Canon vs. Nikon

I’ve seen this debate come up a lot. Of course, it’s been rearing its head for a long time and will continue to do so far into the future, but it seems like I’ve been seeing more of it lately. Most people are pretty light-hearted when they talk about it. But almost everyone has at least some loyalty to the brand they’ve chosen. Partly it’s because cameras and lenses aren’t cheap and people have a psychological need to justify large purchases. Partly it’s about belonging to a “club.” There are a lot of factors.

My point of view is this: it’s a tool. I don’t much care what brand it is. The brand certainly doesn’t help me make photos. The brand doesn’t aid me in composition or help me see the world in a 4:6 ratio. I bought Nikon because the price/performance at the time I bought my original D70 (not the “s”) was better and the Rebel is too small for my hands. They both make excellent lenses and bodies. Both companies make equipment that far exceeds the ability level of 99% of their owners. Even though I have some money invested in Nikon glass, I’d switch without hesitation if I was looking to upgrade and Nikon equipment started to suck.

Anyway, I don’t mean to rant, but brand worship in general (and it isn’t restricted to just camera equipment) boggles me.

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. I totally get what you’re saying. A friend recently asked if she should buy a Rebel XT or a D50 and I said there is no wrong answer to that question. Both of them are potentially the perfect camera for her. Try bodies from both brands, compare prices of the glass you want to buy, and choose the one that works and feels best to you. No wrong or right answer, no need to be insanely partisan.

  2. Well said. The same can be said for camera models as well. How many pictures have you seen with the cheaper Canon’s and Nikon’s that rival that of their more expensive counterparts?

    It’s the person behind the glass…which explains why my newbie D70s photos are nothing in comparison to yours. I’m willing to learn, of course. 😉

  3. It’s like the old saying goes: You woudln’t ask a writer what kind of typewriter they used to create a Pulitzer-Prize winning novel…I always feel a bit frustrated with the “Wow, great shot, what camera did you use?” comments because it ain’t the machine, it’s the human behind it. (Besides, they can always look at my EXIF data.)

    I think the only real argument between Nikon and Canon at this point is over price; at the low-end DSLRs, are you willing to willing to sacrifice 2MP for dollars you could put toward more glass? Well, that, and the comfort factor you mentioned.

  4. I believe both Canon and Nikon make very good equipment. I chose Nikon not because I believe their gear is inherently better, but because I have used Nikon cameras for a number of years and the feel and control layout are more comfortable to me.

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  6. I totally agree with you. Even that i´m a big Nikon fan, the debates about the Canon vs. Nikon usually resemble debates about the best soda : is it Pepsi or is it Coke? 🙂

  7. For me, it came down to which direction I wanted my lense collection to grow.
    I had friends with Canon and Canon lenses, Flashes, etc. and the opportunity to borrow was there.

  8. As a noob, I’m contemplating between the 350D, D70s & Alpha100.

    However, I am more concerned about the lens system I will put my money into. Which one would give me more value for money (good & reasonably priced lenses)? Canon, Nikon or Sony?

  9. I chose a Nikon not because of any inherent superiority — as amply pointed out it’s the person behind the glass more than the camera — but because of the backwards compatibility with lenses. My family has a collection of older nikkor lenses, and using them has been a great experience.

  10. I’m with you all. Sort of. I chose a Pentax as my DSLR, but for all the same reasons: ergonomics, backward compatibility of lenses, and that I had some 40+ year old glass in a closet somewhere.

  11. I am sure both Canon and Nikon makes super optics and bodies. However, as of Aug 2006, there is no Nikon digital SLR with Full Frame bodies. Maybe in the future, dont’ know. If you don’t care about FF, then you may need to compare the lens. The range, speed, price, weight ( personally, I don’t care about the weight). To make a fair comparison you have to consider the same price range. For example, there is no comprison to make on a sigma 28-300mm to canon 28-300mm IS USM. The price difference is 6x times. One good thing about Nikon is compatibility. I totally agreed. Canon makes more ranges on the AF lens. check out more websites and get objective conclusions.

  12. I enjoyed the analogy about asking a Pulitzer Prize winner about what typewriter they’d use and wish to carry that one on some more.

