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Canon and Nikon's Flagship Digital SLRs Wage WAR!

Canon and Nikon's Flagship Digital SLRs Wage WAR! - Gary Wolstenholme compares these two heavyweights to see if either is capable of delivering a knock-out blow. In this clash of the titans he pits the top end press cameras from Canon and Nikon against each other.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Nikon D3s
Price : £1,900
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon vs Nikon Side by Side Comparison

Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S Features


These flagship cameras are designed for superior speed, image quality in low light and are built to take the rough and tumble of daily use, as required by press photo photographers, who may be required to work in difficult conditions, day in, day out. Advances in sensor technology in the last year or so have produced cameras that are able to take images in incredibly difficult condition, at very high sensitivities, that just wouldn't have been possible with film.

Canon vs Nikon Side by Side Comparison

Here is a quick summary of each camera's main features with any superior features highlighted. For the purposes of this comparison, the latest firmware has been installed on each camera.

  Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Resolution 16.1Mp 12.1Mp
Sensor 27.9mm x 18.6mm CMOS (APS-H 1.3x crop) 36.0 × 23.9 mm CMOS (35mm Full frame)
Native ISO Range ISO100-12800 ISO200-12800
Expanded ISO Range Up to ISO102400 (H3) Lo-1 (ISO100) up to Hi-3 (ISO102400)
Max Continuous Shooting Rate 10fps 9fps (11fps in DX crop mode)
Flash Synch Speed 1/300sec 1/250sec
Video Mode 1920 x 1080 @ 29.97 fps 1,280 × 720 @ 24 fps
AF System 45 point with 39 f/2.8 cross-type AF points 51 point with 15 cross type AF points
LCD Screen 3.0inch, approx. 920K dots 3inch, approx. 921k-dot
Weather Sealing Yes Yes
Construction Magnesium Alloy Magnesium Alloy
Weight 1180g 1240g
Firmware Version 1.1.0 1.01

It is clear to see, that there is little to choose between the two cameras on paper, which is to be expected as both cameras are right on the bleeding edge of technology for this type of camera. There are some areas where one camera scores over another, but only by very slight margins. For example, the Canon has a slightly higher resolution sensor, is slightly lighter and has a higher resolution video mode, whereas the Nikon is capable of shooting at higher speeds in DX crop mode, and has a marginally higher resolution screen.

The major separator between the two cameras is the size of the sensor. Canon have opted to retain the APS-H size sensor of previous 1D-series models, whereas the D3S has a 35mm full frame sensor. The advantages of the crop are with longer telephoto lenses, where the narrower angle of view recorded allows for tighter crops with shorter lenses. For example, a 300mm lens on the Canon will give roughly the same view as a 400mm lens on the Nikon. The downside of this is that it may be difficult to source lenses at the wider end for the Canon. Nikon's 14-24mm f/2.8 lens has garnered a superb reputation and is perfect for getting in close to the action. Currently Canon's widest zoom lens is the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, which with the 1.3 crop factor, will provide an angle of view equivalent to a 21mm lens. Also, the lower resolution of the Nikon, coupled with the larger sensor size results in larger photosites on the sensor, which should also result in better noise performance at high ISO sensitivities. The purpose of this comparison will be to see where the differences lie and weather either camera has a clear advantage in any key areas, such as AF or ISO performance of handling.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Handling


From a distance, if the manufacturer's logos were obscured, it would be very difficult to tell each camera apart, save for the red flash on the grip of the D3S. Both cameras are virtually the same size and weight, and the extra 60g the D3S weighs over the Canon is virtually imperceivable.

Both cameras are incredibly well-built, as you might expect and you really have to look closely to find any clear differences. With the lens removed, the larger lens mount of the Canon is an obvious difference, as is the size of the viewfinder matte screen, which can be seen reflected in the reflex mirror. When viewed from the rear, the large selector dial sets the Canon apart fro the Nikon, as does the design of the viewfinder eyepiece, with Nikon opting for a larger circular design. The LCD screens on both cameras are bright and clear, making reviewing images and navigating menus a pleasure.

Canon vs Nikon Side by Side Comparison

Both camera are a similar size and weight. The smaller viewfinder reflection in the mirror of the Canon is due to the smaller APS-H sensor.

Basic features like information screens and memory card slots are very similarly designed on both cameras. Both cameras sport an intuitive control layout, although the tiny joystick controller on the Canon can be difficult to reach when shooting in portrait orientation.

Canon vs Nikon Side by Side Comparison
Looking more closely at the Canon, connections for HDMI output, a microphone, remote release and a PC flash socket are all located on the outside edge under rubber flaps, which can be rotated out of harms way.

The weather sealed memory card door is opened by rotating a small latch on the rear. Inside are a slot for a Compactflash card, and one for SD/SDHC, but not SDXC as yet. The slots can each be configured to receive Raw files or JPEGs independently or simultaneously as a backup, or one card can be designated for videos, whilst the other records images. It's a nice feature to have, but I find it a little strange that the photographer would have to carry two separate card formats to make the most of this feature.

The large LP-E4 battery has a capacity of 2300mAh and comes as a one-piece unit with the weather sealed cover permanently attached, making swift battery changes a doddle. The camera feel s very comfortable to hold in either portrait or landscape orientations, thanks in part to the soft rubber that covers much of the body. However the placement of the small joystick controller means that it can be difficult to reach when shooting in portrait orientation, at least without some finger gymnastics to reach across the rear of the body. Other controls are very well placed, and although the buttons aren't overly large, they can be operated easily enough with gloves, as they stand proud from the camera body.

Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Memory Cards
Connections for HDMI, USB, microphone, remote release and a PC socket are all located on the side of the camera. One socket for a Compactflash card and one for an SD card are included. Each can be configured to accept Raw files, JPEGs, or video but it strikes me as a bit odd having to carry two separate card formats to use this facility.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Battery
The viewfinder eyepiece provides plenty of nose clearance. A dioptre adjustment control is located under the rubber eye cup. The 2300mAh LP-E4 battery comes as one unit with the clip attached permanently, making quick battery changes straightforward.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Top Canon EOS 1D Mk IV LCD
Canon controls on the top left of the camera. Canon LCD and top controls.

Large rubber flaps cover the USB port, HDMI, microphone, AV out and the mains power connection. The remote release and PC sync socket are located separately on the front, also protected by individual rubber covers. The flaps cannot be moved out of the way and tend to spring back over the connections, which can be a little awkward. Also the location of the PC socket can occasionally lead to the connection becoming loose when using the camera in portrait orientation, as it is very easy to nudge it when supporting the lens with your hand. Other than that, all the buttons and controls are easily accessible making the camera very easy to use under pressure. The buttons for menus and other features are nice and large, which makes operation with gloves bearable, although the ISO, image quality and white balance controls could do with being larger, as they can be a little fiddly.

Just as with the Canon, soft rubber grips cover much of the exterior, making the camera very comfortable to hold. The memory card door is located under the grip on the rear and is released by lifting a metal guard and pressing a button. Inside are two Compactflash slots, capable of being configured in much the same way as the Canon. To me this makes much more sense than the dual format system on the 1D MkIV, as it means only one memory card format needs to be carried.

Due to Nikon's line of battery grips, which are compatible with the same EN-EL4a battery, the battery cover comes separate to the battery block and needs to be removed when changing batteries (unless you purchase spares). Although not a major issue, I can see times where a battery may need to be changed in a hurry, or in the dark, that may make this a problem.

Nikon D3s Ports Nikon D3s Memory Cards
Nikon D3S connections for USB, HDMI, microphone, AV out and a socket for mains power. A connection for a remote release and a PC flash socket are located on the front. Two Compactflash card slots can be configured to store images concurrently, or simultaneously so that one card is effectively a backup. They can also be configured so that one card receives Raw files, whilst the other receives JPEG images, or videos.
Nikon D3s Nikon D3s Battery
A wide viewfinder eyepiece is very easy to use when wearing spectacles, and the dioptre adjustment is located on the side of the prism. Changing the 2500mAh EN-EL4a battery can be a bit fiddly, as the weather sealed clip has to be detached. Luckily the battery lasts an age on each charge.
Nikon D3s Top Nikon D3s LCD
Nikon controls, top left. Nikon LCD and controls.

Viewfinder
The viewfinder eyepiece on the Canon protrudes quite a distance from the body, which reduces the chance of pressing controls with your face or nose, especially if you are a left-eye shooter. AF points are illuminated bright red when activated and disappear almost completely from view when not in use, providing a clear view for composition. The viewfinder is bright, clear and quite large, making it easy to confirm focus, even in low light.

On the D3S the viewfinder eyepiece doesn't protrude from the body as far as the Canon, and so may not be as comfortable for left-eye shooters to use, especially as the multi selector and AE-L buttons are just to the right of the viewfinder. Af points also light up red on this camera, but are not as bright as those on the Canon, and are much smaller in the viewfinder, which can sometimes make them difficult to see by comparison. The viewfinder magnification is slightly less than that of the Canon, so the viewfinder appears roughly the same size, even thought the sensor is larger.

Both manufacturers have adopted a similar approach to the layout of information, which works well in both cases. Canon have also added battery information and what file format is being recorded, which can be useful to save shooting everything in JPEG when you meant to shoot Raw files. Both viewfinders have a counter showing how many shots remain in the buffer, which is especially useful given the high frame rates of both cameras.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Viewfinder Nikon D3s Viewfinder
A bright, clear viewfinder with clear information and focusing points graces the EOS 1D MkIV. Information on the D3S viewfinder is also clearly displayed, although the AF points can be a little more difficult to see and there is no battery or file format information.

As far as handling is concerned, both cameras feel excellent to use and are built to exceptionally high standards. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The viewfinder display is more pleasant to use on the Canon, as the more simple battery design, but for me, the dual memory card formats and placement of the joystick controller let it down somewhat. It is virtually impossible to separate these two cameras, but the Canon just edges it in this department for me due to the viewfinder. The information is clearer and the AF points are easier to see and select.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Performance

Both cameras were put through their paces in a variety of conditions and all images were taken in RAW + JPEG for comparison.

Exposure

For evaluating exposures, the 1D MkIV comes equipped with a 63-zone meter, which uses the selected AF point in its exposure calculation. Partial and spot metering modes are also available and the spot metering can be configured in a number of ways. It can either be fixed to the centre, or it can follow the AF point selected. The working range of this meter is 0-20 EV at 23 degrees with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, which should ensure good performance in low light conditions.

Overall the Canon's evaluative metering work well, producing balanced exposures in a wide range of conditions. In harshly backlit conditions the meter works particularly well for an evaluative system, as it gives preference to the area focused on. Spot metering also performs well in either setup, although my personal preference is to have it follow the AF point. Quick exposure compensation adjustments can be applied in either shutter or aperture priority modes by turning the rear dial, which is excellent for shooting under rapidly changing conditions.

Nikon's 1005-pixel colour Matrix meter uses colour information as well as the focus point selected to ensure accurate exposures. It really shows its worth when shooting brightly coloured objects, which may lead to overexposure on traditional luminance based metering systems. Unfortunately in the Matrix meter seem less able to cope with harsh back lighting than Canon's metering system, which can result in your subject becoming silhouetted if appropriate compensation isn't applied. Easy exposure compensation can be enabled in the menu, allowing quick adjustment s to be made in aperture and shutter priority modes.

