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Thread: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

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    Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    First day on this site. Thanks for humoring me. I'm recently retired and am in the process of making photography my big passion. I've been shooting for a while, and am ready to get my first full frame camera. i've been studying the D800, Mark II, and Mark III but need some advice on the tradeoffs that exist. Nikon will give me "better" detail, but Canon will be "better" at low light. What is "better"? Will I notice a difference if I'm not making huge prints? i'd like to be able to do lots of interesting low light work, but how low is a realistic "low light" where i need to be wary? How can i judge which will actually be my best choice, or will it really not make much difference between these choices? Am I over thinking a choice where I can't really go wrong?

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Hi Mike
    I'm a big Nikon fan but whichever camera feels best in your hands,I don't know where you live,consider where the closest agent is . Bear in mind once you have a body with lens(es) it is costly to change brands. Sorry this isn't technical but having read similar posts on this forum you are likely to receive similar answers.To me more importantly is to research what sort of lenses would most suit your requirements and take it from there,bodies come and go but lenses are an investment.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Hi Mike and welcome to the forum. While I may be perceived to be biased as I shoot Nikon, I have undertaken a reasonable amount of research on the various forums and photo-sites around the web, some of which are clearly more biased, one way or the other. having said that, have a look at nikon-d800, and canon-5d-mark-iii where the merits or otherwise of these two cameras are documented by someone that has used both.

    All I can suggest is that you undertake your own "research" from the multitude of sites that have documented the (oft biased) reviews of these cameras, noting in particular, which is likely to better suit your own needs.

    To me and my style of photography (generally African wildlife, particularly bird photography), the Nikon has only two shortcomings; frame rate and size of files to be processed. More importantly to me is the Nikon's ability to use autofocus at F/8, allowing a 500/600mm F4 lens coupled to a 2x converter and still have autofocus available. Further, given the availability of 36MP available, I can still crop substantially for additional reach when needed. On the issue of the size of the files to be processed, I just need to upgrade my PC, which is likely to happen as technology advances anyway.

    But horses for courses. Clearly I am biased towards the Nikon, but, in terms of my wants and needs, it does fulfill these rather well, and better than the Canon. Your needs, wants and desires will probably be very different to mine. And oh, the Canon IS currently more expensive when purchased new....

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Hi Mike,

    When folks compare camera specifications they often give weight to one parameter being better than another, without stopping to consider whether a given parameter with either camera is "more than adequate" (and thus the decision should be based on something else).

    Pixel counts are a prime example; if I display one of my images here at a generous 800 x 1200 pixel resolution then I'm using less than 1MP - if I print an image at a typical competition size of 12 x 8" @ a more than necessary 300DPI then I'm using 8.6MP - so assuming that one has framed a shot reasonable well (ie isn't cropping more than - say - 1/3 of the image) then about the only difference one will notice in shots from cameras greater than 12MP is the higher percentage of pixels that are discarded. Personally, I shoot with a 21MP camera - and typically discard over 95% of the information captured - and STILL have more than enough to present to the world. Along similar lines, folks often use the example of printing large prints as justification for high MP counts, but even this doesn't really stack up; because prints are 2 dimensional, one needs 4 times the number of pixels if one want to double print resolution (ie if you have a typical 18MP camera and you want to double the resolution you'll need a 72MP camera) - but even that is a moot point because as the print size increases, so does the viewing distance - and thus the less detail our eyes can resolve at that distance. So again - once one goes beyond the 8 to 12MP range it's pretty much "academic" as opposed to "real world" photography.

    Low-light is another discussion; I do a lot of low light photography (up to 40 minute exposures) in areas where it's so dark I need to be careful not to trip over my tripod leg whilst wandering around aimlessly waiting for the exposure to finish. In reality - unless you need to hand-hold the camera in extreme low-light - then it'll be secured to a good tripod and any of the 3 you mention will do the job just fine.

