The 5D's spot meter is a relatively large area, indicated by a circle at the center of the viewfinder. Canon says it covers about 3.5 percent of the frame. That seems small until one considers that it would cover any two contiguous autofocus sensor sites. The D200's spot sites are about 2 percent of the frame, so it is a bit more precise than the 5D in that respect. However, the D200 can also be set so that the meter measures the 2 percent spot centered over the active autofocus area. The 5D lacks that feature – its spot meter is linked to the autofocus sensor at the center of the frame. This is a more substantial difference; the D200 will enable the user to meter off-center subjects without adjusting the composition, while the 5D requires the user to move the center of the frame over the subject, meter and then recompose.
The 5D adds a much larger circle. Its "Partial" pattern is an 8 percent spot at the center of the frame, which is so large that it's a bit like a tight averaging pattern. The averaging patterns on the two cameras vary, though both take a single reading with sensitivity concentrated at the middle of the frame. The D200 allows the user to select the size of the center area that is emphasized, from 6 to 13 mm. This again provides an additional layer of control that is not present on the EOS 5D.
The evaluative or matrix settings on the two cameras are designed to take many separate light readings across the frame and evaluate them. Ideally the cameras should be able to detect backlighting and other situations that can throw off averaging modes and set an exposure that delivers good detail and color on the main subject.
We shot two scenes that seemed sure to fool averaging modes and likely to challenge evaluative modes: we shot a bag of potato chips backlit on a window ledge, and we shot the same bag and a couple other bright items on a black felt background. We left the center of the black background empty, to see if the evaluative modes could find the subjects.
EOS 5D - Center-weighted Average
D200 - Center-weighted
The evaluative modes on both cameras performed better than straight averaging, but that was easy to determine – both averaging modes did a lousy job. The evaluative modes set "compromise" exposures. With both cameras, our bag of chips is dark in the backlit photos and light in the shot with a dark background, while the backgrounds in each case retained some detail. All that stands to reason – any automated exposure system should be tuned to maintain detail across the image, when it can. When we pointed the spot meters on the subjects in each scene, we got good exposures of the subjects and lost the backgrounds. Here, we found the D200’s movable spot meter a big advantage.
*EOS 5D - Evaluative
D200 - Matrix*
In all, metering performance was comparable in most modes, yielding similar exposures from both cameras when put in the same shooting situation. However, differentiation emerged in the degree of control available on the two cameras. The D200 offers far more flexibility and customization – something you’d expect in the more expensive EOS 5D. Furthermore, the additional control granted by the D200’s customizable center-weighed region and movable spot points is not just padding for the spec sheets. These options provide more practical solutions to challenging lighting, increasing efficiency and enabling the photographer to tailor the camera to their workflow.
Exposure*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*In shooting comparison images, we noticed that the best shots from the 5D and the D200 were usually not at the same exposure. The 5D produced lighter images at a given ISO and exposure, indicating the increased light sensitivity of the 5D’s full-frame CMOS sensor. The D200 needed 1/3 – 2/3 of a stop more exposure than the 5D. Adding an additional check, we shot both cameras on manual and took an incident reading with a Konica Minolta Autometer VF to determine exposure. The D200 agreed with the handheld meter but delivered a dark exposure, while the 5D took a good exposure but indicated that it wanted another 1/3 stop.
EOS 5D - ISO 100, 1/15 sec, f/7.1
D200 - ISO 100, 1/15 sec, f/7.1
The cameras differ more substantially in the degree of compensation they allow for a given exposure. The 5D remains true to the prosumer or consumer-level DSLR standard, offering exposure compensation 2 stops above or below the metered value, while the D200 extends the range to a 5-stop bias. The D200 also shifts flash exposure compensation, weighting the bias for fill flash with a -3 to +1 EV range, while the 5D’s in-camera flash EV compensation remains +/- 2.
In addition to offering a more expansive range, the D200 allows the user to set an AEB sequence of up to 9 images in 1/3-, 1/2-, or full-stop increments, while the 5D only offers a 3 shot sequence in 1/3- or 1/2-stops. The D200 also provides a dedicated BKT button on the back of the camera for quicker access to the function, a control that would have been nice to see on the 5D. However, the 5D can link the entire (3 shot) bracketed sequence to the self-timer, a feature ideal for architectural work that is unfortunately absent from the Nikon. This allows users to press the shutter release a single time and capture three bracketed shots of the composition. Users of the D200 will either have to hold the shutter down for the duration of the burst or depress the release for each shot.
Autofocus*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*Both the D200 and the 5D improve on the autofocus performance of their manufacturers' entry level cameras, but fall well short of the top of the line. The Canon EOS 1D series, for instance, has 45 autofocus sensors, while the 5D has 9, plus 6 invisible supplemental points. The 5D also has three autofocus sites where vertical and horizontal sensors overlap. The D200 has 11 points, which can be combined to form 7 wide-area points. The D2X and D2Hs from Nikon have 9 cross-type sensors, while the D200 has only one.
Our experience examining the 5D and the D200’s focusing abilities generally indicated that the cameras perform comparably in most ways, particularly in tracking moving objects, although the D200's autofocus focused a bit better in low light.
To test tracking, we put 50mm f/1.4 lenses on both cameras, and took bursts of cars as they passed through an intersection near DigitalCameraInfo.com's world headquarters in Somerville, Massachusetts. We trained the active AF sensor on the front left wheel of the cars we photographed. We shot some in aperture priority, with the aperture set to f/1.4, and some in shutter priority, with the shutter set to 1/8000. We set the cameras to ISO 100. Our object was to keep depth-of-field at a minimum. In this evaluation, we found that the cameras performed similarly, both producing sharp images most of the time with neither presenting a clear advantage over the other.
We checked low light performance in a darkened room, shooting objects with varying contrast and texture with zoom lenses. Light levels called for exposures of between 1/4 and 2 seconds at f/4.0 for ISO 400. We found that the D200 could focus on wood-grained melamine in the darkest conditions. The 5D hunted and did not snap into focus when we shot horizontally. When we turned the camera vertical, the 5D could focus. Canon reports that the horizontal sensors at the middle of the 5D's frame are active at apertures of f/2.8 or faster. Since the 24 to 105mm lens we were using only opens to f/4.0, those sensors didn't operate, and turning the camera oriented the more light-sensitive sensors appropriately for the texture we were shooting.
