Canon vs. Nikon: Does It Really Make a Difference?

The short answer is NOT REALLY.

I love this title of this post because it is sure to generate some feuding and draw out all the loyalists in the comments. For some people, this is a fun photography debate and for others it is a moot point. For most people, the differences between Canon and Nikon are minimal and the similarities are monumental.

Man Joking Around with Nikon and Canon Lens Caps

Here is what you need to know if you are getting ready to invest in one system or the other:

The companies

Canon and Nikon are both based in Japan. They both have a long history of manufacturing optical equipment. They both have massive R&D budgets, high levels of quality control, and similar warranty coverage. I can’t find updated numbers, but they each have traded the #1 spot in camera sales over the past 50 years. Nowadays, they are the two largest DSLR and compact camera manufacturers by far.

The cameras

Nikon and Canon both have a range of cameras geared toward the amateur all the way through the professional. I don’t want this to be a review of each product line, but for comparison sake, let’s look at the Canon 5D MkIII and the Nikon D800 stats, fairly evenly priced competitors.

The Nikon has higher resolution at 36 megapixels vs. 22 for Canon. The Canon shoots faster at 6fpfs (frames per second) compared to Nikons 4fps. The Nikon has slightly less high ISO noise. The Canon weighs slightly less. The Canon has more autofocus points. The Nikon has a greater dynamic range. Beyond the stats, both cameras have been used for awesome magazine covers and editorial spreads. Both provide a sharp, clear, vivid picture when used in the hands of a capable photographer. Which one is sharper, clearer or more vivid? The large majority of viewers would not be able to tell you.

Canon and Nikon Cameras

The lenses

Canon and Nikon both have a wonderful selection of lenses from which to choose and many of their offerings have nearly identical technical specifications. For nearly every Canon lens I have, there is a similar Nikon lens. They both have a 24-70mm f/2.8, a 70-200 f/2.8 with stabilization, a 85mm prime and a 50mm prime. There are some slight differences, with Canon’s flagship 50mm being a f/1.2 and Nikon’s being an f/1.4. Canon’s 100mm macro would be compared with Nikon’s 105mm macro. Each manufacturer has over 150 different lenses.

Reasons to choose one over the other

There are some considerations that may cause you to lean toward one or the other.

1. If you have already invested any money in lenses for one system, it makes some sense to stick with it, unless you can cash out your gear without losing too much in the process.

2. Canon has had a larger market share for about 10 years now, which means there is a larger inventory of used gear on the market. If you are shopping on a tight budget and are willing to buy used, this may work to your advantage.

3. If you know someone who has a set of lenses for one system or the other, you may be able to borrow or trade more easily.

4. If you work as part of a team or your employer is invested in a system, it’s helpful to be on a similar system. Nikon and Canon have small variances in their capture of color. If you are post-processing groups of photos from both cameras, it could be difficult to maintain consistency among all your images.

For some people, it comes down to the way the camera feels in your hands and if the menu options are intuitive. I bought my first Canon DSLR because I was comfortable with the menu after having used a Canon compact camera.

What made you choose one system or the other? Or did you invest in something other than Canon or Nikon?

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48 Comments

Francis J Keller

I always shot canon. Then tragedy hit and we lost my father-in law and I was given all of his Nikon equipment. Nikon is heavier and learning curve was a bit difficult…but in the end I use the D2x more than my 5D as the nikon came with a 500mmand a 70-200mm f1:2.8 as well as a 60mm macro and a few others. but many more lenses than I had with my canon.

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Howard Rollinson

I like Nikon because I have Six nikon d1x three nikon d1h and three nikon d1h and one nikon d3100 and also two fuji pro s2 and a fuji pro s1 all these have the nikon f lens.

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Mario Liedtke

I am tolerant. But my choice is Nikon and I won’t change ever to Canon. To Pentax maybe if I had to change.
WHY? Because of my FOREFINGER! Nikons front wheel is arranged horziontally, Canons is vertically. I have no clue how the anatomy of Canon users hands ist. But my ones forefinger is straightly horizontal when I hold a camera. If I would have to move it vertically it would brake.
So easy has it been for me to chose :-D Ok. Not really. I like black-yellow more than black-red, the Nikons have a better feel in my hands both ergonomically and the feel of touch. Also I had already often issues with Canon equip like printers or scanners and learned about a bad face that this company can show when asked for service. Nikon is not a jack-in-all-trades, its specialized in optical solutions. That makes it harder to survive in changing markets on the one hand, but on the other hand they are best in what they doing.
That doesn’t mean that I completly disagree Canon. No way! I am happy that they are here! Without competition there would be less innovation and we would be losing the chance to build conquering teams of photographers with different gear that want to show to the others which choice of equip ist better and why. So the competition between the brands hands down to the photographers and they become more creative competition, too!
:-D

