Nikon vs Canon: The Switch

Which one is better? Which one has better specs, dust protection, fps? Who cares. This post is about a switch from one, to another. :)

So, everyone around says that once you buy a camera, you are with it for life/forever. Yeaaahhhh … Not really. Here is my experience of my change from Nikon to Canon. A bit of a read, but hope it’s an interesting one. But lets start from the beggining.

1. Beggining

:) How do you get your first camera? You walk into a store, Jessops perhaps, and sales assistant/camera expert shows you around and within seconds tells you, which camera to buy. He knows you will need so and so and any other one may not be up to your expectations. In my case it was similar. I wanted to start doing photography more seriously and wanted a big DSLR. I had no idea about ISO, shutter speed, fstops and tons of other things. I knew I wanted to have a camera. A friend of mine recommended me to buy Nikon system. That made my mind up, especially when I liked the design of Nikon cameras, the look etc. I did some research (mostly based on prices) and decided that I will buy a …. Nikon D60. I ordered one from Amazon and there it was. My first DLSR. And I had no idea how to use it. :(

2. Journey continues

So, you have your first camera. After some time you decide to buy extra lens or two, a camera bag and plenty of other unnecessary accessories. You learn more and more about photography, you experiment, find the genre or category you like the most and continue shooting. At the same time you look at the competitors. Sony, Canon, Olympus. And start to wondering if they are better. You compare the specs for hours and hours and try to find the best one. But its difficult. One has more megapixels, the other one has better frames per second. And you wish your camera had some more advanced features. So what you do? Upgrade time!

After D60 I got myself D300s. It was a huge jump for me. Bigger body. More frames per second. Images were much sharper. Better noise reduction. Simply dreamland. :)

And this stays like that for a while, until next upgrade. In my case was the mighty D3s. That camera was the Beast. Heavy. Big. Superfast fps (can you match it Canon? :) 1Dx didn’t come out yet :P ). And whats important, clean ISO at the high levels. With this camera you could shoot everything. From weddings (done) to nightclubs (done) to portraits (done) to live music (done). And it had a video, too! Not the best, but it was there.

3. What if your camera needs something?

I do a lot of photography. Personal portraits, some projects on a side, paid commissions and simply photographing people. However, I do video as well. And I wanted to get a decent video camera that does not cost a lot. I mean a lot. Sony EX1 cost somewhere around £4000? FS100 even more? But there is solution: Canon. If you need cheap camera with wide variety of lenses, plenty of accessories and everything in small package, then Canon is your bet. Nowdays, pretty much every single Canon camera does HD video.

But hey, I have plenty of gear in Nikon system. Lets count:

  • 14-24mm f2.8G
  • 24-70mm f2.8G
  • 70-200mm f2.8G VR II
  • 50mm f1.4G
  • 85mm f1.8D
  • 105mm f2.8G VR Macro
  • SB-900 flash x3
  • Phottix Nikon fit flash triggers x3
  • D3s body
List is quite long. Thank God that I can keep my memory cards at least. So, is it worth to think about changing all this into Canon system? But Nikon does HD video, too! Yes, but D3000, D5000 and D7000 have not so good HD video. Its quite compressed and their sensor size is cropped. Oh, wait! There is D4 and D800 out now. Yay! Full frame sensor, advanced HD video, low noise at high ISO and photos look excellent.
However, Canon released long awaited 5D mkIII and its quite a treat. Should I switch or should I stay? Is it really worth it? Which one is better?

4. Compare specs and decide?

So, I decided to switch. I need a camera that can do both: photo and video and be good at it. Plus it has to have interchangeable lenses, compact size and not too expensive like RED Epic :D Oh, and it has to have a sweet full frame sensor ;)

So, the way it looks now is that we have D4, D800 and 5D mkIII (I don’t count 1Dx yet as its not released). D4 has really good ISO, autofocus, HD video and outputs to external recorder like Atomos Ninja! D800 has similar specs, super-mega-shark-monster-octopus-high megapixel number and does HD video with Atomos Ninja output, too. Canon has similar stuff, improved autofocus, really good ISO and very good HD video. No output to external recorder (why Canon? why? protecting your C300 sales?). So, cameras are pretty similar, but one thing Canon has over Nikon. Lenses.

Canon lenses can be used on wide range of professional video cameras. RED Epic will take them, C300, FS100 I think? Simply, if you have Canon lenses, you can use them on pro gear. Nikon, not so much. You need some sort of adaptor rings and you can’t control fstop precise with that.

So, what was the final decision for me? Few things:

  • full frame
  • good photo and video
  • high quality HD video without noise and moire
When comparing Nikon to Canon video, Canon clearly wins. Video is much cleaner, less noise, it has more data to play around with in post production/special effects/grading and Magic Lantern (people are working now to bring Magic Lantern to 5D mkIII). It was difficult decision to make a change. However, I decided to change as I wanted to have one system to take photos and videos. I didn’t want to carry around tons of equipment. Just one body plus lenses and other accessories. Everything packable into one rolling case/backpack.

 5. What next?

Well, I sold all the lenses and body on eBay or via recommendations etc. It wasn’t easy as people were offering me out of nowhere offers (£100 for SB-900 flash?!). I had to sell my equipment as used as well, I used it on numerous occasions. I lost some money on it as over time all the electronics loose value, especially when you use it. However, I knew that this will happen. Part of the process. You pay £500 for a lens, you sell it for £350 year after. Its common and happens every day. However, I remember about 2 years ago, I bought Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Really bad purchase. Lens was soft at f2.8. Images looked like they were run with Gaussian blur or something. I sold it within days on eBay. Best thing? I bought it for £400 and sold for £600 :) Sometimes it happens to have a good deal. Maybe it helped that I kept the original box? :)

What I got in return was necessary capital to buy 5D mkIII and few Canon lenses. 3 primes and 2 zooms. All L glass plus 4 flashes. So pretty much I am at the same spot, when I was with Nikon. However, now I can do HD video.  I miss the way Nikon glass looks, all black and feels somehow better when holding? 70-200mm Canon all white doesn’t appeal to me :) Also, I like the way Nikon sounds, when you take photo. But well, I will get used to Canon over time :)

6. Any advice?

If you consider switching cameras, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. You will have to spend time researching both companies. Compare models, decide which one you want to buy. Read reviews, if you have chance to use camera, do it. Its pricey process. It took me about 4 weeks before I sold every single piece of Nikon gear. Also, good tip: before you sell your last body and lens, make sure you have new body and lens in your bag :) Otherwise you may end up not having camera at all until new one arrives :)

And final tip: remember, camera is just a piece of plastic, glass and technology. You are the person that makes the images in your portfolio. Gear helps you to achieve better result. :)