Cc-by-2.0 Henry Söderlund Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hrns/49436145666/
One thing I’ve always wondered is how Nikon model numbers work. With canon, it’s very simple and straightforward, but for some reason, Nikon had to make it confusing. If you type the question into google you get varied results spread across Reddit and forum posts from years ago with users debating each other in the comments. But I couldn’t find any straight answers or resources put out by Nikon. So I’ve decided to create my own resource on how Nikon model numbers work.
A high Nikon model number means your camera is new and a low Nikon model number means your camera is old. However, more digits mean your camera is more beginner, while fewer digits mean your camera is more professional. There are some exceptions but this is essentially how Nikon model numbers work.
There are three different types of Nikon camera’s that you need to know about: DSLRs, Mirrorless cameras, and point and shoot camera’s as they all have different model number systems. First I will explain DSLR model numbers, then mirrorless cameras, and finally point and shoot cameras. I will describe each camera using this ranking method from best to worst: professional, high-end, enthusiast, and entry-level. The X in the model number means it can change.
First of all, what is a DSLR? DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex and it is the standard for digital cameras today. All Nikon DSLR cameras start with the letter D, we can infer what it stands for.
Nikon Dx Series
The Nikon Dx series of Nikon DSLR cameras are top-of-the-line professional-level cameras. This means the Nikon D1, Nikon D2, Nikon D3, Nikon D4, Nikon D5, and Nikon D6. If the camera your looking to buy is a Nikon Dx series it is extremely high quality, but if you’re just starting photography you might want to look into a cheaper camera as these are very expensive. You also need to remember that the higher the number the newer the camera is. So even though the Nikon D1 is in Nikon’s professional series it was introduced in 1999 so it isn’t all that great by today’s standards. They sell for around $100 on second-hand markets which is cheaper than an entry-level camera. So you need to remember that just because your camera model number has few digits, doesn’t mean it’s the best. However, few digits and a high number means the camera is high quality and new, the Nikon D6 is a (relatively) new professional camera, and it’s very good for today’s standards at the time of writing this article. They sell for upwards of $5000.
Nikon D3x00 Series
The Nikon D3x00 series are entry-level cameras. Meaning they are cheap and for beginners. This means the Nikon D3000, Nikon D3100, Nikon D3200, Nikon D3300, Nikon D3400, and Nikon D3500. These cameras cost around $300-$700/ Don’t disregard them just because they are entry-level. They have plenty of features and are good cameras for starting photography. If you are new to this subject and want to learn photography while not spending too much – any Nikon D3x00 would be a great first camera.
Nikon D5x00 Series
If you are also new to photography but want something a little fancier, a Nikon D5x00 is what you want. The Nikon D5x00 series is still considered entry-level but it’s a step up from the Nikon D3x00 series. These are the Nikon D5000, Nikon D5100, Nikon D5200, Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500, and Nikon D5600. These are priced anywhere from $300-$900 depending on which model you buy. These are also great for learning photography.
Nikon D7x00 Series
The Nikon D7x00 series is targeted towards photography enthusiasts but not yet professionals. The D7x00s are the best of the 4 digit Nikon DSLRs. The D7x00 series consists of the Nikon D7000, Nikon D7100, Nikon D7200, and Nikon D7500. These cost anywhere from $500-$1000. Overall, a Nikon D7x00 would be great as the second camera that you buy after using an entry-level camera and getting more serious about photography.
Nikon Dx0 Series
This is where it starts to get a little confusing. The Nikon Dx0 series range from entry-level to enthusiast level. The Nikon D40, Nikon D50, and Nikon D60 were all entry-level cameras. While the Nikon D70, Nikon D80, and Nikon D90 were all enthusiast-level cameras. The reason I say “were” instead of “are” is because these cameras are now obsolete and sell for quite cheap. You don’t really want to buy a Nikon Dx0 series. This is one of the exceptions to the rule of fewer digits being better, in this case, most 4 digit cameras are better than the Dx0 series even though it’s only 2 digits.
Nikon Dxx0 Series
Here is where it gets even more confusing. The Nikon Dxx0 series are high-end to professional. High-end is in-between professional and enthusiast level. The Nikon D100, Nikon D200, Nikon D300, Nikon D500, Nikon D600, Nikon D610, Nikon D700, Nikon D750, and Nikon D780 are all high end level cameras. The Dxx0 series started a while ago so only the cameras with large model numbers (newer cameras) in this series are worth buying as the others are very old. You can tell which cameras are worth buying by looking at the price and release date. The Nikon D800, D810, and D850 and professional cameras. They are on par with the Nikon Dx series. The price range is extreme: $50-$3000 because some of these cameras are extremely old while some are new and professional.
Mirrorless cameras don’t have a physical viewfinder. You see what your photo will look like on your digital LCD display. Mirrorless cameras are generally lighter, more compact, and better for video than DSLR cameras. They have a separate model numbering system.
Nikon 1 AW1
The Nikon 1 AW1 isn’t its own category, its simply one camera. It’s mirrorless camera and it’s rugged. This means its water proof, shock proof, and freeze proof. It’s not very up to date and has been discontinued by Nikon. All Nikon cameras starting with Nikon 1 have been discontinued.
Nikon 1 Sx
The Nikon 1 Sx series only has to cameras, the Nikon 1 S1 and Nikon 1 S2. They were entry level mirrorless cameras and since they start with Nikon 1, they too are discontinued.
Nikon 1 Jx
The Nikon 1 Jx series are mid range mirrorless cameras. This is essentially equivalent to the enthusiast category from earlier. These were the Nikon 1 J1, Nikon 1 J2, Nikon 1 J3, Nikon 1 J4, and Nikon 1 J5. Again, they’re discontinued.
Nikon 1 Vx
The Nikon 1 Vx series is a high end but not quite professional level camera. You guessed it, its mirrorless, and its discontinued! The Nikon 1 Vx series consisted of the Nikon 1 V1, Nikon 1 V2, and Nikon 1 V3.
Finally, mirrorless cameras that aren’t discontinued. The Nikon Zx series are Nikon’s up-to-date modern mirrorless cameras. The Nikon Zx series ranges from enthusiast level to professional as Nikon only has one active mirrorless series. The Nikon Z50 and Z5 are enthusiast level. The Nikon Z6 and Z6 II are high-end but not yet professional. The Nikon Z7, Z7 II, and Z9 (not yet released) are professional-level cameras. The price range is $1000-$3000.