Canon 5D Mark II vs. Nikon D700 In-Depth ISO Comparison

In my prior quick and dirty comparison of the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700, we looked at some sample images taken from these two cameras and relied largely on each camera’s autofocus and built-in metering with very little manual tinkering by me.  The prior comparison also featured 100% crops from each camera at its native resolution.

Based on reader feedback, I’ve gone back to the drawing board for a second, more in-depth comparison of each camera’s image quality and ISO range.

Details on Setup

  • Both cameras mounted on tripod
  • Remote trigger for Canon 5D Mark II & Timer trigger for Nikon D700
  • Canon 50mm f/1.4 & Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lenses
  • Aperture set to f/8 on both
  • Custom white balance for each camera via ColorRight
  • Manual focus via Live View 10x zoom (focus point on the letter “F” in “AF” on the focus switch of the Canon Rebel XSi lens in the image – see below for sample image)
  • RAW capture w/ no edits
  • Export to JPEG via Adobe Lightroom
  • Canon 5D Mark II files down-res during export to 4256 x 2837 pixels
  • Nikon D700 files exported at native size of 4256 x 2832 pixels

The reasoning for the down-res on the 5D Mark II is to compare apples to apples.  I think the last comparison made it clear that a 100% view of a 21.1 megapixel image is going to show more noise than a 100% view of a 12.1 megapixel image.  Additionally, the 21.1 megapixel image is going to show more detail at a 100%  crop than the 12.1 megapixel image.  Accordingly, for the purpose of noise comparisons and overall detail levels, I think it is appropriate to look at the images on a level playing field by taking the 5D Mark II down to 4256 pixels in width.

[UPDATE: Due to several comments regarding the down-res of the 5D Mark II files, I've included the original full-res files as 100% crops and enabled downloading of these files for your further inspection.]

I’ve taken 100% crops of the area around the main focus point of each file and combined the D700 and 5D Mark II crops for side-by-side viewing.  Each original file is available for download via the links below the 100% crops if you want to look at other portions of the image for additional comparisons.

Obviously, there are minor variations in the framing and field of view of the images between the Nikon and Canon.  In switching out the cameras on the tripod and reframing the scene between the two cameras, I was a bit off; however, I do not believe that these differences had a material adverse effect on the overall test.

For reference purposes, here’s a shot of the complete scene that was captured, which you’ll get if you download any of the originals.

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 50 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 50 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 and Canon 5D Mark II Comparison Images

Nikon D700 images are on the left side of the frame and Canon 5D Mark II images are on the right side. [Update: Full resolution images from the 5D Mark II are included below the main comparison images.]

ISO 100 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 100 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 100 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 100 Original

ISO 200 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 200 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 200 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 200 Original

ISO 400 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 400 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 400 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 400 Original

ISO 800 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 800 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 800 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 800 Original

ISO 1600 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 1600 Original

ISO 3200 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 3200 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 3200 Original – Down Res

Nikon D700 ISO 3200 Original

ISO 6400 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 6400 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 6400 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 6400 Original

ISO 12800 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 12800 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 12800 Original – Down-Res

Nikon D700 ISO 12800 Original

ISO 25600 Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II at Full Resolution below:

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 25600 Original – Full Res

Canon 5D Mark II ISO 25600 Original – Down Res

Nikon D700 ISO 25600 Original

Canon 5D Mark II vs. Nikon D700 Conclusions

To my eyes, the 5D Mark II comes out on top when comparing the ISO results at the same image sizes. In addition, the 5D Mark II comes offers a sharper overall image throughout the sensitivity range. As noted ealier, however, it is also clear that viewing the images at their native resolution shows that the 5D Mark II suffers from the increased (and smaller) pixels.

One variable that could have leveled the playing field a bit further, however, was lens choice.  Unfortunately, all I had to work with on the D700 at testing time was the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens.   While this lens is highly regarded as a bargain performer, it is likely not on par with the EF 50mm f/1.4 from Canon, which was mounted on the 5D Mark II at the time of the test.  If Nikon would like to provide additional equipment for testing, I’ll be happy to oblige them with further tests.  In the mean time, I will continue to work with what I can get my hands on.

I think these past couple of tests prove the point – both Nikon and Canon have produced stellar DSLRs at prices that we would have considered unthinkable five years ago.  I also think that Canon could have produced an almost-perfect (in light of current technology) DSLR had the 5D Mark II been 12-15 megapixels.  The sacrifices to image quality to get 21.1 megapixels at higher ISOs are just not worth it to me.  I would image that many wedding and event photographers would feel the same way.  While ISO 6400 and below is usable in many conditions, I think Canon could have pushed the envelope further with their current sensor technology had they decided to use larger photosites (and fewer megapixels) on the 5D Mark II sensor.

Nevertheless, the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700 are probably the best overall DSLRs in the market in terms of cost vs. benefits.  The lenses and accessories in your camera bag are probably the deciding factor if you have been eyeballing this pair of cameras.  And, if you are looking to jump into a system at this level, I can’t give you a good reason in terms of image quality to avoid either one.  Unless you have a need for 21 megapixels at low ISOs, then both of these cameras deserve due consideration.

The Nikon D700 and Canon 5D Mark II are available on Amazon.com, B&H Photo and Adorama, which are my three favorite, and also trustworthy, online vendors.

Look forward to more reviews and news on both of these cameras here at Photography Bay.  For now, you can also check out the Canon 5D Mark II Reviews and Resources and Nikon D700 Reviews and Resources.

If you don’t want to miss out on future coverage, subscribe to Photography Bay by RSS or by email.  Learn more about RSS and email delivery here.

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Comments

  1. says

    first image (left) is nikon, and canon on the right, i see a slightly sharper image on the canon, but this might be the lens “fault”. i’ve made a test, by cleaning noise (for highest iso), thru a filter … and there are pretty similar, canon is up (better) by few procentes (10-12%) … i still belive in canon 5d2, i’ll buy it next year …

  2. Amedi says

    Can you say what the shutter speeds were for these shots Eric? In comparing ISO values it is of course important to know all the exposure details. Nikon or Canon might be a little off with the actual ISO values. With different exposure times comparing is not really transparent.

  3. says

    @Amedi – I’ll give you a quick range. ISO 100 shots were at 5 seconds for the 5D and 4 seconds for the D700. At ISO 25600, 1/50s for the 5D and 1/60s for the D700. You can pull the full EXIF from the originals if you want additional exposure information.

  4. says

    Uh…white balance is colder on the 5D mkII and there’s a 1/3rd stop exposure difference. These cameras may also have different responses under different light. Were these florescent lights? If so exposure can be off by a random amount, due to 60Hz flicker.

    A third of a stop may seem insignificant, but raising the gain on a sensor raises the noise floor, which squashes dynamic range. At 25600 a third of a stop could be the difference between noise in the shadows and none. Not quite apples to apples. Close though.

    Still damn impressive output from the 5D mk II. Too bad it doesn’t have a more robust feature set, other than the video.

  5. Jack Amano says

    Comparison should have been done with the sama type of
    lens, while the 50/1.4 is used on the EOS5D MkII
    and the 50/1.8(very old lens) on the D700.

  6. says

    Yeah this is the first time I’ve seen the D700 not perform better on ISO.
    If you’re in Utah I have a Nikon 50mm 1.4 if that helps.
    That lens is way better than the 50mm 1.8 which i used for years.
    The detail on the d700 pictures wasn’t very good either.
    That canon 1.4 lens is on another level compared to the nikon 1.8

    But perhaps an easier option is to just get the canon 50 1.8.
    But still I think better with the nicer lens so it’s more about the ISO.

  7. Eric says

    This may be old news, but here it is for ya.