Spot and centre weighted modes are also available. By default, the spot metering area follows the AF point selected, which is especially useful in high contrast situations.

Both cameras have an Auto ISO facility, although their implementation differs somewhat. Canon's Auto ISO is very simple, providing a shutter speed that is safe for hand-holding the camera where possible in aperture priority and program modes, and the give the correctly metered exposure in shutter priority and manual modes. Nikon's Auto ISO feature is a little more advanced. For example, in aperture priority mode you can set an ideal shutter speed value and maximum ISO, and the camera will vary the sensitivity to achieve this where possible. When it is not possible to achieve the correct exposure with the parameters applied, then it will drop or raise the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure. To me, this is a better system, as it prevents the camera from hiking the ISO to ridiculous levels suddenly, giving you a nasty noisy shock when you inspect your pictures later on. Virtually the same level of control can be achieved with the Canon by limiting the ISO range in the custom functions, but it is a poor workaround that is not nearly as intuitive as the Nikon solution.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Scenes with high contrast subjects tend to retain good detail in the highlights, at the expense of detail in the shadows with the Canon. In these kinds of scenarios, where the subject isn't backlit, the Nikon tends to expose a little brighter, keeping more detail in the shadows.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
A top shutter speed of 1/8000 will freeze even the fastest motion. The same 1/8000sec top shutter speed is matched by the D3S.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Evaluative metering does a decent job of keeping reasonable detail in this strongly backlit subject. The colour matrix metering system opts to retain more detail in the highlights in this scenario, almost silhouetting the subject.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Evaluative metering is flawless in evenly lit scenarios. Even lighting is also dealt with very well by Nikon's colour Matrix metering.

Again this is another close call, and although the Canon's evaluative meter gives more satisfactory results in harshly backlit conditions, Nikon's implementation of Auto ISO wins it for me. It is a really useful feature, especially when shooting in rapidly changing lighting conditions.

Focusing

To test the effectiveness of each camera's subject tracking in continuous autofocus mode I fired bursts of shots focusing on a bus approaching at approximately 30 miles per hour.

In this test the 1D MkIV performed especially well. Not one frame is out of focus from a burst of 17 shots. Even as the bus came close, it still managed to track focus adequately.

Although the D3S performed well, it didn't manage to get every shot in as sharp focus as the Canon. Some of the shots, especially those taken as the bus got closer are slightly behind the target.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D MkIV Focus Test Nikon D3s Focus Test
The Canon does a decent job of keeping up with the moving bus, even when it gets close. The Nikon gets most images in focus, but occasionally one or two are behind the target, especially as the bus gets close.

Noise

To evaluate the ISO capabilities of each camera's images were first taken on a tripod at each ISO setting under low light conditions, than each camera was taken to a dimly lit bar where shots of a live music performance were taken at ISO sensitivities of ISO400 and greater. This second set of images were also processed using default noise reduction setting in Capture One 6 to see if the Raw files have any more usable at very high ISOs.

Starting with the Canon, in the first test images up to ISO800 show no significant signs of noise, or softening due to noise reduction. At ISO1600 a little luminance noise is visible if you look closely, but the image quality is still very good here. From here onwards the levels of noise gradually start to increase, with a noticeable amount of luminance noise being present at 100% in images taken at ISO3200 and fine details being softened slightly as a result.

Things start to get a little snowy at ISO12800, and here levels of chroma noise have also started to increase and fine details are visibly softened. Pushing the sensitivity beyond the camera's native range results in visibly higher levels of noise and loss of fine detail, although shots taken at ISO25600 still keep chroma noise to levels which aren't too disturbing, which is excellent performance for such a high ISO and images at this setting should be fine for reproduction in less critical applications, such as for the web, or at small sizes in newspapers or magazines. At the H2 and H3 settings, colour noise starts to become an issue and much of the fine detail is lost. At H3 the amount of colour noise present is visible even at small sizes so this setting is probably best avoided unless you have no choice.

With the D3S, no significant signs of noise are present until ISO3200, which is quite amazing performance as well as being around a stop better than the EOS 1D MkIV. Here a slight amount of luminance noise can be seen if images are inspected closely at 100%, but contrast and detail levels are still good. Detail. Remains good at ISO6400, even though there is more luminance noise present. Turning the ISO up a notch to ISO12800 results in a light amount of softening due to noise reduction, but detail and contrast still remain good for reproduction at decent sizes in print.

Pushing the camera beyond its native sensitivity range results in visible softening and loss of colour saturation due to the noise reduction making every attempt to control chroma noise levels. At ISO25600, images are acceptable for small print reproduction and the web, as are images taken at ISO51200, although they are beginning to look much much snowy at this setting. Hi-£, which is equivalent to ISO102400 is probably best kept as a last resort as most fine detail has been obliterated by noise. Still edges are well enough defined and chroma noise levels are low enough to get away with small reproduction sizes on the web.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO100 ISO100 (Lo-1)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO200 ISO200
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO400 ISO400
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO800 ISO800
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO1600 ISO1600
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO3200 ISO3200
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO6400 ISO6400
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO12800 ISO12800
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO25600 (H1) ISO25600 (Hi-1)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO51200 (H2) ISO51200 (Hi-2)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test
ISO102400 (H3) ISO102400 (Hi-3)

In the images from the ID MkIV the samples below processed in Capture One do retain slightly more detail, but also display much higher levels of chroma noise. Areas that are in focus are clearly defined enough at ISO12800 for acceptable reproduction in print.

