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Comparison of Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800

How does the Nikon D800 compare to the newly announced Canon 5D Mark III? In this Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison, I will show the specifications of both cameras and talk about feature differences, in addition to providing my subjective opinion about each camera. Please keep in mind that the information below is purely based on specifications and available information. A detailed comparison with image samples and ISO comparisons will be provided once I get a hold of both the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III.

Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark III

Nikon definitely surprised everyone with its ultra high-resolution Nikon D800 announcement earlier this year. Featuring an impressive 36.3 MP sensor, the Nikon D800 was a huge jump from the 12.1 MP sensors that we all got so used to ever since the Nikon D3 came out in 2007. Knowing that the Canon 5D update was due for a refresh, I wondered what Canon would respond with – a similar high-resolution sensor to compete head-to-head against the D800, or a lower-resolution sensor with better noise characteristics (as it did with the Canon 1D X). As it turns out, Canon decided to play a different game and instead of engaging in a megapixel race, it decided to focus on image quality, autofocus features/performance, and weather sealing – the three areas that have been receiving a lot of criticism from the Canon community for many years now. This is a very smart and welcome move, especially in regards to autofocus features and performance. As one of our readers pointed out, “the Canon 5D Mark III is what 5D Mark II should have been in 2008″. While I have to disagree with this statement in terms of image quality for now (I will have to test both side by side), I agree that Canon should have included a better AF module on the 5D Mark II, given its price and the full-frame sensor.

See Canon 5D Mark III image samples:

Let’s take a look at the specifications of both cameras in more detail.

Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark III Specification Comparison

Camera Feature

Nikon D800

Canon 5D Mark III

Sensor Resolution

36.3 Million

22.3 Million

Sensor Type



Sensor Size



Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning



Image Size

7360 x 4912

5760 x 3840

Image Processor



Viewfinder Type



Viewfinder Coverage



Viewfinder Magnification



Storage Media

1x Compact Flash and 1x SD

1x Compact Flash and 1x SD

Continuous Shooting Speed

4 FPS, 6 FPS in DX mode with MB-D12 battery grip


Max Shutter Speed

1/8000 to 30 sec

1/8000 to 30 sec

Shutter Durability

200,000 cycles

150,000 cycles

Exposure Metering Sensor

91,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III

iFCL metering with 63 zone dual-layer sensor

Base ISO

ISO 100

ISO 100

Native ISO Sensitivity

ISO 100-6,400

ISO 100-25,600

Boosted ISO Sensitivity

ISO 50, ISO 12,800-25,600

ISO 50, ISO 51,200-102,400

Autofocus System

Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX with 51-points (up to 15 cross-type points)

61-point high-density reticular AF (up to 41 cross-type points)

AF Detection

Up to f/8 (up to 9 cross-type sensors)

Up to f/5.6

Built-in Flash



AF Assist


No, only with external flash

Video Output

H.264/MPEG-4 in MOV Format

AVI, H.264/MPEG-4 in MOV Format

Uncompressed Video Output

Yes (HDMI)


Video Maximum Resolution

1920×1080 (1080p) @ 30p

1920×1080 (1080p) @ 30p

Audio Recording

Built-in microphone
External stereo microphone (optional)

Built-in microphone
External stereo microphone (optional)

LCD Size

3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD

3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD

LCD Resolution

921,000 dots

1,040,000 dots

Exposure Compensation

±5 EV in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV increments

±5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments


2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV

±3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments

HDR Support



Built-in GPS



Wi-Fi Functionality

Eye-Fi Compatible, WT-4A

Eye-Fi Compatible, WFT-E7


EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery

LP-E6 Lithium-ion Battery

Battery Life

850 shots (CIPA)

950 shots (CIPA)

Battery Charger

MH-25 Quick Charger

LC-E6 Charger

Weather Sealed Body



USB Version



Camera Construction

Magnesium Alloy

Magnesium Alloy


144.78 x 121.92 x 81.28mm

152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm




MSRP Price




So, what are the main differences between the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III? First, it is obviously the image sensor – while both cameras have about the same size sensors, the Nikon D800 has a 36.3 MP sensor, while the Canon 5D Mark III features a 22.3 MP sensor. This essentially means that the Canon 5D Mark III is going to have an edge in terms of noise performance at high ISOs – but that’s at 100% view. A real and a fair comparison will involve down-sampling – a process, in which an image from a higher resolution sensor is down-sampled to a lower resolution, which ultimately reduces noise on the higher resolution sensor. I am planning to conduct such testing once I receive both cameras, so for now I will have to refrain on talking about image quality. True, Canon 5D Mark III has a two stop advantage in terms of native high ISO of 25,600 versus ISO 6,400 on the D800, however, I personally have no interest in such high ISO figures, since I know that anything above ISO 6400 is going to be too noisy for professional use. Neither camera will be able to match what the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1D X can do at very high ISOs anyway.

The second main difference is the autofocus system. Now this is the part that will definitely need a lot of testing to compare the two AF systems. While the Nikon D800 has a lower total number of focus points (51 versus 61) and cross-type focus points (15 versus 41), the Nikon D800 has working AF at f/8, with 9 cross-type sensors. The Canon 5D Mark III is limited to f/5.6.

As for other differences, the Canon 5D Mark III has an edge on speed (6 fps vs 4 fps), LCD (1.04 Million dots versus 921,000 dots) and weight (860g versus 900g), while the Nikon D800 has better shutter durability (200,000 shutter cycles versus 150,000), better video features (uncompressed video), high-speed USB (USB 3.0 vs USB 2.0) and built-in flash.

The biggest difference, however, is the price – the Nikon D800 retails for $2,999, while the Canon 5D Mark III is $3,499 – a $500 difference.

Both Canon 5D III and Nikon D800 can record videos with MOV format, but if you want to convert Canon 5D Mark III MOV to FCP or transfer Nikon D800 videos to iPad, Kindle Fire, PS Vita, Aunsoft Video Converter is a must tool.

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