Canon 1D vs Nikon D850
The Canon EOS-1D and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2001 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D) and a full frame (D850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 4.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 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 and the Nikon D850? 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 and the Nikon D850 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 D850 is notably smaller (27 percent) than the Canon 1D. Moreover, the D850 is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the 1D. 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) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D850).
Concerning battery life, the 1D gets 500 shots out of its NP-E3 battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D850, Nikon provides the MB-D18 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Canon 1D||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1585 g||500||Y||Sep 2001||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark III||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1440 g||2850||Y||Jan 2020||6,499|
|4.||Canon 1D X Mark II||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|5.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|6.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|7.||Canon 1D C||158 mm||164 mm||83 mm||1545 g||1120||Y||Apr 2012||14,999|
|8.||Canon 1D X||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1551 g||1120||Y||Oct 2011||6,799|
|9.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark II N||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|12.||Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|13.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|14.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|15.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|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 D850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 49 percent) than the 1D, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D850 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 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the 1D (4.1MP), but the D850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 11.56μm for the 1D). Yet, the D850 is a much more recent model (by 15 years and 10 months) than the 1D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.3 x 27.5 inches or 104.9 x 69.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33 x 22 inches or 83.9 x 55.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.5 x 18.3 inches or 69.9 x 46.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 1D are 12.5 x 8.3 inches or 31.7 x 21.1 cm for good quality, 10 x 6.6 inches or 25.4 x 16.9 cm for very good quality, and 8.3 x 5.5 inches or 21.1 x 14.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D850 are ISO 64 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 32-102400.
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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|2.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark III||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.2||14.5||3248||91|
|4.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|5.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|6.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|7.||Canon 1D C||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Canon 1D X||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82|
|9.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|12.||Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|13.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|14.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|15.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D850 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D does not. The highest resolution format that the D850 can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1D and the D850 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 D850 has a higher magnification than the one of the 1D (0.75x vs 0.55x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 1D and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||2100||fixed||Y||1/8000s||20.0||n||n|
|4.||Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|5.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|7.||Canon 1D C||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|8.||Canon 1D X||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|9.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D850 has a touchscreen, while the 1D has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Nikon D850 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 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D850 uses SDHC or XQD cards. The D850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 1D only has one slot.
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 and Nikon D850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Canon 1D C||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 1D X||Y||mono||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
It is notable that the D850 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the 1D 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 D850 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the 1D has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 1D was succeeded by the Canon 1D Mark II. 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 or the Nikon D850 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1D:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2001).
Advantages of the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 4.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 231%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- 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.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.75x 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 (2359k vs 120k 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 (9 vs 8 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x124mm vs 156x158mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 580g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (49 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 15 years and 10 months of technical progress since the 1D launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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 and the Nikon D850 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 and the D850 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 (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||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2001||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark III||..||+ +||..||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2020||6,499|
|4.||Canon 1D X Mark II||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|5.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|6.||Canon 5DS||..||+||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|7.||Canon 1D C||..||..||..||..||..||Apr 2012||14,999|
|8.||Canon 1D X||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2011||6,799|
|9.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|12.||Canon 1Ds||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|13.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|14.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|15.||Nikon D800E||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|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? 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 vs Nikon D850
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||Nikon D850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2001||July 2017|
|Launch Price||USD 6,499||USD 3,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D||Nikon D850|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.7 x 19.1 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||548.17 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||34.5 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||4.1 Megapixels||45.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||2496 x 1662 pixels||8256 x 5504 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.56 μm||4.35 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.76 MP/cm2||5.30 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||64 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||32 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC||EXPEED 5|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||100|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||26.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||14.8|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||2660|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D||Nikon D850|
|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||120k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D||Nikon D850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||8 shutter flaps/s||9 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D||Nikon D850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 3.0|
|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|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D||Nikon D850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||1840 shots per charge|
156 x 158 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
146 x 124 x 79 mm
(5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||1585 g (55.9 oz)||1005 g (35.5 oz)|
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