Switching Camera Brands
After Years of Dedication
I don't always expect to understand everything and everyones ways of thinking. And as such, that is the basis for the articles you will find in ThePhotographyExperience.com. When something really bugs me enough, I set out to find out what my personal view on it is. Since I worked at Shuterbug Magazine long enough to know that camera reviews have to be very carefully written or you will not get another product to review.

Take for instance those camera peeps that suddenly jump ship and switch camera brand even if they have used a particular brand for many years. There can be many reasons why a photographer would change brands, but for the most part it usually would be because they feel that they are upgrading and getting better, higher quality equipment.

There is also a large number of photographers that get discouraged or pissed-off at a camera manufacturer for problems that arise in certain cameras. This problem has really plagued Nikon over the last few years with serious issues in the D600, D800 and even the new D750. Causing many people to boast about how they are selling off their Nikon gear and switching to Canon.

Going Back To My Roots
In my early days of capturing, I had a Chinon SLR with 28, 50 and 135mm Chinon glass. Several years later when I got a job in a camera store, I was able to, shoot with any camera, new or used, that we had in stock and the Chinon saw very little use.

I eventually worked out a great deal on trading my Chinon for a Pentax MX and ended up building up an arsenal of Pentax equipment. Two MX bodies with motor drives, a ME Super along with 28, 50, 85, 135 and 200mm glass.

I went with the Pentax after shooting a few rolls with it and really was impressed and loved the way it felt in operation. But still, "the word" at that time was always "Nikon", and before I ended up trading all my Pentax gear in for Nikon, I did have a Canon F-1 for a short while, but just didn't like the feel of it over the Pentax.

When I traded into the Nikon FE, (since selling on eBay wasn't around in those days) I officially got hooked on the brand. Not only did I love the feel of it in my hands, I loved the feel of the shutter release better than anything I had shot with. Although switching to Canon would have been an option back then, unfortunately the store I worked in, sent more Canon AE1's back to the factory for repair than all other brands combined and it just gave me a bad impression of their gear.

Naturally as time went by, my Nikon gear bag grew and changed shape many times over, and at one point I had FE, FM & F3 bodies and motor drives. Even at the end of my film camera days I had two F3 bodies, motor drives, about 6 Nikor lens and a Mamiya 645.

Through the years, I now know that Canon has brought the quality and innovation up to the same levels any other top brand of camera and I no longer snub my nose to the idea of shooting with Canon. But since I had shot with Nikon for so long, when I went to a digital SLR (DLSR), I ended up trading for the New Nikon D100 and a cheapish Nikor AF Zoom Lens.

As my journey continued, I also continued with Nikon since I had several Nikor lens that were usable on each camera upgrade I went through from the D2X, D3100 and so forth.( I have compiled a photo album of my Lifetime of Cameras in The Photography Experience FaceBook albums.)

A Reason To Get Mad And Switch
Since I have the spotty Nikon D600, you may wonder why I never suddenly switched to Canon. Probably the main reason being that I also know that over the years, there have been several manufacturing issues with Canon cameras as well.

It seems that more and more photographers get disenfranchised due to some kind of common manufacturing flaw. I personally fit into this category since I have a Nikon D600 which happen to have a notorious issue with oil spots getting on the sensor. After a class action law suit, Nikon began fixing the camera with a shutter replacement.

Instead of getting mad like a lot of peeps, I sent the body back to Nikon and they replaced the shutter for free and even free shipping both ways. Of course, there are many who had the camera fixed and then sold it afterwards only to feel the need to switch Canon. I also did see reports of many photographers selling their fixed D600 to purchase the revamped D610 or a higher model.

Although I did not get mad enough to switch brands or have the funds to upgrade to the D750, D810 or similar, I am going to pretend I did get mad and switch to Canon. With many thanks going out to Bob Clarke of Imagine This Photography for letting me use a gear bag full of Canon gear. Keep in mind this is not a comparison of Nikon and Canon, but just my experience of what it would be like to switch to Canon after nearly 30 years of owning and shooting Nikons.

For this trial run at switching camera brands, I was able to use a Full Frame 22Mp Canon 5D Mark III. A fairly similar body to my 24Mp Full Frame Nikon, along with a similar mid-range glass.

The first thing I noticed in the switch was the difference in where to make exposure settings and other options. Although, it was fairly easy to figure out how to set the format to RAW, auto white balance and the ISO. Some of the finer tuning settings did take some research but all in all, the Canon seemed to have all the bells and whistles that my Nikon did.

Of course, depending on which brand of user you asked, I am sure they know of something that one has over the other. The debates between the two can become as heated as those similar to Mac or Windows or Ford and Chevy, but in the end they still produce the same result.