    Some suggest handling different bodies and see what feels best - but in my opinion even that doesn't carry a lot of weight; I'm sure if I were to take a 430km/hr Bugatti Veyron for a drive then it would feel pretty weird compared to my Ford Telstar, but that doesn't mean my Telstar is the better car -- it simply means that I need a couple of days to get used to something different. Cameras - or rental cars - or many other things in life are no different.

    So what do I suggest? In reality - if you don't already have an investment in lenses for one brand over another then it honestly won't make ANY difference. People sweat about making the "wrong choice", but in reality there is a HUGE overlap between models such as the 3 you mention. If you have the money then the D800 and 5D3 will both serve you well - but keep in mind that the camera body is only a minor part of what you'll need in the future. You'll also need lenses - flashes - tripods - filters - a remote release - storage cards - processing software etc. If all of that is starting to stretch the budget then a 5D2 may save you enough money to buy something else for your camera system.

    Hope this helps

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Hi Mike,

    As Colin has pointed out, all 3 cameras are very capable. He also mentions that the camera body is only one part of the equation. What equipment do you currently have? Do you know anyone else who uses either Nikon or Canon equipment? It would be good to be able to borrow lenses and flashes to try them out. Otherwise you can rent them and the cameras in question. When spending this much money you want to be confident you made the right choice for your needs.

    Here is a comprehensive review of the two latest cameras head-to-head:

    http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/5d-...vs-nikon-d800/

    The video is 19 minutes long and covers a lot of the functionality of both cameras side-by-side. It was made by someone trying to decide which full frame camera system to choose. It may help you decide.

    Note that the raw files from the D800 are about 75MB. The Canon 5D files are less than 30MB. You can visit some popular review websites and download example raw files and try them out with your computer and processing software. You may find the Nikon files are much slower to work with for your photography needs.
    (Edit: Manfred stated that this is not a real world issue)

    Alex
    Last edited by herbert; 22nd June 2012 at 02:21 PM.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Note that the raw files from the D800 are about 75MB. The Canon 5D files are less than 30MB. You can visit some popular review websites and download example raw files and try them out with your computer and processing software. You may find the Nikon files are much slower to work with for your photography needs.

    Alex
    If you store the files as compressed NEFs they are around 45 MB, not 75MB. Load time is a bit slower, but once the files are loaded I don't notice any lag versus what I got working my raw files from my D90 in Photoshop. Some of the effects and filters take a bit longer, but really nothing to complain about in the scheme of things; we are talking about a matter of a few additional seconds here. I put a new large hard drive in my computer and I have tons of space on it. Personal assessment is that file size is a real red herring; adding storage to a computer is pretty cheap when all is said and done. My computer is a few years old, and certainly not a super speedy one.

    Would I recommend the D800; absolutely. It significantly exceeded my expectations. The only downside is that Nikon cannot keep up with the demand, so getting quickly one might be the issue. Both Canons seem to be in ample supply. I'm not sure if I would look too hard at the Mk II as it is last generation technology.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    DxOMark does extremely comprehensive testing of cameras and lenses. Their methods have become the industry standard (even within the manufacturers' labs) for determining camera performance. The Nikon D800 (and its new cousin, the D800E) have the highest overall image quality scores, including very strong low-light performance. That's impressive in a full-frame 36MP sensor. I'm a Canon user, but if I was buying right now, it'd be the D800 hands-down. DxO has tested the 5D mkII and mkIII as well, so you can see side-by-side comparisons of all three cameras' test results.

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Pub...or-performance

    RAW file size is a bit of an issue with the D800, but frankly, I'd happily shell out extra money for bigger cards and backup drives for higher-quality photos. If you can afford the D800, I recommend it. The gents are right about lenses being the big investment, but Nikon and Canon both have extremely comprehensive lens ranges, so you can always find what you need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    DxOMark does extremely comprehensive testing of cameras and lenses. Their methods have become the industry standard (even within the manufacturers' labs) for determining camera performance. The Nikon D800 (and its new cousin, the D800E) have the highest overall image quality scores, including very strong low-light performance. That's impressive in a full-frame 36MP sensor. I'm a Canon user, but if I was buying right now, it'd be the D800 hands-down. DxO has tested the 5D mkII and mkIII as well, so you can see side-by-side comparisons of all three cameras' test results.

