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Canon 5D mk II vs. Canon 5D mk III vs. Nikon D800: Which to Buy/Upgrade to?

Payam Ghafoori | Buying Guides | Published Jun 11, 2012

There are again some new tempting DSLRs on the market and there’re again countless discussions on comparisons, reviews and dilemmas. In this article I’m going to share some of my opinions which may be useful in selecting one of the very popular mid range professional DSLR models which are Canon 5D mk II & Canon 5D mk III & Nikon D800. Please be noted that I’m not going to elaborate all the technical aspects of these adorable photography gears as you could easily find loads of very precise pieces of such information by simply googling. My points are based on the specific usage of the gear you have in your mind.

Honestly I should admit that like most of photography lovers I’m used to be kinda of overly obsessive when it comes to new photography gears. But since I entered the professional world of photography gradually the flaming passion for photography gears has been vanished aside by the desire to create more satisfactory, pleasing and (if required)  marketable photos.

Considering the above, if you now ask me which of the above models is the better choice to by or upgrade to, I gonna brief my answer as below.

If you are a professional photojournalist, sport photographer or busy with some other types of photography which require insane burst rates, instant focus, abusive usage of the gears and end prints of small to medium size and you are provided with the gears by your agency or at least you are getting paid for such kind of photography, I definitely suggest that you ignore all the three models and go for some more suited camera bodies such as Canon 1DX or Nikon 3Ds. OF course you have to pay up to double the price but in the long run (I believe much shorter) the camera will pay it off, after all the said bodies have been designed dedicatedly for such abusive, rugged and demanding usages. All the body structure, focusing system, resolution, low light performance, burst rate and many more capabilities have been engineered for such types of photography.

If you are a professional event or especially wedding photographer, then you should probably give some more serious thoughts to the matter. I may guess if you have been shooting weddings for a while you have accumulated a bunch of bodies and glasses up to now. You most probably own Canon 5D mk II or Nikon D700 and accordingly a selection of decent lenses to do the job for you. Considering this scenario there would be two options. If you have your fair share of the market and you forecast more to come, then stick with your very capable existing gears and invest more of your time, energy and money in some ways to provide your customers with better services which could be some creative photos, some extra sets and sessions of shootings, new designs and albums and so. On the other hand if you guess equipping yourself with one of the new Canon 5D mk III or Nikon D800 will bring even a handful of new clients to your door, then it definitely worth the investment. But please note that the two models will not add much difference to your photography outcome in the case of wedding business. Let’s face it, we have all heard about the bells and whistles of the new bodies but deep inside we all also know that in weddings we do not really shoot countless shots in insane ISO 6400 and above. We also know that weddings are seldom gets such a high pace which requires 6 fps instead of say 4.9 fps. Also the admiring big file sizes of new Nikon will not help you much as it will be very rare that you need a 100x70 cm print of a severely cropped photo (if it is  the frequent case for you then it is sure the time that you rethink your composition, framing and poses!). Maybe the new Canon’s focusing system is the only practical improvement in this case, but I do believe considering a normal wedding pace, if you give enough attention to your framing, focus point selection and style, the percent of you out of focus shots with 5D mk II will be very ignorable. Therefore, the only viable reason in my point of view for a professional wedding photographer to upgrade from 5D mk II or Nikon D700 to 5D mk III or Nikon D800 would be marketing advantage (of course it is also viable that you have some few extra grand lying around and you wanna buy some new camera bodies to play with).

Finally if you are not a professional (the one who earn cash by photography) and just love it as an art form, if you are a serious hobbyist who is bored with his APS-C sensor DSLR and unless you are a millionaire, then I seriously suggest that you consider one of the Canon 5D mk II or Nikon D700 (even good condition second hand) over the new fancy sisters of them (5D mk III or Nikon D800). This way you save a considerable bunch of money which can be invested in some few good primes or even a decent professional level zoom lens. I may choose Canon 5D mk II over D700 because of its higher resolution and video capabilities especially for people, street, wedding and studio photography. But again it is hugely dependant on your intended usage and selection of owned glasses.

So as the final word, I may say it is of wisdom for a photography lover (with limited budget) to invest more in his skills and creativity, then in his selection of glasses and light sources and then in his cameras as even with the latter in the form of an entry level DSLR if the formers are good enough the photos will be stunning and shinning.