Whoa. It’s been such a long time since I did a geeky technical post here on the blog, but I’ve received so many questions from people about my recent switch from Canon to Nikon, I figured I would explain a bit about what I did and why. And there’s a bit of a rant about the camera industry, and thoughts on mirrorless towards the end as well. Just for fun.
Nikon > Canon > Nikon
First off, this is technically a switch back to Nikon, since my first ever camera was a Nikon D700. When my wedding photography business started kicking off in 2013, and after playing around with the 5D MKIII on a few second shooting jobs, I decided to make the switch. (You can read more about it here) In the next few years I expanded and upgraded my camera bag until I had everything I could ever want for weddings. Lots of f1.4 Canon L primes and professional flashes. More than I could carry for sure.
The Time Was Now
One of the biggest pushes for the switch was because of my old, battered and well used awesome little Canon 6D’s were 3 years old, and with shutter counts of 85k and 95k (Canon rates them good for 100k) it was about time to replace them before a busy 2016 wedding season. They were scuffed and scratched and although still working, were just not made to shoot another 12 months of photography work. It was to retire them. But what to replace them with?
Although there wasn’t a lot to fault with the Canon’s there were a few thing over the course of 35 weddings that I really wish they had. It was becoming clear that I needed cameras with two card slots; the more weddings I shot in 2015 the more paranoid I became that the single card slots in the 6D would fail and leave me in a really bad situation, maybe even leaving a client without images. The other major weakness of the 6D was the focus tracking. (or lack of) When the 6D was released, it’s 11 af points were archaic, and was clearly just a limitation put there by Canon to stop cannibalisation of the 5D. Today you find even the cheapest, most basic DSLR and has more than a dozen AF points. And finally, although there’s nothing really wrong with the 6D, camera technology has moved on in huge way, it would nice to shoot weddings in 2016 with some much improved image quality and dynamic range. So off I went todo shopping…
Canon Being Crappy
Okay, so onto the elephant in the room. In the three years since I bought the 6D, Canon has released no new full frame cameras at all. Even now, in 2016, Canon users who want two card slots have to buy the 5D MKIII or 1DX. Cameras that by comparison have been superseded in every possible way. By Nikon. And Fuji. And Sony. In fact, it;s more option that I’ve seen nothing interesting, innovative or even competitive from Canon as a company in a long, long time. This does not fill me with confidence about their brand or their products.
But…but…what about the 5D MK4?
Ahh, yes the messiah camera that all Canon users are waiting for, the Canon 5D MK4. Well considering no one really know’s when the MK4 is going to come out, (sometime in 2016 people say) it’s also not clear what sort of camera it will be. A minor spec bump or a complete overhaul? Almost every 5D using wedding photographer I’ve spoke too is after a few things; more dynamic range, better image quality, 4K video, faster card slots, wifi to name just a few “essential” upgrades.
You see, (and feel free to disagree with me here) but I’m just not that confident that the 5DMK4 will be huge improvement people will hope it to be. I base this on the fact that as a company, Canon haven’t done anything exciting in years. The seems to have become slow to adapt to the quickly changing market, and their recent new products have laclsustre and over priced. (I’m looking at you, 5DSR, 35mm f1.4 MKII) And lets say hypthetcilly, the 5DMK4 is the new worlds best camera, with all the features everyone wants, it is still going to be one very, very expensive camera. And I need three of them. I have neither the time or the money to wait this out and hope Canon do something awesome, especially when other companies are doing awesome stuff, right now. **Update Jan 2016 – Nikon just announced the D5 and D500, the D500 in particular shows a great move my Nikon to innovate and exceed the competition, not just match it.**
My New Camera Bag
Okay, with my decision made, it was time for the actual switch. So my camera bag went something like this. I’ve also include some very brief notes on what I gained or lost as part of the switch…
- Canon 5DI MKIII > Nikon D810 (Quieter, better image quality, anti flicker, long battery, better video)
- Canon 6D > Nikon D750 (Smaller, lighter, faster, better image quality, faster autofocus, dual card slots, better video)
- Canon 24mm f1.4 > Nikon 20mm f1.8 (Sharper, wider, lighter, cheaper)
- Canon 35mm f1.4 > Sigma 35mm f1.4 (Much sharper, cheaper)
- Canon 45mm TSE > Nothing
- Sigma 50mm f1.4 > Nikon 58mm f1.4 (lighter, smaller, much better bokeh)
- Canon 85mm f1.2 > Nikon 85mm f1.8 (smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper, sharper)
- Canon 135mm f2 > Nothing
**full reviews of all this stuff to follow in the coming weeks, so stay tuned**
Not only is my new bag, lighter, smaller, cheaper, I also have cameras with dual card slots and excellent autofocus and better dynamic range across the board. The D750’s are head and shoulders above the old 6D’s, in af performancme video specs, high ISO, dynamic range, the lot.
