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Canon vs. Nikon

I've made my call: I shoot with Canon digital SLRs. Still, many people often ask me which way they should go. I give them the stock answer I was given when I had the same question: Canon has better glass and, currently, offers the only full-frame dSLRs.

Still, the question remains: for an entry-level dSLR (with move-up potential), which camera would you recommend?


Please keep all fanboy-ish stuff to yourself, and please don't just vote for one because you own it. I've owned Nikons in the past, too.

Comment if you have more to say than simply casting a vote.

21 Responses to "Canon vs. Nikon"

  1. Canon has better glass? No way, and I even tho I could be biased, Nikon glass is far superior to Canon.

    The full frame sensor thing is such marketing hype. Do you think Nikon uses a PARTIAL sensor? Of course not.

    By Full Frame, you mean a frame that equals 35 mm? Again, you can spread out the sensors and make 35 mm size sensor with any number of pixels you choose.

    Again, I am aware that I can be accused of being biased.

  2. So let's see...Canon has far more mid-range lenses with IS plus they have telephoto lenses with IS (the 500 and 600 IS are just amazing). Not to mention the new 4-stop IS technology on the 70-200. Then there are the super-sharp, super-small and light DO lenses. It's amazing to shoot with a 70-300 that's smaller than my 24-105.

    My other favorite thing was how after Nikon introduced their 12MP pro camera, proudly beating the 11MP 1Ds, Canon (not even 10 days later) introduced their 16MP 1Ds MII. If I remember right, the 1Ds was available sooner, too.

    With sensors, it's funny, because Nikon's almost got this "reverse marketing hype" going on. Years ago, Canon threw all their R&D eggs into the digital basket, and it's paid off--they're still the only company that manufactures and markets a 35mm-sized sensor (part of the benefit is their vertical integration). Nikon still buys a lot of their sensors from others, if I remember right, and, like Olympus, is telling people that there's no benefit to having a 35mm-sized sensor. Well personally, I like having my current wide angle lenses give me the same field of view on my digital camera as they did on my old film camera. And knowing that older lenses (which you can often find a good price on used), like the 15mm fisheye and 50mm f/1 will still be just that on my camera and work just fine.

    Let's not forget about other niceties, like weather-sealed cameras (this recently saved my butt) and 45-point predictive AF. And how long did it take for Nikon to figure out how to let you set aperture on the camera body and not just the lens?

    The one thing I will grant Nikon is that they have digital, in-camera multiple exposures. I want that on the 1Ds MIII 🙂 But otherwise, I am glad to own a Canon system.

  3. Full frame sensor is not hype at all. You don't get the same result with a full frame sensor than with a 1.6x sensor. Just look at the depth of field. Just look at the viewfinder.

    If full frame sensors was a hype, why so many professional photographers sill use large format film/sensors? Just for fun?

    I've a Canon 20D. If I had to buy a new camera, I had buy a Nikon D200. At the entry level, I had buy a Canon 400D without doubt. It's just me eh. I owned many Minolta 9-series before switching to Canon. 15 years at least...

  4. IS does not equate to better lens. Optics are the most important thing and of Nikon lenses have generally better optics than Canon. However Nikon should really make a full frame.

  5. Pentax man here, had the *ist-D since it came out in 2003 or so, saving up for the K10D with the in-body shake reduction, etc.

    Personally the quality of the glass, IS, and other standard religious C* vs N* vs etc war fighting points are about the same as windows vs mac vs linux vs vim vs emacs. I've seen some *awesome* pictures taken with crappy cameras and some *horrible* pictures taken with really good / expensive cameras. The equipment does have a factor, but really not enough that you would notice unless you're doing really high end work, and then you're working with a hasselblad and a 39mp ($40k) digital back 🙂

    Honestly, the decision is what feels best to you, if a canon (nikon) feels more comfortable in your hands and the controls feel better you're going to use it more and have more fun and take more/better pictures regardless of the fact that nikon (canon) has better glass / IS / etc.

    My $0.02

  6. I agree with Arcterex. I went with the Nikon D200 simply because I like the way it felt in my hand. Arguing about lenes seems to be a waste of time considering both Nikon and Canon have excellent lenses.