The most obvious distinction between the 5D and D200's focusing systems is that the D200 has an AF assist light. We didn't use it in the comparison, but it is bright and effective. In circumstances where it's appropriate to use AF assist, the light provides a huge advantage. Both Canon and Nikon dedicated flashes also provide AF assist lights.
SPEED / TIMING
Speed and timing tests on the Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D200 were conducted using a 1GB SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash card and fully charged batteries.
Start-up to First Shot* (Advantage: Nikon D200)
*Both the 5D and the D200 start up very quickly – they got their first shots off within 1/5 of a second of the camera being turned on. The 5D took 0.19 seconds and the D200 made an exposure after 0.16 seconds.
Shot to Shot*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*The D200 has a clear advantage in this category, with a 5 frame-per-second burst mode. The 5D manages only 3 frames per second. However, the 5D managed 71 JPEGs in a burst, while the D200 petered out after 30 JPEGs. The 5D finished writing those 71 images 21.62 seconds after the last one was shot, while the D200 took 25.16 seconds to write its 30 files.
The Canon's writing performance is impressive and a real testament to the power of the DIGIC II processor. Considering that the 5D's files have almost 30 percent more pixels than D200’s files, it's clear that the 5D has the more impressive architecture – it’s just a shame that the capture rate isn’t a bit faster.
Still, there are many circumstances where shooting 30 frames in 6 seconds will get a shot that shooting 71 frames in 24 seconds will not – in sports and action photography, speed is the thing.
Shutter to Shot* (Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*We measured very little shutter lag in either the 5D or the D200. The 5D rated a 0.01-second delay and the D200 waited 0.03 seconds. Neither delay ought to be significant in practice.
Resolution* (Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*On our single camera reviews, we traditionally test each camera’s resolution by collecting a sequence of images of an ISO 12233 resolution chart at various aperture settings and focal lengths and importing the results into Imatest imaging software. Imatest reads the uploaded images and reports sharpness results in line widths per picture height (lw/ph). LW/PH is similar to lp/ph, the conventional unit of measuring resolution; however, lw/ph takes the size of the recording medium into account.
For this Head-to-Head review, we evaluated the sharpness of the two DSLRs with standard 50mm f/1.4 prime lenses on both models.
A common argument in favor of APS-sized sensors over full-frame chips is that they have the potential to retain better edge-to-edge sharpness because they read from a cropped segment in the center of the chip rather than the full space of the sensor. To test the validity of this claim as it relates to the 12.8 megapixel 5D and 10.2 megapixel D200, we fitted each model with a standard 50mm f/1.4 prime lens and took our resolution readings from the lower left and upper right portions of the recorded frames. The shots were taken without any in-camera sharpening, shooting the D200 in Normal and the Canon EOS 5D in Neutral Parameters. Both cameras were tested at ISO 100 with the lenses fully open to f/1.4, as well as with them stopped down to f/8. Unfortunately, with the D200’s 1.5X magnification conversion, it was necessary to move the tripod slightly to retain equal compositions.
As you can see from the graph above, the additional 2.6 million pixels spread across the Canon 5D’s full-frame CMOS sensor did yield better resolution results. However, the results are quite close with both lenses open all the way. At f/1.4, the additional pixels on the 5D gave the camera a slight advantage, although comparatively, it is far less of an edge than you might expect from the sensor differential. It’s interesting to note that the 5D performs in the same manner as most digital cameras, with stronger horizontal resolution, while the D200 by contrast exhibits greater resolution in the vertical direction with the standard 50mm lens wide open.
When both prime lenses were stopped down to f/8, the 5D’s performance edge became more pronounced and for the most part, resolution was more consistent on both cameras both vertically and horizontally. At f/8, sharpness was much more in line with expectations, relative to the cameras’ respective resolutions. Corner-to-corner sharpness on the Canon EOS 5D supported the claims of full-frame advocates and at least in this instance, refuted the argument for utilizing the "sweet spot" of the sensor on an APS DSLR.
The 5D does in fact offer more edge-to-edge resolution than the D200, and the difference is not just academic. While the results plotted in the charts above may appear as an insignificant difference between the 10.2 megapixel D200 and the 12.8 megapixel EOS 5D, when observing 8 x 10-inch prints made from each camera – held roughly a foot away – the difference is clearly noticeable. The 5D produces sharper images with more observable detail, even at 8 x 10. The results obviously become more pronounced as the print size is increased.
With the prime lenses, we also took a few shots of the ISO resolution chart, fully framed to its proper 3:2 markings, using the cameras’ out-of-the-box defaults. The overall resolution results here are much more imbalanced. As you can see from the Imatest results below, the Canon EOS 5D is much sharper in both directions than the D200. Although much of this discrepancy can be attributed to stronger in-camera sharpening on the Canon, neither image holds up to much sharpening post-capture.
Click on the charts to view the full resolution version
Color Fringing: Canon and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lenses*(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*We tested the Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D200 with a couple of lenses each. We had access to the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, and the Nikon AF-S VR 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6, which are both high-quality, versatile zooms. For a closer comparison, we looked at both manufacturers' 50mm f/1.4 prime lenses.
Both companies have been making that lens for decades. And they have made thousands upon thousands of them: 50mm f/1.4 used to be a common kit lens with film SLRs. We expected the lenses to be sharp, and they were. Distortion wasn't a problem, either. We were surprised by the extent to which they both exhibited color fringing, though. Even at f/8.0, our standard aperture for dynamic range testing, both lenses showed obvious fringing. Here are 200% crops of the sides – not the corners, but closer in, on the sides, from both lenses. These are shots from our dynamic range test, which conceivably creates a situation that is most vulnerable to fringing.
The shots taken with the D200 show a more distracting degree of fringing, however, the artifacts were visible with both cameras. The fringing apparent in the shots recorded with the 5D and the 50mm lens showed fringing skewed to one side of the shapes, while the numbers on the chart recorded by the D200 were overpowered by discoloration on both sides of the figures.
