Why I Switched Back To Nikon From Canon

Whoa. It’s been such a long time since I did a geeky technical post here on the blog, but I’ve received so many questions from people about my recent switch from Canon to Nikon, I figured I would explain a bit about what I did and why. And there’s a bit of a rant about the camera industry, and thoughts on mirrorless towards the end as well. Just for fun.

Nikon > Canon > Nikon

First off, this is technically a switch back to Nikon, since my first ever camera was a Nikon D700. When my wedding photography business started kicking off in 2013, and after playing around with the 5D MKIII on a few second shooting jobs, I decided to make the switch. (You can read more about it here) In the next few years I expanded and upgraded my camera bag until I had everything I could ever want for weddings. Lots of f1.4 Canon L primes and professional flashes. More than I could carry for sure.

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The Time Was Now

One of the biggest pushes for the switch was because of my old, battered and well used awesome little Canon 6D’s were 3 years old, and with shutter counts of 85k and 95k (Canon rates them good for 100k) it was about time to replace them before a busy 2016 wedding season. They were scuffed and scratched and although still working, were just not made to shoot another 12 months of photography work. It was to retire them. But what to replace them with?

Although there wasn’t a lot to fault with the Canon’s there were a few thing over the course of 35 weddings that I really wish they had. It was becoming clear that I needed cameras with two card slots; the more weddings I shot in 2015 the more paranoid I became that the single card slots in the 6D would fail and leave me in a really bad situation, maybe even leaving a client without images. The other major weakness of the 6D was the focus tracking. (or lack of) When the 6D was released, it’s 11 af points were archaic, and was clearly just a limitation put there by Canon to stop cannibalisation of the 5D. Today you find even the cheapest, most basic DSLR and has more than a dozen AF points. And finally, although there’s nothing really wrong with the 6D, camera technology has moved on in huge way, it would nice to shoot weddings in 2016 with some much improved image quality and dynamic range. So off I went todo shopping…

Canon vs Nikon 2016 Scuffins Photography 002

Canon Being Crappy

Okay, so onto the elephant in the room. In the three years since I bought the 6D, Canon has released no new full frame cameras at all. Even now, in 2016, Canon users who want two card slots have to buy the 5D MKIII or 1DX. Cameras that by comparison have been superseded in every possible way. By Nikon. And Fuji. And Sony. In fact, it;s more option that I’ve seen nothing interesting, innovative or even competitive from Canon as a company in a long, long time. This does not fill me with confidence about their brand or their products.

But…but…what about the 5D MK4?

Ahh, yes the messiah camera that all Canon users are waiting for, the Canon 5D MK4. Well considering no one really know’s when the MK4 is going to come out, (sometime in 2016 people say) it’s also not clear what sort of camera it will be. A minor spec bump or a complete overhaul? Almost every 5D using wedding photographer I’ve spoke too is after a few things; more dynamic range, better image quality, 4K video, faster card slots, wifi to name just a few “essential” upgrades.

You see, (and feel free to disagree with me here) but I’m just not that confident that the 5DMK4 will be huge improvement people will hope it to be. I base this on the fact that as a company, Canon haven’t done anything exciting in years. The seems to have become slow to adapt to the quickly changing market, and their recent new products have laclsustre and over priced. (I’m looking at you, 5DSR, 35mm f1.4 MKII) And lets say hypthetcilly, the 5DMK4 is the new worlds best camera, with all the features everyone wants, it is still going to be one very, very expensive camera. And I need three of them. I have neither the time or the money to wait this out and hope Canon do something awesome, especially when other companies are doing awesome stuff, right now. **Update Jan 2016 – Nikon just announced the D5 and D500, the D500 in particular shows a great move my Nikon to innovate and exceed the competition, not just match it.**

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My New Camera Bag

Okay, with my decision made, it was time for the actual switch. So my camera bag went something like this. I’ve also include some very brief notes on what I gained or lost as part of the switch…

  • Canon 5DI MKIII > Nikon D810 (Quieter, better image quality, anti flicker, long battery, better video)
  • Canon 6D > Nikon D750 (Smaller, lighter, faster, better image quality, faster autofocus, dual card slots, better video)
  • Canon 24mm f1.4 > Nikon 20mm f1.8 (Sharper, wider, lighter, cheaper)
  • Canon 35mm f1.4 > Sigma 35mm f1.4 (Much sharper, cheaper)
  • Canon 45mm TSE > Nothing
  • Sigma 50mm f1.4 > Nikon 58mm f1.4 (lighter, smaller, much better bokeh)
  • Canon 85mm f1.2 > Nikon 85mm f1.8 (smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper, sharper)
  • Canon 135mm f2 > Nothing

**full reviews of all this stuff to follow in the coming weeks, so stay tuned**

Not only is my new bag, lighter, smaller, cheaper, I also have cameras with dual card slots and excellent autofocus and better dynamic range across the board. The D750’s are head and shoulders above the old 6D’s, in af performancme video specs, high ISO, dynamic range, the lot.

