Nikon D800 versus Canon 5D Mark II
The Nikon D800 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2012 and September 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 36.2 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 21 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: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side 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 side – the D800 – represents the basis for the calculations 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 Canon 5D Mark II is somewhat smaller (4 percent) than the Nikon D800. Moreover, the 5D Mark II is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the D800. 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 Nikon Lens Catalog (D800) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark II).
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
|Nikon D800 (⇒ rgt)||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||YES||2012||2,999||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft)||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||YES||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||YES||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||YES||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt)||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||YES||2009||1,699||discont.||check|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||YES||2007||7,999||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||YES||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||YES||2017||3,299||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|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||YES||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||YES||2012||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||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 II, 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: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II
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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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 Nikon D800 offers a higher resolution of 36.2 megapixel, compared with 21 MP of the Canon 5D Mark II. 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 6.41μm for the 5D Mark II). However, it should be noted that the D800 is much more recent (by 3 years and 4 months) than the 5D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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 D800 provides substantially higher image quality than the 5D Mark II, with an overall score that is 16 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.
|Nikon D800 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.0||11.7||854||66|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||no||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||no||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|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 D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|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 can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).
Feature comparison: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D800 and the 5D Mark II 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 Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark II 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.
|Nikon D800 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||4.0||12||no|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft)||optical||YES||3.0||920||fixed||no||8000||3.9||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||7.0||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||6.0||no||no|
|Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||fixed||no||8000||8.0||12||no|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||230||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||3.0||no||no|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||9.0||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 D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.5||12||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 D800 and the 5D Mark II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark III, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810.
Review summary: Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark II
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D800 better than the Canon 5D Mark II or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (36.2 vs 21MP) with a 31% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 4 months of technical progress since the 5D Mark II launch.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 150g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2008).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 is the clear winner of the match-up (9 : 2 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision 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 D800 and the 5D Mark II 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D800 (⇒ rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2012||2,999||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft)||91/100||79/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||-||2008||3,499||discont.||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 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt)||93/100 HiRec||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||1,699||discont.||check|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||4.5/5||-||-||2007||7,999||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||3,299||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|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||2,099||discont.||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 ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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