Full-Frame Goodness; A Comparison of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EOS 1DX

5256_Cameras Together

5348_Cameras #1

5326_Cameras Back

I love full-frame cameras.  I own a Canon 5D Mk II, and before that, I had the Canon 5D.   Almost all of the prints I make are enlargements up to and beyond 16×24.  At times I also do a fair amount of cropping.  I like the extra clarity a full-framer can provide for such purposes.

In addition to landscapes and portraits, though, I photograph stuff that moves (dancers, birds, stage performers out at the Texas Renaissance Festival and other wildlife of the 2-legged and 4-legged kind).  My 5D Mk II is a wonderful camera, but it’s quite slow.  Also – in addition to this whole speed thing – I realized I needed something tough and reliable under unpredictable circumstances.  You see, if things work according to plan (fingers crossed, knock on wood) I will be traveling to Alaska’s Katmai Peninsula in July 2013.  I really wanted something that could withstand the elements.   Oh, ok, plus I really really wanted the 1DX – sort of like a guy wanting a Tesla Roadster.

For these reasons, I bit the bullet and purchased the 5D Mk III and the 1DXto get the latest digital improvements as well as satisfy that need for speed and solid construction. Yeah baby, It’s gonna be Ramen noodles every night for dinner for quite awhile….

Since I have both of these awesome cameras, I thought I would do a little comparison of the two, hence this post. Bear in mind, please, that while I consider myself a fine photographer, I am not an expert nor am I a technical person.  I don’t really pixel-peep too much either – I just want my images to look great, no matter what the pixel count. I write this post simply as a photographer using both cameras.  Everything you read here is my own personal opinion.  Adorama or B&H Photo has the in-depth, technical descriptive stuff, so I won’t go into that kind of detail here.  Instead, I will tell you about my practical experience with each camera.

Out of the box:

Canon 5D Mk III:

5271_5dMkIII Front

5263_5D Mk III Back

The 5D Mark III with L-bracket and 50mm f1.2L  lens

  • It’s a little heavier than the Mk II; feels more “substantial”.
  • I like the feel of the plastic covering – its more “grippy”, which is a good thing since I have small, arthritic hands.
  • The On/Off switch is now on the top left of the camera, just below the Mode Dial.
  • The buttons and menu layout are somewhat different and I got a little lost trying to find my favorite settings; this because there are quite a few more “bells and whistles” on the menu (like the in-camera HDR which I haven’t tried yet but plan on experimenting with when I travel to Arches NP in February 2013).
  • The battery for this camera is the same as the battery for the 5D Mk II, which is nice, since I have a number of extra batteries and now, an extra charger, too.
  • This camera can accommodate two memory cards at the same time: a CF card and a SD card. Why Canon decided on using the SD card option rather than another CF slot is anybody’s guess. I had to go out and buy a number of SDs because of this. Of course, you really don’t need to use both card slots if you don’t want – I like it, though, because that means a little less time taken to switch out a full card with an empty card during moments when time is of the essence. With two cards, I can just keep right on shooting during key moments.
  • It’s much faster than the 5D Mark II (Yeah!)

Canon 1DX:

5275_1DX Front

5266_1DX Back

The 1DX with L-bracket and 85mm f1.2 lens

  • It’s Big!  Much larger and heavier than the 5D Mk III.  Surprisingly, neither the size nor weight bother my small hands; of course, I wanted the 1DX so badly that nothing about this camera would have caused me discomfort.
  • When I pulled the 1DX out of the box, I definitely had the instruction manual open beside me since I was in relatively new territory here.   Buttons are in different places, the menu is different, etc.
  • The On/Off switch is essentially in the same area as the switch on the 5D Mk II.
  • The memory card compartment opens in a totally different way from the Mk II or Mk III.   You have to turn that little latch you see below the On/Off switch, in order to flip open the CF card compartment door.

5286_1DX Card Slot

  • The vertical grip has its own set of buttons and dials (awesome!)
  • The spare battery is large and expensive.   Below is a comparison shot of the 1DX battery next to the 5D Mk III battery, both of which are next to a 77mm filter I threw in for scale.


  • A spare charger is the price of a non-L lens (and no, I did not purchase a spare charger…..yet).
  • This camera accepts 2 CF cards.  Again, you only have to use one of the two slots, if you wish.
  • It’s WAAAAAYYYYYY faster than the 5D Mk II and the 5D Mk III (Double Yeah!!)

Neither cameras have on-camera flash (not professional, you know) – I personally think it would be helpful for fill-flash use, but whatever.