Raw files from the D3S hold more detail than JPEGs straight from the camera up to ISO25600. In focus areas are more clearly defined whilst levels of chroma noise seem to be kept to reasonable levels.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV (JPEG) Canon EOS 1D MkIV (Raw) Nikon D3S (JPEG) Nikon D3S (Raw)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Canon EOS 1D Mk IV RAW Nikon D3s ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test RAW
ISO6400 ISO6400 ISO6400 ISO6400
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Canon EOS 1D Mk IV RAW Nikon D3s ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test RAW
ISO12800 ISO12800 ISO12800 ISO12800
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Canon EOS 1D Mk IV RAW Nikon D3s ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test RAW
ISO25600 (H1) ISO25600 (H1) ISO25600 (Hi-1) ISO25600 (Hi-1)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Canon EOS 1D Mk IV RAW Nikon D3s ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test RAW
ISO51200 (H2) ISO51200 (H2) ISO51200 (Hi-2) ISO51200 (Hi-2)
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV ISO Test Canon EOS 1D Mk IV RAW Nikon D3s ISO Test Nikon D3s ISO Test RAW
ISO102400 (H3) ISO102400 (H3) ISO102400 (Hi-3) ISO102400 (Hi-3)

If shooting at really high ISO settings is important to you, the Nikon D3S is a clear winner here. That's not to say the Canon performs badly. It does perform very well in fact. Image up to ISO12800 will do for many forms of reproduction. With the Nikon images taken at this setting clearly contain more detail and less noise, especially if processed from a Raw file.

Image Quality

Both cameras produce images of excellent quality in decent conditions, with images straight from the Canon having a more vivid appearance when the standard picture style is used. The colours produced by the Nikon are more muted by comparison but plenty of controls are provided if you require a more vivid look.

As far as preset styles are concerned, the 1D MkIV has more to choose from, but both cameras have three customisable settings that can be tailored to your requirements.

Both cameras can capture impressive levels of dynamic range, but the greater detail can be seen in the highlights of images taken with the D3S, especially in Raw files from the camera, where even more detail can be retrieved using highlight recovery. Also due to the exceptionally low noise levels, more details can be retrieved from shadow areas also.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Colours are vibrant, without looking unnatural in the standard picture mode. The D3S renders colours less vividly in the standard picture mode. Plenty of controls are provided if you require more punchy colours.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Subtle tones are rendered well and dynamic range is decent. There is an amazing amount of dynamic range in files from the Nikon D3S, especially at lower ISO sensitivities.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Fine details are clearly delineated in files from the Canon. Although the Nikon sports fewer pixels, images are still clear, sharp and packed with detail.
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Sample Photo Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Saturated primary colours are rendered well and good detail is retained in the highlights. Saturated primary colours captured by the D3S look subdued when compared to the Canon when both using the standard picture style.

Colour modes:

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style Nikon D3s Picture Control
Standard Picture Style Standard Picture Control
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style Nikon D3s Picture Control
Portrait Picture Style Neutral Picture Control
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style Nikon D3s Picture Control
Landscape Picture Style Vivid Picture Control
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style Nikon D3s Picture Control
Neutral Picture Style Monochrome Picture Control
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style  
Faithful Picture Style  
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Picture Style  
Monochrome Picture Style  

Sharpness and Detail

Both cameras produce images with very good levels of detail straight from the camera, and the Raw files from both cameras contain ever so slightly more, especially in the highlights.

The images below were taken using the Raw+JPEG setting and the Raw files were processed in Capture one 6 using default settings.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot Nikon D3s Sample Photo
JPEG JPEG
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot RAW Nikon D3s RAW Test Sample Photo
Raw Raw

The image quality from each camera is very good, and although the Canon has a higher pixel count, the amount of extra detail isn't great enough to offset the benefits of the wider dynamic range displayed by the D3S.

White Balance

In daylight both cameras produce similar neutral results using the auto white balance setting. Under incandescent lighting both cameras display quite a strong colour cast with the auto setting, although the pink cast of the image taken with the Canon is slightly more disturbing than the amber cast present in the images from the D3S. Strangely the same mild magenta cast is present in images taken with the Canon under incandescent light using the incandescent preset too. The amber cast present in the image taken with the Nikon is still there too, although it is milder than that present in the image taken with auto white balance. Taking a custom white balance reading from the white background in the photograph, the Canon still displays a magenta cast, whilst the image taken with the Nikon is neutral, just like the image taken in daylight.

Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Auto White Balance in Daylight Auto White Balance in Daylight
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Auto White Balance in Incandescent Light Auto White Balance in Incandescent Light
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Incandescent Preset in Incandescent Light Incandescent Preset in Incandescent Light
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV Test Shot Nikon D3s Sample Photo
Custom Preset in Incandescent Light Custom Preset in Incandescent Light

Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Verdict

Separating these two cameras is a really tough call to make. Both are capable of producing superb quality images in the right hands, both are superbly built and both handle really well.

I really like the way the EOS 1D MkIV handles, especially the viewfinder information and autofocus, which are both superb. The image quality produced by it is also superb, with vibrant punchy colours and low noise compared to many other cameras available today. Good as it is though, when it comes to image quality factors such as noise at high sensitivities and dynamic range, it falls short when compared to the Nikon D3S.

For a professional, for who these camera are aimed at, it's the final result that counts. Having the ability to take images of acceptable quality at such high sensitivities could mean the difference between an image sale, or as Anne Robinson would say, leaving with nothing. For that reason above all else, the Nikon D3S would be my choice of the two cameras if I was starting from scratch. If however, you have a large investment in lenses, the difference isn't so great that it would be worth ditching the lot.

Nikon D3s
The Canon EOS 1D MkIV makes a compelling argument for itself, and offers exceptional performance. The Nikon D3s offers class leading performance at high ISO settings, and features excellent dynamic range.


Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Pros


Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
Excellent autofocus
Good viewfinder information
Superb build quality
10fps at full resolution
Vibrant contrasty images straight from the camera
Class leading performance at high ISO sensitivities
Excellent dynamic range
Superb build quality
Auto white balance performs well
Dual Compactflash slots


Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Cons


Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3S
White balance struggles to correct casts under incandescent lighting
Mixed format memory card slots
Fiddly battery cover
AF points can be difficult to see

Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Rating


Canon EOS 1D MkIV   Nikon D3S
FEATURES   FEATURES
HANDLING   HANDLING
PERFORMANCE   PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY   VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL   OVERALL


Canon EOS 1D MkIV vs Nikon D3S: Specifications


  Canon EOS 1D MkIV Nikon D3s
Price £3,500.00 £3,600.00
Contact www.canon.co.uk www.nikon.co.uk
Resolution 16.1Mp 12.1Mp
Sensor size 27.9mm x 18.6mm CMOS (APS-H 1.3x crop) 36.0 × 23.9 mm CMOS (35mm Full frame)
Sensor type CMOS FX CMOS
Max. image size 4896 x 3264 4256x2832
Aspect ratio 3:2 3:2, 5:4, 1:2
Focus system   TTL Nikon Multi-CAM 3500 FX sensor
Focus points 45 point with 39 f/2.8 cross-type AF points 51 (15 cross-type sensors)
Focus types Continuous, Single Shot, Manual Focus Single-shot, continuous servo AF, predictive AF, manual
Crop factor 1.3x 1x
Lens mount EF Nikon F
File type JPEG, RAW, sRAW JPEG, NEF, TIFF, AVI (Motion)
Sensitivity 100-102400 with expansion ISO200-12,800 (expandable to ISO100, 25,600, 51,200 & 102,400)
Metering system TTL full aperture metering with 63 zone SPC TTL open aperture using 1005 pixel RGB sensor
Metering types Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Centre-weighted 3D Matrix II, spot (1.5%) and centre-weighted
Exposure compensation +/- 3EV +/- 5EV in 1/2 or 1/3 EV increments
Shutter speed range 1/8000 – 30seconds + Bulb 30sec - 1/8000sec & Bulb
Frames per second Max. 10fps 9fps max (11fps in DX Crop mode)
Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
Flash sync speed 1/300 1/250sec
Image stabilisation IS system in Canon lenses VR system in Nikon lenses
Integrated cleaning   Yes, Image Dust Off (with optional Capture NX2)
Live view Yes Yes, for still and movie shooting
Movie mode 1920 x 1080 @ 29.97 fps 1,280 × 720 @ 24 fps
Viewfinder Pentaprism – 100% coverage Eye-level pentaprism, 100% approx
Monitor 3inch LCD 3in TFT LCD (921,000dot)
Media type Compactflash, SD, SDHC CompactFlash I and II, dual slot
Interface USB, HDMI USB 2.0, HDMI, video out
Power Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery Lithium-Ion battery EN-EL4a
Size 156 x 156.6 x 79.9mm 160x157x88mm
Weight 1180g 1240g (body only)

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D3s

LaurenClose up on the mark10 Spitfire93Airforce LadyLaurenJailedEl zapateroFaithSitting on the wingVictoriaOff The WallThinkingWing WalkerCommon tree frogSide-ways bank
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Comments


konu 6 31 United Kingdom
13 Jun 2011 5:53PM
nice review

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DouglasMorley 4 16 1 Canada
13 Jun 2011 8:57PM
Interesting from an academic point of view for me. I have used Nikon for many years but have never owned a professional Nikon (apart from a second hand F4S).

Only full time pros would consider a change of brand, or perhaps use both anyway.
13 Jun 2011 9:47PM
I agree with the conclusion, love the D3s, but just wanted to note there actually is a big advantage to having both a CompactFlash and SD card on the Canon. The Eye-Fi card, which is currently the most convenient way to immediately get photos onto the Internet from an SLR, is SD-only, so having both types of slots gives you the speed of top-of-the-line CompactFlash, while having the Eye-Fi card in slot 2 uploading photos, this is not possible on the D3s.

So, I would count CF and SD slots as a "Pro", not a "Con", and the lack of an SD slot is the primary reason I'm using a D7000 right now instead of the D3s.
14 Jun 2011 2:50AM
nikon is a professional type & canon is a beginner type.......
14 Jun 2011 3:23AM
One additional issue, in your specifications comparison you say the Nikon D3s can take CompactFlash Type I and II cards, "CompactFlash I and II, dual slot". I'm pretty sure this is not true, the D3s supports CF type I only, you can verify this on the official Nikon web site. The reason this is a big deal is that it means CompactFlash to SD adapters will not fit in the D3s, meaning the Eye-Fi card will not fit, so the only way to wirelessly transfer photos from the D3s is with the official Nikon wireless peripheral.
14 Jun 2011 8:37AM
Nit picking maybe but it would be nice to know which lens was used for the AF test.
More interesting is did the white line between lower and upper deck of the double decker bus in the Canon result present a better AF target than the single decker bus used in the Nikon test?
There are large dark areas of the front of each bus - dark areas are not the best AF targets.
Using a double decker bus for each sequence would have eliminated a possible apples and oranges aspect.
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
14 Jun 2011 2:01PM

Quote: I agree with the conclusion, love the D3s, but just wanted to note there actually is a big advantage to having both a CompactFlash and SD card on the Canon. The Eye-Fi card, which is currently the most convenient way to immediately get photos onto the Internet from an SLR, is SD-only, so having both types of slots gives you the speed of top-of-the-line CompactFlash, while having the Eye-Fi card in slot 2 uploading photos, this is not possible on the D3s.

So, I would count CF and SD slots as a "Pro", not a "Con", and the lack of an SD slot is the primary reason I'm using a D7000 right now instead of the D3s.

