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This month marks ten years for the Canon 5D Mark III – a camera once known as the top of the line, now superseded by a couple of different camera generations.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
  • Drew Rick

    That’s unsurprising when making image choices that don’t push the hardware. The latte is the only image that doesn’t have crushed shadows and every one of these images has blown highlights, as shown by the “image histogram” browser extension. You could probably use a 1 inch camera and reproduce the same thing. Especially in the studio it’s quite easy to reduce DR, even though that wasn’t done here.

    I would have preferred to see examples of what has actually changed over the last ten years. Most importantly, it is much easier to obtain accurate AF as well as manual focus results with mirrorless cameras (without dropping back to the slow as molasses contrast AF in the 5D’s live view mode – might as well buy a cheapo mirrorless without a viewfinder if that’s how you use it). Magic lantern is the saving grace of the 5D here, as it adds focus peaking which the 5D is missing.

  • Drew Rick

    Author doesn’t know Fuji uses a different ISO scale? Oh boy. Just use the histogram and ETTR.

  • Drew Rick

    Completely static subjects – I’d be curious about the procedure. Was focus accuracy improved on the Canon by using live view? DR challenges were avoided with compositions that have no detail in the shadows and/or allowing highlights to blow out (specular in studio, shirt, flower).

  • nadir carollo

    Still using the mark 3, I have done a wedding Saturday, still hold perfectly for my use

  • Spaturnio

    I was right on the first 4 shots and only missed the last one.
    The field of view gives away the lens (and subsequently the camera) with which the shots were taken.
    All the pictures from the Fuji show a slightly less distorted face aspect, but I wouldn’t be able to tell if not side by side and not knowing I only had two option to chose from.

  • Jonathan Laufersweiler

    4/5 right here. For me, the tell was the colors and tone, probably corresponding to the exposure difference he mentioned. Apropos, I usually set my Canon to -1/3 as well.

  • Chris

    I scored 50%… Well actually the result says 40% but the last picture was a pure guess since the zoom function did not work and therefore I didn’t bother to check for details.
    However, there was not much difference in detail – I mainly went for ths Bokeh as I guessed the larger sensor will have more pronounced unsharpness despite the f/4 lens.
    Regarding the visible detail and main look and feel of the final pics, I could have flipped a coin, too… wouldn’t have made much of a difference… thank you for that comparison.
    On my Mk4 I mainly prefer the – visible – difference in High ISO, the GPS function and the touch screen (you definitly get used to it!!) over my 5D3 – that’s why I switched. No need for the 30MP

  • spider-mario

    We recommend you use the highest resolution images available. These are just the minimum pixel requirements.

    You can also easily test it by uploading a 2048×2048 image to Facebook and seeing that it stays that way.

  • Frank H.

    Got four out of 5 right. Key things I looked for were how the “shoulder” to highlight compared, and what the transition from one plane to the next one immediately behind looked like.

    The GFX photos seem to be smoother in both cases, but I would never say it was enough to force the Canon out of use.


    the DOF is VERY different. I know, I own a GFX100 (not s) and can’t use it for products because of that. and with practically any lens. but the resolution difference is out of the question.

  • Bobby Joe

    I shot with 5dmk3 for a long time. Taking shots at even f2 with 85L was pain. With GFX50s/110mm f2 combo I could nail the same shots at 1/125 while with 5dmk3 for whatever reason I needed 1/200 or faster. Now with GFX100s there is no comparison. If you show small size prints like in the examples posted, even old 5dc will look the same, why even use 5dmk3.

  • Fred Mueller

    100%. Not hard at all if you just look for the better gradation in the roll off to highlight clip. This has nothing to do with resolution or lens attributes. It’s just the better tonal response of the Fuji sensor. I did the test on my iPhone 11. If you were doing high end portraiture or fashion the Canon would be a mediocre choice. The final frontier in digital imaging is dynamic response in both capture and display response. There is yet a long way to go.

