Nikon and Canon recently announced new flagship cameras which are sure to be hits with professional photographers and deep-pocketed enthusiasts alike. But how do the D5 and 1D X Mark II compare to each other? Here Gizmag compares the key specifications and features of the two cameras ahead of their release into the wild.

Size

Both of these devices are massive when compared to all but medium format cameras. Set one next to your typical mirrorless shooter and it looks simply monstrous.

However, the cameras are comparable with each other, and are exactly what many professional photographers expect. This size allows design features such as a dual grip for easy switching between landscape and portrait orientations, and big batteries which will keep you shooting longer.

Weight

Unsurprisingly given their size, this duo are also weighty. In fact, the figures given here (with battery and memory card but without a lens) are about double that of a typical enthusiast-focused DSLR.

Build

Both the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X Mark II feature magnesium alloy construction and are weather sealed, meaning they're designed to stand up to the demanding use and conditions that professionals will probably be subjecting them to.

Sensor size

Unsurprisingly for flagship DSLRs, we're looking at matching full frame sensors on both cameras.

Megapixel count

Unlike their D810 and 5DS brethren, neither the Nikon D5 or Canon 1D X Mark II are taking part in the new megapixel race. There's so little difference between their 20.8 and 20.2-megapixels it barely worth mentioning, and both cameras will typically give users plenty of resolution for their intended uses, without being overwhelming.

Processor

We're looking at the the latest top-of-the-line image processors in both of these flagship DSLRs. And, given some of the specifications we're about to see later in this comparison, it's safe to say that these processors are pretty powerful.

Lens mount

The Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X Mark II each use the lens mount you'd expect from their respective manufacturer and, as such, there are plenty of lens options out there for whatever you intend to shoot.

Autofocus

Looking at the numbers, the Nikon D5 appears to have the edge with its 153-point autofocus system, compared to the 61-point offering on the Canon 1D X Mark II. Its Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor module has a fully dedicated AF processor, improved subject tracking, and can also work in near darkness (EV -4 in center).

However, the Canon has more than a few tricks of its own, with its AF system covering a wider area than previous models. Canon's AI servo AF III+ improves tracking, while the AF point selection options mean the camera can be set up differently depending on your subject. Dual Pixel CMOS AF also means the Canon could be the better when shooting video.

Burst rate

With continuous shooting speeds of up to 12 and 14 fps in traditional DSLR mode, both of these cameras should be able to keep up with the action. If not, there's always the option of shooting in live view mode with the mirror locked up to squeeze an extra 2 fps out of both cameras.

ISO range

The full frame sensors in these cameras are used to enable wide native ISO ranges and the ability to shoot in any lighting conditions. The Nikon D5 appears to have a significantly wider ISO range, with its extended ISO options entering into the quite frankly ridiculous millions, though users will only want to shoot at the higher end of either of these ranges if they really have to.

4K video

The Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X Mark II are the first flagship DSLRs to shoot 4K video. However, of the two, the Canon offers the much better settings. It's able to shoot DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 at frame rates of up to 60/50 fps, while the Nikon is currently limited to a UHD 4K 3840 x 2160, at slower frame-rates, and can only record 4K internally for three minutes at a time.

Full HD video

The Canon is once again the better video shooter at Full HD resolutions, where its 120/100 fps frame-rate allows the creation of smooth slow motion footage. As we mentioned earlier, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF for the Canon could also give it the edge for many video shooters.

Viewfinder

Unlike the EVFs on mirrorless cameras, the optical viewfinders of these DSLRs are not able to let users preview the image changing settings will make on their images. That said, they will give you a 100 percent view, and are what many professionals still prefer to use.

Monitor

Flagship DSLRs have finally joined the modern age with these two cameras both featuring touchscreen monitors, a feature which has been notably absent on previous generations of high-end DSLRs. Both monitors are the same size and fixed (there's no angling the screen like the D500), but the Nikon D5 offers the most dots.

Photo file type

As you would expect, both cameras can shoot JPEG images along with post-processing-friendly RAW images at a variety of different sizes.

Storage media

To keep up with the high speed shooting and high resolution video options of these cameras, storage media has had to change a little from previous generations. The Canon features dual slots for one CompactFlash and one CFast 2.0 card, while the Nikon comes in two options: either with dual XQD, or dual CompactFlash slots.

Wireless

Despite their otherwise top-of-the-line specifications, neither of these cameras boast built-in wireless connectivity. Instead, professional users will have the option of using optional and expensive wireless transmitters. The Canon 1D X Mark II does, however, have a built-in GPS receiver with compass.

Battery life

It looks like the Nikon is the better option if you want to keep shooting without changing the battery as it can shoot three times as many shots as the Canon off a single charge. Then again, it only takes seconds to change the battery.

Release

Neither of these cameras has hit the shelves of your local camera store yet.

Price

There's a US$500 gap between these recommended retail prices which, while significant, probably isn't enough to convince someone spending this much money to opt for the Canon over the Nikon if they already have lenses and accessories for that system.

Wrap-up

As was to be expected, these two cameras represent the best DSLRs can currently offer in terms of ruggedness, speed, reliability and endurance. They'll undoubtedly both be hits with professional photographers and feature in many a media scrum over the coming years.

As to whether one camera has the edge over the other, it's a close call this time around. While the Nikon could arguably have a slight advantage when it comes to stills shooting, the 4K recording options of the Canon mean that if video is your thing, or you want to balance stills and video, it's clearly the better option.

That said, most of the photographers eyeing up these cameras will already have thousands of dollars worth of lenses and accessories for one or the other system. That's likely to determine the purchase as much as anything here, as only a minority of users are going to see a feature in the rival brand to make it worth switching.

Both the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X Mark II look set to be great DSLRs, and we can't wait to see what they can do off the specification sheet and in the real world.

Product pages: Nikon D5, Canon 1D X Mark II