Why You Should Choose Canon Over Nikon.

Or vice-versa.

My advice for the beginning photographer buying their first DSLR.

Beautiful vertical image of Cloudland Falls on the Falling Waters Trail. Long exposure giving the cascading water a silky smooth look as it crashes over the 50 foot falls.  

I love my Canon cameras. I’ve owned two 40Ds, a 1D MkIIn, and now make my images with a 7D, the best one I’ve owned yet! I’ve gone through lenses like most people change underwear. Various Canon “L” lenses, too many to mention, have resided in my camera bag at one time or another. Some have made repeat visits(I’m currently working with my fourth 70-200 and second 17-40). Add in a smattering of third-party lenses and it becomes obvious that I’m always on the hunt for my next “favorite” lens.

But I didn’t fall in love with my Canon gear because I thought it was “better.” Though when I’m asked “which camera should I buy?” I generally steer people towards Canon. But that’s because it’s what I shoot, it’s what I know. Do I think Canon is better than any other brand? All kidding with my Nikon shooting friends aside, the answer is, no.

What’s mine is yours.

Silky Veil. Clouudland Falls, Lincoln, NH.

It would be understandable of you to think I did choose Canon over Nikon, or any other brand for that matter, for some advanced technical feature, or superior image quality, but you’d be mistaken.

Having no brand loyalty at the time, I chose Canon for my first DSLR for one very simple reason that had nothing to do with either. As I began my interest in photography I didn’t know nearly as many photographers as I now have the pleasure of knowing. In fact, I knew two.

Any guesses as to what those two photographers had in common?

If you guessed they both used Canon cameras, give yourself a prize!

My new-found interest in photography came with a ready-made knowledge base of Canon experience at my disposal. Throw in the added bonus of readily available lenses and other gear I could borrow and the choice was simple.

The images in this post are perfect examples of why this method of choosing one brand over another, especially when just starting out, can be very helpful. The first image of Cloudland Falls was captured using my Canon 7D with 17-40 f/4L lens attached. This is as close as I could get for a decent composition that included the entire waterfall.

17mm on an APS-C sensor camera just wasn’t  wide enough.

This photo with my friend Adam in it shows just how large the waterfall is. 

Capturing Cloudland

But I wanted to get close.

I wanted “wipe the spray off the lens between shots” close, with the entire waterfall in the photograph. Had it just been Adam and myself out shooting that day I would have been out of luck, since Adam is a Nikon man. But thanks to my good friend and fellow Canon guy, Glen, and his willingness to let me use his Tokina 11-16 lens, I was able to get up close and personal with this spectacular waterfall to capture the second image.

*To give you an idea of how much closer I was able to get, while still capturing the entire waterfall, if you look at the photo with Adam in it you’ll see a line of boulders starting just to the left of his left shoulder. The prominent foreground in the second photograph is the top edge of the third boulder to his left. My tripod was just behind that boulder*

There are a lot of great features on almost any camera made today. In the right hands, any of them will enable you (once you learn how to use it, preferably NOT on full auto mode) to make spectacular images. In certain circumstances some of these features may be of importance to you and should be factors in deciding which camera to buy. But don’t discount something as simple as the “My buddy Bob has one” reason for choosing your first DSLR.

This is why the first question I ask when I’m asked “which camera should I buy?” is “do you have any friends that are photographers, if so, what brand do they use?

Of course if they don’t know any photographers, I’m going to highly recommend Canon 😉

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63 thoughts on “Why You Should Choose Canon Over Nikon.

  1. Hi Jeff,
    I have a Canon 7d and 5D MII for the same reason. My friends with Canon cameras are all to willing to share not only knowledge but also let me borrow a lens or two. I have tried Nikon and for me I found the menus/settings navigation too confusing. I am looking for a Ultra-Wide angle lens any suggestions?
    It must work on both aps-c and full frame cameras.

    Thanks,
    -Steve

    • I feel the same way, but I think that has as much to do with a complete lack of familiarity with Nikon as much as the menus being “confusing.”

