The two most popular full-frame prosumer cameras on the market today are the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D700.  Both cameras have the ability to take breathtaking pictures, but they have very different feature sets to cater to different types of photography.  Read on to find how these two cameras stack up next to each other. 

Price Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II: 2,799

Nikon D700: 2,699

Canon 5D Mark IIThe difference in price between the Canon and Nikon is negligible.  Keep in mind that you may be able to find these camera bodies on sale in places like Amazon, BH Photo and Video, or even at your local camera store.  Big box retailers such as Best Buy do not carry either of these cameras. 

Although neither of these cameras is an “investment” per se, these dSLR prosumer bodies will most certainly hold their value very well.  If you get in a bind and must sell you camera shortly after your purchase, you should be able to fetch a price close to its initial cost. 

Note: After the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, production of both cameras was slowed or halted.  For the period immediately after the quake, there will more than likely be a shortage of the Mark II and D700.  There is a good chance that these camera bodies will sell for significantly more on the secondary market if this shortage persists. 

The Winner: Nikon D700

Output comparison

Canon 5D Mark II: 21.1 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor

Nikon D700: 12.1 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor

The 5D has the clear advantage in this category coming in with almost twice the resolution of the D700 (although this does not mean that the 5D can produce prints twice as large).  At its highest resolution, the Canon creates a file at 5616 by 3744 pixels—enough to print off a stunningly clear 16” x 20” photo. 

Each camera comes with a full-frame sensor, which more closely resembles the sensors on 35mm cameras.  Having the full-frame is essentially what puts these cameras in the “prosumer” class.  With this type of sensor, lenses will perform as they were intended and will not have focal length or cropping issues. 

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II

Continuous Shooting Mode

Canon 5D Mark II: 3.9 fps

Nikon D700: 5 fps (up to 8 fps with the battery grip)

Nikon D700Both cameras work extremely quickly, but the Nikon takes a significant edge over the Canon with its continuous shooting rate.  Not only does the Nikon start up quickly, but it can also take pictures up to 8 frames per second with the MB-D10 multi-power battery pack.  This is great for photographing wild animals, sports, and concerts.  While the Canon cannot quite match the Nikons speed, 3.9 frames per second is still very good.  The 5D can shoot off up to 78 jpegs or 13 RAW files in continuous shot mode. 

It is important to note that these burst rates are very helpful for fast-paced photography for wild animals, sports, and concerts.  This feature is of little importance for portrait photography. 

The Winner: Nikon D700  


Low-light performance

Canon 5D Mark II: ISO 50 to ISO 25600

Nikon D700: ISO 100 to ISO 25600

In terms of sheer numbers, the Canon has a slightly better edge with the expandable ISO ranges listed above.  On the 5D, ISOs of 50, 12800, and 25600 can all be reached, while the Nikon can only expand to ISOs of 100 and 25600.  However, at high ISOs the Nikon produces slightly less noise than the Canon.  This difference is only noticeable when files are enlarged to big prints. 

The Winner: Draw


Auto Focus System

Canon 5D Mark II: 9-Point AF Sensor Array

Nikon D700: 51 Point Autofocus

The Canon uses essentially the same auto-focus technology as its predecessor the 5D without any improvements and therefore falls behind on the Nikon’s high performing 51 point autofocus.  This fact acting focus again is ideal for wildlife, sports, and concert photography where the subjects move quickly and erratically across the camera’s frame. 

The Winner: Nikon D700



Canon 5D Mark II: 1920 x 1080 at 30fps (High Definition Video)

Nikon D700: n/a

When the Mark II was first announced, its ability to shoot high definition video was heavily discussed creating a much excitement for the camera’s release.  Testing shows that video on the Mark II lives up to all the initial hype as it can shoot crystal clear video.  Keep in mind though, that this is not “professional” videography equipment, and the Mark II’s on camera microphone leaves a little to be desired.  However, the available quality in the 5D Mark II is about the best consumers can get on the market today. 

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II


Live View

Both cameras have live view available.  Most professional photographers like to physically look through the eyepiece, but this is a nice feature to have.  The screens on both the Canon and the Nikon are three inches, so you can see exactly what you are photographing in the live-view mode. 


Dust and Water Resistant

The Nikon and Canon cameras are both dust and water-resistant giving professional photographers a piece of mind when they are working in poor weather conditions.  Sealed lenses are also available on both cameras. 


Final Word

In an effort of full disclosure, I currently own a 5D Mark II camera.  It has performed exceedingly well for my portrait and wedding photography business.  I chose the Canon because of its high resolution and its stellar performance in low light.  If primarily photographed fast moving subjects like wild animals, sports, or concerts, I would have seriously considered a purchase of the D700. 

In the end, both of the Mark II and D700 are exceptional cameras.  They each have their distinct advantages over the other, so you must decide what the most important features are for your photography needs. 


Other Prosumer Options

The only other prosumer camera that is considered in the same class as the Mark II and D700 is Sony’s Alpha 900.  If you are curious about the Alpha 900’s specs, please read the following article comparing all three cameras: