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Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-420

The Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 1999 and March 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D1) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 2.6 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D1 versus Olympus E-420
Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
2.6 MP, APS-C Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400) ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 120k dots 2.7 LCD, 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-420? 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 Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-420 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-420
Compare D1 versus E-420 top
Comparison D1 or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is considerably smaller (51 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the E-420 is substantially lighter (60 percent) than the D1. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D1 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-420 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D1) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-420).

As can be seen in the images above, the D1 has 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. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D1 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz .. Y Jun 1999 5,499i
 
Olympus E-420 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599i
 
Nikon D4 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D300S 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D3 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Nikon D300 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
 
Nikon D2Xs 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
 
Nikon D200 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
 
Nikon D2X 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Nikon D2H 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 37.7 oz 2900 Y Jul 2003 3,499i
 
Nikon D1H 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 4,499i
 
Nikon D1X 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
 
Olympus E-450 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-620 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-520 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-410 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699i
 
Olympus E-400 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Sep 2006 699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-420 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 89 percent) than the D1, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D1 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-420 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D1 and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-420 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixels, compared with 2.6 MP of the D1. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.74μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, it should be noted that the E-420 is much more recent (by 8 years and 8 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-420 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-420 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 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 Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

D1 versus E-420 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659
 
Nikon D2H APS-C 4.0 2464 1632none18.910.035240
 
Nikon D1H APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none........
The E-420 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D1 and the E-420 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 E-420 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D1 has a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.46x), 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 Olympus E-420, and comparable cameras.

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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
 
Nikon D1optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5 n n
 
Olympus E-420optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D2Hoptical Y 2.5 211 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 n n
 
Nikon D1Hoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n
 
Olympus E-450optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the D1, but is missing on the E-420 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 D1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D1 only has one slot.

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 Nikon D1 and Olympus E-420 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
 
Nikon D1Y-----FW---
 
Olympus E-420Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D2XsY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D2XY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D2HY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D1HY-----FW---
 
Nikon D1XY-----FW---
 
Olympus E-450Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D1 (unlike the E-420) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the D1 and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the E-420 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 Nikon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D1 or the Olympus E-420 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D1:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • 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 June 1999).

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-420:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (10 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 91%.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (215k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 157x153mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 660g or 60 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (89 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 8 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-420 emerges as the winner of the match-up (10 : 8 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.

D1 08:10 E-420

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-420 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D1 or the E-420. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D1..+ +...... Jun 1999 5,499i
 
Olympus E-42085/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2008 599i
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
 
Nikon D300+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
 
Nikon D2Xs......o.. Jun 2006 4,699i
 
Nikon D200+ ++ +o5/5.. Nov 2005 1,699i
 
Nikon D2X..+ +..o.. Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Nikon D2H..+ +..o.. Jul 2003 3,499i
 
Nikon D1H..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 4,499i
 
Nikon D1X..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 5,999i
 
Olympus E-450....4/5..4/5 Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-62088/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-52087/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-41086/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
 
Olympus E-40085/100..4/5..4/5 Sep 2006 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.

Nikon D1:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-420:
Check Ebay offers

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 your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-420

    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 Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 1999 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 2.6 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 2000 x 1312 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.93 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 200 - 6,400 ISO no Enhancement
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 527
    Screen Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 120k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    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 Nikon D1 Olympus E-420
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type EN-4 BLS-1
    Body Dimensions 157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 1100 g (38.8 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)

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