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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Gordon Laing, April 2012
 
 

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800 image quality (JPEG) (RAW results to follow)

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To compare real-life quality I shot this scene with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings. Note these shots were taken on a different day to the Mark II and NEX-7 comparisons.

The Mark III was fitted with the Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM and the D800 with the AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED, both with the aperture set to f8. Both were using their standard processing styles and White Balance was set to Daylight.

I shot this sequence in RAW+JPEG mode and will provide RAW comparisons once the most common processing applications are fully updated and delivering satisfactory results.

  Canon EOS 5D Mark III results
1 Canon 5D Mark III vs 5D Mark II Quality
2 Canon 5D Mark III vs Sony NEX-7 Quality
3 Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800 Quality
4 Canon 5D Mark III vs 5D Mark II noise
5 Canon 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800 noise
6 Canon 5D3 vs Nikon D800 (down-sampled)
7 Canon 5D Mark III Sample images

The image above right was taken with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens set to 35mm and the aperture set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode. At its base sensitivity of 100 ISO, the Mark III metered an exposure of 1/320 for this composition. The D800 metered an identical exposure.

Okay, this is Clash of the Titans part one, with the two heavyweight full-frame DSLRs duking it out over resolution. Below you're looking at the 22.3 Megapixels of the Mark III vs the 36 Megapixels of the D800 - does it make a significant difference in terms of real-life detail?

In short, yes. The D800 is capturing and recording visibly finer details than the Mark III, maybe not as much as you'd think given the 50% greater pixel-count, but still a significant improvement none the less.

Arguably as striking though is comparing the processing style of both cameras. As we've seen on the previous pages the Mark III applies fairly high sharpening and contrast, which might give large subjects a beneficial boost, but can often mar smaller subjects with artefacts such as the tiny building and foliage details on this test shot.

Alongside the Nikon D800 crops inevitably look a little softer, but so much more natural-looking to my eyes. They have a very pleasing quality that's packed with detail, without any evidence of digital processing or over-cooking.

Styles of image processing are very personal, but I'd say with the default out-of-camera settings, the D800 is delivering superior-looking results to the Mark III. Indeed the D800's images look more like those from a medium format body than a traditional DSLR, and that's a comparison I'll take further in my Nikon D800 vs Phase One medium format quality page. I should however note that to make the most of the D800's resolution you should treat it like a medium format body and where possible, use a tripod and focus with Live View. My handheld shots, even at fast shutter speeds were rarely as detailed as the example you see here.

Once again though, this is just an out-of-camera JPEG comparison at 100 ISO using the defaults. I shot this scene in RAW+JPEG and once the RAW converters have been properly updated for the Mark III and D800, I'll process the files and see if I can improve the output from all the cameras on test here.

Like all cameras, the D800 offers lower resolution recording options. I'd normally bypass these for my main quality tests, but given the 'medium' setting with FX coverage delivers a still considerable 20 Megapixels, I wondered how it compared against the Mark III's 22.3 Megapixels. Find out by scrolling down.

Alternatively if you're ready to see how the Mark III performs at higher sensitivities, check out my Canon 5D3 noise results. As always, I also have a selection of original files you can download in my Canon 5D3 sample images gallery.

 


Canon EOS 5D Mark III (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Using EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM
 
Nikon D800 (36MP JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Using Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED

f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO


 
 
Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800 image quality (JPEG), (D800 set to Medium 20 Megapixels)
 
Below you'll see crops from the EOS 5D Mark III at its maximum resolution compared to the D800 at its medium resolution. Yes, the D800 has so many pixels to start with that even when set to its medium quality mode, it's comparable to the Mark III.

So we have the 22.3 Megapixels of the Mark III versus the 20 Megapixels of the D800's medium mode. Starting with real-life resolving power, they're inevitably very similar, and again the biggest difference boils down to processing style with their default settings.

Once again it's down to personal preferences, but I prefer the more natural look of the D800 here compared to the arguably slightly over-cooked Mark III style with its higher contrast and sharpening. The striking thing for me is how the D800 is still delivering what looks like a better overall image even when set to its medium quality.

As mentioned above though, this is just an out-of-camera JPEG comparison at 100 ISO using the defaults. I shot this scene in RAW+JPEG and once the RAW converters have been properly updated for the Mark III and D800, I'll process the files and see if I can improve the output from all the cameras on test here.

So the D800 wins on resolution at low sensitivities, but how do they compare at higher sensitivities? Find out in my Canon 5D3 noise results pages. Alternatively I have a selection of original files you can download in my Canon 5D3 sample images gallery.


Canon EOS 5D Mark III (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Using EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM
 
Nikon D800 (20MP JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Using Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED

f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO


Canon EOS 5D Mark III results : Quality vs 5D2 / Quality vs NEX-7 / Quality vs D800 / Noise vs 5D2
/ Noise vs D800


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