Now that both the Nikon D5 and the Canon 1D X Mark II flagship DSLRs have been announced, we can compare the specifications of the two and see how they stack up against each other. While both cameras are very capable flagship DSLRs from top camera brands, there are notable differences worth pointing out just by looking at the specifications. Please keep in mind that in this post I won’t be comparing image quality, AF performance, and other performance characteristics between these cameras, since both cameras have not yet been released to the public yet – I will only compare already known specifications from the official press releases and technical information shared by Nikon and Canon.
Let’s take a look at the specifications of both cameras:
Nikon D5 vs Canon 1D X Mark II Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D5||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Sensor Resolution||20.8 Million||20.2 Million|
|Sensor Pixel Size||6.45µ||6.58µ|
|Low Pass Filter||Yes||Yes|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||5,568 x 3,712||5,472 x 3,648|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 100-51,200|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 204,800-3,280,000||ISO 102,400-409,600|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||Dual DIGIC 6+|
|Storage Media||2x XQD / 2x CF||1x CFast, 1x CF|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||12 fps with AF/AE||14 fps with AF/AE|
|Top Shooting Speed||14 fps||16 fps|
|Buffer Size (RAW, Lossless 14-bit)||200||170|
|Continuous Shooting||16.7 seconds||12.1 seconds|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||400,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III||360,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor|
|Autofocus System||153-point, 99 cross-type AF system||61-point, 41 cross-type AF system|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8||Up to f/8|
|AF Detection Range||-4 to +20 EV||-3 to +20 EV|
|Video Output||MOV, MPEG-4 / H.264||MOV, Motion JPEG, MPEG-4 / H.264|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3,840×2,160 (4K) up to 30 fps||4096×2160 (4K) up to 60 fps|
|Video Recording Limit||3 min||N/A – Depends on Card Size|
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2,359,000 dots||1,620,000 dots|
|Built-in Wi-Fi / NFC||No||No|
|Built-in Wired LAN||1000 Base T Support||1000 Base T Support|
|Battery||EN-EL18a Lithium-ion Battery||LP-E19 Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||3,780 shots (CIPA)||1,210 shots (CIPA)|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|Weight (Body Only)||1,405g (With Battery + 2x XQD)||1,530g (With Battery)|
|Dimensions||160 x 158.5 x 92mm||158 x 168 x 83mm|
|MSRP Price||$6,499 (as introduced)||$5,999 (as introduced)|
The sensor specs from both cameras are pretty much identical – there is only a 0.6 MP advantage on behalf of D5, which is meaningless. I wouldn’t worry about the differences in native and boosted ISO – although Nikon claims one stop better native ISO and that it can go all the way to insane ISO 3,280,000, those are just numbers for pure marketing. Anything above ISO 25,600 is most likely going to look like trash on both cameras. Where the first real difference comes in is in the viewfinder magnification: the Canon 1D X Mark II has a larger viewfinder with 0.76x magnification, while the viewfinder on the D5 has 0.72x magnification. Not a huge difference, but still worth noting.
Next is the storage media. Nikon released the D5 with two memory card options: either dual XQD slots or dual CF slots. In my opinion, it would have been better if Nikon released the option for dual CFast instead of CF, since the latter is practically useless in terms of maximum speed when compared to either XQD or CFast. Still, in my opinion, Canon is making the same mistake as Nikon did on the D4 and D4S cameras, which is giving 1x CFast and 1x CF slots to use instead of 2x of the same CFast format. While it can be a good move to transition existing 1D X users away from CF, it really limits the camera’s capabilities. If you set up the camera to shoot in overflow mode, the CF slot will drastically limit the camera’s buffer and limit video recording capabilities (CF won’t cut it for 4K 60p videos). In this regard, I believe dual XQD slots on the D5 would lead to more consistent shooting patterns and less worrying of swapping out memory cards.
Where the Nikon D5 clearly loses out is in the continuous shooting speed – it maxes out at 12 fps with AF enabled, whereas the 1D X pushes 14 fps. But there is a catch – you will have to use the newest LP-E19 battery on the 1D X Mark II to get 14 fps; otherwise, you are also limited to 12 fps maximum. Both cameras can push 2 extra frames per second without AF. Aside from the 2 fps loss, the D5 does have an advantage over the 1D X Mark II in terms of buffer size. It can push 200 14-bit RAW images, being able to last 16.7 seconds, whereas the Canon 1D X Mark II has a smaller buffer of 170 14-bit RAW images, lasting around 12.1 seconds. Now keep in mind that there is a 2 fps difference between the two cameras in this calculation. If the Canon 1D X Mark II shoots at 12 fps, that duration would be extended to roughly 14.2 seconds. Close, but still a bit shorter when compared to the D5. In all seriousness, not a big deal, as chances of someone shooting that long with either camera are fairly slim! Overall, the 1D X Mark II is still a faster camera, since that 2 fps actually does make a difference.
