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Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-5

The Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-5 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 1999 and September 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D1) and a Four Thirds (E-5) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 2.6 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 12.2 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-5
Nikon D1 Olympus E-5
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
2.6 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400) ISO 100-6,400
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 120k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.5 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g 142 x 117 x 75 mm, 873 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-5? 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-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-5
Compare D1 versus E-5 top
Comparison D1 or E-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-5 is considerably smaller (31 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the E-5 is markedly lighter (21 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 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-5).

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. In order to provide similar functionality for the E-5, Olympus provides the HLD-4 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons 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-5 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699i
 
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-30 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 n Nov 2008 1,299i
 
Olympus E-520 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-3 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-510 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799i
 
Olympus E-1 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699i
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.

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 E-5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 69 percent) than the D1, 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 tend to be more expensive and 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-5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-5 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-5 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D1 and Olympus E-5 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-5 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 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 4.29μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). However, it should be noted that the E-5 is much more recent (by 11 years and 3 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-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 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-5 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

D1 versus E-5 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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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-5 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
 
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-30 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.453055
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
 
Olympus E-3 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.610.557156
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none........

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D1 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-5 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D1 and the E-5 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 E-5 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 E-5 has a higher magnification (0.58x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D1 and Olympus E-5 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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-5optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
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-30optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
 
Olympus E-3optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-510optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-1optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n

One feature that differentiates the E-5 and the D1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-5 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D1 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The E-5 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The D1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-5 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-5 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-5 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-5Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
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-30Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-3Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-510Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-1Y-----2.0---

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

Both the D1 and the E-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the E-5 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 what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-5? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Nikon D1:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 1999).

ilogo

Advantages of the Olympus E-5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 111%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • 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 (0.58x 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 (920k vs 120k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (142x117mm vs 157x153mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 227g or 21 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • 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 (69 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 11 years and 3 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-5 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 3 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 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 03:16 E-5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D1 and the Olympus E-5 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D1 and the E-5 in practical situations. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. 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-5..75/1004/5..4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699i
 
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-30..71/1004.5/5..4/5 Nov 2008 1,299i
 
Olympus E-52087/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-388/100+ +oo4/5 Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-51089/100+ +3.5/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 799i
 
Olympus E-1..+oo.. Jun 2003 1,699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted 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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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-5:
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 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: Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-5

    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-5
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 1999 September 2010
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 1,699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-5
    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 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 2000 x 1312 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.93 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 200 - 6,400 ISO no Enhancement
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 519
    Screen Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.58x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 120k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D1 Olympus E-5
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.5 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    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-5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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 Olympus E-5
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-4 BLM-5
    Body Dimensions 157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    142 x 117 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 1100 g (38.8 oz) 873 g (30.8 oz)

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