    The one thing that turned me off from the Canon cameras was that the firmware UI is incredibly confusing--at least to me. I have a point-and-shoot Canon and every time I need to go into the menu, I feel lost for a few seconds. The Nikon Layout just makes more sense to me.

  7. Thanks for all the input. I currently use a Coolpix885 which I bought some years back. I went w/Nikon (believe it or not) because of the Kodachrome song by Simon and Garfunk 😯 ...
    It is time to upgrade though and I don't understand much of the jargon from camera buffs. It is somewhat comforting that there are such good arguments for both brands and even more comforting what Arcterex mentioned because most photos I take are kind of for history (e.g. where we've traveled/Thanksgiving day, etc...) and not so much the high end photo. I do like to take a quality pic though, but much of that comes from outside influences such as light and being still when there ain't much! I take a lot of blurry pics folks!
    End decision? I will look at price, comfort, and easy to use. I want to try my first detachable lens as well. I already know Nikon rocks, but maybe it's time to roll with a Canon?

  8. [quote comment="39529"]I want to try my first detachable lens as well. I already know Nikon rocks, but maybe it's time to roll with a Canon?[/quote]

    I used a Nikon Coolpix 995 (still a great camera) before, and now use Canon equipment. So, I made essentially the same jump as you.

    If you do get into dSLR stuff, the common rule is to start with an inexpensive camera, but begin collecting good-quality glass with good reputations.

  9. I do not really want to bother you with many links, technical info and other stuff, Heinrich, Nikon does NOT make better lenses than Canon.

    I am sure some lenses from Nikon are better or at the same level as Canon counterparts. There are many lenses where the Canon counterpart does beat the Nikon counterpart, though.

    Just a quick and not complete little list:

    Most Canon wide angle primes are better than their Nikon counterparts, in resolution, CA, distortion among other things. This, while you can read over and over on many forums about that "Canon is better in Tele, Nikon is better in wide angle".
    This is just not the case in the current lens lineups.

    The Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM is sharper than the Nikon AF-S 17-55 f2.8 DX over the entire range. Not only that, but the Nikon also loses in contrast and resolution towards the long end. And then we are not even looking at the CA performance (the Canon being superior). Also the Canon lens is less expensive AND offers IS.

    The Canon EF 70-300 IS USM is the best 70-300 class lens by far, compared to ANY manufacturer. It is very sharp upto 300mm, without loss of contrast, without losing towards the edges. All in all GREAT optics for a moderate price. The new AF-S 70-300 VR from Nikon can really not compare optically.

    Hmm... the Nikon 85mm f1.4 maybe? No, the only thing it is a bit better in compared to the Canon 85mm f1.2 L USM II is the price. And it has bad CA problems wide open.

    The Nikon 50mm f1.4? Hmmm... the Canon 50mm f1.4 USM is sharper, and again has less CA problems.

    The Nikon AF-S 80-400 VR? No... while the Canon 100-400 IS USM has its own faults, it does beat the 80-400 Nikkor by quite a big margin, especially in resolution and contrast at 400mm.

    The Nikon 105mm f2.8 VR Mirco maybe? No... the Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro is sharper, has better contrast... and is cheaper. Only real advantage of the Nikkor is its VR.

    So... I do not want to go on and on, just want to dispute the blanket statements about Nikon glass like "...Nikon lenses have generally better optics than Canon" and "Nikon glass is far superior to Canon."

    It simply is not true.

    Asked was to "Please keep all fanboy-ish stuff to yourself".... I think above posters (the ones with the superior glass ideas) should do that.

    I would recommend the Canon XTi/EOS 400D, because of its strong lens line-up, because of the superior sensor technology at the moment, because it comes with a better standard software package, it is easier to use than a Nikon or a Pentax UI wise, and it has a solid upgrade path and strong 3rd party lens support.
    Nikon had strong party lens support too, but not anymore since Nikon decided to whipe out almost all 3dr party lens competition by slashing the Nikon internal AF motor from their entry level camera, the D40.

    Pentax has a very complete entry level model in the K100D, but although its lens lineup has some true gems, the lens collection is a bit limitted in places. The 6mpSony sensor does not compare favorably to the 10mp Canon in terms of resolution and dynamic range. Also the only upgrade path is the K10D for now, and that one is no miracle in image quality either. It does offer IS in-body, maybe not as good in all situations and dedicated IS in lens, but not as costly.