Selling Your Gear
I am guessing that many photographers that make the switch already have some extra cash available to make up the difference in what it will cost to get all new gear. If I were to sell my D600 body, 24-85mm, 60mm micro and 70-300mm glass, it would generate between $1400 - $2000 in the used marketplace. Unlike what a lot of photographers think, camera gear is not worth full retail or even close to it when it has been taken out of the box.

Although the Canon 5D does have a few more bells & whistles than the Nikon D600, I am just using this as a baseline for not only switching but also a slight upgrade. Since the Canon 5D body-only retails for $3099, it will take a sizable chunk of cash to replace my gear bag with similar glass. But again, lets just pretend I had that money and I made the switch.

Hands On.. Whether I could See Them Or Not
Heading out into the night with the 5D and a Canon EF 28-135mm zoom lens, it would be my first experience with the camera and under night sky conditions. And to make matters even more difficult, I had not really gone over all the controls of the camera yet to know where to change any exposure settings.

Shooting at both hand-held speeds and using solid surfaces as a tripod, I shot at ISO's ranging from 500 to 6400. It would not be fair for me to criticize the ease or difficulty in changing settings at night, since this was the first time out with the camera and I would obviously be use to the settings controls on my Nikon.

I made a series of hand-held captures with the camera metering what it determined was the correct exposure for the scene. And very much like my Nikon, the white balance of the resulting image was on the warm side, but that was easily corrected when opening in Adobe Camera Raw.

Of course, had I chosen to manually override the EV selected by the camera and over-expose to bring up more shadow details, then that also would have blown out the highlights even more... as would be the case with any camera. With HDR being a very popular trend now, it really wouldn't matter too much in either direction of exposure compensation I chose. Then end result would yield highlight details and shadow details that can not be captured in one single exposure.

Using a solid wall to set the camera upon as a tripod, I captured several exposures to see how well I could capture details in a long exposure in combination with some post-processing HDR. From what I could tell from even the quickest of HDR processing, the samples shown seem to assure me that any night photography or HDR results will be much like what I would have expected from shooting with my Nikon.

So at this point I would have spent several thousand dollars to see virtually no difference in my captures. But I was determined to find out what all the fuss was about since most any Canon user swears it is better than a Nikon and likewise Nikon users boast how superior their brand is over the Canon.

After a few shots of espresso and a hundred or more exposures with the Canon 5D, I could tell that the image capture abilities were pretty much the same as my Nikon and it would not be fair to trash-talk or complain about accessing some of the settings and functions. Since I was so use to my cameras ways of getting around, those would naturally be the way I felt they should be.

It's All About The Shutter
While I may not have a good reason to dislike navigating the menus and exposure controls, I did have issues with the shutter release. Although there may not be much difference in the functionality of the different camera brands, I did find one area of operation that I strongly did not like as well as my Nikon. And again, I need to stress these are just my issues since I was expecting a certain feel to the shutter release.

The Canon shutter release is a little more forward and down on the hand grip, whereas the Nikon release is more to the top of the grip. There is also a finger-ergonomic recessed area around the Canons shutter button that is sort of form-fitting to your finger. On the other hand, the Nikon shutter button is much like the older film camera where it is located almost on top the camera and inside a circular ring that doubles as the on off switch. When you depress the Nikon button it slowly disappears down into the opening. With the Canon release, your finger slowly slips down into a form fitted area as the shutter button is pressed.

It also seems as if the action of the reflex mirror going back into position after an exposure has been made to be quieter and smoother much like the feel of the after-press of my D3100. The D600 shutter seems to operate more like a film camera with its quick mirror return and overall shutter noise. Yet neither camera makes the clank and noise of something like an old Minolta SRT 101 or the super loud shutter and mirror movement of a medium format Mamiya 645.

The Nikon also has 2 thumb-wheels (one in front that would be controlled by your shutter finger, and one in back actually controlled by your thumb) whereas the Canon only has 1. It was a little awkward for me to adjust to moving my finger up to the thumb-wheel compared to the placement of it on the Nikon. And the functions of the rear thumb-wheel on the Nikon are replicated on a larger rotating dial on the back of the Canon beside the LCD screen. But yet again, if you had always used a Canon DSLR, you would feel the same awkwardness when switching to the Nikon. In the end, neither set up is actually better than the other, as I am sure Canon users who try out a Nikon will complain about the position of the shutter release as well.

As you can see that the Canon has a few more details shown on the settings display, but then you would expect some more stuff with a camera that cost over a thousand dollars more. I actually didn't find anything that showed me any superiority in that respect. Both displays have a light in them for seeing the settings in low light or darkness.

