D800 vs. 5D Mark III


The wait is finally over, as both Nikon and Canon have released their most anticipated DSLR’s to date. Everyone from professional photographers to amateurs have been clamoring to get their hands on this new generation of full frame cameras. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able test either camera properly since most are sold immediately upon arrival at Atlantic Photo Supply. I have had the opportunity to try both cameras briefly, but my full review and hand’s on analysis will be featured in two separate blog posts. This blog I’ll provide each camera’s specifications and breakdown some of the technical changes from their predecessors.

Although expectations were high, most consumers have been impressed with the capabilities the new Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D800. Nikon was first to come storming out of the gates and has done so in an improved fashion with its 36 megapixel sensor, 1080p video mode, and dual card memory slots. However, it wasn’t soon after that Canon followed with the 5D Mark III, which included drastic improvements with its noise performance, auto focus system, and frame rate. Essentially, both cameras have fixed the fallacies of its predecessors. The question is, which one is better?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both cameras, when compared to each other. First, lets talk about the exterior of each camera. Ergonomically the cameras are quite different. One obvious difference is seen in the form of an on camera flash, as the Canon 5D Mark III has none at all. The actual proportions of the cameras are fairly similar, however one will notice they feel noticeably different when in your hands. Both cameras are full weather proof, with strong metal bodies that feel very solid in your hands. The Canon has a much more rubberized feel to it, and despite it being slightly heavier, it feels well balanced. The 5D Mark III also has a far better grip and you can easily hold it with one hand. There is also a convenient place where your thumb fits on the back. The D800 feels boxier and the handgrip doesn’t feel as contoured to your hand. Despite the cameras having the same size LCD screen, Canons also boasts a higher resolution at 1.04 million pixels compared the D800’s 961,000 pixels.

For me, I felt as though the button layout on the Canon was more intuitive and easier to use. For instance, the record button on the Nikon is awkwardly placed on the top of the camera right beside the on/off switch, as if they don’t want you to actually take video. On the Canon, it’s conveniently located right on the back beside the viewfinder. The appearance of the D800 is also sub-par, looking like a D700 that’s been melted and lacks the refined style of the 5D Mark III. The Canon is not perfect though, as I found the dial lock quite annoying and still can’t understand how people accidentally change it. By a slight margin, I’ have to give overall design and layout to Canon.

The interior technical capabilities of both cameras have been greatly improved, so much so, that I simply can’t go over every upgrade and feature as that would make for a very long- winded blog. I will, however, go through which technical features I feel are most relevant for the comparison. As mentioned above the Nikon has a staggering 36 Megapixel sensor and captures a stunning amount of detail. The D800’s sensor allows you to capture nearly 60% more detail than the 5D Mark III. This is especially great for studio and landscape photographers. The downside to having such a high resolution is that the images can be nearly 75mb in size when shooting in uncompressed raw format. The large file sizes result in a slow continuous rate of 4 frames per second, compared to the Canon’s 6 frames per second. Also, because the 36 Megapixel sensor has a higher pixel density I expect the low light performance to be not quite as good as the 5D Mark III. I’ve seen a few sample images online at higher ISO settings and the 5D Mark III is noticeably better in many situations. The video capabilities are relatively the same with both being able to take full 1080p HD video at 30fps. They both now have dual card memory slots as well, and 100% viewfinder coverage.

Now, to answer our question, which one is best? In the end, both cameras are great propositions, but it comes down to what type of photographer you are. You really can’t go wrong with either camera. For a sport photographer the 5D Mark III will do wonders, while the Nikon will lag behind. In a studio setting the D800 captures an unmatched amount of detail with an amazing dynamic range. For me, the biggest difference between the two is not its features, but its price. The Canon has received a 30% price increase over its predecessor. It retails for regular price at $3799.99, which is 649.99 dollars more than the D800. However, If I owned Canon gear I’d buy the 5D Mark III and the same would hold true if I owned Nikon gear, I’d buy the D800. The Canon and the Nikon are both truly great in their own respect. Not many will push either camera to their limits, so it’s about choosing a camera that’s most suited to your uses. I will reveal the camera I’ve decided to go with in my next post after I’ve properly tested both cameras. The blog will feature hands on testing where you’ll be shown a comparison of video, stills, low light shooting, and auto focus, so stay tuned!