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Harold Sobel

I used to be a diehard Nikon used but soon realized that, for the same money I could invest in a like-new, studio used Hasselblad. Now I own the best and will never look back

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Peter Niepel

I often have this sort of conversation: “What camera do you use?” “I use a Nikon D3100″ “Oh no, I am a Canon person. I only use Canon”. I always have to grin about this. Its like “Here, have a beer” “No thanks, I am a Heineken person”.

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Peter Niepel

I often have this sort of conversation: “What camera do you use?” “I use a Nikon D3100″ “Oh no, I am a Canon person. I only use Canon”. I always have to grin about this. Its like “Here, have a beer” “No thanks, I am a Heineken person”.

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Gary Carroll

Have always had great luck with Nikon, now using D300. I started with Nikkormat over 35 years ago. Have had poor service on Canon printer equipment so I assume their cameras are poorly supported too.

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George Alford

I shoot Nikon. I likee the fact that there lenses are backward compatible. The mount has not changed. This means you can buy a lot of used lenses that were used with film series cameras. I’ve heard cannon is not backward compatible.

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Isiaah

Nikons are bward compatible since 1977 while canon is compatible since 1980. No big difference.

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Robin Lings

I changed from Pentax to Canon way back in 1987 when they introduced the EOS mount on their film cameras. Every EOS camera since then (film and digital) has been compatible with EF lenses. The only slight problem is that EF-S lenses are not compatible with FF EOS camera bodies. However, Nikon cameras differ in the stabilisation methods used. Some have IS in the body, others have IS in the lens and are subsequent incompatiblle with each other. They also have the same problem with APS-C fit lenses in that they are not compatible with FF bodies. Therefore Canon has the slight edge on this matter.

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Bill

Hi Robin,
I work in a camera store and I just want to clarify a couple of things.
You’re right about Canon EF-S lenses only working with APS-C sensors.
Nikon does not have it’s stabilization in any of its bodies – it’s only available in VR lenses.
The difference is in autofocus motors. All of the smaller Nikon models, currently the D5500 and below do not have autofocus motors in the body so they’ll only autofocus with lenses that have motors in them. About 3/4 of the current lens line have motors in them, designated by AF-S. All of the current lens line works with all Nikon cameras. The lenses that don’t have motors simply will not autofocus, but they’re fully compatible. The DX lenses, made to work on APS-C cameras, will work on full frame cameras but the image will produced on the full frame camera will not use the entire sensor. All of the current full frame Nikons have a DX mode that can be used to ultilize these lenses – but of course, it will be a lower resolution image using a smaller part of the full frame sensor.
I hope this all makes sense.

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George Alford

I shoot Nikon. I likee the fact that there lenses are backward compatible. The mount has not changed. This means you can buy a lot of used lenses that were used with film series cameras. I’ve heard cannon is not backward compatible.

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George Alford

I shoot Nikon. I likee the fact that there lenses are backward compatible. The mount has not changed. This means you can buy a lot of used lenses that were used with film series cameras. I’ve heard cannon is not backward compatible.

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Glyn Moorhouse

I purchased the cannon 450d in 2008 , because it was the only digital at the time that had a 3″ lcd screen , plus it came with 2 ” kit ” lenses & £ 50 cashback offer. I have since purchased 3 more lenses 2 of which are ” tamron – cannon fit. I have taken some great photos with it , still learning to use it to its full potential , wonderful piece of kit!

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Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

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Gary Finnstrom

I am asked this question all the time… I tell the person I have used Canon Nikon Minolta Argus Yashica…. It depends on what you are going to do the type of photos you will be doing…. then go to the camera store pick it up feel it like buying a gun how does it fit your hands… Then study all of the specs. and go from there… it is not the equipment it is the eye the mind on how you make a photo…. My Brother uses a Nikon he is happy with it…. if it makes you content and feel alright then by all means get that camera…..one of the top photographers for National Geographic’s uses a nice point and shoot…. no one knows the difference besides a DSLR is not a great idea hanging off the side of 400 foot cliff so a point and shoot is good in that situation.

