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 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i
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 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 70D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i
Canon 6D« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i
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« » 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- i
Olympus PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i

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 E-M1 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 43 percent) than the 5D Mark III, which puts it into a different 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1 II

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 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 5D Mark III features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-M1 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 II is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the 5D Mark III has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus E-M1 II sensor measures

With 22.1MP, the 5D Mark III offers a slightly higher resolution than the E-M1 II (20.2MP), but the 5D Mark III nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.25μm versus 3.34μm for the E-M1 II) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M1 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 4 years and 6 months) than the 5D Mark III, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the 5D Mark III, the E-M1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (50MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

5D Mark III versus E-M1 II MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D Mark III» Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Olympus E-M1 II« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668
Canon 6D« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
Canon 5D« » Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912-22.911.1136871
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the E-M1 II provides a better video resolution than the 5D Mark III. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1 II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M1 II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the 5D Mark III has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus E-M1 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera 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
Canon 5D Mark III»optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Olympus E-M1 II«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n
Canon 6D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n
Canon 5D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y

The E-M1 II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the 5D Mark III has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 5D Mark III was succeeded by the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Review summary: Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1 II

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 5D Mark III better than the Olympus E-M1 II or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (22.1 vs 20.2MP) with a 7% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (950 versus 440) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in March 2012).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (134x91mm vs 152x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 376g or 40 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (43 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark III launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 8 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.

5D Mark III 08:14 E-M1 II

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 5D Mark III and the E-M1 II 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 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 cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Canon 5D Mark III»HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Olympus E-M1 II«HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 70D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i
Canon 6D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i
Canon 5D« »88/100HiRecrevrev- Aug 2005 3,299- i
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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 would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. 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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