Canon 30D vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 30D and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2006 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (30D) 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 30D 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 30D and the Nikon D3. 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 30D. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (66 percent) than the 30D. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3 is splash and dust-proof, while the 30D 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 (30D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 30D gets 750 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 30D, 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 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 30D||144 mm||106 mm||74 mm||785 g||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|2.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|3.||Canon 70D||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|4.||Canon 60D||145 mm||106 mm||79 mm||755 g||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|5.||Canon 7D||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|6.||Canon 50D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|8.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|9.||Canon XTi||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||n||Aug 2006||799|
|10.||Canon XT||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|11.||Canon 20D||144 mm||106 mm||72 mm||770 g||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|12.||Canon 10D||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||850 g||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|13.||Canon Rebel||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|14.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|15.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|16.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|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 obviously take relative prices into account. 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 30D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 72 percent) than the D3, 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 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. 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 30D 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.
With 12.1MP, the D3 offers a higher resolution than the 30D (8.2MP), but the D3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 6.42μm for the 30D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the 30D, and its sensor might 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 30D 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 30D 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.
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 D3 offers substantially better image quality than the 30D (overall score 22 points higher). The advantage is based on 2 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|14.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|15.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|16.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|17.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 30D 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 30D (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 30D, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras.
|7.||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 30D has one, while the D3 does not. While the built-in flash of the 30D 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 30D 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 30D 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 30D and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|7.||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 30D and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 30D was replaced by the Canon 40D, 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 how do things add up? Is the Canon 30D better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 30D:
- More compact: Is smaller (144x106mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 515g or 40 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 (72 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2006).
Reasons to prefer 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 (22 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 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 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k 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 750) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 6 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 5 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. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 30D 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 30D and the D3 in practical situations. 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 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 30D||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|2.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|3.||Canon 70D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|4.||Canon 60D||5/5||+||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|5.||Canon 7D||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|6.||Canon 50D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|8.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|9.||Canon XTi||..||+ +||+ +||o||4/5||Aug 2006||799|
|10.||Canon XT||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|11.||Canon 20D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|12.||Canon 10D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|13.||Canon Rebel||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899|
|14.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|15.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|16.||Nikon D3X||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|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 ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Canon 30D 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 30D||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2006||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 1,399||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 30D||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)||59||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.5||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.8||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||736||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon 30D||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||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 30D||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 30D||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 30D||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
144 x 106 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||785 g (27.7 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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