    The DXO site comparing the camera sensors has Nikon D700 a bit ahead of the Canon 5D MKII for dynamic range and low-light ISO performance. This takes the lenses and other shutter variables out of the equation. D700 focusing ability and frame rate beats Canon 5D MK II easily. If Nikon had the HD video they’d be eating more of Canon’s lunch. Look out, here comes 2009!!!

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/eng/DxOMark-Sensor

  8. Bill says

    Interesting – but you have to admit that both images at 25600 are pretty poor. I suppose for that “must” photo it could be useful, but sure couldn’t see using it for much else. I remember having used a Canon f 0.95 lens years ago – now THAT was a hunk of glass!

  9. says

    Despite a few differences in the test setup I think the performance of each camera is clearly seen and doubt that correct the differences would dramatically change the results.

    Even though the Canon performs better we should not overlook the fact that both are remarkably good. If prints were made from both cameras the difference would be less noticeable and am sure that even prints from the highest ISO would be usable.

  10. melgross says

    I’ve always felt, from my own work, that the proper way to make comparisons is with the cameras at full resolution, at the same print size.

    Bringing both cameras to 100% is not the way we use images. Neither is cutting down the resolution on the higher resolution camera. Who would buy such a camera, and then cut out the main advantage from buying it? If both of these cameras were used to make a 13 x 19, or a 17 x 25 print, at full resolution, how would each look? That’s what matters.

    I find that doing this shows the higher resolution camera, if it has about equal noise at the pixel level, looks not only sharper (of course!), but also less noisy.

    As for the DXO results that Eric cites, I feel as though their results are bogus. If you look at the individual charts for each test, the conclusions you can find will be different. They CHOOSE the way they weight each factor.

  11. melgross says

    Guys, the lenses used make no difference here. Both the 1.8 and the 1.4 are good enough for these tests in the center, esp. at f8. In fact, both Canon and Nikon’s 1.4 lenses are inferior to their 1.8 lenses at the corners.

    When you get an image with twice the pixels, and drop it to the same number as the lessor camera, you will always get a sharper image from the higher pixel sensor.

    The image from the D3x will also be sharper than that of the D3/700 when brought down to the same rez.

  12. Adam says

    Completely agree with melgross. If you take any image and resize it down by approx 50% it will look better. The lenses used are very good and a moot point as they are both very sharp primes at that approx F-stop.

    Lightroom sharpens output. I have found that if I output the 100% image versus a 50% resize and both are sharpened the same, the 50% size always looks better.

    This test shows the benefits of more megapixels and would be nice for there to be 3 images, D700 @ 100%, 5DMK2 at 100% and 5DMK2 @ the 12 megapixel of the D700.

    Regardless, thanks for the test, it was interesting to see.

  13. Bill says

    Gotta agree with Melgross –

    The issue id=s the end use – NOTHING else matters – can you get an image that satisfies your customer? Its like arguing which speaker is better – if I can’t hear the difference, what does it matter? In a lab test one may edge out the other – but when I make a print and my customer is happy, does it matter? I see so many “discussions” over Nikon v. Canon that it is crazy. Both cameras are capable of capturing great images, so who cares? I believe it was Ansul Adams who said something to effect that no photographer is as good as the most simple camera. Remember, there are a lot of people still shooting film! And don’t give me the argument that I am not a “pro.” Funny how the first 1D was good enough for the pro’s – but even as the image quality and features improve people can argue that it is not good enough.

  14. baka says

    wow are you kidding me? Are you saying the MKII has better noise when “resized”? You are not comparing apples to apples. You are comparing a noise-reduced image via pixel interpolation resize to an original image. Doctored apple to apple.

    Both your comparison methods are flawed.
    want to do this right? post 100% non-resized crops of the same area. yes the canon crop will be larger. it is supposed to be. Then you’ll have a true noise comparison instead of a meaningless test.

    In fact, I’m not sure this is comparing noise levels as much as it is tilting the field towards the canon. When you resize an image the resize algorithms interpolate pixels and soften the noise away tremendously. Thanks for showing us how good the program you used to resize the crops is.

    The reason your readers asked you to do this is because they knew the outcome as probably anybody who is ever resized a noisy picture knows: “Make it smaller, and it looks better”.

    so now you have it: 5DMII, D3X A900 users, resize your images to 50%. On that note, can you try the A900 while you are at it? I’m sure noise will improve too.

  15. Ivan says

    A little strange to see 5d mk II to see so much better with regards to noise – the difference is pretty significant… saw a couple of other tests where it wasn’t the case.

  16. says

    Another thing: these appear to be straight from the camera. No arguing that Canon’s noise reduction is good. However, there are different settings for noise reduction on both cameras–how do these affect output?

    How about the top ISO at the same exposure RAW? That’ll tell us what the sensor is really doing.

  17. octobat says

    If you really wanted to compare “apples to apples” & “oranges to oranges”, then you should’ve added more:

    – use f/1.4 lenses or have both f/1.8 lenses. Or, use a 3rd party lens with the same fixed aperature so no one can say one lens is better than the other.
    – use same aperature & same shutter speeds, your light source stayed constant, no? This will also tell you how the sensors really perform.
    – use AF instead of manual focus. How do we know you didn’t deliberately mis-focus on one camera? Using live view to manually focus is NOT a good way to determine a camera’s perfomance. You might say this is about ISO performance, well if sharpness is going to be discussed, then making sure something is in focus is absolutely necessary.
    – either turn off or on noise reduction for both cameras. Nikon has high ISO noise reduction on by default. You need to mention if NR was on or off.
    – Turn off other “auto” or “active” features as well. You didn’t mention if Active D-lighting was on or off for the D700. Yes, dynamic range matters.

  18. Rainer says

    In practise, you don´t need more than 3200 ISO.

    For me important is only this question:
    Does the Canon-21 MP-output make better big prints in galery-quality ( 60 x 80 cm ore more )than the Nikon-RAW, comparing with the analog middle-format ?

    If not, you need not 21 MP

    Important for the quality of pictures is also the quality of the lenses fitting to FF. Canon has exelent fix-lenses, for example the 85, 1,2 but no good zoom like Nikons 24 – 70 mm, 2,8 . This fact reduces the quality of 21 MP-pictures in daily use.

  19. muhmuh says

    Canon and Nikon have the same quality. Only the ISO 12k and 25k Canon is a pixel better than Nikon, but the AF System in the D700 is better.

  20. mike says

    For an even more fair, version III of this test, please turn the Canon High Iso Noise Reduction ON. I know it’s already blowing D700 to pieces, but just to be fair.

  21. mike says

    Downsampling to same resolution is only fair. Objections to downsample are only suspicious; however, giving people a chance to do their own downsampling makes fair sense. So thanks.

  22. mike says

    The Canon F1.4 vs Canon F1.8 is the best match for this Canon/Nikon test – they are closer in performance than F1.4 vs F1.4 or F1.8 vs F1.8. Same reason the guys are dpreview are using the combo for their Nikon/Canon comparisons.

  23. mike says

    I can’t wait for version three of this review with ISO NR ON on both cameras and if possible ISO NR OFF on both cameras. But is that possible on a Nikon?

  24. mike says

    I don’t agree with oktobot about the using AF. Liveview and manual focus is the way to get close precise focus. We are comparing ISO noise, not focusing performance. The focus is very close between the two, and it is best that it’s close for comparing ISO noise levels. oktobot says that you could be sneaky with MF, but truth is that if you really wanted to be sneaky you could easily falsify EXIF and say you used AF. The idea here is to get matching level of focus for fair ISO comparison, and that you did well.

    Just keep blowing us away with your comparisons.

