Canon SX520 vs Nikon D3X
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Nikon D3X are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in July 2014 and December 2008. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the D3X is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and a full frame (D3X) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 24.4 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 SX520 HS and the Nikon D3X? 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 SX520 and the Nikon D3X. 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 D3X is considerably larger (155 percent) than the Canon SX520. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3X is splash and dust-proof, while the SX520 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX520 has a lens built in, whereas the D3X 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 D3X and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the SX520 gets 210 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the D3X can take 4400 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3X has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
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.
|Canon SX520||4.7 in||3.2 in||3.6 in||15.6 oz||210||n||Jul 2014||399|
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Canon SX540||4.7 in||3.2 in||3.6 in||15.6 oz||205||n||Jan 2016||399|
|Canon SX530||4.7 in||3.2 in||3.6 in||15.6 oz||210||n||Jan 2015||429|
|Canon SX710||4.4 in||2.6 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||230||n||Jan 2015||349|
|Canon SX700||4.4 in||2.6 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||250||n||Feb 2014||349|
|Canon SX60||5.0 in||3.7 in||4.5 in||22.9 oz||340||n||Sep 2014||549|
|Canon T5||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon SX510||4.1 in||2.8 in||3.1 in||12.3 oz||250||n||Aug 2013||249|
|Nikon B600||4.8 in||3.2 in||3.9 in||17.6 oz||280||n||Jan 2019||349|
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.6 oz||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Sony HX90V||4.0 in||2.3 in||1.4 in||8.6 oz||360||n||Apr 2015||429|
|Sony H200||4.8 in||3.3 in||3.4 in||18.7 oz||240||n||Jan 2013||249|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 SX520 was launched at a lower price than the D3X, 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 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. 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX520 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D3X a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3X is 2979 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 SX520 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D3X offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24.4MP, the D3X offers a higher resolution than the SX520 (15.9MP), but the D3X nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 1.33μm for the SX520) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX520 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 7 months) than the D3X, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX520 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3X implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3X for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX520 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3X are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-6400.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The SX520 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3X does not. The highest resolution format that the SX520 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the D3X has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX520 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX520, the Nikon D3X, and comparable cameras.
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The SX520 has one, while the D3X does not. While the built-in flash of the SX520 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Nikon D3X 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 SX520 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D3X uses Compact Flash cards. The D3X features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX520 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 SX520 HS and Nikon D3X and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
It is notable that the D3X has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The SX520 does not feature such an accessory-socket.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3X (unlike the SX520) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SX520 and the D3X have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SX520 was replaced by the Canon SX530, while the D3X does not have a direct successor. 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 SX520 better than the Nikon D3X or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D3X requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x82mm 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 D3X).
- 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.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 7 months of technical progress since the D3X launch.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3X:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 26%.
- 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 (922k vs 461k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 1.6 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 (4400 versus 210) 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 December 2008).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3X is the clear winner of the contest (20 : 9 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 SX520 and the Nikon D3X 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX520 or the D3X. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. 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 SX520||+||..||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||Jul 2014||399|
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Canon SX540||..||..||..||..||..||Jan 2016||399|
|Canon SX530||+ +||..||4/5||..||4/5||Jan 2015||429|
|Canon SX710||+||..||4/5||..||3.5/5||Jan 2015||349|
|Canon SX700||+ +||..||4/5||..||4/5||Feb 2014||349|
|Canon SX60||+ +||75/100||4/5||..||4.5/5||Sep 2014||549|
|Canon T5||+||..||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon SX510||+ +||..||4.5/5||..||4/5||Aug 2013||249|
|Nikon B600||+||..||3.5/5||..||3/5||Jan 2019||349|
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4S||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Sony HX90V||+ +||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||Apr 2015||429|
|Sony H200||..||..||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||Jan 2013||249|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 SX520 vs Nikon D3X
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 SX520||Nikon D3X|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||24-1008mm f/3.4-6||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||July 2014||December 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 399||USD 7,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D3X|
|Sensor Format||1/2.3" Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||6.17 x 4.55 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||28.0735 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||7.7 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.9 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.33 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||56.73 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4+||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||88|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||24.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1992|
|Screen Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D3X|
|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||461k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D3X|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||1.6 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|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 SX520||Nikon D3X|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D3X|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||210 shots per charge||4400 shots per charge|
120 x 82 x 92 mm
(4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||441 g (15.6 oz)||1260 g (44.4 oz)|
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