Comparing a Ten-Year-Old Camera to a Modern One

This month marks ten years for the Canon 5D Mark III – a camera once known as the top of the line, now superseded by a couple of different camera generations. With March of 2022 being its ten-year birthday, I thought I’d do a fun little comparison to see how far we’ve come in these ten years, and if having the top-of-the-line camera is as important as many will want you to believe.

What Has Changed In Ten Years?

A lot can happen in the tech industry in ten years, and the photography market is no exception. The biggest change comes in format – DSLR is a dying breed, with mirrorless platforms taking over for all major brands. But format aside, each iteration of new cameras comes with faster shooting speeds, higher resolutions, and chips promising faster and far more accurate focusing. And while these upgrades are universally appreciated, one must ask – Are they really as important as we think they are?

The Competition

To celebrate the ten-year birthday of the Canon 5D Mark III, I decided to put it toe to toe with one of the top of the line cameras today – my beloved Fujifilm GFX 100s. The Fujifilm GFX 100s is a better camera on all accounts – increasing resolution significantly from 22.3mp to 102mp, supplying a much larger sensor, adding built-in image stabilization, and having nearly 7 times as many focus points. And that is just touching on the basics, the Fujifilm has a number of additional features that put it in a class well above what Canon could offer ten years ago – but do those things really add quality to your work or just some conveniences?

To test that, I’ve taken five different photos with the Canon 5d Mark III, and Fujifilm GFX 100s to see if you can pick out which one is which. Sure, there are a million variables added to the equation – from professional lighting to retouching, but the point still stands – Can you really tell the difference between the state of the art camera, to a ten-year-old system?

The Test

Each set of photos was taken on a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS, as well as a Fujifilm GFX 100s with a Fuji GF 120mm f/4 IS Macro. The images were toned and edited in Capture One Pro and Adobe Photoshop before scaling for the web. I will present all the images below, with the option to click them to display them on a larger scale, followed by a quiz to see if you can guess which one is which.

Studio Test w/ Alexis by Zach Sutton
Natural Light Latte by Zach Sutton
Macro Flower by Zach Sutton
Motorcycle Detail Shot by Zach Sutton
Angel in Natural Light by Zach Sutton

The Quiz

Differences I Noticed

The biggest difference I noticed from new cameras to old ones came with the contrast in the RAW files. The Canon 5D Mark III comes with considerably more contrast and saturation in the files by default when compared to more modern cameras – particularly in studio lighting. This is kind of expected; if you understand the workflow of RAW video processing, you’ll know that you want to work with a flat image prior to adding color grading either manually or through the use of LUTs. The same applies to photography workflows when shooting with RAWs. Starting with a flat image, you can then go into your RAW image processing software and add back your contrast, saturation, and luminosity – allowing you to get the exact look you’re going for. While this process takes more time, it does generally produce better results, and as sensor technology grew, as did the post-production processing capabilities and workflow.

The second thing I noticed between the two images came with just general sharpness and resolution. This is to be expected, as we’re comparing a 35mm 22-megapixel sensor to a considerably larger sensor offering 102-megapixels. But all in all, I found that the Fuji had better sharpness as a whole. This can be because of a myriad of reasons – from better optics to image stabilization, to a variety of other variables – but it is something I noticed throughout all the images – regardless of whether they were in the studio or on location. And while I absolutely love the 102-megapixel resolution, for the ability to crop in my images and print at a large scale, it does beg the question of how important this resolution is when 99% of photography is displayed on web formats only. Instagram downscales your images to 1080px (long edge), Facebook downscales to 1200px long edge, and most websites will function best if the resolution doesn’t exceed 2500px long edge. All of these are considerably smaller than what both of these sensors produce (Canon 5d Mark III defaults to 5760px long edge at 300dpi, whereas the Fuji GFX 100s defaults to 11648px long edge at 300dpi), so each camera is comfortably over the maximums of most social media platforms.

Finally, the last thing I noticed was that the Fuji GFX 100s was about 1/3rd of a stop underexposed when compared to the Canon 5D Mark III. Now this is likely just some variance in the lenses, but something worth noting nonetheless. I won’t dig too far into it, as it’s complicated, but f-stops by design are theoretical (whereas t-stops are a physically measured transmission). So this differing exposure isn’t a fault on the Fuji GFX 100s or Canon 5d Mark III systems, just a variance that I made note of prior to bumping exposure up a tad in post-production.

