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Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800, and the winner is…

…Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III!!

I compared tech specs of both cameras, and there is not much to investigate. The advantages of the EOS 5D Mark over Nikon’s D800 are evident

  • Light sensitivity: 25,600 vs 6,400 (2 f-stops more)
  • Auto Focus: more advanced (most advanced in this price category, and more cross-type focus points (41 vs 15, grabs focus in difficult situation where the D800 can’t)
  • Overall Auto Focus points: 61 vs 51 (more accuracy)
  • LCD screen: bigger, higher resolution (1,040k dots vs 921k dots, that’s 10% more)
  • ISO boost: 2 f-stops better (50-102,400 vs 100-25,600)
  • Shooting speed: 6 fps vs 4 fps (50% faster than the D800)
  • Video: more modes
    • Canon: 1920×1080 at 30/ 25/ 24 fps, 1280×720 at 60/ 50 fps and 640×480 at 30/ 25 fps
    • Nikon: 1920×1080 at 30/ 24 fps and 1280×720 at 60/ 30/ 24 fps
  • Video #2: NTSC or PAL
  • Video formats: MPEG-4 and H.264 vs H.264 only
  • Supported cards:
    • Canon: CompactFlash (CF Type I), CompactFlash (CF Type II), SD, SDHC, SDXC
    • Nikon: CompactFlash (CF Type I), SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Connections:
    • Canon: Proprietary, Accessory shoe, USB, HDMI, 3.5mm stereo audio, Flash Sync
    • Nikon: USB, HDMI mini, 3.5mm stereo audio
  • Size: 5D Mark III thinner (3″ vs 3.2″, 10%) and smaller (152x116x76mm vs 146x123x82mm, 10%)
  • EOS system family: more lenses

Now let’s see where Nikon’s D800 shines out:

  • Higher resolution (36.2 vs 22.1, more detail – but comes with the cost of worse ISO performance, shooting speed)
  • Built-in flash
  • Price tag: $2,999 vs 3,499 (approx. 14% less)
  • Weight: 900g vs 950g (10% lighter)
Sorry Nikon fanboys, but there is really nothing that makes the D800 more attractive. Ok, 36MP give you more details and resolution, but the costs are too high for me. Having good low light performance, 6 fps, an exceptional Auto-Focus system – with 41 high precision cross-type points vs the 15 of the D800 – are all things I prefer and consider more relevant. I am not a fan of high resolution sensors. At least not if I have to miss what I would call “rock-solid” performance. The EOS 5D Mark III simply outperforms Nikon’s D800 for everything that really counts. Again: sorry Nikon, but there is no competition.
Even Nikon shooters are enthusiastic about Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III. Take wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer, which used an EOS 5D Mark III for a wedding shooting sessions and was truly satisfied by it. He writes:

So why am I so excited about the Canon 5D Mark III? On the surface, it seems like an incremental upgrade. […] I’m excited because for the first time at semi-affordable rates, Canon users can combine the most comprehensive DSLR lens line-up with a full-frame camera that has no major drawbacks.

Indeed, the advanced autofocus is one of the most acclaimed features/tweaks of the EOS 5D Mark III. On the 5D Mark II it was not on a level professionals photographer wanted. Brenizers says:

Has Canon finally fixed the autofocus in the 5D line? In a word? Abso-freaking-lutely. The autofocus is accurate, fast, and a pleasure to use — in some ways moreso than the Nikon D3s. I immediately turned off all sensors except the extra-sensitive cross-type sensors — and still had 41 left! Combined with the joystick, I never have to play the focus and recompose game very much unless I want my point of focus to be at the very edge of the frame. And even then I can get it close enough to not compromise the accuracy of my focal plane, which can matter when you’re shooting with a lens like the 50mm f/1.2L

Then, there are the video capabilities of the EOS 5D Mark III, which are simply great (imho). Have a look at the following two videos Not only the 5D Mark III video looks warmer and has more vibrant colors, but things almost pop-out, it gives an overall more cinema-like experience.



Nikon D800


Another comparison 5D Mark III vs D800

Even Kai W of DigitalRev, a self-proclaimed Nikon fanboy, says he “would buy the EOS 5D Mark III”. See his 15min comparison between the EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D800. The cameras are compared both for video and still performance.

Kai has also a (new) 16min hands-on video about the EOS 5D Mark III, a good review of the features and highlights of the EOS 5D Mark III.

Want to see the latest pics made with a EOS 5D Mark III uploaded to Flickr and to check our live-ticker for possible deals? Yes? Then click here.

