After I posted the article comparing the Nikon D6 to D5, a number of our readers emailed me with a request to make a comparison table with the last four generations of flagship Nikon DSLRs. I thought it was a great idea to put something like this together so that our readers can fully understand all the key differences between these cameras, which will hopefully help them to decide whether it is worth upgrading or not. While at it, I also decided to include the other three full-frame flagship cameras.
First, we will start off by comparing the specifications of the last four generations of Nikon flagship cameras – Nikon D6, D5, D4s and D4:
Nikon D6 vs D5 vs D4s vs D4 Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D6||Nikon D5||Nikon D4s||Nikon D4|
|Sensor Resolution||20.8 MP||20.8 MP||16.2 MP||16.2 MP|
|Sensor Coating||Anti-reflection coating||Anti-reflection coating||Standard||Standard|
|Sensor Pixel Size||6.45µ||6.45µ||7.30µ||7.30µ|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||5,568 x 3,712||5,568 x 3,712||4,928 x 3,280||4,928 x 3,280|
|Image Crop Options||FX, 1.2x, DX, 5:4, 1:1, 16:9||FX, 1.2x, DX, 5:4||FX, 1.2x, DX, 5:4||FX, 1.2x, DX, 5:4|
|RAW Size S||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Native ISO||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 100-25,600||ISO 100-12,800|
|Boosted ISO||ISO 50|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 5||EXPEED 4||EXPEED 3|
|Focusing Screen||Type B BriteView CM Mark X||Type B BriteView CM Mark IX||Type B BriteView CM Mark VIII||Type B BriteView CM Mark VIII|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/250||1/250||1/250|
|Storage Media||2x CFexpress, XQD||2x XQD / 2x CF||1x XQD, 1x CF||1x XQD, 1x CF|
|EXIF Version||EXIF 2.31||EXIF 2.3||EXIF 2.3||EXIF 2.3|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||14 fps with AF/AE||12 fps with AF/AE||11 fps with AF/AE||10 fps with AF/AE|
|Buffer Size (Lossless 14-bit)||200||200||78||75|
|Continuous Shooting||14.3 seconds||16.7 seconds||7.1 seconds||7.5 seconds|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 900 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Type||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS in MUP, Electronic Shutter||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS in MUP||Mechanical Shutter||Mechanical Shutter|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||400,000 cycles||400,000 cycles||400,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering RGB Sensor||180K-pixel||180K-pixel||91K-pixel||91K-pixel|
|Autofocus System||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 37K||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 20K||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX|
|Autofocus Points||105-point, 105 cross-type||153-point, 99 cross-type||51-point, 15 cross-type||51-point, 15 cross-type|
|Dedicated AF Processor||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|AF Detection Points||15 AF Points (f/8)||15 AF Points (f/8)||11 AF Points (f/8)||11 AF Points (f/8)|
|AF Detection Range||-4.5 to +20 EV||-4 to +20 EV||-2 to +19 EV||-2 to +19 EV|
|Group Area AF||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Interval Timer||Up to 9999 shots||Up to 9999 shots||Up to 9999 shots||Up to 999 shots|
|Interval Timer Exp Smoothening||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Video File Format||MOV / MP4||MOV||MOV||MOV|
|Video Compression||MPEG-4 / H.264||MPEG-4 / H.264||MPEG-4 / H.264||MPEG-4 / H.264|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3,840×2,160 @ 30p||3,840×2,160 @ 30p||1,920×1,080 @ 60p||1,920×1,080 @ 30p|
|Video Max Recording Time||105 min||29.59 min||29.59 min||29.59 min|
|Audio Recording Format||Linear PCM, AAC||Linear PCM||Linear PCM||Linear PCM|
|LCD Size||3.2″ TFT-LCD||3.2″ TFT-LCD||3.2″ TFT-LCD||3.2″ TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2.36m dots||2.36m dots||921k dots||921k dots|
|Fine Tune LCD Color||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Wired LAN||1000 Base-T||1000 Base-T||1000 Base T||100 Base T|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||3,580||3,780||3,020||2,600|
|USB Type||USB 3.1, Type C||USB 3.0, Micro-B||USB 2.0, Mini-B||USB 2.0, Mini-B|
|Weight||1,270g (Body Only)||1,240g (Body Only)||1,240g (Body Only)||1,180g (Body Only)|
|Dimensions||160.0 x 163.0 x 92.0mm||160.0 x 158.5 x 92.0mm||160.0 x 156.5 x 90.5mm||160.0 x 156.5 x 90.5mm|
Without a doubt, a lot has changed in 8 years since the release of the D4. These cameras gained more resolution, autofocus has gotten a lot better, continuous shooting speed increased from 10 fps to 14 fps, native ISO range has expanded from 100-12,800 to 100-102,400, processors got a lot faster, viewfinders clearer, buffer size increased dramatically, and many more in-camera features have been introduced. Nikon has been refining the top-of-the-line product with each iteration, making it better and better. The last two generations specifically have been very refined, as the above table shows.