So Do You Need the State of the Art Camera?

While counterintuitive to a blog that promotes new gear available for rentals, you probably don’t need the latest and greatest camera to create your art. While a little slower to use, and without all the bells and whistles, I found the Canon 5D Mark III to still be an incredibly capable camera – especially if the work is going to be displayed on web format and not printed. Given that 99% of all photography will probably never hit the printers anyway, it doesn’t seem like it’s entirely necessary to have the highest resolving sensor available.

However, this really comes down to the law of diminishing return – which states that once an optimal level is reached, efficiency will reduce over time. Or in laymen’s terms, once all of your necessary needs are met from something, those above and beyond moments become harder to reach. A ten-year-old flagship camera still checks all the boxes a professional photographer needs, and while it may not be as flashy and nice as a modern camera, it still does the intended job. With today’s technology, your camera is most likely not the weakest chain in your workflow and isn’t the limiting factor preventing you to get to the next level with your work.

Example of how the Law of Diminishing Return applies to 3d rendering.

But how did you score on guessing which camera was which? Were there some of the key indicators of the Canon 5D Mark III versus the Fujifilm GFX 100s? Chime in in the comments below.

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at I’m also a commercial beauty photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.
Posted in Equipment
  • Rich Seiling

    If your end goal is making fine art prints, particularly large ones, there is no comparison, the Fuji will win hands down. I have worked many 5D Mk III files for professionals and printed to large sizes, and even at 100% on screen you can see the issues with that sensor. I would not want to be using a ten year old camera from any manufacturer. Major improvements in sensor quality were made around 2014-2018 with the big three companies. Cameras before that really show their age. You only get one chance at most photos, so there is a value in capturing it the best you can. In 2022, that means not using a ten year old Canon body if at all possible.

  • pop

    I missed the 2nd one.

  • spider-mario

    Instagram downscales your images to 1080px (long edge),

    To 1080 in width, but in fact it can be up to 1080×1350.

    Facebook downscales to 1200px long edge

    Nope, 2048.

  • Mohamed Boualam

    Me 100% 🙂

  • miao

    4/5, yay

  • Richard Walker

    I opted to just pick the picture I liked better for each pair, rather than attempt to pick which camera took which picture. I opted to say that Canon took the better picture, just to track. I got every one wrong, which tells me that I prefer Fuji’s results across the board. I definitely see an improvement over time, but, like picking out a TV, if I didn’t see the images next to each other, I probably would be totally fine with either.

  • Kers

    I did not realize you culd see the photos a little bigger ( except the last one?)
    As soon as you do that it is much more easy to see and then still 1200PX

  • thebitterfig

    Depends on the lenses. DOF isn’t exactly from sensor size: it’s from focal length, aperture, and distance to the subject. Larger sensors typically make it easier to use longer focal lengths and shorter working distances. There are a lot of variables on maximum aperture, but at least with GFX, most lenses have narrower apertures than Canon’s EF lenses.

    The Fuji lens has slightly longer focal length, which helps, and actually has a wider field of view so you’d need to be closer, but it’s a full stop darker, and that claws back the gains. Ought to be about equal. But that’s just the theory.

    In perception, the sharpness of in-focus areas will increase the appearance of shallow depth of field. That was one reason old Medium Format film images had the feeling of shallow depth of field. With the same print size, the much higher resolution 120 film over 135 film meant that there was a lot more detail in the in-focus areas. Even though these are all downscaled images, the higher detail of the GFX100s might increase the perception of shallow depth of field.

  • Zach, I saw your comparison. It looks like Fujifilm GFX 100s photography is really good. And, I agree with you, “Fujifilm GFX 100s is a better camera on all accounts “.

  • rhoel6

    I got 4/5 right, and I based it mainly from the larger sensor having the shallower DOF. Not sure if that’s right.

  • Jalan

    Thanks Zach – very interesting comparison. I have a 5D III and IV and the III is still a great camera for what I do (weddings, portraits and some video). The most important practical difference is the better high ISO performance of the IV. Weddings are often very low light so being able to use 12,800 ISO versus 3200 is a big boost. R5 upgrade in the future but don’t see parting with the 5D III as a backup or “B” camera!

