Gear

Canon 5Ds vs Nikon D810: Is this the Ultimate Full Frame Face Off?

With the release of the high resolution 5Ds & 5Ds R, Canon has put forth a couple of serious contenders to Nikon’s megapixel king – the D810. For sure, if you’re with one brand already, the chance of you making the switch is not high. But it doesn’t hurt to know what the competition offers, right? Here’s a head-to-head comparison of what the 5Ds and D810 offers up for all those high-resolution full-frame junkies out there.

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The Specs

Canon 5Ds Nikon D810
MegaPixel 50.3 36.2
Lenses available 156 152
Focus points and cross-type 61 (41) 51 (15)
Dynamic range 12.4 14.8
Shots per battery 700 1200
Video rate 30p at 1080 60p at 1080
SD card slots 1 2
Release date June 2015 March 2015
Price

$ 1,769.00

It’s all about the image

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Sensor

In terms of image size at 300 DPI you get the Canon pulling in image size of 8688×5792 pixels (73.56cm x 49.04cm ), compared with the D810’s 7360×4912 pixels (62.31cm x 41.59cm), which might mean a lot to you or not a lot. It all depends on what you need rather than what you want from your camera. Just because the Canon has a lot of megapixels, it doesn’t mean the Nikon’s 36-megapixels is measly by a long way. The D810 outputs some gorgeous images, with super sharp details.

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Nikon D810 with 24-70mm @ f/8, 1/320s, ISO200

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The devil is in the details. Not literally.

The D810 is a real improvement over the D800E in that it has taken the anti-aliasing filter away completely, whereas before, with the D800E, it was all about the software cancelling-out the effect of the anti-aliasing filter, which was still present.

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Nikon D810 with 24-70mm @ f/8, 1/400s, ISO200

The obvious difference between the EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R is that the R has the effects of the anti-aliasing filter cancelled-out, much in the same way as the D800E. That is quite a disappointment, especially given the quite significant price difference for an insignificant difference in performance. Thus, the 5Ds seems like the better choice, and a number of pros in Hong Kong that we know have suggested this would be their preference too. Of course, the 5Ds does have an anti-aliasing filter without the effect cancelled-out, but it more than makes up for this with the sheer amount of megapixels that you’ll find onboard its sensor.

The 5Ds pulls out enough details to make your images stunning but not too much as to detract you from that by showing up every single flaw and pore that will make an otherwise pretty picture ruined.

These are the images that were taken with the 5Ds when Kai reviewed the 5Ds and 5Ds R for DigitalRev TV:

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When you look at the images on your retina display, the Canon’s images do look nice. But it’s only when you look closer and closer that you can appreciate why, as you’ll notice the added refinement you get from the high megapixel count. Of course, with big resolution comes big compromises.

ISO

The high ISO performance of the 5Ds and 5Ds R is sort of non-existent, basically because it doesn’t really go to a high ISO by modern standards. With a native maximum ISO of 6400, this is something that can only be described as “retro”. The Nikon does a little better, being able to reach the heady heights of ISO 12,800 but the fact in the matter is that the Nikon deals with noise a lot better than the Canon.

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Canon 5Ds @ ISO 6,400

Auto focus

On the Canon side you get some added zing to the gazillion of auto focus points you get tracking on face and colours which is neat in quick and tricky situations like weddings where you might get just one shot as the party moves on. Despite the D810 having less points, most noticeably with the amount of cross-type points, the system is still a good one.

It’s not all about the numbers, especially as the D810 uses the same autofocusing system as the one found in the D4s, with the same Expeed 4 processor too. You won’t find much to separate the D4s and D810 in terms of focus speed and accuracy of subject acquisition.

The autofocusing system of the Canon is accurate and quick but the thing is – you probably wouldn’t be using the Canon or perhaps even the Nikon for fast-moving subjects anyway.

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FPS

Both max out at 5fps, which is not ideal for fast-moving subjects. If you like shooting raw the Nikon has a buffer of 23 RAW compared to the Canons 14. But break it down further and the Canon can get 500 jpg versus the 100 or so with the Nikon. Be aware the files format and card may factor in performance too here, you’ll need at least a UDMA 7 card to keep up with it.

The Canon has a 1.6x and 1.3x crop mode, with the Nikon offering 1.2x and 1.5x. However, with the Nikon you can add an extra frame per second in 1.2X crop mode, giving you 6fps to play with and if you shoot with a battery pack and in 1.5x crop mode, you can get 7fps. Although both offer the option of smaller file sizes, the Nikon just seems to have the edge when it comes to being used for sporty or speedy subjects.

Other Stuff

There are loads of numbers and names here to throw off a photographer, Digic 6 versus Expeed 4, but one difference that opens up with Nikon especially is the way it can capture 1080p 60/50fps video. In fact, surprisingly, the Nikon seems better for video, now that they have really improved the video quality with their latest line of DSLRs and given the fact that the Canon lacks things like a headphone jack and offers only a paltry 30 fps.

Another thing that is definitely worth considering is the battery life – the Nikon maxes out at 1200 shots while the Canon only manages 700. It does depend of course on usage but that is still quite a significant difference.

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Conclusion

Well in the end both beasts have attractive features and both cameras stand on the shoulders of previous models and have had many years of R&D and consumer feedback built into them. It really all goes back to the fact that if you plump for one system, the chance of you switching is slim. The best way to approach it is to look at the optics because if we’re talking about high-resolution DSLRs, both will satisfy most types of photographers. Mind you, no matter what you go for, both cameras will set you up for many years of imaging joy and ultimate experiences.