Canon vs, Nikon - The Great Debate Lives On

One thing about being a photographer that gets really old is the question you'll be peppered with, "so what do you use, Canon or Nikon?". If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked that question, I'd probably have a more impressive website. Back on topic though, people have hounded me with this question for years and they bring it up in the most unusual places. I was shooting a wedding one time, one of the bridesmaids asks me "so why are you shooting with the dinosaurs?" while pointing at my camera. Turns out she is a really talented wedding photographer and shoots on Nikon. At another wedding while I was getting drink, the bartender tells me that he wanted to get into photography and tells me "well you shoot with Canon so of course you're a professional.". I still don't know if he was being genuine or snarky.

People are fascinated by this topic, Canon or Nikon? It's funny to me that nobody has ever asked me, "Canon or Olympus?". I've never really had a good answer to give people after all these years too, partially because I don't really care enough about the question to really ponder over it. I usually tell people to go with whatever lens system and/or menu system they prefer. That doesn't really pacify their curiosity because they look at me as if wanting me to give them a hot take.

Back to the question at hand though, why do I use Canon DSLRs and why haven't I switched and the answer might surprise you. To understand why I haven't made a switch, you need to understand my journey as a photographer. This will be a little long but I'll try to include pretty pictures.

My First DSLR the Canon 30D

Back in 2006, I got my first DSLR and immediately went with the Canon 30D. At the time, Canon was dominating sales of "prosumer" DSLRs with the 20D and the 30D was an even better camera. Nikon didn't have a suitable option for me at the time and I never considered getting a Nikon frankly. But that isn't because I was looking at Canon and Nikon with an open mind and fresh eyes. Before I had my 30D, I have a Canon Rebel Ti2 35mm film camera and I had two lenses from that setup. So by the time I'm ready to make the jump to digital, I already had a preference.

The 30D for me was the best learning camera I could have asked for, it was certainly good enough to get good results and it wasn't super expensive. I learned how to take panning shots, night photos, star trails, I shot my first wedding on that 30D, sold my first print, and it performed well in all situations.

My very first print I ever sold, never thought that day would happen. Thanks Megan!

My very first print I ever sold, never thought that day would happen. Thanks Megan!

My first wedding I shot, also something I never thought I would do. Cori and Dave were troopers because it was about 10 degrees outside when we were taking this photos. Thanks guys!

My first wedding I shot, also something I never thought I would do. Cori and Dave were troopers because it was about 10 degrees outside when we were taking this photos. Thanks guys!

The Canon 30D really helped me grow as a photographer and I was learning new techniques and new equipment all the time, I didn't buy a single lens for the 30D while I had that camera though. I rented a few lenses, like Canon's brilliant 85mm f/1.2L for the photo above, but I didn't really have the money to invest into a camera at the time anyway so I was happy with what I had. Then I took a trip to California and Oregon with my good friends Josh Dayton, Matt Benson, and Chase Shipley. Josh's interest in photography had been growing and he had gone and got himself a really nice new camera, Canon 5D Mk. II. I remember looking at it and thinking that he had a full frame camera, then we were comparing photos and his were 100 times better than my own. I had rented Canon's EF-S 10-22mm lens for the trip and it was a lot of fun, but my covetous heart wanted a full frame camera from that time on. Fortunately I wouldn't have to wait long. 

Canon 5D Mark II

Being the resourceful lad I am, I made the jump to a full frame camera less than a month after that trip to California and Oregon. In some ways that trip changed my life, I wasn't looking to go pro in photography, I had sold a few prints mostly to family and had shot a wedding. I remember saying that I wanted to earn enough money to pay off the camera and I was content with that amount. My photography did improve right away after making the jump to the Mk. II, granted I have the reason why this is later in the post. I shot some more weddings, started doing more landscape stuff, and bought Canon's great 17-40mm f/4L lens that summer. I think I sold a few more prints too. Then funny things started to happen, I shot more weddings and started to sell a few more prints and slowly I started to get more confident in my abilities and I started seeing an opportunity to do photography as a profession.

I had my 5D Mk. II for three years and loved it, it was a superb camera and I still use it today. Again, I never really thought about other brands' cameras even as Sony and Nikon started eclipsing Canon in terms of popularity. People started raving about Sony's A7 series and the Nikon D810, but I was firmly in Canon's camp. In 2012, I made another upgrade though.

Canon 5D Mark III

Canon's 5D Mark III is another phenomenal camera and was truly a big step up from the Mark II, the ISO performance was MUCH better as was the autofocus. I was happy with the gear that I owned and didn't really see much point in making a switch, even as a lot of my friends who had Canon gear started going to Sony, Nikon, and Fuji. I briefly looked into a Metabones adapter so I could use my Canon lenses with a Sony camera but otherwise I wasn't looking to buy another camera. All of that changed in the summer of 2017 though, through a terribly misfortune my 5D3 was damaged severely and cannot be repaired for anything resembling the word "cheap". I had an insurance claim that helped out with some expenses related to my Iceland trip but I was thinking about upgrading to a Canon 5D Mark IV because that seemed totally logical. I had a discussion with my girlfriend at the time and she seemed to think that I should make the jump to Nikon, she used Nikon cameras, so I did some research into the D850.

Why I Won't Make a Switch

I have a number of L series lenses and have a Canon 5D Mk. II and given how much photography I'm currently doing, it doesn't make a lick of sense to upgrade any camera gear for the foreseeable future. That's the simplest reason right now, I simply don't do enough photography to warrant upgrading my gear. However, that doesn't mean I won't someday. Here's what I love about Canon. The lenses.

Canon's Lenses are Incredible

There are a lot of reasons that I love Canon's lenses and over the years I have realized that lenses, not camera bodies, contribute more to your success as a photographer. Remember earlier when I said that my photography improved greatly when I bought my Canon 5D Mk. II? Well that was because the kit lens for that camera was a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS lens and that glass was MUCH better than any glass I had been using. There was a quote I remember reading a long time ago that said "good glass equal good pictures" and it's absolutely true.

To be fair, Nikon makes some truly great lenses as well. Landscape photographers have been singing the praise of Nikon's 14-24mm lens for a long time and for good reason, that lens looks incredible. I thought about making the switch JUST so I could use that lens. But there is one more thing about Canon's lenses that I think sets them apart from Nikon and it's that I'm not supporting communism when I buy Canon products.

Canon's lenses are also made in Japan or sometimes Taiwan whereas Nikon's are made...somewhere else and most likely Thailand or China. Even when Canon outsources their lens work to Taiwan, the average pay for a factory worker in Taiwan is 3x what it is in China. Now that we have a global economy, where you spend your dollar does matter.

Lastly, Canon's cameras are still really good but I'll be the first to admit that they are not pushing the envelope in terms of digital cameras anymore and this is sad. Nikon and Sony have both passed Canon in terms of their high-end DSLRs and prosumer DSLRs, and Sony's mirrorless cameras are absolutely incredible. I doubt that Canon will be able to produce a mirrorless camera on par to what Sony is producing now for many years to come, they are that far behind. While Canon seems content make more iterations of the ever popular 5D series, Sony and Nikon are growing by leaps and bounds. The Nikon D850 looks like an absolute beast and that might be the camera that will seduce me over to the Nikon side, but again the glass that you put in front of the camera matters. Sony's A7 series is always calling out to me, I think I'd really enjoy using that camera but I don't want to reinvest a lot of money into a setup that I don't need.

What do you shoot with? Canon or Nikon or something else? Why?