EOS 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800 – success or failure

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Nikon EOS 5D Mark III

We’ve heard lot’s of bad things regarding the new announced EOS 5D mark III as it’s not good enough to justify the price difference from its predecessor. It can be read that the new camera is oriented more towards videographers, that it has less megapixels, etc. First of all I think this camera will be awesome. 5D mark II was great, a great FF camera with only two major downsides. It had lousy auto-focus engine borrowed from the first 5D and it was slow in terms of frames per second. 5D Mark III got the top of the range auto-focus engine, and 6 fps continuous shooting capability ! Even with just that, it makes it a blasting piece of equipment. Something that was for a long time reserved only for Nikon with its D700, it’s now available from Canon. You can now have a great full frame camera with the ability to shoot any action, including professional sport. Of course, Canon surprised us already when he announced the 1D-x with this full frame sport dedicated camera. Canon 5D became a fully capable camera everyone could wish for and you don’t have to give up anything like before with the 5D Mark II.

Megapixels are not everything

The number of megapixels (MP) a camera has, has very little to do with how the image looks. And in practice, plenty of cameras with low megapixel number can make better images than poorer cameras with more megapixels. You may just buy one of those new Nokia 808 smartphones, I’ve heard its camera has like 41 megapixels. MPs are great when you need to crop smaller part of picture and make a poster out of it and when you crop your images a lot, but are also often used by salespeople and manufacturers to make you feel as if your current camera is inadequate and needs to be replaced even if the new cameras each year are only slightly better. Seems like they had right – They might have just put the tone of pixels on EOS 5D Mark III and people would be happy and proud when bragging in front of their friends. But now, your super new Canon 5D mark III has less megapixels than Nikon D800. Oh – what now? Should we not buy it? What’s the coolest feature it has – give us some large numbers!

How about D800 ?

If you’re just a megapixel freak, then you should probably sell your lenses and go for Nikon D800, or even Nokia, at least they got more megapixels and that’s all it matters, right? Don’t get this wrong, no doubt that Nikon made a great camera because they always do, but it seems like Canon and Nikon switched roles. D800 is now what 5D Mark II was when it was announced (a full frame megapixel monster), and 5D Mark III is like D700 when it first arrived. Although, D800 can also produce the maximum of 6fps but only in DX mode and with battery grip attached. It means you’ll have to use only center of the frame like on a 1.5x crop sensor with the downside of pixel loss. As for the sharpness, I believe Canon will have sharper images compared to D800 and better ISO range. That we will find out very soon.

Comparison table EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D800

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D800
Max resolution 5760 x 3840 7360 x 4912
Effective pixels 22.3 megapixels 36.3 megapixels
Sensor size (36 x 24 mm)Full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) Full frame
Processor DIGIC 5+ Expeed 3
Autofocus Contrast Detect (sensor)
Phase Detect
Selective single-point
Face Detection
Live View
Phase Detect
Selective single-point
Face Detection
Live View
Autofocus assist lamp by optional dedicated Speedlite Yes
Number of focus points 61 51
ISO Auto, 100 – 25600 in 1/3 stops, plus 50, 51200, 102400 100 – 6400 in 1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps (50 – 25600)
File format JPEG (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant)
Design rule for Camera File system (2.0)
RAW: RAW, sRAW1, sRAW2 (14bit, Canon original RAW 2nd edition)
Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
NEF (RAW): 12 or 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed or uncompressed
LCD 3.2″
Clear View II TFT
TFT Color LCD with 170° wide-viewing angle
Screen dots 1,040,000 921,000
Viewfinder magnification 0,71x 0,70x
Built-in flash No Yes (pop-up)
Flash X sync speed 1/200 sec 1/250 sec
Continuous drive 6 fps 4 fps in FX format (Full frame)
max 6fps in DX format (1.5 Crop) with battery grip
Storage types CF Type I (UDMA compatible), SD/SDHC/SDXC CF (Type I), SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I compliant
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec) USB 3.0 (5 GBit/sec)
Video Format H.264 MPEG-4
Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps fps), 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (25, 30 fps) 1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50, 30, 25 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps)
Price US: $3500
UK: £3000
EU: €3300
US: $3000
UK: £2400
EU: €2829

Video on Canon 5D Mark III

As seen by far, video control is much improved. That was expected of course but it’s good. You can now monitor the sound on screen and via headphones and even make a simple editing of your recordings. Video Format H.264 with resolutions (1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps fps), 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (25, 30 fps)). You can check video examples in article: Canon Presents the New EOS 5D Mark III

Image quality on Canon

Do not expect for image quality to be much improved because the quality so far was very good, although judging by the examples so far, the ISO quality is much improved. We should wait for the RAW files to come out but it should be and will be better.

