4.20.2012

Which one will you end up with? And what will you want in six months?




The Canon 5D mk 3 and the Nikon D800 are both incredible cameras.  Absolutely incredible cameras.  Each is a wonderful machine with which to make digital images.  But if you were working with a clean slate and a big, fat credit card, which one do you think you'd plump down for?  Which system calls to you with the ultimate siren song?  Or is it like the choice between two great Bordeaux wines?  Both are incredible but you can only open one...

There are some among our numbers who will own both.  A few contemporaneously and most, serially.  If I didn't have a stitch of Canon or Nikon glass and no other legacy bodies what the heck would I do?

I've played with both and I'm stumped.  The Nikon has image quality galore (especially if you are a DXO true believer) while the Canon 5D mk3 shoots much faster and whips through its buffered images quicker. Some people think the Canon has a better auto white balance while others prefer the Nikon.

The bottom line, really, is that both camera are great photo machines and for most people the choice will be simple.  If you have a bag full of L glass the increase in ultimate resolution is probably not enough to push you to change.  You know logically that if the Nikon breaks all kinds of sales records Canon will have a camera to match it in a matter of months.  In the meantime you can walk around pontificating about how 21 megapixels is really "the sweet spot for pro's..."  and you can talk about how much quicker your post processing is and how few hard drives you are filling up by comparison.  Now, there is that pesky light leak thing....  I'm sure someone who used to design LCD panel systems for Canon has been banished to Sigma or some other level of industrial hell for his most grievous errors.

On the other hand, if you shoot Nikon cameras you'll lunge, without a doubt, to embrace the Nikon D800 and won't even cast a curious glance across the fence because, for all intents and purposes, the grass (for once) is greener right in the middle of your currently occupied field.  Enjoy the camera right now.  If you can get your hands on one...

But, if you have neither system, and you were contemplating buying into one, which way should you go.  As you might expect I have opinions about that.

I've been on both sides of the fence.  Most recently I owned a bunch of Canon stuff.  I owned Nikon stuff right up to and including the D700.  I'm pretty familiar with the lens selections in both camps and I think I can make some good judgements.

If you are involved in video production and you think or know that you'll want to use your camera as a primary shooting tool I'd have to give the nod to the Canon.  Not because I think the images will be better or the sound will be better but because it's so easy to use legacy manual focus lenses from so many sources on the Canon.  With the Nikon it's just not as simple.  Leica R lenses, old Nikon lenses (usable on both) and a slew of other stuff.  Zeiss cinema lenses are a good argument in favor of Canon, for the moment.

But if that's not your concern I'd steer you to the Nikon D800.  Why? Because they seem to have figured out (after the devastatingly dismal DX years) what consumers want and how to deliver it.  They want great files, total in camera lens corrections in Jpeg and raw, and they want low noise at high ISO's.  With the D800 you get most of that and you buy into a system in which a backup body such as the D3s gives you all the high ISO performance you can ask for in the market today.
Easy choice.

Which one will I buy? Now that's a bit more difficult.  See, I think all these cameras should have really cool EVF's instead of last century prism finders.  For the moment I'll be content sitting here with my Sony SLT a77's and waiting (patiently?) for the introduction of the much anticipated Sony a99 full frame SLT camera.  If you can believe the pervasive rumors we'll be looking at a body with this century's viewing mechanism coupled with the same chip as the one in the Nikon D800, weatherproofing and lotsa of super cool extras.

For most people in the market for a new camera right now I'd say, "Wait a month or two and just get the new Panasonic GH3.  It will be smaller, lighter, cheaper and for all intents and purposes, as good as anyone will need for any medium or practical use we're looking at today."  If you can't wait for the GH3 then get an Olympus EP3 or OMD.  Heck, they're more fun to shoot than all the bigger cameras I've played with. But if you go with the Olympus cameras don't forget to bundle in the miracle lenses.  Those are the 12mm, the 24mm Leica Summilux and the 45mm.  And don't you dare buy an EP 3 without a VF-2 finder.

Finally, all these cameras have one thing in common.  They'll shoot better video with LED light panels than they ever will with flash.  Pick up one of the Fotodiox 312AS two color LED panels.  Then, at least you'll be able to see what you're focusing on.....

For current Canon and Nikon users the pathways seem fairly clear cut.



33 comments:

John Krumm said...

I just might be able to squeeze a d800 (maybe the E version) onto my Amazon card after I pay it off this summer. And a lens. I enjoy shooting landscapes, so it seems like a no-brainer, the good kind of no-brainer. We'll see. I'll keep looking at files and reading lens reviews for a few months.

Bill Beebe said...

Neither one, Kirk. I'm too damn poor.

kirk tuck said...

Dear Bill, I read about your record tax bill. Join the club. I guess we're doing our part to keep the secret service in hookers... Ah well, I didn't really need a new car... and maybe my child can run another season of cross country in those old, worn shoes.. (kidding. I consider paying taxes a "first world problem." I still have a house and food and all the rest.)

Bill Beebe said...

