Canon XSi vs Nikon D800
The Canon EOS Rebel XSi (called Canon 450D in some regions) and the Nikon D800 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2008 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (XSi) and a full frame (D800) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 36.2 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 Rebel XSi and the Nikon D800? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon XSi and the Nikon D800. 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 dimensions 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 D800 is notably larger (42 percent) than the Canon XSi. Moreover, the D800 is substantially heavier (91 percent) than the XSi. It is noteworthy in this context that the D800 is splash and dust-proof, while the XSi does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 (XSi) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D800).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon XSi||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||524 g||500||n||Jan 2008||799||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon T6i||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649||ebay.com|
|5.||Canon T4i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||575 g||440||n||Jun 2012||849||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon T3||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||495 g||700||n||Feb 2011||449||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon XS||126 mm||98 mm||65 mm||502 g||500||n||Jun 2008||449||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299||ebay.com|
|11.||Canon XTi||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||n||Aug 2006||799||ebay.com|
|12.||Canon XT||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|16.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|17.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|Note: 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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The XSi was launched at a markedly lower price (by 73 percent) than the D800, 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.
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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon XSi features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D800 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D800 is 162 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the XSi (12.2MP), but the D800 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 5.19μm for the XSi). Yet, the D800 is a much more recent model (by 4 years) than the XSi, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D800 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D800 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon XSi are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.3 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.1 x 11.4 inches or 43.4 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.5 inches or 36.2 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS Rebel XSi has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D800 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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 XSi (overall score 34 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.4 bits higher color depth, 3.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 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.
|2.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|13.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|14.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|15.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|17.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D800 indeed provides for movie recording, while the XSi does not. The highest resolution format that the D800 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The XSi 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 viewfinder in the D800 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the XSi (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D800 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.54x), 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 XSi, the Nikon D800, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon XSi||optical||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5/s||Y||n|
|2.||Nikon D800||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|3.||Canon T6i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|4.||Canon T6s||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|5.||Canon T4i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Canon T3||optical||n||2.7 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7/s||Y||n|
|8.||Canon T1i||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4/s||Y||n|
|9.||Canon XS||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|10.||Canon 40D||optical||Y||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.5/s||Y||n|
|11.||Canon XTi||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|12.||Canon XT||optical||n||1.8 / 115||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|13.||Nikon D850||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0/s||n||n|
|14.||Nikon D810||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|15.||Nikon D610||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Nikon D800E||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|17.||Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0/s||Y||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that is present on the D800, but is missing on the XSi is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D800 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.
The XSi writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the D800 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D800 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the XSi only has one slot. The D800 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the XSi cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 Rebel XSi and Nikon D800 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon XSi||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Nikon D800||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon T6i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|4.||Canon T6s||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Canon T4i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon T3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon T2i||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon T1i||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon XS||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Canon 40D||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Canon XTi||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Canon XT||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D850||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Nikon D810||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D610||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Nikon D700||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D800 (unlike the XSi) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the XSi and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The XSi was replaced by the Canon T1i, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810. Further information on the features and operation of the XSi and D800 can be found, respectively, in the Canon XSi Manual (free pdf) or the online Nikon D800 Manual.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon XSi or the Nikon D800 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS Rebel XSi:
- More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 146x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 476g or 48 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (73 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2008).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D800:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 72%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (34 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.54x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- 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 (921k vs 230k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3.5 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 (900 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 4 years of technical progress since the XSi launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (21 : 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 XSi and the Nikon D800 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the XSi and the D800 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Canon XSi||..||+ +||..||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||799||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon T6i||5/5||..||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649||ebay.com|
|5.||Canon T4i||4/5||+ +||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon T3||..||80/100||..||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon XS||..||82/100||..||+ +||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2008||449||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299||ebay.com|
|11.||Canon XTi||..||+ +||..||+ +||o||4/5||Aug 2006||799||ebay.com|
|12.||Canon XT||..||80/100||..||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||5/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||5/5||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|16.||Nikon D800E||..||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|17.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||..||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon XSi vs Nikon D800
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 XSi||Nikon D800|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2008||February 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 2,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon XSi||Nikon D800|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.2 x 14.8 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||328.56 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.7 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4272 x 2848 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.19 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.70 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 3||EXPEED 3|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||61||95|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.9||25.3|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.8||14.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||692||2853|
|Screen Specs||Canon XSi||Nikon D800|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon XSi||Nikon D800|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.5 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon XSi||Nikon D800|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon XSi||Nikon D800|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||900 shots per charge|
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
146 x 123 x 82 mm
(5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||524 g (18.5 oz)||1000 g (35.3 oz)|
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