“be not blind for the soul lies deep”

Canon 5D Mark II vs. Nikon D700

Hello again!

As promised, here are my impressions of the new Canon 5D Mark II
versus the Nikon D700. In mind my primary focus is on the 5D.


I have just been taking notes of pros and cons and I guess I will just
expand upon them and see how things go! I am only mentioning things
that are important to me as a wedding/portrait photographer and only
differences that stand out against each other. Surprisingly these are
two very different means to one glorious end. Lets start with the good


The 5D has GREAT Image quality. I never thought 21
megapixels would make a difference, but I don’t know for some reason
there is just a magical quality! It looks especially good in the
screen after you take the picture. Of course thats with jpeg settings
applied albeit how minimal they are when I shoot. There is a lot of
room for cropping, which for me is good since I prefer using primes. I
guess that can be somewhat of a disadvantage for some since you need
the best glass to take advantage of the resolution. Which means big
cash for good glass.


Here is a crop from the 5D shot with a 50mm Canon f/5.6 @1/60th ISO 400 Below is the same crop with the D700 and a nikkor 50mm at the same settings.
You may be asking, why not show both cameras at 100 percent crop? Well I didn’t to show the advantages of more megapixels. At 100 percent the D700 is much softer the the same crop of a 5D. Here is a sample of the resolution difference:


I wish i could show you larger images, but this blog cant contain it! The differences are a little more subtle when viewed small like this. Which is a great achievement for both sensors since this is an extreme crop! to see bigger files go here

Picture 1

Also something weird it that the same conditions yielded a brighter image from the nikon or is it more contrast? Maybe both? Intriguing nonetheless.

The ISO performance is almost on par with the D700, with twice
the resolution.
I never thought this would be possible
jamming this many pixels onto a 35mm sensor, but they have seemed to
make it look pretty good. They do apply a good amount of noise
reduction at higher iso even when shooting raw, but it doesn’t look
too bad. 3200 looks fine but 6400 starts to smudge a little too much
and I try not to use it unless I have to.
The Above is a very cropped image is the 5D with no noise reduction at 6400
and the below image is the same from the D700. Now I am not showing this but the shadow noise is very well controlled with the nikon but you can see a lot of smudging. The 5D has a lot of the red dot noise in the shadows, but is still pretty sharp and contrasty, while the D700 isn’t.
Keep in mind the pixels are smaller on the 5D because its not at 100 percent like the D700 is. Another advantage of more resolution.


Canon has the best prime lenses in the class. (And
the most expensive.) But like I said earlier, that’s what kind of
glass it takes to resolve 21 megapixels! This is one of the main
reasons I switched. You need as much speed as you can get shooting
weddings. The light more often then not, sucks… a lot. So there’s
just no replacement for speed.


For Nikon we have the 50 and 85mm f/1.4 along with the 135mm f/2
For Canon we start out in the range with the 24 and 35mm f/1.4. Then comes the super speed 50 and 85mm f/1.2 topping out with the 135mm f/2
Not to mention all of Canons lenses are recent designs leaving Nikon in the dust in the prime time.

The 580EX II has been somewhat impressive. Though I
haven’t used Nikons flagship flashs so I can’t say for sure if its
better. They have been fairly easy to use, as far as flash goes.

Screen is brilliant, though Nikon’s is just as good.
Not much of advantage but just thought I would throw that out there.
At least Canon is showing a little effort unlike when they tried to
pass an $8,000 camera with a junk screen!

VIDEO 1080p! with external audio out. (good because
the internal mic picks up everything going on around the camera.
especially manually focusing, and noisy IS) Though I haven’t used the
video much it’s a huge, huge plus for a lot of people. I’m sure i
could use it for certain occasions to give me a slight edge. We love
to travel as well, and photojournalism overseas almost demands video
is some scenes. I do wish it auto focussed though. It’s surprisingly
tough to compose, correct exposure and compose. Not made for full time
video, but sure is handy!! Check out this video shot with the 5D Mark II

5D Movie

Picture 2

The 5Ds Auto ISO knows your focal length and sets shutter
speed accordingly.
This is a pretty cool feature. We don’t
normally use auto, but if you are switching from a wide to a
telephoto, this can be very helpful to limit iso when wide and still
get a higher shutter speed with a telephoto.

