Canon 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Nikon D3 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2016 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 30.1 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 5D Mark IV 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark IV and the Nikon D3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. 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 (43 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark IV. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (46 percent) than the 5D Mark IV. 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 (5D Mark IV) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 5D Mark IV gets 900 shots out of its LP-E6N 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 5D Mark IV, Canon provides the BG-E20 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.
|Canon 5D Mark IV||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 6D Mark II||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 5DS||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 5D Mark II||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 1D Mark III||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 5D||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D850||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D800||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|Nikon D800E||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|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|
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 obviously take relative prices into account. 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 5D Mark IV was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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.
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.
With 30.1MP, the 5D Mark IV offers a higher resolution than the D3 (12.1MP), but the 5D Mark IV has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.36μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, the 5D Mark IV is a much more recent model (by 9 years) than the D3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Canon 5D Mark IV implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 5D Mark IV for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 33.6 x 22.4 inches or 85.3 x 56.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 26.9 x 17.9 inches or 68.3 x 45.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 22.4 x 14.9 inches or 56.9 x 37.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3 are 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.
The 5D Mark IV has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 32000, which can be extended to ISO 50-102400. 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 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 review, the 5D Mark IV has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D3 (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 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.
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|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|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 5D Mark IV indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark IV can use is 4K/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 5D Mark IV 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the 5D Mark IV has a higher magnification than the one of the D3 (0.71x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n|
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The 5D Mark IV has a touchscreen, while the D3 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Canon 5D Mark IV and the Nikon D3 both have 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 5D Mark IV writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the D3 uses Compact Flash cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.
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 5D Mark IV and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the 5D Mark IV offers wifi support, while the D3 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the 5D Mark IV has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
The 5D Mark IV is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Canon. In contrast, the D3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3 was succeeded 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 conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon 5D Mark IV better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (30.1 vs 12.1MP) with a 58% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 4K/30p movies.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.70x).
- 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 (1620k vs 922k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More compact: Is smaller (151x116mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 410g or 32 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 9 years of technical progress since the D3 launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D3:
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4300 versus 900) out of a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 5D Mark IV is the clear winner of the match-up (19 : 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 5D Mark IV 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark IV 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 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 (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 5D Mark IV||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 6D Mark II||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 5DS||+||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5D Mark III||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Canon 5D Mark II||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||o||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|Canon 5D||88/100||+ +||o||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D850||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D800||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|Nikon D800E||..||84/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|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|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Nikon D3
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Canon M50
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Canon SX730
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Nikon D5300
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Nikon W150
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Panasonic G3
- Canon 5D Mark IV vs Pentax K-1
- Nikon D2Xs vs Nikon D3
- Nikon D3 vs Nikon D60
- Nikon D3 vs Olympus E-300
- Nikon D3 vs Pentax 645D
- Nikon D3 vs Sony NEX-F3
Specifications: Canon 5D Mark IV 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 5D Mark IV||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 2016||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 3,499||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D Mark IV||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||30.1 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6720 x 4480 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.36 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.48 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 32,000 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 102,400 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 6+||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||91||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.8||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.6||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2995||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D Mark IV||Nikon D3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1620k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D Mark IV||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||7 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||150 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDXC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D Mark IV||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D Mark IV||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||900 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
151 x 116 x 76 mm
(5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||890 g (31.4 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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