This week I am celebrating the one year anniversary of my switch to Nikon from Canon. After 17 years as a Canon user, I switched – mostly because no Canon camera could come close to the performance of the Nikon D3.

So what have I learned in a year?

That the camera brand wars still rage on. People are actually ANGRY at me because I switched. Go figure. I’ve also learned that the two companies are very different.

Nikon is a bit more forthcoming when it screws up. Canon kept the 1D MK III autofocus debacle a secret as long as they could.

Canon has much more responsive, effective and affordable service. Nikon’s service is slow, expensive and not all that helpful.

There are holes in both company’s lens lineups. The Canon 70-200 F/2.8 is better than the equivalent Nikon. Canon has the 400 DO – a lens I miss. Most Canon lenses have motors built in. Most Nikon lenses do not. The Nikon lens line up includes the 200-400 F/4 VR – a lens most Canon shooters would give their eye teeth for. I could go on, but you get the idea. Neither system is perfect, especially when it comes to lenses.

Canon’s ETTL flash system was better than Nikon’s equivalent in the 90s. Not any more. The Nikon CLS system performs better than the Canon system in my mind, but not by much.

The autofocus and the low-light noise performance are the two biggest stand out differences between the flagship Nikon sports camera and the flagship Canon sports camera. The D3’s autofocus is much, much better than the Canon 1D MK III’s autofocus. The Nikon’s autofocus is quicker and more reliable. The low-light performance of the D3 is nothing short of spooky. I regularly shoot at ISO 2200 and cannot believe the results. They’re publication quality as long as you have at least a decent amount of light.

The Canon high-end bodies offer built-in sensor cleaning solutions. Alas, the D3’s sensor does not and needs constant attention. I’m used to it now, but for this kind of money that’s still something I miss.

The D3 does lots of little things very well, like provide you with a built-in level, allows for better navigation and offers a more robust user experience. The locking flash shoe is just another example of a small thing that makes a big difference. The flash stays put on a D3 once it’s locked into position. There’s a built-in selectable viewfinder grid on the Nikon – not on the Canon. The Nikon allows customizable name and Copyright embedding in the EXIF data from the camera – Canon does not. Ergonomically – the Nikon gets the nod. It’s just my opinion, but since I am the one shooting the camera – it’s the only opinion that matters to me when I am buying my own gear.

I feel lucky to have so many Nikon educational resources available to me. Shows like Scott Kelby’s D-Town, Nikon’s own web site, the Nikonians, and others have helped me get up to speed on a new system. I am completely comfortable with the Nikon system now.

I’m still building out my lens collection. It’s a bit of trial and error so far, but some of my favorites are the 14-24 F/2.8, the 24-70 F/2.8, new 50mm F/1.4, the 16mm Fisheye F/2.8 and the AF-S VR MICRO ED105 F/2.8.

I have other lenses that I like too from Nikon but I haven’t become fully acclimated to them. I am still learning the Nikon system but I do feel like part of a new accepting family of fellow-Nikon shooters.

Ultimately the switch for me wasn’t about which company made a better camera. They both make great cameras. The switch was about which company made a better camera to suit my style of photography.

I’m often asked if I’d ever switch back? My answer is simple. If Canon builds a system that’s as much an improvement on the D3 as the D3 was on the 1D MK III – then yes – unless of course Nikon also ups the ante. The good news is that there are choices. These cameras we can buy today are so much better than ANYTHING we could buy 30 years ago that there’s no reason to worry any more about gear. Now if I could only find a place to order more patience, time for practice and wisdom. Then my photography would really take off.
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