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Judy Dungey

Have always loved Nikon, but was offered a deal on a little used Canon EOS 500D I couldn’t refuse. Maybe the difference between the two brands is a lot psychological…I sometimes feel I’d get better results from a beloved Nikon!

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Judy Dungey

Have always loved Nikon, but was offered a deal on a little used Canon EOS 500D I couldn’t refuse. Maybe the difference between the two brands is a lot psychological…I sometimes feel I’d get better results from a beloved Nikon!

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Thomas Keach

I was a 35mm film Nikon owner and loved it. This was back in the ’60′s. I think Nikon was king at the time. Now using a DSLR I have a Canon T3 and have found it to be great! As suggested it is probably a matter of what you prefer.

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Hubert Bruce Gossett

caviar vs catfish…the choice is entirely yours…remember the subject will last and last and last……….

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Judy Dungey

Have always loved Nikon, but was offered a deal on a little used Canon EOS 500D I couldn’t refuse. Maybe the difference between the two brands is a lot psychological…I sometimes feel I’d get better results from a beloved Nikon!

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Judy Dungey

Have always loved Nikon, but was offered a deal on a little used Canon EOS 500D I couldn’t refuse. Maybe the difference between the two brands is a lot psychological…I sometimes feel I’d get better results from a beloved Nikon!

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Shawn Earle

I cannot afford the $5,000 camera’s but i do own a canon rebel t3i and a Nikon D3200 in my experience the canon handles white balance better and has more natural colors! And with the ability to use pentax super takumar M42 lenses with the purchase of a cheap adapter it is my choice for portrait photography. The Nikon gives a little sharper images so i use it a lor for landscape and wildlife photography! I enjoy both camera’s. And my only regret is that i cannot afford a 5D mark lll or even an eos 6D!

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Gary Finnstrom

I am asked this question all the time… I tell the person I have used Canon Nikon Minolta Argus Yashica…. It depends on what you are going to do the type of photos you will be doing…. then go to the camera store pick it up feel it like buying a gun how does it fit your hands… Then study all of the specs. and go from there… it is not the equipment it is the eye the mind on how you make a photo…. My Brother uses a Nikon he is happy with it…. if it makes you content and feel alright then by all means get that camera…..one of the top photographers for National Geographic’s uses a nice point and shoot…. no one knows the difference besides a DSLR is not a great idea hanging off the side of 400 foot cliff so a point and shoot is good in that situation.

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Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

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Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

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Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

Reply
Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

Reply
Doug Dunlop

MANY FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SPECIFIC CAMERAS, FOR EXAMPLE ANSEL ADAMS (HASSELBLAD) IMOGENE CUNNINGHAM (ROLLEIFLEX) EUGENE SMITH(MINOLTA). WHEN I FIRST GOT STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY I HAD A YASHICA TLR, THEN A FUJICA SLR.IT WAS ALWAYS NIKON VS CANON. IN THE MOVIE BLOWUP, HE USED A NIKON F. NOW I HAVE A CANON AND A PENTAX Q. IF I WAS RICH I WOULD GET A LEICA, I DO HAVE A LUMIX WITH A LEICA LENS. BUT EQUIPMENT IS ONLY PART OF THE STORY. HOW YOU USE IT IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING.

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Terry Divot James

I started shooting with a Seagull SLR and the moved on to a couple of Minolta’s. When I was young and still at school I worked school holidays and late night shopping in a photography store. The owner did weddings and portrait work with a Rolleflex Twin Lens Reflex and a Nikon F2. From there after when I could afford More top end gear I have brought Nikon. First one was a F5 and now own a D7000 and D7100 and hope to get a D800 and D4 or equivalent.

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Lisa Fetner

I started shooting in 35mm with a Pentax K1000. When a well known electronics store went out of business I had the opportunity to get a Canon 40D with 2 lens really cheap. I upgraded a few years later to 7D and a few more lenses. Lately though, I have turned back to Pentax. I am in love with the K3. The controls are convenient and the fit of the camera is comfortable. not only that I had some really great lens that would work on this newer model. I primarily shoot sports and what I use reflects that. I guess the camera a person uses comes down to 2 things: how many lens you have for a particular camera and what you want to use it for. Really it doesn’t matter except what you feel comfortable using and gets the results you want.