  • Fritz Rutz

    One reason for the “sharper” perception of the Fuji might be the missing AA filter, especially compared to the 5D MK3 which seems to have a quite strong AA filter to avoid aliasing in videos. There are some pages which describes that the sharpness noticeable improves when the AA filter is removed.

  • Henry Winokur

    I took the quiz and failed–what I’d describe–as miserably, LOL. OTOH, I didn’t upgrade my 5d4 to an R5 for the sensor size. I needed better auto-focus and lighter weight. I felt that my 5d4, which I *loved* had gotten too heavy and I could no longer hold it steady at speeds I sometimes shoot at. Also, the autofocus on the 5d4 simply can’t compete with mirrorless. With the IBIS in the R5, I am again able to hand-hold shots at speeds I haven’t been able to get to in the last 10-15 years! For me, it was worth the upgrade.

    It’s an interesting article, Zack. But when I read the headline, and then the first paragraph, I thought you were going to compare the 5d3 to a similar camera, perhaps the R5. Was it “fair” to compare a 35mm format to the Fuji, considering the differentiation in formats and therefore file sizes? I, for one, would expect that a camera with a larger and newer sensor would do a better job.

  • With over 1000 people taking the quiz, the average score is 44.7%. Pretty wild.

  • Supreme Dalek

    Of COURSE it’s hard to tell the difference when you’re comparing images on a web page. You could have done the same demonstration with a 6-megapixel camera from 20 years ago and with similar poll results. Where the difference comes in is when your client says, “Hey, we love that feature image you did for our website so much that we want to use it as at 96×120 inches on our trade show booth. Can you send me a file that will work for that?” It doesn’t happen often, but you kick yourself when it does.

  • Chik Sum

    I owned the 5D mk III since it’s launch date and never changed camera ever since, originally having the 16-35 F2.8L II and 70-200 F4L IS before the camera, added the 24-70 F2.8 L II, and a sigma 14mm F1.8 Art and it’s all I would ever need.

    Yes reading the release reviews of the subsequent 5D4 and eventually the R5 and better cameras are exciting, but then the diminishing return law kicks hard.

    While I don’t even need to think twice when upgrading the 40D to 5D3 which cost like 60% of my monthly income back then where both the speed, OVF quality and most importantly, hand held night time snap shot capable/usable ISO to 6400 or even 12800 with heavy NR and resize, the newer cameras though having ever better DR and ISO, isn’t that night and day anymore, no more the zing “man I have to get these!!!”

  • Chris Jankowski

    Looking at the development of high end cameras in the past 10 years a few outcomes seem to be pretty clear:


    The progress in sensors characteristics is very slow – sensitivity, noise, etc. This is not all that surprising, as modern sensors already capture more than half of the light falling on the sensor. This puts a hard physical limit on the possible improvement.

    On the other hand, there are numerous improvements that are at their core driven by the enormous increase in the processing power built into the new cameras. Several of these improvements changed certain aspects of picture taking not only quantitatively, but qualitatively for certain photographic situations. Several areas stand out:

    PDAF AF on the sensor with large number of points. With lots of processing power and fast actuators in the lenses this brings amazingly fast and precise autofocus for moving subjects. Eye AF is also extremely good and very useful in many applications.

    Sensor based image stabilisation and improved in-lens stabilisation. In bad light conditions this often makes it possible to take acceptable hand-held photos where previously it was just not possible.

    Increased continuous shooting rate with AF maintained between pictures. Invaluable for sports and similar situations.
    Outside pure still photography, the new cameras gained amazing video capabilities.

    These improvements are probably qualitatively and quantitatively most significant.

    So the outcome is as follows, I think:


    If you do landscapes or portraits in a well lit studio and publish on the web you can happily live with you 5D Mk III. A new camera may improve your workflow slightly, but not that much. You can gain more from replacing your old computer.


    If you do sports, especially indoor sports you want R3 or A1 now.

    And of course there is a whole spectrum of situations in between.


    Gazing into the future the trend for increased processing power available to be built into cameras will yield more changes. Other than general quantitative improvements and unavoidable marketing gimmicks, I would expect the following:

    1. Global electronic shutters eliminating mechanical shutters entirely.
    2. Automatic macro frame stacking for increased depth of field.
    3. Automatic frame stacking for astrophotography utilising stabilisation system for less noise and better sharpness.

