Canon 5D vs Nikon D1
The Canon EOS 5D and the Nikon D1 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2005 and June 1999. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (5D) and an APS-C (D1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12.7 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.
|Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|12.7 MP, Full Frame Sensor||2.6 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|no Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 3,200)||ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|2.5 LCD, 230k dots||2.0 LCD, 120k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3 shutter flaps per second||1.5 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|152 x 113 x 75 mm, 895 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 5D 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D and the Nikon D1 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 D1 is notably larger (40 percent) than the Canon 5D. Moreover, the D1 is markedly heavier (23 percent) than the 5D. 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. 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 (5D) 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 5D, Canon provides the BG-E4 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 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||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D1||6.2 in||6.0 in||3.3 in||38.8 oz||..||Y||Jun 1999||5,499|
|Canon 6D Mark II||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|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 6D||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|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 II N||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||55.2 oz||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||42.9 oz||1200||Y||Sep 2004||7,999|
|Canon 1Ds||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||44.6 oz||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D300||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D2Xs||6.2 in||5.9 in||3.4 in||44.2 oz||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D200||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||32.5 oz||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
|Nikon D1X||6.2 in||6.0 in||3.3 in||38.8 oz||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999|
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.
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 5D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 40 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 5D features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D1 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D1 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 12.7MP, the 5D offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the 5D has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.25μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, the 5D is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 1 month) than the D1, 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 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 5D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.8 x 14.6 inches or 55.5 x 37 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.5 x 11.6 inches or 44.4 x 29.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.6 x 9.7 inches or 37 x 24.7 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 5D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-3200. 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|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 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||Full Frame||16.6||4992||3328||none||23.3||11.3||1480||74|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|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 5D 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (96%), but the viewfinder of the 5D has a higher magnification than the one of the D1 (0.71x 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 5D, the Nikon D1, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||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 II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 5D and the D1 write their files to Compact Flash cards.
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 and Nikon D1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|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 II N||Y||-||-||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|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 5D and the D1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the 5D was followed by the Canon 5D Mark II. 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 5D and the Nikon D1? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 5D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.7 vs 2.6MP) with a 119% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.53x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 120k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (152x113mm vs 157x153mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 205g or 19 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D1 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D1:
- 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 5D is the clear winner of the match-up (13 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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 5D 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 5D or the D1 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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||88/100||+ +||o||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Nikon D1||..||+ +||..||..||..||Jun 1999||5,499|
|Canon 6D Mark II||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|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 6D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Canon 5D Mark II||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 2005||3,999|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2004||7,999|
|Canon 1Ds||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||o||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D200||+ +||+ +||o||5/5||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|Nikon D1X||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2001||5,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated 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 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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
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Specifications: Canon 5D 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 Model||Canon 5D||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 2005||June 1999|
|Launch Price||USD 3,299||USD 5,499|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.7 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||369.72 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.7 Megapixels||2.6 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4368 x 2912 pixels||2000 x 1312 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.25 μm||11.93 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.47 MP/cm2||0.71 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.9||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.1||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1368||..|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||2.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||120k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||1.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||Firewire|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D||Nikon D1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
152 x 113 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 in)
157 x 153 x 85 mm
(6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
|Camera Weight||895 g (31.6 oz)||1100 g (38.8 oz)|
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