Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark 3

 Recently I made the switch from Canon to Nikon after 9 years of shooting on Canon DSLR cameras. The decision to switch was brought on by certain limitations I was experiencing with my 2 Canon 5D Mark 3 cameras. Mainly noise was the issue, in the shadows. For most people that just shoot stills this can be annoying enough but manageable. For people that shoot timelapse it can ruin a shot or suck up hours in applying noise reduction filters just to make the shot useable. But now with 4K becoming more and more prevalent in the market place things you don't want to see in the image are going to start showing up more. I feel having a camera with this much noise and lack of flexibility in post is a problem.

 Before heading down this road I did a little investigating on the Nikon D810 to see if it was something that could be a good replacement to the Canon 5D Mark 3. After seeing some images that compared the shadow recovery and the ability to push the overall exposure of the D810 to the 5D3, I was blown away. The noise that I've seen in some of my shots when I tried to push up the shadows or exposure in the 5D3 wasn't there in the D810 test images. Also the increase in mega pixels and dynamic range was also something that interested me. But I wondered how that would translate to timelapse.

 There were some fellow shooters that I had talked to about switching over that voiced concern with going over to Nikon. Some saying that the cameras weren't good at shooting timelapse and that the final image had lots of flicker in it requiring work to remove it. I was reassured by other timelapse shooters that shot on Nikon that this wasn't a problem. One of the biggest problem most people encounter with switching from one brand of DSLR to another is they will have to switch to different lenses. Its more of a problem going from Canon to Nikon instead of the other way around because of the flange distance on the Canon lenses. Nikon mount lenses can be fitted with an adaptor to be used on Canon cameras, which makes them more versatile in the switch between these two manufactures. I already had a couple of Nikon lenses and some Zeiss ZF glass back from my RED One days. They were a much cheaper alternative to the PL lenses used on RED cameras at the time. Since these were Nikon mount lenses I was able to use them shooting timelapse on my Canon DSLRs. So long story short, it wasn't that painful for me to move from Canon to Nikon. Still I did pick up a Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 lens when I got the D810's, which is an amazing lens BTW.

 Now trying something new comes with bit of a learning curve and switching from one brand of DSLR to another is no exception. Besides button placement and where things are hidden in the menu both the cameras are similar in form and that they capture light. Other than that they are about as different as the way you twist the lens onto the camera...CCW for Nikon, CW for Canon.

 After learning the basics of the D810 and firing off a few frames I began to realize that I was shooting with a camera that was better suited for timelapse. Now the reason I say this is because of the little things, which do add up to a lot. The shutter on the D810 sounds much better than the 5D3 for one. Its much quieter and more pleasing to hear...but that's just an opinion. The D810 has a pretty cool shutter for the eyepiece that blocks stray light from coming in there during long exposures. On the 5D3 I usually just had a piece of black gaffers tape over the eyepiece to give me the same effect. The other thing that struck me as extremely helpful was the 1:1 zoom on the LCD. Canon has something like this but their 10x zoom in the LCD to check focus is a joke not even coming to half the resolution the camera is shooting. So finding critical focus on the D810 while in live view is much easier as your able to see a 1:1 image in the LCD screen. The built in intervalometer the D810 has is pretty helpful and is nice to have if for whatever reason you don't have the external remote controller Nikon makes...or one of the knockoffs. Resolution on the D810 is greater than the 5D3...36MP vs 23MP. But of course with the announcement from Canon that they are going to be releasing a new set of cameras for the 5D line that are 50MP this might seem like Canon has the upper hand...I'll believe it when I see it. I don't mean to sound like a Canon hater. But after years of buying their products and dealing with the limitations I'm way over them.

 One of the biggest things that got me to switch was shadow recovery and pattern noise. The Nikon did not disappoint in this field. I found that I could push the shadows 100% without some god awful pattern noise creeping up. The other nice thing I discovery about the D810 is that I could push the RAW files safely 2-stops at ISO 100 without the image falling apart like the Canon RAW's do. ISO 100 is pretty safe...or at least it should be but the Canon fails if you want to recover any details in the shadows or push the exposure.

 Enough talking, here's the video.

Nikon D810 vs Canon 5D Mark III - A Timelapse Test from Andrew Walker on Vimeo.

 Hopefully you were able to see what I saw in the RAW files in this video. But if your still not seeing it because of the web compression, here are some jpegs. Now some people might be saying that they would never push the shadows up that high in their shots. But the only reason why people wouldn't be pushing the shadows that hard is because of the noise in the Canon RAW files. If that wasn't the case then I think people would be digging much deeper into the Canon's shadows.

 The shadows where pushed up +100 in Adobe Camera RAW for both these shots.

The shadows where pushed up +99 in Adobe Camera RAW for both these shots.

 I would like to say that this horrible noise hidden in the 5D3 files will be limited to the older model Canon DSLR cameras. It sounds like the new 5DR and 5DSR are going to use the same sensor technology as the 7D2 with rumors its going to have the same noise level as the 5D3. If that's true then all these problems that I have shown in this post would carry over to these new cameras. Hopefully Canon gets their act together and fixes the way their cameras collect light and processes the images. Personally I'm not going to hold my breath for Canon to do anything...

 So after all this needless to say I have begun thinning out my collection of Canon gear.


  1. Yup, that pattern noise is UGLY

  2. - Recently I made the switch from Canon to Nikon after 9 years of shooting on Canon DSLR cameras. The decision to switch was brought on by ...