The Canon 1D X Mark II also has a superior RGB metering sensor, with a total of 380,000 pixels – over twice more than Nikon D5’s 180,000 pixel metering sensor. Hard to say whether the 1D X II will truly outperform the Nikon D5’s metering capabilities in the real world, as the camera systems are completely different, but it might still be potentially better at tracking subjects, particularly with its more powerful dual processor architecture.
On paper, the Nikon D5 shines with its 153-point, 99 cross-type AF system. However, keep in mind that most of those focus points are used for tracking subjects. The actual number of points that you can select is limited to 55 focus points, as seen below:
So in terms of selectable number of focus points, the Canon 1D X Mark II wins. However, I personally would not compare the two cameras based on the number of selectable points. What matters is whether the camera can indeed utilize more of the focus area for AF adjustments – and that’s where the D5 should prove to be superior. Consider a situation, where there is a subject moving towards the camera. With the D5, once you lock focus on the subject’s eye, if the subject starts moving, the camera can potentially engage all 153 focus points for tracking the eye. Since the focus points are packed so closely together, there is a chance that the camera might utilize the focus points in between to keep the eye in focus. This might prove to be useful, potentially yielding more accurate results overall. However, this is pure speculation – in real life, the AF accuracy differences might turn out to be negligible. Some of our readers have been wondering why Nikon bothered saying that there are a total of 153 focus points, when only 55 are technically selectable. Personally, seeing the above grid, I would prefer to have less selectable focus points than more! Imagine trying to move your focus point rapidly from the center to the corners. If Nikon allowed all 153 focus points to be selectable, it would take forever for you to move from one side of the viewfinder to the other! When it comes to focus spread, the Nikon also looks a tad better. When I overlaid both viewfinders, the Nikon D5’s focus points looked like they stretched a bit further on both sides of the frame. The real win for the D5 in my opinion is the AF detection range – the D5 can go down all the way to -4 EV, which is one stop better than wht the Canon 1D X Mark II can do. As a result, when shooting in low-light environments, the D5 should be able to focus better and more accurately when using the center focus point.
When it comes to video shooting, the Nikon D5’s 4K recording capability is a joke at the moment, thanks to its 3 minute cap. Unless Nikon fixes that in the final release via a firmware update, there is no way that it can compete with the Canon 1D X Mark II, which has no such silly limitations. The funny thing is, smaller and much less expensive mirrorless cameras have far better 4K video recording capabilities than both cameras, so I wonder why both Nikon and Canon are so slow in making real 4K recording available. While I can understand that Canon must protect its video camera products, Nikon has no high-end video cameras to compete with, so why short out on such an important feature?
Another area where the 1D X Mark II shines is the built-in GPS capability. Being able to geotag images is extremely useful and I don’t understand why Nikon does not want to get it. GPS should be a feature in every camera, especially landscape cameras like the Nikon D810! Canon has been adding GPS chips on its DSLRs and most likely will continue doing so on its high-end DSLRs from now on. It is time for Nikon to catch up there…
The biggest loss for the Canon 1D X Mark II is the darn battery. With a CIPA-rated maximum of 1,210 shots, the 1D X Mark II looks pretty bad when compared to the Nikon D5’s 3,780 shots. Shooting at those insane 14 fps, it would not take very long to drain the camera battery. Why is there such a drastic difference in battery life? I suspect it has to do with the dual processors on the 1D X Mark II vs a single processor on the D5. I am not sure if CIPA requires the GPS chip to be enabled during testing, but I doubt that it would drain the battery that much. I suspect the difference comes from the power-hungry dual CPUs. So if one were to shoot side by side with the two cameras, the D5 would keep on clicking…3x over the 1D X Mark II. And here is the worst part, if you shoot using Live View on the 1D X Mark II, you will only get up to 260 shots, which is puny!
Lastly, there is a $500 price difference between the 1D X Mark II and the D5. While $500 is not a lot of money when you put down $6K towards the purchase of either camera, it is still roughly an 8% difference that one could put towards more of those CFast cards or accessories.