This is the conclusion of a 5-part series on an experimental switch from Canon to Nikon.
I guess the big question on everyone’s mind is, “Did you switch or not?” Well, read on, gentle reader.
I’ve been a Canon user for the majority of my life. Starting at age 8 with a tiny Canon film point-and-shoot, then to an AE-1 Program, then an A2 film body, followed by a G3 P&S, a Rebel XTi, a 7D and then a 5D Mark II, I’ve owned Canon gear all my life.
I love Canon gear. The glass is varied and plentiful, from a crazy 1:5 Macro (the MP-E 65mm) to a swift, fast, yet affordable 400mm f/5.6 lens for wildlife, to a fantastic 135mm f/2 portrait lens, Canon has glass for practically every occasion.
Nikon, on the other hand, kind of falls behind in terms of having glass that I really do need/use from time to time. The lack of a solid 400mm-range lightweight telephoto is a real bummer, as is the lack of an ultra-wide-angle (17mm) tilt-shift lens.
Speaking of the tilt-shift lenses, Nikon really does need to update their PC-E lenses to match Canon’s 17mm and 24mm lenses. The current 24mm PC-E lens from Nikon doesn’t do independent rotation of the tilt/shift elements, and the newer 24mm TS-E f/3.5L II lens from Canon is perhaps the sharpest 24mm optic they make.
Of course, Nikon has its share of lenses that Canon users covet, too, like the famous 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.
On the camera side, this was essentially a contest between the 5D Mark III and the D800. I’ll say this right off the mark – the 5D is the more versatile camera to me. From it’s snappy autofocus to its 6fps shooting speed to its fantastic low-light performance (better than the Nikon’s at higher ISOs), this is going to be the camera for many photojournalists, wedding photographers, and general shooters – and with good reason.
The D800 is no slouch, but it feels more specialized to me. If you need the detail – say, for landscape or studio work – then this is going to be the camera for you, in my opinion. That’s not to say that wedding photographers can’t use this camera – famed wedding photographer Cliff Mautner uses one, as do many others. To me, it just doesn’t come off as the best option for those kinds of photography; the D600 or the D700 are better options on the Nikon side (again, in my personal opinion).
Fine, fine. But did you switch?
In a word? Yes.
I’m now a Nikon shooter.
I love the images coming off that D800, and the Nikon off-camera flash system is just plain sweet. After weeks of shooting the Nikon, the camera flows into my hand like a comfortable, rugged glove, and the various dials and switches positioned all over the body seem to fit me almost perfectly.
I don’t much care that the D800 is a 36MP camera, but I do prefer the way that Nikon treats shadows and I love the dynamic range of the D800’s sensor. Working with that D800 RAW file is a delight – it holds up really well in post, as is shown by the before/after shot below.
Moreover, the Nikon’s off-camera-flash system is really, really cool. Canon’s new 600-series flashes do kinda even the score – and then some, with built-in radio receivers and 5 groups instead of 3 – but those aren’t backwards-compatible. I can snag
an old SB-28 any SB-xx0-series flash (thanks to Chris Aldridge for pointing my mistake out) and it’ll work with the CLS system just fine; the reverse isn’t true for the new Canon flash features.
The thing to remember here is that my decision was based on a combination of factors. The Nikon D800 felt more comfortable in my hand after a while, the flash system is awesome, and I preferred the look and feel of the images from that D800 sensor. That means that if Canon comes out with something tomorrow that produces an image I prefer to the D800’s, it won’t be enough to trigger a switch. The ergonomics, the way the camera functions, the flash system and the fact that a lot of Nikon glass works really well with other bodies will more than likely keep me on the Nikon platform for the foreseeable future.
No, after this, the only switch I intend to make is to medium-format digital.
Anything you’ll miss?
Well, there will may times when I’ll take a brief sojourn to the Canon world. The combination of the 7D and the 400mm f/5.6 is fantastic for mid-short-length wildlife photography, and that 17mm TS-E might prompt me to rent a 5D Mark III for an architectural project. But that’s the beauty of a service like BorrowLenses.com – you can reach across the aisle, as it were, and play with the toys on “the other side.”
I’ll also miss Canon’s live-view feature. Live-view on the Nikon is greatly improved from the D700, but it still blows compared to Canon’s live view. As I understand it, the LV in Nikon is pixel interpolation, rather than a pixel-level magnification, which makes using LV for manual focusing really difficult. Canon also has a higher-bit-rate video recording mode (up to 95Mb/s in the ALL-i mode) than Nikon and the addition of log color features like Technicolor’s Cinestyles gives Canon a pretty big edge in the video arena.
Once again, however, that’s the beauty of having a service like BorrowLenses.com. When I get to the point where the D800’s video features start to fall short, I can always go rent a Canon 5D Mark III – or a RED Epic.
This has been a hard few weeks. To be honest, I didn’t start this project with the presumption that this is where I’d end up. I was honestly curious about the Nikon D800 and that universe of gear in general, but in my heart of hearts, I didn’t think I’d really switch.
Yet, here I am. For a gear-head like me, switching camera platforms is a bit like switching political parties – it involves a mix of guilt and excitement and makes for some nerve-wracking moments of introspection. Ultimately, I feel like I made the right decision. After all the pros and cons I weighed, all the analysis and thought I put into this experiment, ultimately, the Nikon emerged as the camera that was right for me. The fact that it also felt great in my hand was just plain gravy.
This concludes my Switch series. As always, questions and feedback are welcome in the comments below.