Sunday, 20 April 2014

Canon EOS 1D X vs. Nikon D4s: All you need to know

Jeffrey Morgan | On 20, Apr 2014

The Nikon D4s is the new kid on the block, showing off its shiny new Expeed 4 processor and presenting itself as the quintessential DSLR for professionals in photography. Meanwhile, Canon is still relying on the cool kid, the EOS-1D X, which has been on the market since March 2012. While the aging 1D X is still the go-to professional flagship of Canon, Nikon plans to tighten the competition with their D4s. Previously, I’ve made comparisons between the Nikon D4s and its predecessor, the D4, but how does the D4s compare to a true competitor such as the EOS-1D X?

Though similar in many areas, the Canon EOS-1D X ($6799.00, estimated retail) and the Nikon D4s ($6499.95, estimated retail) begin to show their competitive differences once you begin to break down both devices to the little details. Under a microscope, we begin to see differences in design quality, shooting speed, image processing, and movie recording, and as we make our comparisons, we begin to notice that not much has changed in the time since the release of the Canon EOS-1D X.


On an epidermal level, both cameras are built with sturdy material that can be partially or completely absent from cheaper models. Both have tough shells with full weatherproofing. You’re not going to find cheap plastic on these models. You get what you pay for.

In a match of size, the Canon EOS-1D X enters the ring at 6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3 in. (158 x 163.6 x 82.7 mm) and weighing 53.8 oz. (1526 g). Meanwhile, the Nikon D4s comes in at 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in. (160 x 156.5 x 90. 5 mm) and weighs 41.6 oz. (1180 g). Despite both being very similar in size, it seems the D4s squeaks through with a slightly more portable body. But, as they say, it’s not the size that counts.


Both have several important functions. The 1D X is one of few in its class to feature two CF memory card slots, which can prove to be handy, especially when it comes to hot-swapping cards, which is essential for action photographers and videographers. The Nikon 4Ds contains only one CF slot and a slot for the less popular (but more powerful) XQD card. Despite the lack of easy card swapping, the D4s does win in the category of read/write speeds, if the user decides to take advantage of the XQD slot.

Both viewfinders provide 100% coverage. In viewfinder magnification, Canon beats Nikon by 6%, maxing out 76%. However, the 4Ds features nifty little auto-dimming LEDs that show the autofocus area with covering anything up with AF points.


Besides the viewfinder, we can also turn to the LCD screens for viewing. They each contain live view mode, which has become standard on most DSLR devices. Nikon D4s has a slight advantage, with the inclusion of an auto brightness setting for their LCD display. In terms of size, both displays are 3.2 inches (8 cm).

Playback features in the firmware for the 1D X and the D4s are relatively the same. Quality and shooting information, histograms, magnification, image rotation, slideshows, playback are all standard features on both models, making little difference in overall quality. Behind that display, powering the firmware, we seen the parts that really make the difference.


Image Quality

At 18 megapixels, Canon EOS-1D X’s full-frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS sensor beats the Nikon D4s by a hair. Still, the D4s’ full-frame (36 x 23.9 mm) CMOS sensor keeps a professional pace with 16.2 megapixels. Not too shabby. Both cameras are capable of producing RAW (14-bit), large JPEG, medium JPEG, small JPEG, and small RAW size files. The EOS-1D X also has the additional M-RAW option, while the D4s can exclusively create TIFF files.

For the EOS-1D X, the ISO sensitivity maxes out 51200 (Hi-2: 204800), while the D4s can reach 25600 (Hi-4: 409600). Though, the EOS-1D X wins with a higher normal ISO, the D4s can double the Canon’s ISO in the Hi setting.

Now, when it comes to endurance, both cameras can get quite a few shots from a single charge of their respective batteries. The EOS-1D X’s LP-E4 Li-ion battery can get an average of 1120 shots, but the D4s is more efficient with its EN-EL 18a Li-ion battery with an average of 3020 shots per charge, almost tripling Canon’s offering.

Processing Speed

Inside the body of D4s, Nikon’s brand-new Expeed 4 processor is turning the gears faster than its predecessor, the D4 (Expeed 3), but does it compete with EOS-1D X’s DIGIC 4 image processor? Keep in mind, the Canon EOS-1D X has been out since 2012, so any lack of speed could be due to the aging technology inside the device, however, there is also a reason that Canon still relies on this processor, despite its age.

The EOS-1D X still shows superiority by averaging a maximum of 12 FPS on continuous shooting. Even with its newer processor, the D4s is still only averaging 11 FPS. On the other hand, image quality has gotten a boost in the D4s, producing images that are about 10% higher in quality than those of the EOS-1D X.


Handling of focus is another important job of the processor and a necessity for any action photographer, so it’s good to know that autofocus speeds and points serve their purpose for both of these competing camera models. The more focus points, the more accurately you can autofocus the subject within the frame.

The Canon EOS-1D X is the more accurate camera, with 61 AF points, including 41 cross-type points. The Nikon D4s contains 51 AF points, but falls short, with only 15 of those being cross-type points. The D4s’ AF strengths lie with the inclusion of continuous video focus, which can’t be done with the EOS-1D X.

Video and Audio Recording

And the video perks of the D4s don’t just stop at automatic focusing. A combination of higher dynamic range and better color depth for images and video means that more life is breathed into everything produced by the Nikon D4s.

While the Canon EOS-1D X is limited to 1920 x 1080 30/25/24p, the D4s can also shoot at an additional 60p and 50p. Nikon also gives videographers and cinematographers more shooting options by offering a wider range of compatible lenses from both the DX and FX series. The D4s offers 4 image area choices, including FX format, 5:4 crop, 1.2x crop, and DX format, as well as a few HD options.

For the audio, both cameras have auto and manual level controls to choose from, allowing for professional audio recording straight to camera.

The Canon EOS-1D X and the Nikon D4s prove to be a fairly even matched. Each provides their own slight strengths and weaknesses, even coming to a draw in some areas. The Nikon 4Ds proves to be a great choice for aspiring videographers and cinematographers, offering a wider range of recording options, while the Canon EOS-1D X is a better choice for action photographers, with more focus points, higher resolution, and a faster shooting speed. Which model you choose all depends on the uses you’re looking to get out of your professional DSLR camera.

Canon EOS 1D X vs. Nikon D4s: All you need to know

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