My Experience: From Canon 5D4 to Nikon D850

INTRODUCTION
(Note – I am posting this both on NikonRumors and CanonRumors). Two months ago I switched to Nikon after two decades with Canon. This is my experience going from Canon 5D4 (and 5D3, 5D2) to Nikon D850. This review relates to these models only.

RESOLUTION
With Nikon you get massive megapixels and speed in one camera. With Canon you have to give in to less megapixels for the speed (of a 5D4) or more megapixels but less speed (of a 5Dsr). The Nikon D850 is both models in one. WINNER: Nikon.

FOCUS ASSIST LIGHT
Canon was always better here and Nikon finally caught up. With the D850 Nikon has gotten rid of the obnoxious bright white focus assist light from previous models and put in an invisible infra-red focus assist light, just like Canon has always done and Nikon should have always done. WINNER: (tie).

BACKLIT BUTTONS
The buttons on the back of the Nikon D850 light up along with the top screen when you hit the light button. Canon does not. I do a lot of night photography and find this feature invaluable. The way to turn on the light is also easier on the Nikon (flick the spring-loaded lever on the front of the shutter instead of finding a separate button on top for the Canon). WINNER: Nikon.

MIRROR LOCKUP
I do a fair amount of landscape and architecture photography where I need mirror lockup for the sharpest image. With Canon you have to find it in the menu and set it and go back in the menu to turn it off. It's a pain. With Nikon it is right on the top dial along with the other shutter settings (single frame burst, low speed continuous, high speed continuous). This is sooooo convenient it is almost worth switching just for this feature. WINNER: Nikon.

MODE LABELING
Nikon and every other brand except Canon use a simple single letter designation: S for Shutter Priority, A for Aperture Priority, M for Manual, P for Program. Canon uses this bizarre labeling system of TV for Shutter Priority, AV for Aperture Priority, etc (I had a student in a class think TV mode was for plugging the camera into their television). WINNER: Nikon.

FOCUS PERFORMANCE
There has been a lot of debate over this, especially since Art Morris switched from Canon to Nikon. The claim is that the focus tracking mode on Nikon is superior to Canon. After only two months with limited use I can say confidently this is true. I do a lot of zoo photography and even a big cat walking (not running) towards me only a couple out of the series would be in focus with 5D4. Most of them the head is blurry and the focus is on the shoulders. With Nikon every single frame is in focus. On a recent trip I even saw a leopard running and I quickly grabbed one shot before it was out of frame. I know my 5D4 would never react that quickly so I thought it would be blurry. Nope – the Nikon nailed it, with the focus right on the head. WINNER: Nikon.

LENS LINEUP
It depends what you use. If you like tilt-shift lenses then Canon has a better selection. Nikon (in their effort to keep the manual F-mount) has had a bizarre progression so that only certain lenses work with certain cameras (and some with physical aperture rings need to be set a certain way). So for long-time Nikon users it has been a complicated road whereas Canon kept things simple (by changing to an autofocus mount). Since I just jumped into Nikon and only use the latest E series lenses, it's a non-issue.

A common standard lens for serious shooters is the 24-70 f/2.8 and it is mind-boggling that Canon's still does not have image stabilization. Nikon does (as do Tamron and Sigma) so IMO that is a good reason to go with Nikon. Another standard pro lens – 70-200 f/2.8 – is essentially a tie, though the Nikon focuses a few inches closer which I find useful. The Nikon 70-200 (and other telephotos) wins for me because it is black and not white. I hate white lenses for some reason.

There is one lens that Nikon has that no one else has and it is so useful that it is a primary reason I switched. That is the 500mm f/5.6 PF. Though not cheap, it's still about half the price of a 500 f/4. But the size and weight make it a must have in my book (assuming you need a long telephoto). PF is Nikon's equivalent of Canon's DO and it shocks me Canon hasn't done more with this. For the record, I ordered mine from a local dealer (Tucson Camera Repair) and it only took three weeks to get (not the months that it takes at big dealers). It is tack sharp, even with a 1.4iii teleconverter. But for lens lineup overall I will say: WINNER: (depends on your needs).

CONCLUSION
I have been interested in D850 since it came out and I knew I would like it. But I am shocked at how much more I like it than my 5D4. Combined with the stellar (and oh-so-portable) 500 PF lens, the difference is astounding. I feel like I have traded in a Ford Fiesta for a Lexus RS. (Disclaimer: this does not mean Canon is no good or that everyone else should switch. I am just sharing how the D850 meets my needs better).
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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INTRODUCTION
I am a generalist and have shot professionally on and off since 1978 and used Canon cameras (with some larger formats as well) ever since, I currently use two 1DX MkII's.