It's disappointing to see the color problem in lenses that cost hundreds of dollars. We did not have an opportunity to print these images ourselves; however, well-made 8 x 10-inch prints would likely show the fringing effects. The f/1.4 lenses are appropriate in low light, but for ideal image quality, they aren't nearly as good as Nikon and Canon's macro lenses.
*Our typical color tests for individual camera reviews are conducted in controlled studio conditions using a GretagMacbeth color chart and Lowell Softboxes with tungsten bulbs. (If you wish to view individual color results for either camera, click here: Nikon D200 / Canon 5D.) We attempted to replicate our studio tests outdoors, using daylight illumination to examine the cameras’ exterior color capabilities. Both cameras were tested for saturation and color accuracy at each available ISO setting using their most natural color modes. For the EOS 5D, we shot the daylight sequence in its Neutral parameter, while the D200 was shot in its default, Color Mode I.
The graph below is a visual representation of our results, with data for the Nikon D200 in shades of red and data for the Canon 5D in shades of blue. The red and blue bars represent the saturation percentage points away from 100 percent for the D200 and 5D, respectively, and the plotted points represent the color error score. The error scores are not in percentage points, but we place these plots atop this graph to let you see all the data at once. The closer the saturation percentage to 0 (or 100), the more accurate the saturation; the closer the color error score to zero, the more accurate the color.
We found the D200’s colors to be much more saturated straight out of the camera. These slightly embellished tones should produce a more "consumer-friendly" appearance without any post-processing. The 5D’s colors, on the other hand, were a bit under-saturated when using the Neutral parameter (although that jumped to roughly 6-8% over-saturation when using the Standard parameter) yet maintained a greater degree of accuracy throughout the ISO range. The tones produced by the D200 had a greater mean color error and displayed more variance at the extremes of the sensitivity range.
However, when we switched the 5D into its Standard parameter, we noticed the camera tended to blow out single channels of color, while the D200 retained detail, albeit with contaminated color.
We shot a still life of some flowers and opened the images in Photoshop, then broke them down into their individual channels to see the color information in each one.
Canon EOS 5D
Here's a crop of the 5D image in RGB:
Next, just the blue channel of the 5D shot:
Next, the D200's RGB and blue channel:
Next, the D200's blue channel:
Next, just the red channel from the 5D:
Finally, here's the D200's red channel from a similar crop:
The switch from Neutral (or Faithful) on the 5D will yield bolder colors straight out of the camera, although it comes at the expense of information. The D200, in both Color Mode I and Color Mode II, offers more detail in the individual channels and is much more editable. However, you'll notice in the image above, the D200 shifts the purple hue in the violet flower over to a more bluish tone (more cyan than purple). The D200 had a lot of trouble rendering this particular shade. The 5D's reproduction of the violet flower, on the other hand, is much closer to the flower's natural color.
To utilize all the detail the EOS 5D is capable of capturing, the camera must be set to RAW and colors must be realized in post-processing. The D200, by contrast, processes JPEGs more favorably with more careful attention paid to the individual channels.
Noise / High ISO Performance*(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*The D200 performed admirably at low ISO settings, staying with the Canon 5D in terms of noise, color, and dynamic range. However, at higher ISO settings – ISO 400 and beyond – the 5D began to pull away and justify its much steeper price tag.
To test the cameras’ performance at high sensitivities, we shot a succession of exterior images, gradually increasing in ISO. We utilized the noise results attained in our outdoor color tests (garnered with a GretagMacbeth color chart and Imatest imaging software) and plotted those results in the graph below.
As much of our other test results concluded, the D200 remains close to the 5D at ISO 400, with only moderate noise resulting from each camera. By ISO 500 and 640, the 5D’s slight advantage increases significantly and the benefits of the full frame CMOS sensor become apparent. As you can see in the chart above, the 5D’s individual noise progression increases steadily, with the only drastic leap occurring from ISO 1600 to 3200, which is also a jump into the camera’s "ISO Expansion." This is unfortunately not the case with the D200. The Nikon’s noise graph takes on more of a stair-step-like pattern, displaying its first jump in noise from ISO 500 to ISO 640 and increasing almost exponentially at each step beyond. At ISO 1000, the cameras are in different classes. Images from the D200 are flat and lack the detail recorded in shots at half the sensitivity. The 5D also shows a slight drop in image quality, but still retains the quality characteristics that make the camera’s images desirable.
Shots at higher ISO settings with the 5D contain less noise and more detail, but also show much smoother tonal transitions, which result in far more depth in the images. The 5D is also able to retain color accuracy while ISO is increased. This is unusual for most DSLRs, as shots at high ISOs generally lose some saturation and begin to appear somewhat washed, as is the case with the D200.
To help validate these results, along with illustrate the impact of noise reduction on each of the cameras, we’ve included a series of night scenes below.
Long Exposures / Noise Reduction*(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*Electronic sensors build up noise during long exposures, and both the Nikon D200 and the Canon EOS 5D offer separate long exposure noise reduction settings. We tested noise reduction throughout each camera’s ISO range and with exposures of up to 30 seconds. In general, we found that the D200 images were noisier. The Nikon noise reduction was more likely to make a visible difference in the image, but the result was still inferior to images shot at similar exposures with the 5D. The 5D's images started out less noisy and more detailed than the D200's – even with noise reduction, the D200 couldn't catch up.
*All shots below are 200% crops. Click on any of the images to view the full resolution version. *
Images shot with the D200’s long exposure NR mechanism engaged show a greater loss of detail, along with the more visible decrease in noise.
Both cameras built up noise most severely in the blue channel, which is typical of digital cameras, and it is easiest to see the effects of noise reduction in the blue channel as well. We have included a few samples to show what we saw: the D200 at ISO 3200, with and without sharpening, shows very prominent noise. Without noise reduction, the noise shows a "pinpoint" effect, with individual pixels apparently jumping and dropping significantly; with noise reduction on, the noise is more diffuse, decreasing detail and lowering contrast.
