Canon 5D vs Nikon D300
The Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D300 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2005 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (5D) and an APS-C (D300) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12.7 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D300? 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.
The physical size and weight of the Canon 5D and the Nikon D300 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 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 D300 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Canon 5D. However, the D300 is slightly heavier (3 percent) than the 5D. 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D300).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Canon 6D Mark II||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 6D||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 50D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D200||147 mm||113 mm||74 mm||920 g||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 45 percent) than the 5D, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 5D features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D300 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 12.7MP, the 5D offers a slightly higher resolution than the D300 (12.2MP), but the 5D nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.25μm versus 5.53μm for the D300) due to its larger sensor. However, the D300 is a much more recent model (by 2 years) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The Canon EOS 5D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D300 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 review, the 5D has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D300 (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1 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.
| DXO |
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D and the D300 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 D300 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 5D (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the 5D has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.63x), 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, the Nikon D300, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D300 has one, while the 5D does not. While the built-in flash of the D300 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D300 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 5D and the D300 write their files to Compact Flash cards.
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 and Nikon D300 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 5D and the D300 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark II, while the D300 was followed by the Nikon D300S. 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 how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 5D or the Nikon D300 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1 stops ISO advantage).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.63x).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2005).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300:
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3 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 (1000 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (45 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the 5D launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 4 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. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 and the Nikon D300 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 and the D300 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 why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera 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.
|Canon 5D||88/100||+ +||o||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Canon 6D Mark II||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 5DS||+||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 6D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Canon 5D Mark II||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 50D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||o||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D200||+ +||+ +||o||5/5||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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. 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
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Canon 5D vs Nikon D300
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||Nikon D300|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2005||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 3,299||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D300|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.7 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4368 x 2912 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.25 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.47 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 2||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||67|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.9||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.1||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1368||679|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D300|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D300|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D300|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D300|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400 shots per charge||1000 shots per charge|
152 x 113 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 in)
147 x 114 x 74 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
|Camera Weight||895 g (31.6 oz)||925 g (32.6 oz)|
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