Canon 5D Mark III versus Nikon D800
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2012 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 22.1 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 36.2 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 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. 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 5D Mark III – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the D800 is markedly heavier (5 percent) than the 5D Mark III. 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 III) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D800).
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 camera comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||YES||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D800 (⇒ lft)||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||YES||2012||2,999||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||YES||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||YES||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||YES||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||920||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.7 oz||1120||YES||2011||6,799||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||YES||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||YES||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||YES||2014||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||YES||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.6 in||26.8 oz||1400||YES||2013||2,749||latest||check|
|Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||YES||2012||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||YES||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
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 D800 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 14 percent) than the 5D Mark III, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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 III vs Nikon D800
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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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.
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.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D800 offers a higher resolution of 36.2 megapixel, compared with 22.1 MP of the 5D Mark III. 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 4.88μm versus 6.25μm for the 5D Mark III). It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.
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 D800 offers substantially better image quality than the 5D Mark III (overall score 14 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 2.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 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 III (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24||11.7||2293||81|
|Nikon D800 (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|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 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||22.5||11.6||926||68|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||no||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|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|
|Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||no||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).
Feature comparison: Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark III and the D800 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 III and Nikon D800 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.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||6.0||no||no|
|Nikon D800 (⇒ lft)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||4.0||12||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 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||7.0||12||no|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||no||4000||4.5||no||no|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||fixed||no||8000||3.9||no||no|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||3.0||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|
|Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||8.0||12||no|
Both the 5D Mark III and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D800 was replaced by the Nikon D810, while the 5D Mark III was followed by the Canon 5D Mark IV.
Review summary: Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 921k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 22.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 28%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (14 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.7 EV of extra DR).
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (6 : 2 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.
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 III or the D800. 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D800 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2012||2,999||discont.||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 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2011||6,799||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||91/100||79/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||-||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2014||3,299||discont.||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|
|Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||84/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2012||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||89/100||HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
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. 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. 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? 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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