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Canon 30D versus Nikon D850

The Canon EOS 30D and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2006 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (30D) and a full frame (D850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 30D vs Nikon D850

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 30D and the Nikon D850 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 30D – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 30D vs Nikon D850
Compare 30D versus D850 top
Compare 30D and D850 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is notably larger (19 percent) than the Canon 30D. Moreover, the D850 is markedly heavier (28 percent) than the 30D. It is noteworthy in this context that the D850 is splash and dust-proof, while the 30D does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (30D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D850).

Concerning battery life, the 30D gets 750 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 30D» 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 n Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
Nikon D850« 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 70D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 50D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 40D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
Canon XTi« » 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
Canon XT« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 n Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Canon 20D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 700 n Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 30D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 58 percent) than the D850, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 30D vs Nikon D850

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 30D features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D850 is 154 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 30D and Nikon D850 sensor measures

With 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the 30D (8.2MP), but the D850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 6.42μm for the 30D). Yet, the D850 is a much more recent model (by 11 years and 5 months) than the 30D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

30D versus D850 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D850 offers substantially better image quality than the 30D (overall score 41 points higher). The advantage is based on 4.9 bits higher color depth, 4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 30D» APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.510.873659Canon 30D
Nikon D850« Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668Canon 70D
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon 50D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
Canon 40D« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.370364Canon 40D
Canon XTi« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.066462Canon XTi
Canon XT« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760Canon XT
Canon 20D« » APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.911.072162Canon 20D
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461Nikon D80
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364Nikon D200

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D850 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 30D does not. The highest resolution format that the D850 can use is 4K/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 30D vs Nikon D850

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 30D and the D850 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 30D and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 30D»optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Canon 30D
Nikon D850«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 8000 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon 50D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
Canon 40D« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 6.5 Y n Canon 40D
Canon XTi« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon XTi
Canon XT« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon XT
Canon 20D« »optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Canon 20D
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
Nikon D200« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D200

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 30D has one, while the D850 does not. While the build-in flash of the 30D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The D850 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the 30D has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 30D was succeeded by the Canon 40D.

Review summary: Canon 30D vs Nikon D850

So how do things add up? Is the Canon 30D better than the Nikon D850 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Canon EOS 30D:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More compact: Is smaller (144x106mm vs 146x124mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 220g or 22 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (58 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2006).

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 136%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (41 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (4.9 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (4 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 750) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More modern: Reflects 11 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 30D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

30D 06:15 D850

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 30D and the D850 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 30D»HiRecHiRecrevrev- Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
Nikon D850«HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 70D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »Rec79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 50D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 40D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
Canon XTi« »HiRecHiRecrev4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
Canon XT« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Canon 20D« »-HiRec-rev- Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D80« »RecHiRecrev4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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