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Pub...or-performance

    RAW file size is a bit of an issue with the D800, but frankly, I'd happily shell out extra money for bigger cards and backup drives for higher-quality photos. If you can afford the D800, I recommend it. The gents are right about lenses being the big investment, but Nikon and Canon both have extremely comprehensive lens ranges, so you can always find what you need.
    The big big big big big "leap of faith" (ie assumption) is that the better the specifications, the better the image ... but sadly if just isn't the case.

    Many factors are significant in making an image - but - they're not EQUALLY significant.

    - A camera with 36MP won't produce a better image than a camera with 24MP unless you're printing the images 30+ inches wide AND THEN examining them with a magnifying glass.

    - A camera with a 14 stop dynamic range won't produce better images than a camera with a 12 stop dynamic range when they're printed on paper with a 4 stop dynamic range or displayed on a screen with a 6 stop dynamic range.

    If I were to shoot a model in my studio with an 8MP 20D or a 60MP Phase One - and present them to you here at a generous 1200 x 800px resolution, I doubt folks would be able to tell the difference.

    Camera specs make very little difference to image quality - what DOES make the difference is photographer skill - lighting - processing - and to a lesser degree, lenses.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Mike,

    When folks compare camera specifications they often give weight to one parameter being better than another, without stopping to consider whether a given parameter with either camera is "more than adequate" (and thus the decision should be based on something else).

    Pixel counts are a prime example; if I display one of my images here at a generous 800 x 1200 pixel resolution then I'm using less than 1MP - if I print an image at a typical competition size of 12 x 8" @ a more than necessary 300DPI then I'm using 8.6MP - so assuming that one has framed a shot reasonable well (ie isn't cropping more than - say - 1/3 of the image) then about the only difference one will notice in shots from cameras greater than 12MP is the higher percentage of pixels that are discarded. Personally, I shoot with a 21MP camera - and typically discard over 95% of the information captured - and STILL have more than enough to present to the world. Along similar lines, folks often use the example of printing large prints as justification for high MP counts, but even this doesn't really stack up; because prints are 2 dimensional, one needs 4 times the number of pixels if one want to double print resolution (ie if you have a typical 18MP camera and you want to double the resolution you'll need a 72MP camera) - but even that is a moot point because as the print size increases, so does the viewing distance - and thus the less detail our eyes can resolve at that distance. So again - once one goes beyond the 8 to 12MP range it's pretty much "academic" as opposed to "real world" photography.

    Low-light is another discussion; I do a lot of low light photography (up to 40 minute exposures) in areas where it's so dark I need to be careful not to trip over my tripod leg whilst wandering around aimlessly waiting for the exposure to finish. In reality - unless you need to hand-hold the camera in extreme low-light - then it'll be secured to a good tripod and any of the 3 you mention will do the job just fine.

    Some suggest handling different bodies and see what feels best - but in my opinion even that doesn't carry a lot of weight; I'm sure if I were to take a 430km/hr Bugatti Veyron for a drive then it would feel pretty weird compared to my Ford Telstar, but that doesn't mean my Telstar is the better car -- it simply means that I need a couple of days to get used to something different. Cameras - or rental cars - or many other things in life are no different.

    So what do I suggest? In reality - if you don't already have an investment in lenses for one brand over another then it honestly won't make ANY difference. People sweat about making the "wrong choice", but in reality there is a HUGE overlap between models such as the 3 you mention. If you have the money then the D800 and 5D3 will both serve you well - but keep in mind that the camera body is only a minor part of what you'll need in the future. You'll also need lenses - flashes - tripods - filters - a remote release - storage cards - processing software etc. If all of that is starting to stretch the budget then a 5D2 may save you enough money to buy something else for your camera system.

