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Nikon D1 vs Sony A900

The Nikon D1 and the Sony Alpha A900 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 1999 and September 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D1) and a full frame (A900) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 2.6 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 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 Sony A900
Nikon D1 Sony A900
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
2.6 MP, APS-C Sensor 24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-1,600 (200 - 6,400) ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 120k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed 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 156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D1 and the Sony Alpha A900? 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 physical size and weight of the Nikon D1 and the Sony A900 are illustrated 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 Sony A900
Compare D1 versus A900 top
Comparison D1 or A900 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A900 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the A900 is markedly lighter (19 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. 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 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 A900, Sony provides the VG-C90AM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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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
 
Sony A900 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999i
 
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
 
Sony A9 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499i
 
Sony A99 II 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i
 
Sony A7S II 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999i
 
Sony A99 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A850 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999i
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 A900 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 45 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. 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 Nikon D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A900 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A900 is 133 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.

Nikon D1 and Sony A900 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A900 offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the A900 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). Yet, the A900 is a much more recent model (by 9 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 Sony A900 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A900 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 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 Sony Alpha A900 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.

D1 versus A900 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 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
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........
 
Sony A900 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.712.3143179
 
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........
 
Sony A9 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792
 
Sony A99 II Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792
 
Sony A7S II Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385
 
Sony A99 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589
 
Sony A850 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.812.2141579
Neither the D1 nor the A900 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

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D1 and the A900 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 A900 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 A900 has a higher magnification (0.74x 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 Sony A900, 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
 
Sony A900optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n 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
 
Sony A93686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/8000s 20.0 n Y
 
Sony A99 II2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y
 
Sony A7S II2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
 
Sony A992359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y
 
Sony A850optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y

One feature that differentiates the A900 and the D1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A900 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 D1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A900 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A900 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 Sony Alpha A900 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---
 
Sony A900Y----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---
 
Sony A9YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYY
 
Sony A99 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYY
 
Sony A7S IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-
 
Sony A99YstereomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Sony A850Y----mini2.0---

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

Both the D1 and the A900 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the A900 was followed by the Sony A99. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D1 or the Sony A900 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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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

Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A900:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 204%.
  • 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 (0.74x 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 (5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (156x117mm vs 157x153mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 205g or 19 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • 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 (45 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A900 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D1 03:16 A900

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D1 and the Sony A900 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 D1 or the A900 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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
 
Sony A900+ ++ +4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999i
 
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
 
Sony A9+ +89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499i
 
Sony A99 II..85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i
 
Sony A7S II+..4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999i
 
Sony A99..84/1004.5/5o4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A850..75/100..4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Nikon D1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony A900:
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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. 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: Nikon D1 vs Sony A900

    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 Sony A900
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
    Launch Date June 1999 September 2008
    Launch Price USD 5,499 USD 2,999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D1 Sony A900
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 2.6 Megapixels 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 2000 x 1312 pixels 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.93 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 2.83 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost 200 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 23.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 1431
    Screen Specs Nikon D1 Sony A900
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.74x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 120k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D1 Sony A900
    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 no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or MS cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D1 Sony A900
    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 Sony A900
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-4 NP-FM500H
    Body Dimensions 157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 1100 g (38.8 oz) 895 g (31.6 oz)

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