5D doesn’t have internal flash. Why is this a plus?
Well for me I didn’t like it on the D700. I would always bump it, even
with a flash mounted, and I don’t know, it just seems less
professional with a built in flash. I also like the look of the
shorter pentaprism cap.


Much lighter then D700 (1.8lbs vs. 2.2lbs) Yeah it’s
less then a half pound, but every ounce counts when its hanging from
your neck for 12 hours!


ISO expandable to 50 equivalent. I always find myself
wanting more when using fill flash to get blue skies that require very
little exposure. So this is nice! I’m not sure what kind of penalty it
brings being “boost” but I would be interested to know.


The 5D has a dedicated live view button. This is nice
because I would always forget I was in live view on the D700 because
its on a dial. Once I press the live view button on the 5D it goes
back to normal when I’m done. Along those same lines, I have found the
exposure simulation VERY useful because I shoot in Manual. i don’t
have to click off frames trying to get my exposure and white balance
right while my subjects think I am taking a picture.


It has strap ring under grip for more vertical use. I
haven’t dared trying this while on a job but maybe I will sometime.
Then again, I don’t find myself shooting vertically as much as with
the D700 because the grip sucks comparatively. But then maybe thats
somewhat of a plus because I found myself shooting vertically a little
too much.


Strap rings are fixed not floppy. I found this kind
of annoying with the D700. Just a little thing but a nice change.

Strap hangers

Lens mount feels slightly more firm and wobble-less
though I still wish it didn’t move at all.

Quiet shutter release. The shutter release sound is
an acquired taste. After hearing the Nikon’s it sounds electrical and
junky and slow. Alas I have gotten used to it, and it is more quiet,
which is good for ceremonies and anywhere else you want to be ninja
like while trying to get candids. I will say the blackout time is
shorter on the Nikon.

ISO reading is always in status bar. Those times with
the Nikon when I find I have been shooting at a higher iso speed then
needed are very frustrating, so this is a nice addition.


More room for fat thumbs in horizontal (but much
worse in vertical) This isn’t a huge deal, because the nikon is still
sufficient but just nice to have a little extra room.


All the Preset white balance settings have their K value next
to them
(In the menu). Since it’s harder with Canon to shoot
with manual Ks this may be handy to memorize k value at pre-


The Custom user mode is pretty awesome! There is 3
spaces on the command dial (C1,C2 and C3) This is great for me,
because you can prepare yourself for different settings beforehand;
not with people waiting, or with you missing the shot! Like when we
run out of the ceremony to get a shot of them walking out of the
chapel, the next place you are trying to shoot is much different. You
can preset the exposure, white balance, iso, pretty much everything as
far as I know. The only drawback is that if you switch settings while
on one of the custom modes at some point they go back to what you
originally set it to in the beginning. If you want to change anything
permanently you have to register it in the menu. But nonetheless a
really cool and useful feature!


With the 5D you can use different sized raw files.
which can be helpful to save room while shooting images you know they
wont blow up. But then maybe you wont have the same cropping ability?
We haven’t really used it yet but it’s a nice option to have.


21 megapixels. We have found that shooting with that
much resolution is surprisingly not as easy to edit(At least
creatively). We use Adobe Lightroom 2 and it just seems so far, that
it takes more of everything to affect so many pixels the way we are
used to with the D700. We find ourselves maxing out the slider without
much happening. I don’t know if thats just lightroom not being
powerful enough, but hopefully others are finding the same and will be
fixed sometime in the future. Bottom line, maybe good maybe bad, but
you can get some great results it just takes a lot more effort.

Battery Grip feels cheap and not nearly as good as
the 5D Grip and not even close to the MB-D10. It feels like the old
D200 grip which was even better then the Canon grip. Nikon has a leg
up on that front. Maybe its a marketing choice making the D1s look
like it’s worth the extra money. I know I would pay more for a grip
that felt like the Nikon’s does.

Nikon Grip

Look how nice the Nikon grip is. The curved thumb, and curved grip show nikon gives a crap how things feel. You can see how soft it is compared to the Canons. I also really like the stalkless design. For some reason both batteries put in the canon drain at the same time unlike the nikon that does one at a time. Who cares? Well sometimes you dont use both batteries so you dont want to have to charge both. With Canon, you dont get that option.

canon grip

The 5D body’s rubber is not as soft and grippy as D700. (see above). strong> This was something I really loved about the Nikon and it will
be missed! Seems like a no brainer to me Canon. Again, maybe the D1s
has good soft rubber so hooray for capitalism!!

