Comparing Video: a $600 Galaxy Note vs. a $3500 Canon 5D Mk III Is Pretty Surprising


I guess a few years back this title would have made me laugh. How are those even comparable. Some were courageous enough to ask how they compare and analyze the resulting footage. And by some I mean cinematographer Alec Weinstein.

I mean the Canon 5DmkIII was used in shooting Black Swan, Captain America and House and it costs about $3500 without a lens, while the Galaxy Note 3 costs $600 and was used to shoot…. well…. cute cats and babies. It does however sports a 4K resolution.

The video is set up pretty cleverly, the lighting is not very challenging – all bright daylight; focal length has been adjusted, and shutter was matched at about 1/200th .Each shot is a few seconds, see if you can spot which shot was taken with which camera. Some are not that trivial to figure out.

Alex concludes that while the 5DmkIII has lots of superior functions, the Note 3 is coming on top with resolution and has a surprisingly acceptable image, as well as out of the box macro, and about 84% less wallet hit.

Here are my two takes from the video:

  • Both the highlights and the shadows on the 5DmkIII hold up better, even at those biased setup. This is not surprising considering the difference in sensor size.
  • Resolution on the Note is definitely better and that is not a big surprise considering it is shooting 4K. The surprise is that you can see that even on youtube’s crappy compressed resolution.

Alec, however is way harsher:

…Really these cameras: it’s not comparing apples to apples here. [They] are used for two very different things. But this does highlight the fact that the arms race to 4k is in full swing, it is now enabled in …. …. phones which is pretty unbelievable I’m still in kind of a disbelief.

The conclusion that I come to is that sadly the Canon 5d mark 3 as a video camera is nearing the end of its useful life because its image doesn’t even hold up against a cell phone anymore

Do you agree?

[Galaxy NOTE 3 versus 5D Mark III – 4K in a cell phone via Slashdot, thanks for the heads up, Illy]

  • Zullu

    galaxy s5 is even better … better codec i think (but there is a hack for the note3 that can make it better

  • ener

    This is very interesting and most of it seens true, indeed. Only a few things: The lens you have used is not known for its supreme sharpness. If checking for reviews you wiill even find many issues with the focus. Also comparing RAW to compressed files does not make much sense to me. Out of the box the compressed footage will look better, as it has been processed already. But thank you very much for putting work into this comparison!!!

  • Peter

    Frankly, the 5D was never a good movie camera to begin with. Apart from more depth of field and the ability to make use of some excellent lenses, it was never really much better than any old camcorder, in some ways even worse. In fact, the real resolution (not the number of pixels) you are getting would probably amount to less than 720p. If you use a 5D with the Magic Lantern Raw hack, however (and you can transcode that to 10-bit log ProRes or DNxHD and delete the original media if you don’t want the file size overkill), it is an entirely different story with much higher resolution and dynamic range.

    My point is, this is comparing a phone with an expensive camera that has a video function that is, well, about as bad as that of a phone. It is intentionally crippled in order not to cannibalize Canon’s high-end video market. The 5D has video that is much worse than it should be at that price point. Look at Blackmagic’s offerings (which certainly do come with problems of their own) or the aforementioned 5D with Magic Lantern Raw to see what is really possible in a camera in that price range.

    Besides, we have long reached a point where the limiting factor is no longer the technology and image quality, but the actual stuff people put in front of it. Try switching on your television on a random channel. Looking at that stuff in 4K would likely not improve it in any significant way.

    • peter fan

      peter …you are so right

    • gs_790

      Nothing grabs a headline quite like, “Cellphone takes about the same picture as camera that costs more than a car.”

      But you’re absolutely right. To people that know, this is exactly what we’d expect to happen. With plenty and simple light, and put through the filter of web-publishing, a cellphone can make a picture that is about the same as a camera that costs much more. We also know that the cellphone will wilt quickly in the dark, with challenging lighting, and when cropped significantly (which I mean to include standing close to a large print).

      This is why it’s very, very, very important to talk about how the end image/video will be used when you’re talking about camera choice.

  • Roger Coelho

    Let’s put these cameras in a completely biased scenario (bright light, on a tripod, use a low quality lens on the expensive DSLR) and compare just one feature…? Cell phone cameras are getting better, but shall sensors and limited glass means they are usually only great in optimal situations. You but a 5D3, with nice glass, to be able to shoot in all situations.

    Try the same test in low light using a higher quality zoom lens or a fast prime. Let’s see the results then before claiming the 5D3 as passed its prime.

  • Feroz Khan


  • Feroz Khan


  • John Shark

    I’m sure the vidoe is great!

  • John Shark

    I’m sure the vidoe is great!

  • glenn kaupert

    headline typo – “COMPARING VIDOE: “

    • udi tirosh

      Got him

  • Dušan DuPe Pethö


  • Emil Kowalski

    and what about scene in the night?

  • Emil Kowalski

    and what about scene in the night?

  • Joel Penner

    I was hoping to see something surprising. I didn’t. Actually, I was really let down.

    Resolution is not the name of the game. I wish people would get over this. The majority of audiences won’t have 4K for several years. It won’t be until cable, satellite, blu-ray, and home theater devices are the majority provider of content.

    Is the author joking? While the Samsung has a nice high resolution which leads to some sharpness, everything looks oversaturated and blown out. It looks like crap. If these were photos, not even LightRoom could clean up the Samsung mess.

