Canon SX520 vs Nikon D810
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Nikon D810 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2014 and June 2014. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the D810 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and a full frame (D810) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 36.2 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 D810? 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 SX520 and the Nikon D810 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 D810 is considerably larger (83 percent) than the Canon SX520. It is noteworthy in this context that the D810 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 D810 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 D810 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Canon SX520||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||441 g||210||n||Jul 2014||399||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon SX540||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||442 g||205||n||Jan 2016||399||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon SX530||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||442 g||210||n||Jan 2015||429||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon SX710||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||230||n||Jan 2015||349||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon SX700||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||250||n||Feb 2014||349||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon SX60||128 mm||93 mm||114 mm||650 g||340||n||Sep 2014||549||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon T5||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||480 g||500||n||Feb 2014||449||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon SX510||104 mm||70 mm||80 mm||349 g||250||n||Aug 2013||249||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon B600||122 mm||82 mm||99 mm||500 g||280||n||Jan 2019||349||amazon.com|
|12.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299||amazon.com|
|13.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony HX90V||102 mm||58 mm||36 mm||245 g||360||n||Apr 2015||429||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony H200||123 mm||83 mm||87 mm||530 g||240||n||Jan 2013||249||ebay.com|
|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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The SX520 was launched at a lower price than the D810, 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 SX520 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D810 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D810 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 D810 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 36.2MP, the D810 offers a higher resolution than the SX520 (15.9MP), but the D810 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 1.33μm for the SX520) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D810 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D810 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 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 D810 are ISO 64 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 32-51200.
In terms of underlying technology, the SX520 is build around a BSI-CMOS sensor, while the D810 uses a CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
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"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|2.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|12.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|13.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|14.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|15.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D810 provides a faster frame rate than the SX520. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D810 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX520 and Nikon D810 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Canon SX520||none||n||3.0 / 461||fixed||n||1/2000s||1.6/s||Y||Y|
|2.||Nikon D810||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|3.||Canon SX540||none||n||3.0 / 461||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.9/s||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Canon SX530||none||n||3.0 / 461||fixed||n||1/2000s||1.6/s||Y||Y|
|6.||Canon SX710||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||6.0/s||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon SX700||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||8.5/s||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon SX60||922||n||3.0 / 922||swivel||n||1/2000s||6.4/s||Y||Y|
|9.||Canon T5||optical||n||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|10.||Canon SX510||none||n||3.0 / 461||fixed||n||1/1600s||3.8/s||Y||Y|
|11.||Nikon B600||none||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||7.4/s||Y||Y|
|12.||Nikon D850||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0/s||n||n|
|13.||Nikon D610||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|14.||Nikon D800||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|15.||Nikon D800E||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Sony HX90V||638||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/2000s||10.0/s||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony H200||none||n||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/1500s||0.8/s||Y||Y|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that is present on the D810, but is missing on the SX520 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D810 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 D810 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D810 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX520 only has one slot. The D810 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the SX520 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 PowerShot SX520 HS and Nikon D810 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon SX520||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Nikon D810||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Canon SX540||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon SX530||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Canon SX710||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Canon SX700||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Canon SX60||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Canon T5||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Canon SX510||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|11.||Nikon B600||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|12.||Nikon D850||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y|
|13.||Nikon D610||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D800||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D800E||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony HX90V||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|17.||Sony H200||-||mono / mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the D810 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the SX520 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D810 (unlike the SX520) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SX520 and the D810 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D810 was replaced by the Nikon D850, while the SX520 was followed by the Canon SX530. 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? Which of the two cameras – the Canon SX520 or the Nikon D810 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D810 requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x82mm vs 146x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D810).
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D810:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 54%.
- 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.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- 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.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k 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.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1200 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.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D810 is the clear winner of the contest (24 : 5 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape 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 D810 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 D810. 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 expert reviews 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 SX520||..||+||..||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Jul 2014||399||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||5/5||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon SX540||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jan 2016||399||ebay.com|
|4.||Canon 5DS||..||+||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon SX530||..||+ +||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jan 2015||429||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon SX710||..||+||..||..||4/5||3.5/5||Jan 2015||349||ebay.com|
|7.||Canon SX700||..||+ +||..||..||4/5||4/5||Feb 2014||349||ebay.com|
|8.||Canon SX60||3/5||+ +||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||549||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon T5||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon SX510||..||+ +||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2013||249||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon B600||..||+||..||..||3.5/5||3/5||Jan 2019||349||amazon.com|
|12.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||5/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299||amazon.com|
|13.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999||amazon.com|
|14.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D800E||..||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony HX90V||4/5||+ +||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2015||429||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony H200||..||..||..||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Jan 2013||249||ebay.com|
|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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 5DS R vs Nikon D810
- Canon SX520 vs Canon SX710
- Canon SX520 vs Leica D-LUX Typ 109
- Canon SX520 vs Nikon 1 V1
- Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-PM2
- Canon SX520 vs Samsung NX1
- Canon SX520 vs Sony NEX-3N
- Canon SX70 vs Nikon D810
- Canon SX740 vs Nikon D810
- Leica M9 vs Nikon D810
- Nikon D810 vs Panasonic G2
- Nikon D810 vs Sony A1
Specifications: Canon SX520 vs Nikon D810
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 D810|
|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||June 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 399||USD 3,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D810|
|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||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.33 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||56.73 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||64 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||32 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4+||EXPEED 4|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||97|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||25.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||14.8|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||2853|
|Screen Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D810|
|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||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||461k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D810|
|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||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D810|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D810|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||210 shots per charge||1200 shots per charge|
120 x 82 x 92 mm
(4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
146 x 123 x 82 mm
(5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||441 g (15.6 oz)||980 g (34.6 oz)|
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