    I love racing bicycles. Many guys buy the best and most expensive frames and components. Nothing gets the tongues to wag like seeing a Colnago C50 with Camp Record and Zip Deep Dish Wheels. That’s over $6,000 of bicycle. But one of the best racers in the area rides a $1,500 bike.

    Would you rather listen to your neighbor’s high school kid play a Stradivarius or listen to Itzhak Perlman play on a $300 violin?

    Now on the other side of that same coin. I doubt a diner in a five start restaurant would ask what kind of cookware was used to cook the food. But two gourmet chefs may ask each other what their favorite cookware is. Similarly, if you put two Pulitzer Prize winners in the same room they may ask what kind of typewriter they use.

    In the end, whatever your passion is, the tools of your trade are important. Itzhak will sound better on the Stradivarius than the cheep violin. A great photographer will be able to wring out so much more from a high end camera than a cheep one. But truefully, most of the world never cares about what equipment was used when they look at a nice picture.

    I hope I’ve not digressed too far.

  13. My basketball skills increased 10 fold after I bought my air jordans. Lets not pretend that there is an art or skill to taking pictures. Sure, you need a steady hand, maybe you need to set up focus and lighting, but you push a button and the camera does all the work. Therefore, the camera is king when taking a picture. Ask if your uncle can take pics at a wedding, and your photgrapher probably wont care. If your uncle pulls out an expensive camera, i guarentee you the photographer will stop him from taking shots.

    Truth be told, pressing a button on a camera does not take a lot of skills. A five year old with an expensive camera can take breath taking shots which could ooh and aaah the world. Go ahead flame on, but deep down inside you know I am right.

  14. Let’s be clear: the camera quality is definitely an important component in picture taking. There’s a huge difference between your average Joe snapping a photo with a Canon A540 and someone who knows how to frame a picture properly. Joe will leave it on automatic, possibly put it into portrait or landscape mode. The photographer will snap it into manual and go from there.

    I have a friend who loves taking pictures, though I definitely would not consider them a hobbiest photographer. They’re in it for the memories, not the art. And not to boast, but I can, with the same camera, make the exact same picture phenomenally better on a cheap $150 camera. Why? Because I know what looks good and how to use the camera. I have an eye for composition. I have an artistic vision.

    Let’s definitely not take away from the skill or artistic vision of the person behind the camera. That’s the most important element. I could give said friend my $900 Rebel XTi and every picture they took would be “average.” Not faulting them for it, but sorry. Some people have that art and some don’t. Not that they can’t learn, but that’s just not what interests them.

    Again, the skill and artistic vision of the photographer is BY FAR the most important element. The camera is secondary. I choose Canon because I find that for my needs, their glass is slightly better quality than Nikon. Nikon is a phenominal company. I still love and am amazed by every product they put out in terms of quality.

    – Adam

  15. I switched to Canon after years of using Nikons because you cannot shoot tethered to Capture 1 pro using a nikon and I shoot a lot of studio work and need the simplicity of Capture 1 pro. If you are a professional photographer I think Nikon is not the right tool for specific uses like studio work. Everyone I know that is working as a photographer have moved to Canon because of similar issue. It may not be the tool…but in the digital age it is definitely the software.

  16. I’ve been a loyal Nikon user since 1989. Over the years I invested in some very expensive wideangle Nikon film lenses, and have been dismayed that to this day there is still no full frame Nikon body that will let me get the best from these. All my wides have become semi-wides, pathetic. Money down the drain. I’ve given up waiting, I’ve bought a Canon outfit. Nikon haven’t looked after me in the way I thought they would, I don’t consider they offer a full range of kit anymore.

    If you want a fast wideangle Nikon can’t help you. Its the Canon 24mm f1.4 L for me. My beloved Nikkor 28mm f1.4 sits in my camera case because I cannot use its wonderful wide field of view – what a waste of a superlative optic.

  17. Sorry for a typo in my post, I should have said ” … and have been dismayed that to this day there is still no full frame DIGITAL Nikon body … “

  18. Since my last post I am delighted that Nikon have released the full frame D3. I am now starting to save up for one! I am looking forward to dusting off my Nikon 28mm in due course. I now intend to run my Nikon and Canon outfits side by side.

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