Which one will I buy? Now that's a bit more difficult. See, I think all these cameras should have really cool EVF's instead of last century prism finders. For the moment I'll be content sitting here with my Sony SLT α77's and waiting (patiently?) for the introduction of the much anticipated Sony α99 full frame SLT camera. If you can believe the pervasive rumors we'll be looking at a body with this century's viewing mechanism coupled with the same chip as the one in the Nikon D800, weatherproofing and lotsa of super cool extras.

After re-reading the post, I think that if I'm going into the poor house over a camera, then it might as well be the α99. The idea of literally exposing based on what you see in the EVF in real-time before you trip the shutter beats the hell out of chimping to see if the camera gave you what you wanted after you trip the shutter. And you're right about the technology. Those sensors in the Nikon bodies are well over year-old tech. Sony's α99 will have more up-to-date sensor technology.

Bill Beebe said...

One more comment, and then I need to move on.

DxOMark link comparing the 5DMk3, Sony α850, and Sony α900. The Sony's are both discontinued, but considering how long ago they were introduced, their overall score is only two less than the latest and greatest Canon. I'll grant you that the 5DMk3 is targeting mixed-media creative types whereas the Sony's are "old school" fixed image only, but still. The Sony α99 (or whatever the SLT replacement for the α850/α900 cameras are) will be quite interesting. And Sony's no slacker when it comes to video either (except, maybe, when their marketing people get in the way, but no camera manufacturer's marketing is worth much in my not-so-humble-opinion).

DxOMark Link: http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/795%7C0/(brand)/Canon/(appareil2)/604%7C0/(brand2)/Sony/(appareil3)/371%7C0/(brand3)/Sony

kirk tuck said...

Bill, thanks for reminding me to do a comparison. If you want a camera that totally spanks the Canon 5Dmk3 for dynamic range ( which seems to be the #1 thing most experienced photographers say they want in a digital camera ) just look at the Sony a77. http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/795%7C0/(brand)/Canon/(appareil2)/734%7C0/(brand2)/Sony/(appareil3)/371%7C0/(brand3)/Sony

And you get the miraculous EVF into the bargain. I'm heading back to see how the Sony a77's DR compares to the "world's greatest" camera....

hbernstein said...

I dunno, I'm going to be buying a full frame body to work with my bunch of Nikon manual and autofocus lenses. I was thinking of sliding in on the (relative) cheap, and getting an old school D700. Then again, there's always m4/3.

Tell me, oh photo-therapist, am I crazy? Has the d700 overnight become a dinosaur? Has the asteroid hit, and rendered it due for extinction?

kirk tuck said...

Not hardly. It's still a great camera. They're all very usable. Even the older, older stuff. Just point them at the right subjects....

Craig said...

I'm sure both the D800 and the 5D Mark III are superb cameras, but neither is what I'm looking for in a digital camera. Too big, too heavy. When I've spent a day with a classic film SLR such as a Nikon F2 or a Canon A-1, full-frame DSLRs seem like behemoths. I'm thinking the Olympus OM-D will be more my style, but we'll see.

FM said...

I remember well the darkroom, I still have one, but it is rarely used. I still have my medium format film gear, and my 4x5, I did sell my 8x10 in a moment of lucid practicality.

I swallowed big a couple years ago and bought an M9 for my Leica lenses and just recently bought the 5D3 as an upgrade for my aging Canon 40D. The ease of producing high quality prints compared to just 10 years ago is truly mind boggling.

We live in an age of plenty

Jeff N said...

Kirk,

Don't know where to say this, but I LOVE the new design!! Great look, neat options. BTW, I've been following for a few years, quiet lurker, but find it a privilege to read your thoughts and insights each day... keep it up!

On topic, I'm a happy a77 user (and Fuji as well) and I'll happily pass on the Nikon/Canons with fingers crossed for the a99. Completely agree with the magic of 'pre-chimping'.

Pete said...
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Anders said...

The design of the new site is great, but doesn't seem to work well on my iPad1 (no scroll bars when opening this article).

Anyway I'm surely going for the D800 because I already own a lot of Nikon lenses.

The Canon is surely a great camera too, but I went the Nikon road when I bought my first DSLR which was the D80. I was actually convinced that I was going to buy the Canon 350D at the time, but the ergonomics was just very bad so that is why I went with the D80.

I'm not sure what is so nice about EVFs. I have owned an X100 and an E-P2 with EVF and think they are absolutly horrible compared to a real OVF in my opinion.

rich said...

I come here a lot. I've never complained (hardly ever commented). With all of the info on the web I just visit twenty sites regularly otherwise I'd go batty never mind spend all my time at the keyboard. But you've lost me with all the bells & whistles on this newly designed website. For one it just has too commercial (as in TV commercial) feel to it. The pick-the-way-you-like-it is just plain stupid. You may think of it as a flexible presentation but I believe the site should reflect you, not the whims of your readers. I can understand change but this is a case of technological overload. I'm out of here.

kirk tuck said...

Bye Rich.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Nikon/Canon - I've been using "modern" Nikons since the F100. The controls are similar up through the D7000 I'm using now. At 58, the picture I get, because I know the controls is better than miss because I forgot something. Yes - I practice with new cameras doing things like shooting in the dark so I remember where the controls are. It just takes longer for it to become second nature.

