Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Nikon D3 vs Canon EOS-1DS Mark III

Canon's pro-level full frame offering is a very different beast to the D3; where the latter is built for speed, speed and speed the EOS-1Ds Mark III is all about resolution (all 21.1 megapixels of it). It seems almost inconceivable that Nikon doesn't have a higher resolution 'D3X' up its sleeve, but for now the D3 is your only choice if you want full frame.

Camera settings:

  • Nikon D3: Nikkor 85 mm F1.8D lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200 (default base)
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer
  • Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III: Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100 (default base) JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer
Nikon D3
Canon EOS-1DS Mark III
4.4 MB JPEG (4256 x 2382)
5.4 MB JPEG (5616 x 3744)

Aside from the obvious depth of field limitations when shooting at this distance with such large sensors (the focus point is on the front of the Baileys bottle, second crop from bottom) and the huge difference in resolution the most obvious differences here are in the level of sharpening applied (marginally higher on the Canon) and the highlight roll-off. Canon's default (Standard) picture mode uses a fairly aggressive tone curve that clips highlights quite harshly, and as we've seen in more controlled tests the D3's lower pixel density means it offers better dynamic range anyway (even if you don't see anything like what it's capable of in default JPEGs).

What you can't deny is that the EOS-1Ds Mark III is setting new standards for the level of detail you can capture with a digital SLR; there's texture in this shot we've simply never seen before. If your overriding need is for huge, detail-filled files the Canon is peerless, but for less demanding enlargements you're not going to see the resolution advantage.