In the end, it seemed as if every setting variable I could do with the Nikon was also available on the Canon. Even though the Canon had 1 CF and 1 SD card slot compared to the Nikon having 2 SD card slots, that also wasn't really a "deal breaker".

Image Quality... Head To Head
So if there is virtually no arguably greater difference in the Canon than the Nikon, could it be that it produces a better image since Canon uses their own Canon brand sensor and Nikon uses a Sony sensor. I think this is where a lot of the debates as to which camera is better will stem from. Photographers feel that either their sensor is better or their glass is better, so I am wondering if there is any truth to that.

NOTE: I have my Adobe Camera Raw set at a default with a slight adjustment to highlights to save more of them so I can decide later in Photoshop exactly what white point I wish to achieve.

As you can see from the resulting images above that there is virtually no difference in the quality of the image other than color balance, which could be tweaked to get even better results. I opened both images in Adobe Camera Raw at the default settings as captured in the camera. All of the comparisons I shot at ISO 800 and below were this similar and if I didn't note which image was from which camera you wouldn't be able to tell any noticeable sharpness difference. You will especially not want to believe that the Canon image was also captured with the more expensive Canon EF 24-70mm lens which retails for a few hundred dollars more than the 24-85mm used on the Nikon capture.
If you are like me, you want to see the image at 300% magnification to see the real breakdown of the pixels. As you can see both cameras deliver a piece of quality you may prefer over the other but neither one of them is a hands down winner in best image, especially when you figure in the cost factor of the supposedly more premium Canon glass used in this capture.

You Be The Judge
Click on the sample image to the right and view a slightly different image, but captured with both the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D600. The samples are shown at 100% pixel size. View the larger sample images and then you vote on which one you think was captured by the Canon 5D.

Which Image Was Captured With The Canon 5D Mark III
The Top Image Is Canon
Select this choice if you think the image on the top half is from the Canon.
The Bottom Image Is Canon
Select this choice if you think the image on the bottom half is from the Canon.

Post Processing Champs
With some tweaks to color balance and some minor curve/levels adjustments, either image could become the superior one. Of course you can capture at much lower ISO, but as the low light capabilities has gotten better with each new generation of camera, it also allows us to keep pushing up the speeds we shoot at which allows us more flexibility in chosen exposure values.

As with most all current Full Frame DSLR's,you can safely shoot to ISO 800. And in some higher end Full Frame DSLRS you can shoot as clean at even higher ISO's. Since I do happen to shoot in some low light situations some times, I also made some comparison captures at ISO 6400.
After inspecting this image up close, I realized that the Canon 5D I borrowed must have had the noise reduction at high ISO turned on. I keep it turned off on my camera since it does reduce the noise somewhat, it also softens the image in the process as you can see in the samples above. It would be my best guess that if the noise reduction was also turned off on the Canon, that the results would pretty well match the Nikon. But this is a great example of which way you would choose in using the noise reduction setting by either compromising sharpness or making the noise smoother.

Since my friend has about five weddings to shoot this weekend, I had to get his gear back to him and didn't get to check to see if the noise reduction was indeed turned on.

Missing The Mark On Exposure Values
Like any adjustable camera, they are not absolutely fool proof all the time. Errors in metering from the camera aperture set wrong, ISO too low, incorrect metering mode or a whole host of things can cause an error in exposure.

Yet that is one of the main reasons why I always capture in RAW format so that I can salvage any needed image that may be incorrectly exposed.

An important aspect of Canon's imaging capability was if I could salvage RAW images as well as I can the Nikon RAW images when I goof up the exposure.

And as I actually expected, I was able to salvage the severely overexposed image (as shown in the inset pic) to produce a print worthy properly exposed image.

After The Fat Lady Has Sang
This experiment has actually made me wonder even more about the mind-set of one who gets mad or thinks they need to switch camera brands because of an inherent manufacturing problem or the idea that one brand is noticeably better than the other. I would be willing to step out on a limb and say that even if I had tried the switch with a Pentax or an Olympus brand DSLR, that the results would still be pretty much the same. Of course, I do welcome that opportunity if you happen to have another brand I could run through these exposure test with.

So yes, I did get somewhat upset about the oil spotting issue (even though Nikon wanted to call it dust spots) on my D600 sensor, it certainly wouldn't be worth me selling all my gear and paying out more money to replace it with a Canon or other brand. The quality of the image will not be any better and there is no guarantee that the quality of the camera build would be any better.

As with any different camera brand, the ergonomics of the where the shutter release and the exposure controls fits in your hand will be different. But you will find that that is about the only major difference you will experience in your captures.

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