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Contax N Digital vs Nikon D50

The Contax N Digital and the Nikon D50 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2002 and April 2005. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and an APS-C (D50) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 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 D50
Contax N Digital Nikon D50
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 6 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 200-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 200k dots 2.0 LCD, 130k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 2.5 shutter flaps per second
100 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 133 x 102 x 76 mm, 620 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D50? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D50 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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 D50
Compare N Digital versus D50 top
Comparison N Digital or D50 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D50 is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the D50 is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the D50 are weather-sealed.

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, the N Digital 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 D50, there are third party battery grips available as optional accessories (see here on eBay).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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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 6.0 in 5.4 in 3.1 in 34.9 oz 100 n Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D50 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 21.9 oz 400 n Apr 2005 749i
3.
 
Canon 10D 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.2 oz 620 n Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D60 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629i
12.
 
Nikon D40 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499i
13.
 
Nikon D80 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999i
14.
 
Nikon D70s 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 500 n Apr 2005 899i
15.
 
Nikon D70 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 400 n Jan 2004 999i
16.
 
Nikon D100 5.7 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 27.5 oz 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
17.
 
Nikon D1X 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
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 D50 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 90 percent) than the N Digital, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D50 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D50 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 D50 sensor measures

With 6.1MP, the N Digital offers a slightly higher resolution than the D50 (6MP), but the N Digital nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 11.90μm versus 7.85μm for the D50) due to its larger sensor. However, the D50 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 1 month) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D50 are ISO 200 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

N Digital versus D50 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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 2008none........
2.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
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 2048none........
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
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 D60 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.511.456265
12.
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
13.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
14.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
15.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
16.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........
17.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
Neither the N Digital nor the D50 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.
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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the D50 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 (95%), but the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification than the one of the D50 (0.73x vs 0.50x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Contax N Digital and Nikon D50 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y 2.0 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n
2.
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
5.
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n
6.
 
Canon D60optical Y 1.8 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n 3.0 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
11.
 
Nikon D60optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D40optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n

One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the D50 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 N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D50 uses SD cards.

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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 D50 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
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Contax N DigitalY-----FW---
2.
 
Nikon D50Y-----2.0---
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 SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D60Y-----2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D40Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D70sY-----2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D70Y-----1.0---
16.
 
Nikon D100Y-----1.1---
17.
 
Nikon D1XY-----FW---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the D50) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the N Digital and the D50 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D50 was replaced by the Nikon D40, 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.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Nikon D50 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Contax N Digital:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.50x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (200k vs 130k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D50:

  • More compact: Is smaller (133x102mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 370g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (90 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the N Digital emerges as the winner of the contest (8 : 6 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.

N Digital 08:06 D50

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D50 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 N Digital or the D50. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Contax N Digital.......... Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Nikon D50..78/100+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749i
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........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..84/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Nikon D60..80/100+ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 629i
12.
 
Nikon D40..81/100+ +o4.5/5 Nov 2006 499i
13.
 
Nikon D80..++ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
14.
 
Nikon D70s........5/5 Apr 2005 899i
15.
 
Nikon D70....+ +.... Jan 2004 999i
16.
 
Nikon D100....+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999i
17.
 
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 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 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:
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Nikon D50:
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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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Nikon D50

    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 D50
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 April 2005
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D50
    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 6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 3008 x 2000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 7.85 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 1.63 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
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 20.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.8
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 560
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D50
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.50x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 2.0inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 130k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D50
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 2.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards SD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D50
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Nikon D50
    Battery Type 4xAA EN-EL3
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    133 x 102 x 76 mm
    (5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 620 g (21.9 oz)

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