I know that the Nikon vs Canon debate has been going on for ages, and there will never be a definite answer to the question of which brand is better. Here’s my short answer: it depends on which one you started with. But that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. So here’s a more detailed analysis, focusing on usability and ergonomics.
In my opinion, Nikon DSLR cameras have better ergonomics when it comes to changing camera settings on the fly, and easy access to important shooting functions. And even some not-so-important yet useful functions, eg. shifting the white balance while using a preset white balance setting. Nikon DSLR users just need to hold down the WB button, and instead of turning the rear dial (which changes the preset white balance from say, Daylight to Cloudy) they can turn the front dial which shifts that particular preset towards A (Amber) or B (Blue). The scale goes from A1 (a little amber) to A6 (more amber), or from B1 (a little blue) to B6 (more blue).
This means that even though you are using Daylight white balance, you can shift that preset towards amber or blue, depending on the mood you’re trying to achieve. This is important when shooting weddings, because at a wedding venue, the temperature of light sources can range from very warm chandelier light to greenish fluorescent, all the way to natural daylight. Choosing the right white balance setting is crucial to avoid unnatural hues on the faces of people. And no, you should not use Auto white balance if you can help it.
Being a Nikon user, I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with Canon DSLR cameras, but from my experience working with entry level models used by participants in my photography workshops, Canon DSLR users need to go to the Menu to shift the white balance.
For photographers who use the built-in flash, Nikon DSLR users can also control the flash exposure compensation of that built-in flash by holding down the little Flash button next to the built-in flash, and turning the front dial (for exposure compensation) or the rear dial (for changing flash modes, eg. red eye reduction and rear-curtain sync). As far as I know, Canon DSLR users have to change their built-in flash exposure compensation via the menu.
If you want to compare on DSLR body performance, the resolution (and high-ISO performance) race winner frequently alternates between Nikon and Canon. It’s a game of leap frog, where one beats the other, who soon catches up and overtakes the winner. At the moment of this writing, the winner in terms of lens sharpness goes to Nikon lenses, based on what my photographer friends who use Canon tell me, after comparing pictures taken with lenses from both camps.
Having said that, it doesn’t matter if you go with a Nikon DSLR or a Canon DSLR, just make sure that you don’t jump ship and change systems from one brand to the other. Not only will you burn a hole in your pocket changing your entire lens system, these two major systems use their own proprietary set of controls. For example, in manual exposure mode, the aperture on Nikon DSLR cameras are controlled with the front dial, while the real dial controls the shutter speed. This is reversed on Canon DSLR cameras.
Even the way the lens is mounted is different. Nikon lenses are mounted onto the DSLR body in an anti-clockwise direction. Canon lenses are mounted clockwise. So if you do change systems, and have already gotten used to your original system, you’ll have a tough time adjusting to the new system.
Knowing your camera’s capabilities is important because it allows you to take advantage of them when the situation calls for it. It can mean the difference between getting the shot, or missing it.
Douglas Klostermann’s comprehensive camera guides contain very detailed revelations about the functions of various DSLR cameras, and cover almost all the major and popular DSLR models by Nikon and Canon. It’s likely that you’ll find the guide for your particular camera there.
Found This Tip Useful?
Get back-stage access to valuable photography tips and techniques, right in your email inbox.
Many of these techniques will be shared only with my email subscribers, so don't miss out!