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Nikon D850 versus Canon 5D Mark IV

The Nikon D850 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2017 and August 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 45.4 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 30.1 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D850 and the Canon 5D Mark IV are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D850 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV front
D850 versus 5D Mark IV top view
D850 and 5D Mark IV rear side
Body view (D850 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D Mark IV is somewhat smaller (3 percent) than the Nikon D850. Moreover, the 5D Mark IV is markedly lighter (11 percent) than the D850. 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 (D850) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark IV).

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D850 (⇒ rgt) 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 YES 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft) 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 YES 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 YES 2017 1,999 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 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest 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 3,299discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 YES 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 3,299discont. check

The listed 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 IV 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 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. The sensor area in the 5D Mark IV is 1 percent bigger. 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.

Nikon D850 and Canon 5D Mark IV sensor measures
Sensor size
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Sensor size

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Nikon D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixel, compared with 30.1 MP of the Canon 5D Mark IV. 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 5.36μm for the 5D Mark IV). However, it should be noted that the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 10 months) than the 5D Mark IV, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage. 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.

D850 versus 5D Mark IV MP
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 D850 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 5D Mark IV (overall score 9 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.2 stops of reduced 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.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D850 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 45.4 8256 5504 4K/30p 26.4 14.8 2660 100
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft) Full Frame 30.1 6720 4480 4K/30p 24.8 13.6 2995 91
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 26.0 6240 4160 1080/60p 24.4 11.9 2862 85
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 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.8 13.9 1192 86
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 Df (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 no 24.6 13.1 3279 89
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.3 14.4 2853 95
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.6 14.3 2979 96

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D850 and the 5D Mark IV 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D850, the Canon 5D Mark IV, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D850 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 9.0 no no
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 7.0 no no
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.5 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 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 922 tilting YES 8000 8.0 12 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 Df (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 no no
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no

Both the D850 and the 5D Mark IV are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The 5D Mark IV replaced the earlier Canon 5D Mark III, while the D850 followed on from the Nikon D810.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D850 better than the Canon 5D Mark IV or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (45.4 vs 30.1MP) with a 23% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 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 (1.2 EV of extra DR).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1620k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1840 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 10 months after the 5D Mark IV).

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 115g or 11 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2016).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 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.

D850 10:03 5D Mark IV

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 D850 or the 5D Mark IV handle or perform in practice. 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 why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D850 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2017 1,999 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 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 86/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2017 1,299 latest 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 3,299discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) - 81/100 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2012 3,299discont. check

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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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