Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D vs Fuji S5 Dynamic range (highlight recovery) test

I do love my D800E and I’ve been hearing a bit lately about it’s exceptional dynamic range, well it’s certainly an exceptional camera but I can’t say I’ve noticed anything anymore exceptional in regards to dynamic range when compared to other Nikon (D3, D3X). So, I thought the best thing to do was to put it to the test (specifically for highlight recovery) and see how it compares the the king of dynamic range (the Fuji S5) and also, for the fun of it, the Canon 5D

The tests were done by taking a purposely overexposed images of the same scene (nothing exciting, just the view from the front of the studio) and seeing what can be pulled back out of the white

Cameras and lenses used:

Canon 5D with Nikon 50mm f1.8 AI-S

Nikon D800e with Nikon 50mm f1.4 AF-D

Fuji S5 with Nikon 35mm F2 AF-D (to compensate for crop factor)

All shots were taken at the same time, on a tripod, with the cameras set to 1/30 sec, f8, ISO 100. Below are the (overexposed) results from each camera


Canon 5D as shot:



Nikon D800E as shot:



Fuji S5 as shot:



As you can see there’s not a lot of difference between all three images, they all look awful, to see how much could be recovered they were processed in Adobe Camera Raw, setting Exposure to -4.0 stops, Recovery to 100% and Fill Light to 100%, here’s the results:

Canon 5D (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):



Nikon D800E  (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):



Not much to choose between the Nikon and Canon, although the Fuji…

Fuji S5  (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):


…ends up looking a bit of a mess with that much ‘rescue’ as there is so much info that can be recovered from the highlights, a more modest set of adjustments (exposure -3.0 stops, no recovery, fill light at 50%) can provide something a bit more sensible

Fuji S5  (ACR e-3.0,r0,fl50):


There we have it, when it comes to ‘exceptional’ dynamic range then we should be referring to the Fujifilm S5 Pro (or the S3 – same sensor), still love the D800E though, just wont be putting my S5 on ebay for the foreseeable future

8 thoughts on “Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D vs Fuji S5 Dynamic range (highlight recovery) test”

  1. Thank you for an interesting comparison of these cameras, your findings from my experience are spot on for the Fuji .

    I have had Three Fuji S5 pro cameras I sold two and thinking of selling my last one which has just over 10,000 actuations + the motor drive .

    I would appreciate your input as to todays value on the camrea and drive .

    many thanks

    Jeff .

    1. The S3 has the same sensor (and is slightly sharper due to a weaker AA filter compared to the S5) so I would expect the results to be the same, indeed in usage I’ve found my S3 capable of producing the same results

  2. I haven’t seen anyone argue that the D800 has the best highlight dynamic range… quite the opposite. The shadows are where it really shines. I’d love to see a shadow comparison instead.

    1. I may well do a comparison, in usage there is no doubt that the better quality image belongs to the D800, the difference that I’ve found is not so much what is absolutely lost in the shadow (dynamic range) but rather the quality of the image that’s pulled from the shadows. The S5, like most older CCD based sensors, doesn’t play nice with being pushed and thus the recovered shadow details are poor quality (as is shot at extreme high ISO) whereas the pushed shadows from the D800 are pleasing and clean

      Digital in general is like shooting slide film, you have to protect the highlights, the S5 (and S3) allows you to shoot as if you’re using print film and as such not have to worry too much about the highlights as the details are still there

  3. I use the S5 now for over 6 years.
    in this time i saw a lot of other pictures made under normal circumstances from other camera’s.
    The colors (even today) are still the best, if you want normal looking pictures of kids, mountains, evenements and so on, from the S5.
    This camera sees everything like the eyes see the objects.
    For me it’s also that i’m used to these colors.
    The sharpness is different with the S5, compared with the pictures made with my Hasselblad (analog), i see no different in sharpness. The sharpness is equal to analog.
    The sharpness of a other camera is better? I think (strictly my opnion) they are too sharp compared with what your eyes see.

    BTW i love the old Canon 10D, because the colors are an vintage of early digital camera’s, feel free to experiment with it.

    Kind regards Jan

    1. I’ve just traded in the D800E for the D810 but the sensor is the same and I do agree a full dynamic range test would be useful – will try to put some time aside soon

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