Nikon versus Canon versus others


©munish khanna


One subject which has been talked about and debated over several number of times . The idea here is not to bring in difference between the two brands or to start a hate drive against the users of the two brands but the write up is based on facts and my personal experience. Over the last several years I have been using the two brands andboth are my favorites. I cant really compare a Nikon and a Canon to other brands as I do not have a first hand experience of the other ones. However, whenever I have set my hand on an Olympus, Minolta or a yashika or a cosina, I have fond them miles behind these two giants.
I took one of my first photography lessons on a Nikkormat El from one of my best friends. Our photography teacher in college was more inclined towards canon and in the late 80’ canon AE1 and Canon AL1 were very hot selling cameras. Choice in Nikon was Nikon Fm10 and……… Around this time came the EOS series of Canon which was a new generation of cameras. Auto focus and complex electronics was not very popular around this time and since it was a new bred of cameras general feeling amongst people was that if something goes wrong in these cameras it will sure be difficult to repair them.

I ventured out to buy a camera from chandini chowk somewhere in 1989. There were not to many options and outlets to buy a camera from. I did not have a preference between the two brands but I bought a Canon AL1 with a 50mm lens. One very good and innovative feature in this canera was an almost auto focus feature. It had arrows inside the viewfinder and once the focus is accomplished the green light would blink, otherwise the arrows would guide as to which side one should rotate the lens. For someone with spectacles this was a great feature. Also it had a great aperture priority mode. Another feature was an exposure compensation button. While shooting against the light using this button would instantly give one and a half stop overexposure. These features were ofcousre not there in the Nikons of that time.
All through out the college I used canon AL1 and added more lenses and accessories to it which included a flash, wideangle and a telephoto zoom lens.
Between Kodak and Fuji, my favorite had always been Kodak although Realla from Fuji was a great film as well. In bw, again Kodak and illford.

As I started meeting prospective clients after completing my college, when I used to tell them about the equipment I used, I felt that they all expected a pro to be using a Nikon! Hence I used to say “cannon” the reaction used to be…”Not Nikon!!!”
It was also time to move on towards auto focus. This was somewhere in early 90’s. Went to one shop in palika bazaar, and when I asked, which is a better option, canon or Nikon. The instant reaction was that there is no comparison between the two. If you are a pro, Nikon is the only choice. The guy refused to listen further and was adamant that Nikon is the brand for the pros and that is it.
Went to another guy who was kind enough to oblige me with the catalogues of both the brands and let me go through at ease in his office. What I went through the literature was contrary to the opinions of the people. Canon in many respects was way better than Nikon but then I had to keep in mind the client! Although I liked Canon more, I ended up buying a Nikon and slowly added on more and more Nikon equipment. If you look at any of the older photography magazines way back in 40’s and 50’s you will find almost all the images shot using Nikons and almost none with a Canon.
As I got into teaching, got to use canon cameras as well (amateur ones though as that is what students usually used to have. In terms of convenience of use, Nikons certainly had an edge, which is true even today.
As far as features are concerned I realized over the years that canon always had better features. Well, I was quite happy with my Nikons. Moreover during the film era the worlds best film camera was supposed to be Nikon F5 and not really a Canon.

However, I was shocked to see the results from one of my shoots. The negatives had not been exposed at all. The shutter did not release although it sounded the same! I had to get the shutter replaced at an exhorbitant price. This was one experience of the camera malfunction and unreliability of the equipment. Well, Nikon users must be thinking that this could have happened with a canon camera as well. But I had heard a lot of pro who had switched over from Nikon to canon, talk about such bad experiences.
Since I had put together a lot of Nikon stuff I continued using Nikon. Canon lenses used to focus silently where as Nikon lenses used to make all the noise in the world.
Then came the digital cameras. As Nikon D100 became affordable, I entered the digital photography world with Nikon D100. No doubt it was a very good camera at its time but I had another bad experience from Nikon. While using the camera the mirror got dislocated or something and the camera stopped functioning in the middle of the shoot. No other option but to pack up and give Nikon service center a visit! Since camera prices were high keeping a backup body was not very practical. Some part on which the mirror moves up and down had broken!!! The camera had never fallen down and was never subjected to any rough use and why it happened, even Nikon people did not have an answer. Got the whole mirror assembly replaced again at about 1/4th the price of the new camera. It was also prone to a lot of dust and we used to spend a considerable amount of time on the computer retouching just the dust spots. This was besides the fact that I tried not to change lenses often. About canon now. One of my students recently had a similar problem with canon 5D. He took it to the service center and interestingly canon was quite used to this problem in 5Ds and they replaced the mirror assembly free of cost although the camera was purchased from the grey market. Many a times I have seen a brand new canon 400D and 5D having the exposure meter not working!!! Even if you close down the aperture physically it does not close down!!! I wonder how these cameras pass the “stringent” quality checks. I have read so many times on the net reviews about people getting a “bad copy” of the canon lenses.