Likewise, the D810 image quality is utterly superb compared to the 5D, and the Sigma 35mm’s 1.4’s are beautifully sharp and contrasty compared to my Canon 35mm MKI. And the Nikon 58mm 1.4G, despite it’s mixed reputation, I can well and truly say is my new favourite lens…ever. It’s small, light, decently sharp and with the loveliest rendering and bokeh I’ve ever seen. I am very, very happy with my shiny new Nikon stuff.

The Downside

Ok, so maybe it’s not all perfect. There are a few things on the Canon side I’ll miss, namely the 45mm TSE, and the 135mm F2. Both wonderful lenses, that will leave a bit of a gap in my camera bag for sure, but they were also my least used lenses. I carrie them around with me more than I used them. The stats don’t lie. Out of over 20k images taken over 35 weddings in 2015, only 400 were taken with the 45mm tilt shift, and of those I only delivered 38 tilt shift images to clients. Sure, a tilt shift is nice, but it was the biggest, most expensive paper weight in my camera bag. I think I can live without for now. The other major thing I’ll miss is Canon’s awesome RT system radio speed lights; not having to worry about separate radio triggers is huge plus for Canon’s flash system. It was super convenient, and look forward to when Nikon catches up with Canon on this. **Update Jan 2016 – looks like Nikon have released their own radio controlled speed light, the SB5000. So basically caught up to Canon on that one perry quickly**

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The Best Bit…

Ahh, now this is the beauty of it all. I actually saved a bit of money switching to Nikon. It’s all due to a couple of reasons, first off, apart from my Canon 35mm f1.4 and 45mm tilt shift which were brand new, everything in my camera bag was second hand or refurbished. This means I lost pretty much nothing when it came to sell them on again. Second hand prices for lenses are pretty consistent. Sure I lost a bit on money the camera bodies, which had seen a lot of action and been a bit beaten up in the last few years of weddings. But overall, I think I lost about £1500 selling the old Canon gear. And the new Nikon equipment and more affordable sigma lenses, made my Nikon purchases £1800 less than what I got for the Canon stuff. (again, buying as much Nikon stuff used or refurbished as possible) That’s not bad at all considering they had been used professionally for nearly 3 years.

So in summary, changing brands is not that big a deal. If you do it right, and carefully it doesn’t have to be a money pit. These companies base their entire business  model in selling you expensive lenses and keeping you tied in to the ecosystem. Which is great when that ecosystems delivers and does what you need it to; but it can easily become a burden when you find yourself using stuff that sucks, just because you are afraid to move to something better. Companies like Sony and Sigma know this; they are disrupting the market and introducing innovation, better quality lenses and cameras at better price points. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly buy the latest and greatest, but for me, improving and updating what you have every 3 to 5 years is a good compromise. Don’t get left behind.

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**Bonus** Some thoughts on mirrorless…

Mirrorless is the future of cameras, no doubt about it. And for amateur photographers and pro videographers buying new kit today, mirrorless is where it’s at.

But for wedding photographers, it’s just not there yet. Maybe in a few years. We need more lenses and better autofocus first. Not good enough, or nearly DSLR, but actually 1-for-1 as good as high end full frame DLRS’s. Trust me, I had two weeks with every geeks’s favourite camera, the Sony A7R MKII which is technologically amazing, if a little soulless, but it’s just not good enough for weddings. On top of that I can’t just go out and buy a Sigma 35mm 1.4 for a Sony, so for me it’s a no-go right now. If it’s right for you, then go for it, but it’s not for me.

I hope, truly that Canon and Nikon are frantically working away behind the scenes to get something mirrorless out as soon as possible. But who knows? Kodak and Polaroid were once the pinnacle of camera technology, and were resistant to change….look what happened to them. I would not at all be surprised if the “big two” camera companies became increasingly irrelevant over the next few years. The trick is not follow them blindly and became irrelevant too.

In fact, I’m confident enough to say that as much as I’m happy with my recent switch to Nikon, I can say with authority that the D810 and D750 will probably be the last mirror-slapping DSLR’s I ever buy. In the three or four years time when it’s time to replace them due to old age, mirrorless will be the standard for professional photographers. Maybe it will Sony winning the race, or perhaps Canon/Nikon will stay in the race. Personally, my money is on Fuji. I would sell all of my equipment and my soul if they come out with an affordable-ish medium format system. Just saying.