    Hope this helps

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Thanks to all who replied to my inquiry. While all gave me some good insights as I move forward, Colin Southern really nailed my issue. That is, will it matter? Will I be able to see what is "better", especially in low light. Colin, your clear exposition of why it won't matter is tremendously helpful. Now that i understand why it won't matter and under what conditions it might, I can move forward. Again, thanks to all of you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Thanks to all who replied to my inquiry. While all gave me some good insights as I move forward, Colin Southern really nailed my issue. That is, will it matter? Will I be able to see what is "better", especially in low light. Colin, your clear exposition of why it won't matter is tremendously helpful. Now that i understand why it won't matter and under what conditions it might, I can move forward. Again, thanks to all of you.
    Does this mean I can't buy a Ferrari to go to the corner dairy any more?

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Use the link to review the technicalities of the cameras to see if one has something over the other that you can't do without. I doubt you will find anything significant to worry about. With that out of the way, go to the personal characteristics.

    If you've done the research to get down to these two then you know that in six months one or the other will leap-frog the other with some indiscriminate small technical advantage and create another model. Whatever you buy will be out-of -date within 24 months. As others have pointed out, you are now down to personal taste. (I hope you like black!) Is there one that appeals to your eyes? Which has the better ergonomics for you? Imagine sitting in a poor chair for a long period of time. If it just doesn't fit right you may not mind too much but you WILL feel it. If you can, walk around the shop for half an hour with each in your hand. The most important consideration I can offer is do you have a friend that is seriously into photography and what does he/she use? It will be a great help if you have someone close you can learn from. (and borrow from).

    http://www.dpreview.com/products/com...cts=nikon_d800

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Colin raises an excellent point, but I think his point is most relevant when you're faced with a broad range of options (ie, entry-level vs. prosumer). Since Mike's already narrowed it down to two cameras at the same price point, the decision is more delicate, which is where DxO Mark results can be helpful. In terms of image quality, the D800 is only behind the 5D mkIII in signal-to-noise ratio across most of the ISO range (probably a consequence of the D800's much higher pixel count). Yes, most monitors and printers are unable to match either camera's quality, but if you're going to spend the same amount of money regardless, why buy a camera with lower performance?

    Other 5D mkIII advantages include (from Colin Southern)

    - the HDR option being limited to JPEG only, and it not saving the source images on the D800?

    - the 5D3 having a higher resolution LED monitor?

    -the 5D3 has 61 AF points -v- the D800's 51

    - the 5D3 has a better signal to noise ratio across most of the sensitivity range

    - D800 is noisier in low artificial light conditions
    Last edited by RustBeltRaw; 26th June 2012 at 10:59 PM. Reason: Incorrect information.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    I think there has been a lot of thoughtful consideration given to your question. I went through a similar struggle when I decided to get my first DSLR about 3-1/2 years ago, and like you had pretty well determined that Nikon and Canon were really the only options. I was not jumping into a full-frame camera at the time, but knew that this would be something I would eventually do (and ended up doing this year).

    The camera web sites are of limited use; they do testing and reviews and frankly most of these tests are done because they look impressive and are relatively easy to perform, but have relatively limited effect on "real life" shooting. What they do not cover off is how the camera will fit you, the photographer. Really, you have to go out and hold a real camera with the len(es) you are most likely going to use to see how the camera feels to you. While the different Canon and Nikon DSLR bodies are different from model to model; the look and feel is really not that different across the range that each company offers.

