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Canon 5D Mark IV versus Canon 5D Mark II

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2016 and September 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The 5D Mark IV has a resolution of 30.1 megapixel, whereas the 5D Mark II provides 21 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 IV vs Canon 5D Mark II

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark IV and the Canon 5D Mark II is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size 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 IV – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 5D Mark IV vs Canon 5D Mark II
Compare 5D Mark IV versus 5D Mark II top
Compare 5D Mark IV and 5D Mark II 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 II is somewhat smaller (1 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark IV. Moreover, the 5D Mark II is slightly lighter (4 percent) than the 5D Mark IV. 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 IV gets 900 shots out of its LP-E6N battery, while the 5D Mark II can take 850 images on a single charge of its LP-E6 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 IV» 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i 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 6D Mark II« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 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 5D Mark III« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i
Canon 5D« » 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- i
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- 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 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.

 

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

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and 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.

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 IV and Canon 5D Mark II 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). In this context, it should be noted, however, 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 IV versus 5D Mark II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the 5D Mark IV provides substantially higher image quality than the 5D Mark II, with an overall score that is 12 points higher. This 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D Mark IV» Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
Canon 5D Mark II« Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
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 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380
Canon 5D« » Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912-22.911.1136871
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the 5D Mark IV provides a higher video resolution than the 5D Mark II. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the 5D Mark II is limited to 1080/30p.

 

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

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark IV 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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 IV»optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark II«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 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 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 5D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n

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 IV vs Canon 5D Mark II

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 5D Mark IV or the Canon 5D Mark II – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (30.1 vs 21MP) with a 20% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • 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: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 11 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.


Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:

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

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark IV is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 1 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.

5D Mark IV 11:01 5D Mark II

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 handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark IV or the 5D Mark II. 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 where reviews by experts come in. 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). The detailed reviews can be accessed 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 IV»HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 5D Mark II«91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 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 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i
Canon 5D« »88/100HiRecrevrev- Aug 2005 3,299- i
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes 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 send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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