Compared to...

When I started working on this review a few weeks ago the Nikon D700 only had one competitor in the 'compact' full-frame DSLR market segment, the almost three years old Canon EOS 5D. Now, about a month and one Photokina later, this situation has fundamentally changed. Sony has launched the DSLR-A900 and Canon has announced the 5D Mark II, finally giving consumers a choice in this growing bracket of the market.

If you've got a stack of legacy lenses in your cupboard you're probably unlikely to change systems but for photographers who are thinking about purchasing their first DSLR or are simply not attached to any specific brand there is now much more to choose from. From a price point of view the choice could be difficult as all three models are located around the $3000 mark. Having said that the cameras have clearly been designed with slightly different photographic applications in mind.

The Nikon D700 has been optimized for speed and High ISO performance but in turn only offers the relatively moderate resolution of 12 megapixels. The Sony A900 has clearly been built with resolution in mind, offering a whopping 24 megapixels. By doing so it also takes the number one spot in the current DSLR sensor resolution ranking. It does not feature a live-view system though. We haven't had a chance yet to examine a production model of the 5D Mark II but the specs and feature list certainly look mouth-watering. The new Canon offers 21 megapixels, 3.9 frames per second and on top an HD video recording function.

Which ones out of these features and specs are most important or suitable for your style of photography you only can decide for yourself but the samples on the following pages will hopefully be helpful in the process.

In addition the the cameras in the table below we have also included a Nikon D300 which uses an APS-C sized sensor to investigate how it fares against its full-frame sibling.

Note that whilst we've included the EOS 5D Mark II in the spec comparison below, since we don't have a production quality body it isn't included in the image quality comparisons that follow. We've used the EOS 5D for now and will update the review once we've got an EOS 5D Mark II that is 'reviewable'.

Positives versus the competition

  • Highest frame rate 'compact' full frame camera (up to 8 fps with battery grip)
  • Large buffer (17 RAW frames)
  • 51 point AF with wide range of selection / grouping options and intelligent tracking
  • Live-view (versus Sony A900)
  • Chromatic aberration reduction
  • Intervalometer
  • Very flexible control system, various configurable buttons, dial operation

Negatives versus the competition

  • Lowest nominal resolution
  • No sensor shift shake reduction (versus Sony A900)
  • No video mode (versus Canon EOS 5D Mark II)
 


Nikon D700


Canon 5D


Canon 5D Mark II


Sony A900

Price (body only) $2999[check] $2,199 [check] $ 2,699 [check] $2999.99[check]
Dust removal • Self-cleaning filter
• Dust-off image
No

• Auto / Manual
• Dust Delete Data appending
• Self-cleaning sensor unit

• Static-resistant anti-dust coating
• CCD-shift dust reduction mechanism

Environmental
sealing
• Splash proof
• Dust proof
• Sealed lenses available
• Dust and Water-Proof lenses available • Dust and Water-Proof lenses available • Dust-Proof
• Moisture Proof
Sensor type CMOS CMOS CMOS CMOS
Sensor size 36 x 23.9 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm 36 x 24 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
Sensor area 860 mm² 856 mm² 864 mm² 861 mm²
Pixel density 1.4 MP/cm² 1.5 MP/cm² 2.4 MP/cm² 2.9 MP/cm²
Image Stabilization Lenses only Lenses only Lenses only Sensor-Shift
Effective pixels 12.1 million 12.8 million 21.1 million 24.6 million
Image size 4256 x 2832 4368 x 2912 5616 x 3744 6048 x 4032
Live View • Yes
• Up to 1:1 pixel view
• Contrast detect AF
• Mirror flip AF
No Live View • Live TTL display
• 100% frame coverage
• Three AF modes
No Live View
Auto focus • 51 point
• 15 cross-type
• -1 to 19 EV

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

• 9-points
• Center dual cross types
• 0 to 18 EV
• 10 Assist AF points

Exp. comp. +/- 5.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 3.0 EV
Sensitivity range (boost setting) (100), 200 - 6400, (25,600 expandable) 100 - 1600 (50, 3200 expandable) 100 - 6400 (50, 12800, 25600 expandable) (100), 200 - 3200 (6400 expandable)
Shutter speed 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec
Continuous rate
(high)
5.0 fps (8.0 fps with battery grip) 3.0 fps 3.9 fps 5.0 fps
Continuous buffer • 100 JPEG Norm
• 17 RAW
• 60 JPEG
• 17 RAW
• 78 JPEG
• 13 RAW

• 105 JPEG
• 11 RAW

Built-in flash • Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
None None None
External flash • Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
Flash sync speed 1/250 sec (1/320 sec reduced Guide no.) 1/200 sec 1/200 sec • 1/250 sec
• 1/200 sec (with SteadyShot INSIDE on)
Storage CF I (inc. UDMA) CF I CF I & II (inc. UDMA) • CF I & II (inc. UDMA)
• Memory Stick DUO
Viewfinder • 95% coverage
• 0.72x magnification
• 96% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• 98% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• 100% coverage
• 0.74x magnification
LCD monitor • 3.0" TFT LCD
• 922,000 dots
• 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,600 dots
Vertical grip Yes, MB-D10 Yes, BG-E4 Yes, BG-E6 Yes, VG-C90AM
Movie Mode No No • 1920 x 1080, 30fps (HD)
• 640 x 480,30fps
No
Video output • AV Out
• HDMI
AV Out • AV Out
• HDMI
• AV Out
• HDMI
• 'PhotoTV'
Dimensions 147 x 123 x 77 mm

152 x 113 x 75 mm

152 x 114 x 75 mm

156 x 117 x 82 mm
Weight (no batt) 995 g 810 g 810 g 850 g
Weight (inc batt) 1075 g 895 g 905 g 895 g