Canon or Nikon?
Now that Canon has introduced their R5 and R6, and Nikon their Z5, Z6II, and Z7II their mirrorless lines are getting filled out.
For relevant market conditions related to this discussion see Camera Market Health 2019.
This page will elaborate on my experience with both Nikon and Canon systems.
I started shooting Nikon film cameras in 1982. The Nikon EM was my first camera. It broke and I couldn’t afford another camera until 1988 the Nikon 8008. Wow, the first SLR with auto focus. I then bought a 8008s, N90, N90s, F4, F5, F100, D100, D200, D300, D400 oh no, forgot, there was never a D400. In 2010 I bought my first Canon, the T2i with a lens for $850. It was the first DSLR with Full 1080p HD, a big deal back then. I liked the images better than my D300 and got tired of waiting for the D400. I then bought a T3i, 60D, 70D, 6D, 5D Mark III. I then sold all of them from 2015-2018 since I loved my M3 so much. In late 2018, I was on a cross country road trip and wanted the resolution of a DSLR and bought a 5D Mark IV, 5Dsr, 7D Mark II, EOS R, and a 70-300 IS L lens to complement my 17-40, 24-70, and 70-200 f/4. I then sold all these bodies in early 2019 and settled with a 6D Mark II and M50 in March 2019 as my ideal camera setup.
In March 2019 I spent some time with the Nikon Z6 and a 35 f1.8 in the camera store in Florida. I like the feel of it. They have a winner with this system. I’d consider buying a Z system since I liked it better than the Canon when I handled it in the camera store. However, I’m reluctant to buy a Nikon for several major missteps by the company.
Nikon has a poor track record:
The non existent D400, the D600 shutter problem, the D750 shutter recalls, the failed Nikon 1 line, the failed Key Mission line, the Z6 and Z7 IBIS recall, and still no APS-C sensored mirrorless line as of Nov 6, 2019! All of the above add up to major management, engineering, and customer service disasters. Okay, so as of Nov 7, 2019 Nikon has an APS-C solution in the new Z50. Both the Canon EF-M line and Sony A6xxx line are maturing and have almost 100% of the mirrorless APS-C market combined since Nikon was 6-8 years behind Canon and Sony.
The D400 disaster – I’m reluctant to buy Nikon due to the D400 disaster. I owned a Nikon D100 (2002), D200 (2005), D300 (2007), and was anxiously waiting for the D400. By the time it should have been available in 2009-2010, I already bought a Canon T2i with full 1080P HD for $850 with a lens. This was the camera that started my switch to Canon after 30 years of shooting Nikon. Keep in mind if Nikon would have released a D400 with full HD video in 2009-2010 I might still be shooting Nikon. Nikon NEVER released a D400. They eventually released a D500 in 2016 skipping two generations. This was a major management error that lead to many loyal buyers switching to another brand. This floods the market with used gear putting pricing pressure on both used and new Nikon gear.
The D600 disaster was enough for me never to buy a Nikon. There was lubricant oil getting onto the sensor! Nikon consistently denied there was a real problem, even blaming the users! Nikon finally capitulated after a class action lawsuit was filed. The Chinese government even ordered Nikon to stop selling the D600 in China. Is this the type of company I want to buy my camera system from? How many D600 owners ended up buying another brand and selling their D600 or D610 after months of going back and forth with Nikon customer service?
The D750 recall. The D750 was recalled three times for the same shutter issue! The multiple recalls were probably to manage the parts and labor supply and demand. I thought a similar situation existed for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 IBIS recall but apparently it really was limited to the initial serial number range published.
The Nikon 1 Series was introduced in 2011 and discontinued in 2018. The CX size sensor is super small just above a phone sized camera sensor. See the image below to get an idea how small this CX sensor is. Why didn’t Nikon just use an APS-C sensor in this line? The same sensor in their Dx DSLRs? The larger the sensor size the better the image quality and low light sensitivity. The APS-C sensor size would make the most sense with Micro 4/3 a distant second place, but a smaller and proprietary CX sensor size makes no sense at all. I’m surprised the 1 line hung on for 7 years, but what about all the customers who bought into this system? They are selling their systems for less than half of what they paid for and still are having trouble finding buyers.
I suppose Nikon was worried APS-C DSLR sales being cannibalized, but this proved to be a major mistake. Canon and Sony both used an APS-C sensor in their M and 6000 series both of which are still selling in 2019. There is still no APS-C mirrorless solution from Nikon in Sept 2019. If the 1 series had the APS-C sensors Nikon was using in their DSLRs the 1 line would still be alive today.
The DL line of premium compact cameras was announced in Feb 2016, never actually shipped, and then they were cancelled in Feb 2017. The cameras looked pretty good and generated a lot of buzz. Petapixel’s article, Nikon Cancels the DL Series Amidst ‘Extraordinary Loss’ and Restructuring, paints a different picture than Nikon’s press release, specifically pointing to an extraordinary loss in 2016.
The KeyMission line was yet another disaster. A Go Pro wannabe that failed miserably. Introduced in 2016 it was discontinued by 2018! Look at the DJI Osmo Action camera for a better Go Pro alternative.
The Z6 and Z7 IBIS In Body Image Stabilization system is not working according to this May 16, 2019 service advisory Note: “service advisory” is a marketing term for a recall. Also don’t be fooled by the limited range of serial numbers since Nikon is known to do this so they can manage the quantity of repairs. After they complete this range and restock the required parts, they will publish a new range of serial numbers that they recently found out also has the problem that needs to be fixed. The fix must be significant if a firmware update will not fix it. Sept 2019 update: It appears that the recall did in fact only impact the initially published serial numbers.
