Nikon and Canon - Photography Vs Technology

By Lynn Gaither

Professional photographers hired to covering demand photo shoots rely entirely on the right camera setup--job specific lenses, one or two dSLR bodies, and plenty of compact flash (CF) cards. For most photographers shooting medium format, Nikon and Canon are the only brands which ever make it into the studio. Both brands offer RAW file capabilities, large sensors, large hi-res LCD monitor, and the highest quality bodies and lenses, which are traits most important to pros. Still, each brand's products have their own distinctive features, advantages and disadvantages.

Nikon has dominated the film photography world since the 1950's and released the world's first digital single lens reflect professional camera, the 2.6 megapixel D1 in 1999. What made Nikon "the modern photographer's camera company" was its versatility and wide choice of autofocus (AF) Nikkor lenses, all of which are compatible with either their 35mm or FX film cameras. At the time of its 50th anniversary, Nikon listed over 60 AF lenses for sale ranging from wide angle lenses with focal lengths as short as 10mm, to telephoto lenses of up to 600mm, and a plethora of zoom lenses.

The Nikon dSLR body is very close to their 35mm bodies, which is a great comfort to long time photographers. While some options have changed, the overall anatomy is the same. Image size has increased almost 1000% since the D1, the D3X shoots 24.5mp images with max resolution of 6048 x 4032p while their Canon competitor, the Mark EOS-1Ds III, comes in at 21mp and max resolution of 5616 x 3744.

More choice of lenses and digital information will cost you, however, as Nikon bodies and lenses are generally more expensive than Canon and are heavier. The D3X weighs in at $8000 USD, excluding lenses, and 2-lbs without lens and battery. Nikon does, however, offer lightweight cost effective solutions such as the D70, 80, 90, and 3100 cameras which range from $1000-$3000 and include a standard zoom lens.

Canon has dominated the world of electronics since the 1960's and, like Nikon, is a Japanese-based company. They released their first pro dSLR on year after Nikon's debut and boasted a larger, better image. Consumers were familiar with the brand's point-and-shoot Powershot cameras--which made it on the scene before Nikon's Coolpix line--but professionals hesitated until September of 2001 when reviews boasted how much quieter, lighter, faster, and cheaper Canon's new EOS-D1 was compared to any equal quality Nikon dSLR. They also offered a 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM lens and other options which sought to offset the need for a large variety of lenses.

Since then, the EOS line, specifically the Mark II-III have been prime picks for Canon pro shooters. While Canon has released a Mark IV, this camera weighs in heavier than Nikons D3X at 2.6-lb and offers only 16 effective megapixels. Canon professional bodies are significantly cheaper. The 21mp 1Ds costs less $6000 and weighs less than 50-oz. Much of this is because Canon manufactures its sensors and a few other mechanisms in-house, unlike Nikon which mostly outsources its sensors to Sony.

Pro photographers will always consider the type of photography they are shooting. If carrying lots of lenses is impossible and mobility and cost are critical deciding factors, Canon has the versatility they need. Other photographers, however, love studying the science of getting the perfect shot with the best lens, especially when more time is allotted. Getting a new camera system is a huge investment which needs to be tempered with trials, research, and reading reviews from other pros.

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