Both the Nikon D3X and Sony Alpha 850 have more than 24.5 million pixels, yet the D3X costs around u00a33,100 more. Richard Sibley finds out what you get for the extra cash in our Nikon D3X vs Sony Alpha 850 test
Nikon D3X vs Sony Alpha 850 – Build and Handling
As you would expect from cameras of this type, both the Nikon D3X and Sony Alpha 850 have magnesium-alloy bodies and are sealed to prevent dust and moisture entering the cameras.
Given their similar specifications, there is a big difference in the size and weight of the cameras. At 850g, the Sony Alpha 850 is the lighter of the two, while the Nikon D3X weighs 1,220g. In a studio the weight of either camera shouldn’t be a problem, but I would obviously prefer to carry the lighter Alpha 850 around my neck when out taking landscape images.
Much of the larger body of the Nikon D3X is taken up by the compartment for its EN-EL4a battery. Physically a lot larger than the NP-FM500H battery used in the Sony Alpha 850, the EN-EL4a allows the D3X to capture many more images under CIPA testing guidelines. Sony states that the Alpha 850’s battery can power around 880 images, whereas the D3X’s battery allows it to take a whopping 4,400 shots. This may seem like an advantage for Nikon, but if you find that you need to take 4,400 images, buying another four Sony NP-FM500H batteries will cost a lot less than £3,100.
Anyone familiar with DSLRs should have no trouble getting to grips with either camera, but of the two I find that the Nikon D3X is the quicker to use. Its substantially larger body allows it to have a larger LCD on its top plate than the Alpha 850, but also a secondary LCD below the rear screen. This secondary control display is dedicated to controlling the ISO sensitivity, white balance and image quality, and each of these settings has its own dedicated button.
With a smaller camera body, Sony has kept the buttons on the Alpha 850 to a minimum, but it still has dedicated controls for the white balance, ISO sensitivity and drive mode, as well as a dedicated switch to turn the SteadyShot Inside feature on or off. However, the rear screen of the Alpha 850 displays all the currently used shooting settings. Similarly, by pressing the Fn button on the rear of the camera, all these settings become active on the LCD screen and can be easily changed without having to go directly into the camera’s main menu system.
If you regularly find yourself using the same image and exposure settings, both cameras have the provision to save these settings and recall them quickly. This is quite straightforward on the Alpha 850: with the camera set up as you want it, simply select ‘Memory’ from the main menu and choose one of the three memory banks in which to save the settings. Selecting which to use is even easier as all three can be accessed by turning the mode dial on the top of the camera to the relevant 1, 2 or 3 position.
Nikon has used a similar method on the D3X. Four sets of custom menu settings and four lots of shooting menu settings can be saved. These custom presets may then be selected via the main menu. The D3X also has a My Menu function to allow the menu items you most regularly use to be shown on the same menu screen.
Overall, the Nikon D3X has the more comprehensive custom settings features, although using the Alpha 850’s mode dial to choose which presets are being used is a very clear and fast way of working.