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Nikon D2X versus Nikon D3

The Nikon D2X and the Nikon D3 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2004 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D2X) and a full frame sensor. The D2X has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the D3 provides 12.1 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D2X and the Nikon D3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D2X – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D2X vs Nikon D3 front
D2X versus D3 top view
D2X and D3 rear side
Body view (D2X on the left)

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 (6 percent) than the Nikon D2X. Moreover, the D3 is slightly heavier (4 percent) than the D2X. 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 (D2X). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D2X (⇒ rgt) 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2004 4,999discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g .. YES 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 YES 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g .. YES 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 1150 YES 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 YES 2005 1,699discont. check
Nikon D2H (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1070 g .. YES 2003 3,499discont. check
Nikon D1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g .. YES 1999 5,499discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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. 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 tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D2X features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.52194470078621 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D2X and Nikon D3 sensor measures
Sensor size

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Nikon D2X offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.52μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). Moreover, it should be noted that the D3 is much more recent (by 2 years and 11 months) than the D2X, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

D2X versus D3 MP
Sensor resolution

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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3 offers substantially better image quality than the D2X (overall score 22 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D2X (⇒ rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 10.9 476 59
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.7 11.7 1078 71
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/30p 24.7 13.1 2965 89
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.5 12.2 787 70
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 12.0 679 67
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.2 10.9 489 59
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.3 11.5 583 64
Nikon D2H (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 4.0 2464 1632 no 18.9 10.0 352 40
Nikon D1 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 2.6 2000 1312 no - - - -
The D3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D2X 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 D2X 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D2X, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D2X (⇒ rgt) optical YES 2.5 235 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 7.0 12 no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D2H (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 211 fixed no 8000 8.0 no no
Nikon D1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 120 fixed no 16000 1.5 no no

Both the D2X and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D2X was replaced by the Nikon D2Xs, while the D3 was followed by the Nikon D4.

Summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D2X or the Nikon D3 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D2X:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2004).

Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (22 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 235k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the D2X launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 1 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.

D2X 01:08 D3

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D2X or the D3. 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. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D2X (⇒ rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,999discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec 82/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed 5/5 - 2005 1,699discont. check
Nikon D2H (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2003 3,499discont. check
Nikon D1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 1999 5,499discont. check

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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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