4 Ways to Decide between the Canon 6D or Canon 5D Mk III

Are you trying to figure out which full frame camera to buy? Here are 4 isolated cases that buying the 5D MK III might be better for you. They represent a few photographers. For everyone else I recommend the Canon 6D.

Case 1

You are a videographer with an established RAW video workflow


The 5D Mk III is the first DSLR to have the ability to record RAW video. It’s hugely beneficial but requires a mostly safe hack called Magic Lantern. Here is a test video showing the difference. Editing this means you own a high-end video editing program like FCP X or Premiere Pro and are capable of advanced video color grading.

The 5D’s headphone is another quoted benefit for videographers. My thought though is if you spend $1000 for the RAW capture of the 5D then you likely have graduated to the level of using a field recorder. This makes the headphone jack a moot point.

Case 2

You frequently photograph very very very fast subjects

Example would be in particularly fast-moving sports and you are getting action perpendicular to the direction the lens is pointing.

The 5D has WAY more AF points (61 vs. 11), it’s noticeable faster FPS (6 vs. 4.5), and it’s max shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000).

It’s very hard to see stats that stack up in the favor of one side and not perceive the camera as “better” especially when it’s more expensive. The important thing here is knowing if those are stats you will use. I have other factor to discuss later that are detrimental to the 5D.

The number of AF points will be mentioned later but lets discuss them for their ability to aid in AI Servo focus. Having extra AF points means the algorithm will be more effective at tracking an object across the frame. That assumes though you need to use AI Servo to get focus. Who needs that feature. Well anyone with a predictable (you must start at the center AF point) very fast-moving subject. It’s not a feature I need or could even use based on what I shoot.

What about the faster FPS or shutter speed? Simply put I’ve photographed sprinters running right at my camera and didn’t need those two parameters.

Case 3

The added safety of a second backup is worth $1000

Canon 6D vs 5D photo


Flash memory fails. It fails at roughly after 100,000 cycles. I have no clue how that translates to taking pictures. I just know I’ve used 5 cameras and taken over 150,000 pictures over the last 11 years and have never gotten a failed card. Many pro’s say it happen couple times a year but could find no stats, not because I didn’t try. Needless to say this factor is a consideration. How much? Combine how grave losing a photo is combined with how likely losing one is and compared it to the added cost. This is not trivial by any means.

Case 4

You shoot with f/1.2 or f/1.4 lenses.


The center AF point on the 6D is superior, hands down. Using this AF alone with the focus and recompose technique is a very effective, very efficient way to shot. The issue is when you do this, even when using “focus and slide” technique, at a VERY narrow Depths of Field then the focus might be lost. This is likely only going to matter when close to a subject at f/1.4 or more frequently when at f/1.2. These are not common lenses for most types of photography but are cherished by some wedding photographers. So if you plan on using these lenses you may consider the need to get a 5D MK III simply so you can select a different AF point during focusing. The 6D has one cross type AF and drastically fewer AF points to pick from when selecting a different focus.

Perceived differences

  • The 5D “takes better pictures”- This is impossible since they both have the exact same processor and identical sensor technology
  • Nearly equal ISO capabilities – This is true, but it’s only because it captures slightly less pixels. The difference is not noticeable nearly every practical case.
  • Equally weather sealed (4)


Everyone else just assumes it must be better because it’s more expensive. Facts are facts. It’s actually worse of a camera for me and my style. If you use the center AF point most of the time, like I do, and need to shoot in low light, like I frequently do, the 6D is measurably better for sound physical reasons. It can get focus faster and more accurately.

Here are other reasons that are benefits though were no decision makers for me:

  • 24% lighter (2) (you can hold it longer and, if dropped, it will hit the ground with less force (1) if dropped)
  • 6D is half the cost (2)
  • WiFi (3) (for client proofs or mobile editing/sharing for off site designers)
  • GPS (3) (Helps SEO when sharing images on the web. GPS metadata is crawl able by Google.)
  • Smaller (2)

If you’re interesting in reading more about how and why the 6D’s center AF point is better than the 5D MKIII here is one article and another.

Oh, 5D MK III has 3 custom channels and the 6D has 2. For a Manual shooter this is the only thing about the 5D I crave.

For tips on how to set up your Canon 6D check this out!

(1) (2) (3) (4)

Affiliate links with best price from Amazon. Canon 6D and 5D MK III

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  1. […] 4 Ways to Decide between the Canon 6D or Canon 5D Mk III (technologyformedia.com) […]


  2. Please read the reply above. It’s a sobering look at the need to get the next better camera. It certainly supports my world view. Let’s make non disposal impact on the world!


  3. i actually agree. but after being in the Canon camp once and jumping ship for what i now have i think neither is for me. its important to remember that there is an extra factor that comes into the use of a camera for any particular shoot. its not just “Which camera suites the work I do?” which you correctly bring up here, but also “What tool best fits the job I’m on right now?” and not everyone has the ability to get multiple cameras for multiple jobs. for those that have money and resources both questions should be asked, for those on a budget just the first question will suffice. but i want to anticipate the things i intend to do over a prolonged period and try to guess what my needs might be so that when in a few years the camera i get now will still fits my needs… holy crap man i’m just putting ideas for my next blog post here… LOL! ok my bad. but to save time tomorrow i’m just copying and pasting this stuff into my post tomorrow. haha


  4. I agree man. It is a bit of a wider perspective and one that makes more sense. I look forward to rereading it on your post!


  5. Hi Mark, I appreciate your review of the differences between the two models. I have a ~10 year old 5D Mark II which needs a sensor cleaning. I had briefly looked at upgrading and was flummoxed by the selection. Based on what I’m reading here, I think I’ll just do the repair and count myself happy. Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 5D Mark II was announced in September 2008. Perhaps it is a 5D (Mark I) that you have owned for ~10 years now, which was annoounced in August 2005. I too use a Mark I and find it nice and uncomplicated. If you’re fine with 12mgp’s, stay where you at and enjoy what you know!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. nice one! thx! using the 1Dx though 😀
    but i was acutally always courious where the difference between those 2 is..


  7. Finally a comparison that makes some sense!!! Thank you! I needed someone to tell me that for almost twice the price you’re not getting anywhere née twice the value 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I put my money where my mouth was and bought a second 6D.


  8. This is a great analysis. I really like how you used the facts and situations to offer a rational and economic decision set that is simple, and works. Thanks!


    1. Thanks. I tried to write it from the actual end user situations perspective.


  9. Great post, it’s actually contrary to most of what I’ve been reading regarding low light situations. So in your opinion, the 6D is not only good but superior in low light settings such as concert photography? This is just a hobby for me as I have a full time job that I’m very happy with, but I’m also generally obsessive and want to spend money wisely. In short, I could totally get away with taking a 6D and a 70-200mm 2.8 or a 50mm 1.4 to a concert for photos I’m just throwing up on my blog to make my FB friends envious, right?


    1. Yes, the center AF point is at least a stop more sensitive to getting focus on the 6D. The 6D will show slightly less noise at the same ISO settings. So for concerts I’d prefer the 6D. Use the money you save to buy a second 6D. Then have a short lens on one and a long lens on the other. While you’re shooting the stage if crowd reaction occurs your second camera is all ready to capture it.


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