5D vs. D3

Started Feb 1, 2008 | Discussions
YellowBullet Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
5D vs. D3

I have been a 5D shooter since almost the day it came out. I simply love the full frame, and never looked back at the 20D, XT and 300D I had before that.

I always preferred Nikon bodies though, and was hoping someone would release a D200 body with a 5D sensor in it.

Well, that didn't quite happen, but the new D3 had me intrigued since the day it was announced.

Last week I saw an ad on Fredmiranda where an established member was selling an essentially brand new D3 for a very good price, so I jumped on it. I figured the way it's backordered everywhere, if I don't like it I won't have any problems reselling it for the same or even a higher price.

So the D3 arrived, and the first thing I did was to put it up against my 5D to see what the hoopla is all about. I only have a 50mm 1.8 and 35mm 2.0 Nikkors, so I compared those with 50mm 1.4 and 35mm 2.0 Canons.

1. Handling and build quality

Well, there's no contest here. While 5D is nice, it feels like a snail and 2 generations behind the D3. One thing though, although I much prefer the resolut and snappy shutter action on the D3 than the kla-chunk of the one on 5D, the D3 shutter is a lot louder.

2. Autofocus in good light.

Again, no contest. D3 will just snap in place. With a 50mm 1.8, 19 out of 20 shots will be spot-on, with 1 maybe slightly off. With the 5D and a 50mm 1.4 at f/1.8, around 10 out of 20 will be spot-on, with another 5-6 slightly off and 3-4 quite a bit OOF.

And this is all with the screw driven 50mm 1.8. Can't wait to try some of the AF-S models.

3. Autofocus in low light.

The 5D is actually slightly better here. The center point will lock on things in low light that the D3 has a problem with, and will hunt quite a bit. 40D smokes them both in this regard.

4. AA filter

5D has a much weaker AA filter. The RAW files straight out of the camera are noticeably crisper from 5D. I used the 50mm lenses, f/10, tripod mounted, mirror lock-up, remote release. 5D shots were slightly sharper at all ISO's, from 200 to 6400. D3 files DO sharpen better though, you can apply stronger sharpening without introducing artifacts or noise.

5. Shadow noise at low ISO

D3 is a lot better here. One thing that was a bit annoying from the start with the 5D was that even at low ISO's, if you push the shadows too much, you'll get noise. So for a very contrasty scene with deep shadows, if you try to bring the shadow detail out you'll get noise in shadows even at ISO 100. Not so with the D3, you can push the shadows and sharpen and they'll stay smooth.

OP YellowBullet Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
5D vs. D3 (continued)

6. High ISO noise

Well, this is what the big hoopla was about since D3 was announced. To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed at first. I tested the 5D and D3 side-by-side in low incadescent light, and in low natural light. Used ACR to process both. D3 looked better, but not by much. Half a stop maybe. It had a lot less chroma noise, but I didn't pay much attention to that, since chroma is not that hard to remove. Luma noise was around half a stop better on D3. Not bad by any means, but not spectacular either. And, as I mentioned before, the 5D files are a bit sharper at all ISO's. But then the next day I took some real-life shots with the D3 and changed my mind:

7. Usability of high ISO shots

With the 5D, my rule of thumb was that up to ISO 800 I always used the same workflow regardless of the ISO. ACR for RAW conversion, working mostly in Lab, local contrast, CMYK shadows/highlights, selective sharpening on Luma channel in Lab, e.t.c. At ISO 1600 I had to be more careful and tone down the sharpening not to increase noise, and at ISO3200 I had to be a lot more careful. If I was very, VERY carefu, with selective noise reduction and very careful selective sharpening, for some good light (but still low light) shots, I was able to get excellent ISO 6400 (ISO 1600 pushed 2 stops) with the 5D.

With the D3 the situation is better, by a stop or more. I feel like I can take an ISO3200 shot and apply my regular workflow and it still comes out looking great (no noise reduction at all). I took some ISO 6400 self-portraits and with no noise reduction and a toned-down workflow (sort of what I was doing before with ISO 1600 shots with 5D) they came out looking great. Only at ISO12800 I have to do the very careful postprocessing to get a good looking image. ISO12800 (ISO1600 pushed 3 stops) is pretty much useless on the 5D. The main difference is the color accuracy and color noise, high ISO shots with D3 still look great, with accurate colors and no annoying blotchy color noise. Now I can say that I am VERY impressed.

8. LCD monitor
I don't know what the big hoopla is here. Yes, D3 LCD is nice and big and bright

and it has lots of pixels. But I've worked with the 1D Mark III and the 40D and honestly I can't tell the difference between the LCD's of those three. They are all great.

9. Viewfinder

Reading the reviews and all the gushing on the Nikon forums, I was expecting something spectacular. In all honesty, the viewfinder on the D3 is maybe slightly better than the 5D, which is nothing special by FF standards. 1D Mark II looks quite a bit better to my eyes than both.