The disappointed ones are all of those who bought the 5D Mark II for its megapixel number and have used it for studio photography. They expected some crazy megapixel number to be attached with this new camera because they don’t know what to do with the extra 2 fps, and they haven’t even noticed the auto focus performance issues. On the other hand, the film makers and photographers that shoot some kind of motion from time to time will be very glad because instead of having two cameras like 5D Mark II and 7D, could now have only one powerful Camera.


Canon did a great job making this ‘’budget 1D-x’’ and if the pictures come out at least as good as they did on 5D Mark II – it will be a success. Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a full frame camera with respectable auto-focus engine and great video capabilities, able to produce both large size still photos and capture action.


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  • MarcosV

    “As for the sharpness, I believe Canon will have sharper images compared to D800 and better ISO range. That we will find out very soon.”

    You nailed it.

    I’m wondering how close to “have your cake and eat it too” will the D800 get. I’m wondering how if the 5DIII’s dynamic range will improve or any real improvement on image quality at ISO 100.

    I’m of course, wondering how long after both cameras are shipping will we be able to answer such questions so that I can go ahead and plan on ordering a 5DIII.

    • Tom

      MarcosV, I believe VERY soon, maybe even before first official shipments. But its best to wait little after, on other hand I believe there will be some corrections with firmwares as well. In my opinion Canon really did great job. Took all best from 5D II and 7D, I can’t wait to see RAW images and full capabilities.

  • Knips

    Sensors deliver detail. Lenses deliver sharpness. Both cameras will be remarkable. Neither will be the “be all-end all” of cameras. Both will have strenghts and weaknesses. Both will jump through flaming hoops in some areas and both will be deficient in others.

    They are two completely different cameras designed with different users in mind and different intended uses. You really cannot do an apples-to-apples comparison.

    Choose which one meets your needs the best and go for it. If one has features that the other doesn’t have, wait for the next generation. You will get all of those and more (plus a few the other has that you wished yours had…again). Don’t dwell on the differences. If the one you have chosen meets your needs; then you have chosen wisely and will be thrilled.

    • Tom

      Absolutely agree Knips, well said.

    • Ricardo Resene

      Knips, you are absolutely correct. Totaly.
      Each camera has an specific
      market. That’s all.

    • Bengt Nyman

      Hi Knips. Wise fatherly words. However, the point here is to try to make a comparison, to help people understand the differences so that they can choose a camera that meets their needs. In that respect this article has contributed very little.
      Both cameras user’s manuals are available on the web. Together with the camera specs they offer a good source for comparison.

  • Didedes

    Well with the price in Greece is 3200
    So if I want by a grip it will be around 3700 I will add 1000 euros and I wll get a D4
    Wich is far better than mark iii

  • Didedes

    Dxo mark labs rates the Nikon D800 in the top of there list with score 95!!!!!
    It must be a hell of a Dslr

  • Smartrav

    The new 5D MIII is not worth switching from my 5DmII. Huge disappointment. First time I am thinking of switching to Nikon. I don’t use the video. Canon should have introduced a Canon 6D for video and upped the megapixels on the 5D to 40. It seems to me that Canon is losing the race to Nikon now and abandoned std photographers.

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    Canon EOS 5D Mark III key specifications

    22.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor

    3.2″ Clear View High Resolution LCD

    DIGIC 5+ Image Processor

    61-Point High Density AF

    Full HD 1080/30p and 720/60p Formats

    Built-In HDR and Multiple Exposure Modes

    Extended ISO Range (50-102400)

    Up to 6.0 FPS Continuous Mode

    Dual CF and SD Memory Card Slots

    Durable Magnesium-Alloy Construction

    Brand new Canon EOS 5D Mark III (body only) cost $1250usd

    Brand new Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR cost $1950usd

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