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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Nikon D800 v Canon 5d mkii | Landscape Photography Comparison

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I have just polished off my side by side landscape image quality comparison between the new D800e and my trusty Canon 5d markII. I have based the test on print result rather than straight screen shot comparisons, as screen shots … Continue reading

Nikon D4 disappointment? Deal With It.

Sheep at sunrise sandymount hoopers inlet otago peninsula dunedin New zealand

Sheep At Sunrise. Sandymount, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand.

Purchase this image on our webstore as a canvas print here

This was originally posted on Google+

D4 disappointment? Deal With It.

After months of (extremely accurate) leaks, an Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan and biblical grade flooding in Thailand, Nikon has formally announced the D4 to the photographic world.

As with every Nikon digital announcement that I can remember since the D2h, the internet has been awash with Nikon woe.

Comment streams are clogged with whinging ninnies and the ubiquitous switchers-to-be threatening to jump ship. Canon v Nikon spec sheets are being compiled, compared, printed and eaten in fits of despair while the underwhelmed and disenfranchised are proclaiming the end of Nikon and the ascendency of Sony and now Panasonic.

Here on G+ Trey Ratcliff appears to be viewing the D4’s apparently underwhelming specs, lack of ‘innovation’ and archaic SLR form factor as a harbinger of the DSLR’s demise.

Trey has gone into overdrive with a series of provocative posts – we have him in a Robert Scoble YouTube post denouncing the reflex mirror as a ‘DaVinci-esque’ contraption he is hosting an upcoming ‘is the DSLR dead?’ obituary hangout and re-sharing ‘the D4 sent me to sleep’ opinion pieces from equipment commentators that I have never heard of.

To date, I have not sighted a single comment or post from a photographer that starts with “when I shot with the D4 last week X happened…..” – apparently not one of these commentators has even shot with the D4.  It’s all vapour.

I am going to put the ‘DSLR is Dead’ theme aside (until tomorrow) and focus on the Nikon D4.

The general theme seems to be an over-arching disappointment at the lack of ‘excitement’ delivered by the D4.

I’m sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but the Nikon D4 is not Playstation 5 or a Maserati. The D4 is not an entertainment device – it is a tool aimed at a very select group of professional photographers. If you are not in the D4’s target market you are not really supposed to get excited by it.

For the record, I am not remotely excited (or disappointed) by the D4 for that very reason – it is not my camera – it never was going to be.

In my experience Nikon has a long history of under-promising and accurately delivering with it’s DSLRs. It is seemingly corporate dictum to be out-specced by Canon. It is very rarely actually out-shot by anyone.

You will note that insanely great shots are made by shooters in both camps regardless of spec sheet differentials.**.

The D4 is an incremental iteration of a mature (and possibly dying) camera concept – it replaces a camera that, in many ways, didn’t really need replacing – the see-in-the-dark,10fps D3s.

As I don’t shoot a D3s I will have to defer to a higher power ( +Thom Hogan) who noted some months ago that he had not met many folks wanting to see the D3s go away – it is coveted amongst it’s user base for it’s freakish low-light capabilities, accurate autofocus and overall snappy and reliable performance.

In short – the D3s gets the shot where other cameras can’t – at the outer edges of photographic performance.

The D3/s user base is not going to tolerate any degradation of these features and this is where the difference between the consumer market and the professional market really lies. Consumers will tolerate being Guinea Pigs – working professionals won’t.

Assign a snazzy acronym to any unproven technology, toss it into a mirror-less or point & shoot and someone will buy it and love it.  Problems?  Fix ’em next time round and if it really sucks just tweak it, create a new acronym and roll it out again.

Go mirror-less and whack a brand new AF system into your ‘Flagship’ sports camera 6 months out from the Olympics and you are dead if things go pear shaped. I repeat dead.

Which is where I see a strange role reversal happening. The marketing clout of the ‘Flagship’ camera is greatly diminished in my opinion.

There are numerous consumer cameras that will ostensibly tout ‘better’ headline numbers than the D4/1D X within a year and smartphones within 2 years. Of course they won’t really be better, but try explaining that to anyone.

Barring the entrance of a new player such as Red – I believe that most innovations that were once driven from the ‘top’ of the range will now be deployed in the upper-mid section of the ranges. That is where I perceive that the bleeding edge currently exists – in the pro-sumer and emerging formats.

Winning technologies will be greatly enhanced and moved up the range until they hit the top – but not until they absolutely represent a tangible field-ready and robust improvement to the established user base.

This will be bewildering to many consumers and gear freaks – but the simple fact is that most working pros that I know care far less about their camera specs than most enthusiasts do. Pro’s like myself care about reliability, ergonomics, weight, spectacular glass and image quality.

Working photographers are simply too busy making images (and money) to be worried about this crap.

Is the D4 perfect?  No way. Once again Nikon failed dismally to learn from apple (sorry android) by omitting any sharing and distribution features onboard. They have yet again eschewed standard connectivity such as Wifi and GPS (just unacceptable).

There will of course be numerous other niggles but overall the D4 will be a killer camera for those that need it and know how to use it.

Will I buy one? No way – I have no need for the D4’s capabilities at present and I don’t like lugging ‘full body’ cameras these days.

I am waiting for the D800 – I can’t wait to hear what is wrong with that ;-)

Tune in tomorrow for when I publish my prequel to Trey’s Is the DSLR Dead? hangout.

(Not Yet Baby – Not Yet)

*surely the first time I have seen negative connotations applied to Leonardo DaVinci’s work.

** I shoot with both systems – in the vain hope of becoming the world’s best photographer.