The above failures were epic. They call into question the management, marketing, engineering, quality control, customer service, pretty much the whole organization. I’m glad I’m not a shareholder, but should I be a Nikon owner? I had problems with their customer service in the 80s-90s that I never forgot. I’ve been tempted to buy a D800, D810, and D850 but eventually stuck with Canon 5D and 6D line. I was also considering buying a Z6, but without all the Z lenses available that I want, I’ll just keep shooting my Canon 6D Mark II. Even if all the lenses I want were available in the Z mount, it would be a considerable investment, $2400 body and lens, $1300 14-30, $1400-$1900 70-200 f/4, so $5100-$5900 for the body, 3 lenses, and accessories. Ouch! Will I get better images than my 6D Mark II? Hmmmm… I don’t think so.
If you add up all the resources for the KeyMission, 1, and DL line, Nikon could have a mirrorless APS-C camera system that could easily be better than Canon and Sony’s lines. That Nikon 1 70-300 still has me wishing I could get a similar lens in an EF-M mount.
When I sold all my Nikon gear in 2010-2017 the prices were almost half of new. Even then it took 6 years to sell everything. There is a much smaller market for Nikon gear in the SF Bay Area compared to Canon gear.
Still, the Nikon Z line looks like a winner though a little too expensive for me. Of the 3 lenses I use all the time, the Z line has 2 of them. Still, why buy into a Nikon Z system and paying new prices when my Canon 6D Mark II is just as good as a Z6, familiar, just a little heavier and bulkier? This is why sales of ILC is down since the technology has matured. slightly lighter and smaller bodies isn’t enough to spur new sales especially when the lenses are so expensive. I’d bet the first wave of buyers are just DSLR users who want the latest and greatest. If they end up switching then that will flood the market with used DSLRs putting price pressure on both used and new DSLRs of the same model. When technology was immature we were eager to buy each new model. Remember when AF had just been released in the 1980s? Every new body was a must buy upgrade since it was so much better than the previous model. More images in focus due to vastly improved auto focus. My in focus images went from about 50% with manual focus to over 90% with first generation AF. Yes, just one AF sensor in the middle of the frame with the Nikon 8008! Remember when the D100 was available in 2002? More resolution was a must buy upgrade. The D200 in 2005, then the D300 in 2007, then the D400 oh no, that never came… This was a great time in photography. Well, those days are over. Mature ILC technology and amazing IQ from the latest generation of smart phones. This is why the ILC sales are always down year to year and will continue to drop until leveling out at some point.
Should any of the above failures influence buying decisions? I mean if the Z6 or Z7 get the IBIS problem fixed why not buy one? I hear you. I’d at least take the track record into consideration before buying.
I wonder how many Nikon users switched brands due to the above issues or were dissuaded away from buying a Nikon?
I’ve had to send a T2i, 11-22 EF-M, and EOS R, into Canon for service. The repairs were always fast, complete, and free. The T2i clearly had impact damage but they fixed it for free anyways. The 11-22 also had damage to the front element that I caused yet Canon just replaced it no questions asked. Canon also answers my email asking them questions. Customer service is something you don’t want to rely on, but will at some point. In the early 90’s Nikon fought me over a lens that was clearly out of adjustment. The postage cost and hassle they gave me could have easily been avoided. It was just a simple adjustment yet they refused to do it unless I paid for it. I ended up selling the lens. Thirty years later I still remember how the service center in Torrance gave me grief over a simple adjustment. Canon has never hassled me over a repair always doing them for free.
Nikon was late to the video game not fully realizing video in the their DSLRs was a good idea so I bought the T2i in 2010. Nikon still has no dedicated cinema solution as of June 2019. This won’t really impact me since I’m 99% a stills shooter but as a company I like what Canon is doing.
Should camera buyers take into account the company itself, customer service, management, past scandals etc before buying into a system? I do.
The Canon or Nikon question of course leaves out other brands.
Sony – I owned both their APS-C A6000 and Full Frame A7r bodies and hated them both. The UI is frustratingly unintuitive. The A7r was really a beta product and should have never been released in Oct 2013. The image quality and color science was atrocious. I recall moving sliders in ACR all the way to one side or the other to get the color to look right. Ughh. The A7R has a shutter shock that was much worse than any mirror flipping up and down. It was so bad users had to stay away from certain shutter speeds to mitigate the problem of blurry images. Sony never fixed or acknowledged the problem. They just released an A7Rii in June 2015, and the A7Riii in Oct 2017. Though I’m sure the A6500 and A7rIII are much better cameras than 2 previous generations and have much better image quality, the camera body ergonomics and UI are almost identical.
Panasonic – They have no APS-C solution and I don’t want a smaller m4/3 sensor. Their Full Frame solution, the Lumix S1 and S1R are way, way too expensive, way to heavy and bulky, and no better than Canon or Nikon so… for video though the gh5 is a definite camera to consider. However, the $3697 S1R is only $1862 refurbished and if you are interested in L mount lenses like the highly regarded Sigmas then this may be a good idea. Moreover, if video is your thing, either the Lumix S series or the Sigma FP look like the best full frame video cameras available. As of Oct 2020, they now have an amazing full frame camera, the S5. I’m considering getting one and some L mount lenses.
Fuji the APS-C XT line is well regarded but expensive. So expensive you can buy a Canon RP. Still, their system looks great, but too expensive for me so I went with the Canon M system.