RESOLUTION
No doubt the D850 is a very compelling package, I took a serious look at it when it came out but ended up not doing it because as a generalist I rarely need the MP, I always found the ergonomics of Nikons clunky.

FOCUS ASSIST LIGHT
Never noticed it because I have never had a visible one!

BACKLIT BUTTONS
A real winner for Nikon, I expect the 1DX MkIII to have them but it will need a lot more to get me to upgrade.

MIRROR LOCKUP
I also use this a lot, but on the 1 series you just push the set button so no menu searching.

MODE LABELING
I see nothing confusing about Tv meaning Time value, Av meaning Aperture value....

FOCUS PERFORMANCE
I think a lot of this is how much time you invest in the system. As for Art Morris, there have been big names that have switched the other way and he pretty much dumped his Nikon's for Sony and maybe back again so I have a feeling whoever is showing him most love on any given day is the system de jour. Certainly I get much better AF response now I play with the three variables separately rather than rely on Case Modes.

LENS LINEUP
Two of my staples are the TS-E17 and EF11-24, Nikon don't have anything close to those two optics, the PCE 19 is much more basic doesn't have the IQ or functionality and the 14-24mm AFS f/2.8 G ED is a dog in comparison to the EF 11-24. Nikon can't touch Canon for lenses at the focal lengths I use most and that is the primary reason I can't see me moving in the foreseeable future, I never took a picture without a lens...

The Nikon 70-200 f2.8 might focus closer at minimum focus distance but it is effectively under 135mm focal length, compare the reproduction size of the Nikon and Canon at mfd and even though you are further away with the Canon the subject is much bigger in the frame.

CONCLUSION
Even if I found the D850 a compelling camera, and it does have some features I would really like, the Nikon system lets me down massively. Once you have shown clients what an 11mm lens or a TS-E17 can do for them there is no going back. As a generalist camera the 1DX MkII suits me very well although there are certainly some features Nikon have that I would very much like none of them come close to my need for some of the esoteric glass from Canon that Nikon just don't make.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
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Personally, I think that I could do equally well with Canon or Nikon. I did purchase a Nikon D800 a few years ago along with A 24-70 f/2.8G, a 80-200mm f/2.8 D, and a 200-400mm f/4G IS ver 1.

The 24-70 had a huge amount of chromatic aberration, the 80-200 was excellent, and the 200-400 was very good, but not up to its price.

I never really saw much benefit from the lighted buttons, the DOF button interferred with my fingers on the grip and often locked up the camera which prevented my from getting shots, and the images seemed very grainy at higher ISO's, but were great at base ISO with excellent DR.

I had bought it when they first came out from a local camera store when the camera was out of stock at all the major stores. After 30 days, I decided to sell it, I got more than MSRP on ebay, so after their fees, I almost broke even.

Since then, I take the hype with a grain of salt, but I'd likely do just fine with any brand.
 
ERGONOMICS was brought up. IMO this may be the most undervalued topic in camera reviews and discussions. The Nikon D850 is a bit taller than the Canon 5D4. Whether this is a plus or minus depends on how big your hands are. Mine are quite large (though slender); I wear XL gloves in the cold and 2XL latex gloves at work. So for me the bigger D850 feels better than my previous 5D4. For someone with average or small hands, the opposite would likely be true. I had a Canon 1D4 for several months (got cheap used) with built in grip, but I found this to be too big and too heavy. The Nikon D850 strikes the perfect balance.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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ERGONOMICS was brought up. IMO this may be the most undervalued topic in camera reviews and discussions. The Nikon D850 is a bit taller than the Canon 5D4. Whether this is a plus or minus depends on how big your hands are. Mine are quite large (though slender); I wear XL gloves in the cold and 2XL latex gloves at work. So for me the bigger D850 feels better than my previous 5D4. For someone with average or small hands, the opposite would likely be true. I had a Canon 1D4 for several months (got cheap used) with built in grip, but I found this to be too big and too heavy. The Nikon D850 strikes the perfect balance.
Yes I have pretty big hands but not long fingers and find the 1 series, which I have owned since the 1VHS, to be just about right, I find the Nikon too bulbous around the hand grip but as you say it is a very personal thing, I am amazed that so many people with smaller hands get on so well with the Nikon, maybe they just have longer fingers! Also I find my pinkie finger always struggles to get comfortable on non gripped bodies.
 
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Sporgon

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Sharlin

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I see he sensibly used an old 5D2, to have used a 5D4 would be rather decadent ! Surprised about the views on mirror lock up - apart from using mirror pre release on the 5DS, whenever I want full mirror lock up now I'm on a tripod and in live view anyway.
Yeah, the Live View button is a mirror lockup button that still allows you to focus, meter, and see through the lens even with the mirror up!