Canon EOS 1D Mark III vs. Canon EOS 5D Studio Scene – Low ISO

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The Canon EOS 1D Mark III is Canon’s latest DSLR, using the most advanced 10.1 megapixels CMOS sensor and DIGIC III image processing chip. The 12.7 megapixels Canon EOS 5D uses Canon’s last year technology coupled with last year’s DIGIC II image processor. It will be interesting to compare between the two, especially because the EOS 5D has been considered as one of the highest image quality camera of all times.

Test Notes – Field of view

The EOS 5D uses a full frame 35 mm sensor where the EOS 1D Mark III uses a sensor with a 1.3 crop factor. To achieve the same field of view with our 50 mm lens, we had to move the EOS 5D slightly forward. This is the most common response of the photographer in real life. The full frame advantage is fully utilized in this comparison.

At the bottom of this page you can find the same comparison with the EOS 5D being placed at the exact same distance as the EOS 1D Mark III. However, it should be noted that the later comparison does not fully reflect how the EOS 5D would be used in real life. Nature photographers that use long lenses from a fixed point would benefit more from the second comparison.

Same field of view

Canon EOS 1D Mark III: Jpeg large, Picture Style: Standard, AutoWB, ISO
100, AutoWB, ISO100, 1/10, Canon 50mm@f8, NR OFF
Canon EOS 5D: JPEG Large, Picture Style: Standard, AutoWB, ISO
100, 1/10, Canon 50mm@f8

Canon EOS 1D Mark III
Canon EOS 5D

Evaluation results


Sharpening levels of both cameras are very similar. The EOS 5D seems to show slightly higher sharpening levels. As always with Canon there is some overshoot (hallows) on the edge, which gives the image a nicely crisped effect.


Being closer to the scene along with an additional 2.7 megpaixels, the EOS 5D has the upper hand here. Because the large clear edges are slightly stronger with the EOS 5D, there is a strong feeling of a sharper result. However, we are actually quite impressed by the EOS 1D Mark III, which managed to exhibit only slightly less detail.

Demosaicing and false colors

Demosaicing today is a minor issue as most camera makers have reached a level where demosaicing errors are much less critical than they used to be. Never-the-less, in EOS 1D Mark III there is a minor improvement. False colors as a result of demosaicing are still an (small) issue that Canon apparently has chosen not to address with DIGIC III.

Colors and contrast

Picture style color and contrast is very much the same with both cameras. There are small differences between two cameras, which is to be expected.

Noise reduction

The Canon EOS Mark III was set with High ISO noise reduction OFF. Still, at the dark parts of the image there is less color noise than the EOS 5D (you need a good screen to see that). This is clearly a result of the new algorithms of DIGIC III. We are not sure, but it seems that we can see a better tonal gradation in the dark areas. This is probably a result of the better noise reduction and the new 14 bit pipeline.

Final Notes

The EOS 5D clearly has a resolution and sensor size advantage. Even with all these advantages the EOS 1D Mark III has produced a fine result, with sharp edges and a good amount of detail. There are some processing advantages that DIGIC III has contributed to the EOS 1D Mark III, among those is a better tonal gradations at the dark parts of the image.

Same distance

We also compared the EOS 1D Mark III with the EOS 5D at exactly the same distance. This comparison is less true to real life, but still would be suitable to these with long lenses at a given distance.

Canon EOS 1D Mark III
Canon EOS 5D same distance

The EOS 1D Mark III has more pixels per mm which produces more fine details overall. However the EOS 5D still produced sharper, crisper hard edges. This could be the result of a different or weaker optical low pass filter but probably is the result of a slightly different edge enhancement profile.

To confirm that we have processed RAW files from both cameras using ACR4 with the sharpening controls closed, we applied unsharp mask filter using the following settings:
Amount 70
Ratios 0.7
Threshold 0

As the crop below shows, the differences in sharpness seem to come mostly from processing differences between the two cameras, although in some cases the EOS 5D still shows stronger edges.

Canon EOS 1D Mark III
Canon EOS 5D same distance

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