The best Canon DSLR Cameras vs the best Nikon DSLR Cameras
The competition between Canon and Nikon in the DSLR Camera race is fierce, sharing 80% of the DSLR market. The model options and feature lists of both keep on growing and to keep us mystified, Canon and Nikon have different terminology for essentially similar features.
To demystify this a little, I include a Nikon vs Canon DSLR Summary chart for starters and I will post a more detailed Canon vs Nikon DSLR Comparison chart shortly. You can open the summary chart in a separate window or even print it out.
The green shading gives one an easy reference for where the feature improvements lie. They denote levels of function, darker meaning more or better function and features. Light is not bad! Darker is just more!
The charts list Canon 1000d to 7D and the Nikon D60 through D7000 as a quick guide to see the model steps of both brands. This is obviously not exhaustive in either Nikon or Canon, features or models. I have chosen the Entry Level DSLR cameras to the Prosumer Levels and listed the features that differ only. For this Summary chart I did not list items like built in flash, or creative zone modes which are availble in some form or other in all of the the cameras.
For current DSLR Camera prices for products discussed on this site click on Amazon Camera Prices.
Feature / price comparisons are of course only the starting point… but it is an important one. A full evaluation needs to look beyond the camera body. A true evaluation will include lens choices, ultimate image quality of the body lens combinations and your own personal needs. Whether you need the camera for portraits, family gatherings, sports or wildlife? This may determine the frames per second you require and the range of lenses and their speed.
Are you planning to walk for miles with your camera over your shoulder? Perhaps then you want to avoid the more expensive and heavy cameras and lenses.
Do you plan to upgrade later? Keep in mind that not all lenses upgrade to full frame cameras for example.
Consider that DSLR Camera technology, being digitally based is growing so fast that any model is likely to become superseded in two to three years time. On the other hand, lenses are much more long lived and will serve you most likely for a decade or more without getting outdated.
With all this in mind you can spend months studying the differences and options and read all the reviews on the net and drive yourself nuts with all the opinions and configurations.
So my objective here is to keep it simple.
From the entry Level DSLR Canon or Nikons through the prosumer models, are all amazing these days and you can rest be assured that there is safety in looking at the features and personal feel in your choice. The quality difference between today’s DSLR’s is really marginal if not non-existent. It comes down to your own requirements and ‘feel’ after you have done some reasonable homework.
One of the issues for me is that midway through the range of both camera brands you find 80% to 90% of the function of the top end models at half the price. They weigh half as much and at the price, you can buy two or more cameras for the price of one of the larger, rugged models.
Nikon D310014.1MP DSLR
In the end most decisions between Canon and Nikon are made on brand preference or your previous investment in bodies or lenses. Once you’ve chosen what camera you want, it makes sense to stick with it. The Canon T2i and Nikon D3100 cameras, released in 2010 are arguably the two best DSLR cameras at this level. Their release however did drop the prices of the still very viable Nikon D90 and Canon T1i (550d).
You can see current prices at Amazon or DigitalRev by Clicking on the images on this page.
Releases keep on coming. In February 2011 Canon announced the release of the T3, (1100D) and the T3 (600D), respectively a new bottom entry level DSLR (the 1100d/T3) and a new top of the Rebel range DSLR (the 600D/T3i). They became available in March 2011. Nikon is sure to come out with new announcements soon.
If you have been following prices you will see a marked drop in the prices of the T2i (550D) and others because of these announcements. The 1000D (Rebel XS) and the 450D (Rebel XSi) have both effectively been replaced by the 1100D but that the 600D is a new model not replacing any other. You can see my article on these cameras in another post on this site.
For now, let’s stay with the present and take a brief look at the current models.
See DigitalRev Prices Here
The major differences between the entry and mid-range cameras discussed on this post and their pro rivals lie in frames per second, ruggedness and the sensor sizes of the really expensive pro models.
