Canon 5D Mark III versus Nikon D850
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in March 2012 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 22.1 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 5D Mark III vs Nikon D850
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D850 is provided 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. You can also use the toggle button 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 D850 is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the D850 is markedly heavier (6 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 (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 camera comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||YES||2012||3,499||discont.||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 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1551 g||1120||YES||2011||6,799||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||YES||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||YES||2005||3,299||discont.||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||3,299||discont.||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 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 III 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: Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D850
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 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.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 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 4.35μm versus 6.25μm for the 5D Mark III). However, it should be noted that the D850 is much more recent (by 5 years and 4 months) than the 5D Mark III, 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D850 offers substantially better image quality than the 5D Mark III (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 3.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24||11.7||2293||81|
|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 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 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. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D850 provides a better video resolution than the 5D Mark III. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Feature comparison: Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D850
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark III 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 III and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, 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 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 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 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 III has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 5D Mark III was succeeded by the Canon 5D Mark IV.
Review summary: Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D850
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D850? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in March 2012).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 22.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.1 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1040k 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 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 950) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 4 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark III launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 2 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.
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 III or the D850 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. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||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 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 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||3,299||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|
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 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
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