Indeed, that is a good point. Both manufacturers offer dedicated WiFi transmitters so it isn't like the Nikon would lack the ability to transmit via Wifi, just the solution might be a bit bulkier and more expensive.


Quote: Nit picking maybe but it would be nice to know which lens was used for the AF test.
More interesting is did the white line between lower and upper deck of the double decker bus in the Canon result present a better AF target than the single decker bus used in the Nikon test?
There are large dark areas of the front of each bus - dark areas are not the best AF targets.
Using a double decker bus for each sequence would have eliminated a possible apples and oranges aspect.

I actually repeated the AF test with both cameras several times on various buses, and used the example where the camera performed best in an attempt to eliminate user error. To be fair the biggest issue I had was waiting for the buses. Of course after a while three would suddenly appear all at once Wink
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
14 Jun 2011 8:23PM
Pitching a full frame camera with a mid range lens against a crop frame camera with a pro lens ( according to your pics ) if this is true then the test results are barking , the performance of the 50mm 1.2L lens should leave everything standing ? Can we have the specs of the lenses used to fairly judge this review ?

In realistic terms the 1dsmk4 if and when would be the comparison to the d3 or the 1ds3 ?

This seems once again like going down the path of producing popular articles to aid in advertising revnue .. altho obviously that would never happen Tongue
drayl002 4 34 4 United Kingdom
15 Jun 2011 7:40AM
I would say the Canon is better. I have seen both cameras in the feild and playes with both. The canon was (& still is) so much better!
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
15 Jun 2011 1:42PM

Quote: Pitching a full frame camera with a mid range lens against a crop frame camera with a pro lens ( according to your pics ) if this is true then the test results are barking , the performance of the 50mm 1.2L lens should leave everything standing ? Can we have the specs of the lenses used to fairly judge this review ?

Having tested both the lenses, they give very similar performance when stopped down beyond f/2, so no shots were taken during the test at apertures wider than f/2.

Nikon don't do a wider aperture 50mm. Their f/1.4 optic is their top pro lens Smile It would've been nice to have the newer f/1.4 available for the Nikon,but, for practical reasons, this wasn't possible. Again, when stopped down to f/2 and beyond, the older lens and the newer one give similar performance. The older one actually focuses a little faster Tongue


Quote: I would say the Canon is better. I have seen both cameras in the feild and playes with both. The canon was (& still is) so much better!

And I would say that is your personal preference Wink
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
15 Jun 2011 3:16PM
Quote : Having tested both the lenses, they give very similar performance when stopped down beyond f/2, so no shots were taken during the test at apertures wider than f/2.


this has me wondering , can a 300 nikon 1.4 lens really be producing the same fantastic results as my canon 50mm f1.2L which cost over 1100 ,and what is nikons idea of a pro lens , having seem the nikon 1.4 of a D700 it looks fairly small and plasticky is it even weather sealed ? , more akin to the the canon 50mm 1.4 which is more likely its competitor ?
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
15 Jun 2011 5:19PM

Quote: this has me wondering , can a 300 nikon 1.4 lens really be producing the same fantastic results as my canon 50mm f1.2L which cost over 1100

Not at f/1.2 no. That's why the Canon lens exists. Most lenses will give good optical performance when stopped down. You choose the right lens for the job in the end.

If you need to shoot at f/1.2 then 1100 is what you need to pay, however, if such shallow DOF isn't required, say if you generally shoot between f/2.8 and f/5.6 all the time, you'll barely notice a difference as far as sharpness is concerned.

For the purpose of this test, it matters not one jot if that lens is weather sealed or not.

You'd probably have a fit if you saw the battered old lenses I work with, but the results I get will probably be quite difficult to differentiate from those taken with the latest whizz-bang lenses from Nikon or Canon, or anyone else.
chris_c1 5 9 United Kingdom
15 Jun 2011 8:08PM
id say both cameras are as good as each other and nothing to chose from them,
the only thing i notice is the last photo of the canal is the Canon photo is better than the Nikon, when its enlarge to maximum size you can read the plaque on the wall near the gas bottles on the Canon photo, but with the Nikon its burled this may be down to the lens that been used?
Canon vs. Nikon. A very comprehensive review. IMHO it comes down to the bucks. The more you pay, the more you get, generally. Quality and capability can be bought. That being said, within the same price range, either brand can produce fantastic photos. In my view, "it ain't the box." Smile
BURNSIE e2
5 25 4 England
16 Jun 2011 7:29AM
I have a Nikon D3 with a good selection/range of Nikon lens' and am very pleased with the equipment.
In the event the test turned out in favour of the Canon 1D it would not make the slightest bit in making me think I should have chosen Canon instead. The hype this debate creates does make me smile.Grin
Kindest Regards
Burnsie
16 Jun 2011 9:52AM
Well done for comparing all those technical specs - it does make choosing between camera bodies a lot less of a chore. At the end of the day these are just bodies. It all pales into insignificance beside the really important question - who does the best lenses?
16 Jun 2011 10:16AM
have to say that i find the idea that Canon can and Nikon cannot track on oncoming bus a little bizarre.. and actually would have preferred to see the test carried out on perhaps a peregrine. i have only skip-read this but there does not seem to be any reference to what i believe is Nikon's unique 'active d-light'
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
16 Jun 2011 3:14PM

Quote: Have to say that i find the idea that Canon can and Nikon cannot track on oncoming bus a little bizarre.. and actually would have preferred to see the test carried out on perhaps a peregrine. i have only skip-read this but there does not seem to be any reference to what i believe is Nikon's unique 'active d-light'

The Nikon did track the bus, just not as well. When it was being photographed, the bus was as close as a few feet from me, travelling at around 30mph. I used a bus, because they're more regular than Peregrines, believe it or not Wink Also the peregrine would've had to be very close, as each camera was fitted with a 50mm lens.