D200 - ISO3200, NR-OFF](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=D200-ISO3200f22NROFF-LG.jpg)
The effect is harder to see in images from the 5D. Looking at blue-channel samples from the ISO 1000 shot, it would be hard to guess which is noise-reduced and which is not – they aren't as noisy as the D200 images, but noise reduction didn't seem to do much good.
We also ran some tests in our lab to provide some quantitative data on the cameras’ performance during prolonged exposures. The low light shots were captured in a studio setup, with the cameras set to ISO 1600 and with long exposure noise reduction engaged. The D200 was set to Normal Long Exposure NR, while the 5D’s Long Exposure NR was turned "On."
The chart below shows our results. The horizontal axis indicates the exposure duration, while the vertical axis displays the corresponding noise at each exposure.
Although the D200 starts out far noisier than the 5D at 1.5 seconds, noise also increases more drastically on the D200 as exposures are extended. The 5D maintains a relatively constant line from 2 to 30 seconds; more noise enters the images at about 20 seconds, but it is not a drastic increase. We unfortunately did not have an opportunity to make any extreme long exposures (30 minutes or longer), though we suspect at some point the compounded heat in the 5D would lead to a more substantial increase in noise. However, at 30 seconds or less, the 5D manages noise much more effectively than the D200.
We have also included full shots from each camera, shot at ISO 1600 with noise reduction OFF. These images are not magnified.
**Dynamic Range ***(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*We tested dynamic range on both cameras using Imatest software, the same testing suite we use for color and resolution. To conduct the test, we shot a Stouffer 4110 transmissive step chart on a light box. The chart is a strip of silver-based film, with a row of 40 progressively darker rectangles. The darkest rectangle is more than 13 stops darker than the lightest. We shoot the chart such that the brightest box is a pure white.
We feed the cameras' images into Imatest software, which measures the number of rectangles that can be distinguished in each image. That's a little more complicated than it sounds, because noise levels rise significantly in the dark rectangles. Imatest can detect steps of dynamic range even when the noise level would overwhelm picture information. To generate results that are relevant to real-world photography, Imatest provides separate ratings for overall dynamic range, and for dynamic range within certain noise ranges. For instance, at ISO 100, the Nikon D200 detected 12.2 stops of dynamic range, but recorded only 7.79 stops at Imatest's High Quality level. High Quality indicates that image noise was under 1/10 of a stop. The total range includes areas with more than 1 full stop of noise. At Low Quality, with up to one stop of noise, the D200 distinguished nearly 11 stops of dynamic range at ISO 100 – a higher score than the 5D, which came in around 10.5 stops. The low-quality rating is less important than high quality, because a full stop of noise pretty much overwhelms visible data.
The test concluded that the Canon 5D delivers better dynamic range than the Nikon D200, which is not entirely surprising considering the 5D's full-frame sensor has larger photo sites. This should yield better noise results and more dynamic range anyway. What's remarkable is how marginal the Canon's advantage is at low ISO settings – for High Quality, the two cameras' results are virtually the same at ISO 100. However, as the ISO is pushed, the cameras begin to part ways. Canon does a bit better than Nikon at ISO 200, delivering 0.58 more stops. At 400, the 5D scores 0.86 stops better than the D200, and at 800, the 5D's advantage jumps to 1.77 stops. At 1600, the Nikon's noise does it in, and the D200 delivers under 4 stops, giving the 5D a 2.32-stop advantage. At the highest settings, noise jumps for the Canon as well, though it maintains a nearly-one-stop margin.
There is an important point to remember about these figures: we present them as a means of comparing cameras, not as an absolute guide to the range that users will achieve in normal shooting. The numbers we're presenting represent an absolute best-case scenario, and are much wider than users should expect when making a natural-looking print of a typical scene.
Therefore, we shot some still life settings with both cameras as well to look at how they handle highlights, very saturated color and shadow areas. We wanted to see how dynamic range performance plays out when the cameras aren't pointed at step wedges.
We put some flowers and a linen tester on a sheet of typing paper and shot a series of exposures, with the goal of getting the paper to look clean and white, while keeping color and detail in the flowers and the pale shadows they cast. There are a couple of challenges in this scene: first, the background starts looking very dingy when it's underexposed, but the shadows get ragged if it's too bright; and second, the bright red and purple flowers can saturate single channels.
We bracketed by 1/3 stops, and found something disappointing – the D200 jumped from a bit too dark to too light in 1/3 of a stop. The 5D's highlights didn't blow out as much in a single step. To illustrate the difference, we've imitated the highlight warning feature on many cameras, and turned the blown out areas black on our sample pictures. The white areas in the 5D images maintain more texture than the D200’s images
EOS 5D darker:
EOS 5D lighter:
The prints we made of the lighter 5D image had much more pleasing whites than the D200 images – there is texture even in the lightest parts, while the lighter D200 image is blown out. The faint texture in the 5D's whites really doesn't make the image look darker, but it helps the camera deliver smooth transitions from the pale shadows to the whites. It's very hard to move from any color to pure white, and in our D200 shots, the edges of the shadows are ragged. We saw the problem in both ISO 100 and 400 shots.
White Balance*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*The D200 and the 5D handle white balance about as flexibly as any camera out there. Both offer several presets, plus custom settings and direct Kelvin input. Furthermore, both cameras offer fine-tuning, which is the feature that most distinguishes their white balance systems. The 5D has Canon's unique two-axis fine-tune mechanism, which allows color shifts on both a blue-amber axis and a green-magenta axis. The D200 adjusts only along the Kelvin scale – a "warm to cool" axis that is the industry standard. Plotting the Kelvin axis on Canon's Blue-amber/Green-magenta chart would be simple: Kelvin runs diagonally between Canon's axes.
Canon's custom white balance picks up white readings from regular saved images, rather than from dedicated readings, as the D200 does. In practice, there isn't much difference between the two systems, but a user could theoretically save many, many images on the 5D from which to select white balance readings, while the D200 saves just four custom white balance settings.
Both the D200 and 5D allow white balance bracketing. Both allow the user to set the bracket increment, and the 5D allows the user to set the axis on which it brackets.