  25. mike says

    “Contrary to conventional wisdom, higher resolution actually compensates for noise”; just follow the link to this DXOMark article on the subject:

    DXOMark Article [Ed. Link fixed]

  26. mike says

    Make sure to include the exclamation mark at the end of the link above if you are trying to follow it. An amazing read, and something most of us have long suspected about the relationship between signal to noise ratio and resolution.

  27. Steve Turrell says

    The comparision is skewed towards the Canon because the 5D mark 2 used longer shutter speeds perhaps you should have used manual with the same f stop & shutter speed & iso.
    I don’t think having different lens is a factor as we are looking at noise
    but how did you set the white balance on the Nikon it seems way off i think you could have set a better custom white balance using a sheet of matt white paper.

  28. brian says

    I would like for those so ready to bash Eric’s comparison technique to do it themselves and make it available to us. Until then–stop acting like he’s an idiot and be thankful that something is available at all.

  29. Jim says

    Eric,
    *Thanks very much* for a thorough review.

    You probably learned the lesson that you cannot please everyone. As long as you’re satisfied with your methods and you’ve explained them (you have), then the results speak for themselves. You cannot be expected to answer all questions for all people! (Reminds me of the song “Garden Party” by Rick Nelson, but that’s a different kettle of fish…

    Something that some people seem to not realize… different camera models have different sensitivities to light, even at the “same” ISO setting. The DxOMark web site makes that quite clear. When comparing the noise performance of two different camera models at the “same” ISO, one approach might be to keep aperture the same, and adjust shutter speed such that the actual exposures are as close as possible to one another. This would be more “real world” in the sense that you’re trying to achieve the same “look” with both cameras, which might (probably would) require slightly different exposures.

    Once again, thanks very much for all your efforts with this.

    Enjoy!

  30. Steve Turrell says

    @ brian sorry my opinions are not to your satisfaction i offered them in good faith.
    Eric i would like to know more on how you set the white balance i guess the 5D 2 is a lot closer to correct.

  31. says

    @Steve Turrell,

    Thanks for the question. I used custom white balance and snapped the WB control image through the ColorRight tool from the same location with each camera. I shot inside a white light tent with a modeling lamp (which is obviously very warm) above the light tent.

    I can’t help with an explanation as to why the D700 came out warmer. And, I won’t rule out that it was user error either; however, I tried to keep things as equal as possible. You may be a little surprised about my feelings toward the D700 when you read my Nikon D700 review tomorrow.

    I just check the color temperature in Lightroom and it looks like the 5D Mark II came out at 2300K and the D700 came out at 2450K.

    Perhaps I should have adjusted the D700 down to 2300K in post-processing prior to exporting from RAW to JPEG; however, at the time, I preferred to leave everything as close to “as shot” as possible.

    Best regards,

    Eric

  32. Melomind says

    A first true and real comparison of the two models. Eric, thank you very much for this!

    Stupid wars who’s better. I own L-lenses, accessories and flashguns of Canon… it’d be nonsense to change the system since both I’m sure are great, however I’m used to Canon and like it very much.

    As of the 5DMKII, I personally give it preference – not because I used Canon’s. I just like the image indeed better and 21mpix give more room for play and print. I don’t need the amazing speed, 4fps are fully enough for me since I’m not an action photograph (5D was never positioned for action photography I persume..? :) )

    The only thing irritating me is this silly black dot issue. This will for sure flush Canon with fresh water (at cost of losing some loyal customers) so they plan better ahead and improve their QA, however I will get 5DMKII anyway … just after a little while when the issue is fixed :).

    People, choose what just more appeals to you, that’s it! And stop being technocrats – better practice your photography rather than compare the sensors, signal2noise ratios etc… The eye, joy and art was first so it’s all about it and not about the technology. Keep that in mind and take care!

  33. hideo says

    to all those complaining about 1.8 and 1.4 lens difference – dont be childish, do you really think that these lens (stopped down to f8 btw) could affect noise amount at hight ISO? :)

  34. mike says

    @hideo The nikon 1.8 and canon 1.4 is actually a good match, and I am happy that care was taken to have such a good match whether or not it could make any difference on the high ISO noise.

  35. Pablov says

    I am surprised with the image quality of the 5D MK II
    I would’ve bet the D700 had really lower noise and better quality at high ISO, but these photos don’t show what I supposed…

    Really interesting that a higher MP sensor is achieving so high quality

    — I’m just considering what brand / model to buy.
    I have to evaluate the lens line too.
    Compared to Nikon, Canon has a cheaper 24-70 f2.8L, a better 70-200 f2.8L, a 70-200 f4L, and a 24-105 f4L -all L lines- .
    Nikon lacks a good range of lenses at this moment. Nikon’s 70-200 f2.8 is not as good, and the 24-120 is far from good…

    I like Nikon a lot. But so far Canon is offering me better options.
    The only thing I really miss on the 5D MK II is the lack of the built-in automatic Chromatic Aberration system that the Nikon has (for JPG).
    I know you can fix it in Adobe Camera Raw or other RAW processing software, but It is very useful, handy and fast to have it built-in. Saves a lot of time

    Also sould like the pop-up flash.. since I don’t use flashes, but sometimes just for filling or ocassions it would be really useful for me.

    I will check the Black-Dot issue of the 5D MK II

    I wish Canon had implemented Video mode in a more professional manner (allowing full manual setting, and some kind of focus assistance while recording)

    Anyway I won’t buy all the gear until mid of the year, maybe there is some new option then…

  36. says

    I think so too the both images at the iso 25600 are very poor but I must say the 5d id a little better. The detail in the lettering is much more defined. As for the color the 5d is better and more sharp.

    Thank you for doing this test. It’s very informative. I still like my old 5d. :)

  37. Melomind says

    @mike! Thanks! I’ve got an update on firmware from Photography Bay by e-mail and feel now 100% confident and happy and will just begin to save for my 5DMKII!!! :)

  38. Brian says

    I don’t know why everyone is complaining. This is a ISO comparison, not a sharpness comparison. The lens has nothing to do with noise, and neither does the focus. In the comparisons it clearly shows that the 5D Mark II at native OR downsized resolution has a slight advantage over the D700/D3 in NOISE. The only thing that effects noise is exposure and temperature. I admit that the Nikon photos are a tad darker then the Canon shots, but even if they were the exact same exposure the 5D Mark II is still the winner in ISO performance because it has the same, if not better ISO performance then the D700/D3 EXCEPT (for those who forgot) the 5D II has more resolution. At 100% I would call it a tie, I don’t think the slight difference is worth the argument, but on print the 5D Mark II will appear cleaner because of the higher resolution. Of course this is only a comparison of ISO performance, don’t forget the D700 wins in pretty much every other category.

  39. stve says

    i wonder why the DXOmark rates the D700 better for iso perfomance.
    My guess is that the D700 uses a faster shutter speed & does not suffer from banding issues.The only reason to use a higher iso is to gain shutter speed & on the D700 you can raise iso by a third , half or a full stop.
    the white balance of the D700 is clearly off which doesn’t help matters.
    ISO perfomance is the one area where the two cameras are closely matched.
    I’ve gone with the D700 for me a better allround camera but for many the Canon 5D 2 will better suit their needs.

  40. says

    all the matter is noise solution on feild and colour temp.d700 image is having 2 percent more towords black.5d showing right mark temp on feild..with iso…,.

