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…