With camera manufacturers in stiff competition with one another, if you pay attention to what features they work hardest on you’ll begin to realize that they also tailor their products to certain segments of the buyers and that many of them pride some features well over others in order to get sales. Recently, I was in search of a new camera system and if you are too, check out this brief list of the pros and cons of each system. This list includes the most popular systems: Nikon, Canon and Sony. The next list will include the rest (which in some ways give the top three a run for their money.)
Without a doubt in my mind, Nikons deliver the best image quality out of the camera. In addition to this, they are built with a very solid construction, have a wide range of accessories and lenses available to their system, shoot the fastest overall amongst their line of cameras, and deliver stunningly beautiful low-light and high-ISO images. Additionally, if you’re shooting out in the field you’ll know that their cameras are the ones that allow you to change settings the quickest. A prime example of this is the wheel dial for shooting mode on the D700 vs the Canon 5D Mk II‘s method of pressing a button and then moving the shutter wheel.
As good as a Nikon is though, there are problems if you’re going to adapt the system for their hybrid capabilities. Nikon isn’t a camcorder or video company, so they’re at a natural disadvantage when it comes to this. Nikon video has been said to have a terrible jello effect and isn’t used or raved about anywhere as much as Canon or Panasonic’s. Therefore, Nikon is the system for the people that want excellent still image quality.
After my hunt for a camera and looking at different systems, I decided to go back to Canon from Olympus. Canon is highly regarded in the photography world but let’s be serious: they’re not perfect! They’ve got a lot going for them though and they continue to get better and better. Canon cameras are characterized by their low-light and high-ISO performance (though not up to Nikon’s level), excellent video quality, wide range of lenses, adapters, and accessories available to them, the fact that they have an APS-H sensor camera for sports shooters, and cameras that are known to dominate the entry-level DSLR market.
I chose Canon over any other system because of their sheer flexibility that accommodates to the ever-changing digital age of photography: I’m a photojournalist that requires great video and great image quality in one body. The 5D Mk II was my choice for such a task.
Canon have their flaws though. For starters, their bodies aren’t as good at standing up to abuse as Nikon’s or Olympus’s. Their bodies tend to be big and heavy for some with smaller hands. Additionally, because of their versatility overall they tend to not have the very best at one particular thing. For example, Nikon has better high-ISO performance and Sony has more megapixels for studio shooting. What can be said though is that Canon has the best video quality of the three (though Panasonic does better in some regards.)
Sony is very new to the full-frame camera range, but they’ve been in the DSLR category for a bit longer. Sony has a lot of support going for it because of the fact that they’ve cannibalized from so many different things.
Here’s a rundown: Sony has created video cameras for a while and they are used by every network out there. If you talk to some video professionals about which system they prefer from Canon, Sony or Panasonic most of them will say Sony. Indeed, I was trained on Sony’s in college. On the contrary, they have yet to put video capabilities in their DSLRs.
Taking from the image quality their video department delivers, Sony also adds onto this the fact that they bought Minolta: a company that was huge in the film world. When they bought Minolta, they got access to lots of lenses that allows them to immediately compete with Canon and Nikon.
Further, add onto this that their camcorders have always used Carl Zeiss lenses. Therefore, this allowed their DSLRs to use Zeiss lenses in addition to creating their own Sony Alpha lenses. Then factor in the huge player in the game: Sony is a manufacturer of almost any electronic product you can think of.
If you compile all of this together, you have a formidable system that is actually well supported across the world (though not as well as Canon or Nikon). However, what they have going most for them (according to reviews and tests) are lots of megapixels and one of the best menu systems out there. Their image quality has only recently become better with high-ISO settings and the fact that their higher-line of cameras haven’t been announced can only mean that their system can get better. Like Nikon, it seems at the moment that they are mainly focusing on image quality instead of taking the versatility route that Canon has taken.
In the next post: Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax.