Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D850
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and July 2017. 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 45.4 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|21 MP, Full Frame Sensor||45.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO 100-6400 (50-25600)||ISO 64-25600 (32-102400)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.2" LCD, 2359k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Tilting touchscreen|
|3.9 shutter flaps per second||9 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|850 shots per battery charge||1840 shots per battery charge|
|152 x 114 x 75 mm, 850 g||146 x 124 x 79 mm, 1005 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Nikon D850? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II 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 width, height and depth measures 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 D850 is somewhat larger (4 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. Moreover, the D850 is markedly heavier (18 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 (D850).
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»||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D850«||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299||Nikon D850|
|Canon 6D Mark II« »||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999||Canon 6D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 80D« »||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199||Canon 80D|
|Canon 5DS« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D« »||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||Canon 6D|
|Canon 7D« »||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D« »||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D810« »||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299||Nikon D810|
|Nikon D800« »||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999||Nikon D800|
|Nikon D800E« »||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299||Nikon D800E|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
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 D850 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the 5D Mark II at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 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. The sensor area in the D850 is 1 percent smaller. 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.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixels, compared with 21 MP of the 5D Mark II. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 6.41μm for the 5D Mark II). However, it should be noted that the D850 is much more recent (by 8 years and 10 months) than the 5D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. 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.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.3 x 27.5 inch or 104.9 x 69.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33 x 22 inch or 83.9 x 55.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.5 x 18.3 inch or 69.9 x 46.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 5D Mark II are 28.1 x 18.7 inch or 71.3 x 47.5 cm for good quality, 22.5 x 15 inch or 57.1 x 38 cm for very good quality, and 18.7 x 12.5 inch or 47.5 x 31.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
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 D850 are ISO 64 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 32-102400.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D850 offers substantially better image quality than the 5D Mark II (overall score 21 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.7 bits higher color depth, 2.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 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.
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100||Nikon D850|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85||Canon 6D 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 80D||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.6||13.2||1135||79||Canon 80D|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||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 7D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.0||11.7||854||66||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97||Nikon D810|
|Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95||Nikon D800|
|Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96||Nikon D800E|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the D850 provides a better video resolution than the 5D Mark II. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark II 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 viewfinder in the D850 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 5D Mark II (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D850 has a higher magnification (0.75x vs 0.71x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 5D Mark II, the Nikon D850, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n||Canon 5D Mark II|
|Nikon D850||optical||Y||3.2||2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0||n||n||Nikon D850|
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n||Canon 6D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 80D||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||7.0||Y||n||Canon 80D|
|Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Canon 6D||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.5||n||n||Canon 6D|
|Canon 7D||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0||Y||n||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D810||optical||Y||3.2||1229||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||n||Nikon D810|
|Nikon D800||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||Y||n||Nikon D800|
|Nikon D800E||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||Y||n||Nikon D800E|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D850 has a touchscreen, while the 5D Mark II has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Nikon D850 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The 5D Mark II writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D850 uses SDHC or XQD cards. The D850 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.
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 D850 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 D850||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y||Nikon D850|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y||Canon 6D Mark II|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 5D Mark IV|
|Canon 80D||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 80D|
|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 7D||Y||mono||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 7D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 5D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D|
|Nikon D810||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-||Nikon D810|
|Nikon D800||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Nikon D800|
|Nikon D800E||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Nikon D800E|
It is notable that the D850 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the 5D Mark II does not offer wifi capability.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
The D850 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the 5D Mark II has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 5D Mark II was succeeded by the Canon 5D Mark III. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D850? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 155g or 15 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 21MP), which boosts linear resolution by 47%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (21 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.7 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.75x vs 0.71x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 920k 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 3.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 850) out of a single battery charge.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 10 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D850 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 5D Mark II and the D850 in practical situations. 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.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
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 make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon G3 X
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon T6i
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Fujifilm XP130
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon Z6
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony A6600
- Fujifilm X-M1 vs Nikon D850
- Leica S2 vs Nikon D850
- Nikon D850 vs Panasonic GH4
- Nikon D850 vs Panasonic LX100
- Nikon D850 vs Sony A3000
- Nikon D850 vs Sony H200
- Nikon D850 vs Sony HX99
Specifications: Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D850
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2008||July 2017|
|Launch Price||USD 3499||USD 3299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||21 Megapixels||45.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5616 x 3744 pixels||8256 x 5504 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.41 μm||4.35 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||5.30 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-6400 ISO||64-25600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50-25600 ISO||32-102400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||EXPEED 5|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||100|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||26.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||14.8|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1815||2660|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|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||3.2 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.9 shutter flaps/s||9 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||150 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Nikon D850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||1840 shots per charge|
152 x 114 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in)
146 x 124 x 79 mm
(5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||850 g (30.0 oz)||1005 g (35.5 oz)|
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