I used these cameras for a family photo shoot, and the family graciously consented (and signed model releases) for me to use their photos in this post.  For this family photo session, I made sure the same settings were selected for both cameras, and I used three lenses:

I switched lenses between the two cameras (when I remembered to do so), in order to have comparison shots.  Naturally, there was still some change of position or movement, but not as much as there would have been with, say, photos of the Gypsy Dance Theatre performers at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Winking smile


Ok, as everybody should know by now, it’s not always all about the pixels. Manufacturers have come a long way since my first 2MP point-and-shoot back in 1999.  Nowadays, a high-end camera is going to have great resolution, regardless of the pixel count, and fewer pixels mean they are larger  and thus allow more light to enter onto the image.  You will notice that the 1DX images tend to look a little lighter than the 5D Mk III images, even with the same settings on both cameras; I suspect the larger pixel size on the 1DX is the reason for this.

The 1DX has 18 MP (3MP less than the 5D Mk II) and the 5D Mk III has 22 MP (1MP more than the 5D Mk II). I was really, really pleased (read: ecstatic) with the resolution, clarity, light and depth from the resulting images taken by both cameras (no, I did not take any photos with the 5D Mk II at this session so I don’t have any comparison images between the three…..but….all of the photos you see here of the cameras were taken with my 5D Mk II and 40mm pancakelens, and I didn’t use any sharpening whatsoever for those images, so you can see just how good the 5D Mk II is).

Here are unedited, straight-from-the-camera images and their 100% crops for the 5D Mk III



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  85mm f1.2L II



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used: 24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  50mm f1.2L

Here are unedited, straight-from-the-camera images and their 100% crops for the 1DX



Lens used: 24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  24-70mm f2.8L II



Lens used:  85mm f1.2L II



Lens used:  85mm f1.2L II



Lens used:  85mm f1.2L II



Lens used: 85mm f1.2L II



Lens used: 85mm f1.2L II



Lens used: 85mm f1.2L II  I used the tripod for this image

As I look at the 100% crops of the images, I notice some of them look a little soft.  So when editing them, I did use a very little bit of Unsharp Mask ( but that’s because I am of the opinion that every image benefits from just a little bit of sharpening, anyway).   Based upon what I have seen from other raw images I have taken with these camewras (ex. images from the TX Renfaire), I attribute this bit of softness to camera shake (i.e. me)  –  I only used the tripods for one set of photos (the last photos listed for each camera, where the model is standing beside that gray & black painting – which she painted herself) and hand-held the cameras for rest of the time. Why, when I had the tripods there?  Dunno,  I just did.


So there’s the probable camera shake, plus none of the lenses I used had IS.

Here are some of the final, edited images from the 5D Mk III

U9A1983_Valerie and Emmeline

U9A2067-3_Val & Crochet Umbrella VIGNETTE

H5T3475_Walking Away VIGNETTE

U9A2107-3_Family Photo CROP


Here are some of the final, edited images from the 1DX

H5T3370_Mommy and Daughter

H5T3431-4_Val & Crochet Parasol VIGNETTE



H5T3516_Val & Painting VIGNETTE

I made liberal use of the Vignette sliders in the Photoshop Lens Correction filter because it just really worked well (IMO) with many of these images.

My Conclusions:

I LOVE bothof these cameras.

I love the 5D Mk III’s increase in resolution, clarity, sturdy feel, and amazing output.  I love the 1DX for basically everything.  Period.  But I especially love the 1DX for its speed.  I’ve managed to capture pics I could never have gotten with the 5D Mk II.

That being said, I still also love my 5D Mk II.  It takes awesome full-frame images.   It’s just not as fast as I truly need.  If you own a 5D Mk II and are contemplating the purchase of the Mk III or 1DX, I urge you to hold onto your Mk II a little longer – at least as a backup to your newer camera model.  If you are thinking of purchasing a full-frame camera (especially if you’ve never owned one before), the price has come down alotfor this model since it first came out about 3-4 years ago.

Also, before plunking down the equivalent of all the gold in Fort Knox (well, it was for me, anyway), think things through:  Are you like me and need a faster camera?  Can you affordeither one of these cameras?  Cameras are like smartphones, you know:  a newer, better, more upgraded one is always just around the corner.  You might be better served investing in an L-lens, instead, which retains its value no matter how many camera iterations come onto the market.

Because I haven’t possessed either camera for very long, I’m still just scratching the surface of all the photographic goodness these two models have to offer. I still have my 5D Mk II, btw, with a Canon 40mm pancake lens affixed to it that I carry around in a messenger-style camera bag (which doubles as my purse) for those just-in-case moments.


I hope this little post was informative and helpful.  I’ll be publishing more comparison posts using these cameras with various lenses, so stay tuned!


Filed under Camera Comparisons, Equipment, Photography

20 responses to “Full-Frame Goodness; A Comparison of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EOS 1DX

  1. I’m jealous. I have to get myself a full frame. I’m currently shooting with the 7D but will have to wait a little bit before I can afford the full frame.

  2. Ooooh, I’m jealous too!! Nice cameras and gorgeous photos. I can’t wait to see future shots from both of these cameras!

