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Nikon D3X vs D4

The Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in December 2008 and January 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D3X has a resolution of 24.4 megapixels, whereas the D4 provides 16.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3X
versus
Nikon D4
Nikon D3X   Nikon D4
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
24.4 MP – Full Frame sensor 16.2 MP – Full Frame sensor
no Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 6,400) ISO 100-12,800 (50 - 204,800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD – 922k dots 3.0" LCD – 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 11 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
4400 shots per battery charge2600 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1260 g 160 x 157 x 91 mm, 1340 g
Nikon D3X:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D4:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4? 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 D3X and the Nikon D4 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D3X vs Nikon D4
Compare D3X versus D4 top
Comparison D3X or D4 rear

In this particular case, the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4 have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the D4 is markedly heavier (6 percent) than the D3X. 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 compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D3X gets 4400 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the D4 can take 2600 images on a single charge of its EN-EL18 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip built 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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
2.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999i
4.
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499i
5.
 
Nikon D4S 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499i
6.
 
Nikon D750 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299i
7.
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749i
8.
 
Nikon D610 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i
9.
 
Nikon D600 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099i
10.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
11.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
12.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision 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 D4 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the D3X, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

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 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.

Technology-wise, the D4 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 3) than the D3X (EXPEED), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Nikon D3X and Nikon D4 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the D3X offers a higher resolution than the D4 (16.2MP), but the D3X has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 7.29μm for the D4). Moreover, the D4 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 1 month) than the D3X, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3X implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3X 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 D4 are 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D3X has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D4 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.

D3X versus D4 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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
1.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
2.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744none24.012.0166380
4.
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
5.
 
Nikon D4S Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
6.
 
Nikon D750 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
7.
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
8.
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
9.
 
Nikon D600 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
10.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
11.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
12.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D4 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3X does not. The highest resolution format that the D4 can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3X and the D4 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.70x). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3X and Nikon D4 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
2.
 
Nikon D4optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIoptical Y3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0/s n n
4.
 
Nikon D5optical Y3.2 / 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0/s n n
5.
 
Nikon D4Soptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
6.
 
Nikon D750optical Y3.2 / 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0/s Y n
7.
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n n
8.
 
Nikon D610optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D600optical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
11.
 
Nikon D700optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0/s Y n
12.
 
Nikon D3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

The Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The D3X writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D4 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 D3X and Nikon D4 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
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Nikon D3XY- / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D4Ymono / monoYYmicro2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark IIIYmono / ----2.0---
4.
 
Nikon D5Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0---
5.
 
Nikon D4SYmono / monoYYmini2.0---
6.
 
Nikon D750Ystereo / monoYYmini2.0Y--
7.
 
Nikon DfY- / ---mini2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D610Ymono / monoYYmini2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D600Ymono / monoYYmini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D700Y- / ---mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D3Y- / ---mini2.0---

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

Both the D3X and the D4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D4 was replaced by the Nikon D4S, while the D3X 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 website.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3X:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.4 vs 16.2MP) with a 23% higher linear resolution.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4400 versus 2600) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in December 2008).


Advantages of the Nikon D4:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 3 vs EXPEED).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D3X launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D4 emerges as the winner of the match-up (7 : 4 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.

D3X 04:07 D4

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D4 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 D3X or the D4 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

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 (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D3X......86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
2.
 
Nikon D4........4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
3.
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III......+ +4.5/5.. Aug 2007 7,999i
4.
 
Nikon D5....4/589/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499i
5.
 
Nikon D4S5/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499i
6.
 
Nikon D7505/5+ +4/590/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299i
7.
 
Nikon Df4/5....81/1004/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749i
8.
 
Nikon D6104/5+ +..87/1004.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i
9.
 
Nikon D6004/5+ +..87/1005/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099i
10.
 
Nikon D3S5/5....89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
11.
 
Nikon D700..89/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
12.
 
Nikon D3......+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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 D3X:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D4:
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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D3X vs Nikon D4

    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 D3X Nikon D4
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date December 2008 January 2012
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 5,999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3X Nikon D4
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24.4 Megapixels 16.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6048 x 4032 pixels 4928 x 3280 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.94 μm 7.29 μm
    Pixel Density 2.83 MP/cm2 1.88 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost 50 - 6,400 ISO 50 - 204,800 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED 3
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 88 89
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 24.7 24.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.7 13.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1992 2965
    Screen Specs Nikon D3X Nikon D4
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.2inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3X Nikon D4
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 11 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations400 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XQD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3X Nikon D4
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D3X Nikon D4
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL4a EN-EL18
    Battery Life (CIPA)4400 shots per charge2600 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    160 x 157 x 91 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 1260 g (44.4 oz) 1340 g (47.3 oz)
    Nikon D3X:
    Check Ebay offers
    Nikon D4:
    Check Ebay offers

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