  • Zé De Boni

    @Class A – BRAVO!

  • Class A

    According to the author, he used the same settings on both cameras. So if the subject distances, lighting, etc. had been controlled, it would have been easy to pick out the larger format camera every time. The fact that not nearly everyone got a 100% right, given the same settings were used on both cameras, shows how disruptive the variabilities allowed were for any sort of significant result.

  • Class A

    Hi Zach,

    I did not walk into this article with “a frustrated frame of mind”. I became frustrated when I saw what could have been an interesting exercise in determining how relevant certain IQ differences are for a certain output size and whether there are any discernable rendering differences, turned out to be entirely useless for that purpose.

    I did not do “the math wrong” either. I wrote about a “factor” and meant the “crop factor” that is commonly used to compare sensor sizes. The crop factor (~1.3) is the square root of your 1.7 ratio of the sensor sizes. Just like the crop factor between (Canon) APS-C and FF is not 2.56 (sensor size ratio) but 1.6.

    The focal lengths are similar but they are not exactly equivalent. Doesn’t matter anyhow because you partially used different subject distances which renders small differences between focal lengths moot due to the significant impact on the amount of background blur.

    Using the same settings on two different formats is entirely inadequate, as you not only need to convert focal lengths between formats but f-stops as well. Please see the DPReview articles on equivalence or use some other source. The “same exposure” could be achieved by all sorts of settings (-> reciprocity) so a same or similar exposure provides no clues whatsoever about the all important f-stops used.

    As for what is a “fun exercise” we have different ideas. Using a reductio ad absurdum technique, I could say an article that asks “Which takes the better portraits, a phone or a GFX 100?” and then use studio lighting for the phone while the GFX 100 gets only moon light through thick curtains to work with, is “fun”. If the conditions (in your exercise, the shooting parameters) are not equivalent, all bets are off. Where is the “fun” in doing something that is pointless? I’m not saying you cannot write a fun article about the old Canon vs the new Fuji, but an apples to oranges quiz is not what I call “fun”.

    Finally, you must know that some, if not most, people will not view your numbers just as “light-hearted fun” but will claim that some kind of conclusions can be drawn from them. No conclusions can be drawn, so what is the point of showing them?

  • ProfHankD

    I am shocked to see that I scored 80%. At first glance, it seemed like I would just be guessing, and I honestly expected I’d score lower given these are low-resolution and significantly postprocessed. However, there were somewhat consistent color and tone differences that made things pretty clear except for the last shot, even though I have never directly used either of these cameras and obviously didn’t personally see the original scenes. At least on my (not well calibrated) display, both images in last case look a little off, so that was a guess I happened to get wrong. My take-away on this is actually that color science advancements have been more significant than I thought… although I’m still pretty happy with the technical quality of images I shot with a Sony A100.

  • JB

    I scored 3/5. The 3 I got correct I totally guessed on. The 2 I got wrong I was totally sure I had right. My a7R IV will be in my trash can if anyone wants it. I’ll be out with my Nikon D100.

  • Hey Class A,

    There few errors on your end, along with some pretty brash misconceptions. First, yes, all of the photos were taken with the same settings, and I figured that was assumed based on the (nearly) equal exposure throughout the text images. As for the focal lengths, they are incredibly similar, as the 120mm attached to the GFX system would be about 96mm on a 35mm equivalent. To put it simply, I don’t believe there is any lenses that meet a 1:1 ration on focal lengths, and this comparison has (using 35mm sensors as the basis) a 4mm variance between the two focal lengths. As for saturation, I specifically say that the saturation was way more noticeable…in the studio lighting shots, which this test one has one of.

    As for the Fuji sensor compared to the 35mm sensor on the Canon, it’s actually 1.7 times larger than the Canon. It seems you’ve done the math wrong. The Fuji has a sensor measured at 43.8 x 32.9mm, whereas the Canon has a sensor at 36×24mm in size.