    4. A much better integration with the internet resources e.g. cloud storage. I am still amazed that this has not happened yet. I blame the inherent conservatism of the industry for it.

  • Yeah, I was able to get my hands on a GFX100s about a year ago.

  • filmfilmfilm

    I’ve owned a 5D “classic”, a Mark II, and now an EOS R, and honestly in good light with a good exposure on the same lens there’s no huge difference between the 3, especially at web sizes. Similar to the MK3 in the test the mark 2 is more contrasty than the other 2 and has an issue with oversaturating reds. The biggest things I’ve seen with the EOS R is generally much more accurate autofocus w fast lenses, much less noise at higher ISOs, and noticeably more dynamic range and ability to retain highlights.

  • As of writing this, 235 people have taken the quiz, and the results are broken down as follows —

    100% – 4 People
    80% – 35 People
    60% – 77 People
    40% – 56 People
    20% – 52 People
    0% – 11 People

  • earl.dieta

    got 40% lol and personally for my shooting, newer sensor and AF technology doesnt matter much. Even my EOS R, I’m barely using its full potential and don’t see the need to upgrade, infact I downgraded and got me a 1DS Mark III instead as I’ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy shooting more through an OVF than EVF.

  • 100%.

    I wanted to do a test of faster moving objects, but autofocus is such a crapshoot to test and then put to words…so I resorted to taking photos of my motorcycle sitting in my driveway instead. One of the big advances over the last few years has came in the autofocus functionality, and a big reason to upgrade if you are shooting sports, wildlife, or anything else that involves fast moving subjects

  • I agree. The Canon definitely is richer in tones out of the camera, but you just have so much more control with the Fuji.

  • I didn’t know you joined the GFX family! The 50s was an early pandemic purchase for me. What a camera.

  • Got 4/5, but the colors are by far an easier tell with the resolution of online. I’m also lucky to have owned both systems. The colors on the GFX sensors are unequaled (from a lifelong Canon guy).

  • Ivo Hula

    Knowing the types of photography you do, Zach, I see why you made the comparison that you did make. If you shot wildlife and sports, I think your “old” camera would be blown away by the new autofocus capabilities of the more recent offerings.

    Recently I had to make the hard choice to unload my 1DS MKIII and my 5D MKIV as the keeper rate of acceptable focus with the old vs the new R3 was huge in my hands. I have been shooting Canon since the late 1970’s. Shooting speed skating and pet portraiture as my two main income streams, I saw the writing on the wall. The autofocus on the R3 is phenomenal compared to a 6 year old camera (5d MkIV) and a 14 year old pro body (1DS MkIII).

    All of the above is pointless if you miss the focus on the eyes.

  • Hahah. If it makes you feel better, as of typing this, 39 people have taken the quiz, and no one has scored 100%. (In fact, the average is nearly 50%).

    I always tell people to find the weakest link in your workflow chain and upgrade that first. For some people it’s lenses, some it’s lighting, for others it’s monitors. But it’s almost never the camera – especially if you’re using something from the last few years. I upgraded to the GFX 100s because the resolution made my workflow easier, and I just wanted the dopamine hit of having a new shiny thing….but my upgrade was in no way a requirement. ?

  • macroblue

    I was wrong on four out of five, lol. I was considering upgrading from my trusty D700 but I guess not! Maybe I should buy a better monitor instead.

  • Thanks for playing along!

    I love Canon’s colors out of the box as well. But there is so much more depth in the Fuji photos once you start really toning them in the post portion. Infact, I had to keep notes with me while I was going through the photos, as some of them were really difficult to distinguish one or the other from. I figured if nothing else, this was a good thought experiment on looking at what your camera is capable of, even if it’s an older system.

  • Andreas Werle

    Beautiful idea, Zach!
    Ok, i was wrong only with the motorcycle. But honestly, i was guessing, that the more intense colours point to the Canon. This was the only idea i had to try to distinguish the photos. As a digital Canon-Shooter since many years, i love the Canon-Colours. 🙂
    Greetings from Frankfurt am Main and stay healthy! – Andreas

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