Nikon D3X vs Olympus E-M5
The Nikon D3X and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in December 2008 and February 2012. The D3X is a DSLR, while the E-M5 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (D3X) and a Four Thirds (E-M5) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 24.4 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3X and the Olympus OM-D E-M5? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3X and the Olympus E-M5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-M5 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3X is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M5 is considerably smaller (57 percent) than the Nikon D3X. Moreover, the E-M5 is substantially lighter (66 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3X) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M5, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
Concerning battery life, the D3X gets 4400 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the E-M5 can take 360 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3X 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 E-M5, Olympus provides the HLD-6 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Olympus E-M5||4.8 in||3.5 in||1.7 in||15.0 oz||360||Y||Feb 2012||1,299|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||5.9 in||6.3 in||3.1 in||48.9 oz||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Nikon D6||6.3 in||6.4 in||3.6 in||44.8 oz||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.6 oz||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D3S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Olympus PEN-F||4.9 in||2.8 in||1.5 in||15.1 oz||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|Olympus E-M5 II||4.9 in||3.3 in||1.8 in||16.5 oz||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M1||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||17.5 oz||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Olympus E-P5||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||14.8 oz||330||n||May 2013||999|
|Panasonic GX7||4.8 in||2.8 in||2.2 in||14.2 oz||350||n||Aug 2013||999|
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 obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 84 percent) than the D3X, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3X features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-M5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M5 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the D3X has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M5 offers a 4:3 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24.4MP, the D3X offers a higher resolution than the E-M5 (15.9MP), but the D3X nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.76μm for the E-M5) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M5 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 2 months) than the D3X, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 Olympus E-M5 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 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 Olympus OM-D E-M5 are ISO 200 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the D3X provides substantially higher image quality than the E-M5, with an overall score that is 17 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 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.
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Olympus E-M5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||22.8||12.3||826||71|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|Panasonic GX7||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||22.6||12.2||718||70|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-M5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3X does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M5 can use is 1080/60i.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 has an electronic viewfinder (1440k dots), while the D3X has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D3X has a higher magnification than the one of the E-M5 (0.70x vs 0.58x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3X and Olympus E-M5 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the D3X, but is missing on the E-M5 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D3X has 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 E-M5 uses SDXC cards. The D3X features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-M5 only has one slot.
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 Olympus OM-D E-M5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3X (unlike the E-M5) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D3X and the E-M5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-M5 was replaced by the Olympus E-M5 II, 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 and Olympus websites.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3X and the Olympus E-M5? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Nikon D3X:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.4 vs 15.9MP) with a 26% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (17 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.58x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 610k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4400 versus 360) on a single battery charge.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in December 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M5:
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (122x89mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 835g or 66 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (84 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D3X launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3X is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 11 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3X and the Olympus E-M5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3X and the E-M5 in practical situations. 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 following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera 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.
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Olympus E-M5||+ +||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||1,299|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||..||Aug 2007||7,999|
|Nikon D6||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D4S||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Olympus PEN-F||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|Olympus E-M5 II||+ +||81/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M1||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Olympus E-P5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|Panasonic GX7||+||79/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2013||999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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 make your choice using the following search menu. 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 D3X vs Olympus E-M5
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 Model||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||December 2008||February 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 7,999||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 24.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||861.6 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24.4 Megapixels||15.9 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6048 x 4032 pixels||4608 x 3456 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.94 μm||3.76 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.83 MP/cm2||7.08 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 6,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||EXPEED||TruePic VI|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||71|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.7||22.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.7||12.3|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1992||826|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||1440k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||610k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||9 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3X||Olympus E-M5|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||4400 shots per charge||360 shots per charge|
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
122 x 89 x 43 mm
(4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in)
|Camera Weight||1260 g (44.4 oz)||425 g (15.0 oz)|
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