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Canon 1Ds Mark III versus Nikon D800

The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2007 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 21 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D800

The physical size and weight of the Canon 1Ds Mark III and the Nikon D800 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 1Ds Mark III – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D800
Compare 1Ds Mark III versus D800 top
Compare 1Ds Mark III and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Canon 1Ds Mark III. Moreover, the D800 is markedly lighter (28 percent) than the 1Ds 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. 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 (1Ds Mark III) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D800).

Concerning battery life, the 1Ds Mark III gets 1800 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1Ds Mark III has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D800, Nikon provides the MB-D12 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 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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1Ds Mark III» 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D800« 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D C« » 6.2 in 6.5 in 3.3 in 54.5 oz 1120 Y Apr 2012 14,999- i Canon 1D C
Canon 5D Mark III« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. 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 D800 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 63 percent) than the 1Ds 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D800

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 tend to be more expensive and 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.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Canon 1Ds Mark III and Nikon D800 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D800 offers a higher resolution of 36.2 megapixel, compared with 21 MP of the 1Ds Mark III. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 6.41μm for the 1Ds Mark III). However, it should be noted that the D800 is much more recent (by 4 years and 5 months) than the 1Ds Mark III, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

1Ds Mark III versus D800 MP

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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 offers substantially better image quality than the 1Ds Mark III (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 2.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 1Ds Mark III» Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D800« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D C« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34564K/24p----Canon 1D C
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704-21.811.095463Canon 1Ds
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D800 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1Ds Mark III does not. The highest resolution format that the D800 can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D800

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 1Ds Mark III and the D800 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 1Ds Mark III and Nikon D800 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 1Ds Mark III»optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D800«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D C« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D C
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 1Ds
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D800 has one, while the 1Ds Mark III does not. While the build-in flash of the D800 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The 1Ds Mark III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D800 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon 1Ds Mark III»Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D800«YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D C« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Canon 1D C
Canon 5D Mark III« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D X
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »Y-----FW---Canon 1Ds
Nikon D850« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D850
Nikon D810« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Nikon D800E« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700

Both the 1Ds Mark III and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1Ds Mark III was replaced by the Canon 1DX, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810.

Review summary: Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D800

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1Ds Mark III or the Nikon D800 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III:

  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1800 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2007).

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Advantages of the Nikon D800:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 21MP), which boosts linear resolution by 31%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.4 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • 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 (921k vs 230k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x123mm vs 150x160mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 385g or 28 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (63 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 1Ds Mark III launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 4 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.

1Ds Mark III 04:14 D800

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 1Ds Mark III or the D800 handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1Ds Mark III»-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D800«HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D C« »----- Apr 2012 14,999- i Canon 1D C
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 6D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Canon 6D
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »-HiRec--- Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

The review scores listed above should be treated 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 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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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