Compared to...

Usually for our studio image quality comparisons we select the nearest competition by category, specification, price and feature set. In the case of the Nikon D3X this is a relatively simple task. The only other camera on the market that is comparable to the D3X in all these areas is the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. However, in this comparison we've also included Sony's flagship DSLR, the A900. From a specification and features point of view it's not in the same bracket as the Nikon but interestingly sports an almost identical sensor to the D3X. The field is being completed by the D3X's sister model, the D3. It's targeted at a different user group but nevertheless will be regarded as an alternative by many potential D3X buyers.

Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down (F8-F9). Here we have used the Nikon 85 mm F1.8D, the Canon EF 85 mm F1.8 and the Sony 85 mm F1.4 ZA (we use 85mm lenses on full frame cameras to give approximately the same field of view as a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor camera).

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 D3X vs Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Camera settings:

  • Nikon D3X: Nikkor 85 mm F1.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100 (default base)
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Normal), 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 D3X
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
7.3 MB JPEG (6048 x 4032)
5.4 MB JPEG (5616 x 3744)

At base ISO and in controlled lighting the difference between these two flagship cameras is small, but at a pixel level the D3X manages to squeeze some visible extra detail out of its imaging pipeline which is at least partly due to a slightly stronger default sharpening. The sharpening is well balanced though and the Nikon delivers clean and artifact-free JPEG output with an astounding level of detail, setting a new standard in this area. One has to keep in mind though that at this level of sensor resolution the lens plays a vital role and you're only likely to achieve this level of detail when using stopped-down glass of the highest quality.