  10. I don't know about all this Nikon againts Canon crap but I love all the Nikons I have ever owned FG-F100-D70-D200. Boy, do I LOVE MY D200, but most of all I love my Nikkor lenses esp. the ones with the gold rings!!!

  11. A Canon guy here. Never owned Nikon lenses. But from what's on, many of the Nikon lenses do have higher MTF numbers than their Canon counterparts. Only by chance? But I stay with Canon because of the variety of lenses available (and more affordable too)as pointed out by others here. This all sounds like the Mac fan (Nikon?) vs Windows (Canon), one with a small but hardcore fan base vs the other with big spread to please everyone. I'd love to get my hands on the Nikons if ever I got enough savings (dah!). But Canon AF does seem to be faster. I was at the San Diego Wild Animal Zoo a month ago, saw all these big white lenses pointing at the lions (Mines was black, a Sigma). Canon got the rich photographers, if not the best ones 🙂

    Happy shooting

  12. First, stop making silly comparisons, start making more great pictures! Let the images speak for themselves!

    I own a Nikon D200. Before that a F801. I have owned Praktica, Cosina and many MF and AF Minolta's (X-700, 7000i, 7xi, 800si). I have made great pictures with all of them.

    Learing how to operate your camera will make the difference, not the MTF-numbers or Bokeh-tests. When comparing lenses, please compare them under EXACTLY the same circumstances. And who shoots a lab test setup in real life?

    All manufacturers (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sigma, 3rd party) produce good lenses. Not all camera's feel the same when you pick them up. For me, both the Nikon D80 and all but the most expensive Canons did not fit in my hand like the D200 did. Especially the 350D and 400D are too small to hold comfortably for me.

    And the D200 has a lot of single function buttons (a Nikon trademark) compared to otherwise great Canon products. Some people are scared of the amount of buttons on a Nikon camera. For me it's a plus. That made me come to the conclusion that FOR ME a Canon is a really great camera but a Nikon is a pure photographic tool, like an extension of my arm. I expect for people with small hands it will be the other way around.

    Autofocus. I have to admit that Canon autofocus is more quiet and perhaps faster. But here's the catch! You want sharp pictures, not ultrafast autofocus. A slight miss by the autofocus will ruin an otherwise great picture. I don't know. Perhaps it's neither Nikon nor Canon that scores best in this department?

    Glass. Nikon kit lenses outperform Canon kit lenses. I am talking KIT lenses here. As for the other glass: read the reports and reviews. There are gems on both sides. I own one of them, a Nikkor 180/2.8 D. I have never come across a sharper lens. Canon DO optics are good, but not great. Their top lenses are better, and more heavy and less compact etc. Another point is the way a lens handles. Maybe even more important than the top optical quality is the way a lens ' feels' in your hand.

    Sensor size. I am missing the wide angle versus tele discussion here. Some drawbacks of full-frame sensors: they are so good that they for sure will show ANY lens faults, which for the most parts occur in the edges of the glass. Nikons use the center part of the lens which is often the sharpest part. But do try to use full frame lenses on your DX sensor!

    Build quality. For the consumer line, Nikons als better built. Does this increase their life span? Perhaps, perhaps not. it does make them a bit heavier. A D200 is much better sealed that a Canon 5D which costs about twice as much. It is also a .lot faster. Still, there are reasons to choose a 5D over a D200.

    Price. Nikon glass is more expensive than Canon glass. This does not always relate to quality. Nikon raised it's prices recently here in Europe by a fair margin. When you are a frequent upgrader, maybe the price point counts. Otherwise PLEASE DO NOT ONLY LOOK AT THE PRICE TAG! Consider other factors as well. Better a camera that feels great and costed a couple of euro's/dollars more than a cheaper camera that just doesn't feel right.

  13. [quote comment="40126"]First, stop making silly comparisons, start making more great pictures! Let the images speak for themselves![/quote]

    Which is an odd thing to say right before you launch into a laundry list of "silly" comparisons that have little to do with actually making pictures.

    Especially since almost all of your comments are "pro-Nikon" and anti-Canon, even subtly. For example, you imply that Canons can't focus. You call a Nikon a "pure photographic tool." C'mon… don't say one thing and do 20 opposite things.

