Is Nikon or Canon Better? A Discussion On System Purchase

This article was originally written for SPIN at:

This article should be for those who already have a advanced compact, a prosumer super zoom and EVIL cameras who understands the problems they have when using their current cameras.

Before I continue I want to comment on questions such as these

– “Which camera system is better?”

– “Is Canon or Nikon better? (or choose any brands to compare)”

Ans: These type of questions are UNFAIR. These types of questions create fights for the wrong reasons.

There is only one reason why one should buy one system over the other.  The camera WORKS in your hands. You are ABLE to change the settings efficiently and quickly. You should be ABLE to control the camera. The camera, when in use, is an extension of your hands and eyes and brain.

So Nikon system works for ME because

  • I can work better with its Ergonomics and how it changes the settings.
  • Secondly. Nikon provides an image output that I (ME) like.

Choose the camera that suits YOU. But in order to answer that question, one has to really USE the systems under the same circumstances to know where they are comfortable and uncomfortable.  I would strongly suggest my friends to borrow cameras for various brands to use and test according to their feel and way of using a camera.

For example: I find Canon entry level DSLR too small and toyish (I was choosing between D350 and D70 at that time).  The same characteristics will be ideal for a girl with small hands and like to have a lighter camera.  Hence, there is no right or wrong; there is no better system in terms of usage.

In short “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” so questions about “Which is better system?” don’t do justice to one who ask. Why? Because the one whom u ask will answer based on HIS/HER way of using a camera, which is not YOUR way; that’s why it is UNFAIR.

Now back to the main stuff…

Some of the common characteristics I see when I see a friend grow out of compact cameras.

  • Their inability to capture fast moving objects due to the sensor sensitivity/noise issue, slow lens or a combination of both. They want something that is able to capture speed
  • Understood that DSLR provides a better handling capabilities from having a good viewfinder to changing of settings to ability to have a better grip for lesser. All points to a better platform to provide a secure and vibration free handling of the camera unlike the compact camera
  • Have understood that lens is an integral part of the system. A good lens will help a photographer and a good photographer would need a good system and tool. Lens are like different tools to a photographer. Each will do a specific job. There is no such thing as a perfect lens that can do everything (and then know that kit lens is a stop gap measure).
  • have understood the Manual Controls well but recognised that the range of controls is limited in A-CC, MFT or EVIL or Prosumers.
  • have realised that the mini flash in the small camera is limited in use and is not powerful enough for group shots. They also understand that external flash or other sources of strobe lighting provides additional creative options for the photographer.
  • Want the option of RAW file and have mastered or understand how to maximise the RAW file format in post processing.

If the above points are what you are feeling right now, then it is time for one to get a better tool.  If you do not know what I am talking about at this juncture, get an advance compact camera to learn about photography first.

And again I am NOT looking down on any one. I just want to make sure you understand your needs first before INVESTING into something that requires financial commitment and not based on hearsay, people making passing comments or that red color looks nice on the DSLR.  Worse of all, to succumb to marketing messages without knowing what those marketing messages are. Remember marketing purpose is to sell you stuff that you THINK you want (not need).

My way of selling is to make sure you know what you are buying and when you buy from me, you jolly well know you are getting the right stuff for the right job and get the most out of it including enjoying the picture that you see straight out of the camera.

Here are the factors to consider:

a) Choose systems that you are able to work well on.  If you have ONE system you are super comfortable then consider other factors.

b) The ability to change lens according to needs.  That means able to buy the lens that you need, at a budget that you want and to take pictures at a quality you can accept (the value proposition is again unique to the person). Ask around the lens that you would be considering and the price you have to pay. See if there are other brands that will support the system that you are considering.

c) The picture from the camera itself is suitable to YOUR taste and YOUR needs.

This is important as you want lens from various sources. If there’s competition, the price usually drops and it also breeds better R&D on the newer lens.  And also one may consider 2nd hand lens to lower the cost of learning. And again who has the best 2nd hand market?

For my humble opinion: One can get any system but the one lens I  would ALWAYS recommend a person to buy is a 18-50mm (27 to 75mm) F2.8  lens to replace the kit lens.

This has a good zoom  range from wide landscape to close portraiture and at F2.8, it will give  allow better night shots in difficult circumstances.  I would usually  suggest either the Sigma and Tamron first. If money is no object then go  for the Nikkor and L-Lens equivalent.  This is one purchase that I did  not regret.  I would even suggest to skip the 50mm F1.8 as the zoom is  quite limiting for general usage and use the money saved to get this lens.

For other uses such as macro, sports, concert etc, then it is good to ask around and get a better idea what is out there.

I will touch on different types of lens here:

c) The ability to have a good flash system. Even that pop-up flash on the DSLR camera is just only marginally better than the compact camera due to placement and power.  This time it is really a matter of technical prowess by the manufacturers. I got the Nikon because I like the creative lighting system and Nikon are always better with their flash output.  Canon has caught up also but again it is the file image look. The same goes with other systems.

For flash, I always recommend getting the highest output to give maximum reach so as to give the photographer maximum flexibility. Nikon would be SB-900 but IMHO SB-800 is still the best though the reach is not as good but should be very good for over 90% of users out there. For Canon it should be the 580.

d) The ability to fine tweak settings in camera.  In this case, how the camera works in default will give a good indication if one has to tweak more.  If the picture in default turns out better for YOUR eye, then one only need to tweak a little to get the desired result.  If I find the default to have a blue(SONY)/red(Nikon)/green(Canon) overcast, then I may need to do a lot of work to correct the settings to get what I want. That would be inefficient and may result in more time in front of the Computer doing post processing.  So the best system for a person is when one do not really need to do a lot to get the desire result.

For more on my views on the various systems out there please refer to:

HOWEVER do understand that there is NO such thing as a better system for everyone.  The best system to YOU is for YOU.  Whatever I share is based on my experience and that helped people to buy things that they need but I won’t say that one shouldn’t get this or that (i may complain about a brand or system’s problems but it is a problem that ‘I’ don’t like).

If I do make you feel that you are forced to get a particular brand, please take a deep breath and accept my sincerely apologies.  In the end, I won’t know how you feel handling the camera so it is really up to the user.

If there’s any one who ask questions about which is a better camera system, please refer them to this page.

With this I will also announce that SPIN is brand agnostic and also camera type agnostic. All types of camera users are welcomed!!

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