World-wide EOS 5D Mark III price check: Amazon, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay, Adorama, Canon USA

This shops all have the 5D Mark III in stock and ready for shipping, some offer various kit combinations:

  • Amazon: 5D Mark III w/24-105mm f/4 L $4,299 – click here
  • Canon store: 5D Mark III w/24-105mm f/4 L $4,299 – click here
  • B&H: 5D Mark III body $3,499 – click here
  • J&R: 5D Mark III body $3,499 – click here
  • J&R: 5D Mark III w/24-105mm f/4 L $4,299 – click here (NOTE: shows up as out of stock, should be in stock in a few hours)
  • Adorama: 5D Mark III body + free photo-book $3,499 – click here
  • Adorama: 5D Mark III w/24-105mm f/4 L $4,299 –click here
  • DigitalRev: 5D Mark III body – location-based price, different kit options, ships in 24h – click here
  • DigitalRev: 5D Mark III w/24-105mm f/4 L – location-based price, different kit options, ships in 24h – click here

Have a nice day, or night… :-)


  • Scotch

    seriously this time Canon make a better shutter (mirror) sound, no joke

  • dbms

    The fatal mistake of D800 is DIRECT PRINT button and RATE button are missing.

  • M

    A bit late for 1st. of April but good try :-)

  • N

    Exactly what M said…Happy April Fools Day

  • Peter

    wait wait wait…. ken “the dumb” rockwell wrote NOBOFY will ever figure out teh MK3 AF system.

    i mean he cant be wrong?
    im sure he tried to photograh his ugly kids with the Mk3 and he did not succeed……

    • Scotch

      that’s kind of mean, Peter!
      but I like it

  • Thomas

    This is a joke right?

    D800 has UHS support for SD-cards, 5D3 haven’t
    D800 supports USB3, 5D3 only USB2

    Which ISO is supported means less, which ISO actually performs well means everything. The tests I have seen shows 5D3 and D800 are similar on 3200-25600, so no clear winner there

    At low ISO D800 is far superior. It have much more DR than 5D3.

    Want something bad about D800? It’s hard to come up with much but these are the few things I have found:
    Doesn’t use the full sensor when doing video (it does use 91% so it’s quite close, APS-C is a mere 39%, so it’s not even close to being APS-C sized when doing video)
    The live view have problems at magnifications, where the 5D3 seems to work perfectly.

    • Frank

      It’s not.

  • Gabriel

    Looking at the video, the Canon one is too redhish. Nikon one is more neutral, with better grey tone.

    • Frank

      I would say that saturation is better on the 5D3

    • Scotch

      you can adjust color profile no?

  • Carl Franklin

    Well. Everybody, somehow this review misses out on the uncompressed HDMI video out pf the D800, which is a killer feature for those who want to work with the camera in a production enviroment. So in terms of internal, the Canon may offer more features, but the option to record uncompressed sure is a killer feature with the Nikon.

  • Dan

    You lost me with the first comparison, 6400 vs 25600. How about doing a comparison at 12800? Need something more meaning full. This is written by someone grasping at straws to make the 5D3 look better. The evidence is in the IQ.

    • Frank

      I think you got mistaken. 100-6400 is the ISO range of the D800,extendable to 25600 (same as D700). The 5D Mark III has 100-25600, extendable to 50-102800. It’s a concrete difference, IMHO.

  • MikeT

    Most of the photographers that I know that have bought this are studio shooters or landscape photographers. All of them have ‘higher end’ cameras than the D800, but for their core business the D800 seems superior. All of the other specs seem to fall off the radar (high ISO, frame rate, video etc) since they never use it.

    • Frank

      You are right. But then: for me high ISO, an advanced AF and 6fps are much more important than a 36Mp sensor.

  • EOS

    End Of Statement … can not make it

  • Mik

    From what i read, this is a bias review.

  • Nike

    Pure insane.

  • ISO above 6400 for practical purposes just does not matter. At all. Sensor ratings actually favor the D800 in low light and high ISO…..

    Also, you make a big deal about the Mk III’s autofocus in difficult situations? The D800 can autofocus using its cross-type sensors at f/8. The Mk III? F/4. Yea, that is two full stops less. f/8 also happens to be a very useful aperture to shoot at if you ever want to shoot…anything…..


    Would you really expect an unbiased review on a Canon website? This is based soley on the specs printed in the manual… do a side-by-side of the raw images and then give your verdict if you want to actually provide us with a service.

  • stando

    such poor unbalanced reviews are a total LOST OF TIME for the READER

  • dole

    Doesn’t the D800 give you the ability to switch to DX when needed (even with a FX lens)? If this is the case, then it looks like you have two camera instead of one: you can abandon full frame and switch to a higher focal lens when needed. That seems like a big advantage to me. With 5DIII or 6D, you still need to bag a 7D with you for long shots…

  • stark zayed

    Hi everyone’s I hv both camera d800 and 5d mk III ….but in my experience I would say is best in pure colour tone natural skin ,hair,dress and every color tone but Nikon doesn’t… Nikon is just for name.. but the canon is master of imagination, master of colour productions, master of fashion photography.. even see fashion TV ..there’s all photographer use only canon EOS 1d or mk III instead of Nikon…I am not saying tat I hate Nikon,? But I hv eyes to see and brain to feel …and I can see and feel tat canon is best…and Nikon is best for wildlife photography…. so its up to you….. wat u choose… thank you….

  • stark zayed

    All low budget film maker are using canon 5d mk III or ii for film video camera instead of Nikon…..

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