DxOMark discovers Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs. Nikon D800 not so far apart after all!

by planetMitch3 Comments

In an interesting turn, the DxO team looked at both the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D800 cameras – and many have seen the report on the Nikon D800 saying it was about the best sensor on the market… well, it turns out they've looked at the two cameras with excellent lenses and find they aren't as far apart as everyone thought

Mounting a high quality lens makes all the difference. From our database, the resulting P-Mpix scores from various body/lens combinations reveals the D800 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III may be closer in resolving detail than expected.

When comparing the huge volume of data accumulated over measuring 147 lenses, one very surprising result was revealed. The average sharpness scores of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III matched the Nikon D800 and if the results were based solely on the mean average, the Canon actually out-performed the Nikon.

Either way, the Nikon D800 sensor simply isn’t as adept at resolving detail, pixel-by-pixel, as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. There’s another surprise as well.

DxOMark Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Nikon D800

While it’s clear the rival 36-M-Pix Nikon D800 is a phenomenal camera with the highest pixel count available in a compact DSLR, the 22.3 Mpix Canon EOS 5D Mark III isn’t necessarily outclassed. While both share a similar HD video capability the 5D Mark III has a highly sensitive and accurate 61-point focusing system, durable pro-level build, excellent live view implementation, and can capture stills at up to 6fps (compared with 4.5 fps for the Nikon). In terms of pixel count and stills output, 36 Mpix to 22.3 Mpix sounds a lot but in real life conditions, it’s not as much as the figures suggest.

As you might expect, the image quality of the lens significantly affects the amount of detail that can be captured. In fact, when paired with certain lenses, and making very good use the sensor’s capabilities, the EOS 5D Mark III mounts a serious challenge in terms of resolving power or ‘Sharpness’ to the Nikon D800. Indeed, the two cameras are much closer than expected.

Mounting a high quality lens makes all the difference. From our database, the resulting P-Mpix scores from various body/lens combinations reveals the D800 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III may be closer in resolving detail than expected.

We have tested 85 individual lens models with the EOS 5D Mark III and assimilated a huge amount of data. Of those, we’ve measured 47 primes ranging in focal length from 14mm to 300mm. Breaking that down further, 17 are wide or ultra-wide angle including the new optically excellent Sigma 35mm f/1.4DG HSM A and Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM and the exquisite but pricey Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/15 (15mm f/2.8) ZE. Standard and short telephoto lenses account for another 25 lenses, while a further 5 are telephotos (including 3 Canon models, two of those being exotic, pro-grade f/2.8 types).

Zooms may also be sub-divided into the same categories of wide-angle, standard and telephoto. Of the wide-angle zooms we have assessed 7 lenses including the current pro-offering from Canon, the EF16-35mm F/2.8L II USM as well as the Tokina AT X 16-28 F/2.8 PRO FX.

Standard zooms tested include the vaunted but pricey Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II, the compact EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM and the new surprise budget stabilized choice, the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. 

Finally, we have 20 telephoto zooms to consider data from, including the popular 70-200mm f4 and f/2.8 types, various 70/75-300mm and 2 super-zooms.

Results overview & efficiency

From our recent Nikon D800 overview it’s clear the camera is the leader in outright P-Mpix (Sharpness) and overall DxOMark scores, but the rival Canon EOS 5D Mark III is not as far behind as the pixel counts suggest.

We certainly wouldn’t advocate switching between them based on that alone. Indeed, with the right glass, the sensor in the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is capable of closing the gap between them in resolution to negligible values, and that other reasons for choosing between them may be more relevant or important.

Time will tell if the differences in price and features will weigh more heavily in favour of one over the other, but, some care must be taken when choosing lenses in order to maximise the potential image sharpness. As system cameras, working with several lenses, there are times when it’s important to know which lenses are capable of recording the highest levels of sharpness.


Of course, there's more in the article with some graphics and more data to back up the report.

And of course, you can comment on this story and all the news in our planet5D forums!

via DxOMark – Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs. Nikon D800: Competition is closer than expected!.

(cover photo credit: snap from the DxO report)


  1. I agree lenses make the difference. We’ve been using our 7D with Panavision lenses and it looks hugely great. Have you made the test?

  2. Pingback: DxOMark Redo: 5D Mark III Sensor Better than the D800?

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