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Canon 5D versus Canon 5D Mark III

The Canon EOS 5D and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2005 and March 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The 5D has a resolution of 12.7 megapixel, whereas the 5D Mark III provides 22.1 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 vs Canon 5D Mark III

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D and the Canon 5D Mark III. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. 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 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 5D vs Canon 5D Mark III
Compare 5D versus 5D Mark III top
Compare 5D and 5D Mark III 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 III is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Canon 5D. Moreover, the 5D Mark III is markedly heavier (6 percent) than the 5D. 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 gets 400 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the 5D Mark III can take 950 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» 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- 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 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 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 6D« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- 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 50D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i
Canon 1D Mark II N« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 55.2 oz 1200 Y Aug 2005 3,999- i
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i
Canon 1D Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 54.1 oz 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i
Canon 1Ds« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- 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 5D was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the 5D Mark III 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: Canon 5D vs Canon 5D Mark III

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 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.

Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark III sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 5D Mark III offers a higher resolution of 22.1 megapixel, compared with 12.7 MP of the 5D. This megapixel advantage translates into a 32 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 8.25μm for the 5D). However, it should be noted that the 5D Mark III is much more recent (by 6 years and 6 months) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

5D versus 5D Mark III MP

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 consideration, the 5D Mark III has a markedly higher DXO score than the 5D (overall score 10 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D» Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912-22.911.1136871
Canon 5D Mark III« Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187
Canon 6D« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
Canon 50D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663
Canon 1D Mark II N« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.297566
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366
Canon 1Ds« » Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704-21.811.095463
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 5D Mark III indeed provides for movie recording, while the 5D does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark III can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 5D vs Canon 5D Mark III

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 5D 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark III 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»optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark III«optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 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 6D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n
Canon 50D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 6.3 Y n
Canon 1D Mark II N« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 8.5 n n
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n
Canon 1Ds« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n

Both the 5D and the 5D Mark III 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 III was followed by the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Review summary: Canon 5D vs Canon 5D Mark III

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


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:

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


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

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (22.1 vs 12.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 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 (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 5D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D Mark III is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 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 01:11 5D Mark III

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 5D or the 5D Mark III handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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»88/100HiRecrevrev- Aug 2005 3,299- i
Canon 5D Mark III«HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 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 6D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i
Canon 50D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i
Canon 1D Mark II N« »----- Aug 2005 3,999- i
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i
Canon 1Ds« »-HiRec--- Sep 2002 8,999- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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. 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, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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