Why I switched from Canon to Nikon October 16th, 2012
After shooting professionally Canon for the last 7 years, i decided to switch to Nikon last may. Here is why, but be prepared, its rather a long one.
A few precisions before starting:
- I am writing this blog post because of several questions i received
- I am not trying to convince anybody, i am just explaining my thoughts. What works for me might not work for you.
- I waited 4 months of use with my new gear before writing this post
- i don’t want my blog to focus on technique and gear. I prefer 1000 times to talk about photos, whatever it was shot with – this post is an exception
- If you don’t like it, just don’t read it. Internet is a big place, don’t waste your time flaming me in the comments.
Canon is making excellent gear and 99% of the photos on my site have been shot with Canon DSLR. But its been several years that i’m dribbling on Nikon DSLR, with the feeling Nikon is all in, putting as many innovations as they can on each new model they release. On the other hand, i am getting more and more frustrated with Canon DSLR, feeling Canon don’t innovate much, control too much his range (this enough spec for this model…), and don’t listen to its users as all.
An example is Canon Professional Service, i am at the highest rank of this service (platinum), that entitles me to have 2 DSLR bodies and 3 lenses serviced in 48 hours max. In fact its never ever been under 2 weeks, despite furious phone calls, and i got the final feeling it was more about sending me marketing offers to buy their most expensive DSLR and lenses.
As expressed by my colleague and friend Dom Daher, replying to the question:
- “Oh with all the Canon gear you have, you must be sponsored by Canon ?”
- ” No its actually me who sponsors Canon…”
Well grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and i always refrained myself… so far.
Comes the 5D mark III the last chance i gave to Canon to re-seduce me. Being another victim of marketing and super hyped on the specs, i preordered the body and been among the first ones to be served, with several new lenses, mainly primes (24mm, 50mm, 85mm) – finally a body with a good autofocus to use them !
And no doubt, its the finest Canon DSLR i ever used.
I sold it 3 weeks later with all the rest of my Canon gear. Why did i switch?
1. The Sensor
The main and almost only reason why i sold all my Canon gear (including my brand new and shiny lenses and body) to re-buy everything Nikon, is the sensor performances.
The sensor performance drives the quality of the raw files that the DSLR produce, the amount of data stored in the files, the dynamic range, the possibility to get burned areas back, the handling of noise at high iso and in the shadows.
Once the novelty enthusiasm worn out with the new 5D, i was asking myself why there was so much noise left in the shadows, even at base iso. like with my previous bodies (5D markII, 5D, 7D, 50D, 20D).
Then Fred Miranda posted a test he did over a week end with the brand new 5D mark III and Nikon D800. and the results of his tests were just confirming what i was experiencing myself, check by yourself its perfectly explained there, better than i would myself:
And in comparison the D800 sensor is outstanding, another league.
Following that DxoMark released the results of their tests – DxoMark dont take in account ergonomics or Autofocus performance just empiric sensor performances – and bam, the brand new, Canon state of the art 5D mark III sensor is only at the 10th position, a tad note better than previous 5D mark II sensor performance. Far behind all Nikon DSLR sensors released the last 5 years.
I did an excel spreadsheet listing all my Canon gear and looked online for realistic second hand selling prices (with sites like www.leboncoin.fr or www.priceminister.com) . And i added another column with the new Nikon gear i needed to purchase, the total was equivalent at the first column.
I now got way less Nikon lenses that i had Canon ones (but latest generation ones and exactly what i need), years after years i accumulated a lot of unused gear.
Its wrong to think, especially for a pro shooter to whom gear is a work tool and is fiscally depreciated, that you’re married for life to a brand, because it will cost you too much to change. I sold 80% of my gear in 2 days on Facebook – which contributed a lot to my decision to be more present on social medias.
The excitation of the change and the new gear are also a wonderful motivation booster to go out, shoot and experiment. I wont hesitate to change back in the future to Canon (or another brand) if they got the best gear for my use.
So i bought a Nikon D800E and a Nikon D4, and their new sensors are just incredible, especially for the Canon shooter i was. its another league, after 4 months of heavy usage in varied conditions, i am still amazed at the outstanding dynamic range, and the amount of clean data the sensor can record in high and low extreme.
Here is an example, the photo itself is very average, but what is extraordinary is the amount of clean data i can get back without noise and no post production wizardy (its only developed with Lightroom in this example, shot at iso 800 with the D800E):
the image exposed for the sunset, as it came out from the camera
the Lightroom developed image
On the D4 side, its the first time i got a DSLR that sees light better than i do. Previously, with a tripod and long exposure, any camera could see more light than our eyes do. But now its hand held in dim light situation, with an unbelievable noise control at high iso.
And the rest then ?
2. Lenses are better
Ouch, i know this one will make a few people jump out of their seats. But yes, for me and the type of shoot i do, Nikon lenses are better.
I like to be close to action so i shoot a lot with a wide angle lens (which i also use all the time for interior work). And there’s no debate that the incredible 16-35 VR and 14-24 Nikkor are miles ahead of the crappy Canon 16-35L and 17-40L .