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Bill B

Can’t disagree with Pentax. Used since ’81 with film. Used Nikon D60 DSLR for a few years but now to Pentax DSLRs. MOre bang for the buck

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Tom McElvy

I am a Canon man, and have been since about 1974. My original foray into photography caused me to purchase Nikon, because it was what “all the pros used” I had a LOT of issues with that ###### little tab on the lenses used for “communicating” with the meter in the camera body. I probably broke more lenses than I owned because of them. Finally, I was fed up, and called Nikon to see if there was a magic trick to keep them from breaking. The customer service department at Nikon Corporate said, “If you don’t like the way our equipment is designed, there ARE other camera manufacturers.” Needless to say, I sold every bit of that crappy Nikon equipment, and invested in Canon. Never had any issues of any major consequence, and, if I had a question, Canon support was there with a friendly voice, a helpful deameanor, and a genuine interest in this customer – Nikon could not have cared less. To this day, I have shot Canon and will do so until the day I die.

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Janet R.

I think for most types of photography, Canon and Nikon are very similar. I did switch from Nikon to Canon 3 years ago because, as a wildlife photographer, Nikon doesn’t have the 400mm 5.6 lens that Canon has. Also, I found Canon’s 100-400mm lens to be much better than Nikon’s 80-400mm. I know that Nikon has released the 2nd gen of that lens; I hope it’s better. It was expensive to switch but, for me, it was worth it because my pictures are so much better.

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Aster

I was told a long time ago that cannon was the better brand because of it durability. That canon will out live a nikon. Also when repairing, youll make more on a nikon an often. canon youll have less. when I priced cameras in feb. 2015 cannon was at least 100$ more. An I have used both before. An yes there is a color capture difference. I see it as what the photographer is trying to capture. Personally I’d would rather snap the best natural color an if need be edit that stuff later. But if a camera can capture that, then I’m gonna have to go with what I purchased. CANNON! Lol

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Fred Benjamin

This discussion is so 1990′s! Have none of you ever heard of Sony? You know, the Alpha 7 series, the one that more pro’s are using these days. I am not affiliated with Sony in any way. Please people, wake up to the new reality. PS: you’ll also find this shocking: Electronic Viewfinders are now more accurate and better tools…

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Scott T

The thing that drove me nuts about Canon is that every time technology changed, you had to buy all new lenses. I had a Canon AE-1 way back, then moved onto the Canon Rebel System, lenses that worked on my AE-1, the FD’s, which were great, were incompatible with the Rebel. So now I buy some lenses for my Rebel….. fast forward, and I start looking at the digital world. Again lenses incompatible. I ended up going with Nikon, D700 & a D300 as a back-up at the time, at least if you find a great old lens, it’ll be compatible with the current digital cameras.

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Warren

I started with a Nikon F2 in the late 70′s. In the late 80′s I bought a Cannon Powershot G2. There was a huge delay when taking a picture. I bought a Nikon D60 and still use it. I only use a few features and it has served me well. It’s like BMW vs Mercedes. Take your pick. (My daily driver is a Ford and I have two classic Mercedes. I also have a Volvo wagon. Go figure.)

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Benjamin

This post is not true. Facts are way off. Nikon is German for one, their products are made in japan. Canon is American, and all of the lower end products are made in China. The average quality from Nikon is much higher. Canon is cheaper and always a lower quality, period. I’m not saying canon is bad, but if you can afford it, the service and everything offered by Nikon is worth the extra money.

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Chaz

Nikon Corporation, also known just as Nikon, is a Japanese multinational corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan,
Canon Inc. is a Japanese multinational corporation specialized in the manufacture of imaging and optical products, including cameras, camcorders, photocopiers, steppers, computer printers and medical equipment
Not sure where you got your wrong info but your wrong all round on all your coments

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John

Which one costs less, than the other? Now if only, they were compatible, when it comes to lenses.
But I agree, that the article had some misleading details.

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Chaz

Canon cameras are 100% Canon hardware, firmware and software. Also Canon Printers.
This makes for a much better match from Sensor to Print all made by Canon, nothing like this with Nikon.

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Pete

I shot Nikon from 1975, right out of high school when I used my first Navy paycheck to but my first REAL camera, until 2006 when I sold all my Nikon gear and switched to Canon. At the time I liked the glass better. Since then the Canon has just become so much more intuitive and the feel in my hands is very natural. Oh and I still love the glass in the “L” lenses.

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Al J

I am a Nikon user. For me it was cost. I got my D3100 for around $400 with a good multi-use lens 18-70mm F3.5. Now that I have invested more money into additional lenses I am locked in. I have also been very happy with the quality of the images I have taken and with the easy understanding of the menus. If I had to, i could make the switch to Canon but only is an employer fronted the cost of transition.

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