    Finally, no one is suggesting that this is a test encouraging people to conclude that a 10 year old sensor is as good as a modern one, and I make mention of that several times throughout the piece. It seems that you walked into this article with a frustrated frame of mind, when it was intended on being lighthearted and a fun exercise.

  • Zé De Boni

    Yes, web publishing downgrades the advantages of more capable equipment, but…
    But image capture is a fundamental property of those tools, whether you compare just sensors or fully equipped cameras. The choice of hundreds of active focus points, subject tracking, eye-focus, life-view, 30fps, silent shutter, makes a huge difference in the resulting image. Resolution-wise, the posted image may look similar, but the content (what really matters), and the photographer’s success are clearly boosted by all the technological improvements.
    The title of the original article is: “Comparing a Ten-Year-Old Camera to a Modern One”
    The foreword proposes a comparison between cameras, not just sensors from 10 years range. Some of the MF from 2012 still used CCD’s and cost $40K, so that is what should be compared with the GFX. On the FF side, BSI stacked sensor with silent shutter, 8K capable with IBIS, higher resolution finders, faster processing chips, rule today, 2022. To leave the advantages of such features out of context of any comparison is a biased short sighted failed attempt.

  • AlexisZ

    I scored 100% (in shock about it), but I think it’s because I read your article pretty closely!

  • Mike Earussi

    I got three out of five but I was looking primarily at contrast and color, not resolution as none of them seemed very sharp.

  • Matthew Willis

    I got 4/5 but the one I got wrong was the only one I felt confident about – lol.

  • grubernd

    Thanks for the challenge.

    Of the three I got wrong (both portraits and the drink) I was going by the colors and the reasoning that the GFX should have the better ones. But it shows your edits of the Canon files shine from your experience and the ones from the GFX are bland with hot hightlights and aweful gradients.

    Thanks for proofing once again that the editor is more important than the camera or the software.

  • Class A

    These numbers are completely meaningless as the quiz is useless. I’ve posted my detailed comments in another comment.

  • Class A

    The quiz makes very little sense. The framing and subject difference is often different. The subject sometimes is moved, causing different lighting. You really could have taken a picture of an apple with one camera and an orange with the other and then asked us to have a guess. You don’t tell us the f-ratios used. Did you use equivalent settings? Your focal lengths are not equivalent to start with. You tell us in the text that the Canon images are more saturated, yet in the (different!) processing of the image pairs, the more saturated shot is almost always from the Fuji.

    As long as no conclusions are drawn from this, it’s all just a waste of time, but I’m afraid someone will conclude from this that viewers cannot tell the difference.

    Finally, given that the Fuji only has a “baby-MF” (crop!) sensor, it is not “much larger”. There is just a factor of 1.3 between FF and the baby-MF format, that’s less than the difference between APS-C and FF.

  • Ian Allen

    I missed the last one as I couldn’t zoom in and then just went off of colors. TBH, I was looking more at the focal length and DOF than the quality as it was hard to tell the difference at this size. a really good exercise to help not fall into the gear chasing syndrome!

  • Ian Allen

    the one I missed was the last one as I couldn’t zoom in and then just went off of colors. TBH, I was looking more at the focal length and DOF than the quality as it was hard to tell the difference at this size. a really good exercise to help not fall into the gear chasing syndrome!

  • Ash

    Adding a Fuji APS-C to the comparison will be also interesting as I guess both Fujis would have similar color processing, esp skin tones ?

  • Zé De Boni

    The cameras chosen don’t fit well for such comparison. If you put side by side the 5D and the R5, then the gap will be much bigger for 2 top products from the same manufacturer. But as we are talking about generic technology evolution, then we should choose the newest state of the art, the Sony A1.
    Your lovely Fuji GFX 100 should have as reference the Hasselblad H4D-60 or the H4d-200MS, or maybe the Phase One IQ 180. Price inclusive.

  • Nope, 2048.

    Facebook says 1200 on their official website.

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