  41. GEORGE says

    For those persons trashing the DxoMark site, I suggest you read their site and see all of the various hoops they go through to ensure that they’re only measuring the camera’s ability along the 3 stated metrices. I was awed by the work they’ve put into answering these questions. Seriously. Unless one simply disbelieves both their calculations, their logic, their math, and their assertions of the thousands of images that constitute the basis of their research, it seems pretty clear that they arrive at a different conclusion from the one Eric arrived at here. There are any of a number of variables that Eric does not (cannot) take into account that they did. So, ultimately, while I appreciate the effort Eric put into his test, it seems from the fact that he’s quoting the folks at DxOMark, that he too accedes to their supremacy of methodology. It’s that simple and the winner as far as low light noise is…….the D700. Happy shooting Canon 5DMarkII folks.

  42. Heidi says

    @George Sounds like you already have a D700 ;)

    You can go by numbers. I will go by the results. In the end, what matters to me are the photos that a camera is capable of producing, not the numbers produced by a mathematic system external to the camera.

  43. Andrew says

    Just my 2 cents. These are both excellent cameras and people should worry more about what they point them at than these minor differences in noise or sharpness.

    What I see is slightly lower noise and slightly sharper images for the 5D Mark II. Both of these qualities are easily within the range of normal processing parameters in RAW conversion. Different parameters yield a different image. Even using the same RAW processing software, the programers made different processing choices for different cameras. In the end maybe one is better than the other, but my ability to focus or hold the camera still is usually more of a problem.

    DXO Mark is in danger of becoming a joke. Some of it’s ratings clearly do not fit the experience of many photographers. They call it objective for something which will always be subjective. Even if eash of their criteria objectively a measured real photographic attributes (as opposed to a RAW file attribute) for each component of their DXO Mark, the weighting and how they combine them are completely subjective. For example, some rate sharpness higher than noise and an important attribute.

    For an alternate view on sensors and imgage quality visit Clark Vision’s excellent site. His “objective” measure places the 5D Mark II as the best DSLR on the market. Much of his work is based on the needs of astro-photographers – a group who are fanatical about both noise and sharpness.

  44. stve says

    http://www.dpreview.com/ has just posted their review of the 5D mark 2 & they conclude that the D700 is better for low noise but not by much.
    If you add the better AF of the D700 in low light levels to the faster shutter speed it uses compared to the 5d mk2 it’s clear that in poor light the D700 is better as a low light camera for concerts receptions ect.

    i was very impressed by the sample pictures by the 5D mark 2, i then checked out their sample pictures from their D700 review & was very impressed.

  45. zulu says

    I find that Clark Vision’s photon-collecting-ability sensor comparisons and measured ISO charts are convincingly grounded in evidence. I like their somewhat less overenthusiastic overview of the sensor ‘scene’. I like the photon counting approach. The graphs give you a very different perspective from the super high ISO spec math hype people would like to believe in. I always though the sensor rating scene paid too much attention to company published specs when evidence spoke against the numbers. Clark Vision is different.

    Here is the link to the Clark Vision sensor comparison. Enjoy:
    http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/digital.sensor.performance.summary/

  46. stve says

    theres another iso comparision between the two cameras at
    http://www.xtremephotography.ca/Canon-5D2-Vs-Nikon-D700/.
    The D700 was better at all ISO’s & there was detail in the D700 shots that the 5D mk2 missed especially in the blacks at every iso from 400 to 25600.
    The Nikon maybe had the better lens , a newer design & had better focus.
    both cameras used the same settings
    Canon 5D Mark 2 vs Nikon D700 High ISO Comparison
    5D2 Lens Used: Canon 24-70 F2.8L
    D700 Lens Used: Nikon 24-70 F2.8
    Focal Length: 70mm
    Aperture: F8.0
    High ISO Noise Reduction: Off
    and the exposure time was the same for both

  47. Current D700 User and soon become Canon User says

    Hi All,

    I truly believe D700 is more pro camera in team of total feature it has and build quality.
    Eg. Command system, use build flash as fill light, HIGH D Rang Shooting. Etc.
    I have no problem believing higher ISO have more correct colour and perform better than Canon.
    Bigger pixel always wins.

    However, to take a great picture needs skill and good camera body and a good lens….
    Lens is the area where Nikon is truly fuxxxken piss me off with it range and price.

    I have D700 which I am really happy have with it, however I can’t find any decent lens to go with it at the price that I can afford.

    Especially Australia Nikon just increase the price for both lens and body like 30% increase in one go. which really shits me.

    Eg, 14-24mm $2800 , 70-200mm f2.8 another $2800, 24-70mm F2.8 $2400 + D700 which was $3450 + SB900 $700 when I Got it.

    It is shocking $12150 in total.

    On the other side, Canon 5D II feel like a toy next to D300 or D700, however canon have heaps of lens to choose from.
    Even the L lens are more reachable than Nikon’s. eg. 70-200mm F4 $899 in oz. For Nikon only choice I have is 70-200mm F2.8 VR cost $2800 now.

    I mean not everyone wants F2.8 and F2.8 isn’t sharp anyway. Why don’t Nikon build some F4 and reduce its price?

    Now I am thinking of returning this “very nice, very solidly build but kind of useless to me D700” back to the store and exchange for a 5D mark II.

    A least I have more choice of Lens to play with and 10% off in ISO isn’t going to make the biggest different in my life but lens are. !!

    But again why Canon use so much plastic on 5D II? Why u have silly black dot? Why you make a shutter that will fall off? Will you always miss focus?

    Why why why ?

  48. says

    Funny some people thinks it’s unfair to compare a downsized 5D2 picture to a 100% D700 picture.

    OF COURSE this is the only way to do a comparison with regards to noise levels.

    If 12Mpx is the best/highest resolution the D700 has to offer, then of course we have to bring down the size of the 100% shots from the 5D2 to compare. If downsizing eliminaties noise and sharpens the image, well so what? I am still left with an image of the same resolution as the max of the D700. Cheating? Whatever, I have the same resolution picture, with LESS NOISE!

    More Point and shoot cameras (e.g.Fuji) are now offering differnet shooting modes to eliminate noise and increase ISO performance. If the way to do it is to decrease resolution then so what? If getting a noise free picture is your goal! The 5D2 also offers sRAW shooting with lower resolutions to save space and improve noise performance in high ISO. It has been debated several places online on how this process is done. But bottom line is, even if it is software and not hardware which does it, WHO CARES? As long as I get LESS noise with acceptable resolutions then I am satisfied.

    The point that you have comparable noise levels on the 5D2 shot with 21mpx to the D700 with “only” 12mpx makes the 5D2 an fantastic camera. The fact that a 12mpx shot on the 5D2 has even less noise than the D700 is awesome, regardless how it is done, because the D700 is also a GREAT camera!

    sRAW on the 5D2 (10mpx) will be more than adequate for my needs, and results show that sRAW has much less noise than regular RAW on both the 5D2 (even if downsized) itself and the D700 native.

    We know putting more pixels into same size sensor brings out more noise, so:
    Tell Nikon to increase the resolution of the D700 and then see how it performs against the 5D2, I am pretty sure the advantage to the 5D2 would be even bigger!

    But wait, haven’t Nikon allready done so with their D3x? Yes they have, and the results are just as I suspected.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d3x/iso-6400-5d-mark-ii-d3.htm
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d3x/iso-3200-5d-mark-ii-d3.htm

    The 5D2 has less noise than the Nikon D3/D700 and it outperforms the D3x by a mile!
    (And all these shots have been made with the excatly same lens, so forget about blaming the lens here! – Nikon lens mounted was used on all cameras, also on the 5D2 with adapter ring).

    So, say what you want, but I am shooting maybe the most demanding pictues with regards to noise, (Aurora Borealus/Northern Lights), and even if all the new FF Nikons are excellent cameras, without a doubt in my mind the 5D2 outperforms them all on NOISE comparsion!