      As for an ultra-wide, the only thing I can think of is Canon’s 8-15, but that’s a fish-eye I believe. I have heard that the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 is so good that Canon users buy an adaptor to be able to use it. At around $2,000 U.S., I’ll never know.

        • Unfortunately you’re likely to have to make some compromises, or buy two lenses. A 17-40, or 16-35, if you need f/2.8 and want to spend the cash, will be plenty “ultr-wide” on a full frame. But I know I’m often wishing I had something wider on my 7D when using my 17-40. The Tokina 11-16 is both f/2.8 and more than wide enough.

  2. Nice article and captures Jeff,
    As a Nikon shooter I had almost the same experience when I started 3 or 4 years ago. A friend of mine that I knew was taking some pretty good wildlife shots had a new Nikon D7000. I tried it, liked it, and the now have a pretty good investment in Nikon gear. Many of the folks I have traveled with and met “in the wilds” have Canon gear and, aside from the inevitable jabs, pretty much agree that the major brands are equal.

    • Right now I have roughly a 50-50 mix of Canon and Nikon users in my circle of photographer friends, and half the fun with getting together is the inevitable jabs. But we all realize the photos we make have nothing to do with the camera we use.

    • Thank you Stephanie. The title was purposely designed to attract attention. I think there is so much biased information online towards one brand or the other that is simply confusing to someone new to the hobby looking to buy their first dslr. Hopefully this will cut through some of the BS. It’s not the perfect solution nor the perfect answer to “which camera should I buy?” But if a person really has no experience and this will be there first camera, it makes perfect sense to me to look at what the people they may know are using. At least as a good starting point.

      By the way, I have long ago forgiven you for playing for the opposing team.

  3. Great post Jeff. I am a great believer that the skill of the photographer creates the image, aided by a good camera and good lenses. Personally, I am a Canon man but only because I initially chose Canon film cameras, I can’t rememember the reason now.
    I had an EOS300N and an EOS5. Because I had a few Canon lenses, my first DSLR was an EOS30D and now an EOS5DMK2.
    So I can use my 30D with my 70-200mm and get 320mm and using my 16-35mm with the 5D, I can get a nice wide angle 16mm shot.
    I have many friends who are Nikon users and, like Scott comment, I don’t really believe that there is any significant difference in the final images. Because I am used to the Canon “system”, I will probably stick with it.

    From your 2nd image above, the Tokina lens looks great on landscape shots. I would be very interested on how the Tokina lens would perform when shooting buildings (cityscape)particularly the distorsion on verticals at 11mm. (17mm equivalent on your 7D)

    • You hit the nail right on the head Jim. Canon or Nikon. Nikon or Canon. They’re just tools.

      The Tokina is on my short list of lenses to add to my bag, but I have to admit I have no idea how well it handles architecture. But now I’m curious and will have to do some research once I’m ready to make a purchase.

  4. LOL Jeff! I feel about my Nikon exactly as you do about your Canon. Both are wonderful. I always tell people who ask (and there are many) to think more about their lenses and choose a platform that will support growth if they love photography and decide to really pursue it. And if they want my help, I’m the first to admit I know nothing about Canon but can help them with concepts if they go that way. One of the things I love about photography is how helpful we are to one another. Good post!

    • You’re so right! Aperture is aperture, shutter speed is shutter speed, it doesn’t matter who’s name is on the front. The basic principals are all the same If a friend asks, I assume they’ll also want my help, so I recommend Canon, it’s what I know. But if its someone I don’t really know, after trying to first help them decide if they really need a dslr in the first place(most don’t), I ask them what their friends, if any use.

  5. I bought a Canon for my first digital camera because my late husband bought me an AE-1 when I was in high school, and I loved using it for 30 years. If the shutter hadn’t jammed, I might never have switched to digital!

    • It’s hard to fight brand loyalty that’s for sure. Even though Canon, in my opinion foolishly, changed the lens mount when they switched to auto-focus, making it a little more costly to continue with Canon for the switch to digital. Unlike Nikon who’s lens mount goes back to the 50’s, enabling you to use all of your old manual focus lenses to this day.

