We compare the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV against its prime rival - Nikon's D810. Which is the better option for photographers?
Canon’s latest EOS 5D Mark IV has the Nikon D810 as it’s chief, full-frame rival. While the two share many commonalities, each has its pros and cons in various aspects of their respective spec sheet. We take a look at what each camera offers to find out which is better-specified option overall.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Sensor
Both cameras employ full-frame sensors, although the newer Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers 30.4MP against the D810’s 36.3MP. This is certainly not the only thing to consider where image quality is concerned, although it does give the Nikon a slight advantage when it comes to cropping into images and when looking to enlarge them for printing.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Optical Low-Pass Filter
Another thing that potentially gives the D810 an edge is the lack of an optical low-pass filter, something the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV uses, as this should help the camera to resolve a little extra detail than would otherwise be the case. On the other hand, it does make the camera more prone to aliasing artefacts, so those capturing fashion, architecture or any other scenes with repetitive details should be aware of this.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Autofocus
The D810 employs Nikon’s tried-and-tested Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus module, versions of which were previously included in its D800 and D4 models among others. This contains 51 AF points in total, with 15 of these being cross type, and Nikon claims this system is sensitive down to -2EV.
Canon, meanwhile, has equipped the EOS 5D Mark IV with a variation of its previously seen 61-point AF system, with 41 cross-type points among these and sensitivity down to -3EV. Both systems are highly capable in use although, at least on paper, Canon’s system appears to have the edge.
Canon has also complemented the above with its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which allows for autofocus in both live view and video recording. This is particularly useful when tracking moving subjects and can be used with face detection to identify people in the scene. The D810’s contrast-detect AF system is far more basic and lacks the fluidity of Canon’s, although it’s still very usable for live-view focusing.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Video
At first glance the EOS 5D Mark IV wins this one easily, with the ability to record 4K videos (albeit at a crop factor of 1.74x) in addition to those in Full HD resolution. The camera also allows you to extract 8.8MP frames from 4K footage and records HD-quality slow motion footage at up to 120fps, and also makes use of Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for smooth and discreet autofocus while recording.
By comparison, the D810 only records to Full HD videos at up to 60p, with a 1.1x crop factor, and makes do with a more standard contrast-detect AF system for focusing, although it matches the EOS 5D Mark IV in offering both microphone and headphone sockets. A more minor difference is that it has two on-board microphones for stereo recording rather than the single mic on the EOS 5D Mark IV, although this isn’t significant.
It also has a zebra function, which its rival lacks, and its time-lapse function has a useful Exposure Smoothing setting, which attempts to keep exposure consistent should there be any sudden change between frames. Neither camera, however, manages to offer focus peaking.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: ISO
Not a huge difference here, with the EOS 5D Mark IV offering a ISO 100-3200 range as standard and expansion settings equivalent to ISO 50 and ISO 102,400, and the D810 sporting a native ISO 64-12,800 range that’s complemented with expanded options equivalent to ISO 32 and ISO 51,200. Most people do not tend to shoot at the extreme ends of the scale and so will not be too fussed about any minor differences here, particularly as results at very high settings are often not all that usable (although lower settings can be very useful for long exposures).
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Burst speed
While neither camera is specifically designed for action photography in the way that their flagship stablemates are, their AF systems and burst speeds mean that they aren’t completely inappropriate for such scenarios.
The D810’s standard 5fps burst speed can be boosted up to 6fps at a crop setting, and up to 7fps when using the DX-crop setting and optional MB-D12 battery pack with the EN-EL18a battery, although this comes at the expense of pixel count. The EOS 5D Mark IV, meanwhile, can be used at 7fps at its full 30.4MP setting, so in this respect it has the advantage.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Wireless connectivity
With Wi-Fi and NFC on board, the newer EOS 5D Mark IV races ahead of the D810 that sadly offers neither. You can, however, use the D810 with an external wireless adapter or Wi-Fi enabled memory card, although either of these options would be an additional expense.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: LCD
Both cameras have been designed with a 3.2in LCD on their rear, although the screen on the EOS 5D Mark IV has a slighter higher resolution of 1.62million dots against the D810’s 1.23million dots. The difference in practice is perhaps less obvious than the difference on paper, although one thing that really lifts the EOS 5D Mark IV above its rival is the fact that its screen is responsive to touch. This is incredibly useful when setting the focus point in live view or when recording video, although you can also use this to swipe through and zoom into images, select menu options and much more.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Viewfinder
Both cameras have been furnished with a pentaprism viewfinder, with each showing approximately 100% of the scene. Magnification is fairly similar on the two – 0.70x on the D810 and 0.71x on the EOS 5D Mark IV – although the EOS 5D Mark IV does have a longer eyepoint, at 21mm next to the D810’s 17mm. This potentially makes it a better option for those wearing glasses, as they will be naturally a little further away from the viewfinder than those who do not.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Shutter
Canon claims the EOS 5D Mark IV’s shutter is good for at least 150k cycles – a perfectly respectable figure but slightly outgun by the 200k cycles claimed by Nikon for its D810.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Card slots
Both cameras are pretty evenly matched here, with each accepting CompactFlash and SDHC/SDXC media.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Battery life
The D810 has the upper hand here, with its 1,200-shot battery life trouncing the EOS 5D Mark IV’s 900 shots.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Weight
At around 800g without a lens, the EOS 5D Mark IV is around 80g lighter than the D810.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D810: Price
The difference here is significant: whereas the Nikon D810 currently retails at around £2399, and is currently subject to an £85 cashback offer, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is priced at £3600. Given that the latter is a much newer model this is to be expected, although the D810 was released at a much cheaper price. Nevertheless, the difference between the two would allow you to partner the D810 with a very nice piece of glass for the same price as the EOS 5D Mark IV body alone.