(PPH Exclusive) Canon 5D MKII vs. Nikon D3X Image Quality- Round 2

Last week we looked at the image quality results of the Canon 5D MKII vs. the Nikon D3X using our faithful dog model. We found that both cameras were very impressive, especially considering the increased pixel density these two cameras provide over their predecessors. The Nikon D3X came out the overall winner, primarily due to having a more pleasing noise pattern at Hi-ISO settings.

This week we will look at some more Hi-ISO images in a more traditional setting. We’ll also be looking at some landscape and portrait comparison images at ISO 100. These images provide additional insight into the maximum resolution of both cameras and what you could expect from more “real world” type of images. All of these images were shot using 85mm prime lenses at the same aperture on auto white balance. A ColorRight has been included for a white balance color reference in most images. All camera settings were factory default. All raw images were processed at default settings using Lightroom 64bit v.2.3RC. Please feel free to download the raw files to make your own assessments in your preferred editor, and also to adjust the white balance.

If you are in the market for one of these two cameras we recommend the following trusted source and our Pro Store:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II (Body Only) – Amazon

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens – Amazon

Nikon D3x 24.5MP FX Digital SLR (Body Only) – Amazon

Landscape Comparison:


Download this RAW file (caution large file!)


Download this RAW file (caution large file!)

I’m having a difficult time calling a winner here. The tree leaves were the focus point of both images.

It almost appears as if the edges of the leaves are slightly better defined in the Canon 5D Mark 2 images. I am obviously not a landscape photographer. So, I’ll just post the raw files and allow you landscape experts to get on with the discussion. I do prefer the auto white balance rendition of the Canon file here in broad daylight. It is more accurate. The scene should have white balance settings of Temp: 5100 and Tint: +8.

Landscape Winner:
Canon 5D MKII by a Leaf Edge.

Portrait Comparison:


Download this RAW file


Download this RAW file

The color difference is the first thing to jump out at me in these shaded images. The Nikon auto white balance produces much more pleasing skin tone in the shade. Again, the Canon 5D MKII files appear sharper around the edges. The shutter speed is much too high for motion blur to enter into the equation here.  I also took many examples of both shots.  They all show this same sharpness difference.  The difference in mathematical resolution is very small (about 12%) between these two cameras.  Does the Lightroom conversion for Nikon D3X need a tweak?

Portrait Winner:

Nikon D3X for Skin Tone (arguably one of the most important considerations in portraiture)

Products at Hi-ISO:

ISO 800

Download this RAW file


Download this RAW file

ISO 1600:

Download this RAW file


Download this RAW file

ISO 3200:

Download this RAW file


Download this RAW file

ISO 6400:

Download this RAW file


Download this RAW file

ISO 12800 Canon 5D MKII:

Download this RAW file

ISO 25600 Canon 5D MKII:

Download this RAW file

The results here for noise are almost identical to what we found when looking at the dog in round 1. They both run neck and neck, but the Nikon has less visible “color noise” (shades of magenta and purple/ blue dominate the 5D MKII noise) and Nikon has a more “pleasing pattern” to the noise that is present. On the flip side the 5D MKII performs much better than the prior 5D and costs much less than the Nikon.  The Canon 5D MK2 also has the ability to push the iso even higher. ISO 12800 and 25600 are really only useful for specialty and web applications, but it does provide some additional headroom for certain shooting environments.

Hi-ISO Winner:

Nikon D3X


Overall Round 2 Image Quality Winner:

Nikon D3X- by the thinnest of margins.

The Canon 5D MKII is a close runner-up in overall image quality and represents the best dollar value currently in the market.

Don’t get scammed by the bait and switch stores.

If you are in the market for one of these two cameras we recommend the following 3 trusted sources, and our Pro Store:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II (Body Only) – Amazon

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens – Amazon

Nikon D3x 24.5MP FX Digital SLR (Body Only) – Amazon

You can also find great deals on these two cameras at B&H Photo and Adorama through the logo links below.



A special thanks to everyone at Professional Photo Resources. You guys can’t be beat for specialty gear rental.

Drew Strickland

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