10. Live view

Well, obviously the 5D doesn't even have this, but like I said I had a chance to play with the 1DIII and I have a 40D, so I can at least compare the execution from Nikon and Canon. I have to say that I prefer the Canon implementation. The live-view image on the D3 gets choppy when you move the camera. Non- AF-S lenses require you the move the switch on the camera to allow manual focusing, so that's a bit clunky. But what baffles me is that once you do get the focus, when you take a shot the mirror flaps back down, then flaps back up and takes a shot. Just as loud as when you take a regular shot, and a lot more vibration from mirror slap than in the Canon implementation.

There you have it. First-had experience with both cameras. Take it for what it's worth.

So will I make THE SWITCH? I don't know yet. I really like the D3 but I also have an excellent collection of hand-picked outstanding quality Canon lenses (50L, 85L, 135L, 70-200IS, 16-35II, 24-105L, Tamron 28-70, Sigma 15mm FE) that will be hard to match on the Nikon side. But the outstanding optical quality of the $100 50mm 1.8 Nikkor gives me hope. I DID order the 14-24 2.8 Nikkor (it's on the UPS truck on the way to my house as I write this, yay!), so the first thing I'll do is compare that to the excellent 16-35 II I also have. If these new nano-coated Nikon zooms live up to the hype, I just might jump to the other Dark Side (they are both dark as far as I am concerned).

shaktipalooza Senior Member • Posts: 1,652
thanks for the honest review

The only thing that really surprised me was your statement about the center focus point being more accurate with the 5D in low light.

I was on the tipping point of fully investing in Canon glass when the D3 was announced. Ended up sticking with the 5D as the premium pricing on the Nikon glass would have emptied my budget too quickly. This made the decision pretty easy.

Aside from that I felt Canon had a pretty good history with FF cameras and the 5D successor is likely to have some pretty solid improvements in the High ISO area. I'm guessing it will rival the D3 in IQ.

OP YellowBullet Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: thanks for the honest review

shaktipalooza wrote:

The only thing that really surprised me was your statement about the
center focus point being more accurate with the 5D in low light.

It's not the accuracy that I was talking about, but the ability to acquire AF.

When the D3 acquires focus, most of the time it's more accurate than 5D, even in low light.

But D3 will hunt for focus quite a bit more than 5D in low light, and A LOT more than 40D.

ndlaw Senior Member • Posts: 1,483
Thank you!

This was a very good write up, and I thank you for posting this knowing that you are opening yourself up to die hard fans on either side jumping all over your conclusions (LOL)!! I am pleased to see that the 3 year old 5D held up so well against the brand new top of the line Nikon. Yes, I expected the new Nikon to deliver the results you achieved. It is a fantastic camera, that will push Canon to come up with something even better. I fully expect the next generation of the 5D (which I predict will come out in late fall/early winter of this year, or January, 2009) to once again set the standard in all categories. Anyone considering a switch to Nikon should at least wait and see what Canon delivers in the next generation 5D. Thanks again for posting your review!

http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/gallery.asp?memberID=125176&pageID=1&rows=30&style=

Ludovic Monchat Veteran Member • Posts: 3,217
Thanks, very interesting

Basically if the forthcoming 5D's sports an even improved 40D AF circuit, offers one full stop of noise free images, let see a 3200 looking just like the actual 1600 and a 6400 and 12800 with stronger noise reduction, I will be more than happy.

And a dust removal and live view system, of course.

The more I read reviews like yours, the more I'm landing; no, the D3 is just a very good cam, nothing more.

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Ludo from Paris
Tankers of tools, thimbels of talent
BestOf http://ludo.smugmug.com/gallery/1158249

leftheaded Regular Member • Posts: 466
Re: Thank you!

wow yellowbullet, very helpful info, thanks!

i'm curious to read your thoughts on the 40D vs 5D now

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pardon my typos

 leftheaded's gear list:leftheaded's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Canon EF 35mm F1.4L USM Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM Canon Extender EF 1.4x II +4 more
GeoffreyH Regular Member • Posts: 338
Re: 5D vs. D3

Let's see, a camera that is, by your post, marginally better in some aspects as compared to the 5D. The D3 is double the cost of the 5D ($2,500 more), one would hope that there are improvements over the Canon. It all depends on your point-of-view.

I travel a lot with my camera(s) and I do a fair share of tripod, night, cable release, mirror-up, photography, so high ISO images are of little use to me. Moreover, the weight and size of the D3 would be a deal breaker for me -- Before the 5D I used a Contax G2 rangefinder and would buy it again if it were made in a digital version. But at the particular price-point, ($1,800 with rebate), full-frame 12 MP sensor I had to jump at the 5D.

