Nikon D4 vs Canon 1D X – Clash of the Titans

Now you all know that I never post rumors, but the purported leak of the Nikon D4 specs by my friends at Nikon Rumors is just too interesting to pass up. On first glance, the next-generation flagship from Nikon boasts very, very similar specifications to that of the recently announced Canon 1D X DSLR.

Hit the jump for the spec comparison and my thoughts on the new Nikon DSLR and how it stacks up to the formidable Canon 1D X

Nikon D4 vs Canon 1D X

On paper, the rumored Nikon D4 stacks up as a very interesting match to the beastly Canon 1D X. Here's what we have so far:

Nikon D4

Canon 1D X

Megapixels 16.2 megapixels 18.1 megapixels
Resolution 4928 x 3288 (estimated) 5184 x 3456
Native ISO Range 100 to 102,400 100 to 51,200
Expanded ISO Range 50 to 204,800 50 to 204,800
Sensor Size Full frame (36 x 24 mm) Full frame (36 x 24 mm)
Focus Points 51 AF Points 61 AF Points
Sensitivity 9 cross-type at f/8 21 cross-type at f/5.6
Format Compact Flash and XQD Compact Flash
Continuous Shooting 11 FPS 12 FPS

On paper, these cameras are incredibly similar. Both feature full-frame sensors. Needless to say, all commentary here is based on the rumored Nikon D4 specs. The Canon 1D X sports a marginal lead of 18.1 megapixels to the Nikon D4's rumored 16.2 megapixels – In terms of resolution, the difference is only about 200 additional pixels on either axis of the sensor.

In terms of the ISO sensitivity, both cameras feature the same extended range of ISO 50-204,800. The interesting thing here is that the Nikon D4 is rumored to support ISO 102,400 as the upper limit in its native range, while ISO 102,400 is an extended sensitivity for the Canon 1D X.

In my experience, Nikon is generally very “truthful” in terms of the range of sensitivities it includes in the native ISO range for its sensors, not just from a technical standpoint of calibrated sensitivities, but in what it can deliver in terms of image quality as well. In other words, I suspect that Nikon believes it can deliver very good image quality even at ISO 102,400.

Of course there's the difference in the resolution of the sensors. By the numbers, the Nikon D4 should have the advantage in terms of a larger pixel pitch to work with, but I think that the resolution of the cameras is so close that it could be anyone's game.

Autofocus is again a close area, with Nikon featuring an “improved” 51-point AF system, which is the same number of AF points we've seen in the Nikon D3x, D3s, D700 and D300. The Canon 1D X features 61 AF points, by contrast. One interesting note is that the Nikon D4 is rumored to feature 9 cross-type AF sensors sensitive down to f/8, while Canon specs 21 cross-type AF sensors at f/5.6.

Canon pulls ahead in terms of burst speed by squeezing 12fps out in contrast to the rumored 11fps of the Nikon D4. Canon also ups to 14fps if you shoot in JPG only and lock up the mirror.

One small detail is that the Nikon D4 is rumored to use the new XQD format that was just recently announced, which is set to supplant Compact Flash and offer more storage capacity and faster transfer speeds.

End Notes:

Basing actual, real world performance on specs alone is a foolish endeavor, but I think that between the Nikon D4 and Canon 1D X, we have what may just be some of the most powerful photographic tools we've seen yet for digital photography. All in all, the differences between these two cameras on paper is minuscule.

As a Nikon user, I'm glad to see a very small bump in resolution from the Nikon D3, which is my go-to camera for live music photography.

But first, we have to see whether or not these Nikon D4 specs pan out.