  6. Jeff, that was a great post as always, and great shots as well, as always. The comments were just as appealing. All together, a fine read. Thanks.

    I’m still trying to determine if I will be shooting enough to warrant putting out the dough for a dSLR. If I should come to that conclusion, I would definitely go with Canon, although I haven’t a clue by reading the reviews which camera to go with. I would go with Canon for three reasons;
    1. I already own a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
    2. I like Canon’s specialty lenses like the flash ring (I guess that’s not really a lens, is it?) and the architectural ring (I forget what they call it)
    3. I forget what the third reason was, but I knew it when I started. Old age is definitely setting in.
    Anyway, keep up the good work. I always enjoy your posts and photos.

    • Cris, if you don’t think you need a DSLR, or can’t justify the cost fer how little you would use it, I’d strongly recommend you look at the Canon G15. It’s like a point and shoot on steroids, offering full manual control and a host of other features. Don’t let the fact that it has “only” 12mp fool you. One of the best things Canon ever did was not follow the normal marketing game of packing too many megapixels on a sensor this size. A friend uses a G11 and her photos are amazing. No you don’t get to use all the fancy lenses Canon offers, but if you don’t need them, this may be the perfect camera upgrade for you. Not to mention, when I’m out shooting with my G11 toting friend, I’m a little envious of her ability to carry her entire kit in her pocket. While I’m stuck lugging around a much larger bag.

      • Thanks for the reply and information and for your time.

        Does the G15 have a raw format. Mine does not. Also, mine only has a lens opening between f/8 and f/16, so it’s a bit limited there. Also, its macro function is a little anemic, doesn’t allow me to get very close. Of course, I can take a photo from a little farther back and then crop, but that limits the printing capabilities.

        Does the G15 answer any of these situations? I’m not familiar with that camera.

        Actually, I’d really like to get a dSLR. I just might have to wait a bit.

        I think you said you use a D7. I’m guessing that is not an inexpensive camera.

        Is there a decent entry level camera for a dSLR that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg? I think Wally’s World has an EOS complete with a zoom lens, for somewhere around $500, or even a little bit under. That’s within the realm of possibility for me, but I am unsure of its capabilities or quality.

        Sometimes, it’s a bit hard to tell by reading the reviews. Some obviously don’t know how to use a camera and others are way more advanced than I am. I haven’t even used all the capabilities of my little camera yet.

        Thanks again. 🙂

        • Based on what I’ve seen my friend do with her G11, I’d say the G15 will do all of that and more. Here’s some more info on the G15 The widest lens aperture is f/1.8 at the wide end, and f/2.8 at the long end. I couldn’t see the smallest aperture listed. I can say that I’ve never stopped down further than f/16, but I’m more likely to use f/11 or f/13.

          Yes, I use a Canon 7D. Not hideously expensive, but not cheap at $1,100. And that’s the price I paid used. I’ve seen them for as low as $850-$900 on the Canon forum I frequent. I’ve bought most of the gear I’ve owned on this forum too. Saved a ton of money. For around $500 you should be able to get a very decent DSLR. Likely one of the Rebel series, if they still call them that. Something like a T2i or T3i. Very good cameras. The only thing I don’t like about them is that they’re too small in my hands, and they lack the quick control dial on the back that the higher end cameras have.

          • Thanks. I checked out the camera at Wally World. It is an EOS Rebel XS with an 18-55mm lens for $449. Would it be better to wait awhile and go for a higher end camera? What is the name of the Canon forum you go to? Thanks again.