I would really love to hear your own thoughts if you are a Canon user on the fence, waiting to go Nikon or even Sony. How do you feel about how damn slow the big companies are at getting into the mirrorless game? Or maybe you think mirrorless is a passing fad? Tell me what you think is the comments below!

  • joel said:

    Wow this is like reading my own thoughts... I'm a wedding shooter as well and my partner and I have always shot Canon and were also looking to replace our much loved but well worn 6d's. We rented a Sony kit to try out at a wedding and it was really nice and totally workable but still not quite the DSLR experience. (crummy battery life, mediocre AF on moving subjects, small lens selection AND it wasn't noticeably smaller or lighter all said and done)

    So we switched to Nikon for many of the same reasons you did... dual slots, dynamic range and a lack of faith that the 5d4 or 6d would be affordable or able to meet all our needs. We thought about waiting to see what Canon did and then switching if we weren't happy but our wedding season just wrapped up so now is the best time to make the move and have time to get to know the new setups before we're in the middle of shooting again.

    We ended up getting 4 D750's... (the 810 is appealing but 24mp is plenty big, anything more would be a waste of storage space for us).

    As for lenses, I went with the 20/1.8, Sigma 50/1.4 Art and the 105/2.8 Micro. My partner is more of a zoom person and he was happy with what he got as well.

    I'm missing the 135mm as well but hoping the 105 can carry the load until Sigma comes out with a 135 Art or Nikon decides to update their ancient 135.

    I also found the ergonomics of Canon to be far more user friendly and straightforward. Nikon is more customizable but you can't just pick up any body and know it straight away like with Canon.

    Overall though, I couldn't be happier with the move. I'm still a little amazed at how much quality Nikon delivers for the money with their bodies and with their midlevel f/1.8 primes. No hard feelings towards Canon but I won't be missing them any time soon.

  • Marek said:

    Interesting read for sure. I started and shot canon for many years and switched to Nikon a year ago, and am now thinking about going back to canon! The only thing stopping me is their lack of new cameras, because the image quality of the 5d mark iii is rather lacking, especially after shooting D750's for a year. I was happy with the image quality from the 6d, but the stripped down feature set made it difficult to use in a professional setting (for example not being able to switch between my 'last' focus point and go directly to center quickly).

    While when I switched to Nikon It was for the huge dynamic range gain at low ISO, I didn't realize that most of canon's cameras actually have noticeably more dynamic range above 1600. You can definitely feel the difference if you're editing high iso images from a D750 vs a canon 6d..in say..a church or live music event.

    I miss having cross type focus points on the outside as well, though Nikon is starting to finally address that issue in the D5 and the D500, but a pair of D5's is not in the budget. The 5d mark iii focused way better at weddings, especially at dark receptions with lots of movement. Honestly, the 5d mark iii focused better in general, over the D750, but it has a clearly better AF system. Not having the option to 'spot' focus with nikon is a bummer as well, on certain subjects. Some time's it's hard to nail what you want with the full sized single points.

    The D750 colors rendered by adobe camera raw are absolutely awful. It took me a while to overcome this. I ended up making a bunch of profiles with the exrite colorchecker passport. I also found a way to take 'adobe standard' from the D4 and apply it to the D750- that alone made a huge difference.

    The biggest thing for me though, is the lenses. I miss my canon lenses. The 85L has a unique look that the 85mm 1.4g just does not. It's still a good lens, but it doesn't have 'the look'. The 70-200 vr ii's crazy amount of focus breathing makes it impossible to get anywhere near the same compression that the 70-200 IS II gives you. 200mm at f2.8 used to be an awesome look, but with the Nikon VR II it's nothing special, because it's nowhere near 200mm at the long end.

    Let's' not even mention the canon 135L vs the nikon 135 ;]
    The 45mm pc-e also has really, really bland bokeh compared to the canon 45mm ts-e.

    Overall, the dynamic range is there. We all have our ways of shooting and choose the tools that suit us best. I have a hard time getting my look with Nikon's lenses.

    Interesting to see the opposite perspective.

  • Great read. It seems like your switches from manufacturers come at right times and for very sound reasons, not emotional, which is good. I've been shooting Canon for about 5 years and always thought about Nikon because they develop better AF systems faster. The reason I haven't is because I JUST KNOW that if I switch I'll want to keep upgrading my cameras at a faster pace and I don't want to become broke. I mean, I'm still shooting with my 5D2.

