Nikon D810 vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III comparison: full-frame DSLRs go head to head

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: full-frame DSLRs go head-to-head

The Nikon D810 launch might not have had the meteoric impact of its predecessors; it’s more evolution than revolution, after all. But Nikon’s latest high-resolution, high-end DSLR offers some key upgrades that shouldn’t be overlooked. Is this the camera that the D800/E should have been, and how does it shape up against the Canon 5D Mark III? Find out in our latest Canon vs Nikon comparison.

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: full-frame DSLRs go head-to-head

The Nikon D800 and D800E have lasted barely two years and already they’re both being replaced – by one camera.

The new Nikon D810 is the latest in Nikon’s FX format full-frame DSLR line with a stack of sometimes subtle improvements designed to make the camera appeal to both photographers and filmmakers alike.

SEE MORE: Nikon D810 vs D800: is it time to upgrade?

Nikon can’t emphasise that last point enough. In fact, the D810 press release issued by Nikon USA highlights the D810’s video upgrades above all others. Nikon USA is also promoting D810 bundles tailored specifically to filmmakers and animators.

The Nikon D810’s price tag is just under £2700, with a release date set for July0. The new camera shares much in common with the outgoing D800/E, including sensor resolution, 51-point AF array and 3D color matrix metering III.

However, the D810’s sensor is a new design with the optical low-pass filter removed, the autofocus is upgraded to bring it in line with the Nikon D4s and it gets an expanded ISO range.

It might seem unfair to compare the Nikon D810 and the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon’s camera being from the same generation as the D810’s predecessor as it is.

SEE MORE: Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

But the price difference between the two cameras is relatively small, and Canon’s semi-pro full-frame DSLR still puts in a tremendous performance where Full HD video recording is concerned – the area that Nikon is keen to focus on with the upgrade of its D8XX line.

Let’s take a look at the key areas of comparison in this Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III head-to-head…

SEE MORE: Nikon D810 hands-on review

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 01 Sensor resolution and ISO

Nikon D810 vs D800: Sensor

In terms of resolution, the Nikon D810 hits the same 36.3MP benchmark set by the D800 and D800E. The Canon 5D Mark III’s sensor offers 22.3 effective megapixels.

Rather than use the same sensor as the Nikon D800, the Nikon D810 uses an ‘all-new’ 36.3MP CMOS sensor. This has been designed without an optical low-pass filter (OLPF) in order to produce sharper images than the D800, with the trade-off being an increase in moiré (lines or oily colour patches over fine details in photos).

The more expensive version of the Nikon D800 – the D800E – also lacks an anti-aliasing filter (strictly speaking, the optical low pass filter is still in front of the sensor, it’s just that its blurring, anti-aliasing effects have been eliminated).

Obviously this has an impact on the Nikon D810’s price: at £2699, it’s £100 more than the Nikon D800 was at launch.

That said, the D810 is £200 cheaper than the Nikon D800E’s £2899.99 launch price.

SEE MORE: Full frame sensor size explained – how to exploit its advantages and cool effects

Perhaps more of a talking point is Nikon’s new approach to the ISO range of the D810. As you’d expect, the new camera offers an increase in native ISO. Where the D800/E offered a maximum ISO of 6400, the D810 bumps that up by 1 stop to ISO 12800.

It’s the low ISO setting that’s more unusual: the D810’s ISO range starts at ISO 64. A first for a digital SLR. In fact, the D810’s full expandable ISO range is ISO 32 to 51200. By comparison, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III’s sensitivity range is expandable to ISO 50-25600.

ISO 64 isn’t a new concept – Kodachrome 64 was the staple format for many film photographers. Nikon says that ISO 64 offers ‘cleaner, better-defined images when shooting in bright light’, and we’re inclined to believe them.

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 01 Sensor resolution and ISO
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 02 Video
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III: 03 Autofocus and continuous shooting
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 04 Image processor and metering
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 05 Design and build quality
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: 06 Price
Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III comparison: our conclusion

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