Timothy Armes' blog

Life as I experience it…


Switch to Nikon – why would I do that?

I’ve had a few people ask me why I’m switching to Nikon. A few years back there were floods of photographers moving to Canon due to their monopoly over the full frame sensor and the image quality that comes with it, but today both systems are so extremely good – and competitive – that there seems to be very little reason to justify a switch.

I don’t think that my reasons for switching will apply to many other photographers, but I’ll explain my choice for those that are interested.

My decision to change system was a very hard one. Canon offer many compelling reasons to stay with them:

  • Canon Inc.’s immense size gives them a research and development capacity that dwarfs Nikon’s. It allowed them rule the autofocus domain for years and to be first to market with full frame and high-definition video. This has given Canon shooters real advantages over their Nikon competitors.
  • Canon’s system is, as a whole, better value than Nikon’s – equivalent lenses are often substantially less expensive.
  • Canon also offers a larger range of lenses, including a series of f/4 L lenses that have proved extremely popular with those that need to reduce the weight of their gear. They have a better range of primes, and the latest 8-15mm fisheye zoom shows that they’re still innovating, whereas Nikon are still playing catchup in terms of the range of lenses on offer (but not in terms of quality).
  • Most 3rd party developers release products for Canon first. The ControlTL PocketWizards spring forth as an immediate – and important – example.

Nikon, on the other hand, doesn’t have any big advantages like these. To remain competitive they’ve had to play with our hearts; they make great bodies, and they haven’t reserved high end features such as state-of-the-art autofocus and weatherproofing for their pro bodies. Nikon’s reputed for their ability to listen to photographer’s needs, and I believe that’s what’s kept them firmly in the game.

Nevertheless, now that Nikon have caught up in sensor technology it does finally seem that Canon is finally having to compete in these other aspects too. The Canon 7D is well built and feature packed (although they still haven’t put in pro level AF….).

So, given the fact that we have the most equal playing field that we’ve seen for years, why would I want to switch now?

My problem is that Canon have separated their professional users into two categories, providing a body for each of them:

  • The 1D meets the needs of sports shooters and photojournalists to due its high frame rates and 1.3 crop ratio. The 1.3 crop is a great compromise, adding more reach whilst leaving enough space on the sensor for better quality pixels than on an APS-C sensor.
  • The 1Ds is a great studio and landscape camera. Canon are clearly doing their best to take some of the medium format market, adding as many pixels as they can to the full frame sensor. Speed is therefore not the objective of this camera, and the frame rate is half that of the 1Ds.

The separation is an intelligent one, and I believe it benefits most of Canon’s professional users. Unfortunately it doesn’t benefit my work. I need a full frame performance camera. I want full frame for the image quality, the shallower depth of field and most importantly the wide angle lenses. I need performance because my subjects move – often very fast. In other words I need either a full frame 1D or a fast 1Ds, and I don’t think either of those are on the table just yet because the current dual line up makes sense.

I’ve been making do with the 5D Mk II because there’s no where else for me to go in the Canon line-up. The 1D isn’t an option for me at all due to the crop factor, and the 1Ds would be an extremely expensive investment considering the frame rate would still be limiting me on some shoots. A fast EF-S body with appropriate wide angle lenses could have been a begrudged compromise, but even that isn’t an option since Canon haven’t put their 1D autofocus onto any EF-S cameras.

It’s principally this problematic that’s forced me into this position. Nikon has a full-frame body designed for performance – the D3s – whereas Canon doesn’t. It probably seems like an insignificant problem to most photographers, and it may seem wildly excessive to change systems, but a glance at my portfolio shows that I use a lot of wide angles, and shoot a lot of movement. I want to get the best images possible for the work that I do and the limitations of my 5D Mk II are having a direct impact on my ability to capture images. I have to change it now – either I compromise in my choice of 1D body, or I move to the system that’s best adapted to my needs.

I don’t like compromising my work…

15 Responses to “Switch to Nikon – why would I do that?”

  1. Simon says:

    I switched to Nikon too, simply because of the D700. It was exactly the camera I needed, whereas the 5D2 is just too slow, in focusing, frame rate and shutter response time. Best thing I ever did. Enjoy your D3S!

  2. Jesse says:

    Great post. although I’m pretty sure NIKON was first to market with hd video in a dslr with the d90.

  3. Jesse says:

    Haha, technically it is but I guess I agree… I get mad when my tv says something is”hd” but it’s only 720p. :)

  4. Kevin Arnold says:

    Hi Timothy,

    Came across this after seeing your posting on your latest promo. I switched to Nikon not long ago for the exact same reason – I thought I was crazy because no one else I know seemed to understand my reasoning. But after trying to use Canon for years (and still now for video) I finally came to the same conclusion as you: they just don’t make the perfect body for what I do. Now if only Nikon would make a D3s with a slightly higher-res sensor.


    • Hi Kevin,

      Yes, the resolution on the D3s does’t leave much room for cropping. I figure that the next generation will address this issue, at which point the D3s will become my second body.

  5. JP says:

    Switched to Nikon last April after having been a Canon user for 10 years. Nikon finally got their act together and the D3s is amazing. Friends of mine that stuck with Canon and bought the Mark IV are know considering the switch. The D3s files are just that good.

  6. SD says:

    This is my sentiment exactly. It infuriates me when I think of the amount of money I’ve invested in Canon and then have to make do with the 5D MKII’s amateurish AF system. It might not matter for people that spend their time shooting dozing cats or picket fences or maple leaves, but it does to some of us. All I want from Canon is a full frame camera with decent AF that shoots at a reasonable frame rate less than $5000. I don’t need most of the other bells and whistles. If I was starting from scratch right now, my money would be going to Nikon.

  7. bryan grant says:

    i guess. i have my canon and its going to take a stronger argument to make me switch….. good luck sounds like you are happy

  8. Zee says:

    There is the 1D X, if you are gonna switch back… :)

  9. SpartonX says:

    I just made the jump to the D800E. I will getting rid of all my canon stuff.

  10. Press Correspondent says:

    Are you switching back for Canon1Dx now? Sounds like your dream come true :)

  11. Bo says:

    Hi Tim,

    It seems like 5D Mark iii fits your need now….would you ever think of switching back?

  12. Shirley says:

    Timothy, I’m kind of slightly on the edge about my 5D MKii. I like it, but I don’t love it for the same reasons you said. But now that I’ve invested in their L lenses…. I mean it seems easier to ditch the MkII and just upgrade to the EOS 1DX. If you were in my shoes, what would you do now? I know you switched quite a while ago, but given the technology they put in the 1DX, I could use another opinion. Thanks.

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