            • The forum is “Photography On The Net” With the exception of my first 40D and the 100-400L and current 17-40L, I’ve bought all of my bodies and lenses used here. Never been burned. Though after buying my 7D, from now on I’m askling if the seller is a smoker. Without going into too much detail as to how much I dislike smoking (so I don’t offend anyone), when I first put the camer to my eye I almost puked is reeked so bad of cigarette smoke. Took about 3-4 months before the smell was gone. No more used camera from smokes for me 🙂

              The Rebel XS is a great camera, especially if you’re just starting out. But it is a slightly older model, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. However, if you can swing another $150, THIS is a much better camera. Though NOT because it’s 18mp vs the XS’s 10mp.

              • Thanks, I’ll check both out. I wonder if there are any used T3i out there. 🙂 That might save me a bundle. What would be a good and reasonable price for a used T3i on the forum?

                • That I couldn’t say. I’d go and do a search in the classified section for T3i and see what you come up with. That should give you a good idea of a price range. I do see them often, but unless I’m looking for a new body, I really only look at lenses and other gear for pricing. The biggest factor for price on a body tends to be shutter count. The Rebel series are factory tested to 100K shutter actuations. So a smokin good deal on a camera with 70K on it might not be such a great deal if the shutter craps out a month after you get it. No that doesn’t mean at 100K the camera is going to go belly up, that’s just how high Canon tests them. Another thing to think about, you may very well be able to find something even “better” used for a price you were thinking of spending on a new T3i

  7. Well as you may (or may not) know I only started shooting pics a few months ago. I bought a Canon and have to say I am very pleased with how she (yes, Zelda) shoots for me. I am still in the learning mode but so far so good..Now I’m looking for that easy to use street camera (can’t afford a Leica) so Fujifilm may be the winner..
    nice post Jeff!

  8. First of all I have to say the Title did its job…..it got me here and thanks u put the subject like that.
    I have Cannon SX130 IS….having full auto mode and almost all the manual functions with a limitation of focal length between f/8 and f/16. I am very much happy with my Camera while clicking pics and doing all sort of RnD with functions. But sometimes feel like the clarity and sharpness of a pic does make a difference (if its would have been clicked with a DSLR). I’ll surely buy one DSLR down the line in future.
    But as mentioned in above comments….cameras are just tools what makes the pic extraordinary is the perception and knowledge to handle the tool.

    Great article..no second thought and loved the Waterfall Pics…

    • Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed both the article and the photos. The title was definitely designed as an attention getter. Even though you’re currently using a Canon point and shoot style camera, you shouldn’t feel limited to the Canon brand when you do move up to a dslr. Though there may be similar terms and menu functions, they are quite different. In fact, I had a pretty nice Nikon point and shoot at the time I bought my first Canon.

      • thanks for the information. I’ll try to do some research before my first DSLR and i’ll keep your article and suggestion in mind before buying so.

        • Very good idea. No matter what your friends might use, if that model doesn’t have a feature or features that are important to you and your style of photography, it’s not the one for you. It really doesn’t matter if you can borrow a lens or two if the camera just isn’t a good fot for you. What your friend use is a great place to start your research, but not the sole reason to buy on camera brand over another.

          • another good piece of advise…..i’ll keep that in mind.
            so need one more information…..how to research abt camera’s whether they have features that suit my style or not. reason for asking….how to know which feature is for my style…..if u can shed some light on it too it would be a great help.

            • First you need to decide what your primary interest is. For instance, I like to photograph wildlife, so autofocus performance is extremely important to me. If I were strictly a landscape photographer it would be much less important because I can take my time to set focus. If you plan to do a lot of indoor, low light photography, high ISO performance(low noise) will be very important to you. Another feature I cant live without, all of the Canon cameras I’ve owned have what Canon calls a “Quick Control Dial” on the back. Since I primarily use Aperture Priority and use this to dial in Exposure Compensation as needed, I won’t buy a camera that doesn’t have this feature. The Canon Rebel series, while being good cameras, don’t have this feature making both exposure compensation and full manual exposure a little more difficult to use.

              If you have a few cameras in mind, let me know what you like to photograph and which cameras you’re looking at and I can at least tell you if they’d be good choices.

