Canon 1Ds vs Nikon D800
The Canon EOS-1Ds and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2002 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 11 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 36.2 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-1Ds and the Nikon D800? 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 1Ds and the Nikon D800 is provided 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 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 (27 percent) than the Canon 1Ds. Moreover, the D800 is markedly lighter (21 percent) than the 1Ds. 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1Ds) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D800).
Concerning battery life, the 1Ds gets 600 shots out of its NP-E3 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 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 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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|2.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|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 1D C||158 mm||164 mm||83 mm||1545 g||1120||Y||Apr 2012||14,999|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|8.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|9.||Canon 1D Mark II N||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|10.||Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499|
|12.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1215 g||1200||Y||Sep 2004||7,999|
|13.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|14.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|15.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|16.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|17.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D800 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 67 percent) than the 1Ds, 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend 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. The sensor area in the D800 is 1 percent bigger. 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.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the 1Ds (11MP), but the D800 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 8.83μm for the 1Ds). Yet, the D800 is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 4 months) than the 1Ds, 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 D800 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D800 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 1Ds are 20.3 x 13.5 inches or 51.6 x 34.3 cm for good quality, 16.3 x 10.8 inches or 41.3 x 27.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.5 x 9 inches or 34.4 x 22.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1Ds has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1250, which can be extended to ISO 50-1250. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D800 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 offers substantially better image quality than the 1Ds (overall score 32 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.5 bits higher color depth, 3.4 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 |
|1.||Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|2.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|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 1D C||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|8.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|9.||Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|10.||Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66|
|12.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||Full Frame||16.6||4992||3328||none||23.3||11.3||1480||74|
|13.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|14.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|15.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|17.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D800 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1Ds does not. The highest resolution format that the D800 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1Ds 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.70x). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 1Ds, the Nikon D800, and comparable 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 1D C||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|8.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|9.||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|
|12.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D800 has one, while the 1Ds does not. While the built-in flash of the D800 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D800 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 1Ds writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D800 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D800 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 1Ds 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-1Ds and Nikon D800 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 1D C||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||mono||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|12.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 1Ds and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1Ds was replaced by the Canon 1Ds Mark II, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810. 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? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1Ds or the Nikon D800 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1Ds:
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2002).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 11MP), which boosts linear resolution by 81%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (32 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 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 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 120k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x123mm vs 156x158mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 265g or 21 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (900 versus 600) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- 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 (67 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 9 years and 4 months of technical progress since the 1Ds launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 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 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 1Ds and the Nikon D800 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 1Ds or the D800 perform in practice. 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 why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera 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 1Ds||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|2.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|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 1D C||..||..||..||..||..||Apr 2012||14,999|
|6.||Canon 1D Mark IV||5/5||..||89/100||..||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|8.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|9.||Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|10.||Canon 5D||..||88/100||+ +||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|11.||Canon 1D Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||4,499|
|12.||Canon 1Ds Mark II||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2004||7,999|
|13.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|14.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|15.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|16.||Nikon D800E||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|17.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
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Specifications: Canon 1Ds vs Nikon D800
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 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2002||February 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 8,999||USD 2,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 23.8 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||856.8 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||11 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4064 x 2704 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.83 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.28 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,250 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 1,250 ISO||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC||EXPEED 3|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||63||95|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.8||25.3|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.0||14.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||954||2853|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|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||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|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||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1Ds||Nikon D800|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||600 shots per charge||900 shots per charge|
156 x 158 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
146 x 123 x 82 mm
(5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||1265 g (44.6 oz)||1000 g (35.3 oz)|
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