Now that the Nikon D6 has been officially released, it is time for us to take a look at how it compares to its main rival, the Canon 1D X Mark III. Both cameras are aimed at professional sports and wildlife photographers, and both appeal to their own niche audiences from particular brand. So it is not really a question of which camera is better, as photographers from both sides are not likely to switch brands. The point of this comparison is to simply see which brand is aiming higher with their flagship product. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the key specifications of the two cameras and compare them side-by-side.
First, we will compare the physical appearance and ergonomics of the two cameras.
Nikon D6 vs Canon 1D X Mark III Camera Design and Ergonomics
Both cameras obviously have very different appearances and ergonomics, specifically tailored to their users. The two cameras have very smooth and curvy appearances, with deeply recessed rubber grips for exceptional handling. Having previously used both Nikon’s and Canon’s flagship products, I have to say that although they are quite different ergonomically, they provide equally superb shooting experience in the field. Things like button placement, menu system and overall feel can take some time to get used to, which is why any cross-brand comparisons should always be taken with a huge grain of salt.
Canon has always pushed for a rotary dial in its top DSLR cameras, and the Canon 1D X Mark III continues this trend. As you can see from the below image that compares the back of both D6 and 1D X Mark III, the rotary dial is huge, and it is very comfortable to use when wearing gloves:
Canon also went with a larger joystick than Nikon, although I’ve never had any problems using Nikon’s joystick with gloves. So I would not say that the larger joystick necessarily translates to more efficient or more comfortable shooting experience. The button layout between the two cameras is obviously very different, with Nikon D6 being more left-heavy, while the Canon 1D X Mark III is more right-heavy.
I like what Canon has done with the buttons on the vertical grip – they are placed in almost equal distance to the buttons in landscape orientation. Nikon, on the other hand, could not do that because of the memory card door taking more space, so the AF-ON button and the joystick are shifted a bit lower. Not a huge deal, but something worth pointing out.
There are also functional and ergonomic differences on the top of these cameras. While Nikon uses a three button layout on top of a dial to change between different shooting modes and settings, Canon accomplishes that with the help of buttons and dials instead.
Overall, like I have already pointed out earlier, both cameras are designed to handle exceptionally well in the field.
Nikon D6 vs Canon 1D X Mark III Specification Comparison
Let’s now take a look at how these cameras compare in terms of specifications:
|Camera Feature||Nikon D6||Canon 1D X Mark III|
|Sensor Resolution||20.8 MP||20.1 MP|
|Sensor Pixel Size||6.45µ||6.58µ|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||5,568 x 3,712||5,472 x 3,648|
|Image Formats||RAW, JPEG||RAW, JPEG, HEIF|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 100-102,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 204,800-3,280,000||ISO 50, ISO 204,800-819,200|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||DIGIX X|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/250|
|Storage Media||2x CFexpress Type B, XQD||2x CFexpress Type B|
|Continuous Shooting Speed OVF||14 FPS with AF/AE||16 FPS with AF/AE|
|Continuous Shooting Speed LV||10.5 FPS||20 FPS|
|Buffer Size||200 shots||1000 shots|
|Continuous Shooting||14.3 seconds||62.5 seconds|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 900 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Type||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS, Electronic Shutter||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS, Electronic Shutter|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||500,000 cycles|
|Autofocus Points||105-point, 105 cross-type AF system||191-point, 90 cross-type AF system|
|AF Detection Points||15 Center AF Points, Up to f/8||191 AF Points (65 cross-type), Up to f/8|
|AF Detection Range||-4.5 to +20 EV||-4 to +21 EV|
|On-Sensor Phase-Detection AF||No||Yes, Dual Pixel CMOS AF|
|Video File Format||MOV, MP4||MP4, CRM|
|Video Compression||MPEG-4 H.264||MPEG-4 H.264 / H.265|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3,840×2,160 (4K) up to 30p||5,472×2,886 (5.5K) up to 60p|
|RAW Video Recording||No||Yes|
|10-bit HDMI Output||No, 8-bit 4:2:2||Yes, 10-bit 4:2:2|
|Video Autofocus||Contrast-Detect AF||Phase-Detect AF via Dual Pixel CMOS AF|
|Audio Recording Format||Linear PCM, AAC||Linear PCM, AAC|
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2.36-Million Dots||2.1-Million Dots|
|Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in Wired LAN||1000 Base-T Support||1000 Base-T Support|
|Battery Life||3,580 shots (CIPA)||2,850 shots (CIPA)|
|USB Type||USB 3.1, Type C||USB 3.1, Type C|
|Weight||1,270g (Body Only)||1,250g (Body Only)|
|Dimensions||160.0 x 163.0 x 92.0mm||158.0 x 167.6 x 82.6mm|
While both cameras have very similar sensor resolution, it is clear that Canon has better overall specs on paper, especially when it comes to continuous shooting speed, buffer, live view autofocusing and video shooting capabilities. With its insane 16 FPS shooting speed that can be increased to 20 FPS when shooting in live view mode, and a practically unlimited buffer of 1000 shots (that’s RAW + JPEG!), the Canon 1D X Mark III will keep on going and going when shooting in bursts. Nikon’s buffer is limited to 200 images, although with the use of fast CFexpress cards, it will likely not be an issue anyway.
The autofocus systems on both cameras are exceptionally good, but the Canon 1D X Mark III edges out the Nikon D6 in live view shooting. The Canon 1D X Mark III sports Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with on-sensor phase-detection autofocus capability, so it is able to accurately track subjects and perform very precise eye autofocus. The Nikon D6 sadly still relies on contrast-detect autofocus, which is very slow in comparison. This might not be a big deal for most types of action photography, but for portraiture and video work, the Canon 1D X Mark III is definitely going to maintain a competitive edge.
