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Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Review Comparison

Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Review Comparison - We compare the Canon EOS 5D Trilogy: Mark I, Mark II and Mark III to see how far we've come since the first affordable full frame digital SLR was announced in 2005.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Canon EOS 5D MkIII
Price : £2,279
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon Eos 5d Mark1 Canon Eos 5d Mark II Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-front 50mm Lens
5D Mark I 5D Mark II 5D Mark III

We compare the Canon EOS 5D Mark I, Mark II and Mark III to see how far we've come since the first affordable full frame digital SLR was announced and released in 2005.

Canon Eos 5d Mark1

The Canon EOS 5D Mark I - the camera that introduced a full frame sensor and made it affordable for consumers to buy a full frame camera. Previously the only option was significantly more expensive with an RRP of around £6000, and it wasn't till the Nikon D700 was announced in 2008 that there was another affordable full frame Digital SLR.

  RRP (when new) Price Now
Canon EOS 5D Mark I £2539 £450 or less (Used)
Canon EOS 5D Mark II £2599 £1050 or less (Used)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III £2999 £2299 (New)

Canon Eos 5d Mark II

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II - the camera that introduced Full HD video to the Digital SLR market also significantly impacted the photographic industry with excellent image quality and new levels of ISO performance giving usable images at never before thought of ISO settings. Even to this day it would be considered an excellent choice of camera for the serious photographer.


Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-front 50mm Lens

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III - seen as more of an evolution than the revolution the 5D Mark II was, the 5D Mark III is the grown up version of the Mark II, and addressed a number of the complaints about the Mark II with significantly improved focus with new 61 point AF, dual axis electronic level, a new 22.3 megapixel full-frame sensor, 3.2 inch screen (aspect ratio: 3:2), 100% coverage pentraprism viewfinder, 6fps continuous shooting, lens correction, HDR and more.

Canon Eos 5d Mark1 Canon Eos 5d MarkII (2) Canon Eos 5d MarkIII-rear
Canon Eos 5d Mark I Canon EOS Mark II Back Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Rear


Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Features


Key: Upgaded over the Mark I, Upgraded over the Mark II

Canon EOS 5D Mark I Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS Mark III
12.8 megapixel full frame 21.1 megapixel full frame 22.3 megapixel full frame 
DIGIC II DIGIC 4 14bit DIGIC 5+
2.5inch 230k dots 3inch 920k dots 3.2inch 1,040k dots
N/A Live view 100% Live view 100%
96% coverage pentaprism 98% coverage pentaprism 100% coverage pentaprism
9 point AF 9 point AF 61 point AF, AF cases
35 zone metering 35 zone metering 63 zone iFCL metering system
3fps 3.9fps 6fps continuous shooting
N/A N/A Silent / Quiet shutter mode
ISO50 - 6400 ISO50 - 25600 ISO50 - 102400
N/A Full HD Video, 30fps Full HD Video, 30, 25, 24fps
N/A Environment protection Enhanced weather sealing
N/A (AEB) N/A (AEB) HDR mode
N/A Microphone socket Microphone / headphone socket
N/A N/A Electronic level
N/A Peripheral Illumination Correction Peripheral Illumination Correction
N/A N/A Chromatic Aberration Correction, and Distortion Correction
CompactFlash CompactFlash CompactFlash and SD / SDHC / SDXC slots
100,000 shutter rating 150,000 shutter rating 150,000 shutter rating
N/A Self-cleaning sensor Self-cleaning sensor
Magnesium alloy body Magnesium alloy body Magnesium alloy body
800 shot battery rating 850 shot battery rating 950 shot battery life
152x113x75mm 152x113.5x75mm 152x116.4x76.4mm
810g body only 810g body only 950g body only

While the Canon EOS 5D Mark I is the smallest of the cameras, and also one of the lightest (shared with the Mark II), the new Canon EOS 6D has since taken the crown for smallest and lightest full-frame Digital SLR.

Perhaps the most significant update to the Mark III is noticeably improved focus, continuous shooting, ISO, shutter life, HDR, headphone, dual-axis electronic level and almost everything else listed in the above table.

Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Handling

Canon Eos 5d Mark1 Canon Eos 5d MarkII (4) Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Top

The Canon EOS 5D could be described as very brick like, it's finish becoming quite shiney over time compared to the newer matt finish Mark II and III. The layout of buttons and controls has changed very littler over the three cameras, with the top LCD and layout of control wheels remaining the same across these cameras, and also following a standard design approach across Canon's other Digital SLRs.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is an improvement over the original 5D with better handling, although it is still the same size and weight overall, with a weight of 810grams body only.

Canon Eos 5d Mark1 Canon Eos 5d MarkII (9) Canon Eos 5d MarkIII Battery

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III feels the most comfortable to hold, with a new ergonomic design, although it is the largest of the three, as well as weighing the most, nearly 1kg in weight. Moved front preview button, easier to reach one handed, previously this was on the other side, requiring the use of both hands. The Mark III now features a middle button on the mode dial which has to be pressed in before you can turn it.

The menus on the cameras have noticeably improved over time, both in the number of options available, as well as the design and layout of options. The 5D Mark I menus appear extremely basic in comparison to the new Mark III menus, with the custom options particularly difficult to find.

Mark I Mark III
Canon Eos 5d Custom Menus Canon Eos 5d Mark3 Custom Options
 
Canon EOS 5D Custom Menus Canon EOS 5D Mark3 Custom Options

Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Performance

ISO Noise performance - click to view larger, or click "High-Res" to view full size originals.