  3. Exactly the move I’m thinking of making. Any thoughts about print quality with the 1DX?

    • I order my prints via my website, and I use Bayphoto, which is an awesome lab. The resolution quality of the 1DX is of course less than that of the 5D Mk III, but the print quality is awesome. I think that’s a combination of both camera and lab. I purchased the 1DX not only because of the Canon quality and the fact that it’s a full-framer, but also because it’s fast and really weather-sealed. It can take the punishment (I take good care of my gear, but it’s nice to know that if I accidentally ding the camera, it will bounce right back with no ill effects). I am going to be taking a trip to Alaska’s Katmai Peninsula later this year, and I wanted something tough for the trip.

      • Many thanks. I think you answered my question – that although the 1DX has a lower megapixel count than the MkII or MlII the print quality (when you use a good print service!) is just as good. Us that a fair statement?

      • Absolutely! And, it’ll take a beating from the weather elements so that when others are forced to put away their 5D Mk II’s and III’s, the 1-DX is still out there clicking away.

      • That’s what I had expected but have yet to see anyone come out and say that.

        The weather proofing is certainly a factor for me too.

  4. Hi, Rebecca–You left a like a LIKE on our site so I thought I’d check you out. My God, you have some amazing gear. I’m currently shooting with a 5d Mk II and a 7D, a 50 1.2, a 24-105 4.0 and a 70-200 2.8 II. I’m saving up for a 24-70 2.8 and can’t make up my mind about whether I should just buy one of the old ones or get the new model, which is crazy expensive. Interesting about the 1DX–I had an opportunity to play with one and the thing is lightening fast. I was in Haiti recently and I know there’s stuff I could have gotten with a 1DX that my 5D was too slow to catch. Anyway, interesting blog–I’ll be back. Ken

    • Ken, get the newer model (the Mk II version) of the 24-70 2.8. I always try to read as many reviews as possible about gear I am considering purchasing, and the reviews I read all pretty much said that the Mk II version is much sharper than the original version or the newer one with IS. I LOVE my Mk II version of this lens. It has no IS, but that doesn’t matter to me. The quality of the images is fantastic. It’s much sharper than my 24-105 lens, which used to be my go-to lens for everything until I purchased the 24-70 Mk II. And I LOVE my Canon 1-DX. I wanted something fast and durable, which is why I plunked down the money for that. I have the Canon 5D Mk III which has a bit higher resolution, but while it is much faster than the 5D Mk II, it is nowhere near as fast as the 1-DX.

  5. Awesome post. Thanks !

  6. Jon Williams

    Wow.. what a great post. Just what I was looking for…
    Great gear too. Green with envy! And an excellent review, with quality family portraits to illustrate. I’m still a little uncertain though.
    You fudged the final decision by keeping all three cameras – lucky thing! And I can understand your reasons.
    But if you could only keep one – and with the benefit of more time to put them to use – which would it be?
    I think I can guess!
    JonW (UK)

  7. Roland

    Fantastic cameras indeed, I am actually right now contemplating between those two. What made you go for both of them instead of only one (given that you still have a 5D mk ii for backup)?

    Also I was wondering, is the area around the vertical shutter button of the 1DX metal (like the area around the main shutter button) or plastic (like the area around the vertical shutter button of the vertical grip of the 5D mk iii)?


    • I don’t have the Mk II for backup any longer. I wanted that extra money for my Alaska trip and to help pay for the rental of a 500mm prime lens for that period of time. I chose the 1-DX because I wanted the speed for wildlife images, and I chose the 5D Mk III because I wanted the resolution for landscapes. I don’t have the 1-DX with me at the moment so I can’t tell you if it’s metal or plastic. That never mattered to me. I think the area around the vertical shutter button is metal, but don’t know for certain.

      • Roland

        Thanks for your reply Rebecca!
        My hands often get warm during shoots, that’s why I prefer to have metal there as a heat conductor.
        From the pics you find online of the metal chassis of the 1Dx, it’s definitely a separate part they have to fit in when they assemble the camera, that’s why I assumed it to be plastic.
        Please let me know once you are back at your camera and are able to check it!


  8. Rebecca- most people opt for a iDX for sports and wildlife due to the tracking abilities of the AF. Have you done any of that type of shooting? I’m going on a few workshops in the next few months and was wondering if it was worthwhile to trade in my 5D MK lll for the 1DX. I also have a 7D which I have used for wildlife in the past due to the cropped sensor and longer reach. Thanks for your critique. Lew

    • Lew, if you have both the 5D Mk III and the 7D, then I would keep the 5D Mk III and trade in the 7D for the 1DX. I love my full-frame cameras and generally use my 1DX for wildife and sports while I use my 5D Mk III for landscapes and portraiture. If you only have the 5D Mk III and no longer have the 7D, then I would indeed trade it in for the 1DX. Resolution is really not that much different and the 1DX is so much sturdier in terms of any rough handling. Becky