Canon 5DS versus Nikon D850
The Canon EOS 5DS and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2015 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 50.3 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 5DS vs Nikon D850
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5DS 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 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 5DS – represents the basis or 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 5DS. Moreover, the D850 is markedly heavier (8 percent) than the 5DS. 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 (5DS) 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 5DS»||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Nikon D850«||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Canon 6D Mark II« »||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 5DS R« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 6D« »||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II« »||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||-|
|Canon 5D« »||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||-|
|Nikon D5« »||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D810« »||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299||-|
|Nikon D610« »||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon Df« »||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.6 in||26.8 oz||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Sony A99 II« »||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||29.9 oz||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
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 launched at a somewhat lower price (by 11 percent) than the 5DS, 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 5DS vs Nikon D850
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. 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 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.
With 50.3MP, the 5DS offers a higher resolution than the D850 (45.4MP), but the 5DS has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.14μm versus 4.35μm for the D850). Moreover, the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 5 months) than the 5DS, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 5DS (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.7 bits higher color depth, 2.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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 5DS»||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Nikon D850«||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|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 1D X Mark II« »||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 5DS R« »||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 6D« »||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 5D Mark II« »||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 5D« »||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||-||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Nikon D5« »||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D500« »||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83|
|Nikon D810« »||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon D610« »||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon Df« »||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||-||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|Sony A99 II« »||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. 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 5DS. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/60p.
Feature comparison: Canon 5DS vs Nikon D850
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5DS 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 5DS and Nikon D850 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 6D Mark II« »||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||4000||6.5||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||8000||7.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||8000||16.0||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R« »||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||8000||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 6D« »||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||4000||4.5||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||8000||6.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark II« »||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||8000||3.9||n||n|
|Canon 5D« »||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||8000||3.0||n||n|
|Nikon D5« »||optical||Y||3.2||2359||fixed||Y||8000||14.0||n||n|
|Nikon D500« »||optical||Y||3.2||2359||tilting||Y||8000||10.0||n||n|
|Nikon D810« »||optical||Y||3.2||1229||fixed||n||4000||5.0||Y||n|
|Nikon D610« »||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||4000||6.0||Y||n|
|Nikon Df« »||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||4000||5.5||n||n|
|Sony A99 II« »||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||8000||12.0||n||Y|
Both the 5DS and the D850 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D850 replaced the earlier Nikon D810, while the 5DS does not have a direct predecessor.
Review summary: Canon 5DS vs Nikon D850
So how do things add up? Is the Canon 5DS better than the Nikon D850 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5DS:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (50.3 vs 45.4MP) with a 5% higher linear resolution.
- 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 February 2015).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- 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 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 700) out of a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (11 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 5DS 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 : 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 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 says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 5DS and the D850 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.
|Canon 5DS»||Rec||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Nikon D850«||HiRec||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Canon 6D Mark II« »||Rec||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV« »||HiRec||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 1D X Mark II« »||-||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 5DS R« »||Rec||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 6D« »||HiRec||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III« »||HiRec||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II« »||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||-||Sep 2008||3,499||-|
|Canon 5D« »||88/100||HiRec||rev||rev||-||Aug 2005||3,299||-|
|Nikon D5« »||-||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500« »||HiRec||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D810« »||-||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299||-|
|Nikon D610« »||HiRec||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon Df« »||-||81/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Sony A99 II« »||-||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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