Battle: 5D Mk II, 80-200mm F2.8 L vs D3s, 70-200mm F2.8 ED VR II

How would the Canon 80-200mm F2.8 L “Magic Drainpipe” do against the brand new Nikon 70-200m F2.8 ED VR II coupled with the 5D Mk II and D3s respectively? Last night, I was incredibly bored and decided to do just this test. I did not use the D3x because of the high ISO output needed from both cameras needed to conduct it. Here are the conditions of the evaluation.

First off, the test was to see which camera could capture a car’s license plate far across the street totally zoomed in and with full accuracy and sharpness. I ran into many problems with the test. Here’s how it went.

First off, I took the D3x with 70-200mm F2.8 ED VR II and tried to see if it was possible for me to capture the license plate. Focusing was done with using the selective autofocus points. It didn’t work. So I used another method that I’ve been well trained in using: Live View. I switched on Live View and tried to fiddle with the shutter speed and aperture to get optimal settings. I finally realized that shooting at F2.8 would prove near impossible, so I closed the aperture down to F5.6 and lowered the shutter speed down to 1/30th of a second in order to get the detail. Now that I was in Live View and could see the details much clearer, I manually focused then lens. Additionally, I zoomed my LCD screen in to ensure that I achieved total accuracy, sharpness and clarity. Now the D3x didn’t go up to ISO 6400 so it just wasn’t doing it.

Instead I popped it onto the D3s, the low-light king and did the test. Success. VR was enabled on the lens and it was done completely handheld.

The test was repeated on the Canon 5D Mk II with the 80-200mm F2.8 L using the same settings and conducted in the same way using Live View.

Both images were shot in RAW and then converted straight to JPEGs in Lightroom with no processing. To be fair now, the 5D Mk II has nearly double the megapixels of the D3s and better resolution. On the contrary, the D3s is the high ISO king and should theoretically retain better detail at these higher ISOs.

On top of all this though, one must also take into account the lenses. The 80-200mm F2.8 L is nearly as old as I am (I’m 23.) It’s a dinosaur, but has been called the sharpest zoom lens Canon has ever made.

The 70-200mm F2.8 ED VR II is brand new technology and recently released. Nikon has had years and years to improve upon it all and they did quite a good job with it.

However in the end, I feel that the Canon won. The evidence is in the pictures.

Here is the Canon:

Canon 5D Mk II 200mm F5.6 1/30th iso 6400

And here is the Nikon

Nikon D3s 200mm f5.6 1/30th iso 6400

If you do 100% crops on both images on the car’s license plate then you will see that the Canon and the old lens did very well at winning this but the D3s and the newbie lens did hold their own quite well.

So what’s the moral of the story kids? Well, both cameras hold their own very well at ISO 6400 when looking at the entire photo. However, you need to also realize that this was completely useless. Only top end agencies and clientele will EVER look that far into your photos and most photographers don’t work or service them. The ones that do are very talented people indeed. The only ones I’ve had that would do something like this would be the celebrity photography agency I worked for previously. Otherwise, “normal folks” wouldn’t care a bit.

To the ones that service the high end clients, maybe this will show you something unless of course you’ve also learned the art of selling your photos verbally, which works wonders as well.

Just ensure that when viewing the photo as a whole, that it isn’t plagued with noise visible to untrained eyes and you should be fine. In today’s world of cameras, we’re worrying way too much about this 100% crop nonsense to peep every single pixel rather than worrying about the actual images as a whole on top how we as photographers and cinematographers can create better pictures.

I’m positive that I’m going to get a lot of heat for this from my readers, but please do take my words into consideration. I’d love to hear thoughts and criticisms as well.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.