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Canon 1D X versus Nikon D3

The Canon EOS-1D X and the Nikon D3 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2011 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D X and the Nikon D3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 1DX – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Canon 1D X vs Nikon D3 front
1DX versus D3 top view
1DX and D3 rear side
Body view (1DX on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3 is somewhat smaller (5 percent) than the Canon 1D X. Moreover, the D3 is markedly lighter (16 percent) than the 1DX. 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. Yet, since both cameras are based around a full frame sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1DX) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1D X (⇒ rgt) 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1551 g 1120 YES 2011 6,799discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g .. YES 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 YES 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) 145 mm 111 mm 71 mm 770 g 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 164 mm 83 mm 1545 g 1120 YES 2012 14,999discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 YES 2008 3,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g .. YES 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 YES 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 26 percent) than the 1DX, 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.

Sensor comparison

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. 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 tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 1D X and Nikon D3 sensor measures
Sensor size
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Sensor size

With 17.9MP, the 1DX offers a higher resolution than the D3 (12.1MP), but the 1DX has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.95μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, the 1DX is a somewhat more recent model (by 4 years and 1 month) than the D3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

1DX versus D3 MP
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 1D X (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 23.8 11.8 2786 82
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 26.0 6240 4160 1080/60p 24.4 11.9 2862 85
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 30.1 6720 4480 4K/30p 24.8 13.6 2995 91
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.7 12.4 2381 87
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 4K/24p - - - -
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 1080/30p 23.7 11.9 1815 79
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/30p 24.7 13.1 2965 89
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 24.7 13.7 1992 88
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 12.0 679 67

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 1DX indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the 1DX can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 1DX and the D3 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 1D X and Nikon D3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 1D X (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 7.0 no no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 no no
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 3.9 no no
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no

Both the 1DX and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D3 was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the 1DX was followed by the Canon 1DX Mark II.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 1D X better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D X:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.1MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • 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 (1040k vs 922k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 11 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D3 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3:

  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 251g or 16 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (26 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 1DX emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 3 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.

1DX 06:03 D3

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 1DX and the D3 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1D X (⇒ rgt) - - 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2011 6,799discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,499 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2012 14,999discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 79/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 - 2008 3,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 4/5 5/5 5/5 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,799discont. check

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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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 comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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