On the prime side, the Canon lenses i used needed to be closed down to max out sharpness, they are soft wide open (especially the 24mm). Nothing like this with the Nikon equivalents, sharpness is excellent wide open – i shoot more and more with primes, 24mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4, and the excellent 85 1.8.
And the absolute banger is the incredible stabilized 28-300. there is a canon equivalent, a L lens, very chunky and heavy, and with a less than average quality at all focals. Plus its outrageously expensive. So i didnt even looked at it when i purchased my new nikon lenses. I was using a lot the Canon 24-105, and was very attracted by the sharper Nikkor 24-120 with its extra zoom. But the 28-300 is a 24-120 killer because its sharp at every focals, light, small, solid and cost almost nothing. Its the perfect all around lens and i find myself using it so much that my excellent Nikkor 70-200 is now collecting dust on my shelf (i might even sell it).
3. Autofocus is simpler to use
Auto-focus has been better on Nikon bodies for years – even entry level Nikon bodies got better auto-focus than all Canon models prior to the 5D Mark III and 1DX. Canon filled the gap with those last 2 models but i find them too complex to my taste. There are several Auto-focus modes combined with several auto-focus scenarios each with loads of customization options. When i was using the 5D mark III i was always wondering if i picked the right focus scenario. With Nikon bodies it’s simpler, it works very well and they got this 3D focus mode using Contrast and colors focus that i use all the time.
I dont really use it myself yet because of old habits i guess, but there’s even a very good focus auto mode (its the camera that decide for you the focus point), making it the simplest DSLR to use for a non professional / non used to shooter. for someone who just want to use the camera like a point and shoot, its dead easy, as long as you’re shooting raw you can pretty much get away with everything. If the photos are very over or under exposed, it can be fixed easily at development due to the fantastic sensor – making it very satisfactory for new comers or very casual users to produce instantly good photos.
4. Ergonomics are the same
Well not quiet, but i find both excellent. I needed only half a day to get used of Nikon ergonomics. I still prefer Canon menu and miss the back spinning wheel, but nothing serious. With Canon bodies everything is done by pushing only one button, whereas with Nikon you often need to press 2 buttons at the same time, but its well thought and allows you to change pretty much everything once used to it without stopping looking through the viewfinder.
5. Flashes works better
I use only my flashes in manual so i wont go in details about the Nikon CLS system being superior to its Canon TTL equivalent.
Nikon cobra flashes are superior to Canon flashes, i was struggling a lot with my 580EX II and Pockets Wizards until i read that the 580 EXII emits strong unwanted radio noise that dramatically reduces Pocket Wizards reliability. No such problems with Nikon flashes (i got 8 Nikon SB80 that i bought second hand, they are terrific manual flashes, i was using them heavily with my Canon gear)
Another very good plus are the hypersyncing possibilities with Nikon DSLR and Pocket Wizards TT5. With my previous 5D i could barely max out my hypersync to 1/500, with little banding lines on top and bottom of the frame. With the 7D i could achieve a clean 1/4000, but whether using it with the 7D or the 5D it was all love and hate, suddenly stopping working in the middle of the shoots. It still was giving me the possibility to get incredible results when it was working, but the number of times i was so frustrated when suddenly it stopped working with everyone (models, clients, etc…) waiting for me to sort things out (resetting and unplugging everything was usually the best answer, but not always working).
With the D4 i got a clean 1/8000 straight out the box, and with a little play with the settings a clean 1/4000 with the D800E – it wins hands down compared to the 5D. And more important than everything its much more reliable, so far no sudden stop or erratic behavior. It makes things so much easier.
So im super happy with my decision to change, the D800E and D4 are perfect companions and very complementary for my use.
Not everything is perfect though, here are a few things that i miss:
- Nikon liveview is crap compared to Canon one. Its a really handy feature liveview so i hope it will be fixed on future models – i use the current ones nonetheless
- Nikon quiet mode is definitely not quiet. the 5D mark III quiet mode in comparison is very quiet
- flesh tones are undoubtly better with Canon. Canon pictures got a tendancy to be reddish, which works well for flesh tones, Nikon pictures are greenish.
- The colors of The D800 / D800E screen is horrible, very green. It doesnt affect the real images, just how they appear on the backscreen LCD. It doesnt bother me personnally.
- the D800E struggles way more than the D4 to focus in low light. Still better than what i had before though…
- Too bad its only 4 frames per second on the D800E, 5 Fps is the minimum to shoot proper action and to do sequences.
The recent Canon 6D and Nikon 600D confirms my feeling about Canon not caring about their customers, the 6D is a beefed 5D mark II with a absolutely shameful autofocus, whereas the Nikon 600D is almost a D800 with another incredible sensor. All in for Nikon vs misleading marketing for Canon.
Well all this long talk to conclude with the fact that gear is important but not the most important. Its the way you’re using it, with your brain, intelligence, using past experiences, knowledge and your sensitivity that create the pictures.
It doesnt matter for my clients if i shoot Canon or Nikon…
And what works for me might not for you, we’re all different and shoot / produce our images differently.
Well enough technical talk, lets get back at shooting photos and be enthusiastic at images (whatever camera was used to make them)..
many thanks for reading,