Canon 1Dx vs. Nikon D4 – Battle Lines
Canon & Nikon Heavyweights
Some have asked me why I haven’t written or commented on the Canon 1Dx when it was first released. My response, I knew Nikon was right behind with a release of their next Pro body. It’s not a real surprise that both these companies have released these bodies when they have, heck the Summer 2012 Olympics are right around the corner. What surprises me is Canon is first out of the gate with an announcement of their 1Dx but it looks like Nikon will be first out with an actual release of the camera.
Both bodies are now full frame with Canon’s 18.1 megapixel edging out Nikon’s 16.2 megapixel. Having said that image quality (IQ) is where it is all at and proof is yet to be determined. As a Canon shooter I have to say I like the 1.3x crop of the 1D4 body for my wildlife shooting.
Winner: Canon 1DX (but has to prove IQ)
Let’s call these machines what they are… speed demons. Both are FAST and designed as such for sports and wildlife photographers. At their fastest settings the 1Dx delivers a blistering fast rate of 14 frames per second vs. D4’s 11 fps. It should be noted that this speed is achieved by maintaining the initial focus and exposure from the first frame. During this rapid fire sequence the mirror remains in the upright position.
Winner: Canon 1DX
Remember the days when shooting ISO 800 on film was treading on dangerous grainy territory? In the digital world these concerns are gone, with the D4’s standard range of 100-12,800 and 1Dx’s range of 100-51,200 it’s difficult to really say which is better although at the standard ISO range Canon does have a full 2 stop of light advantage. Only when we are able to get our hands images from real life shooting will we really be able to say which has a cleaner image in terms of digital noise.
Winner: Canon 1Dx (but could be called a Tie as how many shooters are really shooting over 12,800?)
Many shooters use multiple auto focus points when shooting in fast action environments. In shooting wildlife I typically only use 1 focus point and will move it around in the viewfinder for compositional purposes. The 1Dx has 61 AF points whereas the D4 has 51. One would immediately think that the 1Dx has this one won, however Canon in its infinite wisdom decided that autofocus would only work with lenses with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 vs. f/8.0 for Nikon. Why does this matter? Well, as soon as you put your 1.4x or 2.0x teleconverter on your 100-400mm f/4.5 – 5.6 lens you will no longer have autofocus.
Winner: Draw (Canon for 61 AF points; Nikon for maximum aperture focusing)
This is one area that comes right down to personal preference. Both cameras have some nice features added that you’ll like. I’ve often told people when they are looking to buy their first DSLR they should hold the camera in their hand and get a feel for the camera, which one feels natural to them to use. Check out the menu, buttons, dials, displays, etc.
Canon has redesigned the menu system in the 1Dx and finally (Thank you) added an additional mini-joystick controller (for vertical shooting). Nikon has added two mini-joysticks and button illumination for using the camera in low-light situations (oh yah).
Winner: You choose!
This is an area that Canon has excelled at since the release of the 5D Mark II. Canon also has great video in their 7D, 60D and 1D4 bodies. Nikon clearly had to catch up in the Video department. It’s surprising just how quickly video has become important to the pro photographer’s overall arsenal of tools.
While Canon excelled at video with the 5D Mark II, Nikon has one upped it with some interesting features in the D4 by offering different formats with the same lens for different crops and depth of field effects.
Canon has a new Digic 5 processor on board to reduce noise from video. At the same time the camera is now capable of automatically creating separate files once 4GB of video has been recorded.
Winner: Tie (mostly because I’m a still photographer first, I’ll let the video guys debate this one but either body will be awesome HD cameras)
About the time Canon finally decides to put two CF cards in their pro line body, Nikon goes in a different direction by going away from two CF cards to having one CF card and one Sony XQD card. While the XQD card is faster and smaller than the CF card, one has to wonder where it will lead to (Remember the Sony Beta tape?)
While I personally like the size of the CF cards over that of the SD cards I have to admit I can see why camera manufacturers like the smaller SD cards over that of the much larger CF cards. Only time will tell the success of XQD cards, but it does look like the overall industry is in favour of them.
Winner: Who knows? But thank you Canon for finally putting two CF cards in the body and eliminating the one SD card slot has gone mostly empty by most pros. Nikon, thank you for taking a leading edge approach to camera design and not afraid to take a chance.
It’s difficult to say at this point which camera will truly come out on top. Canon has the image resolution, frame rate edge over Nikon, however Nikon has always excelled with unique little features (memory cards) that make it a very attractive offering.
Nikon has a suggested retail price coming in lower than Canon and with an earlier delivery by 1 month (likely not enough to dissuade a buyer from Canon over Nikon). In the end I tell every user “pick the body you like for the reasons you like… you truly can’t go wrong with either!”