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Nikon D800 Gordon Laing, August 2012
 
 

Nikon D800 vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III JPEG quality (RAW on next page)

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To compare real-life quality I shot this scene with the Nikon D800 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The D800 was fitted with the Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED and the Mark III with the Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM, 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 you can see my RAW comparison on the next page; see the contents list above right for all my results pages.

  Nikon D800 results
1 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Quality JPEG
2 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Quality RAW
3 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Noise JPEG
4 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Noise downsampled JPEG
5 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Noise RAW
6 Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 Noise downsampled RAW
7 Nikon D800 vs Medium Format RAW
8 Nikon D800 Sample images

The image above right was taken with the Nikon D800 with the AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED lens set to 36mm and the aperture set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode. At its base sensitivity of 100 ISO, the D800 metered an exposure of 1/320 for this composition. The Mark III 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.

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 check out my first set of RAW comparisons for the same compositions in my Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 RAW quality page; there's also a full list of results pages at the top of this page if you'd like to skip straight to any other section.

 


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


 
 
Nikon D800 vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III JPEG quality, with 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 you can see the RAW results on my Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D3 RAW quality page; there's also a full list of results pages at the top of this page if you'd like to skip straight to any other section.


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


Nikon D800 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise
/ Noise Downsampled / RAW Noise / Vs Medium format


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