    If you like Nikon, the buy Nikon, if you like Canon, then buy Canon, it’s as simple as that. Both 5D2 and D700 are great FF cameras with little noise on hight ISO.

    But if you also would like to shoot great portrait pictures or landscapes for commerce use, the 21mpx just might come in handy!

  49. Current D700 User and soon become Canon User says

    It will be great if canon can have better QC and SRAW at this stage is going to give you ugly picture at ISO above 400 during night shoot. Higher the worse.

    According to Canon, the solution is dont use sRaw, why dont we just all think of that?

    But really, if both camera works , they both great both good.
    Canon just need to fix up those problems, and nikon need to make more lens and increase the res.

  50. Current D700 User and soon become Canon User says

    Hi Moonpie,

    Not sure if I am reading it correctly but according to your link D700 wins the high ISO. Also I think 5d II is not getting the correct colour reading of that monky.

    “The D3 is as clean and sharper than the 5D Mark II, and since the D700 performs the same as the D3 at ISO 3,200, that means the D700 is as clean but much sharper than the 5D Mark II at ISO 3,200. “

  51. stve says

    @ moonpie the 5D 2 is easily the worst & shows less detail than the D3
    quoting Ken Rockwell from the second link iso 3200 pics

    “Analysis
    I don’t see much difference at ISO 3,200. The worst is the Canon 5D, but not by much.
    I don’t see any significant noise difference at ISO 3,200 unless I’m looking too closely.

    If you look at the blowups, the D3X is sharpest, but that’s because it is the sharpest.

    The 5D Mark II looks the smoothest, but that’s because it slops on the noise reduction with reckless abandon. Notice how the noise is smoother, but so are the fine details!

    Because of all the noise reduction of the 5D Mark II, the Nikon D3, with only half as many pixels, looks much sharper than the 5D Mark II at ISO 3,200 because it is sharper. Noise reduction isn’t free: it costs you sharpness in exchange for nice smooth backgrounds.

    The D3 is as clean and sharper than the 5D Mark II, and since the D700 performs the same as the D3 at ISO 3,200, that means the D700 is as clean but much sharper than the 5D Mark II at ISO 3,200.”

    Personally i don’t agree with KR when he says he does not see much difference between the cameras i prefer the D3 at 6400 to the 5D mk2 at 3200.
    There’s lots of good info at Ken Rockwells web site but you have to run it through a bullshit detector

  52. hmm says

    That’s the $8900 Nikon D3X Rockwell is comparing with the $2600 5D2. Not much difference there he says IQ wise, but he’ll take the D3X given the choice and his financial situation. And why not?

    Given the high ISO results on 5D2 and the D700, I will take the 5D2, easily.

    And I will take the added bonus of having the high ISO noise divided by the number of pixels, with the obvious results available here on this page.

    Talking will not make your D700 prints look any better. Have one more look at the photos: http://www.photographybay.com/2008/12/27/canon-5d-mark-ii-vs-nikon-d700-in-depth-iso-comparison

  53. stve says

    Check out ISO 6400 at
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D700/FULLRES/D700hSLI06400.HTM
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/FULLRES/E5D2hSLI06400_NR_OFF.HTM
    It’s much closer here the D700 has less noise overall & shows more detail in
    part’s of the image for example the darker textiles & the Canon shows far more detail in the proportional scale.
    Both cameras have excellent results for ISO 6400 but for noise at high ISO the D700 has the edge at least in all the comparisions i’ve seen apart from the photographybay one, the worst result for the Canon 5d mark 2 i’ve seen was at Ken rockwell.
    I expect Nikon to release a D700x sometime this year & Canon to respond with a
    Canon 5D mark3 with a AF system from their top model sometime in 2010.
    I think the D700 is going to keep me happy for years to come.
    in the meantime enjoy your cameras .
    Canon competing with Nikon is hotting up & we have two excellent cameras in the D700 & 5D mark 2 & better cameras & lens to come .
    A rising tide raises all boats.

  54. hmm says

    @stve in those links you provide, of the two cameras, 5D2 has the Noise Reduction OFF. No wander it shows more noise.

    Curious photographers are interested in fair comparisons of the two amazing cameras, such as this honest to detail one that Eric provided. We do not want to delude ourselves with miscomparisons that the one we own rocks. You see, providing a comparison where only the Canon has the NR off, does Nikon D700 no service if you know what I mean.

  55. hmm says

    @Ken Rockwell ( and D3 and D700 were out and covered by him long before he wrote this )

    “The 5D Mark II, as I write this, is the world’s highest-image-qualty 35mm-based DSLR.

    Few lenses are as good as the 5D Mark II.

    For example, Canon’s state-of-the-art 16-35mm f/2.8 L II is the best lens of its kind, and on the 5D Mark II, you’ll see every one of its optical limitations in excruciating detail.”

    Anyone who cares for reference, it’s here at http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/5d-mk-ii.htm

  56. stve says

    @hmm
    if D700 has noise reduction on (& i’m not sure about that they don’t make it clear) it would certainly give the D700 an advantage for noise but that would give the 5D mark 2 an advantage for detail because noise reduction smears fine detail.
    I provided the link with noise reduction off for the 5Dmark 2 because i thought it showed the 5Dmk2 at its best.
    & here is another link where the D700 & 5Dmk 2 are compared at iso 12,800
    as well as comparing it to the D3x at iso 6400 (a quote “Now you have to ask yourself how the Nikon D3x could possibly use the same sensor design as the A900, when it outperforms even the Canon 5D Mark II at its highest ISO setting.”)
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/E5D2A.HTM
    I think the reason Eric’s comparision favours the 5D Mk2 is because he used aperture priority & the Canon used longer exposures.

  57. stve says

    @hmm from the Ken Rockwell link he also says this
    “18.) No facial recognition. AF rarely gets the correct focus on a subject’s eyes unless you’re either lucky, or put the subject directly under one of the AF sensors. The Nikon D3 and D700 are far superior here, magically nailing almost every people shot.

    Trying to photograph my wiggly toddler in low light with a 50mm f1.4 lens, the 5D Mark II and EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens combo rarely gives me an in-focus shot at f/1.4 and f/2, while the Nikon D3 and D700 and old 50mm f/1.4 AF-D lens nail it perfectly almost every time. The Nikons have some sort of magic facial recognition, which comes from knowing 1.) the focused distance, 2.) having a color meter which reads 1,005 segments and 3.) having 51 AF segments, and 4.) knowing what to do with all this information, while the Canon 5D Mark II is clueless. The 5D Mark II has only a 35 segment, back-and-white meter, only 9 AF sensors, and no clue about subject distance.”
    & another link to Ken rockwell he does’nt see much difference but to my eyes both nikons are better for detail & colour saturation
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d3x/iso-6400-5d-mark-ii-d3.htm

  58. Stve says

    Outback photo have been reviewing cameras for years & they allways shoot the same scene from iso 400 on up
    i prefer the Canon 5D to the 5D mark II
    for the 5D mark II iso tests they used a 24-105mm f/4L zoom you can compare this with a 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens theres a 100% crop of the Ristorante photo taken with both. The macro lens is much sharper & more detailed , i think you might have to shoot with primes to get the full benifit of the 21 MP

    I used to own the Nikon D200

    http://www.outbackphoto.com/reviews/equipment/nikon_d200/Nikon_d200_review.html

    It was a good camera but ISO 800 indoors was the most you could use the nikon D300 was a lot better & the D700 is incredible.
    Most of these high ISO tests are taken in good light and don’t show the huge difference between a
    Nikon D200 & a Nikon D700 in poor light indoors

  59. Stve says

    I’ve just had a look at the original Canon 5D Mark II ISO 3200 Original – Full Res & Nikon D700 ISO 3200 Original photos on this page & looked at the exif data & the 5D MK 2 was over exposed by a third of a stop compared to the D700
    for example at iso 3200 the D700 had an exposure time of .125 of a second & used a exposure bias of 0.333
    & the Canon 5D mark 2 had a exposure time of 0.166 & used a exposure bias of 0.666

    it’s the same for all the photo’s the Canon used plus 2/3 rd’s of exposure bias compared to the Nikons plus 1/3 rd exposure bias.
    giving the Canon a third of a stop advantage is hardly fair.