MFT is really where it's at for me now unless I'm doing a second shooting gig at a wedding. Waiting for my OM-D to ship. Already have the "magic" lenses (the Panasonic is a 25...the brain just goes to heck after 50 ;-) )

IRA said...

I'm assuming you're speculating but is there a particular advantage you expect the GH3 to have over the OMD?

John Krumm said...

Two additional comments... I still can't get used to the GH2 viewfinder outside, but maybe I just haven't figured out how to set it up properly. I need it to not change, so that when I am looking around things more or less look as they are. As it is, the shadows always block up in the preview when I shift the frame, and I take a blind guess on parts of the composition. This doesn't happen through a viewfinder. I don't need a preview of the possible output nearly as much as I need a clear view of what's in front of me. I suspect I might be running up a against a dynamic range problem inherent to EVFs for now.

Regarding the new design, I like the flipboard option for a quick look at all your posts.

phil said...

I love the new site - looks fab on my ipad. Love the comments about this gear because it''s exactly the stuff I am looking at the moment- sony 77? Nikon 700/800? Canon 5D? Oly OM thingy? Must choose!! Best wishes from England (old one not the new one!) Phil

Paul Glover said...

In answer to your initial questions: neither, and either a Hasselblad or a 4x5 of some sort. Probably the 4x5.

The big flagship DSLRs represent the exact opposite of where I want to go with my photography now.

That, or I'm just some sort of bloodyminded contrarian!

Paul Glover said...
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Paul Glover said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cidereye said...

Indeed, I understand and share your sentiments fully Paul.

My planned investments this year are probably a Pentax 67 & some Better Scanning holders to improve/flatten the quality of my scans.

Shawn said...

I've certainly thought about the D800 as a digital shooter for my wife. She uses a D90, but needs better low light performance. But the aging D700 looks pretty sweet to me for the price. I use a Hassleblad 501cm and a Toyo 4x5 for 90% of my work, but I would be sorely tempted to take a FF Nikon for a spin. :)

New design is nice, Kirk. Content is fantastic as always.

kirk tuck said...

I like the design and each reader can use the pull down menu on the upper left, just under the site header to choose the way they want to view it. I am partial to "magazine" and I think that's the default.

Much appreciated.

Anders said...

Ok scroll bars working fine now on my iPad, but there a some other issues like this article overlapping the back ground which is scrolling when swiping in he left side of this page. Maybe a good idea to check how this site works with portable devices like the iPad, Galaxy and pretty soon Windows 8 tablets which will hit the market this summer.

Jason Hindle said...

I can see the D800 poaching some Canon users and I suspect the reverse is not true. Which would I buy if starting afresh? That's a difficult one! The D800 is clearly a better camera on many levels IMHO but I have more Canon shooting friends whom I can go to for advise if I were to get a 5DIII.

John Passaneau said...

I'll get used to the new site in time. It was a bit of a shock when it pop'd up for the first time.
At the moment I can't see any real advantages over the old layout, but hay I'm and old guy.
I lust after the new Cannon. For the kind of photos I like to make a full frame camera would be a real step up. But for a long time hobbyist like I am who is retired the price is too steep for me. I been serious in my photography since 1970 at one time I had 2 Cannon F-1's (great cameras) so I'm not against spending money but the current price is too much. I am thinking about picking up a used one of the previous model. It would give me most of what I want in a camera.

Paul Glover said...
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Paul Glover said...

Might be more than 6 months in my case, and I'm apt to change my mind and end up with any number of medium or large format options, but that's the general gist of where I'm headed.

Apologies for the multiple posts BTW. Now at all sure how I did that! Then the reply to this wound up as a reply to the duplicate post I nuked. *facepalm*

diforbes said...

I like the new site layout Kirk.

The case of the camera conundrum gets curiouser for me . . . I handled the Olympus OM-D in my local shop and came away a little less in love with the idea of downsizing my gear, both in terms of sensor size and form factor:
- The camera is SMALL. Reviewer Steve Huff said the camera feels better in the hand with part of the optional grip attached. He was right. Add $300 to the cost of the body.
- The button are small. I can foresee not being able to shoot by feel while keeping your eye on the viewfinder.
- Speaking of the viewfinder, got to wonder why Olympus didn't up the spec on this to something closer to the Sony Nex 7 EVF.

In all, my gut says to wait this out a bit and see whether future iterations of the Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless bodies mature. Better AF and more lenses for the Fuji? Better EVF for the Oly/Panny? Larger body on the OM-D? Of course, Canon has yet to weigh in.

kirk tuck said...

I'm on hold for the Olympus OM-D. I want to play with one in my own hands before I put down my cash. I'm not unhappy with the sensors in the EP2 or EP3, Love the VF-2 finder on both and the recent lens purchases were on target. I'm a split system user. The Pens are my art cameras and the big cameras are for the clients. I'm also kind of glad to be sitting out the current nIkon/canon intros as well. Too much "buyer adrenaline" isn't good for your nervous system...

MikeH said...

Kirk,

Have you first hand experience with the GH3? I won't ask for any juicy details but your comment about it sounds quite promising.