Canon SX420 vs Nikon D3S
The Canon PowerShot SX420 IS and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2016 and October 2009. The SX420 is a fixed lens compact, while the D3S is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX420) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 19.9 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 PowerShot SX420 IS and the Nikon D3S? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon SX420 and the Nikon D3S are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The SX420 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the D3S is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3S is considerably larger (250 percent) than the Canon SX420. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3S is splash and dust-proof, while the SX420 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX420 has a lens built in, whereas the D3S is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D3S and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the SX420 gets 195 shots out of its NB-11LH battery, while the D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3S has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon SX420||104 mm||69 mm||85 mm||325 g||195||n||Jan 2016||299|
|2.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|3.||Canon SX430||104 mm||69 mm||85 mm||323 g||195||n||Jan 2017||299|
|4.||Canon SX730||110 mm||64 mm||40 mm||300 g||250||n||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||106 mm||61 mm||42 mm||319 g||265||n||Feb 2016||699|
|6.||Canon SX620||97 mm||57 mm||28 mm||182 g||295||n||May 2016||279|
|7.||Canon SX720||110 mm||64 mm||36 mm||270 g||250||n||Feb 2016||379|
|8.||Canon G5 X||112 mm||76 mm||44 mm||353 g||210||n||Oct 2015||799|
|9.||Canon SX410||104 mm||69 mm||85 mm||325 g||185||n||Feb 2015||279|
|10.||Canon SX610||105 mm||61 mm||27 mm||191 g||270||n||Jan 2015||249|
|11.||Canon SX710||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||230||n||Jan 2015||349|
|12.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|14.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|15.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|16.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|17.||Panasonic ZS70||112 mm||67 mm||41 mm||322 g||380||n||Apr 2017||449|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
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 SX420 was launched at a lower price than the D3S, despite having a lens built in. 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 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX420 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S is 2971 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.0. The sensor in the SX420 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D3S offers a 3:2 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon SX420 offers a higher resolution of 19.9 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3S. 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 1.19μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). However, it should be noted that the SX420 is much more recent (by 6 years and 2 months) than the D3S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX420 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Canon SX420 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX420 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.8 x 19.3 inches or 65.4 x 49.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.6 x 15.5 inches or 52.3 x 39.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.2 x 12.9 inches or 43.6 x 32.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3S 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 PowerShot SX420 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.
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"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|2.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.8||11.9||260||62|
|8.||Canon G5 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.8||11.9||227||61|
|12.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|13.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|14.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|15.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|16.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the SX420 provides a higher frame rate than the D3S. It can shoot video footage at 720/25p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the D3S has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX420 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX420 and Nikon D3S along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Canon SX420||none||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||0.5/s||Y||Y|
|2.||Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon SX430||none||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||0.5/s||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon SX730||none||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/3200s||5.9/s||Y||Y|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||8.0/s||Y||Y|
|6.||Canon SX620||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/2000s||2.5/s||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon SX720||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||5.9/s||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon G5 X||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/2000s||5.9/s||Y||Y|
|9.||Canon SX410||none||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||0.5/s||Y||Y|
|10.||Canon SX610||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/2000s||2.5/s||Y||Y|
|11.||Canon SX710||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||6.0/s||Y||Y|
|12.||Nikon D5||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0/s||n||n|
|13.||Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|14.||Nikon D3X||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|15.||Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|17.||Panasonic ZS70||1166||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||10.0/s||Y||Y|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The SX420 has one, while the D3S does not. While the built-in flash of the SX420 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D3S 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 SX420 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D3S uses Compact Flash cards. The D3S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX420 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 PowerShot SX420 IS and Nikon D3S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon SX420||-||mono / mono||-||-||-||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|2.||Nikon D3S||Y||stereo / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon SX430||-||mono / mono||-||-||-||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|4.||Canon SX730||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Canon SX620||-||mono / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Canon SX720||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Canon G5 X||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Canon SX410||-||stereo / mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Canon SX610||-||- / -||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Canon SX710||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Nikon D5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D4||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D3X||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D700||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Nikon D3||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Panasonic ZS70||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the SX420 offers wifi support, while the D3S 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 D3S (unlike the SX420) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SX420 and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3S was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the SX420 was followed by the Canon SX430. 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 there a clear favorite between the Canon SX420 and the Nikon D3S? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX420 IS:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (19.9 vs 12.1MP) with a 26% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (720/25p versus 720/24p).
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D3S requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (104x69mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D3S).
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- 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.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D3S launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D3S:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
- Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 0.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 195) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- 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 October 2009).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3S is the clear winner of the contest (19 : 12 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 wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 SX420 and the Nikon D3S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings 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 incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SX420 or the D3S 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.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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 SX420||..||..||..||..||..||3/5||Jan 2016||299|
|2.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|3.||Canon SX430||..||..||..||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Jan 2017||299|
|4.||Canon SX730||..||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||4.5/5||+ +||..||81/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||699|
|6.||Canon SX620||..||..||..||..||..||4/5||May 2016||279|
|7.||Canon SX720||..||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||379|
|8.||Canon G5 X||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2015||799|
|9.||Canon SX410||..||o||..||..||..||..||Feb 2015||279|
|10.||Canon SX610||..||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jan 2015||249|
|11.||Canon SX710||..||+||..||..||4/5||3.5/5||Jan 2015||349|
|12.||Nikon D5||..||..||4/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|14.||Nikon D3X||..||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|15.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||..||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|16.||Nikon D3||..||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|17.||Panasonic ZS70||..||+ +||..||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||449|
|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. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 1D Mark IV vs Nikon D3S
- Canon 6D vs Canon SX420
- Canon SX420 vs Nikon D2H
- Canon SX420 vs Nikon D800
- Canon SX420 vs Olympus E-3
- Canon SX420 vs Panasonic GM5
- Canon SX420 vs Sony A6000
- Fujifilm XQ1 vs Nikon D3S
- Leica M Typ 262 vs Nikon D3S
- Leica M10 vs Nikon D3S
- Leica S Typ 006 vs Nikon D3S
- Nikon D3S vs Olympus XZ-2
Specifications: Canon SX420 vs Nikon D3S
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 SX420||Nikon D3S|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||24-1008mm f/3.5-6.6||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2016||October 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 299||USD 5,199|
|Sensor Specs||Canon SX420||Nikon D3S|
|Sensor Format||1/2.3" Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||6.17 x 4.55 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||28.0735 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||7.7 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||19.9 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5152 x 3864 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.19 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||70.91 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/25p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4+||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||82|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||3253|
|Screen Specs||Canon SX420||Nikon D3S|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon SX420||Nikon D3S|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||0.5 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon SX420||Nikon D3S|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Body Specs||Canon SX420||Nikon D3S|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||195 shots per charge||4200 shots per charge|
104 x 69 x 85 mm
(4.1 x 2.7 x 3.3 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||325 g (11.5 oz)||1240 g (43.7 oz)|
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