  60. results says

    Looked at all the links and comparisons and I see that it’s either D3X or 5Dii. Someone commenting on another of Eric’s comparisons said that D700X will kick 5Dii’s ass, but I figure not until next year. So don’t dust off those Nikon lenses just yet, not unless you do have the dough for the D3X.

  61. Pablov says

    @stve:

    Canon 24-70 f2.8 is known to be worse than Nikon 24-70 f2.8 (wich is great)

    So any comparison between 5D MK II and Nikon D700/D3 using that configuration can achieve unfair and wrong results…

    It’s much better to use the best prime of each brand, to compare the bodies

  62. Pablov says

    well, by the way, after reading some (but not all the comments -too many-) I will say:
    I would take Ken Rockwell’s comments with lot of care….

    Eric’s review shows lot of interesting things.
    You can also check other reviews, but take in serious account what LENS is used for the test along with the equity of lighting and other factors.
    They have to be as much similar as possible to make a valid comparison.

    And also, check the sample photographs of each camera by yourself at 100% (or 100% crop).
    You can also analyse them in Photoshop to see each RGB channel

    And besides that, the fact that every brand have so different Lenses option makes a big decision factor.

    So if you plan to buy a camera you SHOULD check the performance of each lens you are going to buy too (and of course its total cost)

    Many factors to consider when buying a new rig, indeed !

  63. stve says

    @Pablov
    yes the Nikon has a better lens but the Canon has a very good lens & we are looking at photos resized for the web i very much doubt it makes any difference.
    Don’t forget we are looking at noise comparisions.

  64. Vern says

    Your tests are fine, despite what naysayers say. The tests convinced me that my choice will be a D700. As for the comment about Rockwell’s preference, it would only push me farther with this decision. I don’t value his very subjective views at all. As you say, both cameras will give us performance unimagined not long ago. My conclusion is that the Canon achieves its performance by means of more in camera processing, the Nikon gets cleaner images straight from the sensor. Don’t mean to influence anyone else’s conclusions, all of which is based on brand loyalty. I just thank you for helping me to decide that the D700 is the one I will be saving for.

    Thank you,

  65. Canon User says

    This is definitely not true of the comparison. The white balance could be match with the same setting. I’ve seen and compared myself that D700 was able to compete on the noise level against 5D Mark2 at high ISO 25600. It is more of the pictures were being switched. 5DMark2 is equally good as well but marginally of the above comparison on noise level, I’ve tested out unbiasely that the D700 has better noise level than to 5D Mark 2

  66. D40 says

    @Vern How could Erics’s test comparison convince you to go with the D700? Are you blind?

  67. Nikon Girl says

    I see that you also used different lenses. With the Canon you used the 50mm 1.4 and the Nikon the 50mm 1.8. The 1.8 is not the quality that the 1.4 lens is, which from my understanding, holds true with Canon also. So, I guess to me, the comparison seems slightly off and not a true comparison for judging. For those that say lens does not make a difference, I totally disagree. If that is true, why does Canon make the “L” line? Why not have just a standard line and not the two different grades with tremendous price differences? Glass makes a huge difference in the quality of photo you produce.

  68. d700 says

    This review is totally skewed in Canon 5D2 favour.
    The white balance is way off for the Nikon the Nikon is using a cheaper lens
    but the biggest difference is that the Canon used longer exposure times compared to the D700
    quoting Eric “Eric
    December 27th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    @Amedi – I’ll give you a quick range. ISO 100 shots were at 5 seconds for the 5D and 4 seconds for the D700. At ISO 25600, 1/50s for the 5D and 1/60s for the D700. You can pull the full EXIF from the originals if you want additional exposure information.”
    In a test comparing noise between cameras you must have the same exposure time for both cameras.
    This review was done by a Canon fanboy for Canon fanboys.

  69. Morten says

    @Nikon Girl

    The lens does not produce sensor noise. Therefore the lens doesn’t really matter when comparing ISO noise.

    And to the people saying that you can’t compare a resized version of the 5DII vs the d700. OFCOURCE you can… that is a bonus of having a higher resolution. In a real world situation you would have the same framing for both cameras and the result is not really interesting in a 100% situation.

    You always release photos in a certain size… be it pixel size for digital purposes or analog for print. In these REAL WORLD cases you would _always_ receive the full benefit of the “resize” issue. On digital you would resize both 5dii and d700 images, and on print you would be able to print at a highter dpi for the 5dii. I both cases you get the benefit of the “resize” so that is the ACTUAL apples to apples comparison.

  70. D700 says

    @ Morton if the D700 used the same shutter speed as the 5 D 2 it would be able to use a lower iso giving the D700 picture less noise
    setting a wrong white balance on the D700 i don’t know if it makes for a noisier picture ? but it for sure makes a picture with lower quality.
    Checkout
    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/01/05/nikon-d700-review/
    http://www.photographybay.com/2008/12/18/canon-5d-mark-ii-and-nikon-d700-high-iso-quick-comparison/
    & a link to flicr showing photos by the D700 & 5D mk2 ( all the D700 shots were taken at iso 6400 and are sharper & more colorfull than the 5d mk 2 pictures which are mainly out of focus drab & all taken at iso 3200 or iso 2500
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericreagan/sets/72157611760942279/
    this page & these links are all from the same person

    • says

      Note that the Flickr images were processed. Many of the 5D Mk II images were desaturated. Images from both cameras ending up running in the magazine assignment I was working on from that Flickr set.

      There’s a new comparison coming 6/9/09 with each camera on a tripod, using auto white balance and aperture priority. Hope it helps in your discussion. I’d love to hear what you think – good or bad.

      For what it’s worth, I carry Canon gear in my bag, but I still think the Nikon D700 is a very solid camera – particularly with regard to the low light noise performance and autofocus. In many ways it outshines the 5D Mark II; however, I do not consider either camera a poor quality camera by any means.

  71. D700 says

    @ Morton have a look at
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/E5D2A.HTM & have a look at the 12800 iso shots by the Canon 5d mk2 & the Nikon D700 underneath he’s uprezzed the D700 shot to match the 5Dmk2 using Photoshops bicubic sharper & remember there are better methos of resizing that can do a far better job.
    Further down the page theres a comparision with the D3X at iso 6400.

  72. D700 says

    Hi Eric i look forward to your new review should certainly help regards sensor noise, but i doubt many of us use a tripod with a high iso set in camera as you’ve used both at night taking photos of street scenes what’s your impression of the cameras regards AF in low light auto wb color ?

  73. D700 says

    @ Eric thanks for putting up your new review
    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/06/09/canon-rebel-t1i-vs-nikon-d5000-review-iso-comparison-part-ii/#comment-173564
    Interesting read, looking at the 100% crops at iso 100 i was surprised by how much the 5D mk 2 was smoothing the picture & not holding on to very fine detail like the wall texture the other 3 cameras in the review despite having less resolution did better

    Looking at the iso 3200 pictures of the camera on this page i notice that as well as giving the Canon a longer exposure & correct white balance you also gave it a third of a stop extra exposure compensation

  74. lk says

    Why are you using 50mm f/1.8 for the Nikon but use f/1.4 for Canon. The Nikkor f/1.4 performs much better. This review is bias.

