Nikon D800 Resolution Compared to the Canon 5D Mark III

Last week camera testing service DxOMark announced that the Nikon D800 had earned the highest sensor quality score ever awarded. Roger Cicala of LensRentals wanted to see for himself how much of an advantage the D800’s 36.3MP sensor had over its competition, so he did some sensor resolution tests on the camera, comparing it to the Canon 5D Mark III, 5D Mark II, and Nikon D700. His conclusion?

[…] there’s no question the D800 can actually get those pixels to show up in the final product (assuming your final product is a big print – they’re going to be wasted posting on your Facebook page). But you’d better have some really good glass in front of it. I don’t think the 28-300 superzooms are going to cut it with this camera.

In the real world, highest possible resolution is nice to know about and talk about, but usually not of critical importance compared to other factors. You’ll be able to make superb images with any decent lens for an 8 X 10 or even 11 X 16 print. But if you’re getting the camera because of the resolution, it makes sense to know which lenses will allow all of that resolution to be utilized. Just in case you get that job that needs billboard sized prints.

Here’s a photo by Peter over at Nikon Rumors that gives a better idea of what this high megapixel and high resolution combo means for photographers:

He uploaded a bunch of sample photos over on Flickr in case you’d like to pixel peep some more.

“D” Resolution Tests [LensRentals Blog]

  • Tracey Easter

    Zeiss optics are thee best! Nikon rules too!

  • Rafyl

    Wow this is impressive, you can even see the photographer in the reflection of the birds eye. 


    Never use Zeiss optic :( collect money for D800

  • Zhemin

    Used ;;;

  • Doug Wittrock

    As with any high end camera, it needs good glass.  Great demonstration of that here.  Amazing resolution.

  • Geoffrey Froment

    why not so much comments here ? Cause canon fanboys are mad ?

  • Alberto – Zumito

    And that picture is taken with a zoom lens! 70-200 2.8

  • Vincent

    They said the same about the D700 vs Mkii when they came out. A couple of years later the Mkii has obliterated the D700. Come and see me in another couple of years when the Mkiii is king, and the D800 is lagging behind.

  • Vincent

    Why should we be mad? A good camera is a good camera. Why do you need to be so idiotic? Even Nikon morons like you can’t stop talking about Canon.

  • Pieter

    In the real world…. a real photographer shoots with any camera is is given… and makes it look spectacular. 

  • Flgraphics

    Awesome, time to join the Self portrait in a birds eyeball group on flickr!

  • Spider- Man
  • Aerascy

    If you cannot conduct another person without cursing or showing attitude then please keep you mouth closed.

  • will hall

     noob, let me know when you can see the bird in the reflection of the photographers eye in the reflection of the birds eye

  • Other_Guy

    Obliterated in what way? I’ve owned both and the D700 is far superior for still images. Truth.

  • Vincent

    Really? That’s not what the above chart says. Or are you being a typical Nikon fan and picking out just the facts you need?

  • Vincent

    And you are?

  • Vincent

    The thing that gets me, is that the vast majority of people who buy the higher end DSLR’s never even get close to using them to their maximum potential. Unless you’re a professional photographer who needs that kind of resolution, there’s no point arguing about this. That means the 97% of you.

    And charts, MTF or other, are a waste of time too. That’s for tech-boys and gear heads who need to feel good about the quality of ‘glass’ they own, yet couldn’t compose an interesting photograph if their life depended on it. Instead of worrying about MTF charts, go to a book store, go to the photography section, and flick through some books (and not the ‘how to…’ ones). Then you might to start to understand what photography is about.

  • Spider- Man

    The problem is they are all how to books :( out of all the books in the photo section maybe 1 to 2% are decent photography books :(

  • GazzerB

    I think you girls should just stop arguing, get out and take some interesting photographs. This resolution debate will never end, it’s been going on since Fox Talbot stuck a box on a tripod.

  • Lj_koster

    Wow, what a bunch of pathetic brand-huggers we have here. Get a life boys and get out there a little more, rather than bickering on the web over who has the best piece of gear.