Canon also have their Auto Lighting Optimiser, which does a very similar job to the Nikon's D-Lighting Feature. If I'd compared/mentioned every single feature, this article would've been an epic, rather than a review.
16 Jun 2011 5:18PM

Quote: I agree with the conclusion, love the D3s, but just wanted to note there actually is a big advantage to having both a CompactFlash and SD card on the Canon. The Eye-Fi card, which is currently the most convenient way to immediately get photos onto the Internet from an SLR, is SD-only, so having both types of slots gives you the speed of top-of-the-line CompactFlash, while having the Eye-Fi card in slot 2 uploading photos, this is not possible on the D3s.

So, I would count CF and SD slots as a "Pro", not a "Con", and the lack of an SD slot is the primary reason I'm using a D7000 right now instead of the D3s.

Would you really be using images taken on a D3s or 1D and directly images to the internet? No post processing, no resizing, no watermarks just immediate upload?

Just my view
mikeb380 8 39 United States
16 Jun 2011 11:13PM

Quote:
Would you really be using images taken on a D3s or 1D and directly images to the internet? No post processing, no resizing, no watermarks just immediate upload?


Two things, to answer the quote first though, There are multiple reasons to use the wifi card in the Canon or the attachments in either; I have a cloud repository on the web and by sending my photos to the cloud as they are taken, I can be sure the photos are available when I get home. If I lose or drop the camera, I still have the photos. Doesn't matter whether they are processed or not. I can d/l them from the cloud to my computer and then process, returning them to the cloud when processed to preserve them. Another reason to use wifi is that I have a notebook with wifi and Bluetooth. I could transmit the photos to the laptop to preserve them and also to process some in the field if I so desired. The purchase of an SD card is much less expensive then the manufacturer's attachment to do the same.

The other thing is the differences in the two cameras. I sold cameras years ago and tested both the Canon and the Nikon cameras 0f that time. I couldn't find enough difference in the cameras to be worth worrying about. Some of the Canon lenses were better than the same Nikon lenses and vice versa. I bought the Canon at that time as I got a better deal from the owner of the shop than I could get on the Nikon. Thus I have used Canon ever since and would not change at this time . I also use lenses from other manufacturers as I've found that their lenses are as good for my use as either the Canon or Nikon lenses. At present I'm using a Ukranian 16mm f2.8 lens and find it makes excellent pix. Enough so that I blow up my photos to as large as 13X19 and sell them as art photos, mostly sunsets and cloudscapes. I think everyone is too impressed by the names, Canon & Nikon, to look objectively into other name lenses. Who cares how sharp a lens is at f1.2 if all you shoot is landscapes or races or sports events or even most news events. MY most expensive lens is $300.00- 75 - 300 mm/f3.5 lens & I've used it to shoot hawks on the wing as well as other birds in flight as well as other animals, kids running about, etc, etc. I once had an f1.2-75mm lens for a Canon rangefinder when I was shooting low light in clubs, bars, theaters, etc. I also used Kodak 2475 high speed recording film at 4000 ASA for those shoots. I did get excellent photos with the rig, blowing some up to 30X40" size for exhibits. It ain't the box, as someone above said, it is the user who makes the difference. I use a Canon EOS 350 now for my photos and the only change I'd ever make in it is full frame but I'm not willing to pay for the larger size camera.
Michael
mikeb380 8 39 United States
16 Jun 2011 11:31PM
One comment in how the tests were shot: I find it very disconcerting trying to compare the photos taken, as it were, with apparently different focal lengths in the two cameras. I feel that for a fair test, the Nikon should have been fitted with a 75mm or 80mm lens so that then sizes of the taken images were about the same. I think this is comparing apples to lemons Tongue. I'd like to see at least portions of the test done with equivalent focal length lenses. Either change the Nikon to the longer length or the Canon to a 35mm lens. This at least fills the "film" area with about the same amount of the subject.
Michael
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
16 Jun 2011 11:46PM

Quote: this has me wondering , can a 300 nikon 1.4 lens really be producing the same fantastic results as my canon 50mm f1.2L which cost over 1100

Not at f/1.2 no. That's why the Canon lens exists. Most lenses will give good optical performance when stopped down. You choose the right lens for the job in the end.

If you need to shoot at f/1.2 then 1100 is what you need to pay, however, if such shallow DOF isn't required, say if you generally shoot between f/2.8 and f/5.6 all the time, you'll barely notice a difference as far as sharpness is concerned.

For the purpose of this test, it matters not one jot if that lens is weather sealed or not.

You'd probably have a fit if you saw the battered old lenses I work with, but the results I get will probably be quite difficult to differentiate from those taken with the latest whizz-bang lenses from Nikon or Canon, or anyone else.

Youre not the only one to have experience with old lenses , coming from a pentax background I have experience of some of the BEST primes ever made , and can happily say the canon 50mm 1.2 walks all over them in terms of character and build and pure natural shots at 1.2 or 2.8 , you would certainly notice the difference in shots compared to other 2.8 lenses ...

Maybe a lens duel at dawn is in order Wink
Goggz e2
7 2.3k 72 Wales
16 Jun 2011 11:57PM
I've a D3 and a f1.4/50 AFS.

This lens may give wonderful bokeh and lovely shallow DOF effects but it's absolutely crap at fast focussing and IMHO is without doubt the worst lens you could have chosen to test Nikon's autofocus apart from a manual AF lens.

Use pretty much any other AFS lens, including zooms, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with my Nikon's focussing/tracking capability.

My advice to anyone contemplating buying a D3S who is worried by this test would be to try the camera with one of Nikon's f2.8 zooms such as the 24-70 and you will find it very effective at 50mm.

