Saturday, April 21, 2012

5D MkIII versus D800 versus D7000 – Has Canon lost the plot?

I must admit to being very impressed with the initial DPReview high ISO images from the 5D MkIII when they were first posted. I was wondering how Nikon could compete with that. But now that I have processed a 6400 ISO low light image from the D800 and seen the DXOMark scores from the Canon, I’m starting to wonder if Canon has lost the plot somehow …

Basically, the DXOMark scores show that the MkIII is very slightly better than the MkII, it seems stuck back in the last decade. To really see what is what, I thought I would write one of my puff pieces analyzing the MkIII against the D800 and for a bit of fun, the D7000. Which is the only dSLR I own right now.

No doubt some will be shocked to see how far ahead Nikon has pulled in sensor technology with the D800. The undisputed king of the sensor scores. But what will be even more shocking is how close the D7000 and the 5D MkIII are in overall sensor score.


That’s just not right. Here’s a question: Should a wedding photographer in a sunny climate use the 5D MkIII for the outdoor shots, or a D800? And if said wedding photographer cannot afford the D800, perhaps the D7000? After all, dynamic range rules when the white dress and black tux are standing side by side in blazing sunlight. Note how I presumed that the Nikons are the right choice. YMMV, especially if you like white lenses. Note, though, that the Surgeon General says that excessive use of white lenses can shrink your genitalia over time.

Moving on …

The SNR measurements are actually pretty close. The 5D MkIII is ever so slightly worse than the D800, with the D7000 trailing by about 1.33 stops for most of the range., Amazingly consistent curves.


Dynamic Range is where things really start to rock and roll. The Canon is completely outclassed by both Nikons. Shame on Canon for that. It’s 2012, not 2009.

image‘The Canon is still a half stop behind the D800 at 1600 ISO and only pulls ahead of the D7000 by 1600 ISO.

The last two graphs show the tonal range being neck-and-neck, although the D800 is slightly ahead most of the way; and the final graph shows the color sensitivity being basically tied again, but this time with the D7000.


In conclusion, I’m just surprised that Canon appears to have chosen to rev the old sensor technology again instead of cranking out a stronger technology for this generation. Nikon has had the undisputed low light crown for quite some time.

Disclaimer: Canon makes excellent cameras. There is nothing wrong with them, especially if you already own a bunch of compatible lenses and accessories. I would not presume to say that they are bad cameras in any way, shape or form. But … I would take a Nikon body over a Canon body any day of the week, and these numbers show that it's not just the ergonomics any more.