Which camera should I buy? Canon or Nikon?

This topic came up on Twitter today and I thought it might be worthy of a post. Lots of people ask me (and other photographers) what camera should they buy, and quite often: which is better: Canon or Nikon?

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I’m personally a Nikon guy for a simple reason: when I decided to get a DSLR, a number of close friends had Nikon cameras. This meant that I immediately had access to more gear than I could possibly afford, and friendly folks that could help explain how it works and ideally, would trust me enough to lend it to me for the weekend to play with.

A similar situation happens all the time with computers: people often purchase the same or similar computers that their friends have because of the built in support they can get from people they know and trust.

I personally think that many of the digital camera brands out there are fantastic…they all can take great photos. Canon and Nikon seem to have bubbled to the top but Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus, Kodak, etc all make great cameras in all different price ranges. I just happen to have spent enough on my Nikon gear to make me stick with them and many friends have done the same. Even my point and shoot camera is a Nikon since it can work with some of my DSLR gear should I want a little more out of it and leave the DSLR at home.

Sometimes though, depending on your needs or maybe a cool new feature, you may want to stray from the pack and get something that nobody (you know) has. This can be exciting and fun while at the same time a little scary since you’re on your own.

I remember when I bought my first Apple laptop (a white iBook – one of the first models) – all of my friends had PCs and they all wondered how I’d manage without certain PC software that wasn’t available on the Mac. Well, it didn’t take long before almost all of them switched after seeing my experience with it (software was a non-issue).

So if you’re prepared to blaze some new trails and be adventurous, try something different. If you’re just starting out with your first DSLR for example, you may want to stick close to your friends that can lend you gear and assistance when you need it.

Bonus tip: if you’re getting a DSLR, don’t skimp on the lens(es). If you stick with it, you’ll end up replacing the camera body long before the lens will stop being useful. Do your research, talk to friends with lots of gear (borrow what you want to buy before you buy it) and make an educated purchase….or at least buy it from a place with a good return policy in case you realize it’s not your thing.

See also my post with some tips about where you should buy your camera from.

9 Comments

  1. Kyler says:

    Very well put John.

  2. Tod M says:

    Thanks — awesome post. :)
    (Jeez that sounds like a drive-by spam post, doesn’t it… )

  3. Tyler says:

    yay for Canon and Nikon!

    Why did I go with Canon? My first good digital camera was Canon (Powershot A60). Ever since I’ve been happy with them and I LOVE to use my Canon XSi. I have no quams about Nikon. I see an equal amount of Nikon and Canon uses. Rarely do I see Sony, Pentax, Olympus etc.

    I agree with John about lenses. Buy the best lens you can afford, don’t cheap out. Lenses will stay with your forever (pretty much) and seem to retain their resale value too. Look at my 70-200mm f2.8L IS lens. Used ones still go for $1600

  4. I use Nikon because, by chance, that’s what I bought back in high school when I got my first camera around 1983. While I have no Nikon gear left from that era (most of it got pilfered in a burglary in the early ’90s), I’ve always migrated within the Nikon line, usually using older lenses with newer cameras. (My oldest current lens is from 1995.)

    Had I bought Canon or Olympus or Pentax or Minolta back then, I’d be on a different path. All make good cameras (though Minolta morphed into Sony for SLRs). Most enthusiasts use Nikon or Canon, true, but there are a lot of benefits with the other brands too.

    Since I also get asked this question a lot, I wrote a post about it last year, with a similar conclusion: “Just don’t cheap out with your lenses to start, and you’ll be happier in the long run.”

  5. Gillian Shaw says:

    Thanks John. That is a great starting point for my DSLR decision.

  6. Tawcan says:

    Great post, I’m a Canon guy hence for my decision to go with Canon. Nikon or Canon they’re both great brand.

  7. Kenny says:

    Just adding this to the lens tip – I bought a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS when it first came out. It was used on _FOUR_ different bodies over *6* years (Canon Elan7e, 10D, 20D, 5D) before I finally sold the lens.

    Good lenses will keep on giving.

  8. VancityAllie says:

    Great post!

    Wow, this could get heated in here ;) You know, I think that most of the big DSLR camera brands out there are really quite good nowadays.

    I went with Nikon because I liked the feel of it, I preferred the menu system to what I saw on the Canon, and I found in some comparisons at the time that Nikons seemed to come out more vivid (not the case anymore). My dad also had some really old Nikon lenses that I thought would be fun to play around with.

    5 years later, and I’m still with Nikon. I bought the D90 because it was the first DSLR with video, and now I’m hoping that Nikon comes out with a sweet super high end DSLR with video, that could perhaps top the Canon Mark 5 II.

    In the end, I’m definitely glad for competition. It’s going to make all our cameras better.

    I think with all the money I’ve invested into my lenses so far though, that I’m going to have to stick with Nikon.

  9. One benefit with Nikon and Pentax is that all the lenses ever made for the Nikon F and Pentax K mount will mount (sometimes with minor modification first) on current cameras from those manufacturers, while Canon, Minolta, Olympus, and others have changed their lens mounts over the years.

    Of course, since it’s now been decades since the Canon EF and Minolta Alpha mounts appeared, and since Olympus offers adapters for its old OM mount, that’s irrelevant for most people. But it’s nice to know. (Though it does keep prices for old Nikon lenses higher than they would be otherwise!)

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