This is Part I of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea…
“I’m going to check out a bunch of Nikon gear and go shoot with it for four weeks. Then I’ll write a series of articles about it.”
I grinned at Jim Goldstein, BorrowLenses.com’s VP of marketing, and my nominal boss. He stared back at me, first with a blank expression, then with a knowing glint in his eye.
“You’re looking to switch, aren’t you?” he asked. “And you want to use this idea for a series to test the waters on the other side, dontcha?”
He kinda had me there. I’d been eyeing that D800 ever since it was announced, and was eager to give it a try. More importantly, I really was thinking of switching sides.
Two of my idols, David Hobby and Joe McNally, both shoot Nikon. Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) for their external flashes is world-renowned, and is a traditional area of strength for that brand. As someone who uses lighting a lot these days, I had seen what all the fuss was about and wanted to put it through its paces for my own shoots.
“Well, no, I’m not looking to switch,” I told Jim. “But if it happens as a result of my experiment, well…”
Jim’s a good sport, and we both agreed that it would be worth it to see what a Canon shooter with an open mind would feel about moving wholesale to Nikon gear. So, he signed off on the gear loan and off I went.
What I got
As I mentioned, I wanted to shoot that D800. Why not the D4? Because I don’t need the high framerates and I don’t like the big bodies (ditto for the 1Dx on the Canon side) unless I’m out shooting birds (which doesn’t happen as often). I also wanted the pop-up flash on the D800, as I planned to use it to trigger the SB-910s I was checking out.
And more importantly, I wanted to see what all the hoopla about the D800 was about. DxOMark has given this sensor some pretty impressive ratings and I was curious to see just what all the fuss was about.
So here’s the gear list
So I basically have a range from 24mm to 200mm, with a macro (Nikon calls them Micro) lens, and a couple of flashes. I’ll also have a few rotating lenses like the 16-25 f/4 and the 24mm PC-E lens for other assignments during this time, so I think I’m going to have a pretty thorough experience shooting Nikon.
By the time you read this, I’ll already have done one lighting test shoot with the D800, not to mention some landscape work. I’ll be using samples shot with the D800 a lot through this period, so keep an eye out for any images you see in articles by me – chances are, they were shot with the D800.
Editor’s Note: This already happened. Sohail’s “Finding the Photo in the Cruft” article which was written after he wrote this piece but posted before this one, used an image shot with the D800.
So what am I looking for?
Well, this one’s a bit tough to answer, but among other things, I’m looking for what the user experience is like for a switcher. Moving from Canon to Nikon is a bit like moving from Mac to PC (or vice versa). There are a lot of things that need getting used to, and I’ll be talking about the switching pains of moving from one system to another.
I’ll also be looking for areas where I can draw a clearly defined line between Canon and Nikon. Each system has some strengths and opportunities; Canon has traditionally been strong in the video realm, whereas Nikon has had the edge in high-ISO performance and off-camera flash. Yet these lines are blurring now, as Nikon’s latest crop of cameras is pretty strong in the video department, whereas Canon has been making some great strides in high-ISO performance with the 5D Mark III and the 1Dx.
Are you really considering switching, though?
Well, why not? As a long-time renter (before I started working for BorrowLenses.com, I was a pretty regular customer) I didn’t build up a lot of Canon gear, and what I did, I can easily sell off. If there are some clear reasons for switching for my kind of photography, then yeah, I’ll absolutely do it.
The D800 is really the impetus for this experiment. I’m morphing from an assignment shooter who’ll take on anything from wildlife to portraiture (and sometimes they’re eerily similar) to more of a fine-art photographer, shooting more B&W film, and narrowing down my subject matter. For the kind of work I want to do, I considered looking into medium-format gear, which is what I shoot when I use film. The D800, with its touted dynamic range and resolution, is a very tempting proposition.
I think that’s why this experiment is SO much more than a gimmick. At the end of this series, I really don’t know which way I’m going to go. Will I ditch Canon for Nikon? Will I stay with what’s worked for me so far? Or will I devolve into a hairless, hunched, crazy creature, cradling a D800 in one arm and a 5D Mark III in the other, hissing, “Precccioooouussss! Myyyy preccciooouusssss!”?
I have no idea. But we’ll have some fun finding out along the way.