    Here are two times when you talk about the "drawbacks" without failing to mention the positives.

    [quote comment="40126"]Sensor size. Some drawbacks of full-frame sensors[/quote]

    [quote comment="40126"]A D200 is much better sealed that a Canon 5D which costs about twice as much. It is also a lot faster.[/quote]

    The D200 isn't even in the same class as the 5D. You're not only comparing apples to oranges, you're comparing bananas to poultry. Sure, they're still "foods," but that's where sane comparison ends.

    Until Nikon actually comes out with a full-frame camera, I suppose Nikonites will have to try to force these kinds of comparisons on people. Just get the best camera for you - don't buy into the rubbish fanboy talk, particularly from someone who has only ever owned one of the two kinds of camera.

  14. Erik - exactly.... as I have said many times before, get the camera that best suits your hand. If you choose brand X over Y because it's got better feature A, but it's not as comfortable in your hand as brand Y, you won't end up using it as much as maybe you would with a different brand.

    I've seen amazing, artistic pictures used on things like album covers (can't remember the exact example ATM sadly) taken with a crappy little Point and Shoot.

    Repeat after me everyone:

    It is the photographer not the equipment.
    Buying more/better equipment will NOT make me a better photographer.
    I do not need more equipment.

    Or something like that. A couple of great quotes I've picked up over the years:

    "How come no one ever looks at a Picasso and says 'Wow, he must have used a really great brush', but when they look at a great photo they say 'Wow, you must have used a really great camera'"


    "If you worry about equipment, you're an amateur, If you worry about money, you're a professional, If you worry about the light, you're a master."

    Both those came from people in the DPreview forums btw.

  15. [quote comment="39924"]But from what's on, many of the Nikon lenses do have higher MTF numbers than their Canon counterparts. Only by chance? [/quote]

    This is because Nikon lenses are tested on D200 and Canon lenses on 350D. D200 has more Mpx so it can deliver more LW/PH (line widths per picture height).

    So I think if you want to compare LW/PH values on between Canon and Nikon lenses, you have to multiply all canon MTF values by 1.079 ( = D200 MTF maximum / 350D MTF maximum).

    Because we are not comparing bodies but lenses. Remember.

  16. Canon - Nikon ... they both offer a wide range of glass and both produce good and not-so-good lens's.

    Stick a good photographer behind either one of these camera brands and your going to get great photos and prints.

    If you think your photo's are going to be noticably any better just because you went with a specific brand your only fooling yourself.

  17. [quote comment="41056"]If you think your photo's are going to be noticably any better just because you went with a specific brand your only fooling yourself.[/quote]

    Nobody here is saying that. But to pretend that there aren't differences between the two brands - and differences that affect people in noticeable ways - is equally as silly.

  18. Whatever. Its all a bit boring. I use Nikon because I like the feel, the ergonomics and the weather sealing. If the Canon felt better I would use that instead.
    I also use Leica, Mamiya, Contax and Rollei cameras - some dating back to 1936. Each camera has its own strong points and weaknesses.
    And strangely the minute (in the main) differences in the images they produce are not important. Its the way the camera goes about taking the photo thats more important. The cameras only function is not to get in the way of taking a good photo. And thats all it does.
    I have also used Canons in the past and absolutely loved my old AE1 Program. I still have a Canon Ixus 60 P&S and it has taken some photos with as much appeal as the D2x I usually use.

    Nuff said.

  19. After reading all of the comments, I can only laugh.

    only a few seemed to understand its not brand its comfort.

    I bet you that if i took two identical photographs, one from a Nikon and one from a Canon, you would be unable to tell which one came from which.

    I sell Cameras for a living and customers ask me, which one is better. I give them a brief demo on the the controls of each camera, then let them shoot for a few minutes with each camera. There is never a clear "winner" after they use each camera. It all depends on the feel.

    Besides the average semi-serious photographer will not be able to tell the difference between lenses and sensors. They just want something that will take a good clear bright picture. And Both do that extremely well!

  20. [quote comment="41742"]only a few seemed to understand its not brand its comfort.[/quote]

    To be fair, it's more than that. If you want auto-ISO, you go Nikon. If you want lower noise (generally) or full frame, you go Canon.

    There are some differences beyond comfort.