Of course, if your livelihood depends on high ISO well built cams using fast lenses, i.e., sports photogs, & PJ's etc., and an increase (marginal, though it may be) in PQ is what makes or breaks the shot, then yes, I can see the NEED for forking over the cash for the bleeding edge, latest-and-greatest gear and I have no problem with that, though, I suspect most of the "I'm going to Nikon because I've had the Canon for almost 7 months now with no new upgrades" crowd does not depend on their gear to put food on the table.

Besides, something will come out by Canon (or whoever) that has a better sensor, or viewfinder, or faster focus (by 2 nanoseconds), or shinier buttons or whatever so what then?

Sometimes, based on the posts on these forums, you wonder how Ansel Adams or Weston ever made a decent print. I mean they probably should've just given up -- using mechanical shutters and manual focus and all...

Geoff

SandShark Contributing Member • Posts: 891
Thanks. Great Read! (NT)
pipspeak Senior Member • Posts: 1,774
5D AF

I was a little concnerned reading your experience with the 5D AF in good light... only half the shots were spot on? That was, I presume, using center point only. Not a great rate IMO.

Dylan Betts Forum Member • Posts: 78
Live View, AF

The D3 allows AF, the live view implementation in the 1DMkIII does not.

AF is considerably more accurate on the D3, especially with fast lenses.

I agree with everything else you posted.

Your high ISO comments would also apply to the 1DMk111. You could substitute the names and your noise comments would still apply.

YellowBullet wrote:

shaktipalooza wrote:

The only thing that really surprised me was your statement about the
center focus point being more accurate with the 5D in low light.

It's not the accuracy that I was talking about, but the ability to
acquire AF.

When the D3 acquires focus, most of the time it's more accurate than
5D, even in low light.

But D3 will hunt for focus quite a bit more than 5D in low light, and
A LOT more than 40D.

JohnnyRX7 Senior Member • Posts: 1,853
Re: dont be

pipspeak wrote:

I was a little concnerned reading your experience with the 5D AF in
good light... only half the shots were spot on? That was, I presume,
using center point only. Not a great rate IMO.

you have to remember he was using the 50/1.4 I never found this lens to great in low light. 50L is better.. not saying all shots would have been good, but a few more would have been for sure.

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Johnny

MICHAEL_61 Senior Member • Posts: 2,156
Re: 5D vs. D3

Thank you, very interesting! Judging by your test, Nikon finally managed to produce a camera comparable with and sometimes even better than 5D. Maybe not so significantly better if you take into account the difference in price. But compare the like with the like - how about Canon 1Ds Mark III?

http://lordofthelens.co.nz/

OP YellowBullet Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: 5D AF

pipspeak wrote:

I was a little concnerned reading your experience with the 5D AF in
good light... only half the shots were spot on?

Sorry, that was for low light, I didn't make that clear.

I'd say about half are spot-on, about 1/3 are "useable" but slightly off, and the rest are quite a bit OOF. This is with the 50mm 1.4, which isn't that great.

50mm 1.2L is quite a bit better, but still behind the 50mm 1.8 on the D3.

Octane Senior Member • Posts: 2,993
yes interesting!

Intererting side by side. I have to agree with you on the dark area noise on the 5D. While it is good overall, it becomes noisy quickly when you attempt to bring dark areas up.

I'll do some side by side tonight as well.

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OP YellowBullet Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: Live View, AF

Dylan Betts wrote:

The D3 allows AF, the live view implementation in the 1DMkIII does not.

True that. But I was complaining about the mirror flopping down, then flopping back up when taking a shot in Live View mode. I don't see why why Niikon did it that way, it makes for a lot louder shot than 1DIII in Live View mode, also a lot more camera shake from the mirror flopping down then up.

Dylan Betts Forum Member • Posts: 78
Re: Live View, AF

YellowBullet wrote:

Dylan Betts wrote:

The D3 allows AF, the live view implementation in the 1DMkIII does not.

True that. But I was complaining about the mirror flopping down, then
flopping back up when taking a shot in Live View mode. I don't see
why why Niikon did it that way, it makes for a lot louder shot than
1DIII in Live View mode, also a lot more camera shake from the mirror
flopping down then up.

The mirror flopping down is what allows phase detection AF in live view on the Nikon. Camera shake? Handheld? Not relevant.

On a tripod, the D3 can use contrast detection, no mirror flop. Or you can manually focus on the superior LCD screen.

gopix137 Regular Member • Posts: 143
Great! Thank you! Keep it coming! (n/t)
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David_C Contributing Member • Posts: 931
An another review from 5D to D3

http://www.susanstriplingblog.com/

differences in auto focus opinions, wonder what thats about??

Dave

Barugon Veteran Member • Posts: 9,068
Re: 5D vs. D3

With the exception of low-light AF performance, none of this surprises me; it's all pretty much as I already understood it. The biggest issues I have right now with the 5D are shadow noise and the lack of ISO safety shift. The D3 takes care of these issues but the benefits would not outweigh the price of switching at this point.

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Whoever said 'a picture is worth a thousand words' was a cheapskate.

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