Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D MkIV – Which is Better?

The age of digital photography has largely been dominated by the two biggest DSLR manufacturers going toe-to-toe to win over photographers looking to spend. Canon and Nikon both have exceptional pedigree and both brands currently offer top-line professional cameras that burst at the seams with features. While both cameras share a number of specifications, there’s plenty of difference too, so read on to find out which model is right for your photography…

Both cameras feature full-frame, high-resolution sensors and robust, weather sealed bodies.

Design and ergonomics:

The 5D MkIV is the newest camera from Canon’s legendary 5D line and was launched in September 2016 so is now already one year-old. Replacing the older MkIII, the 5D MkIV is a full-frame camera that offers 30-megapixels. The build of the DSLR body is similar to its predecessor, although with the addition of a ‘nipple’ button on the rear of the camera that can be programmed to select a number of options. As you’d expect from a pro camera, the 5D MkIV is weather sealed, meaning you can continue to shoot when the rain starts. The MkIV is similar in size to the older MkIII and is slightly lighter than the MkIII and its D850 rival.

The D850 is the replacement to the popular D810 and was launched in August 2017. Also built around a full-frame sensor, the D850 serves up a massive 45.7-megapixels of resolution and also offers weather sealing to protect the internals from the elements. In terms of specifications, the newer Nikon bests the older Canon in a number of departments. Along with the higher resolution, the Nikon also has more autofocus points, with the D850 borrowing the high-performance 153-point AF system from Nikon’s flagship speed camera, the D5. In contrast, the 5D MkIV offers just 61 AF-points, although all 61 are compatible with f/8 autofocus, meaning they will work when a lens is paired to a teleconvertor.

While both LCDs on the cameras measure 3.2-inches and are touch-sensitive, the D850’s screen boasts higher resolution (2359k-dot vs 1620k-dot) and features a tilting design, compared to the fixed Canon screen. Tilting screens are not only useful when trying to set-up low and high compositions, but also for when you’re shooting video. Both cameras can shoot at 7 frames per second in burst mode, but if you add a battery grip to the Nikon, that figure rises to 9 frames per second, which is a rapid burst rate considering the size of the resolution involved.

When it comes to lenses, there’s no surprise that the D850 uses the usual Nikon F mount and the Canon uses the EF mount. This means there are a huge number of optics to choose from for both cameras, including plenty of options from third-party lens manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron. On the rear of the cameraNikon users will notice the D850 sports illuminated buttons, which make it easier to select features in low light conditions. Both cameras offer dual memory card slots, with the 5D MkIV taking one SD/one Compact Flash, while the D850 takes one SD/one XQD card. With dual memory card slots, users can choose to instantly back-up images to the second card, shoot JPEGs to one card and RAW files to the other or use one card for stills and the other for video. These choices can speed up your workflow and dual card slots are a must for a professional camera these days.

Both cameras offer high resolution suitable for big print-making.

Image Quality:

With 45.7-megapixels to play with, D850 users can expect to create prints well in excess of A3. What’s more, because the files are so big, users will be able to crop heavily in on an image without compromising the image quality. While the 5D MkIV trails behind in resolution, 30-megapixels is still a huge amount and see’s a jump from the 5D MkIII’s 22-megapixels. The newer Canon will also be able to make prints in excess of A3 and will tolerate a good degree of cropping of images in post-processing. Interestingly, both cameras have the same native and expanded ISO ceilings at ISO25600 (native) and ISO 102400 (expanded). This will allow images to be captured in very low light conditions.

While both cameras shoot both JPEG and RAW file formats – it’s can be handy to know that, as the RAW files from the D850 are so big, photographers can decide to select the smaller Medium Raw or Small RAW options. This approach can be useful when if your computer set-up struggles to deal with large files or you’re running low on memory on your SD card.

While the 5D MkIV features a fixed screen, the D850’s LCD is tiltable – useful for shooting video.


Although the market for both these camera is primarily professional landscape and portrait photography, there’s a huge amount of features that will make videographers sit up and pay attention. Both cameras are capable of recording ultra high-quality 4K footage, though the Canon actually produces a slightly highly resolution file (4096×2160 vs 3840×2160). Footage from the D850 can be used to create insanely high quality 8K time-lapse creations in post-processing and both cameras offer ports for headphones and an external microphone.

Meanwhile the 5D MkIV can record a special HDR movie mode to make more of the shadows and highlights in the scene. Along with the 4K, both cameras can also record Full HD at a number of different frame rates, including a fast frame rate that’s used to create dramatic slow motion footage. Thanks to the abundance of movie-related features, both cameras are capable of producing amazing footage in the hands of a videographer, meaning the D850 and 5D MkIV are great for video as well as stills.

Both cameras shoot 4K video and have ports for headphones and an external mic.

Extras and verdict:

While both cameras share many functions, there’s also plenty of individual features worth learning about. The D850 offers up a special Focus Bracketing mode, that will automatically take up to 300 shots at various depths of field. These images are then merged to produce a single image with front-to-back sharpness – an option sure to impress macro photographers. While both cameras offer Wi-fi, the D850 is the only one that also features Bluetooth to enhance connectivity between the camera and smart devices so you can upload images on the move. What’s more, the D850 has a superior battery life, offering 1840 shotes between charges, compared to the 5D MkIV’s 900.

However, the 5D MkIV has some special features too. 8-megapixels JPEGs can be extracted from 4K footage, meaning you should never miss a moment and the Canon is the only unit in this review to offer GPS, so landscape photographers can record locations information – useful if you wish to share locations with fellow photographers. Both the D850 and Canon 5D MkIV represent cameras at the very top of their game and combine high-resolution sensors, with high-performance autofocus systems, decent burst rates and exceptional video quality. If you are already invested in one system of lenses, you’ll find much to love in either model, however, one specifications alone, the newer D850 makes for a more advanced DSLR.

Nikon D850Canon 5D Mark IV
Price$ 2,419.00$ 2,139.00