Nikon D3 versus Nikon D850
The Nikon D3 and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2007 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D3 has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the D850 provides 45.4 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 Nikon D850
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D850 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 D3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Nikon D3. Moreover, the D850 is markedly lighter (23 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an 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 camera comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||YES||2007||4,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft)||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||YES||2017||3,299||latest||check|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||156 mm||156.6 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||YES||2007||4,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||YES||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||YES||2014||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||YES||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||YES||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt)||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||YES||2013||2,749||latest||check|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||YES||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||YES||2009||5,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||YES||2008||7,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||YES||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||YES||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||157.5 mm||149.5 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||YES||2006||4,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||YES||2004||4,999||discont.||check|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 34 percent) than the D3, 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: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D850
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.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the 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 4.35μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, it should be noted that the D850 is much more recent (by 9 years and 11 months) than the D3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D850 offers substantially better image quality than the D3 (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 2.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||no||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||no||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||no||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||no||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|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 D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||no||22.1||10.9||476||59|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D850 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the D850 can use is 4K/30p.
Feature comparison: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D850
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3 and the D850 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3 and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||9.0||no||no|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||230||fixed||no||8000||10.0||no||no|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||fixed||YES||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||no|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1229||fixed||no||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||4000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||4000||5.5||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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||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 D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||235||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
The D850 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3 was succeeded by the Nikon D4.
Review summary: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D850
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D3 better than the Nikon D850 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4300 versus 1840) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2007).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 94%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.6 EV of extra DR).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x124mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 295g or 23 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (34 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 9 years and 11 months of technical progress since the D3 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 4 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.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D3 or the D850 handle or perform in practice. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||-||HiRec||5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||4,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||3,299||latest||check|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||reviewed||-||2007||4,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||91/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2014||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||81/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||2013||2,749||latest||check|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2009||5,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||2008||7,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||89/100||HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||90/100 HiRec||HiRec||5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||reviewed||-||2006||4,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||-||reviewed||-||2004||4,999||discont.||check|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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