5D3 owner rents a D800

Started Apr 28, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Jeff Palmucci
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5D3 owner rents a D800
Apr 28, 2012

Well, after the awesome dxomark numbers of the D800, I went and rented one to compare against my 5D3. My impressions:

I really liked the idea of the Nikon's face recognition for autofocus. Seems like it would help a lot for concert photography. In practice, I don't think it is reliable enough. Doesn't nail the eyes. I'd stick to picking the focus point.

The metering on both cameras is definitely different. Surprisingly so. Sometimes the Nikon nails it, sometimes the Canon does. They are both pretty good. I haven't noticed one camera being consistently better than the other, just different. Surprising. The Nikon should be better.

Even though dxomark says high iso performance on the 5d3 is better (at 12800, where I'd like it), I can't tell the difference. After scaling down the Nikon image to the same size, the noise and DR look the same to me. Pretty instructive on how little difference a couple of ticks on the dxomark charts make.

The D800 does have slightly better detail, but less than you'd think, at least with the lenses I was using. (24-70 2.8 on both).

The D800 superiority in low ISO DR has been well documented. I went back through my photo library to pull up some shots where I thought that would have helped. However, when I found them, I realized that the 5d2 (which I had at the time) had enough DR that I still got the shot. (Maybe survivorship bias? I already deleted the shots that weren't acceptable?) This is still the one feature that I lust after the most.

I do remember times when the 3.9fps of my 5D2 was not enough, so I think the boost to 6fps is a worthwhile feature.

The AF systems on both are phenomenal. (I'm coming from a 5D2, so you can see my point of view.) On paper, the Nikon should be better at tracking with its metering sensor, and the Canon should be better at really wide (wider than f/1.8) apertures. In practice, they are both great. Maybe the Nikon jiggles a little more before locking on, but insignificantly so. (The 5d3 works way better on my Sigma 85mm f/1.4 than my 5d2 ever did.)

The JPEG engine on the 5D3 is awesome, but I mostly shoot raw. I did a concert on the 5D3 in JPEG + RAW. The final shots were about 50-50 jpeg vs raw. Not good enough to allow me to switch to JPEG.

Video: tracking AF on the Nikon is a gimmick. The focusing noise and jiggling around the focus point is too distracting. You are better off using the better high ISO capabilities of the Canon to get a larger DOF.

My conclusion: These cameras are both excellent. If I were starting from scratch, I'd probably go with the Nikon for the higher resolution and awesome low ISO dynamic range. As it is, 3 things are going to keep me using the Canon, in order of importance:

1) I have a lot of good Canon glass and it would be a real pain to switch (80% of the reason)
2) better frame rate (10%)
3) better video (10%)

Anyone have a suggestion on what else I should check before the D800 goes back on Monday?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D800
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