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Contax N Digital vs Nikon D1

The Contax N Digital and the Nikon D1 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and June 1999. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and an APS-C (D1) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 2.6 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Contax N Digital
versus
Nikon D1
Contax N Digital   Nikon D1
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
6.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 2.6 MP – APS-C sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0" LCD – 200k dots 2.0" LCD – 120k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 1.5 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g
Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D1:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D1? 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.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D1. 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.

Size Contax N Digital vs Nikon D1
Compare N Digital versus D1 top
Comparison N Digital or D1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D1 is notably larger (15 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the D1 is markedly heavier (11 percent) than the N Digital. It is noteworthy in this context that the D1 is splash and dust-proof, while the N Digital does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have 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 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.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Contax N Digital 152 mm 138 mm 80 mm 990 g 100 n Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D1 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g .. Y Jun 1999 5,499i
3.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 855 g 620 n Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
12.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
14.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
15.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
16.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
Note: 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 D1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 26 percent) than the N Digital, 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.

Sensor comparison

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D1 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D1 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Contax N Digital and Nikon D1 sensor measures

With 6.1MP, the N Digital offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the N Digital has marginally smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 11.90μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, the N Digital is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 8 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Contax N Digital implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the N Digital for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D1 are 10 x 6.6 inches or 25.4 x 16.7 cm for good quality, 8 x 5.2 inches or 20.3 x 13.3 cm for very good quality, and 6.7 x 4.4 inches or 16.9 x 11.1 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D1 are ISO 200 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

N Digital versus D1 MP

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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none21.510.5128359
2.
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
3.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
4.
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704none21.811.095463
6.
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none20.39.830147
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none25.114.1273993
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
10.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
11.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
12.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
14.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
15.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
16.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
Neither the N Digital nor the D1 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The N Digital and the D1 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 D1 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the N Digital (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.53x), 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 Contax N Digital, the Nikon D1, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y2.0 / 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0/s n n
2.
 
Nikon D1optical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5/s n n
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
5.
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s n n
6.
 
Canon D60optical Y1.8 / 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
9.
 
Leica SL4400 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
10.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
11.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0/s Y n
12.
 
Nikon D300optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0/s Y n
13.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
14.
 
Nikon D200optical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s Y n
15.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
16.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the N Digital and the D1 write their files to Compact Flash cards.

Connectivity comparison

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 Contax N Digital and Nikon D1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Contax N DigitalY- / ----FW---
2.
 
Nikon D1Y- / ----FW---
3.
 
Canon 10DY- / ----1.1---
4.
 
Canon RebelY- / ----1.1---
5.
 
Canon 1DsY- / ----FW---
6.
 
Canon D60Y- / ----1.1---
7.
 
Leica M10-PY- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica SLYstereo / monoYYfull3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D300SYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D300Y- / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D2XsY- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D200Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
16.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the N Digital and the D1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the N Digital 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 Contax and Nikon websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Nikon D1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Contax N Digital:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (6.1 vs 2.6MP) with a 52% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.53x).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (200k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (152x138mm vs 157x153mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 110g or 10 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 8 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Nikon D1:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (26 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 1999).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the N Digital is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 5 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.

N Digital 11:05 D1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D1 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 incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the N Digital or the D1 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Contax N Digital............ Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D1......+ +.... Jun 1999 5,499i
3.
 
Canon 10D......+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel......+ +.... Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds......+ +.... Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60......+ +o.. Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P....3/5....4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL4/5..4/584/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +..82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
12.
 
Nikon D300..+ +..+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D2Xs............ Jun 2006 4,699i
14.
 
Nikon D200..+ +..+ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
15.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999i
16.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Nikon D1

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 June 1999
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 5,499
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 369.72 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 2.6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 2000 x 1312 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 11.93 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 0.71 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 200 - 6,400 ISO
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.53x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 2.0inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 120k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 1.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector Firewire Firewire
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D1
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type 4xAA EN-4
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 1100 g (38.8 oz)
    Contax N Digital:
    Check Ebay offers
    Nikon D1:
    Check Ebay offers

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