PW

Canon 1D Mark II versus Nikon D3S

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2004 and October 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark II) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 1D Mark II – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S
1D Mark II versus D3S top view
1D Mark II and D3S rear side
Body view (1D Mark II on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3S is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark II. However, the D3S is markedly lighter (19 percent) than the 1D Mark II. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1D Mark II) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3S).

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark II gets 1200 shots out of its NP-E3 battery, while the D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1535 g 1200 YES 2004 4,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 YES 2009 4,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 YES 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 YES 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1565 g 1200 YES 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1215 g 1200 YES 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 YES 2002 8,999discont. check
Canon 1D (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1585 g 500 YES 2001 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 YES 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 YES 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 YES 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 YES 2007 4,999discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 1D Mark II was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the D3S, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.


Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark II features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 57 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 1D Mark II and Nikon D3S sensor measures
Sensor size

With 12.1MP, the D3S offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark II (8.2MP), but the D3S nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 8.17μm for the 1D Mark II) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3S is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 8 months) than the 1D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

1D Mark II versus D3S MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3S offers substantially better image quality than the 1D Mark II (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.1 1003 66
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.7 12.4 2381 87
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 16.0 4896 3264 1080/30p 22.8 12.0 1320 74
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 no 24.0 12.0 1663 80
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.7 11.7 1078 71
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.2 975 66
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328 no 23.3 11.3 1480 74
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704 no 21.8 11.0 954 63
Canon 1D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 4.1 2496 1662 no - - - -
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/60p 24.4 13.3 3074 89
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/30p 24.7 13.1 2965 89
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 24.7 13.7 1992 88
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D3S indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark II does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 1D Mark II and the D3S are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 1D Mark II and Nikon D3S along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 8.3 no no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 8.5 no no
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 4.0 no no
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 120 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 1D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 120 fixed no 16000 8.0 no no
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no

Both the 1D Mark II and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark II N, while the D3S was followed by the Nikon D4.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1D Mark II or the Nikon D3S – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II:

  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2004).

Advantages of the Nikon D3S:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.1 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 21%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 8.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 295g or 19 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 1200) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 8 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark II launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 2 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

1D Mark II 02:12 D3S

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 1D Mark II and the D3S in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold - 5/5 - 2009 4,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec 4.5/5 - - 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2002 8,999discont. check
Canon 1D (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2001 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 4/5 5/5 5/5 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.


Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

vs

    You are here  »   »