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Canon vs Nikon – which camera brand captures your heart?

Canon vs Nikon

The Canon vs Nikon debate shows no signs of flagging. Both brands were shortlisted for our Best Photography Brand accolade, but Canon walked away with the silverware. Do you agree with our decision?

This camera manufacturer debate usually focuses on digital SLRs, however, the Which? Awards take into account the results of our tests of digital cameras across several categories, and even camcorders and printers (products Nikon doesn’t make).

Customer satisfaction, reliability, diversity, innovation and value for money are all also factored into consideration.

However, the reason the photography world is divided into a group who prefers the ‘D’ to come before the model number and a group who likes the ‘D’ to come after, is often less scientific and a little more heartfelt.

The lenses lock you in

I own a Canon 7D and am over the moon with it, but my purchase wasn’t based entirely on its Which? review. Many of my friends have Canon digital SLRs and the ability to share lenses was a major factor in my decision. And as such, now that I have my 7D, I’m unlikely to jump ship and bat for the opposition any time soon.

This isn’t because I’ve been brainwashed into thinking my Canon camera’s superior, but because I view my growing arsenal of lenses and accessories as a long-term investment. To change allegiance now would be costly.

Canon and Nikon both have enthusiastic customers fighting their corners, and I’ve heard debates between seemingly mild-mannered photographers become searingly heated. Quality and range of lenses always comes up, along with price, speed, noise, control and more recently even video quality.

The following table shows how the two camera brands compare in our lab tests, with information based on the tests we carried out between March 2010 and February 2011.

Camera brandProducts testedBest BuysBest Buy strike rateCamera reliabilityCustomer satisfaction
Canon412254%97%87%
Nikon161169%97%82%

Don’t sit on the fence

Pacifists might argue that Canons are better for sports photography, while Nikons are better suited for wildlife – but what’s clear is that nobody’s sat on the fence.

Still, if you’re looking to buy a digital SLR, both Nikon and Canon can cater for you, whatever your level of expertise. At the entry level, it’s likely you’ll shop for a Canon 1100D or Nikon’s D3100. Want something more advanced? Then you may consider Canon’s 60D or a Nikon D7000. Feeling flush and want to take the best shots money can buy? Then it’ll be the latest 5D model or the D700.

So is deciding whether you remove your lens with a clockwise or an anticlockwise twist just as trivial as choosing between Pepsi and Coca Cola? Or is there more to the Canon vs Nikon debate? Why exactly do you favour the camera brand that you do?

Which camera brand do you prefer?

Canon (58%, 392 Votes)

Nikon (42%, 284 Votes)

Total Voters: 676

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Comments
Member

Having just bought a Canon IXUS117 HS I have been nothing but disappointed since, the software conflicted with my computer and part of it refused to work – the part that refused was the software to download the pictures from the camera onto my computer. I rang Canon to find it was an 0844 number and having been on the line for one hour – asked them to ring me back – as it still had not been resolved and having hung up they never rung back. I then rang again and was told it was my problem, my fault and down to Microsoft and I should ring them.

Since I had no intention of paying any more money than I already had done, or being piggy in the middle with two giant companies, I just bypassed the software and use Windows Picture Manager but am I annoyed? Do I feel cheated? You bet I do. This will be the last purchase I ever make of the Canon brand. I especially resent paying out £150 for a camera and then when asking for help to set it up am ripped off by an 0844 number and a support service that was absolutely dire.

Dot

Member

Personally I think that there is no real difference in the handling qualities of Canon and Nikon digital single lens reflex cameras once you are used to their layout. What you will often find is that Nikons are usually better when you are using a very high ISO rating (say above 3200), so if you want to photograph a black cat in a coal cellar using available light a Nikon DSLR is a better bet.

My first DSLR was a Canon 20D because that was considered the best camera on the market that suited my price but if the Nikon 200 had been on the market at that time I might have chosen that instead. Canon produce a wider variety of lenses than Nikon and many of them are judged to be superior to Nikon so if you choose your lenses with care you can collect the best of the Mark and independent lenses. I think that you should also choose the body that is best suited to the type of pictures that you are taking. For instance I use my EOS 5D Mk2 for portraiture and either my EOS 7D or EOS 50D for taking pictures of flying aircraft.

With regard to Dot’s complaint about her Canon IXUS117 HS I would only like to say that I download all my pictures to my PC using a card reader instead of using a USB link and Canon software. I think that this is quicker and I have not had any problems with it.

Member

Like you Stepheneb, I also download pictures using a memory card reader, and I typically avoid installing the bundled software.
It’s interesting to read that you bought a Canon 20D and now have a 5D Mk2, a 7D and a 50D. If you’d waited and bought the Nikon 200 as your first digital camera, I guess you’d have three Nikon substitutes for your current Canons in your kit bag instead.
The early exposure is often the biggest influence. You bought a Canon back in the day and still use Canons now. I’ve read somewhere that encouraging someone to switch their preferred brand of cigarettes is the most challenging thing for a marketing company to acheive. It could be said about digital SLRs.

Member
Tony Gray says:
25 August 2011

Totally agree with Dot, over the moon with my Canon Powershot SX20 IS, pictures are great and a good Auto function if the manual settings fail to produce the expected result, BUT the software stinks and will not work with Windows 7. Had a better response experience with Canon as they suggested a few patches but they didn’t work. we are using our old Ixus 70 software which works fine but doesn’t have all the jazzy new functions.

This is a huge customer issue which Canon are failing to address. They need to get their act together and get products working with the systems that are commercially available, not go to war with them. And it certainly isn’t the customers fault.

Member

Dear Stepheneb

Thank you for your comment about using a card reader and I will investigate this, but I am gratified to know that, while I am just a high days and holidays camera enthusiast, you appear to be a professional and yet you still do not rate Canon’s software.

I have enlisted help from a number of gurus in the computer cyberworld and they all seem to think that Canon’s software should have included a visual basic programme/library to automatically sort out my computer to accept their software: this appears to be missing.

Member
Vicky says:
5 August 2011

I’m very pleased with our canon 1000d. Before upgrading to slr had ixus and that was great too. The school I teach at also has low end canons bought through tesco vouchers. All have been excellent, easy to use and get results. Never had any problem downloading pics (either to school pcs or home mac) – just plugged in cable and did.

Member

It’s true that the lenses, or ‘the system” locks you in. A pro’ photographer friend of mine bought a new camera body every year and he regarded his lenses as his kit.

Canon has many more cameras in its range than Nikon, especially the compacts, I do wonder if this has skewed the results at all.

I have found that in the past Canon has chased the headline “pixel count” more than Nikon who’s philosophy was that it’s the quality of each pixel which is more important than the total count. Take the Nikon D700 for example, a full-frame sensor of just 12 megapixels. Each one gathering more light and producing a higher quality, lower noise, signal than a more densly populated sensor. This demonstrates the Nikon way of doing things.

Canon have begun to come around to this way of thinking too, look at the G11, fewer pixels than the G10. It now seems that we have “enough” pixels and technology has produced some remarkable processing engines, so we can choose a camera at our selected price point with the features we want and concentrate on the more important job of taking photographs and enjoying our hobby.

Did you guess I have a Nikon D700?

Member

I have two things to say about your comment, Robert.
Firstly: Thank goodness the daft battle of the megapixels seems to be over. It is frustrating that manufacturers plaster bigger and bigger numbers on their packaging and marketing to appeal to consumers.
Secondly: Wouldn’t it be nice to invest in lenses and treat the dispensible SLR bodies so capriciously?