Here’s a sample list of Canon vs Nikon DSLR cameras, class for class from entry to top end pro levels with Prices advertised in December. I will keep them here so that you can see how they dropped when you follow any of the links. For more detail on the features look at the Features Summary charts listed in the sidebar. I will discuss the features that I consider important a little further down.
|Canon DSLR Model
||Nikon DSLR Model
|Canon Rebel T3 12.2MP DSLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
||Nikon D3000 10.2MP DSLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i 15.1 MP DSLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
||Nikon D3100 14.2MP DSLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
|Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18 MP DSLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
||Nikon D5100 16.2 MP DX DSLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens and 2.7-inch Vari-angle LCD
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP DSLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
||Nikon D90 12.3MP DX-Format DSLR with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
|Canon EOS 7D 18 MP DSLR with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD Standard Lens
||Nikon D7000 DSLR Kit 16.2MP with18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR Nikkor Lens
|Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III 21.1MP DSLR (Body Only)
||Nikon D3X 24.5MP FX DSLR Camera (Body Only)
The above are Amazon prices. DigitalRev displays prices depending on your location and are also available in some smaller countries not served by Amazon for electronic equipment.
Just about everything in Photography operates in reverse. If you want to avoid buyer’s remorse, also approach all camera equipment purchases in reverse… Photographer, subject, media, lenses then camera.
The elements of Photography in order of importance:
1) What’s behind the camera!
- Basic and better knowledge of photography – composition, light, F-stop, depth of field, subject choice, recognising the moment, a steady hand, a good eye. The next is knowing how to use things like Aperture, F-stop and ISO to make quick decisions and make the most of your equipment and subject. Iimportantly today is owning a top class Digital Image Editor like Photoshop and knowing how to use it.
- What are most of your pictures for? Internet, printing, framing, enlargement to A5 framing, A4 or A3 size or bigger?
2) The Lens choices.
- Camera purchases should focus on what camera lens or lenses you want to the extent that the dealer’s line should be “… and what body would you like with the lens, Sir?”
- You often give up high end quality for range of features like weight, compactness and zoom. If you have 1(skills) above in place, this is not a problem for up to A3 (wall mount) size.
- Do you plan on one, few or multiple lenses. (the photographer needs to know what to do with them)
3) The Camera.
- At the DSLR level, if the 1(skills) and 2(good lenses) above are in place the quality of most DSLR’s are great even at the amateur level. The price, the brand, the weight, the features come last, in that order.
4) Also what camera does your significant other or close friend(s) have? Will you think of exchanging Camera experience or sharing lenses for instance? You could save a lot if you don’t choose to compete on brand.
Canon vs Nikon DSLR Cameras – Entry Level
Both the entry level Canon and entry level Nikon are high quality cameras, aimed at giving the amateur sharp, colourful images in full auto mode or one of the Icon optimised choices. You can also use the full range (almost!) of manual settings to play with light, depth of field, aperture, shutter speed etc. Professionals will complain about the light weight and comparatively flimsy feel of both cameras. Nikon fans rave about the ergonomics of the Nikons… the feel, the buttons in the right places, etc.
Canon fans seem to focus on the light weight, the higher megapixel per $, and other visible features. With any entry level DSLR camera you will come across more expensive cameras that make yours look basic in terms of features, but with the entry level of both Canon or Nikon DSLR you do have everything you need for essential picture quality. You don’t ever have to feel buyer’s remorse if you know what you’ve got beforehand.
Also, should you become a serious photographer later, you will want a second or spare body that you can use with all your lenses. You will find that the these entry level cameras are great ‘second body’ cameras and their lightness and small size will keep their status as go-anywhere favourites even if you have a big gun in the bag. The two cameras from each company that duke it out for the ‘best DSLR for beginners’ are the new Canon Rebel T3 12.2.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Outside North America it’s called the Canon 1000D) and the Nikon D3000 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera Let’s see how the two compare: Features that matter.
- The 10 MP capability of both Nikon and Canon is more than enough for quality everyday or even competition photography. Prints of up to 20” x 30” of your good photos will be right up there with the higher MP cameras’ output. This is great for wall mounted framing. Keep in mind that some of the most expensive professional cameras operate on “only” 12.2 MP, because the frames per second is more important to the photographer.