The difference here again lies in the degree of control afforded by one camera and not the other. While both cameras offer significant customization of color calibration in-camera, the Canon 5D goes a bit beyond and adds a degree of control not present on the D200. While many shooters may disregard the flexible four-directional white balance fine-tune on the 5D - preferring to render these adjustments post-capture - the ability to store an unlimited number of white presets (determined by the capacity of the memory card) may aid the efficiency of those shooters working in multi-light studio setups.
While the Canon offers more flexibility in terms of color calibration, 5D users will unfortunately need it. In practice, the 5D’s Auto and preset white balance settings did not prove to be nearly as accurate as the D200’s. We tested the color balance of both cameras under three types of lighting: daylight, tungsten, and fluorescent. Daylight tests were conducted using the cameras’ Auto WB setting, as well as their Daylight preset. Tungsten and Fluorescent white balance tests were administered using the cameras’ designated preset settings.
We shot the GretagMacbeth color chart under the three types of illumination and ran the results through Imatest Imaging Software. The software exaggerates the white balance error to help observe the color bias. As you can see in the charts below, the D200 and 5D both shift colors similarly, however, in all three setups the variances in the 5D images were much more pronounced.
Canon EOS 5D - Auto WB
Nikon D200 - Auto WB*
Canon EOS 5D - Daylight WB Preset*
Nikon D200 - Daylight WB Preset
Fluorescent Light Test:
Canon EOS 5D - Fluorescent Light WB Preset
Nikon D200 - Fluorescent Light WB Preset
Tungsten Light Test:
Canon EOS 5D - Tungsten Light WB Preset
Nikon D200 - Tungsten WB Preset
Portrait*(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*Images of people are a mainstay of digital photography, for both professional and amateur photographers, so we think it's useful to directly compare how the 5D and D200 stack up taking portraits. We shot portraits in a number of situations with the D200 and 5D, but to create the particular images specifically discussed in this section, we photographed one of our staff by window light with each camera on a tripod. We took custom white balance readings with each camera and bracketed exposure by 1/3-stops. Because both cameras offer Portrait image presets, we shot the cameras in Portrait at ISO 100 and in their default parameters at both 100 and 400. For Nikon, that's Normal mode, and for Canon it's Standard. Because Nikon's "Normal" and Canon's "Standard" differ considerably, we also shot the Canon in "Neutral," which we find closer to Nikon's Normal, and more useful for general photography. All images were shot as JPEGs.
The D200's images look best at exposures about 1/3 EV above the metered reading. The 5D looks best at its metered value. For what it's worth, the cameras' meters agree.
Our preferred image from the Canon 5D was the one shot on Neutral at ISO 100, without exposure compensation. The transitions from midtones to highlights are smooth, and the highlights retain detail. The color is natural from highlight to shadow. The detail drops off smoothly in the shadows – though it drops off sooner than in the D200 images.
Click on any of the portraits below to view the full resolution image.
D200 - Normal, ISO 100](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=Portrait-D200-Normal-ISO100.jpg)*
The best shot from the Nikon D200 was shot at Normal, ISO 100, 1/3 stop above the metered reading. Seen by itself, the Nikon image looks good, but it suffers in comparison with the Canon. Color gradients are less smooth: while the Canon shot shows steady transitions of tone and hue across the subject’s expansive forehead, the Nikon shot looks more patchy as one's eye moves from the highlights on the brow and the center of the forehead, to the pinker area above the left eye, to the darker area of his temple. The highlight area itself turns cool gray in the Nikon image, while its color remains warmer and more skin-like in the Canon shot. The Nikon handled the darkest tones very well – it shows more detail in the black sweater than the 5D does.
Consistent with our other testing, we found that the D200's performance deteriorated much more at ISO 400 than the 5D. At ISO 400, the D200's colors were less saturated and the gradients were rougher. The 5D's performance held up much better – though for portraits, we'd shoot each camera at the lowest practical ISO.
D200 - Normal, ISO 400](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=Portrait-D200-Normal-ISO400.jpg)*
The reasons to not use Canon's Standard setting are nowhere more apparent than in a portrait. Standard boosts contrast and sharpens the image more than is kind in human portraiture. The creases and textures one observes in the Neutral shot turn unambiguously into wrinkles and blemishes in Standard.
D200 - Portrait, ISO 100](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=Portrait-D200-Portrait-ISO1.jpg)*
It's more puzzling to contemplate the cameras' specific Portrait modes. We don't recommend either of them. Nikon's is more straightforward: it decreases contrast and saturation, and opens up the shadow detail. The changes don't improve highlight detail or transitions, though, and left the image flat. Canon's Portrait mode increases contrast in our test and decreases yellow in the skin tones. The result is awful – magenta-pink cheeks with highlights the cold white of skim milk. We definitely found the results unappealing. The best way to get the benefits that a Portrait mode promises is through post-processing RAW files. We don't present manipulated RAW files in this review because that would be a test of image editing rather than the cameras, but for perfectly smooth color, rosy cheeks and open, detailed shadows, we'd suggest shooting in the mode that preserves as much image data as is practical and editing the images on a computer. Each shooting situation is unique, and a single Portrait mode can't address the range of variables a photographer is likely to see.
Image Parameters* (Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*Canon and Nikon have taken different approaches to image parameters, which Canon calls "Picture Styles" and Nikon calls image optimization presets. Nikon's presets have a lot in common with the typical ones on compact digital cameras. The names would be recognizable to most novices: Normal, Portrait, Vivid, Vivid Plus and Softer. The effects themselves make big changes in images. Vivid and Vivid Plus punch up the colors so much that images shot on those settings really can't hold up to post-processing, while Portrait and Softer tone down colors a similar amount. The D200 accepts tone curves downloaded from Nikon Capture 4, PC software that Nikon magnanimously sells separately from its cameras.