Likewise, the D810 image quality is utterly superb compared to the 5D, and the Sigma 35mm’s 1.4’s are beautifully sharp and contrasty compared to my Canon 35mm MKI. And the Nikon 58mm 1.4G, despite it’s mixed reputation, I can well and truly say is my new favourite lens…ever. It’s small, light, decently sharp and with the loveliest rendering and bokeh I’ve ever seen. I am very, very happy with my shiny new Nikon stuff.
Ok, so maybe it’s not all perfect. There are a few things on the Canon side I’ll miss, namely the 45mm TSE, and the 135mm F2. Both wonderful lenses, that will leave a bit of a gap in my camera bag for sure, but they were also my least used lenses. I carrie them around with me more than I used them. The stats don’t lie. Out of over 20k images taken over 35 weddings in 2015, only 400 were taken with the 45mm tilt shift, and of those I only delivered 38 tilt shift images to clients. Sure, a tilt shift is nice, but it was the biggest, most expensive paper weight in my camera bag. I think I can live without for now. The other major thing I’ll miss is Canon’s awesome RT system radio speed lights; not having to worry about separate radio triggers is huge plus for Canon’s flash system. It was super convenient, and look forward to when Nikon catches up with Canon on this. **Update Jan 2016 – looks like Nikon have released their own radio controlled speed light, the SB5000. So basically caught up to Canon on that one perry quickly**
The Best Bit…
Ahh, now this is the beauty of it all. I actually saved a bit of money switching to Nikon. It’s all due to a couple of reasons, first off, apart from my Canon 35mm f1.4 and 45mm tilt shift which were brand new, everything in my camera bag was second hand or refurbished. This means I lost pretty much nothing when it came to sell them on again. Second hand prices for lenses are pretty consistent. Sure I lost a bit on money the camera bodies, which had seen a lot of action and been a bit beaten up in the last few years of weddings. But overall, I think I lost about £1500 selling the old Canon gear. And the new Nikon equipment and more affordable sigma lenses, made my Nikon purchases £1800 less than what I got for the Canon stuff. (again, buying as much Nikon stuff used or refurbished as possible) That’s not bad at all considering they had been used professionally for nearly 3 years.
So in summary, changing brands is not that big a deal. If you do it right, and carefully it doesn’t have to be a money pit. These companies base their entire business model in selling you expensive lenses and keeping you tied in to the ecosystem. Which is great when that ecosystems delivers and does what you need it to; but it can easily become a burden when you find yourself using stuff that sucks, just because you are afraid to move to something better. Companies like Sony and Sigma know this; they are disrupting the market and introducing innovation, better quality lenses and cameras at better price points. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly buy the latest and greatest, but for me, improving and updating what you have every 3 to 5 years is a good compromise. Don’t get left behind.
**Bonus** Some thoughts on mirrorless…
Mirrorless is the future of cameras, no doubt about it. And for amateur photographers and pro videographers buying new kit today, mirrorless is where it’s at.
But for wedding photographers, it’s just not there yet. Maybe in a few years. We need more lenses and better autofocus first. Not good enough, or nearly DSLR, but actually 1-for-1 as good as high end full frame DLRS’s. Trust me, I had two weeks with every geeks’s favourite camera, the Sony A7R MKII which is technologically amazing, if a little soulless, but it’s just not good enough for weddings. On top of that I can’t just go out and buy a Sigma 35mm 1.4 for a Sony, so for me it’s a no-go right now. If it’s right for you, then go for it, but it’s not for me.
I hope, truly that Canon and Nikon are frantically working away behind the scenes to get something mirrorless out as soon as possible. But who knows? Kodak and Polaroid were once the pinnacle of camera technology, and were resistant to change….look what happened to them. I would not at all be surprised if the “big two” camera companies became increasingly irrelevant over the next few years. The trick is not follow them blindly and became irrelevant too.
In fact, I’m confident enough to say that as much as I’m happy with my recent switch to Nikon, I can say with authority that the D810 and D750 will probably be the last mirror-slapping DSLR’s I ever buy. In the three or four years time when it’s time to replace them due to old age, mirrorless will be the standard for professional photographers. Maybe it will Sony winning the race, or perhaps Canon/Nikon will stay in the race. Personally, my money is on Fuji. I would sell all of my equipment and my soul if they come out with an affordable-ish medium format system. Just saying.
I would really love to hear your own thoughts if you are a Canon user on the fence, waiting to go Nikon or even Sony. How do you feel about how damn slow the big companies are at getting into the mirrorless game? Or maybe you think mirrorless is a passing fad? Tell me what you think is the comments below!