Canon 70D vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 70D and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in July 2013 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (70D) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 20 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 70D 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 70D and the Nikon D3. 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.
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 (74 percent) than the Canon 70D. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (72 percent) than the 70D. 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 (70D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 70D gets 920 shots out of its LP-E6 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 70D, Canon provides the BG-E14 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Canon 70D||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 80D||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||25.8 oz||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon G3 X||4.8 in||3.0 in||4.1 in||25.9 oz||300||Y||Jun 2015||999|
|Canon 7D II||5.9 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||32.1 oz||670||Y||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon T5||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon 6D||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|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|
|Nikon D7100||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||950||Y||Feb 2013||1,199|
|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|
|Sony RX10||5.1 in||3.5 in||4.0 in||28.7 oz||420||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 70D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 76 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.
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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 70D 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 70D offers a higher resolution of 20 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3. 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 4.11μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, it should be noted that the 70D is much more recent (by 5 years and 10 months) than the D3, 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 70D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 70D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 27.4 x 18.2 inches or 69.5 x 46.3 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 21.9 x 14.6 inches or 55.6 x 37.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.2 x 12.2 inches or 46.3 x 30.9 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 70D has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS 70D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 70D (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Canon G3 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.4||12.3||521||63|
|Canon 7D II||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||11.8||1082||70|
|Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|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|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The 70D indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the 70D can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 70D 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 70D (98%), 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 0.59x), 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 70D, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras.
|Canon G3 X||optional||n||3.2||1620||tilting||Y||1/2000s||5.9||Y||Y|
|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 70D has one, while the D3 does not. While the built-in flash of the 70D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The 70D has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the D3 does not have a selfie-screen.
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.
The 70D writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D3 uses Compact Flash cards. The D3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 70D 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 70D and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon G3 X||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|Canon 7D II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the 70D offers wifi support, while the D3 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3 (unlike the 70D) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 70D and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3 was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the 70D was followed by the Canon 80D. 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? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 70D or the Nikon D3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 70D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (20 vs 12.1MP) with a 29% higher linear resolution.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- More compact: Is smaller (139x104mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 545g or 42 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (76 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D3 launch.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3:
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.59x).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 7 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 920) out of a single battery charge.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 70D comes out slightly ahead of the D3 (13 : 12 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 70D 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 70D and the D3 in practical situations. 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 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 70D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Canon 80D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon G3 X||+||..||4.5/5||3.5/5||4/5||Jun 2015||999|
|Canon 7D II||+||84/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon T5||+||..||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon 6D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|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|
|Nikon D7100||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||1,199|
|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|
|Sony RX10||+||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon 70D 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 70D||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||July 2013||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 1,199||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 70D||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||20 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5472 x 3648 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.11 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.91 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 12,800 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 5+||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||68||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.6||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||926||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon 70D||Nikon D3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 70D||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||7 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||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 70D||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 70D||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||920 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
139 x 104 x 79 mm
(5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||755 g (26.6 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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