    • says

      @lk – These were the lenses available to me at the time. I don’t think that the difference in the lenses is significant with regard to ISO performance. However, if you would like to supply a Nikkor f/1.4 for future reviews, please let me know and I will forward you shipping info.

  75. D700 says

    @Eric i agrre about the lenses both good at F8 but why did you give the Canon a third of a stop positive exposure bias that gives the Canon a big advantage for noise ?

    • says

      @D700 If I recall (and it’s been a while), I believe I was trying to balance the histograms. In hind sight, I probably should have left well enough alone. I expect that my next comparison will entail a manual exposure setting that evens out the exposure settings across the board.

      I appreciate the discussion that has developed from this test and I have to say that all of the comments will help refine future testing. Maybe one of these days I’ll make get it all right…

  76. D700 says

    for future tests i suggest getting hold of an old teddy bear they have plenty of fine detail that cameras will strugle with as the iso climbs & shooting with just a table lamp for lighting.
    I’ve just been watching some videos by the 5D mk 2 over on vimeo, fantastic quality but i guess the vast majority will struggle to achieve reults as good.head on over to vimeo & enjoy
    http://www.vimeo.com/groups/5dmk2/videos/5129825
    and another one i don’t know what was used to film it but it’s very good.
    http://www.vimeo.com/1531870

  77. says

    Well, thankyou very much for your work.
    I have seen, downloading the full sized files in other sites, (the comparometer), amd with the resized files of 5D Mark II from jpeg to bitmap -and so also for nikon,-(to avoid jpegrotation) that D700 has in white areas a clear advantage on 5D mark II.
    But to day here with your work i really see more clear and sharper and less noise on 5 D MARK II.(For me, beside the autofocus is important have high iso in the dark size of the frame good as more as possible,with indoor sport) and now i’m not sure of nothing at all.:)
    Of one only thingh i’m sure.Yestarday i have downloaded some files UNDEREXPOSED of D 700 at 3200 iso in RAW an i have NEVER seen the same possibility of raise the level of light without noise.Unbealeavle if you don’t test by yourself an raw file!!Now i try with files of 5mkII.
    We are testing two wonderful cameras, never seen before so perfring in low lights.
    Again thankyou for your work…

  78. Michael Jackson says

    After reading all the replies above, I found most replies which were posted are pretty biased. Nikon user would never agree to the above results where Canon user would keep on debating how good the MK2 is over the D700 bla bla bla.

    The whole idea of this comparison is to show the advantages and the disadvantages of both cameras. This is not an ad to emphaisize which camera to go for. If you need bigger resolution and video capturing, go for mk2….otherwise if you r a die hard fans of Nikon….buy Nikon…..who cares of what you would be using at the end of the day. As long as you are taking good photos and understand how to fully utilise the camera, then you are doing the right things. For myself, I own both Nikon D90 and Canon 5dMk2. So my answer to the above comparison would be……

    5dmk2 looks impressive and D700 is a very good camera as well. However, personally i would prefer the 5dmk2 over the D700 as I need to capture video sometimes and this new feature just suits me perfect. I dont see any DV camcorder on the market nowadays could compete with the video quality of the Mk2 even my old Nikon D90. Thats the main reason why I bought the Mk2.

  79. says

    It’s great you’ve gone to all this trouble, but you could have rented the Nikon 50mm 1.4 for very cheap and done a fairer test. The two lenses are quite different, and most people will say that all things being equal, the lens is the biggest factor. As it stands, your test actually doesn’t reveal much. Furthermore, proper testing has consistantly revealed that at least at higher ISOs, the D700 is clearly superior to the Canon (though at lower ISOs it’s basically a wash).

  80. Myekie says

    I’m trying to decide which camera to purchase and I find these discussions to be very unhelpful. I wonder if there is anywhere where you can actually find “Real World” comparisons. These almost “religious” arguments are so distracting. Is there a place where actual working photographers can get an unbiased opinion?

    • says

      Myekie,

      I think the ISO comparison between these two cameras is about a wash, and probably why so many get bogged down in semantics over which is better. However, each camera has advantages and disadvantages in different categories over the other.

      I spent $3k on the 5D Mark II because it’s a great camera; however, I’ve been a very vocal critic of its AF performance in low light. In my “real world” experience, the D700 outshines it in terms of autofocus and metering. The megapixel difference may be the kicker if you think you’ll be using those 21.1 megapixels on the 5D Mark II. The 5D Mark II can accurately focus – it’s just that it sometimes hunts a bit in low light. I generally don’t have a problem in a studio environment – it’s those evening city walks or dimly lit rooms that give it the trouble.

      Here are links to the two reviews of these cameras where I give my honest impression of what I think about these cameras:

      http://www.photographybay.com/2009/05/04/canon-5d-mark-ii-review/

      http://www.photographybay.com/2009/01/05/nikon-d700-review/

      Frankly, I think either camera is worth the price of admission. There are nuances to both though and, hopefully, you can see some of those to help you make a decision in the above reviews.

  81. ACLM says

    Hey Buddy

    I have a 5D Mk II and I have many friends who have the D700 and I know for fact that the D700 has better ISO sensitivity, not by much. There are many pros and cons about each camera some a matter of preference.
    When doing a test like that you have got to be precise. The white balance is clearly different (or different lighting) or you were shooting a black and brownish cameras on this test.
    It’s just a quick question.
    When you see a great photograph, can you tell if it was taken with a Canon or Nikon?
    There we go!!!

  82. Lancet says

    Eric,

    I think it was a o.k. test, and the lenses don’t matter. I have had both Canon 50 mm f/1.4 and 1.8 and at f/8 there is no difference, and lens won’t in any case influence ISO noise. WB is also non-relevant for noise. Difference in shutter speed could matter, but shown images from both cameras seem equally exposed.

    In my opinion, tests should be done with pictures resized for usual print sizes and leave it at that. I’m interested how will the image look on the wall or in a magazine and not on my monitor enlarged 100%. And all the tests one can find are done in the studio with good lightning and analysed at 100%. I don’t understand why, since that is not how I would use my camera.

    And all these reviews spur is a never-ending debate between the hard-core fans of both cameras on whose camera is bette.

    • says

      @Lancet

      I tend to agree with you on the resizing the pictures. I like seeing what the end result of a 16×20 or whatever-sized print will be. For the most part though, I just try to convey the facts and make the full-res images available for download and personal inspection.

      I agree though that it is all relative to how you are using the images that counts. I think you can see from the above images that comparing prints of the same size to each other, the 5D Mark II is going to look cleaner because of the increased resolution. Although, you won’t see it in all but the largest of prints.

      I disagree with your synopsis that the 5D Mark II is geared more toward enthusiasts and fine art photographers. I’m sure a lot of pros who use the 5D Mark II as their daily workhorse would disagree as well. While it’s not the perfect pro camera (particularly when focusing in low light situations), there are many from the Nikon camp that wish their D700 offered more as well.

      Finally, I agree that ISO results from these two cameras should really be a non-issue. There are plenty of other reasons to pick one over the other – with the lenses in your bag being the biggest factor. I’ll echo my previous sentiments that I think both cameras are excellent representatives of the two big brands. These cameras are, for the time being, the hottest pro and serious amateur cameras on the market – with each offering outstanding noise and high ISO performance.

      Thanks for your comments Lancet.

  83. Lancet says

    And I should add, from limited experience I had with both cameras, my opinion is they are geared toward different audiences.

