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Tony Northrup: Canon vs. Nikon


On this extensive video, photographer Tony Northrup looks at one of the questions which is on the minds of many many photographers looking to invest in new equipment – should I buy Canon or Nikon?

Almost no day goes by when we don’t get this question – should I buy a “Canon camera or a Nikon camera?”. There are people who would never switch brands, while others feel more flexible in their “allegiance”, and then you have the many people who simply don’t know how to choose. This video is meant especially for them.

Canon?

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Before we start a word of reservation –  we do not necessarily agree with everything Northrup is saying on this video – more particularly – we have a big big problem with the lens tests info from DXOmark. While we feel that they are doing very good (maybe even the best) tests for sensors – their methodology for testing lenses is not one that we feel very comfortable with (for that you are much better off looking on Photozone or Lenstip).

That’s it for warnings, now what exactly does Northrup have to say on this almost 30 min video? well here is a summary of the main points as we understand them:

  • For the most basic users – people who buy a camera just to get a bit better images than with their smartphones – any recent Nikon or Canon camera+lens will be great. While that is definitely true, and both have pretty similar kit lenses. While this is true – we would still prefer the Nikon as currently at least Nikon body’s have much better sensors – and so better image quality (and high resolution for the same price).
  • This brings us to the second point which is  exactly that – Nikon – more or less across its line – has better sensors – i.e. better dynamic range, better colors, better sensitivity (by the way, contrary to what Northrup says its not all due to Sony sensors – Nikon uses both Sony, Toshiba and other sensors on its cameras – and even beginners will be able to tell the difference from Canon – at least in some cases).
  • So if Nikon body’s are so much better, why does Northrup stays with Canon – at least partially for the time being? His answer is lenses. Nikon seems to be missing some crucial ones (for example a light, inexpensive 400mm f/5.6 prime). Northrup also has an issue with the most recent Nikon 70-200mm which doesn’t provide a real 200mm focal length when used to shoot up close (certainly an important point for portrait photographers).
  • If you are looking to shoot lots of videos, Canon will typically be better than Nikon, but the best option would probably be Panasonic anyway (with their GH line).

For Northrup the lens situation is enough to be a deal breaker (at least partially) – however its important to realize that this is based on Northrup’s own personal needs – if you are O.K. with using mostly prime lenses for example – you can do very well with a Nikon body and Nikon or Sigma glass. The same goes for ultra-wide, wide and normal or even short telephoto ranges. Even in the longer telephoto ranges things start to look a bit more interesting for Nikon shooters – with the upcoming introduction of the  150-600 mm f / 5-6.3 DG OS HSM by Sigma to compete with the comparable Tamron (but most probably with better image quality if you are willing to price the price in size, weight and $). There are still some holes in the Nikon lineup, but if you have what you need (and it is available) this should not stop you.

Or Nikon?

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We also need to remember that for a lot of people buying into a camera is much more about the system than the body. You have lenses, flashes and accessories. And in this respect Canon is still bigger and hance typically stronger (both on its own and for 3’rd party gear). People might also have other considerations such as what lenses do I already have, what lenses do my friends have (if they are willing to loan them to me from time to time), what interface do I like better and much more.

More guides and comparisons of photographic gear can be found on our photography gear guides – here on LensVid.

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