Canon or Nikon – or Something Else?

12 Aug

Probably the most heated debate in the photography community is Canon vs. Nikon. Many people become attached to their favorite camera brand, and Canon and Nikon have the most loyal fans. You’ll even encounter some really intense fans (aka “fanboys”) who will do whatever it takes to promote their brand and bash the other one.

But when it comes down to it, which one is better? And why are these two brands the only ones talked about – aren’t the other DSLR brands good too?

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Canikon, or A Different Brand?

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Let’s answer the second question first. Going back to the film age, there were many powerful brands on the 35mm market – among them Canon and Nikon, but others too. However, as the digital age of photography arrived, many companies struggled to adapt. After a while, it was clear that Canon and Nikon were the most advanced digital players on the market.

Other brands made digital cameras too; and soon, all of the main 35mm camera brands were going digital. But Canon and Nikon continued to offer the most complete systems for advanced professionals. If you simply wanted a basic starter camera and a few decent lenses, any of the popular camera brands would do fine. However, if you were a serious professional who wanted the best you could afford, Canon and Nikon were the only way to go.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Well, I’m not a serious professional and I won’t be dropping a few thousand bucks on a camera body.” For most of you, that’s probably true. However, I still recommend choosing either Canon or Nikon. There are a lot of reasons, but I’ll list a few here:

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  • They have inexpensive, but very good, lenses. There are some lenses made by both Canon and Nikon that others simply don’t have. For example, Canon and Nikon both offer an 85mm f/1.8, an all-around excellent lens for sports photography. No other camera manufacturer offers a similar lens that’s as inexpensive as these. There are more examples, like 70-200s and 35mm f/1.4s, but let’s just say that Canon and Nikon have the best, most complete lens systems. *
  • If you want to upgrade, there are always options. If you fall in love with photography, and after a few years decide that you want a nicer camera, Canon and Nikon have them. For example, let’s say you want a full frame camera. Canon and Nikon are the only manufacturers (besides Sony, who isn’t up to Canikon’s level yet) who offer full-frame cameras. Let’s say you want an older used camera. Canon and Nikon offered remarkably good cameras back in the day, and some are still good today. (I used a Canon 1D Mark II for a lot of my youth sports photography. It was from 2004, and it performed great). Let’s say you want an 8FPS camera – you can pay over $1000 for a new one, or you can get a used Canon or Nikon for under $600. Canon and Nikon have the best upgrade options.
  • Canon’s and Nikon’s entry-level options are just as good as others’. In other words, there’s no advantage of going for a different brand over Canon or Nikon. So if you want a basic DSLR to start youth sports photography, you might as well go with Canon or Nikon. There’s no reason not to. And I just listed a lot of reasons in favor of Canon and Nikon.

*Note: Sigma and other 3rd-party lens manufacturers make some of these lenses for other systems – for example, you can buy from Sigma a 70-200mm f/2.8 for Pentax DSLRs. But my point is still valid – Canon and Nikon have the most complete lens systems, even if you factor in the 3rd-party lenses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Canon Vs. Nikon

Now on to the other question. Which is better – Canon or Nikon? This is a huge question in the photography world. I’ve heard of many professionals who switch from Canon to Nikon, back to Canon, back to Nikon, etc. It’s pretty crazy.

If you look at the camera body systems of each brand (not including lenses), they’re basically the same. They both have the same different types of cameras – fast sports cameras, hi-res art cameras, advanced enthusiast cameras, and entry-level cameras. A model from either brand will have basically the same specs as its competing model from the other. So in the DSLR world, it’s a draw.

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But how about lenses? It’s the same thing here – a draw. Both manufacturers offer excellent lens choices, and both have very complete lens systems. If you can find a lens in one brand, you can probably find it in another. There’s a Canon 24-70, and there’s a Nikon 24-70. There’s a Canon 300 f4, and a Nikon 300 f4. There are a few exceptions, where Canon has a lens that Nikon doesn’t have, or Nikon has one that Canon doesn’t, but it all evens out. Nikon has an amazing (expensive!) 14-24mm landscape lens – Canon has none. Canon has a very good 24-70mm f/4 (a less-expensive version of the classic 24-70), whereas Nikon has none. But basically, it all evens out. The lens verdict: it’s a draw.

There’s one more category, and that’s accessories. It’s a draw here too. Both Canon and Nikon offer great accessories.

So if they’re basically the same, why so much debate? Is one really better than the other?

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Well, no, but it’s important you choose the right one. Because they’re not the same in one very important area. And that is ergonomics.

I will attempt to give you the best advice that I know. Many great photographers also give this advice.

 

Go into a brick-and-mortar camera store (if there’s one near you). Ask to hold a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Get a feel for the controls and button placement. Take some shots with it. Now hold the other brand. The controls will be totally different, and the buttons will be in different places. Take a few photos. Get used to both, and see which you like better. Canon’s and Nikon’s controls and ergonomics are very different, and it’s important to choose the one you like best. You’ll be able to take great photos with either brand, but you’ll probably be most comfortable with only one of them.

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Once you’ve decided which brand you like better, go back home and do research. Find the brand you like, and compare their DSLRs. You may want to look at used DSLRs as well. Once you’ve decided on a good camera, buy it. If you want to support local business, you can buy from the camera store you tested the cameras at.

Summary

So don’t believe people who say one brand is better than the other. They simply love their brand. And hopefully, you’ll love your new camera too.

But remember, you’re buying into a system. You’ll get a camera and a lens, then add some accessories. Later, you may want to add more lenses. Eventually, you might want to upgrade your camera. As you can see, the first camera purchase is important, because you’ll probably end up buying a lot more from that brand.

Whatever you do, remember that the two best choices are generally Canon and Nikon. And that they’re both excellent options for youth sports photography.

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