    5d mkII seemed to me like a camera with great image quality but lacking in pro features, geared toward enthusiasts and fine art photographers, while Nikon seemed more feature packed and robust, more like a photo journalist camera.

    I would choose between the two based on what kind of work (or pleasure) I do, and not based on half-stop better ISO.

    Best regards

  84. Lancet says

    Eric,

    I agree with you completely.

    I didn’t mean to say that it’s not possible to use 5DMkII as a professional tool, on the contrary, (I know some photo journalists pros on a tight budget who were still using 40Ds here in Europe and with quite good results) but I wanted to say that d700 has some features that make a fast moving pros life easier.
    So, if I was a pro whose job involves shooting something often in bad weather conditions, or requiring better focus performance, I would choose d700 and be more at ease, while if I was a pro with a more leisurely style of photography, I would choose the 5D for it’s resolution. But, most often the photographer is the limiting factor, not the cameras.
    Finally, I think that both are awesome cameras, but also that both could benefit from further improvements, to the benefit of us all.

    Best regards

  85. stve says

    Hi Eric since you shot the photos with a third of a stop advantage for the Canon how about repeating the test but this time give a third of a stop advantage to the Nikon & you could also give the Canon a lousy white balance & a proper one for the Nikon.
    A tougher test would be to take them both to a concert & test the high ISO & auto focus in low light.

  86. John says

    Awesome work, I think this might be unfairly skewed towards the Canon. What would be incredibly helpful would be manually setting the white balance on both cameras to the same temperature in kelvin, then manually setting both f-stops, and shutter speeds and publishing that, also only showing the full size picture gives the appearance of bias towards Canon.

  87. says

    I’m a studio owner and use nikon, canon and fuji.

    Bought the D700 and I am very happy with it. High iso performance 3200 and 6400 is actually changing the way I shoot weddings.

    What amazes me about de D700 is the AWB and the camera’s ability to deal with backlight in auto modes.

    Last weekend I shot my 4 year son’s birhtday party. It was outdoors. Left it in iso 1600 and in A mode set at 5.6. Metering at center weight.
    Guess what? The camera got the right exposure on people faces in every shot! No fill flash needed.

    In other words: the D700 automatic exposure and white balance is very stable. Combine this with high iso performance, you get a camera for blind people!

    With the D700, YOU HAVE LESS POST PROCESSING !!!!!!!!!!!!

    By saying this, I’m not disregarding the photographer’s ability. I am saying that, for those who work professionally and with photojournalism, in many circunstances, you only have time to concentrate in the subject. All those bells and wistles have to work in favor. Otherwise, go for nikon FM ou pentax K1000.

    Another D700 advantage should be its durability. Or in other words, nikon durability (I am saying this as an owner of 15 nikons and 18 canons)

    But as a studio owner, I am also looking at the 5Dii with good eyes.

    If this camera can give me a clean 3200 iso, that should solve many situations.
    High res is welcomed.

    But the best part is the HD video capability.

    Many photographers might say: I only do photography, I don’t do videos.

    I know that. But I also now that many videographers are buying the 5Dii due to its videos capability.

    What does it mean? It means that the 5Dii should hold the resale value better than the D700! (Those who are reading this statement, please take a moment to thing about it….)

    As in most reviews, 5Dii’s usable high iso should be around 1600 and 3200. I know 6400 is desirable, but with the ability to go back to your old prime lenses, low light with the 5Dii is also reasonable to compete with the D700.

    Another 5Dii advantage is the high resolution specs. And high resolution specification helps to hold resale value!

    D700 x 5Dii = cold war….

    For those nikon or canon freaks, let me tell you: both cameras are wonderful!

    Final decision:

    1-) If you are a professional photographer (that means: you make a living out of it) go for the brand that you already own.

    2-) If you are a hobbyst, buy both, because surely money is not an issue….

    ABOUT THE IMAGES FOR THIS REVIEW:

    a) the subject is not apropriate because the lens barel texture is not purely plain, and that is a little confusing to check the noise levels
    b) diferent lens used: 1.8 x 1.4
    c) diferent WB (we know that proper WB can actually affect overall sharpness and noise)

  88. says

    Another good review that really shows that there is no clear cut winner. I personally chose the D700 mostly to use the Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 lens. I also like the feel of Nikon cameras better for some reason. I don’t really like the dial either.

    Personally I’d rather have a CLS master and pop-up flash than HD video any day on my DSLR, but I do think the video w/out autofocus gets a bad rap when it is fact more professional than any sub $1000 camcorder out there.

    Until someone comes out with some solid hard evidence to a clear winner I will stay with the D700.

  89. says

    Being a Canon user I’m waiting for the day when they stop running the out-dated pixel race and concentrate on image quality and features convenient to photographers. Positive signs are already visible in their Point & Shoot category as the latest compact cameras are no longer pixel heavy stupid boxes.

  90. Leonard says

    I’m a Nikon user having D300 which is a wonderful camera but I’m thinking about going Full Frame. Since I’m on tight budget the obvious choice to me is D700 which is just fabulous but more than likely I’ll pick Canon 5DMkII. So despite obvious, technical and logical advantage of Nikon I lean toward Canon.
    Why? I’ve found Canon lens line up being much more suitable for me and much chiper. Examples:
    -24-105IS beats 24-120f/3.5-5.6 hands down (all around lens)
    -70-200f/4IS (I don’t need f/2.8) (there is no equivalent in Nikon and it’s one of the sharpest lens ever made)
    -Choice between 300f/4IS with TC1.4, 100-400IS or 400f/5.6(which is very good lence despite lacking IS but for VERY resonable price. Nikon offer only 300f/4 but no VR (Vibration Reduction) plus TC.
    As for me I’ll have more L-series lenses to choose from Canon than from Nikon for my wallet and bodies don’t stay with us as long as lenses do. Both of the systems great and Nikon are even better but as for me is mindless to spend thousands more and not having a chance to get a lens which is more suitable to me and my wallet.

  91. Lilyliver says

    I made my way earlier this week to commit to the D700 (knowing replacement is imminent – although it is clear Nikon is sending themessage no replacment this year in order to shift old stock – nevertheless th incentive of a grip made it a good deal) … I had reject the 5Dmk2 long ago howevetr the manager of the shop did raise the issue of lens cost and the fact that he is selling 5 – 10 Canon 5dmk2 cameras to every Nikon D700. I admit that I am an enthusiastic photographer who must learn from the others in the market and I have to say that I cannot ignore the advice of that manager and the knowledge that the herd seem to be buying the Canon. I am back at the laptop doing more research with the intention of returning next week to make my purchase.

  92. Tas Khan says

    I’m surprised why Nikon don’t put HD video capability in D700 and reap the market from Canon 5DM2. If they did, they would be surprised. I’m still protecting whatever Nikon glass I have from being sold or exchanged for the Canon glass. I only hope that the day would come sooner than later, when Nikon would bring out a DSLR with some decent video possibility with it- not just 750p Motion JPEG compression.

  93. Yoodog says

    Personally saying, have compared both of those my self nikon performed better under some type of light, but under another I could not tell the difference even by looking at photos on the 30 inch screen! This review look fake for me, because I downloaded those pics in full resolution, and it was clear that they did some sharpening or rise of definition in Iphoto or Aperture, not even photoshop it wouldn’t give you such bad result =) LOL This review is not reliable!

  94. says

    Other than the comments about resizing affecting noise etc. I wonder about the noise from heat.

    When you take photos, the sensor warms up and this eventually creates big spots of noise (the blue dots on the last few photos.) This is more noticaeable like that one time when I spent a while in Live view on my D90 taking photos of something. Maybe the D700 was left on longer or doesn’t handle heat as well in live view.