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Nikon D3 versus Canon 1D Mark II

The Nikon D3 and the Canon EOS-1D Mark II are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2007 and January 2004. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (D3) and an APS-H (1D Mark II) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 8.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D3 vs Canon 1D Mark II

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D3 and the Canon 1D Mark II 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the D3 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D3 vs Canon 1D Mark II
Compare D3 versus 1D Mark II top
Compare D3 and 1D Mark II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 1D Mark II is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Nikon D3. However, the 1D Mark II is markedly heavier (18 percent) than the D3. 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1D Mark II).

Concerning battery life, the D3 gets 4300 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the 1D Mark II can take 1200 images on a single charge of its NP-E3 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D3» 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Canon 1D Mark II« 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 54.1 oz 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 5.9 in 6.3 in 3.1 in 48.9 oz 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II N« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 55.2 oz 1200 Y Aug 2005 3,999- i Canon 1D Mark II N
Canon 5D« » 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299- i Canon 5D
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1D« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 55.9 oz 500 Y Sep 2001 6,499- i Canon 1D
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 1D Mark II was somewhat cheaper (by 10 percent) than the D3 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3 vs Canon 1D Mark II

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3 features a full frame sensor and the Canon 1D Mark II an APS-H sensor. The sensor area in the 1D Mark II is 36 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.3. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D3 and Canon 1D Mark II sensor measures

With 12.1MP, the D3 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark II (8.2MP), but the D3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.43μm versus 8.17μm for the 1D Mark II) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 years and 6 months) than the 1D Mark II, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

D3 versus 1D Mark II 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the D3 provides substantially higher image quality than the 1D Mark II, with an overall score that is 15 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 1.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D3» Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Canon 1D Mark II« APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II N« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.297566Canon 1D Mark II N
Canon 5D« » Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912-22.911.1136871Canon 5D
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1D« » APS-H 4.1 2496 1662-----Canon 1D
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659Nikon D2X
The D3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The 1D Mark II lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3 vs Canon 1D Mark II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3 and the 1D Mark II 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3 and Canon 1D Mark II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D3»optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Canon 1D Mark II«optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II N« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 8.5 n n Canon 1D Mark II N
Canon 5D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 5D
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1D« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 16000 8.0 n n Canon 1D
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2X

The D3 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the 1D Mark II uses Compact Flash or SD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Nikon D3»Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
Canon 1D Mark II«Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II N« »Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II N
Canon 5D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 5D
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1D« »Y-----FW---Canon 1D
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700
Nikon D300« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2X

Both the D3 and the 1D Mark II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark II N, while the D3 was followed by the Nikon D4.

Review summary: Nikon D3 vs Canon 1D Mark II

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3 or the Canon 1D Mark II – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Nikon D3:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.1 vs 8.2MP) with a 21% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • 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 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 8.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 235g or 15 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4300 versus 1200) on a single battery charge.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark II launch.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II:

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

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3 is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 1 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.

D3 12:01 1D Mark II

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 D3 or the 1D Mark II handle or 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. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D3»-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Canon 1D Mark II«-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II N« »----- Aug 2005 3,999- i Canon 1D Mark II N
Canon 5D« »88/100HiRecrevrev- Aug 2005 3,299- i Canon 5D
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1D« »-HiRec--- Sep 2001 6,499- i Canon 1D
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X

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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

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. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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