What camera should I buy?

I hear this question a lot.

And of course there is no real answer. Like asking “what car should I buy”. Up to you!

But there are part answers that may help you make your own decision. Last time, I talked about “Canon or Nikon versus Olympus, Sony, Pentax, etc”. This time let me talk about “Canon or Nikon”.

Both are great. They are the industry leaders. Most photographers and photojournalsits have eitehr Canon or Nikon (by far). But the most important question is “how recent is your camera”, not “what brand is it”.

Some people say the two brands have different DNA. That is an overstatement – you can use and like either and they do the very same job. That said:

  • I feel that in the low end (Nikon D3000, D5000, etc versus Canon Digital Rebel XS, T1i, T2i, etc) Canon beats Nikon. The inability to auto-focus using a 50mm lens on these Nikon cameras is, in my opinion, a showstopper. A lot of options are unavailable. The Canon cameras feel much “cleaner” here, and more professional.
  • In the mid-range, Nikon D90/D300 vs Canon 50D/60D, it’s a wash, especially if you compare modern with modern.
  • In the upper mid range, Canon wins my vote with the excellent 7D and 5D II.
  • In the high end (1D, 1Ds, 3D, etc) it’s a wash again.
  • Hold the cameras and see what feels and sounds better. This is like doing a car test drive. Essential part of your choice.
  • With video, Canon beats Nikon in all but the most recent cameras. But these are not video cameras, really.
  • If you like customizing, Nikon beats Canon. Canon seems to not like to give photographers customization options, especially in lower end cameras: these are used to drive people to the more expensive cameras.
  • On the other hand, Nikon’s menus are terrible: the user interface with the vertical tabs and scroll bars is hard for beginners to understand. Canon is much cleaner here.
  • Canon still has a better lens range than Nikon.
  • Controls on Nikon turn “the wrong way” – e.g. the exposure adjustment scale goes from plus to zero to minus, exactly the opposite to all other Cartesian coordinate systems we have been taught to use all our lives. And to unscrew a lens you turn clockwise. And so on. I find this extremely irritating, but you may love it.
  • Nikon’s TTL flash system is excellent. On the other hand, NIon’s high-end flashes overheat. So again, a wash.

I am a Canon shooter, with a 1D4, a 1Ds3, and a 7D. Buit I also shoot Nikon. A good photographer can handle any camera.

My recommendation:

  1. Make a list of what you will use the camera for
  2. Make a list of MUST HAVES and LIKE TO HAVES in your camera
  3. Take those lists to a good camera store, like Henry’s, where the staff know photography.
  4. Research the recommendations on dpreview.com and via Google.

And above all, buy now, before the festive season.

And above even that: come get some training. Call or email me, sign up at Henrys or at cameratraining.ca, or do whatever you can to learn. It is simple, but if you do not take a course you will never live up to your potential.

5 thoughts on “What camera should I buy?

      • OK, that makes sense. You had me a little confused for a minute as it’s been my experience that Nikon usually beats Canon when it comes to AF performance. Most of my experience has been with consumer cameras like the 5DII and 5D, though I have played with the 1D in a few variants and they seem to be better. It seems that Canon hold back it pro level AF systems where as Nikon uses the same AF system on all it’s century series through pro cameras.

        • True, that is my experience also – though Canon and Nikon have gone back and forth on AF. Noting beats the 7D, for instance, today: in my personal experience it’s better than my 1D4 and 1Ds3, which are very good also.

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