    My film SLRs were by a different manufacturer, so I did not have a strong bias one way or the other; in fact while I did own some Canon equipment, I did not own anything made by Nikon. I ended up going with the Nikon (D90); it was laid out more intiuitively to the way I shoot. When my D800 arrived about 8 weeks ago, the switch was almost automatic and intuitive. The Canons did not feel as good in my hands and in fact I found them a bit slippery to hold. Physically, we are all built differently; hand size, length of fingers, etc. Ergonmics is one area that is often overlooked when buying something and in my case, it was the determining factor in which body I went with. There is some truth to the thought that you can get used to anything, but ultimately, a tool that feels better in your hands is one that is a more natural fit for you.

    If I go out and buy a hammer, I am going to feel how it swings. When I look at buying a car, how comfortable it is to drive. Why not apply the same approach to your camera purchase?

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    One consideration is the Mark III has no flash. While the on-board flash is limited and takes some knowledge to adequately use it, that means you will also need to kick out some $$$ for a flash. I hear the new flashes from Canon will blow away the ones from Nikon. If you go cheaper with a flash then you are throwing away some of the benefits of the latest cameras. You may also want to check the internet for some user reviews and issues. Nikon has confirmed 2 focus problems with the D800 and Canon is addressing light leaks with the Mark III. There may be other things they've missed in their rush to get to market. The problems may be fixed quickly with new releases but watch the version of your purchases.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    Simply put, there is no area where the D800 falls behind the 5D mkIII
    How about

    - the HDR option being limited to JPEG only, and it not saving the source images on the D800?

    - the 5D3 having a higher resolution LED monitor?

    -the 5D3 has 61 AF points -v- the D800's 51

    - the 5D3 has a better signal to noise ratio across most of the sensitivity range

    - D800 is noisier in low artificial light conditions

    All of which I might add are as meaningless as all of the advantages of the D800 ...

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    i looked at the d800 but decided to keep my trusty d3, i dont care for video or huge files, alot of my friends have got the d700 and non are moving over to the 800, a guy i know has just bought one having moved up from a d300, he is impressed but i guess he would be,cheers martyn

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    How about

    - the HDR option being limited to JPEG only, and it not saving the source images on the D800?

    - the 5D3 having a higher resolution LED monitor?

    -the 5D3 has 61 AF points -v- the D800's 51

    - the 5D3 has a better signal to noise ratio across most of the sensitivity range

    - D800 is noisier in low artificial light conditions

    All of which I might add are as meaningless as all of the advantages of the D800 ...
    Fair points, Colin. Even if I'd limited my statement to image quality, it isn't strictly accurate (SNR). And as a 60D user, I'm in no position to comment on more professional autofocus systems. I've edited my original post accordingly.

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    Fair points, Colin. Even if I'd limited my statement to image quality, it isn't strictly accurate (SNR). And as a 60D user, I'm in no position to comment on more professional autofocus systems. I've edited my original post accordingly.
    No worries

    The point I'm trying to make is that if we list ALL the things that make a difference to the quality of a completed image, things like choosing an appropriate shutter speed / aperture / ISO - appropriate lighting - good composition - good preparation are 99.9% of the battle ... and ... they're also camera independent.

    The remaining 0.1% (SNR at ISO 800 - diffraction - pixel count etc) are just very minor considerations ("distractions" even) most of the time (eg there are times where a 14fps burst from a 1Dx may well yield a money shot where a 3fps 300D loses out).

    It would be interesting to have the "Top Gear" photographic challenge where professional photographers compete for the most professional looking image - working with a $200 budget. If that were me, I'd be buying an old 2nd-hand camera - and put most of the remaining budget into a lens & lighting/reflector - and a few 2nd hand clothes / bit of makeup for the model. I'm willing to bet that I and many others could still come up with a better photo than someone with the latest 24-36MP camera - $2000 lens - and a battery of lights who didn't know how to get the most out of any of it.

    As 7 times Tour-de-France winner Lance Armstrong said: "It's not about the bike".

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    Re: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D Mark III purchase

    I say, "screw the camera and buy a Bugatti!!!"

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