The 5D's Standard default parameter boosts saturation and sharpens the image more than Nikon's Normal setting. Canon's Landscape, like Nikon's Vivid and Vivid Plus, can over-saturate bold colors in blue skies, flowers and foliage. However, the Neutral and Faithful picture styles are more practical. Neutral images don't show the saturation boost or sharpening that Standard images do. In this mode the 5D produces images that match the output of the Canon EOS 1D Mark II and Mark II n, and the company suggests that photographers shooting with both a 1D Mark II and 5D can get matched color across bodies. This offers a practical advantage for those shooters who pack both an EOS 5D and 1D Mk II n in their bag – the 5D for resolution and the 1D Mk II n for speed. The 5D’s Faithful parameter is essentially the same as its Neutral setting, although it’s calibrated for accurate results under 5200 Kelvin lighting – an assistance to studio photographers. Both Neutral and Faithful parameters produce images that can handle post-processing.
However, in terms of default parameters, Nikon's Normal setting is much less hyped up than Canon's Standard. The D200's Normal images look less sharpened and maintain more detail in all three color channels, even in areas of bold color, than the 5D's Standard. Most users, and particularly ones who adjust their JPEGs, will keep the D200 in Normal. On the 5D, we expect that Neutral or Faithful settings will be more useful than Standard, especially as a starting point for image-processing.
Nikon D200 - Default
Canon EOS 5D - Default
Of course, the 5D and the D200 are cameras meant for delivering top-quality prints. For many photographers, that means shooting RAW, which makes parameters pretty much irrelevant – the presents might as well be on the user's computer in the RAW converter, rather than in the camera, because the RAW file preserves the original shooting data and the shooting parameters can be reversed or adjusted in conversion.
**Banding – Nikon D200 **
The D200 can produce image artifacts when significant areas of the frame are substantially overexposed. The banding appears as a repeating pattern of vertical lines and is most pronounced at ISO 400, though it remains visible at other sensitivity settings as well. Nikon acknowledges the banding problem, but the company says it does not affect every D200. D200 owners who see lines in their files can send a sample image to Nikon Technical Support. Once Nikon technicians establish that a given camera has the problem, they authorize the owner to send it in for a free adjustment. For further information, go to: http://support.nikontech.com/cgi-bin/nikonusa.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=13872
Our sample camera produces a visible effect from ISO 160 to 800. When we view the image in Photoshop at 100% magnification, we see vertical stripes in the normally-exposed areas above or below any large blown-out area. The stripes are two pixels wide, and in our samples, slightly lighter than the unaffected areas, but don't show any color cast. The effect is not impacted by image quality settings.
We printed an image with the problem on an Epson Stylus Photo 2200. When we set the image to fit on letter-size paper (about 80% reproduction), the effect was visible only with a magnifying glass. At 100%, we could see it when we viewed the print from 7 or 8 inches – closer than normal viewing distance. At 160%, or twice the "fit-on-page" magnification, the effect was obvious at a normal viewing distance.
How big a deal is this? Consider what's required to make it happen: the shot must contain a good-sized blotch of blown-out pixels – exposed at least two stops more than would show any detail at all. Blown-out areas usually make for ugly prints even without fine vertical lines anyway.
On the other hand, many valid and interesting pictures have been taken backlit, or with light sources in the frame. Adding digital artifacts won't improve them and surely will impact the ability to sell them. We wouldn’t completely downplay the existence of the artifacts as some have attempted. Both of these cameras are high-priced, high-performance models that users rely on for strong images. This is clearly an issue worth taking a hard look at when deciding whether to purchase the camera.
We don't know what causes the problem, and won't speculate whether it could be corrected with a firmware upgrade designed to address it. We have not seen the problem in any other camera – we shot the 5D in the same setup we used for the D200, and could not replicate the banding.
Viewfinder*(Advantage: Canon EOS 5D)
*The Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D200 both have bright, usable viewfinders, but both are inferior to the top-end cameras in their lines. The viewfinders on the 5D and D200 are smaller than the ones on the Canon EOS 1D series and the Nikon D2 series. Both top-end series models have 100 percent viewfinder accuracy, while the 5D and the D200 fall short of that. The 5D's accuracy is superior, not so much because 96 percent is better than 95, but because its view is centered on the actual image. The D200 unfortunately adds more on the top than on the bottom, and a little more on the left than on the right.
We demonstrated the viewfinder accuracy of the 5D and the D200 by shooting a target so that it just barely filled the viewfinder of each camera. The target we used is a picture of a leaping dog. The white area around the image is the area that is included in the image, but cropped out of the viewfinder. The black area was added for clarity.
In most cases, it would be easy to ignore the extra bit of image on the left and top of the D200 image, but with certain kinds of work – architectural photography, document or art copying and slide duplication, to name a few – having the subject off-center would be a problem. Regularly needing to crop images to neaten up the borders is a real pain in copy stand work, so we imagine that the D200 won't be a top candidate for that kind of project.
In use, the size of the image the user sees while framing shots with the 5D and the D200 is about the same, because the cameras’ viewfinders have very different magnification factors. The 5D's 36 x 24mm focusing screen at 0.71 magnification looks about the same size as the D200's 24 x 16mm screen at 0.94x. The math says the 5D’s view should look about 10 percent bigger, which is a subtle difference when comparing the cameras side-by-side.
Canon EOS 5D
In terms of illumination, credit has to be given to Nikon for making the D200’s viewfinder of comparable brightness to the 5D’s fixed pentaprism. The 5D’s full-frame sensor certainly provides a larger, brighter viewfinder frame than the D200's, but not by much.
The relatively big compositional views of the image leave little room for the shooting information below. With glasses, it's a little tough to see the corners of the frame in the 5D, and only slightly easier to see them in the D200. While both cameras show exposure information and other data below the image, there are a few important distinctions between the informational aspects of the displays: the D200 shows the exposure mode, the metering pattern, low battery and black-and-white mode, while the 5D does not. The D200 also shows the ISO all the time, while the 5D shows it only when it's being adjusted. The 5D display text is smaller and dimmer as well, although the framing window of the composition remains brighter on the 5D.
LCD Screen*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*Both the 5D and the D200 have 2.5-inch 230,000 pixel TFT color LCD displays that rival the screens applied to the top of the line cameras from Canon and Nikon. For users who evaluate images during shoots, the improved displays are a significant upgrade from earlier mid-range cameras, such as the Canon EOS 20D and the Nikon D100 and D70.
