The Switch | Switching from Nikon to Canon Gear


One of the biggest debates among photographers has always been brands…. specifically Nikon vs. Canon. Nowadays, that debate has broadened with companies like Fuji and Sony who are offering their own lineup of cameras and lenses. But if you're a photographer, chances are you've invested heavily into one of these two brands. For me, it was Nikon. I started shooting Nikon in college when digital was still on the horizon and Wal-Mart still had one hour film developing. When digital SLR's became affordable, I purchased a Nikon. When I decided to venture into photography full time, I invested a lot further in Nikon. And as many of you know, it is a HUGE investment. Cameras are expensive. Lenses are expensive..sometimes more so than the cameras. And so to switch brands involves a major selling and repurchasing process that is certainly stressful, and if not handled wisely, catastrophic. But there are certainly valid reasons for switching and that’s what I’ll talk about in this blog post.

One of the major reasons I switched was for video and that reason alone seems to be a popular one. Canon has always been ahead in video. Since the release of the epic 5DMII, videographers have been utilizing its HD capabilities along with Canon's wide array of lenses to create videos with quality and detail that would rival some cinema cameras. Nikon has only recently begun to add good video to their cameras. But in my opinion and based on my research, it still pales in comparison. 

As a photographer and now a videographer, my needs for a camera have changed drastically. As a result, I had some major considerations when looking at purchasing new cameras. I travel often for work. Most of my work is actually on-location. And although most of it is locally or nationally, I have traveled more internationally in recent years. And as a result, I began to want smaller, less conspicuous cameras that I could shoot still images with and then, (very quickly) switch to shoot video. After having relied on a Nikon D3 and D3s for years, I was done buying BIG cameras. They’re heavy, they’re expensive, they’re overkill for my current needs and bang for the buck, I felt there were better options. Another Nikon camera I considered was the D800. The D800 is a smaller body DSLR that packs in a whopping 36-megapixel resolution. And while that little statistic is impressive, the camera itself lacks the ability to change the RAW file settings. The result? You're basically stuck shooting 36 megapixel RAW files that I've heard, can be as big as 40 to 50 megabytes each. Multiply that times a couple hundred images and think about all the memory cards involved and the fact that my computer would probably fry itself with despair trying to process all those images and you’ll see why the D800 was not ideal for me. Having been eyeing Canon for a while, I began to realize that their cameras were more suited to where I felt I was heading with my business model and my creative journey.

So I did two things…. I made a list of all the equipment I wanted to sell and a list of all the equipment I wanted to buy. I crunched numbers and felt good about being able to switch out my gear without any major catastrophes. After that, I took another step…. I borrowed a Canon for a weekend and shot with it. After gaining confidence with the menus and settings, I went out the following week and bought my first Canon DSLR. 

My first Canon DSLR was the 6D, a newly released full frame camera that was actually quite small in size. I remember standing there at the counter at the local camera store, eyeing it suspiciously and wondering if this was going to be a disaster. But I walked out of the store, Canon in hand, confident that I had made a wise decision. I charged the battery and began to play around with it. There's definitely a learning curve. The buttons and dials were different even from the 7D I had borrowed and certainly from my Nikon cameras. But the Canon felt good in my hands and the sound of the shutter was mechanical and precise. The camera body was light and unobtrusive. And the pictures (without any editing) were vibrant and full of life. I could tell that inside this small body, this camera packed a creative wallop. So I felt relieved and inspired. And later that week, I bought my first Canon lens, a 50mm 1.2L series. If there were any reservations left about switching, that lens quickly washed them away.

Now, its almost September and I’ve been shooting that little Canon 6D for nearly 6 months. And to be honest, I haven’t looked back once. In that time, I’ve purchased a couple Canon speed lights and a couple lenses. I also purchased my second Canon camera; a 5D MIII and I plan on purchasing another Canon lens or two, although I’m taking my time to decide which one(s). I was fortunate enough to find a fellow photographer and teacher who wanted to buy all of my Nikon equipment for her school’s photography program. As much as it was a business decision to switch, it's somewhat sad to say goodbye but comforting to know that my Nikon gear still has an exciting life ahead of it. I’m very blessed to have been able to switch out my gear so smoothly. It’s not an easy process at all and definitely not a necessity for everyone. But for me, it’s paying off.

