posted on Jun 19, 2009 at 10:12PM
Head-2-Head Review: Nikon D3x vs. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
ConclusionBy Patrick Singleton
12-RD HEAD-2-HEAD BOUT: EDITOR'S SCORECARD | USER SCORECARD
These failures pale in comparison to the major disappointment: neither camera brings anything new beyond pixel count to the market. Though they are explicitly targeted to commercial shooting – where medium- and large-format film used to reign – they're no more adapted for that style of shooting than their lower-resolution counterparts. To recap points from sections of the review: commercial shooters would be better served by cameras that had more robust, useable live view systems; autofocus that helped optimize depth of field; better in-camera features to evaluate exposure and image quality; and finally, industry-leading color, noise and dynamic range – not just resolution.
The Canon 1D Mark III and Nikon D3 are great cameras for photojournalism and similar styles of photography. They really are much better than their competition. Unfortunately, the 1Ds and the D3X are nothing more than those cameras with their pixel counts doubled. The 1D Mark III isn't full-frame, but other than that, the differences are essentially the ways in which the higher-res cameras are less convenient or functional.
All this makes economic sense. The lower-resolution cameras sell in much greater volume. They are the mainstays of the pro-level lines. The high-res versions aren't the apex of the DSLR market – they are the very low-end of the high-resolution market dominated by “medium format” digital cameras. A number of DSLR users complain about the near $8,000 price, but that's much cheaper than the cheap medium format systems. With lenses, the gap is yawning. So, the reply to our complaints about these two cameras is obvious: “What do you want for 8,000 bucks?”
With all that out of the way, here's our comparison: the Canon 1Ds Mark III beat the Nikon D3X in most measures of image quality – detail, color accuracy, noise and dynamic range. Usually not by much, but with convincing consistency. The Nikon, however, has much better autofocus and mechanics. The D3x’s ability to focus via the Live View data stream is a significant distinction, depending on how problematic heat buildup is. The comparison of Nikon and Canon user interfaces is subjective in the end. We like Nikon's variations in controls.
Our recommendation is simple. If you already have a Canon, buy the Canon 1Ds Mark III. If you have a Nikon, buy the Nikon D3X. Neither should be your first DSLR, and neither should be expected to provide an upgrade in image quality over their lines’ respective counterparts. The vertical grip, robust frame, and superior mechanics offer clear advantages, but hardly enough to justify the leap in price for very many shooters. Having said that, those comfortable investing $7,999 in a single DSLR body aren’t likely to be disappointed in either one.