Canon 1D Mark III vs Nikon D3S
The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Nikon D3S are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2007 and October 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark III) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 10.1 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark III 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Nikon D3S. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. 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 (3 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark III. Moreover, the D3S is markedly heavier (7 percent) than the 1D Mark III. 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 III) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3S).
Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark III gets 2200 shots out of its LP-E4 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 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.
|Canon 1D Mark III||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Nikon D3S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Canon 5DS R||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||43.4 oz||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|Canon 5D Mark II||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||5.9 in||6.3 in||3.1 in||48.9 oz||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||55.2 oz||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||54.1 oz||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|Canon 1Ds||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||44.6 oz||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Nikon D2Xs||6.2 in||5.9 in||3.4 in||44.2 oz||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The 1D Mark III 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark III features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 64 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.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 12.1MP, the D3S offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark III (10.1MP), but the D3S nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 7.21μm for the 1D Mark III) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3S is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 7 months) than the 1D Mark III, 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 III are 19.4 x 13 inches or 49.4 x 32.9 cm for good quality, 15.6 x 10.4 inches or 39.5 x 26.3 cm for very good quality, and 13 x 8.6 inches or 32.9 x 21.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1D Mark III has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 50-6400. 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 III (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|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 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|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 III 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 variety of features. The 1D Mark III 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 III (0.70x vs 0.58x), 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 III and Nikon D3S along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||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 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||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 III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC 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 III and Nikon D3S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 1D Mark III and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark IV, 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? Is the Canon 1D Mark III better than the Nikon D3S or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:
- 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 February 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3S:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.1 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 9%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 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 0.58x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 2200) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 7 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark III launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 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. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 III 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 1D Mark III and the D3S in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. 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 III||..||..||..||o||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||..||89/100||..||5/5||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|Canon 5D Mark II||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 1D Mark II||..||+ +||..||o||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|Canon 1Ds||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|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|
|Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||o||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Canon 1D Mark III 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 III||Nikon D3S|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2007||October 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 4,499||USD 5,199|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D3S|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.1 x 18.7 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||525.47 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||33.8 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10.1 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3888 x 2592 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.21 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.92 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC III||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||82|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1078||3253|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||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||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D3S|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDHC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D3S|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D3S|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||2200 shots per charge||4200 shots per charge|
156 x 157 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||1155 g (40.7 oz)||1240 g (43.7 oz)|
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