Canon 7D vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS 7D and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (7D) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 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 7D 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 7D 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 size 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 (53 percent) than the Canon 7D. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (51 percent) than the 7D. 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 (7D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the 7D gets 800 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 7D, Canon provides the BG-E7 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 7D||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|2.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|3.||Canon 7D II||149 mm||112 mm||78 mm||910 g||670||Y||Sep 2014||1,799|
|4.||Canon 70D||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|5.||Canon 60D||145 mm||106 mm||79 mm||755 g||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|6.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|7.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|9.||Canon 50D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|11.||Canon 30D||144 mm||106 mm||74 mm||785 g||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|12.||Canon 20D||144 mm||106 mm||72 mm||770 g||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|14.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|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.|
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 7D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 66 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 7D features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 159 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 7D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 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 4.31μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, it should be noted that the 7D is much more recent (by 2 years) 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 7D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 7D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 17.3 inches or 65.8 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 13.8 inches or 52.7 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 11.5 inches or 43.9 x 29.3 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 Canon EOS 7D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. 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 7D (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.5 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.4 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.
| DXO |
|2.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|3.||Canon 7D II||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||11.8||1082||70|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|13.||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|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 7D indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the 7D can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 7D 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 D3 has a higher magnification than the one of the 7D (0.70x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 7D and Nikon D3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|3.||Canon 7D II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||Y||n|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n|
|10.||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 7D has one, while the D3 does not. While the built-in flash of the 7D 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 7D 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 7D 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 7D and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 7D II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||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 7D and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3 was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the 7D was followed by the Canon 7D 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 how do things add up? Is the Canon 7D better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 7D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.1MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- More compact: Is smaller (148x111mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 440g or 34 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 (66 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the D3 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3:
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.5 bits more color depth).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.63x).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 8 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 800) out of a single battery charge.
- 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 relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3 emerges as the winner of the match-up (10 : 7 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 7D 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 7D 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 hands-on reviews by experts 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.
|1.||Canon 7D||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|2.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|3.||Canon 7D II||4.5/5||+||84/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||1,799|
|4.||Canon 70D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|5.||Canon 60D||5/5||+||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|6.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|7.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark II||4/5||91/100||79/100||4/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|9.||Canon 50D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|10.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|11.||Canon 30D||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|12.||Canon 20D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|14.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|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.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
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Specifications: Canon 7D 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 7D||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2009||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 1,699||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 7D||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||17.9 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4 (Dual)||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.0||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.7||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||854||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon 7D||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||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 7D||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||8 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||150 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 7D||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||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||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 7D||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||800 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
148 x 111 x 74 mm
(5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||860 g (30.3 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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