With the latest announcements of the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5DmIII, the photo world has been buzzing with reviews and comparisons trying to figure out which camera is better, and why. The problem with the plethora of reviews out there right now, is that the vast majority of them seem to cater towards the video aspects of both these camera’s, and as a portrait photographer, I could really care less about the video quality of either of them.
So, with that in mind, The Camera Store invited me to come out and test these two camera’s by using them during an actual creative shoot. Both camera’s were shot from the same angles, using the same focal lengths, and the same shutter / aperture, in an attempt to find out which camera would come out on top. The video below is our documentation of the entire process:
And here are a few of the finalized images:
- FILES: As I stated in the video above, I think the D800 has a ‘slight’ advantage over the 5DmIII, simply because it is producing larger files at what appears to be no loss in performance in terms of dynamic range, noise control, or detail. That being said, the 22mp resolution of the 5DmIII is very likely more than enough resolution for the vast majority of 35mm photographers out there, and in terms of the actual quality of file produced, these cameras are literally neck and neck.
- FOCUS: The speed of focus does definitely go to the Canon in the situations I used it in, but in terms of low light combined with fast moving subjects, I have no idea. If I was asked to guess, I’d say that Canon would be the winner of that too, and that they finally have a sure fire player in this category. I’m actually happy to see this as an ex-canon shooter, because focus has been the rabid monkey on their back for years. As a Nikon shooter, not so much. The only area that Nikon wins in this category is the auto-focus assist light, which we used to take the photos of Gina on the tree because it was pitch black out. Without the use of a flashlight, I could have never taken that shot with the Canon.
*Quick note about the focus of the D800: After reading a lot of reviews on my review, I get that people seem to think that I thought there was a focusing issue with the D800. I just want to add that the D800 does have a good focusing system, but it seemed the tiny bit slower than my D700, and if you pick up a 5d mkIII and try them side by side, the Canon is faster, which is what I commented on. That being said, it’s not slow enough to be an issue, at least not for my style of photography, but it did feel slower than what I’m used to.
- FEEL: Overall feel goes to the D800. I just simply prefer the layout of the buttons, and the actual grip off the D800 is amazing. I typically hate holding any camera that doesn’t have either a built in grip, or the optional battery grip, but they’ve changed the feel of this camera from the D700, making the grip deeper and easier to hold on to. In my hands, it just felt way better than the Canon, which felt kind of chunky to me. Also, with the Canon I had to push a focus select button prior to being able to move my focus point around in my viewfinder, and this annoyed the hell out of me. There may be a custom function to bypass this, but I didn’t have enough time with the camera to mess around and find out.
- ISO: So many photographers are pixel peeping the shit out of the high ISO files from both of these camera’s, and I am just going to say it right now, “THEY ARE BOTH AWESOME, SO STOP”. My initial thoughts when Nikon announced the D800 was that they were going to totally screw their high ISO performance, but they didn’t, it’s still awesome, and actually seems to hold more detail than the Canon at 1600 and up. Canon has improved their high ISO from the mII, and putting them side by side, aside from slightly better detail on the D800, there is hardly any difference in terms of actual noise produced. Go over 6400 and it looks like a steaming hot mess on both cameras. On the opposite end of the scale, I am super happy to see Nikon put out the D800 with a native resolution of ISO 100. As a location guy who often overpowers the ambient with studio lighting, having that extra stop is a blessing.
There is no real winner in terms of portrait photography. Yes, the D800 does produce larger files, but if I were a Canon shooter that wouldn’t be enough to make me want to switch. On that same note, yes the Canon does focus slightly faster, but again as a Nikon shooter I’m not looking to sell any of my Nikon gear. Owning either camera should make any photographer extremely happy with their purchase.
In terms of upgrading, if you’re a Canon shooter, there really is no question about whether or not you should upgrade. The focusing system alone makes it a no-brainer, and the improved high ISO for wedding photographers is always a welcome addition. As for those of us shooting Nikon, I do plan on adding the D800 to my arsenal for portrait and commercial work, but I don’t think it will be replacing either of my D700 bodies at this point. This is mainly due to the fact that you can’t downsize the RAW file in the Nikon without adding a crop factor, and for events or weddings, shooting 36mp RAW files just doesn’t make sense. If Nikon eventually releases a firmware update that would allow me to group the pixels to something like a 16mp file, I’d replace both my D700 bodies in a heartbeat.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, sound off in zee comments and I will answer them to the best of my abilities. Cheers.