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Nikon D4 versus Nikon D3X

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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D3X is provided 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 use the toggle button 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 D4 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3X
Compare D4 versus D3X top
Compare D4 and D3X rear

In this particular case, the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D3X have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the D3X is markedly lighter (6 percent) than the D4. 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.

Concerning battery life, the D4 gets 2600 shots out of its EN-EL18 battery, while the D3X can take 4400 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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 D4» 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3X« 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
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
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 D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. 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: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3X

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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.

Nikon D4 and Nikon D3X 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). Yet, 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 further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

D4 versus D3X 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. 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 D4» Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D3X« Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094Nikon D600
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3

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

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3X

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D4 and the D3X 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 D4 and Nikon D3X 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 D4»optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D3X«optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n Nikon D600
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3

Both the D4 and the D3X 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.

Review summary: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D3X

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D4 better than the Nikon D3X or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D4:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • 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 introduced 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.


Advantages of the Nikon D3X:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 16.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 23%.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4400 versus 2600) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in December 2008).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D4 emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 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.

D4 06:04 D3X

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D4 or the D3X. 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 expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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 D4»--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3X«-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3

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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

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 do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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