Below are some of the incredible images from these flagship cameras, by our team member Robert Andersen, the author of the amazing Wildlife Photography Tutorial:
And a couple of my portrait shots:
What about the D3-generation cameras? Let’s take a look:
Nikon D3s vs D3x vs D3 Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D3s||Nikon D3x||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Resolution||12.1 MP||24.5 MP||12.1 MP|
|Sensor Pixel Size||8.46µ||5.94µ||8.46µ|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||4,256 x 2,832||6,048 x 4,032||4,256 x 2,832|
|Image Crop Options||FX, 1.2x, DX, 5:4||FX, DX, 5:4||FX, DX, 5:4|
|RAW Size S||No||No||No|
|Native ISO||ISO 200-6,400||ISO 100-1,600||ISO 200-6,400|
|Boosted ISO||ISO 100|
|Focusing Screen||Type B BriteView CM Mark VI||Type B BriteView CM Mark VI||Type B BriteView CM Mark VI|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/250||1/250|
|Storage Media||2x CF||2x CF||2x CF|
|EXIF Version||EXIF 2.21||EXIF 2.21||EXIF 2.21|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||9 fps with AF/AE||5 fps with AF/AE||9 fps with AF/AE|
|Buffer Size (Lossless 14-bit)||36||24||16|
|Continuous Shooting||4.0 seconds||4.8 seconds||1.8 seconds|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Type||Mechanical Shutter||Mechanical Shutter||Mechanical Shutter|
|Shutter Durability||300,000 cycles||300,000 cycles||300,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering RGB Sensor||1,005-pixel||1,005-pixel||1,005-pixel|
|Autofocus System||Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX||Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX||Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX|
|Autofocus Points||51-point, 15 cross-type||51-point, 15 cross-type||51-point, 15 cross-type|
|Dedicated AF Processor||No||No||No|
|AF Detection Points||51 AF Point (f/5.6)||51 AF Point (f/5.6)||51 AF Point (f/5.6)|
|AF Detection Range||-1 to +19 EV||-1 to +19 EV||-1 to +19 EV|
|Group Area AF||No||No||No|
|Interval Timer||Up to 999 shots||Up to 999 shots||Up to 999 shots|
|Interval Timer Exp Smoothening||No||No||No|
|Video File Format||MOV||N/A||N/A|
|Video Maximum Resolution||640×424 @ 24p||N/A||N/A|
|Video Max Recording Time||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Audio Recording Format||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|LCD Size||3.0″ TFT-LCD||3.0″ TFT-LCD||3.0″ TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||921k dots||921k dots|
|Fine Tune LCD Color||No||No||No|
|Battery||EN-EL4 / EN-EL4a||EN-EL4 / EN-EL4a||EN-EL4 / EN-EL4a|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||4,200||4,400||4,300|
|USB Type||USB 2.0, Mini-B||USB 2.0, Mini-B||USB 2.0, Mini-B|
|Weight||1,240g (Body Only)||1,220g (Body Only)||1,240g (Body Only)|
|Dimensions||159.5 x 157.0 x 87.5mm||159.5 x 157.0 x 87.5mm||159.5 x 157.0 x 87.5mm|
I did not bother highlighting any of the cells, because there is no point – these cameras are all great, but they have certainly aged with time. Still, it is interesting to see how the specifications of 10+ year-old cameras compare to those of the modern generations. For example, the older generation DSLRs had no video shooting capabilities, their autofocus systems were not nearly as good, especially when shooting in low-light situations. With the modern D6 able to focus down to -4.5 EV with so many cross-type focus points is a huge achievement, something we could only dream of back in the day.
