The Great Debate: Canon Vs. Nikon

The Great Debate: Canon Vs. Nikon
The Great Debate: Canon Vs. Nikon_601ac62bedfcb.png

The Great Debate: Canon Vs. Nikon

When it comes to buying a new or used DSLR camera, many buyers will choose between Canon vs. Nikon.

So what’s the difference between the two brands, and which one is the perfect fit for you? Let’s find out!

A photographer playfully throwing his Nikon DSLR camera into the air[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]

Why Canon vs Nikon?

Before we proceed, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of other camera brands out there. You have a plethora of options when it comes to Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, or Pentax cameras. But for this article, we’ll focus on those people who want to narrow their choices between Nikon and Canon.

Back in the golden age of film photography, the Canon vs Nikon debate was a lot less prominent. There were plenty of excellent cameras, and they all offered something different.

But a lot has changed since we’ve entered the age of digital photography. Outside mirrorless cameras, the two most prominent players are Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Beginner photographers often choose from these two brands.

So which is the best camera body for beginners – digital Canon or Nikon?

A photographer changing settings on a Canon DSLR camera


One of the biggest reasons why Canon and Nikon are more popular than the other brands is compatibility.

Canon’s EF range goes back to 1987. Meanwhile, Nikon’s F mount lenses began in 1959. That means you have a long list of photography equipment that would still work on your modern digital camera.

The main difference between the two brands is the autofocus. With Canon, all the EOS lenses have autofocus since they were developed in the 80s.

Meanwhile, only Nikon AF-S lenses developed during the same era have autofocus. Anything manufactured before that were manual lenses.

But it’s also worth noting that even non-AF-S lenses would still work on a Nikon DSLR. The only caveat is that you have to focus them manually.

You should also beware that Nikon decided to remove the autofocus motor from their entry-level DSLRs. Why? Because they wanted to keep the cameras lightweight, compact, and cheap.

In other words, you can’t use autofocus from older Nikon AF-S lenses if you have an entry-level DSLR. The Nikon D3500D5600, and their predecessors don’t include motors. So you would need to use the dedicated kit lens they come with, or buy DX lenses that are specifically for entry-level Nikon DSLRs.

You can only enjoy the full benefits of older AF-S lenses if you have a professional camera of Nikon. Currently, Nikon’s flagship DSLRs include the D850 and the D6.

In contrast, Canon has always had the autofocus motors in the lenses, not the bodies. That means you get to use older lenses, whether you have the Canon Rebel T7i or their professional 5D Mark IV.

A Nikon and Canon camera resting on a wooden table

The lenses released in the past 25 years should be enough to satisfy most Canon and Nikon photographers.

The newest Nikon and Canon lenses perform equally well. The difference between Canon vs Nikon here mostly boils down to the range of selection.

Now, if you prefer modern lenses with the latest technology, then consider Canon.

I’ve recently upgraded some of my lenses to Canon’s L-Series. The jump in quality is noticeable, not least in the autofocus. For this, Canon professional cameras win.

But if you want a more extensive range of choices, Nikon is the way to go. Apart from new lens selections, you can also choose older options that are not only cheap but also have high-quality optics.

Crop Factor

Camera sensors vary in size. Professional DSLRs have full-sensors, which are often 35mm in width.

But entry-level DSLRs have sensors that are a fraction smaller than full-sensors. That’s why people also call them crop-sensor cameras.

If you use a full-frame EF or AF-S lens on a crop-sensor camera, you’ll end up with a cropped image. Why? Since the sensor is small, and the lens is large, the image your camera produces will appear magnified or “cropped.”

The term crop factor describes the magnification any particular lens produces when you use it on a crop-sensor camera.

The crop factor of Nikon crop-sensor cameras is often 1.5x.

That means if you attach a 50mm to a Nikon crop-sensor DSLR, it will be equivalent to 75mm.

For Canon, the crop factor is 1.6x because their entry-level cameras have slightly smaller sensors.

So if you put a 50mm lens on any of their crop-sensor DSLRs, you’re going to be seeing the equivalent of 80mm.

Now, why is this crucial? A larger sensor often means better resolution. The 0.1 crop factor difference between Nikon and Canon may seem insignificant. But since crop sensors are already small, even 0.1 helps your images a bit of a resolution boost.

On the other hand, smaller sensors also create better “magnification.” So if you’re a sports photographer, you can easily turn a 100mm telephoto lens into a 150mm just by putting it on a Nikon DSLR. And if you place a similar lens on a Canon, you’ll get 160mm due to the 1.6 crop factor.

Nikon D850 Dslr


So how does a Nikon camera compare to Canon?

Both these brands have equally outstanding performance. It would be ridiculous to generalise each manufacturer to try and decide which is best.

There are areas where Canon stands out where Nikon doesn’t and vice versa.

For example, I don’t like Canon’s auto white balance, but Canon lenses are some of the best around.

Meanwhile, the Nikon menu system is poorly set out but their cameras handle noise well.

There are a lot of factors that we can’t cover in this article. But if you want detailed information, check the Best Nikon Cameras, and the Best Canon Camera Options.

Better yet, read the specs of the cameras you want to buy and compare them to each other. It would also help to read or watch real-time reviews of products. That way you have some idea how they perform in different scenarios.


One of the most crucial factors to consider in the Canon vs Nikon battle is usability.

How does the camera feel in your hand? What’s it like to take photos with it? How easy is it to navigate the menu? Can you see yourself using it in all sorts of situations?

You can answer these questions when you pick up a camera for the first time. For me, they tend to outweigh all the other reasons for buying a camera.

In the end, it all boils down to preference when it comes to Canon and Nikon. It’s all about what feels right to you.

You shouldn’t let the style of the little red detail on a Nikon or the big grey lenses from Canon sway you. You should see what works for you and stick with it.

When I picked up my first Canon, it felt right. But for you, a Nikon would probably make more sense than Canon.

When most photographers choose their brand, they often don’t switch. After all, it’s difficult to get rid of your camera and lenses after spending so much money on them. So think hard about what you want before investing.An overhead shot of 6 Canon or Nikon lenses

Canon Vs. Nikon – Which Brand is Right for You?

I encourage you to go into a camera shop and look at the cameras in your price range. The prices between Nikon and Canon are going to be similar.

Pick up a few cameras. See how easy they are to use and what sort of results they produce. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the experts in the store what they recommend for your needs.

You can also ask your photographer friends what they think is best for you.

A lot of people who get into photography because their friends have DSLRs.

Your friends will no doubt have at least some influence on whether Nikon or Canon is the perfect fit for you. They’ll try to convince you to buy the brand that they use. And it’s not actually a bad idea.

Buying the same brand camera as a friend means that you can share lenses and flashes. When you go out taking photos together, you end up having twice as much equipment at your disposal.

And you can lend things to each other all the time. They will also be able to help you learn how to use your camera.

Canon EOS 5D IV

You should also consider reading product reviews online or even watch one on Youtube. The wealth of information you get from those will help you make that Nikon vs Canon decision.


Don’t obsess over which brand to choose. Be objective about what you want to achieve in your photography.

First, think about your budget. What cameras can you buy with your money? Once you narrow down your selection, look for online reviews. If your friend has one, ask if you can try using it.

Then, you can go to a camera shop and compare your list of cameras to each other without worrying about the brand.

Which one has the best features? Which one feels good in your hands? Ask yourself these questions, and be meticulous about finding the answer. Once you have all the information you need, you’ll feel confident about buying your first DSLR.

Now you have your perfect camera, learn how to get the most out of it! Try our Photography for Beginners course today! 

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