Nikon D800 vs. Canon 5D Mark III: Which Shoots Better Video?

Canon and Nikon both have brand new professional DLSR cameras fighting for the wallets of photographers and videographers the world over. We recently reviewed the Canon 5D Mark III, and are whipping up a review of the Nikon D800. In the meantime, we put together a comparison of the video capabilities of these two foes.


Low Light

The Canon 5D Mark III wins hands down in this category. Less noise, more even colors. No contest.


Detail / Sharpness

In full screen video, the Nikon D800 clearly has better overall sharpness and details. Update: Yes, we know sharpness depends partially on the lens used. We chose the most comparable lenses we had available.


Moire—the dreaded distortion that occurs when shooting detailed pattern—was vastly improved in the 5D Mark III, while the D800 really fails on this one. The moire visible in the brickwork in the D800's image is very noticeable.


Rolling Shutter

Rolling shutter performance has improved from last generation on both cameras, but neither handles the issue especially well. If we're picking by degrees of bad, the D800 wins out here.


What Does This Mean?

Clearly both have their strengths and weaknesses. Personal preference is going to play a huge part in your own conclusion, and our results pretty much confirm what we expected going in. If you shoot mostly in under-lit environments and distribute via the web, maybe the 5D Mark III is for you. If you shoot in studio conditions and are looking to display your movie on the big screen, maybe the D800's superior detail is more important.


The fact is, both cameras produce terrific results, and in the right hands, can produce video worthy of the highest praise.

Test Notes
1. We used comparable lenses for each camera. On the D800, we used a Nikon Nikkor 24-70 mm, F/2.8. On the 5D Mark III, we used a Canon EF 24-105mm F/4 L.
2. These tests are by no means the end-all-be-all of comparisons. There are certainly variables one might change such as lens, aperture, shifting light, etc.
3. Since you were curious, both cameras were set to Auto white balance for all tests.


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The Nikkor 24-70 F/2.8 is not comparable to the Canon 24-105 F/4 L. You should have tested them both with the Nikkor 24-70 F/2.8 using an adapter.

Also, did you only use the internal codec on the Nikon D800, or did you use the HDMI out to an external recorder like the Atmos Ninja? One of the big advantages of the D800 is the ability to output 8-bit uncompressed 4:2:2 footage. One of the big advantages of the 5DIII is the ability to adapter almost any lens to it (short distange from mountain flange to image plane).