Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S
The Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, 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 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|8.2 MP, APS-H Sensor||12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 3,200)||ISO 200-12,800 (100 - 102,400)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|2.0 LCD, 230k dots||3.0 LCD, 921k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|8.3 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|1200 shots per battery charge||4200 shots per battery charge|
|156 x 158 x 80 mm, 1535 g||160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
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 compare the optics available 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. As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Canon 1D Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1215 g||1200||Y||Sep 2004||7,999|
|Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Canon 1D||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1585 g||500||Y||Sep 2001||6,499|
|Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.
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.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3S implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3S for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 1D Mark II are 17.5 x 11.7 inches or 44.5 x 29.7 cm for good quality, 14 x 9.3 inches or 35.6 x 23.7 cm for very good quality, and 11.7 x 7.8 inches or 29.7 x 19.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1D Mark II has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||Full Frame||16.6||4992||3328||none||23.3||11.3||1480||74|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||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.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D3S has a higher magnification than the one of the 1D Mark II (0.70x vs 0.55x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. 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.
|Canon 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
The Nikon D3S has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The 1D Mark II writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SD cards, while the D3S uses Compact Flash cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and Nikon D3S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
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. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1D Mark II or the Nikon D3S – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
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 viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.55x).
- 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.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- 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.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 8 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark II launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 2 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 1D Mark II and the Nikon D3S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 1D Mark II and the D3S in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Canon 1D Mark II||..||+ +||..||o||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Canon 5DS||+||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||..||89/100||..||5/5||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||o||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 5D||88/100||+ +||o||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2004||7,999|
|Canon 1Ds||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Canon 1D||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2001||6,499|
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Nikon D3
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Panasonic S1H
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Leica X1
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Panasonic FZ330
- Canon 60D vs Nikon D3S
- Canon G5 X vs Nikon D3S
- Fujifilm X-A2 vs Nikon D3S
- Leica M10-P vs Nikon D3S
- Leica S Typ 006 vs Nikon D3S
- Nikon D200 vs Nikon D3S
- Nikon D3S vs Panasonic S1H
- Nikon D3S vs Pentax K-3 II
Specifications: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D3S
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2004||October 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 4,499||USD 5,199|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.7 x 19.1 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||548.17 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||34.5 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||8.2 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3504 x 2336 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.17 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.49 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC II||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||82|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.3||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.1||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1003||3253|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||8.3 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SD cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 1.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D3S|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1200 shots per charge||4200 shots per charge|
156 x 158 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||1535 g (54.1 oz)||1240 g (43.7 oz)|
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