Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Nikon D3 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 21 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their sensors, their features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
|Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D3|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|21 MP, Full Frame Sensor||12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-6400 (50-25600)||ISO 200-6400 (100-25600)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.0" LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3.9 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|850 shots per battery charge||4300 shots per battery charge|
|152 x 114 x 75 mm, 850 g||160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1300 g|
Body comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D3. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3 is considerably larger (45 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (53 percent) than the 5D Mark II. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
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. Yet, since both cameras are based around a full frame sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark II) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 5D Mark II gets 850 shots out of its LP-E6 battery, while the D3 can take 4300 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the 5D Mark II, Canon provides the BG-E6 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||-||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D3«||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999||-||Nikon D3|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||-||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||-||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.7 oz||1120||Y||Oct 2011||6,799||-||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||30.3 oz||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699||-||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||5.9 in||6.3 in||3.1 in||48.9 oz||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||-||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D4« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999||-||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199||-||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999||-||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||-||Nikon D700|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 5D Mark II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 percent) than the D3, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
Sensor comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 21MP, the 5D Mark II offers a higher resolution than the D3 (12.1MP), but the 5D Mark II has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.41μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, the 5D Mark II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the D3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 50-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600..
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D3«||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||-||23.5||12.2||2290||81||Nikon D3|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.7||12.4||2381||87||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.6||12.4||2308||86||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.0||11.7||854||66||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||-||22.7||11.7||1078||71||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||-||24.0||12.0||1663||80||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||-||22.9||11.1||1368||71||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D4« »||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||-||24.7||13.7||1992||88||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||-||23.5||12.2||2303||80||Nikon D700|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 5D Mark II indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark II can use is 1080/30p.
Feature comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 5D Mark II and the D3 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 5D Mark II and Nikon D3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||8000||3.9||n||n||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D3«||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||8000||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||8000||16.0||n||n||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|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 5DS R« »||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||8000||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||8000||6.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||4000||4.5||n||n||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||8000||14.0||n||n||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||8000||8.0||Y||n||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||8000||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||8000||5.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||8000||3.0||n||n||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D4« »||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||8000||11.0||n||n||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||8000||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||8000||5.0||n||n||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||8000||8.0||Y||n||Nikon D700|
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 5D Mark II and the D3 write their files to Compact Flash cards. The D3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 5D Mark II only has one slot.
Connectivity comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D3«||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||Y||mono||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||Y||mono||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D4« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||Y||stereo||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D700|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 5D Mark II and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3 was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the 5D Mark II was followed by the Canon 5D Mark III.
Review summary: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
So how do things add up? Is the Canon 5D Mark II better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (21 vs 12.1MP) with a 32% higher linear resolution.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- More compact: Is smaller (152x114mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 450g or 35 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year after the D3).
Advantages of the Nikon D3:
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4300 versus 850) out of a single battery charge.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2007).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (6 points each). 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.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 5D Mark II or the D3 handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
Expert reviews: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.
|Canon 5D Mark II»||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||-||Sep 2008||3,499||-||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D3«||-||HiRec||5/5||rev||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999||-||Nikon D3|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||-||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999||Canon 1D X Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||HiRec||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 5DS« »||Rec||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||Rec||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||HiRec||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499||-||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||HiRec||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||-||Canon 6D|
|Canon 1D X« »||-||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2011||6,799||-||Canon 1D X|
|Canon 7D« »||HiRec||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699||-||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||-||-||-||rev||-||Feb 2007||4,499||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||-||HiRec||4.5/5||-||-||Aug 2007||7,999||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||88/100||HiRec||rev||rev||-||Aug 2005||3,299||-||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D4« »||-||-||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999||-||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||-||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199||-||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||-||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999||-||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||89/100||HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999||-||Nikon D700|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon T6s vs Leica CL
- Fujifilm X-T1 vs Leica M10-P
- Fujifilm X-T100 vs Canon 200D
- Fujifilm X100 vs Olympus E-PM1
- Fujifilm X100F vs Sony RX10 II
- Fujifilm X30 vs Leica CL
- Fujifilm XF10 vs Canon 70D
- Leica M8 vs Fujifilm X-A3
- Nikon P900 vs Canon SX70
- Panasonic GM1 vs Olympus E-PL7
- Sony A7R II vs Nikon D5600
- Sony RX100 III vs Nikon D810
Specifications: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D3
|Camera Model||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2008||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 3499||USD 4999|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||21 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5616 x 3744 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.41 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100-6400 ISO||200-6400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50-25600 ISO||100-25600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1815||2290|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3.9 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Type||LP-E6 power pack||EN-EL4a power pack|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
152 x 114 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||850 g (30.0 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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