Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon

Nikon D810 with 85mm F/1.4.

Firstly as a first post I've clearly decided to get right into the thick of it and stir the pot, for personal opinions on the camera gear debates tend to get quite ugly online.  So let me start by saying that I'm first and foremost a photographer, and though I do love video, photography to me is timeless and is always going to be more of a personal passion, especially wedding photography.  Last week however I pulled the trigger on a move that has been in the making since 2012, and I sold all of my Canon gear except my flashes (we'll get to that later).

I've always been really into photography, but in 2008 I decided to invest some time into developing that interest and grab my first SLR.  Sadly, like most, I was wooed by the price point and a handful of reviews and didn't adequately research my options.  That's not to say that now I couldn't easily list 10 solid areas where Canon dominates, but rather to say that Canon doesn't serve me in how I apply myself in the field of wedding photography presently.

In 2012 I shifted from being an enthusiast and hobbyist photographer into being a full-time paid professional photographer within the Canadian Armed Forces.  Somehow I turned a couple of heads and pulled off my dream job (especially given that I'm a History major), I was posted to Ottawa and into a section which had me working like a madman shooting Prime Ministers, Presidents, Royalty, and pretty much all of the major players whose lives and decisions are writing our modern history.  It was amazing.  Then I was selected to work for the public affairs team that works under the Commander of the Canadian Army himself, where I still work to this day.  Absolutely a dream come true.

Here's the thing though: Back in 2008 I grabbed a Canon... and the Canadian Forces uses Nikon.  So through the years I had been doing a lot of work on the side with Canon bodies and lenses, amassing a number of flashes, accessories, systems, and literature that supported Canonista's not Nikon users.  I moved from a Canon T1i with a kit lens to a Canon 5D Mk II (With a whopping 9 focus points... woo...), a handful of those beautiful red rings, and now it was more than just a choice it was a full commitment.  I had thousands wrapped up in Canon, I could never walk away from them.

But while I may work the odd job on the side here and there using my Canon gear, I was using my Nikon gear for 2, 3, 4 jobs a day.  I was being thrown into high-pressure situations and being forced to troubleshoot, adapt, and overcome with Nikon gear.  I was training muscle memory to know how to adjust any setting on my camera bodies without having to take my eyes off of the event; which In the trade of photojournalism that's not an advanced skill, that's a basic requirement if you're any form of competent.

While the fundamentals of photography are quite universal from brand to brand (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), the more you devote yourself to one the harder it can sometimes get with another.  The problem was that I was getting faster and faster with my responsiveness with Nikon bodies, and that left me falling behind on my Canon ones.  So many critical things are different between the two, a couple of which were really hindering me: 1. Canon and Nikon use opposite rotation directions when adjusting their lenses, and 2. I liked the button layout and grip of Nikon better. Ergonomics are absolutely crucial when speed is critical to success.  Finally however the straw that broke the camel's back was sheer access to equipment and how often I used it.

I knew of a number of other really big arguments of crucial technical specs that were very much pros for Canon, be it lens quality or the sheer number of options for Canon lenses,  their price points, or the fact that they are video beasts.  As for Nikon there's no doubt of the phenomenal dynamic range, not to mention that many of my favourite photographers (Here, and Here) are all Nikon shooters.  Above all of that though was my access to Nikon kit.  I work for an organization with a substantial budget, and have access to all of the top tier lenses, bodies, and accessories.  Not to mention I'm free to request any equipment I please and there's a good chance I'll actually get it.  I actually just this week asked for a DJI Ronin and a Jockey Motion 4-Axis upgrade, it's bizarre, I mean honestly, how many photographers can reasonably on a whim request something like that and legitimately expect a positive reception?

Not only am I able to test out any and every piece of top tier Nikon equipment I could ever dream of, it's my job.  Most people trust the build of their lenses based solely on YouTube reviews, blogs, and manufacturer research, but in my position I know the limits of Nikon gear in -35 degree temperatures when shooting from a moving tank racing over uneven terrain, because I've already tested it in those situations myself.  There's a lot to be learned about the convenience of shooting with a D810 over a D4 because the D810 can use an SD card.  I once spent four days digging through black markets in Mongolia looking for professional grade memory cards when two went down because nobody carries compact flash cards that write fast enough for your purposes.  Granted, that's a very unique set of circumstances, but it's a learning experience I'll never forget.  

At some point I just had to face it, I know Nikon.  Maybe at first the ergonomics were foreign to me, but now they make SO much more sense than Canon.  Maybe at one point the lenses weren't effectively producing the spectrum I needed, but now I know which lenses perform (See Sigma Art) and which ones were a HUGE letdown.  The point is, we all have to make a call, and maybe for you you'll have more access to friends or family that have one brand or another, or who have a lot of experience with one or another.  There are always options!  You can rent, watch, or ask (comment below) about anything you need nowadays.
One thing I wish I'd realized WAY earlier was that there aren't too many decisions that are really commitments until you get very deep into the professional areas.  I noted earlier that I kept my flashes, there's a very specific reason for that: Pocketwizards.  I shoot most of my off-duty work in manual with my flashes set to manual settings, and all I really need is a Pocketwizard to trigger the flash regardless of the brand.  If you feel like shifting doesn't make sense simply because you own too many lenses then maybe you should look into lens adapters, they're not really that expensive.  

Anyways, with what I do as a wedding photographer it only seemed to make more sense to me to shift to Nikon.  When I'm zooming down the aisle to shoot the bride as she's approaching I can't afford to be hesitating with which direction I'm turning my lens.  When a once-in-a-lifetime moment pops up, and every wedding I've been to has a so many of them, I can't be fighting my camera, I need to know it.  I know Canon and I know Nikon, but because of my job and my access I know Nikon WAY better, so that's really what it boiled down to.

Feel free to leave a comment on your experiences, or any questions you may have!

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