              • thanks a ton for all above details. so here I can mention that for primary interest is Landscape….. sometime architectures as well…..love night photography too. everything else is normal things that i can click randomly.
                I havnt searched any of cameras for now cause first i want to be more confident over manual modes…how aperture, focal length settings impact the outcome. I know it now also but still sometime i just cant recall what aperture/focal combination should be used to make the result the best.
                so i’ll do some research and self study then i’ll find cameras then i’ll ask you for sure.

                finally a big big thanks for all your help……

    • There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Pentax. They seem to be great cameras, so I’m surprised they are kind of the black sheep of the dslr world. I had considered Pentax too. In comparing the range of lenses and other accessories available for both Canon and Nikon compared to other brands, Pentax soon fell out of the running.

      I must say that with full weather sealing across the line, and sensor shift, as opposed to in the lens, image stabilization (giving you IS on even the cheapest lens), as well as pretty much the same lens mount since the beginning of time, there is definitely a lot going for the Big P. 😀

      • Yup yup. Pentax fell behind the curve on marketing for a few years because they focused on the Asian market instead of US. But with the recent merger with Ricoh, they should (or so the Pentaxians have been speculating) be able to compete more strongly with Canon and Nikon in the US. They have more advertising and R&D dollars at their disposal.

        Whether and how they use it remains to be seen!

        • Pentaxians, I like it! I bet you have a secret handshake, special hats, and everything 😛

          I hope for their sake they do make some inroads into the market. They’ve got a long road ahead of them if they hope to catch up to Canon and Nikon though.

  9. Great post and great comments! I started same as you, but had the circle of Nikon photo friends, so I chose Nikon. Now my circle of friends are probably 50/50 too. It’s in the hands of the artist who creates! 🙂

    • Thanks again Donna. It’s funny how that worked out. It must be there’s a natural balance in the world of photography so that no matter what you start out with, you’ll end up knowing equal numbers of photographers from both camps. The world is a very mysterious place 😉

  10. I love my Canon, but what I tell people who ask me the Nikon vs. Canon question is to go to the store, or even better rent or borrow what you think you are going to buy. Then hold it in your hands and decide which you think has the better layout of buttons and menus to you. What feels more intuitive. If you are comfortable your equipment it will be easier to get the shots you want.

    • Yes, definitely! Even if all of your friends use Nikon, if a Nikon doesn’t feel “right” in your hands, for whatever reason, it’s not the right camera for you. What your friends use is in my opinion (obviously since I wrote this 😉 ) a great place to start the search for your first camera, but it’s just a start.

  11. Ya know…everyone has their own opinion…but it just boils down to the old chevy vs. ford thing. Great post Jeff…always a joy to view your photos and to read your prose.

  12. The most expensive Camera I have ever owned was a Nikon Cool-pix specimen and it was about $300. I’ve actually found my HTC one (recently released) takes beautiful pictures, though comparatively nothing compared to the beautiful work I have seen here and in other photography focused blogs and websites.

    One of my favorite features of my HTC One – and the HTC Velocity prior to that was the action shots, Which would take 5-7 captures in a second or 2 and then I could use them to paint an action learning story for whatever evaluation I was putting together.

    I imagine that products such as what you are using do all of that and so much more! The detail of the pictures is just stunning!

    • I would have to say that my current camera, a Canon 7D cost considerably more than that.

      Could you do all that “in camera” or did you have to put the photos together in software? My 7D will shoot 8.5 frames per second under ideal conditions, but it won’t put them all together in any kind of sequence.

      So yes, there are a lot of things I can do with my “big fancy DSLR,” but there are a lot of things that can be done with point & shoot cameras that I wish mine could do.

      • I don’t have to do anything. It just includes all of the photographs in my ‘Phone’ Gallery (In order of time captured).

        I use Picasa 3 a great deal – though not to make changes to the actual pictures themselves, just to create collages etc (like the one in my about me page)

        I also put together the graphics for my Oh Crap post and the Green Bean post…. lol

        I might post some of the action burst shots I took down the beach a while back of a seagull against the sun. I was impressed with myself after that series.. lol

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