I remember my excitement when I first purchased the Nikon D3s. At the time, it was the best camera on the market for action photography. Some of my most favorite images have been shot with this camera:
I even used the D3s to shoot portraits and weddings for many years:
Have you previously owned any of the Nikon flagship cameras? Please share your experience in the comments section below!
Just upgraded from my trusty old D300 to a 2nd hand D5! I think the jump in tech is going to blow my tiny little mind! Thanks for your articles Nasim… you helped me to spend my money wisely.
I had a D3 and own a D5 and D4 and a Z6 for filming.
I own a D3S and a D3X and still today my D3X has the best image quality and precision compared to D750 and D810
The D850 is maybe better but requires much more attention to the shutter speed.
Also, even if the AF from the D3X tends to be old it is much more reliable. These PRO UNIBODY cameras have something unique.
I’m on my way to jump to the D6 with a really interesting offer soon.
D6: Centre point -4.5EV, other points -4EV
D5: Centre point -4 EV, other points -3EV
1DX3: Centre point -4EV, no data on other points
1DX2: Centre point -3EV, no data on other points
In terms of low light autofocusing capability, D6’s outer focusing points is as good as the centre point of the D5 and 1DX3, and they are ALL cross type too, so you can focus with confidence! A lot of people did not notice this improvement!
Also, boosted ISO of D4 goes down to 50, not 100 as stated in the table. I am still using my D4 at the moment (which is still an amazing camera in 2021) and plans to upgrade to the D6 when the Z9 / Z9MK2 comes out. Cheers😉!
I have a D3 with the small Buffer. I purchased it new and I still use it today. It has been used hard and never let me down. Had to have it repaired when I fell in to a river with it attached to a 200-400 f4, pulled the lens off the camera when I landed on it under water.
I am looking to upgrade, thinking of going mirrorless but it will have to be the Z9 as I can’t get along with the small cameras. Will most probably end up with a D6, look forward to an upgrade in the AF department what ever the final choice.
Hey Nasim. Just a heads up, the native iso for the d3s is wrong. It should say 200-12800, not 200-6400. 👍🏽
I had D3s and must admit that it’s colors rendition is far mor pleasant than my D4s and D850.
D850 I like the focus speed and great resolution.
D4s is my money maker as a weddings photographer, no need more than it’s resolution and almost no need for PP
Although I have been following your web page for many years, I just came across this article today. Thank you for this comparison of the big Ds!
I have been using a D3s with top prime lenses for ~ 10 yrs. and still love it. I feel it’s time to upgrade to a D850 or D5/6 – mostly because I’d love to have some faster auto-focussing. Other than that, the D3s still rocks and produces amazing pictures. Plus, the battle scars we had together have formed kind of a bond…
Anyway, I love your reviews and your informative articles very much!
Keep on rocking!
I own a D3 and a D4. I´m still enthusiastic about both of them despite their age. I use them mainly for reportages, adventure- & travel-photography and also architecture in a professional, commercial way. Maybe i will get a D850 for architecture, but i´m satisfied with my 2 Bodies. If D3 (180.000 counts) dies, i will replace it with a D5 or than with a D6 or D6s. The D4 has a renewed shutter. I don´t like the digital viewfinders of the mirrorless systems and i also love the weight of that bodies, if you have longer exposure-times without tripod, to stabilize them.
PS: I am still impressed by the autofocus system of the D4!
True. I also like the weigh and size of pro and semi pro dslrs. And of course natural viewfinders. I own D3s and D800 . There is no universal camera in Nikon line up any more . D850 could be my next choice – if it had lower resolution.
ho letto di qualcuno che scrive di “obsolescenza” con una D4, beh, e io che scatto con una D2X cosa dovrei dire ?! e pensate che le immagini siano del tipo “obsoleto” ?? ciao ragazzi, ciao.