Can’t manually select WB with out going into the menu. strong> THIS is a biggy. I mean come ON! I am a wedding photographer,
I don’t have time to go into a menu for that! What pisses me off more
is that in the 1D series you can assign the “set” button for white
balance but can you in a cheaper camera? Oh no. You gotta pay
thousands more for that! 10,9,8,7… Ok I am calm… they did
make up for it a little by being able to adjust WB in live view where
I can nail it pretty well. But its still much slower then the way
Nikons change Ks manually.

You can’t view last image magnified without pushing play
button first.
This is my other big beef. The D700 was awesome
for checking focus. you just press the center button after the shutter
releases, and you are looking at a magnified image, and on to the
next. With Canon, I can assign the set button to review, but for some
reason I have to press the set button even though the image is already
displayed if I want to zoom in. Not to mention after i press the
center button, you have to press the zoom button like 5 times to get
the mag. of the Nikon’s one push. Something that could be easily done
Canon! I hope I am helping them with the next firmware update. Heh,
boy do I wish that was true.

Focus points often get lost in dark situations and
unused points litter the viewfinder. Another thing the D700 is way
ahead on. 90% of the time I use the center point, and on the D700 even
if it got lost in the dark, (which i don’t ever remember happening) it
has the little ( ) things surrounding the focus points to give
you some reference. The 5D also doesn’t light up the focus point as
much when the shutter release is half pressed. I just can’t believe
Canon hasn’t updated their AF from the old one. I’m sure the 1Ds is
much better don’t worry.

Build quality not up to par with D700. It is still
pretty good, but once you handle them side by side you can just tell
the Nikon is a brick! And as I said earlier, the soft rubber is a huge
plus for the nikon. Ergonomics are much better then I thought they
would be on the 5D so at least it’s got that going for it.

Shutter sound is horrible compared to D700. As I said
before, Sounds not nearly as tight or professional, but it is more
quiet. So pick what you would rather have.

Slow frame rate. I don’t use this a whole lot except
for jumping shots and such, so it’s not a huge deal. 8 frames per
second was pretty awesome on the Nikon compared to “3.9”. Good thing I
don’t really shoot sports.

Nikon has worlds more customizable options in a menu
that is easier to use. I expand upon this below. Not a deal breaker,
but really nice to have!

Can’t leave embedded comment or copyright info out of camera. I’m sure you can do this in lightroom or something, but
something nice to have to prove the images are yours.

Cant Keep the backlight “on” lighting the status window. strong> This is pretty annoying. The Nikon’s backlight comes on every
time the meter starts so I can see what I am doing in the dark.
Another easy fix if they were thinking at all.

Can’t reverse main and sub dials. As a D700 user, I
use the front dial for aperture, and the back for shutter speed. And
the highly customizable Nikon even lets me switch! Not the Canon
though… it is donkey backwards. I will get used to it, but man it is
frustrating for now.

Can’t change file naming. This was nice for Holly and
I because we could tell who shot what by the prefixes on the file I
liked to use RRP_xxxx.NEF or R27 yatta yatta… not a big deal just
again, nice to have.

Doesn’t have interval timer shooting. This is a
feature that is really awesome if you like time lapse. You can’t
program a release schedule like on the nikon. Hope you have a
timer…Kind of weird that they don’t have that… set it and forget
it for the nikon!


No option to shoot compressed or lossless RAW (d700
has 23mb 14-bit lossless uncompressed files) I am guessing that the
Canon shoots compressed raw files because they are pretty consistently
25MB give or take. If they were uncompressed they would probably be
like 35MB. It may be a bigger deal to you more then me because they
don’t offer 12-bit like the Nikon, but they make up for it with the
sRAW file sizes.

Deleting a photo is a 3 step process for every image.
Unlike the Nikon which you can double push the trash button as fast as
you can. Canon makes up for it by letting you erase select images. For
example, you go through and check them off and delete all the selected
files at once. Which is almost better because you can uncheck
something you didn’t mean to check. You can’t un-delete something!

Cant Switch ISO as fast but not a big difference.
With the Nikon you Hold the button and turn the dial with two opposite
thumbs simultaneously. With the Canon you push with your index, and
then turn the dial with the index.