I continued with Nikon but next time I saw an “ERR”, the error message on the lcd display, I decided that it is time to hitch the winning horse. To try out canon, I bought a 350D and quickly 400D as soon as it was launched. 10 mega pixel from 6 mega pixel was a good idea and having the automatic sensor cleaning feature in 400d was a great feature indeed. It was so much trouble free that suddenly I could find myself changing lenses anywhere and whenever without having to bother about the dust. Added on more canon lenses and added a 5D body as well. Did not go for the higher megapixel canon flagship camera as I opted for Phaseone P30+ with mamiyawhich filled up the higher mega pixel category. It doesn’t mean that canons don’t have problems. The pins of the cf card slot on a 400d is quite sensitive which ofcousre will be on any camera. The inbuilt flash of 400d is too slow compared to an older Nikon D100.

On my trip to singapore i carried both nikon d200 and canon 5d. carried nikon as a standby body and more for the 18-200mm lens that is attached to it. Also it had an edge over 5d with the inbuilt flash for family shots. I used Nikon after a long time and was absolutely at home with it whereas i still need to figure out the controls on a canon. I did most of my travel photography with Nikon and used 5d only in situations where i needed the wideangle or the fisheye lens. On my trip to colombo, just used the nikon although i had taken along the 5d. besides the ease of use, another factor also was the 18-200mm lens, which is yet to be there from canon. the recent 18-200 from canon is not for the full frame.

1. While Nikon had a 6 megapixel camera canon had an 8 megapixel camera. Most of the stock agencies accept atleast 8 mp as the minimum specification, which is not 10mp.
2. Canon came out with a full frame sensor much earlier and it is only recently that Nikon has come out with one and at a much higher price.
3. Canon has always introduced innovative features first much later followed by Nikon. 
1. Silent motors in lenses. USM- canon / SWM- Nikon
2. IS- Image stabilization, which is called VR- Vibration reduction in Nikon.
3. Higher megapixel- highest so far is 21mp from canon.
4. Full frame sensor- canon has been having a full frame sensor since a long time where as Nikon has come out with full frame quite recently and that too at a high price
5. Automatic sensor cleaning was introduced for the first time in canon and much later followed by Nikon.
6. Supplied software of canon is better.

7. Nikon is very very very convenient to use with every button at the right place

8. Flash system and the coordination between the camera and the flash is much better in nikon.

9. matrix metering of nikon is very good and precise. metering system if canon is a bit confusing.

Canon has been a big company with a lot to invest in Research and development. Canon has also been involved in other segments like, camcorders, photocopiers, projectors, printers etc etc. where as Nikon makes Binoculars and microscopes besides cameras. What ever brand you may go for one thing is for sure as per the past record that the new features will come out first in a canon and much later in Nikon as well. So, if you are a Nikon user, you will certainly get the innovative features as well, quite a bit later though.

Why do people still use Nikon if canon always have has more features? Probably the ease and comfort of use. Every button and switch on most of the Nikons, is placed just at the right place for the quickest operation. Flash and exposure systems of Nikon is very good. If higher megapixel and new features is not the priority then there is nothing to beat a nikon.

update- jan 26, 2009

1.Canon seems to have heard the problem regarding the flash synch speed. In canon 5d mark II, 50d, there is an option of choosing between 60 and 250. so the flexibility of shutter speeds is now available with canon also.

2. I noticed this earlier also during my trip to nagaland and now again during my trip to bharatpur, in certain situations canon fails to give the right exposure and ends up in massive overexposure, something i have never come accross in a nikon.

3. If you shoot in controled situations, canon works well. In situation if you need to change quickly the metering modes, the flash synch speed, ISO, and other commonly used parameters, the obvious choice is Nikon.

update- nov 2009

1.Purchased 5D mark II. excellent camera with very good results.

2. A faithful nikon user- the undisputed brand ambassodor of nikon, also purchased 5D mark II :-)

update 2012 - Purchased Canon 5d Mark III

2013- Canon 70d for excellent auto focus videos.

And One step closer to Canon.  spring of 2013

Click for Camera, the photography store of munish Khanna Academy is launched featuring all products from Canon besides Apple, Lowepro, Elinchrom, Hoya, Sandisk.      

facts about canon nikon and other brands