Quote: Have to say that i find the idea that Canon can and Nikon cannot track on oncoming bus a little bizarre.. and actually would have preferred to see the test carried out on perhaps a peregrine. i have only skip-read this but there does not seem to be any reference to what i believe is Nikon's unique 'active d-light'

The Nikon did track the bus, just not as well. When it was being photographed, the bus was as close as a few feet from me, travelling at around 30mph. I used a bus, because they're more regular than Peregrines, believe it or not Wink Also the peregrine would've had to be very close, as each camera was fitted with a 50mm lens.

Canon also have their Auto Lighting Optimiser, which does a very similar job to the Nikon's D-Lighting Feature. If I'd compared/mentioned every single feature, this article would've been an epic, rather than a review.

Don't get me wrong - i think that the review was very thorough and well written but i do think that most folk spending this sort of cash are more likely to be interested in a subject matter which offers a little more challenge than a bus - note i did not say more interest than a bus, so as to avoid offence to those that find that particular subject of higher regard.

Had not even heard of the Canon ALO so many many thanks, i will go and look that up. Not that i am likely to 'switch sides' but i was thinking that in that area perhaps Nikon had an edge.
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 2:52PM

Quote: Maybe a lens duel at dawn is in order

That would be quite interesting. We'll have to see Wink


Quote: Would you really be using images taken on a D3s or 1D and directly images to the internet? No post processing, no resizing, no watermarks just immediate upload?

That will depend on what you're shooting. Or the WiFi may be used to send the images to someone sat a t a computer speeding the shooting to editing process. I know fo a few people who work in this way at events.


Quote: One comment in how the tests were shot: I find it very disconcerting trying to compare the photos taken, as it were, with apparently different focal lengths in the two cameras. I feel that for a fair test, the Nikon should have been fitted with a 75mm or 80mm lens so that then sizes of the taken images were about the same. I think this is comparing apples to lemons . I'd like to see at least portions of the test done with equivalent focal length lenses. Either change the Nikon to the longer length or the Canon to a 35mm lens. This at least fills the "film" area with about the same amount of the subject.
Michael

And then we'd have people complaining that the lenses have different characteristics etc

I've a D3 and a f1.4/50 AFS.


Quote: This lens may give wonderful bokeh and lovely shallow DOF effects but it's absolutely crap at fast focussing and IMHO is without doubt the worst lens you could have chosen to test Nikon's autofocus apart from a manual AF lens.

We didn't use the AF-S version. We used the AF-D version, which focuses much faster.


Quote: Don't get me wrong - i think that the review was very thorough and well written but i do think that most folk spending this sort of cash are more likely to be interested in a subject matter which offers a little more challenge than a bus - note i did not say more interest than a bus, so as to avoid offence to those that find that particular subject of higher regard.

At the end of the day, it was a test of focus, so a moving subject was needed. With the time constraints imposed, this is about the best I could muster. For one, Sheffield isn't known for its birds of prey. there's an owl in the park nearby, but that's only active at night.
mikeb380 8 39 United States
17 Jun 2011 9:32PM

Quote: At the end of the day, it was a test of focus, so a moving subject was needed. With the time constraints imposed, this is about the best I could muster. For one, Sheffield isn't known for its birds of prey. there's an owl in the park nearby, but that's only active at night.

You should have taken beaters with you to chase the owl out of the park whenever you wanted to run your tests Of course you'd have to use some method of directing the owl to whence you desired him! Perhaps a bobby to direct traffic? Wink I think, from long experience, that no matter what you say or how you carry out the testing, there is always going to be dispute of your results. The Nikon fanatics are going to say that "this Nikon lens is much better than the Canon lens you used, why didn't you use that?" & the Canon users are going to make claims that the Canon is MUCH better than the NIkon in such and such a test, regardless what your tests show, or you didn't give the Canon a fair shake because you conducted the test in this manner rather than that. You are in a lose, lose situation. Probably anyone who does camera comparisons has a screw or two loose to even begin, because they are going to receive a lot of garbage over the results. Mayhap you should just stick to little know cameras like the Minolta VS Omega comparison? Any way, good job of work, I know it takes a lot of time to do this sort of thing. Keep it up, but next time use my lens instead of the one you did. Tongue
Michael
sitav 4 4
17 Jun 2011 11:50PM
There's no difference really is there? They're both great cameras and it simply boils down to personal preference in where the buttons are located and how it feels it your hands! 1000's of pro's use Canon, 1000's use Nikon, try them both and go with what feels comfortable.
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
18 Jun 2011 10:02PM
stop spoiling our fun sitav we are having a CaKon .... Tongue
FrankRobinson 4 84 2 United Kingdom
20 Jun 2011 1:17PM
Ah - Nikon wins again... what a surprise! Tongue

Who's that sponsor at the top of the page? Canon just don't give the website enough money... Wink
Pete e2
13 18.4k 96 England
20 Jun 2011 1:32PM

Quote: Ah - Nikon wins again... what a surprise! Tongue

Who's that sponsor at the top of the page? Canon just don't give the website enough money...

Well it may have been said tongue in smily, but if I was the reviewer I'd be offended by that comment
Try this one Panasonic vs canon vs Nikon
Panasonic don't advertise, so that blows your theory out of the water Tongue...I suppose the reviewer could be a Panasonic owner / or have a fetish for Panasonic but you'll have to believe us that's not true either.
ugly e2
6 5 55 United Kingdom
22 Jun 2011 2:53AM
Thank god I bought the Nikon D3s...
iamamy 3 4 United States
25 Jun 2011 6:19AM
The cameras are so similar and both great; they rule over each other in different areas but in such a slight amount I hardly think it would matter. In the end, I'd just go with the less-expensive one.
21 Feb 2012 1:14AM

Quote: Nikon is a professional type & canon is a beginner type.......

you speak like a person who dont know ****...

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