Well that’s about all I have found… There is a lot of differences
don’t you think? Seems like the companies would adapt the smaller
advantages just as much as the big selling points. It seems to me that
Canon puts all their resources into sensor and lens development, while
Nikon took more time to refine every aspect of the body to be more
useful when shooting making it a joy to use. But then they are way
behind on lens development.

Really they are 2 great cameras! I would say if you don’t need the
resolution, video, or super fast primes, get the D700 you will love
it! If you DO need those things there’s just no better then the 5D. I
am very demanding of cameras, and wish there was much more improvement
with the Mark II generation, but I may just have the wait for the
fourth generation 1Ds update, and hope they don’t go pixel crazy, and
work on ISO performance. One can only hope. Now I just have to save up
6 grand for a set of L primes! Wish me luck! And Feel free to comment
on any fixes for my problems or add any plus or minuses.


8 Comments so far

  1. Thor January 14th, 2009 9:04 pm

    Thanks for the review Ryan!

    I havnt used the custom setting buttons on my 40D but I love the idea!!! I agree that the canon grips are kinda sucky and boring!

  2. Dan January 14th, 2009 10:37 pm

    I never normally comment on these things, but that was a nice review.
    I’ve just got myself a D700 and I couldn’t be happier.
    No amount of HD video and 85/1.2s could make me trade the ergonomics of the Nikon.
    I don’t need 21MP, and my harddrive sure as hell doesn’t either. I like focusing on the photos. I’m still getting used to the completely different way of shooting from my D80, I could change everything without taking my eye from the viewfinder, but I’m getting their surprisingly quickly with the D700.
    Anyway. Your other photos are really nice.
    It’s refreshing to see a wedding photographer who actually takes nice shots.

  3. Dan January 14th, 2009 10:42 pm

    Oh, all that said and done, if Nikon release a similarly low MP FX with HD video, I’ll sell my D700 faster than you can say teneighty.
    Assuming it’s not too expensive.
    Buying the D700 brought my bank account to zero.
    That’s another reason why I didn’t buy into Canon, apart from the horrible ergonomics there’s no way in hell I can afford those one point twos.

  4. Ryan January 15th, 2009 4:47 am

    Yeah like i said, for 90 percent of people I would recomment the Nikon if you dont need the speed. Nikon has some really great zooms. Nikon is supposed to be coming out with a D700x though same D3x sensor, I dont know about video but its rumored to be like 4,500 or less… prolly not worth it for most.

    Thanks for the kind words though! Have fun with the D700!

  5. Remco January 17th, 2009 11:32 pm

    Thanks for the review of those cameras Ryan!

    I’ve found your blog on Flickr and as a Nikon D80 user looking forward for a D700 i’m always in for comparison reviews. You have pointed out a thing or two about the D700 i didn’t see elsewhere. The tone about the Canon being so much better is a little to much for me. Ignoring that, a great review!!

    And ow … what a bummer that Nikon doesn’t have those preset modes! I wished they would already have already added that to the D80. I can’t be that hard to build! Maybe it’s a patent issue or something…


  6. Holly January 22nd, 2009 6:38 am

    Hey Ryan
    I didn’t realize you were in Kalamazoo! You should stop by my studio sometime.
    I’m a Nikon girl and I have the D3 as my main body and I have the D700 for my backup and second shooter. I love that D700 with the vertical grip. I would tell someone to buy that over the D3. Interesting point you have about the new 5D. I haven’t played with one yet.

  7. Freeze February 3rd, 2009 12:19 am

    That’s the kind of review I always wanted to read about 5D and D700…
    Still I’d want to say that the iso on Canon is much worse on the shot with wall-e, the red noise on the binoculars lenses are very frustrating… too bad the D700 is not in focus to compare…

  8. Kim March 12th, 2009 9:06 pm

    Nice to see an alternative review of these two bodies. Owning film and digital bodies such as EOS 1v, 5D, F6, and D700, in all cases it’s hard to say which is better or creating sharper images, and of course I say so because I also own some of the best lens from both sides.
    Which one I pick to use for today, really depends on occasions or moods. However, I find myself picked up Nikon more often than Canon counterparts. Nikons in my hands just let me feel more aggressive, and more confident, and going any where from Tibet to Africa, or even Antarctica in the future. However if I am going to an outing with my Canon friends, I bring my Canon.

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