Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D4
The Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Nikon D4 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in January 2004 and January 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark II) and a full frame (D4) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 16.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Nikon D4? 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 D4 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures 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 D4 is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark II. However, the D4 is markedly lighter (13 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 (D4).
Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark II gets 1200 shots out of its NP-E3 battery, while the D4 can take 2600 images on a single charge of its EN-EL18 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon 1D Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|2.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|3.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|4.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II N||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|9.||Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|10.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1215 g||1200||Y||Sep 2004||7,999|
|11.||Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|12.||Canon 1D||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1585 g||500||Y||Sep 2001||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|14.||Nikon D4S||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|15.||Nikon Df||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|16.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|17.||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.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 25 percent) than the D4, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 D4 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D4 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 16.2MP, the D4 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark II (8.2MP), but the D4 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.29μm versus 8.17μm for the 1D Mark II). Yet, the D4 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 11 months) than the 1D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D4 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D4 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 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 D4 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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 D4 offers substantially better image quality than the 1D Mark II (overall score 23 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 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.
| DXO |
|1.||Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|2.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|3.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|4.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|9.||Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|10.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||Full Frame||16.6||4992||3328||none||23.3||11.3||1480||74|
|11.||Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|13.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|14.||Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|15.||Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|16.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|17.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D4 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark II does not. The highest resolution format that the D4 can use is 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1D Mark II and the D4 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 D4 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 1D Mark II, the Nikon D4, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n|
|4.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n|
|10.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
The Nikon D4 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 D4 uses Compact Flash or XQD 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 D4 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|1.||Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|10.||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 D4 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 D4 was followed by the Nikon D4S. 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 conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 1D Mark II and the Nikon D4? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1D Mark II:
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2004).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D4:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (16.2 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 41%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (23 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.55x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" 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 195g or 13 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (2600 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 7 years and 11 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 D4 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 D4 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 1D Mark II or the D4 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Canon 1D Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|2.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|3.||Canon 5DS||..||+||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|4.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||5/5||..||89/100||..||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|9.||Canon 5D||..||88/100||+ +||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|10.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2004||7,999|
|11.||Canon 1Ds||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|12.||Canon 1D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2001||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|14.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|15.||Nikon Df||4/5||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|16.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|17.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||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 ratings are only valid when referring 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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon 1D Mark II vs Nikon D4
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 D4|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2004||January 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 4,499||USD 5,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D4|
|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||16.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3504 x 2336 pixels||4928 x 3280 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.17 μm||7.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.49 MP/cm2||1.88 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,200 ISO||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC II||EXPEED 3|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||89|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.3||24.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.1||13.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1003||2965|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D4|
|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||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D4|
|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 or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D4|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 1.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Nikon D4|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1200 shots per charge||2600 shots per charge|
156 x 158 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
160 x 157 x 91 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
|Camera Weight||1535 g (54.1 oz)||1340 g (47.3 oz)|
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