I've been looking at the Spec difference between the Canon 5D MkII & MkIII Cameras and I'm having a hard time justify the $1300 price difference between the basic body for both.

They seem fairly pound-for-pound on the feature list though the higher FPS shooting, and the dual storage to SD Card are nice I guess. The Increase ISO Range also but that wouldn't be key-feature for what I use.

Would be interested to hear specifically from people who have "upgraded" from a 5DII -> 5DIII

For the record, I have a 5D and am looking for a new 1st Camera, with the intention of decommissioning my 5D to the status of "Backup"

  • \$\begingroup\$ Read some good reviews. People say it's worth it. eg DPReview 5D MkIII review . I increasingly think I'm going to buy a D700 :-). \$\endgroup\$ May 29, 2012 at 16:48

3 Answers 3


When you look closely the only thing that is the same on the feature list is the approximate number of megapixels. The mkIII is an entirely new camera, new type of chassis, new viewfinder, new shutter assembly, new button layouts, new software. Nothing has been recycled, unlike the mkII.

the higher FPS shooting, and the dual storage to SD Card are nice I guess

The obvious omission here is the new AF system, which is significantly better in spec to the 5D mkII, which had effectively the same 8 year old 9 point AF of the 5D. Many people were extremely disappointed in this when the 5D mkII was released, feeling that AF was the only real weak-point of the original 5D.

In fact the AF system is nearly identical to that of the flagship 1DX, utilising a 61 point AF sensor with a total of 41 'cross' type sensors (sensitive to detail in two directions). In comparison the 5D mkII has only 9 AF points, one of which is a cross type. The only difference between the 1DX and 5D mkIII AF is the 1DX has a much better metering sensor with its own dedicated DIGIC4 processor, allowing it to send colour information to the AF sensor to aid subject tracking. the 1DX can also make use of face detection to assist AF.

Any situation which places heavy demands on AF such as shooting fast objects, shooting in low light, shooting off-centre compositions with fast lenses will see a significant improvement. For some this will mostly justify the $1300!

  • Another criticism of the mkI,mkII was the slow shooting speed which has been upgraded to a respectable 6fps. Not a deal breaker but nice.

  • For anyone shooting weddings dual card slots can be a lifesaver, and easily worth $1300.

  • Video has seen some improvements, to moire and noise, and the codec. However resolution hasn't improved, for many the 5d mkII would be a better choice for video until magic lantern arrives on the mkIII.

Image quality

Whilst improvements have been made in this area, mainly with respect to noise the quoted one stop improvement in high ISO shooting is only attainable in JPEG mode, and is partially achieved by the use of stronger noise reduction. Consensus among owners is that shooting raw the improvement is less than half a stop. The 1 megapixel increase isn't really noticeable, and was done to allow 3x oversampling for moire reduction in video. So image quality wise, it's a only slight improvement, nothing like the jump in resolution the mkII brought.

Whether it's worth it to you is hard to answer, if you don't find the AF on the 5D limiting then you may want to save your money and get a mkII.

Effectively the new model produces images of similar quality to the mkII, but is likely to produce more keepers and be more pleasant to shoot with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to amplify the point about the AF system. I'm used to my 1DsMIII and when I pick up the 5DMII, the AF is sluggish and gets the wrong focus point so often it really cuts down on my usable image count. If I shot with the 5D more, perhaps I could get better at convincing it to focus on the right things, but I think the 5DMIII has the best answer: Do autofocus better. More like the 1 series (I know, it's more like the 7D). That said, I'm not upgrading my 5DMII just yet. But I have the luxury of having that big 1Ds body for challenging AF situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve Ross
    May 29, 2012 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback guys. I guess I've never had issues with the 5D Autofocus but again I don't have a point of comparison with a better quality system. \$\endgroup\$ May 29, 2012 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ The auto focus system in the 5D mark III is the same as in the 1D X... :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    May 29, 2012 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ 5DmkII is a beautiful camera and it had produced so many beautiful photos. The $1300 is a deal-breaker and I think 5DmkII will dominate the market for quite a long time. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2012 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Echoing what others have said, the AF system is the reason to get the MKIII over the MKII, I have the MKII and I find the AF terrible in low light with fast primes. That said, if more accurate & response AF isn't important to you then the price difference may not be worth it. I myself jumped ship to the D800e and I hope a D4x is on the way :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    May 30, 2012 at 20:41

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is an awesome camera and so is the 5D Mark II. The $1300 price difference you quote is obviously significant but what is it worth to you is personal.