- The Canon 1000D has a 2.5” LCD and the Nikon D3000 has a 3″ LCD display panel. This matters somewhat.
- Nikon has 11 focus points vs Canon’s 7. (Not important to me. 7 is plenty)
- Both can shoot at 3 frames per second.
- Both are light and compact to carry, but of course not pocket size.
- Lens compatibility. Both have large ranges of lenses to choose from. Canon has full backward compatibility with older lenses, while Nikon will lose the autofocus ability on older lenses. Canon also has a wider range of compatible manufacturer lenses. (This may not be important if you are going to stick to modern lenses anyway and OEM compatible lenses need to be chosen with care)
- Sensor Dimensions: Canon 22.2 x 14.8 , Nikon 23.6 x 15.7. Very similar. These are key features for taking quality photographs and sets these DSLR’s apart from all point and shoots and the Pentax and Olympus group. At the high end, Sony competes here and above.
- ISO ranges, shutter speeds at 1/4000, are both more than plenty and also make the difference between DSLR’s and point and shoot category.
- Both normally come with a ‘kit lens’ that is versatile but it is the weak link in both offers. The lenses are versatile at the 18-55mm zoom range, but they are just OK in terms of speed and quality. The IS feature of the Canon and the VR feature of the Nikon (Image Stabilization) makes up for the relative slowness a bit because it allows you at least one or two smaller F-stop positions with hand-held shots.
The next level, Canon vs Nikon DSLR Camera, but still considered entry level:
Nikon D3100 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera (14.2MP) – with Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Zoom Lens) Vs Canon EOS Rebel T1i 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera(15.1MP) (outside US: Canon EOS 500d Digital SLR Camera) with Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens. Canon stole a march on Nikon above the 10MP mark for a while with a few Canon models, but in August 2010 Nikon caught up with what I consider a winner, the Nikon D3100 14.2 MP DSLR. Personally I would be happy with either of these three cameras in any circumstances, except high speed sports photography and maybe professional modelling shots where subtle differences in poses need to be captured by a larger number of FPS. Features that matter.
- The 14.2 to 15.1 MP capability is impressive. It simply is more than enough.
- All three sport 3” LCD display.
- Nikon has 11 focus points vs Canon’s 9.
- Both shoot at 3 frames per second.
- Boith are light and compact to carry.
So where are the important differences?
||Canon 450D / Rebel XSi
||Canon 500D / Rebel T1i
||Full EF-S and OEM
||Full EF-S and OEM
||Nikkor x range and some OEM
||22.2 x 14.8
||22.2 x 14.8
||23.6 x 15.7.
||Yes, HD 20 FPS or 30 FPS in 720 mode
||HD 1080p (24fps) or 720 at 30 FPS
||3×3 + or -
||4×4 + or -
|Raw Photoshop and Lightroom usage
||Incompatible (for now)
||$650 at Amazon
||$699 at Amazon
||$639 at Amazon
Summary: All other things being equal, consider whether bracketing or movie mode is important to you. That could swing a decision. If you are already invested in one or another of these brands, there are bargains to be had here in both the Nikon D3100 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera and the Canon EOS Rebel XSi 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera (outside of US, it`s called the Canon EOS 500d 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera). These two are currently great buys at Amazon.
Also see the a more detailed review on Canon Cameras with specific focus on the Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i), considered by many as the Best Consumer DSLR of 2010!
The weakness in the package deals lies in the entry level lens that you normally get as part of the deal. To get quality end-results you will have to invest in a range of quality lenses that ultimately will cost more than the camera body. See this ‘kit lens’, all-purpose lens as a starter option. Once you read the reviews when you follow the above links you may want to look into alternative lenses than the kit lenses, but as one reviewer points out, you get a very usable and flexible lens in the kit for only a small amount more than the body-only options. So it is a start, but to get true quality shots you need to invest in more glass.