Canon 20D vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 20D and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2004 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (20D) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|8.2 MP, APS-C Sensor||12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-1,600 (100 - 3,200)||ISO 200-6,400 (100 - 25,600)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|1.8 LCD, 118k dots||3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|5 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|700 shots per battery charge||4300 shots per battery charge|
|144 x 106 x 72 mm, 770 g||160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1300 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 20D and the Nikon D3? 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 20D and the Nikon D3 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 D3 is considerably larger (65 percent) than the Canon 20D. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (69 percent) than the 20D. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3 is splash and dust-proof, while the 20D does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 (20D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 20D gets 700 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the D3 can take 4300 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3 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 20D, Canon provides the BG-E2N 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, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Canon 20D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 7D II||5.9 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||32.1 oz||670||Y||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon 60D||5.7 in||4.2 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 7D||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||30.3 oz||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon 50D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon 1D Mark III||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.9 in||27.7 oz||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon XT||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||19.0 oz||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|Canon 10D||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Canon Rebel||5.6 in||3.9 in||2.8 in||22.9 oz||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D200||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||32.5 oz||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
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 20D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 70 percent) than the D3, 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. 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 tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 20D features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 154 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 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 12.1MP, the D3 offers a higher resolution than the 20D (8.2MP), but the D3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 6.42μm for the 20D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3 is a much more recent model (by 3 years) than the 20D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 20D are 17.5 x 11.7 inches or 44.5 x 29.7 cm for good quality, 14 x 9.3 inches or 35.6 x 23.7 cm for very good quality, and 11.7 x 7.8 inches or 29.7 x 19.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 20D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3 offers substantially better image quality than the 20D (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Canon 7D II||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||11.8||1082||70|
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 20D 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 viewfinder in the D3 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 20D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D3 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.56x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 20D, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 7D II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||Y||n|
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 20D has one, while the D3 does not. While the built-in flash of the 20D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D3 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 20D and the D3 write their files to Compact Flash cards. The D3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 20D 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 20D and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 7D II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 20D and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 20D was replaced by the Canon 30D, while the D3 was followed by the Nikon D4. 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? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 20D and the Nikon D3? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 20D:
- More compact: Is smaller (144x106mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 530g or 41 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (70 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2004).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.1 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 21%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.7 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.56x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 118k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4300 versus 700) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the 20D launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 5 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 20D and the Nikon D3 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 20D or the D3. 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 summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
|Canon 20D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 7D II||+||84/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon 60D||+||79/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 7D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon 50D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||o||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||+ +||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon XT||80/100||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|Canon 10D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Canon Rebel||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2003||899|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D200||+ +||+ +||o||5/5||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|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. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Canon 20D vs Nikon D3
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 20D||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2004||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 1,499||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.5 x 15.0 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||337.5 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||8.2 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3504 x 2336 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.42 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 2||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||62||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.9||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.0||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||721||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||1.8inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||118k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||50 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 1.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 20D||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||700 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
144 x 106 x 72 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 2.8 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||770 g (27.2 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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