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…