Nikon v Canon v Sony....Let me start by stating that anyone believing with unwavering doubt that one camera system or brand is better than another; are fanatical mad zealots and their opinion can not be trusted. Apart from being tediously boring, they are invariable not working professionals in the broadcast or photo industry. Winston Churchill summed it up quite nicely “A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.”
It is good to be passionate and knowledgeable about equipment, but one should never lose sight of the most important factor, equipment is a tool for a photographer/film maker nothing more.
I had been a Nikon user for many years. I have successfully used Nikon gear for; studio, outdoor, expedition and underwater photography. I have treated all my Nikon cameras with varying degrees of respect and sometimes been punished with broken gear, but basically satisfied and more with the results and quality of the gear made by Nikon. My first Nikon pro camera was in fact a Nikonos V (my first camera was Kodak Disc Camera, when I was about 11 years old).
My first purchase was based on the advice of one man the salesman (salesman = Alan James Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1994). At the time there were magazines to give advice, but there was certainly no internet!
It is almost as if we are spoilt for choice nowadays. I have attempted to look into forums online for advice about cameras and end up more confused. I fear many of the individuals that post spend more time plinking away on keyboards than balancing light and exposure. It is difficult to discern good information online.
I would not go as far as to say I was pro Nikon, but I like their gear. The glass is superb and cameras are bullet proof. I dated a girl that worked as a high end wedding photographer and she used canon and for similar reasons could not explain why she originally chose that brand.
I have never been foolish enough to consider one brand like a Jedi order and the other like being that of a Dark Sith Lord, but some camera crazy fools would have you believe choosing one before the other would leave you working with the dark side and having a lightsaber poked up your bottom.
What I have gotten used to was my Nikon cameras being and extension of my body. After many years the layout is more or less the same on all high end Nikon SLR and Canon SLRs. You just know where things are.
While dating the wedding photographer we decided to take only her canon cameras on holiday with us. Now I would occasionally grab her canon camera and attempt to snap away….oh dear….nothing is where you need it to be and all the dials and buttons go in reverse! How thoroughly horrible is that?
Really is not that bad and only takes a little getting used too, but it is frustrating and does not help when you first try the other brand or switch to the dark side, whatever you want to call it. The thing that always impressed with the canon cameras was; they are lighter, quieter and the colour saturation is much more vivid. Colour saturation is somewhat subjective and all is possible in photoshop. Their professional department, in my experience, gives far better service than Nikon.
When I first started out in underwater photography Nikon was the only answer. Canon came in a very poor second. Right now there is very little difference and virtually nothing between the two brands. Canon made a huge dent in the market with their incredible SLR recording video in 2008. Nikon seem to playing catch-up, but they are doing it quickly and effectively. I made the switch to Canon mainly because clients were asking me to shoot on it. It was so important to shoot on Canon, every producer and brand wanted to know we were shooting the latest and greatest. Did not matter that all the chips were full frame or the codec they same. Canon simply appeared to be more fashionable that Nikon from 2008.
Then along came Sony and suddenly there was a new player kicking and smashing the old guard into what could be oblivion. The performance of the Sony A7 and all its various mutations saw me again appeasing brands and clients by shooting on Sony. I must say I switched and stuck with Sony, I love the mirrorless cameras and especially how compact and small they are.
Why do most photographers stick to one brand? Simple, they have a big box of lenses for that one brand. I could start talking about comparing exposure, low light levels, pushing the ISO and dynamic range, but why? I want you to keep reading. It is not about the brand, it is about the story your images tell. Is it the skill of the chef? Or the pots and pans he/she cooks with?
Here are my basic guidelines to buying a camera:
1. Get in the shop, pick a camera up and play with it – See how it feels. The camera must become an extension of your body. Imagine as if your choosing a lightsaber (just avoid making the lightsaber noise in the store).
2. Avoid anyone that Religiously suggest one brand before another – They are mad despots and nuts! Nuttier than squirrel poo!
3. If for underwater, investigate all the other stuff first, housing cost, flash guns and strobes. Are the manufacturer changing the shape and the design of the camera body with ever new edition and model? Does upgrade mean a new camera body also mean a new housing? That can become very expensive.
4. Find out what your friends have. Buying a similar system means you can share lenses. You are the one making the beautiful images not the camera.
5. When you put the photo up on Facebook and your mother clicks "like" She does not care if you used Sony, Canon or Nikon!
6. Invest in glass! Lenses are the most important, camera bodies become obsolete too quick, lenses do not!