These two powerhouse pro digital SLRs were announced within a week of each other. They both cost about $5000, both have HD video, fast capture rates and a ridiculously high ISO 102,400 sensitivity. It’s impossible not to wonder which one is the better camera. So I thought it would worth the effort to, as closely as possible, do a back-to-back comparison of the Nikon D3S and. the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV.
It may be a little premature for this comparison since Canon hasn’t published and sample images yet. (Note: we now have high-res studio samples for both cameras – see all digital camera studio sample photos.) But that’s ok. As more real-world testing and high-res sample photos become available we can add information in the comments section below. I did a similar article when the Nikon D90 and the Canon EOS 50D were announced (Nikon D90 vs. Canon EOS 50D vs…). At the time they seemed pretty comparable. But it quickly became clear that the Nikon D90′s super low noise made it the better camera. But for now we’ll work with what we have and compare the new 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3S by specs alone.
Editor’s Note: Since this article was published (October 22nd, 2009), we’ve received both the Nikon D3S and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV for review. I’ve added links for sample photos and an auto focus comparison on another site to this article. There’s also an updated conclusion at the end. So if you’ve already read this you might want to skip to the end. If you want to see what I’ve shot with both cameras, you can see my Canon EOS-1D Mark IV photos here, and my Nikon D3S photos here.
Compare Nikon D3S and Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Camera Specs
|Nikon D3S||Canon EOS-1D Mark IV|
|Sensor type||Full frame CMOS||APS-H CMOS (1.3x crop factor)|
|Resolution||12.1 megapixels (4256 x 2832)||16.1 megapixels (4896 x 3264)|
|Pixel size||8.45 microns||5.7 microns|
|Sensitivity||ISO 200 to 12,800 – expandable to ISO 102,400||ISO 100 to 12,800 – expandable to ISO 50 and 102,400|
|Burst rate||9 FPS (max resolution, RAW)||10 FPS (max resolution, RAW)|
|Auto focus system||51 points with 15 cross-type sensors||45 points with 39 cross-type sensors|
|Flash sync||1/250th second||1/300th second|
|Exposure bracketing||9 frames in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 stop steps||7 frames in 1/3 or 1/2, stop steps|
|Battery capacity||Approximately 4200 photos||Approximately 1500 photos|
Compare Nikon D3S and Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Video Specs
|Nikon D3S||Canon EOS-1D Mark IV|
|Video resolution||720p (1280 x 720)||1080p (1920 x 1080)|
|Video frame rate||24 FPS||30, 24, 25 FPS at 1080p / 60 FPS at 720p|
|Video focus control||Single-shot contrast-detect auto focus with live touch-up AF||Single-shot contrast-detect auto focus (pre-focus) or manual focus|
|Video exposure control||Auto and aperture priority||Auto and full manual|
|Stereo sound||With optional external stereo mic||With optional external stereo mic|
|Video file format||.AVI||.MOV|
Nikon D3S vs. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Image Quality
Let’s dig into these specs a little and see what more we can learn from them – feel free to add your own observations in the comments section at the bottom of the page! The Nikon has a 12-megapixel sensor and the Canon has a 16-megapixel sensor. Looks like the Canon is better, right? Not so fast, partner. The Nikon’s larger, full frame sensor and lower resolution means it has bigger pixels – much bigger (8.45 microns compared to the Canon’s 5.7 micron pixels). Bigger pixels mean less noise and one of the main specs both camera makers are pushing is high ISO sensitivity. Nikon has published sample images at ISO 6400 and they look wonderful. Canon has yet to publish any 1D Mark IV sample images but with about 30% less surface area on each 1D pixel, they’ll be hard pressed to match the low noise of the D3S.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Reviews & Shopping
Nikon D3S Reviews & Shopping