The first thing to note in the specification is that the 5D Mark III has a 100% coverage viewfinder. This is worth at least half the difference in price and the reason I would never buy a Mark II. Once you get used to having 100% coverage you can never ever go back! Now that $899 can get you a 100% coverage, it would be embarrassing to have a high-end camera with anything else. You will not that Nikon also succeeded the D700 with a D800 which has a 100% coverage too.

The other huge difference is the 61-point AF system. It is simply amazing and incredibly capable at following moving subjects. I covered it at length in my review of the Canon 5D Mark III. Of course this only has value to you if you shoot fast moving subjects. The same goes for the faster continuous drive. Dual memory-card slots is another potential savior for professional work when setup in copy mode (both cards get a copy of everything).

The one point not in the specifications is the improved performance of the sensor. The 5D Mark II produces great quality images but the Mark III takes it up a notch. I do not have samples of the Mark II online but you should at least check out the Sample Images for the Mark III to see what it can do.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would say the 61pt AF sensor is beneficial for more than action shooters. With a reticular AF system and point-linked metering, you have far more points to select for off-center AF, which many wedding photographers have demonstrated lately and absolutely love. The new viewfinder is a hybrid OVF, with a configurable transmissive LCD allowing custom display of grids, AF points, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 30, 2012 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Canon has been using an LCD superimposed in the OVF to display AF points, grids, etc. since the 7D, at least on the higher end models. But everything coming through the lens is still displayed purely optically. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 30, 2013 at 23:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ The focus system in the 5DIII is also more accurate and consistent from shot to shot than the focus system in the 5DII. Even if you only use the center focus point all of the time you will notice a difference, especially when using newer lenses (designed circa 2008 or newer) that communicate more accurately to the body how far they actually moved when the AF system sent a command to move the focus element a certain amount. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 30, 2013 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ lensrentals.com/blog/2012/08/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 16, 2017 at 23:24

It’s a bit amazing to think that the 5D Mk II was almost 4 years old when the Mk III hit the shelves. I’ll admit that I was expecting the Mk III to be very different than this. I’ll even admit I had some panic when I realized Canon was doing what I’d said for years it was time to do: stop increasing megapixels and work on other things. I thought I wanted that, but then the other guy had this 36MP camera…

What will you notice right away? Autofocus. Leave it on factory settings until you have a bit of time with the menu (because there are pages of autofocus menu options) and it’s better than any Canon camera I’ve ever shot with. Bad light? No problem. Moving subjects? No problem. It hit autofocus on my jet black dog Zeiss (yeah, that’s really his name) running around the back yard in near darkness.

You want more? High ISO performance is spectacular. ISO 6400 is about as good as 3200 was on the 5D II. The LCD is significantly better; you’ll notice it at a glance. I love the “self-teaching” menu: hit a button and an explanation of the menu item your looking at pops up. It’s like having the manual built into the camera. It’s far more customizable than the 5D II was, and it’s easier to customize for what you want at a glance.

The sensor is now heat-sinked, which means no more 6-minute video limit. And I have to mention dual memory card slots, AF select points that automatically change when you go from landscape to portrait mode, side-by-side image comparison, in-camera HDR, JPEG processing that automatically corrects chromatic aberration (Canon brand lenses only), and a much quieter shutter with silent-shutter option.

This is no minor upgrade camera; it’s an entirely new camera using the old camera’s name. And it’s better—in every way. After just a few hours with it (30 minutes of which was a lesson from Tim about using the autofocus system) this camera has grown on me like salmonella on room temperature chicken. I absolutely love it and have set aside my 5D II for good.

In a blog entry discussing how Canon cameras' PDAF (phase detection autofocus) systems have evolved over time in the way they confirm (or previously didn't confirm) the lens has moved to where they instructed it to move, Roger also said this:

Despite my well-recognized modesty, I will also point out that when the 5D Mk III was first released, and Canon fanboys were dropping off cliffs right and left, I said “the 5D III is no minor-upgrade camera; it’s an entirely new camera using the old camera’s name”. Its autofocus system is certainly not a minor upgrade–it’s moved over to the big-boy camera side.


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