Canon vs. Nikon

Ahhhh… The age old Canon vs. Nikon brand war.  Also known as the Canon vs. Sony brand war in the digicam field.

There is no doubt about it, Canon is an industry leader in just about anything electronic.  But deciding which is better is akin to Ford vs. GM, or Mac vs. PC, or Blonde vs. Brunette.  There is no right or wrong answers here.

Although one brand may appear to have less noise, while the other brand may produce sharper images, these characteristics arise only when images are evaluated at 100% on pixel by pixel basis.  When these images are actually printed, most of these differences become negligible.  Imagine looking at a fly through a microscope and saying this fly has more lenses in its eyes, but the other fly's lenses are rounder.  Look at the fly as a whole, and they appear virtually identical.

It is simply a matter of personal preference.  Both brands have similar functions, and even though they may be implemented in different manners or may be called different things, the end result is the same.  The best advice is to go down to your local camera store try each one out and see which one you "think" is better.  Disregard specs and what the Local Camera Store (LCS) tells you, as they are biased much the same way a LFS is biased.  They will not necessarily steer you wrong, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

After checking the cameras out at the LCS, do not buy the camera yet.  Go home and do some research.  Check out the review sites I have provided in the next section for the camera you are interested in.  Narrow down your choices to two or three cameras.  Next, go and download the manual for each one.  Skim through the manual and note how to change parameters and what the defaults are.  Know how to change settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, flash, etc., and write them down if you have to.

Now that you've done all this, it is time to make another trip down to your LCS.  Bring two things with you:  1) memory cards appropriate for the cameras you are interested in and, 2) a photographic subject.  Bring something that contains smooth graduations, some detail, and as many colors as possible.  If you want, bring a couple of things.  A good choice would be a troll doll accompanied by a printed circuit board salvaged from an old computer (make sure it is clean and has lots of colors).  A GretagMacbeth Chart, if available, is also a good item to bring along.

Go back to the same LCS if they were originally helpful and ask for the same salesperson.  Now setup your shot, remembering to mount the camera on a tripod, position the troll doll and the PCB together.  Now, take some shots as though they were corals.  Pay attention to all the camera settings you normally would and go through and change them as appropriate.  Do this with all the cameras you are interested in.  But do not buy a camera yet.  Let the salesperson know you will be back after evaluating the images.  Get the salesperson's business card.

All this testing serves several functions:

  1. You get a feel for the camera and how intuitive it is to operate with limited knowledge and under pressure.  If it is easy enough for you to grab a good photo, then it is logically laid out and will be simple enough for you to use without having to think about the camera, leaving you to concentrate on photography.
  2. The samples you brought home were all shot under the same situation unlike many online reviews, which have one camera one month shoot a couple of shots of a house and a buddy, then with a different camera several months later, shoot a shot of a different house and a different buddy.  The fact that you created your shots under the same situation, levels the playing field and allows you to judge camera performance under identical situations.
  3. The troll doll allows you to check skin tones and graduations.  Do skin tones appear natural and accurate (matching the doll.  Are the graduations smooth?  Do the shadows show significant amounts of noise?  Check the hair for fine details.  Are they jagged, or soft, or blended together?
  4. The circuit board provides you with fine details. Are you able to read the lettering off the boards? Are the lines clean and sharp?  Are the reflections off the metallic parts white and not a rainbow or fringed in purple (chromatic aberration)?
  5. The GretagMacbeth Color Checker serves to check colors.  Do all the color patches match up?  Are the colors accurate?  Is there a color cast?

After careful analysis and evaluation, it is now time to return to the LCS and purchase the camera you feel best fits your needs, provides the image quality you are after, and is intuitive enough for you to use.  Since the salesperson was kind and patient enough to allow you to do your testing completely during your last visit, even if he may have hovered over you and pressured you to hurry, you should buy from that salesperson.  Think of it as a tip at a five star restaurant that provided you with exquisite service.  You do not want to turn around, stab the guy in the back and buy from an online retailer, simply because you would save $10.

Regardless of your choice, Nikon and Canon perform equally well, and are both capable of producing spectacular, awe inspiring images.  With either choice, you can't go wrong.