  • Antharescc

    vincent, how pathetic idiot you are.
    Frustrated, even.
    I’ll need that resolution, for example and even if I’m not a professional, simply ’cause i want take a pic of a landscape and then print it in a big dimension to put on a wall. Think you this is a so rare need?
    I’m italian and last summer iwas, among others, in gran canyon; how i’d like to have so much resolution to print big, really big landscape’s picture.

    vincent, as somebody before suggested you: keep your mouth closed.


  • Michonn

    but not for image resolution

  • Michonn

    when D700 was released same as 5D ll all nikon fanboys said that they dont need that good detail from 5D ll because 12 mpx is good enough for big print and one of the most important feature for them was that D700 has better ISO performance because of low mpx count . Now the story is change and most of who is going to use D800 will drop the image resolution from 36 mpx to around 20 or even less until they  will make a HUGE print  

  • Fredeb67

    Why wasn’t there a 5dMKii picture of the same subject to compare?  Am I missing something?

  • Cochese

    So, what I’m seeing here is a camera with a higher native resolution beating a camera with a lower native resolution? Is there some kind of surprise that I’m missing?

  • Michonn

    yeeee  D800 has better resolution  because of 14 mlpx more so what u expect? i think would be better if nikon would stick with 28 mlpx 36 is to much for my taste

  • Michonn

    i just looked on charts and compared D700 12 mlpx to 5D ll 21 mlpx. You can see that canon 5d ll left D700 much further behind than the D800 did with 5d lll at 2.8 there is almost no difference  

  • Jordi Mallorquí

    Very Good Article. I’m publishing information about Nikon D800 in my blog:

  •í/1306461759 Jordi Mallorquí

    Very Good Review.

  • Will E.

    I find it kind of funny that say 36 megapixel is “too much.” Obviously its not necessary for many things, i.e. non poster sized prints, however it does offer advantages in hiding noise when you shrink it down. For people that don’t want it though why flame the camera, thats like crying that medium format cameras are dumb, because its “more than anyone needs.” I don’t even need a camera, but I love having one. If I decide to crop a picture later and make a print from one person in a crowd, then I can do that with the D800. Either way I was a very happy Canon user since my pocket SD400 all the way through my 5D Mark II, but the D800 blows it away in just about every aspect, all the way down to the superficial enjoyment of the shutter being not only quieter but sounding better. That will come in handy when I am shooting a wedding next weekend, the Canon was ridiculously loud. Plus, having one kind-of-working focus point was crappy, and I think paying out the nose for a barely improved 5D with a real focusing system is a lame upgrade, so no more Canon for me. The D800 has an almost 3 stop EV range advantage allowing for the rescue of images that you might not otherwise have, perhaps a spot metered picture that left people in the shadows dark (it captures those better too), or maybe you were in manual mode and moved quickly to capture a shot you weren’t expecting. Either way both make fun cameras to play with, but I am happy with my move to Nikon, after my first week with the D800.

  • Yohanes Pramudya

    For the real usage, Canon is better. With C1,C2,C3 for quick setting, better autofocus, white balance, memory buffer, and ergonomics. If you are NERDS that make static pictures, yes Nikon with higher pixel win but in real life, Canon rules. D800 will freeze for 2 minutes after RAW burst, BAD white balance/green, and bad high ISO JPEG for sports. You will take much more pictures with right quick setting (C1,C2,C3) and better buffer with CANON than Nikon.

  • heiks

    i have d800 and d800 e

    im selling both to have 3 5dm3

    for 400 5.6, for 24-105 and for 135 2.0, 200 2.8

    i just dont like change lenses

    and nikon is not satisfying me, so much about canon fanboys who are jalous

  • heiks

    for 3 seaparate 5dm3 donies, i u didnt understand
    5dm3 feel so much better in hand
    raw files are reasonably sized as 25mb vs nikons 47mb
    i hate d800 and its false resolution
    its just 5600 line vs 7300 line resolution and its just 20% more sharpness in details, not a big deal for me