    Even a TV show like CSI Miami with its overblown highlights and flares doesn’t look as bad as the Samsung footage. Surprisingly acceptable? No. Even an 5Dmk2 can do better footage than the Note.

    • Emil Richter

      did you watch this video in 4k or 1080p? and you still noticed the difference, oversampling ftw.

      the colors looked about the same really.

      the only thing i would have liked to see is, the 5d footage to be sharpened in post.

      • Joel Penner

        You can’t watch it in 4k, as the source is only 1080p and they downsampled the 4k to 1080p anyways. If the colors looked the same, then you probably need a new monitor. I’ve got a crappy one where it looks the same, and a couple others that are only a 1-2 years old and there is a big difference in color. The 5D footage was a little bit soft, but the 4k footage was a bit too sharp at points.

        • Emil Richter

          “did you watch this video in 4k or 1080p?” RHETORIC QUESTION

          you dont need a 4K tv or monitor to apreciate 4K footage, since we ALL saw the benefits of it while watching it at 1080p.

          my monitor is less than a year old, has an IPS panel and is color calibrated. the difference in color is very minute.

          • Joel Penner

            IPS panel as well, and if you can’t see the color differences, something is wrong. The sky, shadows, highlights, and details in the flowers was easily discernable. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what’s wrong. It appeared quite blatant to me.

  • Chain

    put a 70-200 on ya canon and you can toss any Notes…

  • Sam Jost

    Last week I took videos with my Nikon D800E and a Lumia 1020 in crappy light – here the D800E was visible better than the lumia 1020 (but in good light there is not much difference).

  • Amaryllis

    Little typo towards the end of the article:

    “Alec, however is way harsher:”

    Just saying :)

    • udi tirosh


  • Heri Setiawan

    Complete comparison please

  • compare

    compare penis whit finger :)

  • Shai Yammanee

    How are the manual controls on the Galaxy Note 3?
    Are you able to control the Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO Settings, Color Profiles, Focal Length?

    Without these controls then there is no way that this could seriously compete for film creation. Although the resolution of DSLRs aren’t as high, I would much prefer control at 1080p than 4k with no control.

    Saying that, I was quite impressed with the resolution of the phone.

    • Emil Richter

      certainly, a proffessional that wants the best image would use the note 3 for all the shots the note 3 would be good for.
      and only use a DSLR when he needs the versatility.

      only thing missing was sharpened 5D footage. without sharpening everything can look soft.

      • Shai Yammanee

        I absolute agree.
        They are all tools in the end and you use the ones best suited for the situation.

    • Nathan Casey

      Yep you can.

      • Shai Yammanee

        Not with the same level of control.

        • Nathan Casey

          Of course not but it really depends on what app your using. Camera fv-5 is pretty complete.

          • Shai Yammanee

            Different tools for different uses.
            Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed with the capabilities of the phone, but it will never compete with good glass and large sensor.
            Having these capabilities in your pocket is fantastic, but I would never use it for a paying client.

  • ext237

    First car video shows excessive “jerking” on the Galaxy. Great way to give your viewers motion sickness. At 1080, C5DIII was smooth. Cell phones aren’t ready for cine yet. :)

  • Marco Aurelio Soares

    Jose Renato Soares… veja que interessante…

  • David Lewis

    The Note 3 is a great camera…. for a cell phone. So it is going to produce decent video quality. The author of this explained he wasn’t comparing the versatility of the 2 cameras, or even that the 5D was some amazing video camera. He was only comparing the shooting quality in certain situations. The Note 3 was sharper than the 5D because of the sensor and processor, not the lens. The lens wasn’t a major factor in the quality (remember, he was shooting 1080 video, full res stills). Where the 5D shines in this type of comparison is the range of colors. The Note 3 sacrifices dynamic range for sharpness.
    Oddly enough, I see lots of people complaining that the author tried hiding the faults in the test, but he didn’t, he pointed them out, some of them multiple times.

  • Omar Spence

    The video from the Note 4 is impressive, however when the sun goes down, the DSLR comes out on top. With good glass, the DSLR comes out on top, having glass to choose from puts the DSLR on top, with 60 odd canon lenses to choose from plus Zeiss and others. With the phone you have to use only the native focal length or fiddle with attachments with the accompanying F stop penalty; digital zoom will leave you with horrible footage. While my DSLR may not have 4K, I do have options with focal lengths and the capability to record video in dim light with my 50mm 1.4 wide open in those conditions where I would not be able to get anything with the phone at all. The cell phone’s tiny sensor does not hold a candle to the larger sensors in DSLRs. Above all, I am a control freak, I shoot in manual mode and zero all the picture style settings in order to record a flat image that I color grade in post. I have yet to see a cell phone do that. These claims of cell phone being better than DSLRs are always made by people who have never taken photos or recorded video on a professional basis.

  • Omar Spence

    Lets see the same repeated using a Canon 35mm f/1.4L on the 5D Mk 3 and then get back to me. That test was like an ordinary guy running the 100m against Usain bolt hopping on one leg carrying a 75 lb backpack and saying the other guy was faster. Of course a cheap lens would make footage from any good camera look like crap. At F13, diffraction will also be a factor. This test is of course BS, handicapping a DSLR with a lens like that at an F stop guaranteed to produce diffraction and then claiming a cell phone can beat it is infantile and just plain stupid.