For every great brand in the consumer market, there’s always at least one rival keeping users divided. Coca Cola has Pepsi, Nike has Adidas, McDonald’s has Burger King, and Apple and Microsoft have been duking it out for decades. The world of photography is no exception. Since the advent of the digital SLR, which to invest in—Canon or Nikon—has been a question plaguing the minds of many a photographer. Hoping to shed some light on the matter, photographer Tony Northrup offers this analysis:
Northrup’s basic premise is that both brands have their pros and cons, and that photographers should choose their cameras based on 1) what genre of photography they tend to shoot, 2) what lenses/other equipment they need, and 3) how much money they’re prepared to spend. That being said, these are his conclusions (based on specs and other data):
- Nikon wins hands down in quality of camera bodies, particularly in the areas of dynamic range and sensor quality
- Canon wins on affordability of basic lenses
- Canon wins on specialty lenses, some of which have really important advantages
- Canon comes out ahead in the flash department, with more third party flashes available
In the end, Northrup recommends either Nikon or Canon based on your area of focus:
- Casual Photography: it doesn’t really matter
- Landscapes: Nikon (because of the sharpness and dynamic range)
- Sports: Canon
- Wildlife: Canon for a budget under $10,000; Nikon for a budget greater than $10,000
- Portraiture: you’re stuck with Canon if you shoot like Tony (lens and flash availability)
- Video: Panosonic
Predictably, many Nikon users take issue with Northrup’s conclusions, from whether a 70-200 zoom lens really is the primary lens for a portrait photographer to the fact that Nikon’s sensors and flash system so outclass Canon’s, that every serious pro has either switched to Nikon or has added Nikon to their system. Either way, there are a number of factors left out of the video.
Other Reasons to Choose One Brand Over the Other
- You’ve already invested money in lenses for one system and you’ll lose too much money cashing out your gear to switch over.
- If you’re looking for used equipment, you’ll find a much better selection of Canon gear out on the market; they’ve been around longer.
- You have friends who have one system or the other, making it potentially easier to borrow or trade lenses or other gear.
- Your employer is invested in one of the two systems and being on the opposite system may make maintaining image consistency a big headache. (Nikon and Canon have small variances in their capture of color.)
- The menu options of one feel far more intuitive to you than the other.
Still confused as to which brand you should invest in? Go to a local camera shop and hold each camera in your hand. See how they “feel.” No local camera shop? Try renting one of each brand in the price range you’re interested in and see how they work for you. Don’t like either of them? There are plenty of other brands out there: Pentax, Samsung, Olympus, etc.—all of which have very loyal followings. (And of course, if all else fails, go with what’s on sale.)
For those of you who’ve already chosen, do you agree with Northrup? Have you switched from Nikon to Canon or vice versa, and if so, why? Do you think one brand is clearly better than the other? Let us know.
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