Nikon D800e vs Canon 5dmkii Landscape Photography Comparison [UPDATED]

canon 5d mark2 v nikon D800e landscape photography comparison test

Which is better for landscape photography – the Nikon D800e or the Canon 5dmkii?  Thinking of upgrading from the Canon 5dmkii to the Nikon D800e?  Who knows?  Hopefully I will have the answers for you by the end of this test shoot! 

UPDATED 25 JULY: NOW WITH DYNAMIC RANGE COMPARISONS

[UPDATE BEGINS] When I first wrote this review I figured that the big story between the Canon 5d markii and the Nikon D800e was the headline grabbing resolution shootout.  Well, the resolution battle was indeed interesting, but not quite as blood-spattered and gory as I was hoping to be honest.  The D800e certainly out resolves the 5dii but it only matters once huge enlargements are made (important to me).

After shooting with the Nikon D800e for a while it became starkly apparent that it’s most usable great leap forward for landscape photography was actually it’s dynamic range performance.  The D800e is so good in this respect that I actually found myself penning (on my keyboard? :) another article entitled Are ND Filters Dead? – where I revealed the Nikon D800’s almost disconcerting ability to create terrific looking landscape images out of RAW files that would be little more than train-wreckage on other DSLR camera bodies. 

However, I am well aware that a placebo effect kicks in with new cameras – you find results that verify your preconceptions.  Maybe my trusty Canon 5d mkii would have been equally capable of rescuing highlights and opening up shadows as the D800. I decided, once again, to channel my newly discovered testing nerd personality and pit the Nikon D800e vs the Canon 5dmkii in a dynamic range fight club – here’s what I found:

Test Details: Both cameras were shot on aperture priority -1EV and they selected identical shooting settings of f/8, 1/250th @ ISO 100.  I then ran both RAW files through Lightroom 4 at identical synced settings – shadows +100 and exposure +.85.  I tested the shadow performance rather than highlight recovery, because I tend to actively avoid clipping highlights when photographing. I prefer blocked out shadows to blown highlights.

This is what we got with the Nikon D800e (another stunning test shot :-) :

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

And this is the Canon 5d mkii:

Canon 5d Markii Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

Look about the same to you?

Well take a gander at this 100% crop from the two cameras side by side (Canon 5d mkii on left and Nikon D800e on right)

100% Detail Comparison

Dynamic Range Shadows Test 100% Detail Comparison.
Left Image: -Canon 5d mkii after lightroom adjustments
Right Image: Nikon D800e after Adobe Lightroom 4 adjustments.

Now I remember why I never felt inclined to toss away my Singh Ray ND grad filters while I was shooting with the Canon 5d markii (or any other Nikon DSLR for that matter).  Compare the dark fence rails –  crazy colour noise and criss-cross patterns emerge on the Canon while the D800e looks like it could be pumped up another stop or two.  Wood patterns emerge from the murk on the D800 that are almost destroyed by colour noise on the Canon.

Compare the midtones on the leaves – the same story repeats itself.  Once again, it is not that the Canon 5d mkii is doing a bad job (noise reduction would tidy this up a bit) – it is that the D800e is doing a freakishly good job.  Not only does the Nikon D800/e deliver a significant bump in resolution it does so while re-writing the DSLR book on noise control and Dynamic Range – I didn’t think that pixels crammed this close together could do this.

For what it matters I personally proclaim the Nikon D800 to be the world’s best (and best value) landscape photography DSLR.  

[UPDATE ENDS]

Please take the time to read the rest of this report and view the image quality and resolution comparisons.

VIEW THE IMAGE QUALITY COMPARISONS>>>>>

READ: ARE ND FILTERS DEAD – D800 DYNAMIC RANGE LANDSCAPE EXAMPLES>>>

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One comment on “Nikon D800e vs Canon 5dmkii Landscape Photography Comparison [UPDATED]

  1. Nice article.
    Although to be fair, Canon cameras’ dynamic ranges are usually wider in overexposed areas and Nikon cameras’ are wider in underexposed areas.
    I think it would be interesting if you can compare equally overexposed photos of these two cameras.

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