Canon EOS 5D ISO test images


Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO test images


Canon EOS 5D MkIII ISO test images


The Canon EOS 5D Mark I, only has ISO50 to ISO3200 (default ISO100 to ISO1600), which may seem quite limiting these days, particularly when many compact cameras have ISO100 up to and beyond ISO6400, however, when the 5D was launched in 2005, many compact cameras had ISO settings from ISO50 to ISO400. Here we show the highest ISO setting (ISO3200) on the 5D Mark I compared to the Mark II and III, using JPEG images straight from the camera:

Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II significantly extends the ISO range from ISO50 to ISO3200, up to ISO25600, and here we will compare the Mark II at it's highest ISO setting of ISO25600 to the Mark III, again using JPEG images straight from the camera:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Mark III

The Canon EOS Mark III extends ISO even further to ISO51200 and ISO102400, giving excellent range in low light conditions. Using the latest RAW processing software, it's possible to get better results from all of these cameras by converting the RAW images to JPEG yourself.

Canon EOS 5D White-balance test images


Canon EOS 5D MkII White-balance test images


Canon EOS 5D MkIII White-balance test images


Each new version of the Canon EOS 5D has seen an improvement in white balance performance, with improvements in auto white balance, as well as the tungsten and fluorescent presets delivering improvements.

Canon EOS 5D Mark I vs II vs III Verdict

 

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Each successive Canon EOS 5D has been revolutionary in its own way, with exception, perhaps of the latest, the Mark III, which in appearance at least has been a much more evolutionary update. However, from the images produced and the additional advances made in speed, image processing and quality of the camera, it is by far the biggest upgrade to the 5D yet. While it hasn't seen the megapixel number jump as much as from the Mark I to the Mark II, it has seen nearly every feature and function updated and improved. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III, looking at the additional specifications, features and upgrades, is a completely refreshed camera, and if the 5D Mark II was one of the best Digital SLRs available, then the Mark III is also one of the best Digital SLRs currently available.

The only problem being faced by the 5D Mark III being the obvious Canon choice, is the recent introduction of the Canon EOS 6D (have a look at our 6D vs 5D Mark III comparison), available for much less than the 5D Mark III, and offering some of the best low-light performance of any Digital SLR yet. We've come a long way since the Canon EOS 5D was first introduced, and whether you're buying a new or second hand camera, the choices available are now more vast than ever before, making it even more affordable to enter into full frame photography, with great results possible.

Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark I review
Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark II review
Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

Comparison Table

Canon EOS 5DCanon EOS 5D MkIICanon EOS 5D MkIII
ManufacturerCanonCanonCanon
Lens
Effective Magnification1x1x1x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels12.8Mp (Megapixels)21.1Mp (Megapixels)22.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)436856165760
Pixels (H)291237443840
Sensor TypeCMOSCMOSCMOS
Sensor SizeFull FrameFull FrameFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)35.8mm36mm36mm
Sensor Size (height)23.9mm24mm24mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 3:2
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.5in3in3.2in
Screen resolution230k dots920,000 dots1040k dots
Touch ScreenNoNoNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec1/8000sec1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec30sec30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Multi Pattern
  • Partial
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Partial
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Partial
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
ISO sensitivity50 - 320050 - 2560050 - 102400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2+/-2+/-5
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting3fps3.9fps6fps
Video
Movie modeNoYesYes
Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080
    • 640x480 VGA
    • 1920x1080
    • 1280x720 720p
    • 640x480 VGA
    Video FPSNo Data30fps29.97, 25, 23.976 fps
    Stereo SoundNo DataNoYes
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo DataYesYes
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNoNoNo
    Interface
    HDMINoYesYes
    USBUSB 2USB 2USB 2
    Storage
    Card Type
    • CF1
    • CF2
    • CF1
    • CF2
    • CF1
    • CF2
    • SD
    • SDHC
    • SDXC
    File Type
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    Power Source
    Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery BP-511Rechargeable Li-ion Battery LP-E6Rechargeable Li-ion Battery LP-E6
    CIPA Rating800850950
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsNo DataNo DataNo Data
    Dimensions
    Weight810g810g950g
    Width152mm152mm152mm
    Height113mm113.5mm116.4mm
    Depth75mm75mm76.4mm
    View Full DetailsView Full DetailsView Full Details

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    Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 5D MkIII

    white coatwhite coatBeautiful deerThe ever changing skyportraitOnly the fool may think he can turn the wheel on which he turns.Happy Peace Lovemerry christmas to all on EphotozineGlen EtiveDoe at dawnThe ReckoningBroken StormStreet watchMince Pie Yum YumEgocentric.
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    Comments


    16 Nov 2013 2:13PM
    I don't own a full frame camera - ran into a guy 2 weeks ago at the Louvre ( his wife? had a Nikon 7100) who was carrying a couple and swore I would be amazed by the difference.
    OK, ... I'll get one.

    I take the high res , low light images from the MK1 and the MK3 and blow them up on my highres monitor. Can't see the difference on the truck, the slight dimple looks the same, the tennis balls actually look better on the MK1 image - of course I do not know what the original would look like if it were in front of me.

    Thanks for saving me $2,000. I'm buying a used MK1 and flying back to Paris with the savings - really. We'll see how it compares to a Nikon 7100, Nikon D40 and some consumer video gear.
    Maybe in a year or two I'll go to a MK2 but I can't see the difference.

    Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

    The above information re: MK ii fps is actually incorrect. The Mkii can shoot 30fps, 35fps, and 24fps since an update several years ago.

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