How does the Nikon D800 compare to the newly announced Canon 5D Mark III? In this article, I will show the specifications of both cameras and talk about feature differences, in addition to providing my subjective opinion about each camera. Please keep in mind that the information below is purely based on specifications and available information. A detailed comparison with image samples and ISO comparisons is provided in my D800 Review.
Nikon definitely surprised everyone with its ultra high-resolution Nikon D800 announcement earlier this year. Featuring an impressive 36.3 MP sensor, the Nikon D800 was a huge jump from the 12.1 MP sensor that we all got so used to ever since the Nikon D3 came out in 2007. Knowing that the Canon 5D update was due for a refresh, I wondered what Canon would respond with – a similar high-resolution sensor to compete head-to-head against the D800, or a lower-resolution sensor with better noise characteristics (as it did with the Canon 1D X). As it turns out, Canon decided to play a different game and instead of engaging in a megapixel race, it decided to focus on image quality, autofocus features/performance and weather sealing – the three areas that have been receiving a lot of criticism from the Canon community for many years now. This is a very smart and welcome move, especially in regards to autofocus features and performance. As one of our readers pointed out, “the Canon 5D Mark III is what 5D Mark II should have been in 2008”. While I have to disagree with this statement in terms of image quality for now (I will have to test both side by side), I agree that Canon should have included a better AF module on the 5D Mark II, given its price and the full-frame sensor.
Let’s take a look at the specifications of both cameras in more detail.
D800 and 5D Mark III Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D800||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Sensor Resolution||36.3 Million||22.3 Million|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||7360 x 4912||5760 x 3840|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 3||DIGIC 5+|
|Storage Media||1x Compact Flash and 1x SD||1x Compact Flash and 1x SD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||4 FPS, 6 FPS in DX mode with MB-D12 battery grip||6 FPS|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Durability||200,000 cycles||150,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||91,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III||iFCL metering with 63 zone dual-layer sensor|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-6,400||ISO 100-25,600|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 12,800-25,600||ISO 50, ISO 51,200-102,400|
|Autofocus System||Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX with 51-points (up to 15 cross-type points)||61-point high-density reticular AF (up to 41 cross-type points)|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8 (up to 9 cross-type sensors)||Up to f/5.6|
|AF Assist||Yes||No, only with external flash|
|Video Output||H.264/MPEG-4 in MOV Format||AVI, H.264/MPEG-4 in MOV Format|
|Uncompressed Video Output||Yes (HDMI)||No|
|Video Maximum Resolution||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 30p||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 30p|
|Audio Recording||Built-in microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
External stereo microphone (optional)
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||921,000 dots||1,040,000 dots|
|Exposure Compensation||±5 EV in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV increments||±5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments|
|Bracketing||2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV||±3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments|
|Wi-Fi Functionality||Eye-Fi Compatible, WT-4A||Eye-Fi Compatible, WFT-E7|
|Battery||EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery||LP-E6 Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||850 shots (CIPA)||950 shots (CIPA)|
|Battery Charger||MH-25 Quick Charger||LC-E6 Charger|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|Camera Construction||Magnesium Alloy||Magnesium Alloy|
|Dimensions||144.78 x 121.92 x 81.28mm||152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm|
So, what are the main differences between the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III? First, it is obviously the image sensor – while both cameras have about the same size sensors, the Nikon D800 has a 36.3 MP sensor, while the Canon 5D Mark III features a 22.3 MP sensor. This essentially means that the Canon 5D Mark III has an edge in terms of noise performance at high ISOs – but that’s at 100% view. A real and a fair comparison involves a down-sampling process, in which an image from a higher resolution sensor is down-sampled to a lower resolution, which ultimately reduces noise on the higher resolution sensor. This comparison is provided in my Nikon D800 Review and as you can see, the Nikon performs very well when compared to the 5D Mark III. True, the Canon 5D Mark III has a two stop advantage in terms of native high ISO of 25,600 versus ISO 6,400 on the D800, however, I personally have no interest in such high ISO figures, since I know that anything above ISO 6400 is just too noisy for professional use. Neither camera can match what the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1D X can do at very high ISOs anyway.
The second main difference is the autofocus system. Now this is the part that will definitely need a lot of testing to compare the two AF systems. While the Nikon D800 has a lower total number of focus points (51 versus 61) and cross-type focus points (15 versus 41), the Nikon D800 has working AF at f/8, with 9 cross-type sensors. The Canon 5D Mark III is limited to f/5.6.
As for other differences, the Canon 5D Mark III has an edge in speed (6 fps vs 4 fps), LCD (1.04 Million dots versus 921,000 dots) and weight (860g versus 900g), while the Nikon D800 has better shutter durability (200,000 shutter cycles versus 150,000), better video features (uncompressed video), high-speed USB (USB 3.0 vs USB 2.0) and built-in flash.
The biggest difference, however, is the price – the Nikon D800 retails for $2,999, while the Canon 5D Mark III is $3,499 – a $500 difference.
Guys after going through your I’m still in double minds as to which camera to buy….Canon 5D mark iii or Nikon d800…..Kindly suggest before I make a wrong choice. Just to point out, I’m a hard core Canon fan. But I don’t mind going for Nikon if its better. Kindly help. Thanks in advance.
