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Canon 5D Mark II versus 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 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D850 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 5D Mark II – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Canon 5D Mark II vs Nikon D850 front
5D Mark II versus D850 top view
5D Mark II and D850 rear side
Body view (5D Mark II on the left)

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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark II) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D850).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 YES 2008 3,499discont. check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 YES 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 YES 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) 145 mm 111 mm 71 mm 770 g 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 YES 2009 1,699discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 YES 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 YES 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 YES 2013 2,749 latest check

The listed 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras 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.

Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D850 sensor measures
Sensor size

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixel, compared with 21 MP of the 5D Mark II. This megapixel 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.

5D Mark II versus D850 MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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"). 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 1080/30p 23.7 11.9 1815 79
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 45.4 8256 5504 4K/30p 26.4 14.8 2660 100
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 26.0 6240 4160 1080/60p 24.4 11.9 2862 85
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 30.1 6720 4480 4K/30p 24.8 13.6 2995 91
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.7 12.4 2381 87
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.0 11.7 854 66
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 no 24.0 12.0 1663 80
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.7 14.8 2853 97
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 no 24.6 13.1 3279 89

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture 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.

Feature comparison

Beyond 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 3.9 no no
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 9.0 no no
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 7.0 no no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 no no

The D850 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. 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.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D Mark II? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Advantages of 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).

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Reasons to prefer 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).
  • 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.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 850) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 10 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 3 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.

5D Mark II 03:14 D850

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark II or the D850. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ rgt) 91/100 79/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 - 2008 3,499discont. check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) HiRec 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 93/100 HiRec 84/100 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,699discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec 4.5/5 - - 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) - 81/100 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,749 latest check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes 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. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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