Canon 5D Mark III vs T2i/550D Comparison

At low ISO’s can you tell them apart?


Before I start shooting with the Canon 5D mark III a lot I wanted to see how it relates to my 2 year old Canon T2i/550D. Several people have been asking me questions if this is something worth the upgrade. Is it really worth $3,000 more?

This comparison only has to do with video, I’m really not talking about stills all that much here.

Can you tell the difference?

OK, since I know I will get some flack for comparing to two cameras at totally different price ranges, I want you to watch the next two clips from my last corporate video. One was from the T2i with a not so expensive lens and the other with the 5D Mark III with expensive L series glass.

To give you more info for your guess I am going to show you before keying the green screen. Green screen makes it hard because you can’t look for bokeh.  Not easy
to tell us it?

At the end you can see if your guess was right.

In these test, I’m using the neutral picture style, contrast all the way down, sharpness all the way down, and the only thing I have done in post is to add sharpening back in equally for both cameras. I am using the exact same lens, but I move in or out to even out the crop factor.

In this shot of me which I made sure I had accurate white balance, it seems like the T2i is slightly warmer. Interesting that on the display the 5D looked to have more saturation with my red shirt, but on my scopes it shows that the T2i has more saturation.


Here I focused on the bush, it is hard to tell but I think the 5D is slightly sharper here.

However in this shoot the detail in the bark of the tree on the T2i seems to be sharper, remember I am using the exact same lens.

This one appears to be a tie for sharpness on the wood.

I am not noticing that one is sharper than the other, which in a way is good for the 5D Mark III since they reduced the moire at the sake of sharpness. So it is good to see that it is not worse than the T2i.

In terms of compression the 5D with it’s new All-I codec appears to win out here with the movement of the leaves.

Aliasing wise, the 5D wins, but as you can see here it still has some as you can see here in the metal grate if you are not careful.

Similar Dynamic Range

I was disappointed that there does not seem to be any greater dynamic range or latitude from the Mark III in this very high contrast shot. I know with the D800 in this situation I would have been able to see in the shadows much better.

Where the Mark III shines is the high ISO performance. I know you guys like to see these night shots, but I never shoot at night like this, where high ISO comes in handy for instance it when you have to raise your aperture to keep everything in focus is you have talent moving around the scene.

The big difference – ISO

Here at ISO 400 for both you can see a very similar image however you can see some noise in my blue shirt, but when I up the ISO to 6400, the 5D is usable but the T2i has noise and the color is starting to shift.

Here is another look at ISO 400, watch the wall behind me for the noise, then at 6400 you can see the T2i falls apart badly.

Side-by-side and bright sunny conditions the T2i keeps up with the 5D surprising well. However in the sunlight the 5D’s screen is much easier to see.

Here is the Mark III vs the Nikon D800, clear winner is the Canon. This is with the noise reduction turned to standard on the Canon and normal on the Nikon.

And just for kicks I compared the T2i to the Nikon D800, not a clear winner here in terms of only noise. But remember the D800 strength is its dynamic range or latitude compared to the 5D.

New Life for old Zoom lenses

Let’s say you have an inexpensive zoom lenses like I do that when zoomed all the way out is 5.6, with the T2i in low light this makes it impossible to use, but not with the Mark III, you just crank up the ISO and get more use out of you cheap lens.

On the Canon 5D you only need one finger to change the aperture. On the T2i you need to fingers.

On the 5D he only have to hit one switch to going to movie mode instead rotating the dial all the way around.

The Canon 5D fits in your hands so much better, the T2i sometimes feels like it’s going to fall out of your hand. After you work with the 5D for a while and then pick up the T2i, only then do you realize how tiny it is.

Also the 5D gives you a headphone jack, the T2i does not, 5D can be left out in the rain, the T2i can’t.

The full frame camera gives me a wider selection of lenses and I can invest in them now.

I really like the HDR feature on the 5D.

At Low ISO’s They are About the Same for Video

So in terms of video mode only, between the two of them in a well lit, low ISO situation they are about the same image quality from latitude, to skin tones,  saturation, and sharpness. Yes I know you don’t have that full frame look and bokeh will not look as good on a cropped sensor, but man these cameras look similar at low ISO’s.

Alright with that said let’s see if your guess was right, the far shot is the 5D MrkIII and the tight shot is the T2i. The point I am trying to make is if you are just starting out, learn about lighting because it a lot of situations you can get very close results with the T2i. You don’t have an excuse to get excellent results from this $500 camera.

The $3,000 Button

I know what I am about to say is an dramatic over simplification and not totally accurate, but when it comes down to it, the price difference between the two of them in video mode is largely due to this one little button. I guess you could say this is a $3,000 button!

So if you own the T2i and know how to light well, for the most part you have no excuse for not keeping up with others that have the Mark II or Mark III. I bought the 5D Mark III because I’m an available light shooter which basically means in my case I am too lazy or not that good at lighting yet. If you are good at lighting then you should get the D800 if you are not invested in a lot of Canon glass.

Remember that I only picked up my first DSLR a couple of years ago, so if you don’t agree with me that’s fine because I probably don’t know what I’m talking about anyway.

Don’t worry I am not getting rid of my T2i just yet, it will now become my b-camera. At some point I might replace it with a T4i so I can get a flip out screen.

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5D Mark3

5D Mark III

Canon T2i/550D