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Canon 50D vs Nikon D1

The Canon EOS 50D and the Nikon D1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2008 and June 1999. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 2.6 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 50D versus Nikon D1
Canon 50D Nikon D1
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
15.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 2.6 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-3,200 (100 - 12,800) ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 2.0 LCD, 120k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
6.3 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
146 x 108 x 74 mm, 822 g 157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 50D and the Nikon D1? 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.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 50D and the Nikon D1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. 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.

Size Canon 50D vs Nikon D1
Compare 50D versus D1 top
Comparison 50D or D1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D1 is considerably larger (52 percent) than the Canon 50D. Moreover, the D1 is markedly heavier (34 percent) than the 50D. 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 an APS-C 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 (50D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D1).

As can be seen in the images above, the D1 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 50D, Canon provides the BG-E2N vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 50D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299i
2.
 
Nikon D1 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g .. Y Jun 1999 5,499i
3.
 
Canon 90D 141 mm 105 mm 77 mm 701 g 1300 Y Aug 2019 1,199 i
4.
 
Canon 80D 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199i
5.
 
Canon 7D II 149 mm 112 mm 78 mm 910 g 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i
6.
 
Canon 70D 139 mm 104 mm 79 mm 755 g 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199i
7.
 
Canon 60D 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399i
8.
 
Canon 7D 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699i
9.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799i
10.
 
Canon 40D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
11.
 
Canon 30D 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399i
12.
 
Canon 20D 144 mm 106 mm 72 mm 770 g 700 n Aug 2004 1,499i
13.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
14.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
16.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
17.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 50D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 76 percent) than the D1, 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.

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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. 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D1 is 11 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (50D) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 50D and Nikon D1 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 50D offers a higher resolution of 15.1 megapixels, compared with 2.6 MP of the Nikon D1. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.69μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, it should be noted that the 50D is much more recent (by 9 years and 2 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Canon 50D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 50D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23.8 x 15.8 inches or 60.4 x 40.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19 x 12.7 inches or 48.3 x 32.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.8 x 10.6 inches or 40.2 x 26.8 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D1 are 10 x 6.6 inches or 25.4 x 16.7 cm for good quality, 8 x 5.2 inches or 20.3 x 13.3 cm for very good quality, and 6.7 x 4.4 inches or 16.9 x 11.1 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon EOS 50D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D1 are ISO 200 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

50D versus D1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon 50D APS-C 15.1 4752 3168none21.811.469663
2.
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
3.
 
Canon 90D APS-C 32.3 6960 46404K/30p........
4.
 
Canon 80D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579
5.
 
Canon 7D II APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.411.8108270
6.
 
Canon 70D APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668
7.
 
Canon 60D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
8.
 
Canon 7D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
9.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
10.
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
11.
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
12.
 
Canon 20D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.911.072162
13.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
14.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
15.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
16.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
17.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
The 50D offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 50D and the D1 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 D1 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the 50D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the 50D has a higher magnification (0.59x vs 0.53x), 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 50D, the Nikon D1, and comparable cameras.

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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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon 50Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n
2.
 
Nikon D1optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5 n n
3.
 
Canon 90Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 11.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 80Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
5.
 
Canon 7D IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 Y n
6.
 
Canon 70Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
7.
 
Canon 60Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n
8.
 
Canon 7Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
9.
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
10.
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
11.
 
Canon 30Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
12.
 
Canon 20Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
16.
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
17.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 50D has one, while the D1 does not. While the built-in flash of the 50D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 50D and the D1 write their files to Compact Flash cards.

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Connectivity comparison

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 50D and Nikon D1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon 50DY----mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D1Y-----FW---
3.
 
Canon 90DYstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon 80DYstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon 7D IIYstereomonoYYmini3.0---
6.
 
Canon 70DYstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
7.
 
Canon 60DYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon 7DYmono-Y-mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
11.
 
Canon 30DY-----2.0---
12.
 
Canon 20DY-----1.1---
13.
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D2XsY-----2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Nikon D1XY-----FW---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the 50D and the D1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the 50D was followed by the Canon 60D. 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.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 50D or the Nikon D1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 50D:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.1 vs 2.6MP) with a 139% higher linear resolution.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.59x vs 0.53x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.3 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x108mm vs 157x153mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 278g or 25 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 (76 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D1:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 1999).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 50D is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 4 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 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.

50D 10:04 D1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 50D and the Nikon D1 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 50D or the D1 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 50D..+ ++ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
2.
 
Nikon D1....+ +.... Jun 1999 5,499i
3.
 
Canon 90D4/5+85/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2019 1,199 i
4.
 
Canon 80D4/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199i
5.
 
Canon 7D II4.5/5+84/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,799 i
6.
 
Canon 70D5/5+ +83/1004.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199i
7.
 
Canon 60D5/5+79/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399i
8.
 
Canon 7D5/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699i
9.
 
Canon T1i..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799i
10.
 
Canon 40D..+ ++ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
11.
 
Canon 30D..+ ++ +o.. Feb 2006 1,399i
12.
 
Canon 20D....+ +.... Aug 2004 1,499i
13.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
14.
 
Nikon D300..+ ++ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
15.
 
Nikon D2Xs.......... Jun 2006 4,699i
16.
 
Nikon D200..+ ++ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
17.
 
Nikon D1X....+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon 50D:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon 50D vs Nikon D1

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 50D Nikon D1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2008 June 1999
    Launch Price USD 1,299 USD 5,499
    Sensor Specs Canon 50D Nikon D1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 369.72 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.1 Megapixels 2.6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4752 x 3168 pixels 2000 x 1312 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.69 μm 11.93 μm
    Pixel Density 4.53 MP/cm2 0.71 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO 200 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 63 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.8 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.4 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 696 ..
    Screen Specs Canon 50D Nikon D1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.59x 0.53x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.0inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 120k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 50D Nikon D1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 6.3 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Canon 50D Nikon D1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 Firewire
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 50D Nikon D1
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-511A EN-4
    Body Dimensions 146 x 108 x 74 mm
    (5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
    157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    Camera Weight 822 g (29.0 oz) 1100 g (38.8 oz)

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