    2 months ago, I purchase a Fuji X-T10 and I love it. I took it with me on my first family session of 2016, along with my 5D2, and it was fun to compare the cameras instantly. The technology is very close to replacing DSLRs but not quite. The speed just isn't quite there yet. Also, for anyone that LOVES shooting backlit shots as I do, shooting a Fuji can be very tricky. Canon and Nikon lenses can create some crazy flare and produce exceptional backlit photos. It's almost like Fuji has designed their cameras/lenses to greatly minimize flare and it just doesn't have that backlit magic of Canon/Nikon.

    My Fuji comes with me for personal fun and portraits. It's extremely fun to shoot and when I'm prepared to be more methodical in my approach, it's amazing.

    I think you're right about the technology taking a couple of more years. But then again, it's all about the feeling, right? You switched back to Nikon because it gives you a sense of security and helps you budget better, which also gives you financial security. Canon makes me feel this way when I'm shooting clients. Fuji makes me feel this way when I shoot personal stuff. We shall see.

  • Don said:

    Intering article and comments. I am just a serious hobbyist, so I do not have the business considerations that author and commenters have. I just do not my camera to get in the way of what I might like to do.

    I own a Canon 6D and have a bunch of L glass. While I am satisfied with the camera overall, I really would like a better AF system as the 10 non-cross type points are just not useable in certain situations. However, I am tired of waiting for Canon to come out with new FF camera bodies. Sure, they just came out with the 1DX2, but that is a camera I am never going to buy. I would just like a 6D2 that addresses the AF issue, but most "rumor" sites indicate a 6D2 is not likely to released until mid-2017. What is disturbing about the 1DX2, is that some people are stating that it is not much of an upgrade; so what can we expect from a 5D4 or a 6D2?

    So, I have benign looking hard at the Nikon D750. However, what prevents me from switching are the lenses. It does not appear that Nikon makes a good mid-range zoom. The 24-70MM is reportedly not that sharp and I do not like the focal length. The 24-120MM F4 is also reportedly not that good. Given price and quality, the Canon 24-105MM F4 appears to be the best relatively affordable mid-range zoom of the two companies. The Canon 135mm F2 is far superior to the Nikon equivalent and my 70-300 F4-5.6 L is beast that Nikon does not match very well according to what I have read. Nikon does not even make a straightfoward 200MM lens like the Canon 200MM f2.8, which is less than $800.

    So, I hang in there waiting for Canon to step up its game; I hope it is not a futile wait........

  • I tried making the switch from 6d to N750 not onec...butt twice! I tried some of the medium primes like the 85 1.8 and also the 70-200f4 which were equivalent to my canon glass. After several jobs of shooting both in parallel...I came to the conclusion that it was not worth the switch...I didn't have any more in focus or sharper images with the nikon and I found the nikon skin tones to be awful...also showed much more noise at the ranges I usually shoot iso 400-2800. With the canon I get so close with the colors..lI don't even need raw...just a little tweaking of jpegs and thats it...I even tried raw with the nikon...just couldn't really get there.

    • Hey there Andrew, thanks so much for your comment! I totally appreciate my circumstances are unique, but I really don't have any regrets about my switch. I never liked Canon colours to begin with and hands down, the Nikon D810 at ISO 64 has the quite simply the best colour and tones of any cameras I have ever used. Wouldn't give it up for anything. As always though, buying and using cameras is down to entirely personal preference! Go have fun with the gear that you've got!

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  • Bernie said:

    Hi folks. I really enjoyed this article and all of the comments. I am a hobbyist and amateur. I purchased my first real camera just over two years ago, and I chose the Canon 6D because of the awesome sale price and reviews. I figured it would be a great investment to learn real photography, as well as a quality tool that I would enjoy using.

    Since then, I have been patiently waiting for Canon to come out with the 6D2 as well as the 5D4. I have seen so many other companies with incredible advancements and quality products that it makes me wonder about my gear and what direction I want to go in photography and as a consumer and photographer. I agree with many comments that Canon seems to be taking too much time delivering fresh ideas and level-playing field products.

    Although I do enjoy the image quality on my 6D, the issues with only 11 focus point (1 center cross point), and viewfinder size are two things that bug me. More megapixels for cropping would be great too. I guess I could switch to Nikon, but I want to give Canon a chance and see what they do with the next 5D4 coming out soon as well as the 6D2 early next year.

    I'd like to compare shooting the equivalent with Nikon, just so I could see with my own eyes what all of the hype is about and decide based on my personal choice of image quality. I'm open-minded which is a good thing in the world of technology and not limited in my mindset on 'branding'.