Ready to by my second 5dm3. Test both before you buy.
Hi! mate, Can u please suggest…. mark iii or d800
Hi i need to buy one of this but ii confused which one is the best help me plz?and i want to buy one lens which is good for sport and closed up too help me plz im new photograph
You want to buy a full frame top of the line (almost) camera to use it with one do-it-all lens????? If that’s your goal, why not buy a mirrorless instead?
No u misuderstood about my need i sayd ….one lens for sport and one lens for closed up…..thats it and which one of the top cameras is better?
Amir, your answer is quite simple and it lies right here.
Yes, but the Canon AF works. I’ve had THREE d800s and none of them focused properly. The last one I asked Nikon to repair twice but each time the failed so it goes back to the dealer. I’m really considering the 5Dmk3 now. Lloyd Chambers also has some interesting points to make here:
Seems this is the definitive video on Nikon vs. Canon.
ive been looking to upgrade to a full frame now & have been looking at both the canon D800 and 5d mark3 & i’ve having trouble deciding simply coz my first camera has been a canon 550D that i brought last aug & honestly i would have just gone with the 5d but i feel in the long run the prices for the lenses that i would like to buy are simply overpriced and out of reach.
If i had to upgrade now to canon along with just three lenses ie 16-35 F/2.8 ~ 24-70 F2.8 ~ 70-200 F2.8 ~ i’m spending close to $9999/- & mind you i’m carry forward my 100mm F/2.8, 50mm F/1.8, and the 580ex II(flash) which i’ve already spent close a $1800/- … but if i was to upgrade to nikon and were to buy all the lenses as above or the equivalent as well as a flash, i would land up spending a total of $9999/- , which is ridiculous and a better deal for me. i could save some more money buy selling off my current gear as well.
so my question is why wont i switch over? or is there a catch which makes nikon equipment cheaper? or is canon always the right way to go when it comes to photography.
whoever i talk to is so damn biased to nikon or canon. no one has any real and relevant reason to choose a brand.
whats going on here? #help
I shoot food, interiors, travel, landscape and products
Can u help ….I am planning to buy a high end dslr…..confused between mark iii and d800…..Can you suggest which one is a better buy…..I’m a fan of Canon but don’t mind going for nikon if it’s better.
I have read this article with great interest as I am in the market for a replacement for my…..Canon A-1 film camera (I know, sinful). I am incredibly ignorant in all things digital photography! In truth, I have shot 35mm film about as far as supply and quality development would take me (although still shoot B&W), then for the last couple years have used a cheap Canon digital to snap backpacking photos. So with that as a background, I am still trying to figure out which of these two I would purchase and it seems to be a matter of style in the type of photography. What I really want is something that shoots landscape and macro photography (waterfalls, flowers, etc.). In my film days, I shot nothing but Kodachrome and Ektachrome, so not sure why I would want high ISOs. That is what a tripod if for, right? So with money not a factor and the aforementioned as my photography “style”, what would be your best recommendation? I truly value your opinion. Tie would go to the fact that I have long been a Canon fan. But also if there is another camera out there that you think would be above these two for my purposes, I would love to know that as well.
Yes sure I have noticed after hundred of hours reading about these models that Nikon fans have to many complex about markIII but this is something you can explain easy as a psychologist… you just can’t put in your head Nikonians that you will always get the 2nd place!
I haven’t see this hate and complex from Canon fans anywhere on the web.. they dont try to compare all the time their cameras against Nikon and neither they fight so much as you…
As for companies both are great for so many years but think which one gave all these technologies so we can be able today to compare a Canon camera against all the others? Which one brought the Dslr Video in this superiority at 2008 with the Mark II, which one has the best prime and telephoto lens made?
Think again.. its Canon!
@Dvir : I think that all brands have their edges in one or the other situation. For me the best way to decide which brand you will choose is to look at the ergonomics of both brand. I do prefer my Canon as I like the Canon logic and layout. Some other will prefer Nikon. It’s Only up to you. Best way is to try in a shop or from a friend’s camera
Although I understand the point of this review, you’re not comparing apples to apples. I mean when you compare specs, they’re not even close to being the same camera. Of course the Nikon is cheaper.
Canon – 25,600 ISO vs. Nikon 6,400 ISO
Canon – 41 cross-type focus points vs. Nikon 16 cross-type focus points
Canon – 102,400 boost ISO vs. 25,600 Nikon boost ISO
Canon – 6 fps vs. Nikon 4 fps
The only real advantage for the Nikon is MP and Flash… but again, they’re not even close to being the same camera. If you’re going to buy a professional camera and care about it having an internal flash, you’re in the wrong line of work. MP – nice to have, but if you’re shooting in low light (like many of us do, I would much rather have the 25,600 ISO vs. 6,400 ISO — especially since Canon has done an AMAZING job reducing the noise.
My 2 cents.
The difference of prices in Greece is 900 Euros mark iii 3599 – D800 2699
You think there is much difference in high iso from the 2 cameras
and much difference from to 6 fps to 4 fps
well in cross- type points mark iii has them up to f5.6 and nikon up to f8
thats a difference (specially in landscapes)
You don’t think that a better DR is not important in a Dslr ?
(i have to say that i have both a mark ii and a d700)