Speaking of video, the Canon 1D X Mark III is an incredible video camera as well, something the Nikon D6 simply cannot compete with. Nikon decided to keep video shooting capabilities limited to 4K @ 30p, and 8-bit 4:2:2 output from its HDMI port. Canon, on the other hand, went all in with video features, pushing for 5.5K video shooting in 12-bit RAW at up to 60p, as well as DCI 4K and 4K shooting capabilities. In combination with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF, these video features make the Canon 1D X Mark III one of the best video cameras on the market today. I wonder why Nikon decided to limit video recording features on the D6, considering that it already has the technology to implement both on-sensor phase-detection AF and 4K RAW video on the Nikon Z6.
It looks like Nikon missed a few marks with the D6 when compared to its main rival, although these differences might not matter for most Nikon shooters out there…
I have the D6 and have no experience of the Canon equivalent. I can vouch for the quality of the D6 at ISO beyond 6400 which is a common experience for me when shooting BIF early in the morning at 1/3200, I can safely shoot up to ISO 20,000 with judicious Topaz Noise reduction.
I am a Nikon shooter since the early 1980’s when the FM was the camera to have!! Back then it was film …36 shots …. roll the film back in and change. Business and raising a family put me out of the loop for a couple decades . Now I’m back into it big time ! Grandkids makes it easy to want to freeze memories again. I have been shooting with the Nikon d6 and loved it so much bought a second d6 so I didn’t have to change lenses so often. 70-200 f2.8 on one and the 24-70 f 2.8 on the other. Now with all of this back and fourth with the canon being better then the Nikon d6 and visa versa! Plus the olympics put this on the front page . So I wanted to really find out myself what camera is better ? So I went and bought a canon 1dx mark iii with the same lenses a mentioned above . After hands on the past couple of weeks I still don’t know what camera is better ! They both are great tools …. That’s how I look at them , tools to get the job at hand done as accurately and as fast as possible to get the pics loaded in my computer. I like the nikons AF customization with the C1 and C2 . I also like the canons AF system as a whole . The AF back button focus being able to move the AF point around is nice but it’s a bit to sensitive . Sometimes I like it other times I turn it off. I like the joystick on the d6 better then the joystick on the canon. I like the dial on canon for scrolling though my pictures , but sometimes the dial I accidentally change my aperture with my face when shooting. Both cameras have pros and cons …. Both are great tools !Both have great picture quality! I’ll keep shooting with both tools and have fun with these fabulous cameras!!! Ken Miks Sr
Although I am a Nikon shooter, I have to admit the Canon 1DX Mark III is in basically all areas superior to the Nikon D6. For me the Nikon D6 is a bizmo, a bummer, not worth even half the price. What a disappointment, looks like Nikon is at its knees. For me it is clear now, I will leave the sinking Nikon ship and migrate to Sony for my Wildlife work. Good bye, Nikon.
And what happens after the next upgrades when Nikon bests Canon again like has happened so many times in the past? Will you switch again? Do you switch every time one comes out with a marginally better offering? Are you really a Nikon shooter or a Canon fanboy poser?
what’s wrong with wanting the best performance cameras for your work? You’re the fanboy if you stick to a septic brand even if they are obviously inferior. Sad.
Simply put, the enhanced AF-On button on the 1dx, which lets you move a focus point more easily than any other camera, is revolutionary. Me and my camera buddies who have had a chance to play with it are all very impressed. FWIW, I am a longtime Nikon user and never cared for Canon but it’s a game changer. Nikon on the ropes.
Specs wise the D6 is a disappointment in even the most ardent Nikon hardcore supporter’s eyes. Using the same old technology is just an unforgivable sin. THEY DROPPED THE BALL. The only saving grace could be if for some reason the brand new AF module turns out to be beyond amazing during the Olympics.
Spell check altered your name in my last post! Apologies.
Quick note on the buffer. The d6 isn’t just 200 shots it’s a fixed limitation in case the shutter is held down accidentally in a bag or some other way. The cards should clear that 200 almost instantly. It’s not the first time Nikon has done that the d5 and 500 did the same no? So I wouldn’t say the d6 buffer is worse then then canons just a different approach. You have to untap the shutter and back on after 200 shots.
Thanks for mentioning this. I was about to make the same comment. It’s a smart limitation frankly.
That’s right. With a momentary release of the shutter button the D6 will fire off another 200 shots and then another and so on. So the win for this feature should go to Nikon. With the Canon you would have 1000 large files (5 times as many as the Nikon) eating up memory card space and requiring deletion if the button gets accidentally pressed.
Why dont you personally prefer dslr cameras with this form factor?
As the point was made, I suspect those interested in either body aren’t going to be said by relatively minor differences. However it’s pretty clear to me that canon has the definite edge with most things here. Which personally pleases me as I’m a Canon man with EF lenses. My one wish though is that Canon will either produce a super zoom L series lens or produce an adaptor that permits dlsr users to employ RF lenses on their cameras. Personally I’d love a 100-400mm EF lens or an adapter to use it on an dslr. If canon would produce a fast lens of around 50-500mm.in EF, that would be my dream lens, preferably F2. 8L. Returning to the cameras, I imagined that Nikon would have had to pull out something very special from the bag to top the mk3! I think canon will maintain the dslr crown for some while now. Hooray! Sony will have put their heads together if they want to topple the mk3!
The Nikon D6’s 14 fps shooting speed is just for E-type lenses I believe, but I haven’t seen what the speed is for G-type lenses. Does anyone know that?
I have a feeling that D6 is the minimal update wwith least effort just for the sake of Olympics to keep Nikon shooter have something new to chew on. All Nikon effort is now on the mirrorless system, which is a good new. I hope in 2 years, nikon can have a complete new mICL to replace the D6. then the transition is complete.