  • shot Nikon from '72 to '01, the period when Nikon performance, iq, support, and build was awful. Canon ran away with the game in the early-oughts and MANY pros switched. now Nikon is the go-to wedding kit, for good reasons, mentioned above. 2 pts in favor of Canon (there are more): reliability and reliability. your mileage may vary. in the trenches I need my shit to not break. there, Canon wins. that said, I may be adding a 750 (kept my best aI lenses to my kit. Nikon has made real strides in the race. for weddings, they're winning.

  • also: I should qualify above: classic F series Nikon FILM cameras were, and are, superior in almost every way to Canon, by "awful" I refer to early Nikon digital

  • Nochaser said:

    It's so refreshing to read an article that addresses the current state of the camera industry so perfectly. Someone needs to grab this and publish it on The Wall Street Journal or something.

  • Justin said:

    Hi,

    Thanks for your detailed thoughts. Would appreciate your sage advice:

    I started off life with the 5DIII and the primes (35 1.4, 50 1.2, 85 1.2) and a few others. Then one day I switched to D810, for various reasons, and Nikon zooms. Been there for about 2 years now and primarily shoot with the 12-24, 24-70, 70-200 and 35mm 1.4. I've found myself loving the body; it fits great in my hand, image quality is incredible, ergonomics are great, etc. I just constantly find myself unimpressed by their primes, or I'm unnecessarily pining for the Canon 50mm 1.2.

    It always seemed to me like there was something magical about the 50 1.2 and the 85 1.2. I haven't found that with Nikon. I tried desperately to make the Zeiss Otus 55mm work with my Nikon, but the manual focus was just a bridge too far.

    I'm primarily a portrait and travel photographer.

    I'm seriously considering switching back to Canon and getting the 5D IV + primes.

    Would really appreciate your views. Am I being unnecessarily sappy about my canon primes? Am I unnecessarily critical of Nikon primes? Is the Nikon 58mm the answer to my question? I'm also finding myself overly influenced by the fact that many portrait photogs that I admire shoot with Canon. It stupidly makes me question myself.

    Please do comment on the Nikon 58mm.

    BTW, love your WP theme. Is it Borderland?

    • Marek said:

      Justin, I am in the same boat and have been since I switched to nikon. I have the 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 ii, 45 pce, 58mm 1.4g, and 85mm 1.4g and two sigma art primes.

      The 85 1.4g is a nice lens, but it is not an 85L. Optically the nikon is better, it has less CA , and the focus is way faster. But the background just looks..blurred. Like, photoshop blur. There is nothing magical about it like there was with the 85L, which wasn't always perfectly smooth, it had shapes and shimmery parts to it. Plainly, Nikon's bokeh is just boring. It's smooth but not interesting.

      The 58mm 1.4g was bought as an attempt to find something Nikon may have that I actually like, and it's definitely a unique lens. But it's not a 50L. The 50L has that shimmery bokeh. The 58 almost has a hazy look to it at times, other times it just has that overly smooth nikon bokeh, but with a slight swirl which is nice. I have tried to love it, but it's not giving me the look I want, which only L glass does.

      The image quality is phenomenally better with Nikon, though Canon files were easier for me to edit quickly because they didn't have a muddy look to them like the D750 files do after import.

      So I picked up a 5d mark iv and am happy to say that they have made huge leaps in every way. You can push the files a reasonable amount, not quite as much as a D750 or D810, but enough. The colors are clean, which after shooting Nikon for two years now looks too clean almost. The focus system is hands down the best I've ever used, way better than the D750.

      But switching systems would cost me a fortune in losses so as much as I want to jump back, It's probably not going to happen.

      • justin said:

        Marek,

        Thanks for your response. Since I posted my comment, I purchased a starter canon system (5DIV, 85 1.2, 35 1.4II and 24-70 2.8). I'm beyond delighted. The AF is, as you say, phenomenal, especially with my primes. I prefer the ergonomics of the D810, but the 5DIV is more than good enough and the image quality is great. The D810 may be a bit above it, but the slight reduction in MP gives me a bit more freedom on shutter speed and handhold-ability. Best of all, I get to enjoy the primes I love. Its not necessarily that either system is better than the other, but I started off with Canon, saw their primes as the the ideal, and am happily now back.

  • Roberto Machado Noa said:

    I agree Nikon gear is great but their CS in Toronto, Canada must be among the worst among all Nikon offices. Their Google review is around 3. If you read the comments, you'll be surprised . I didn't believed it until it was my turn of living it on my own flesh...Nikon changes in personnel are needed urgently (just my opinion)