One of the best things about switching is the fact that I’ve been able to buy my new Canon gear with a seasoned knowledge of my business and also, how I shoot. When I bought my Nikon stuff, I did the research but I didn’t have the experience to back it up. So I bought a lot of stuff and then, I bought more stuff. After 7 years as a full time photographer, my style and my rhythm have changed and I’m drawn to the idea of doing more with less. In my last months of shooting Nikon, I would carry only two to three lenses with me on a shoot. And when I went to purchase my Canon gear, I kept that little fun fact in mind. So far, I’ve purchased three lenses: the 50mm 1.2, a 24mm 1.4 and a 135mm 2.0. And when I go on a shoot, I carry all three of them and oftentimes, use all three of them. They’re all prime lenses and for video purposes, that’s great. But I also love primes because they are simple and fast and I’ve been shooting long enough to know which one I’ll need for different shots. I must say that the 135 is a beautiful lens. Having shot a 70-200 for the longest time, the 135 is a welcome change because it’s super fast and because it doesn’t weigh as much as a rhinoceros. All in all, I’ve done a lot of photography and some video so far with my Canon and I couldn’t be happier that I switched over.

Some things that I have grown to love about Canon...

1. Build Quality:
From the get go, I was impressed with this. In my opinion, the newer Nikon lenses have backslid in build quality. And while my D3 and D3s were bricks, it's nice to see Canon putting some "umpf" into the build quality of their smaller cameras. A very impressive note is the little lock that locks the speed light onto the camera's hot shoe is a HUGE plus over the lock on the Nikon speed lights.

2.  Straight Out of Camera:
As I said before, the images that come straight out of my Canon cameras are vivid and colorful. By comparison, I always felt that my RAW files in my Nikon cameras were somewhat flat. 

3.  Menu System:
Much more user-friendly in my opinion, and with the addition of the new Q buttons, there is quicker access to settings that I switch most often.

4. Speed Light Technology:
Canon has released the first speed lights that have built-in radio transmitter capabilities. This means that I don’t have to use third party products to trigger my flashes and I can adjust the power settings on all of my flashes straight from the camera. For those of you who aren’t photographers, the aforementioned paragraph is technological gibberish for AWESOME.

5. Lenses:
My all-time favorite Nikon lens was an old 28-70. The build quality was stunning. I could’ve wielded it in a street fight and come out on top. Plus, it super fast and sharp for pictures, which is what I mostly used it for. But many of my newer Nikon lenses were less robust. It felt as if a thin piece of plastic was all that was protecting the inside of the lens from the imminent wear and tear of everyday use. Canon lenses by comparison, are built better. At least the professional L series ones are. The lenses I’ve purchased so far, are built like tanks…small, street fighting tanks.

6. RAW Settings:
You can actually CHANGE the Raw file settings on the camera. Duh!


A couple things I miss about Nikon…

1.  Focus Point Control: It’s still difficult sometimes, to control focus points on my Canon 6D. The 5DMIII is much better about it, but I still do miss the ease of moving those focus points around on the Nikon.

2. The 28-70: Call me sentimental, but I sure do miss that lens.


In Closing…

Having shot Nikon for years, I can say with full certainty that it’s good stuff. And having shot with Canon for several months, I can also say that it’s good stuff. Gear is just gear. But some gear works better for some than for others. If you were considering purchasing a Nikon or Canon, I would say borrow them both and shoot with them. See which one feels better, which one gives you better images and ask someone to explain all the specs to you. If you’re going to invest heavily in one or the other, consider where you are going, both with your art and your business. What do you love to shoot? What situations will you probably find yourself in? And also, what’s your budget? Like I said, either one is good. But for me, it’s now officially Canon.