Nikon D1 vs D3
The Nikon D1 and the Nikon D3 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 1999 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D1) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The D1 has a resolution of 2.6 megapixels, whereas the D3 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 Nikon D1 and the Nikon D3? 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 Nikon D1 and the Nikon D3 are illustrated 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 D3 is somewhat larger (5 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the D3 is markedly heavier (18 percent) than the D1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D3) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D1). You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
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 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.
|1.||Nikon D1||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||..||Y||Jun 1999||5,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499||ebay.com|
|4.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999||ebay.com|
|5.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D200||147 mm||113 mm||74 mm||920 g||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D2X||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Sep 2004||4,999||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D2H||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1070 g||2900||Y||Jul 2003||3,499||ebay.com|
|14.||Nikon D1H||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||1200||Y||Feb 2001||4,499||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D1X||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999||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 naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 D3 was somewhat cheaper (by 9 percent) than the D1 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.
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. 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 Nikon D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 132 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 12.1MP, the D3 offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the D3 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). Yet, the D3 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 2 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 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 Nikon D1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 200-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
In terms of underlying technology, the D1 is build around a CCD sensor, while the D3 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 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.
|2.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|4.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|5.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|7.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|8.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D1 and the D3 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 D3 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D1 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D3 has a higher magnification (0.70x 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 Nikon D1, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Nikon D1||optical||Y||2.0 / 120||fixed||n||1/16000s||4.5/s||n||n|
|2.||Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|4.||Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|6.||Nikon D300S||optical||Y||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/8000s||7.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Nikon D3X||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|8.||Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0/s||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon D300||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||optical||Y||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|11.||Nikon D200||optical||Y||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|12.||Nikon D2X||optical||Y||2.5 / 235||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|13.||Nikon D2H||optical||Y||2.5 / 211||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0/s||n||n|
|14.||Nikon D1H||optical||Y||2.0 / 120||fixed||n||1/16000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|15.||Nikon D1X||optical||Y||2.0 / 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.|
The Nikon D3 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D1 and the D3 write their files to Compact Flash cards. The D3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D1 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 Nikon D1 and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Nikon D1||Y||- / -||-||-||-||FW||-||-||-|
|2.||Nikon D3||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Nikon D4||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Nikon D3S||Y||stereo / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Nikon D300S||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Nikon D3X||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Nikon D700||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Nikon D300||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D200||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Nikon D2X||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D2H||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D1H||Y||- / -||-||-||-||FW||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D1X||Y||- / -||-||-||-||FW||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the D1 and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the D3 was followed by the Nikon D4. Further information on the features and operation of the D1 and D3 can be found, respectively, in the Nikon D1 Manual (free pdf) or the online Nikon D3 Manual.
So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D1 better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D1:
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 200g or 15 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 1999).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.1 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 114%.
- Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced 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.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.53x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 120k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 3 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 Nikon D1 and the Nikon D3 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 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 D1 or the D3. 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 (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.||Nikon D1||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jun 1999||5,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Nikon D3||..||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499||ebay.com|
|4.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999||ebay.com|
|5.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D3X||..||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||..||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2006||4,699||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D200||..||+ +||..||+ +||o||..||Nov 2005||1,699||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D2X||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2004||4,999||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D2H||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jul 2003||3,499||ebay.com|
|14.||Nikon D1H||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2001||4,499||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D1X||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2001||5,999||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. 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 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.
Specifications: Nikon D1 vs Nikon D3
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||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 1999||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 5,499||USD 4,999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||2.6 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||2000 x 1312 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.93 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.71 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||2290|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||120k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4.5 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D1||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
157 x 153 x 85 mm
(6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||1100 g (38.8 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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