Canon 1D Mark III vs Nikon D780
The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Nikon D780 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2007 and January 2020. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark III) and a full frame (D780) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 10.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 24.3 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 D780? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Nikon D780 are illustrated 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 width, height and depth 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 D780 is considerably smaller (32 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark III. Moreover, the D780 is markedly lighter (27 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 (D780).
Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark III gets 2200 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the D780 can take 2260 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15b power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark III has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. The power pack in the D780 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|2.||Nikon D780||144 mm||116 mm||76 mm||840 g||2260||Y||Jan 2020||2,299|
|3.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark III||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|6.||Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|9.||Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|10.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|11.||Nikon Z6 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D7500||136 mm||104 mm||73 mm||720 g||950||Y||Apr 2017||1,299|
|13.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|14.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|15.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|16.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|17.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||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 D780 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 49 percent) than the 1D Mark III, which puts it into a different market segment. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 III features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D780 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D780 is 63 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 24.3MP, the D780 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark III (10.1MP), but the D780 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 7.21μm for the 1D Mark III). Yet, the D780 is a much more recent model (by 12 years and 10 months) than the 1D Mark III, 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 D780 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D780 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.1 inches or 76.8 x 51.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 40.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 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 D780 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
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 D780 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|2.||Nikon D780||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|6.||Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|9.||Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|10.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|11.||Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|14.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|15.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|16.||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 D780 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark III does not. The highest resolution format that the D780 can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 1D Mark III and the D780 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 D780 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 D780 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|3.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|6.||Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||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||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n|
|11.||Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D780 has a touchscreen, while the 1D Mark III has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Nikon D780 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 D780 uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The D780 supports UHS-II cards (on both slots), while the 1D Mark III cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 D780 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|1.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
It is notable that the D780 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the 1D Mark III does not provide wifi capability.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
The D780 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the 1D Mark III has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 1D Mark III was succeeded by the Canon 1D Mark IV. 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 how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 1D Mark III and the Nikon D780? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D780:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.3 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 55%.
- Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.58x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (144x116mm vs 156x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 315g or 27 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports Ultra High Speed (UHS-II) SDXC cards on both slots.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (49 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 12 years and 10 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark III launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D780 is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 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 III and the Nikon D780 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 1D Mark III or the D780. 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 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 (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 III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|2.||Nikon D780||5/5||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2020||2,299|
|3.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark III||..||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499|
|5.||Canon 1D Mark IV||5/5||..||89/100||..||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|6.||Canon 5D Mark II||4/5||91/100||79/100||4/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|7.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|8.||Canon 1D Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|9.||Canon 1Ds||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|10.||Nikon D6||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|11.||Nikon Z6 II||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D7500||4.5/5||+ +||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2017||1,299|
|13.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|14.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|15.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|16.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|17.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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 III vs Nikon D780
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 D780|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2007||January 2020|
|Launch Price||USD 4,499||USD 2,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D780|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.1 x 18.7 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||525.47 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||33.8 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10.1 Megapixels||24.3 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3888 x 2592 pixels||6048 x 4024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.21 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.92 MP/cm2||2.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 6,400 ISO||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC III||EXPEED 6|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1078||..|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D780|
|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||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D780|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||12 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations||200 000 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||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||Dual UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D780|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.1|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark III||Nikon D780|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||2200 shots per charge||2260 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
156 x 157 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
144 x 116 x 76 mm
(5.7 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||1155 g (40.7 oz)||840 g (29.6 oz)|
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