Canon and Nikon are the two dominant DSLR makers as of 2007, and have been for a number of years. They are both excellent brands, and both have large followings. That said, they are incompatible (ones lenses don't work on the others body), and in building a collection of equipment, you will choose one or the other. It makes a difference, but not a great one, and after committing to a system, many develop a love-hate relationship with the manufacturer. Some differences are detailed below.
How to choose?Edit
- This is also applicable to non-Canon/Nikon systems.
Most importantly, you are choosing a system, not a body. Instead of thinking about minor differences between current bodies, consider which lenses and bodies you expect to be using over the next 10 or 20 years. This is admittedly difficult when starting off, but lenses last decades, and it is prohibitively expensive to switch between systems or have two parallel sets of equipment: switching systems is a major decision.
Ideally, consider what kind of photography you are likely to do or may do for the foreseeable future, and how each system fits it. What equipment would you get initially? Over the next few years? Further down the road?
Also, actually test out both systems: some people fall in love with the Nikon feel, for instance.
Broadly, Canon is generally averred to produce higher IQ bodies at lower prices, while Nikon cameras are considered more enjoyable to use.
- better image quality
- full-frame sensors
- less noise, especially at high ISOs
Canon has had full-frame sensor cameras since 2001, with the 1D. As of 2008, Nikon has just introduced a full-frame camera, the D3.
Canon's DSLRs have traditionally been cheaper than comparable Nikons, but Nikon's D40 is rather cheaper than Canon's 400D.
- better physical feel
- better software UI
Both produce an extensive (which is not to say complete) range of lenses, unlike the other DSLR manufacturers. Both have individual lenses with strong followings; below are notable classes of lenses that they each make.
- Sports lenses (fast super telephotos)
- Canon's white super telephoto lenses are instantly recognizable at sports events.
- T/S: 3 currently
- against Nikon's having had none, and having introduced 1 in 2008
- Largest lineup
- Because Nikon retained the F-mount, every lens they've made still works, in contrast to Canon, whose EOS system of 1987 broke backwards compatibility.
- Such as Thom Hogan's with Nikon, as at If I ran Nikon. A similar article could be written for Canon.