In our individual reviews of each camera, we praised both LCDs for color, sharpness and angle of view. As we look at the cameras side-by-side, the 5D display looks better off-axis than the D200 – we notice solarizing sooner and more severely on the D200. On the other hand, the 5D's display is not bright enough to use outdoors in bright daylight, and this is the screen’s major flaw. The Nikon display is far more effective outdoors. Users will need to get out of the sun to judge color on either camera, however. The Canon display can magnify images up to 10x, while the Nikon goes up to 25x – more than its images can take.
Canon EOS 5D
In general though, the Nikon LCD looks more contrasty, and its colors are more saturated than the 5D's. Overall we found the Nikon LCD color more pleasing than the Canon’s. ** **
Flash*(Advantage: Nikon D200)
*The D200 has a flash built in, a feature that incites two opposite reactions – some users are delighted to have a small flash always available for fills, while others contend that built-in flashes are too small, use up a camera's battery and are too close to the lens for serious photographers. Canon's 5D designers apparently have the second reaction, because their camera lacks a built-in flash. (Or perhaps they couldn't fit one, given the size of the viewfinder optics.)
The 5D allows the user to set the shutter speed to 1/200 for flash shots in aperture priority mode, or to let the shutter speed fluctuate according to ambient light. Most other features are controlled by dedicated flashes. The 5D accepts all of Canon's EX Speedlites in dedicated mode. The early ones don't offer as many features as the newer ones, but Canon says that the 5D is backward compatible with them. The EX flashes can be set up for wireless control, including setting up three groups of flashes with lighting ratios. An EX flash must be mounted on the camera to control the other flashes.
The D200 can be set to red-eye reduction mode, which may be necessary when using its pop-up flash. The D200 syncs at up to 1/250 sec., providing more fill opportunity than the 1/200 sync speed of the 5D. The D200’s more sophisticated flash settings include a control for the longest available shutter speed in aperture priority mode with flash, so the user can set the camera to automatically drag the shutter when appropriate, without worrying about ending up with two-second exposures. The D200 also can be setup for wireless control of up to three flash groups, with ratios. The camera has the advantage of being able to "command" wireless flash units in-camera without the need to have an external command unit mounted on the shoe; however, it only accepts Nikon's latest generation of dedicated flashes, the SB-800, 600 and R200.
In sum, while the 5D deserves high marks for backward-compatibility, the D200 scores better with its built-in flash and built-in wireless control.
*Both the Nikon D200 and Canon EOS 5D come equipped with small consumer-grade lithium-ion batteries. Canon packs a Battery Pack BP-511A into the 5D, rated at 800 shots per charge (68°F/20°C), adhering to CIPA standards, while Nikon has added a new, EN-EL3e rechargeable to the D200. The EN-EL3e in the D200 is rated by Nikon at "approximately 1,800 shots per charge." The plus side of the EN-EL3e is that there is more communication between the battery and the camera than the EN-EL3a that came with the D70s; however, the unfortunate down side is that the camera doesn’t get anywhere near 1,800 shots on a single charge.
Both the 5D and D200 are disappointing in terms of power consumption and overall endurance. Compared to each manufacturer’s top of the line models, the stamina of the 5D and D200 is much closer to (or below) their entry level offerings. Unfortunately, a professional-grade battery like the respective D2 or 1D series’ alternatives offer would have increased the overall weight and bulk of both bodies too drastically for either manufacturer to include; however, to attain anywhere near the D200’s purported 1,800 shots with either camera, users will have to pack at least one or two extra Li-ion packs.
We found that neither the 5D’s BP-511A nor D200’s EN-EL3e batteries lasted through a long day of shooting, although both made it close. In all, the two performed quite similarly; however, the Canon battery was much closer to their reported claims, while the D200 pack fell far short.
Model Design / Appearance* (Advantage: Nikon D200)
*Both Canon and Nikon know how to make durable cameras – they've been doing it for many years. In construction materials and build quality, the 5D and D200 are steps up from the company's entry level cameras. Magnesium alloys make up the outsides of both the 5D and the D200. Canon's literature says the 5D adds a stainless steel chassis and a plastic mirror box. The D200 has a magnesium chassis, and sports the kind of environmental seals used in pro-level cameras.
The 5D is relatively unsealed – it's more like the 20D than the 1D series in that respect, and Canon fans have voiced their disappointment. We're not in a position to test the seals, so we don't have empirical data about how much more impervious the D200 might be.
We also found the Nikon D200’s design to be far faster and more favorable than the 5D’s. The control layout of the D200 is much more suited to photojournalists or shooters awaiting the "decisive moment." The D200 layout permits photographers to respond quickly from the off position with more control accessible on the surface of the camera. The 5D, on the other hand, is better suited for planned shoots. The 5D is at its best when placed on a tripod, directed at stagnant subjects with ample time.
When the cameras are in their off positions, there is a good chance you could miss a fleeting shot with the 5D that could have been caught with the D200. Here, the D200’s faster shooting rate, more accessible controls, and power switch formed around the shutter release allow the user to quickly power on the camera and snap off a shot (or five) in just over a second. The same process on the 5D is more involved, requiring both hands to turn the camera on and snap off a shot, with only 60 percent of the D200’s capture rate available. * *
Delightfully, both the D200 and the 5D can also be enhanced with their own versions of elevator shoes – both accept battery packs that boost their height to the neighborhood of the pro models. The packs extend the cameras’ shooting capacity as well.
**The D200 and the 5D both resemble the rest of their respective lines, although the front face of the D200 is busier than the 5D’s. The EOS 5D shares the viewfinder hump of the 1D series cameras and nearly every other feature of the EOS 30D (and 20D before it). Conversely, the D200 has Nikon's standard red rubber triangle on the handgrip, and like the D2X and D2Hs, the camera also features a function button and a depth-of field preview to the left of the lens mount, a focus mode lever and a lens release on the right. The camera also has a 10-pin terminal, flash exposure compensation button and flash pop-up button. In contrast, Canon kept the front of the 5D relatively plain. The EOS lens mount is much bigger than Nikon's, and the lens release button is larger as well, but the depth-of-field preview is small and unobtrusive. The 5D does without the other controls Nikon put on the D200.
