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Canon vs. Nikon – The Eternal Debate

“Oh, you’re a Canon guy…” I heard the bartender say at an event I was photographing recently.

(Yes, I am, indeed, a ‘Canon guy’ – you will probably notice when I post talking about the equipment I use, it is most often Canon equipment.)

“I take it you shoot Nikon?” I replied.

“Yes,” she said. “But I can’t get any second shooting gigs because all these photographers shoot Canon and they only want people who shoot Canon as well.”

Why are we so tied to our camera brand?

There is nothing more polarizing in the photography community than what type of camera you use. It reaches cult status. Perhaps because once you’ve spent the money on a bunch of gear, you don’t want to consider any other camera might be better in any way.

But, here’s the thing. There are a lot of great cameras out there – and most of the time, we make decisions based on personal preference.

My camera journey

When I started out as a professional photographer, I actually didn’t shoot Canon. I was taking pictures on my two old Minolta film cameras.

I had so little training in photography that I was unaware of the quality of the lenses I had. My mother had purchased these cameras and lenses for me when I was a teenager and wanted to get into photography. I had three lenses – a 50mm f/1.7, a 35mm f/2, and a 135mm f/2.8…pretty similar to the prime lenses I use most often when photographing weddings now. Seriously, I had no idea how good I had it.

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I was mostly shooting portraits, headshots, and band photos back then. But when I decided to start photographing weddings, I decided I needed to add a digital camera. I bought a Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000. That was a bad idea…

A big bulky behemoth of a camera that recorded images onto a mini CD in the body!!

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great camera for portraits. 39mm-390mm optical zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture Zeiss lens! It had a whole 2.1 megapixels of resolution!! But since it burned images onto a CD inside the camera, there was a lot of lag between photos. No ‘burst mode’ here! Plus you couldn’t change the ISO. You were set at ISO 100 all the time. Not good for shooting in dark wedding venues or quickly moving subjects.

So I needed to get something more suited to my event photography needs. I chose the Minola DiMage 7i

minolta dimage 7i digital camera
Photo via

Another SLR-like digital camera, the DiMage packed a whopping 5.1 megapixels, shot RAW images, had a 28-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens (WITH MACRO!), hot shoe for speedlites, ISO up to 800, 3 FPS burst mode at full resolution, reticulating LCD screen AND electronic viewfinder, a portrait grip battery pack, AND it shot video – all back in 2002!

This was a serious step up for me, but, after a couple years shooting with a combination of the Minolta and my film cameras, I decided it was time to get serious about digital. I needed to get a DSLR.

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Why did I choose Canon?

So, in my search for a DSLR, I did a lot of research. I was going to be dropping a pretty sizeable chunk of change for me, at the time. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision for my needs.

I tested every brand of DSLR on the market at the time – Olympus, Pentax, Nikon, and eventually I went with the Canon 20D. I made the decision based on pretty subjective reasons (besides pricing):

  • The layout of the controls and menus on the Canon were highly intuitive to me. They were more natural for me!
  • I preferred the color of the Canon images – they seemed to be ‘truer’ colors to me while the other cameras seemed more saturated, in my opinion.

Apart from that, in my price range, the other differences were pretty minimal – resolutions were similar, slightly different number of photos per burst, etc.

Even now, the differences between cameras come down to maybe a few different features. In my opinion, Nikons have a faster burst (not as much buffer time), color is better in Canons, and Sony has better resolution (but mirrorless cameras need to catch up on auto focus speeds if I’m going to consider using them at weddings).

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It comes down to what you’re shooting and personal preferences

Certain types of cameras may be better suited to different types of photography. What it all really comes down to is what your personal preferences happen to be. And before you start talking megapixel count let me remind you that to double the resolution of a camera you need to triple the number of megapixels. Unless you’re getting into the medium and large format cameras, the difference isn’t THAT big.

What about the bartender who couldn’t get a second shooting gig because she shoots Nikon? I gave her my card and told her to send me her portfolio. What brand of camera you use doesn’t matter to me as long as you take great pictures!

What brand of camera do you use? Why did you choose that brand? Have you considered switching? If so, why? Did anything stop you or make you hesitate to switch? Tell me in the comments below!



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The Nerdy Photographer
The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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