**Canon tries to pare down the number of controls on its DSLRs, sometimes having buttons work in pairs or putting features in menus rather than giving them their own buttons, while Nikon takes the opposite tack and opts for more dedicated controls. The back of the D200 has 15 controls, while the 5D has 12. Both backs are dominated by their 2.5-inch LCDs. The 5D features Canon's popular Quick Control dial, while the D200 has a good-sized 4-way controller and a control dial that pokes edgewise out of the back of the camera. Nikon users swear by the opposing front and back jog dials on their DSLRs, which control shutter and aperture.
The D200 also has a latch for the memory slot door, though the door itself is located on the right side.
**The left and right sides of the D200 and the 5D show just how standardized DSLR design has gotten: both cameras feature rubber doors over USB, flash sync and video out ports on their left sides. Nikon also includes a DC in jack, while Canon adds a remote control jack. The cameras' right sides include their memory card slot doors, although the 5D's door must be slid back before it will swing open. The Nikon system seems less likely to loosen up under heavy use.
**The Nikon D200's control dial at the far left of the top is an adaptation of the control in the same place on the D2X and D2Hs, but this one clusters the ISO, White Balance and Quality (size and compression) buttons. Users crow about this dial, finding it easy to set all these options while keeping the camera at eye level. In each case, the user can hold a button with one finger of the left hand and turn a dial with the right thumb or index finger. On the 5D, ISO and White Balance are activated by buttons on the right side of the top, and the dials to control the actions are also on the right side of the camera, so the user has to shift a bit to operate the controls.
For the type of photographer these cameras are targeting, we feel Nikon’s use of the mode dial space is much more logical than Canon’s adaptation (leaving the half typically reserved for preset settings blank). The three crucial controls placed in the dial space on the D200 create a more logical interface and again contribute to a more efficient layout than the EOS 5D provides.
**The bottoms of the 5D and D200 play host to the battery compartments and the tripod sockets. The most significant distinction between the bottoms is the patch of rubber that Nikon put around the D200's tripod socket. It should protect the area from scratches and might prevent the camera from shifting on some tripod heads.
**Spec Comparison **
***Advantage Chart:* **
**Although the D200 and 5D are placed at different price points, the two cameras are advertised by the manufacturers in the same light – targeting advanced amateurs and hobbyists, along with budget-conscious professionals. Each camera offers double digit resolution, quick and reliable autofocus (though not quite pro level), extensive customization and about as good of a lens mount as is available. Both cameras provide an excellent value in their own right; however, considering the D200 is two thirds the price of the 5D, it should be more appealing to the true value shoppers.
The D200 also presents many advantages over the 5D: you get more speed, a pop-up flash, a better LCD screen, more logical layout and nearly equal image quality at lower ISO settings in a more rugged body. This makes a compelling argument for saving the extra $1,200 or so; however, the 5D’s price is justified in two primary respects – the full frame sensor retains the original focal length of all EF lenses, greatly expanding the range of wide angle lenses available, and the camera’s high ISO performance and dynamic range creates images competitive with each manufacturer’s top-of-the-line models.
At under $3,000 (now), the 5D offers image quality comparable to the 1Ds Mark II and D2X at a high-end consumer price point. Conversely, providing much of the 5D’s image quality in a far more favorable design, the D200, at well under $2,000, should be viewed as a breakthrough product in its own right.
**We elected to debut our Head-to-Head review format with a comparison of the Nikon D200 and Canon EOS 5D - the latest designs by the two premiere DSLR manufacturers. Again, we chose the Canon EOS 5D and not the EOS 30D because the 30D internals are over a year and a half old, while the 5D much more accurately illustrates where Canon is in their developmental progression. In comparing these cameras, many core differences between Nikon and Canon’s approach becomes apparent. Canon has directed their efforts towards developing and engineering the camera’s internal components – manufacturing most of their own parts, particularly their sensors, and concentrating on high ISO performance, dynamic range, and obviously high resolution. Nikon on the other hand, has focused more on furthering the general design of the camera – engineering fast, reliable autofocus, flexible metering, logical control layout, and advanced flash capabilities. Both the D200 and EOS 5D have a lot to offer consumers: high resolution, strong dynamic range, fast internal processors, and extensive control at price points that would have been impossible just a year or two ago. However, neither presents a perfect camera.
The D200 is a much faster camera with a more logical ergonomic design. With the Nikon, users can turn the camera on and snap off a shot in a single motion - an action that would require two hands and far more time with the 5D. The D200 can also shoot 5 frames a second, while the 5D can only muster 3. This combined with the D200’s more robust body (not to mention its more affordable price tag), makes it a much more formidable alternative for photojournalists or casual shooters.
At lower sensitivity settings (ISO 100-400), the two cameras produce images of comparable quality in terms of noise, color, dynamic range and sharpness. While the 5D still retains a slight edge, the difference is negligible for the quality both cameras produce. However, once the sensitivity is pushed to ISO 400 and beyond, Canon earns the extra $1,300 tacked on the 5D’s price tag. At sensitivity settings beyond ISO 500, the 5D continues to create images of exception quality, while the D200 falters and produces results more consistent with consumer-level designs.
Most photographers will admit that timeless images and their relationship to the equipment that produced them has had more to do with the design of the camera than the quality of images it produced. However, image quality is where the EOS 5D justifies its price tag and pulls away from the D200, and depending on the demands of the shoot or profession, the additional quality may be necessary.
These two models stand to represent the leading DSLR manufacturers and indicate that professional-level quality is now accessible to general consumers. Nikon has voiced that they will remain with APS-sized sensors, alluding to less expensive models than Canons counterparts; while Canon will continue to develop their full-frame designs and at least for the time being, offer an advantage at high sensitivities. Although there is a significant degree of differentiation in these two particular models and each manufacturer’s current design ideology, both represent remarkable breakthroughs in their own right that continue to force the rest of the industry to play catch-up.
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Alex Burack & Patrick Singleton
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