Photog Thoughts: Switching from Canon to Nikon


AUGUST, 2016


Written by James Cassell

First things first: Confession. I am a newly-converted long-time Canon user, and I’ve just switched over to Nikon. I did not think this would ever happen.

The first Canon I ever used was a 35mm SLR, and later on I had nice friends who let me borrow their T3/i and 7D models.  From the user friendly menu, the history of the brand (Andre Agassi anyone??), and the ergonomics, I was easily convinced Canon was right for me. I eventually purchased a Canon 70D for myself, and happily shot with this camera for several years.

Shot with Canon’s 5D Mark III + 85L f/1.2 II

Photographed by James Cassell

And just last month… I sold my Canon along with Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 lens to buy a used Nikon D810 and their non-VS 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Why did I do this? Well chief among other things, I love landscape photography. The 70D -no matter how hard I tried- just wasn’t giving me enough oomph, and it’s high noise level in low light shots was a problem. As I am well aware of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), I was careful to really stretch and maximize my Canon as much as I could before purchasing something else. And yet, over the course of several years after studying and practicing photography on a very detailed level, I just wasn’t finding my groove with the camera and its crop sensor. I decided that full frame was the way to go, especially if I wanted to start investing in better lenses.

“At first, this pained me. How could I be such a traitor??”

Sure, I’ve previously rented and shot with the Canon 5D Mark III, pairing it with a 35L f/1.4 and 85L f/1.2 II. The 5D III is an undeniable beast as were the lens selections (especially the 85mm f/1.2), and I ultimately have nothing but respect for that camera and many other Canon models for that matter (the 5DSR comes to mind).  However, the problem is that, whenever I often perused photography sites and forums, I was overwhelmingly drawn to photos taken with recent Nikon cameras, specifically the D6xx to D8xx models. It’s not like I was purposefully hunting them out, as again I was a through-and-through Canon user. At first, this pained me. How could I be such a traitor?? As I continued to wrestle with my predilection, I started to read posts about Canon vs. Nikon, trying to discern the pros and cons of each brand. As you might imagine, nothing was conclusively drawn. All I ever got was, “Both brands are very different, and have their own sets of pluses and negatives. It’s up to you to figure out which brand you like better/best.”

All images taken with my Nikon D810 + a range of lenses (14-24, 24-70, and 85mm)

All photography by James Cassell

Obviously this didn’t really help me much, especially when so much of it seemed to come down to pure subjective preference. I kept on going back and forth between switching or not, and I teetered on the edge of jumping into a camera system that I had only shot with once before (I borrowed my landlord’s Nikon D7100 once but trust me, you don’t want to see those photos). It came down to one eventful night -after looking at a myriad of photos on varying from landscape and wedding shots to browsing the phenomenal imagery taken by the legendary Ryan Brenizer- that I realized I simply could not ignore Nikon’s dynamic range, image sharpness, and camera design that I seemed to keep coming back to. I decided I was going to take the plunge and switch over to Nikon.

Now what?? I’d made the decision but which camera do I pick? New or used? Prosumer or professional? Full frame or crop? So many questions still to answer. I’d heard that the newer D750 had quickly become a wedding photographer’s standard, but I kept reading about the capabilities of the D810, not just for general portraiture but for landscape photos as well. I decided that was the model for me, and -somehow, with a little bit of luck- I found a gently used copy on Craigslist, which had been formerly owned by a Boston-based photographer.


The rest, as they say, is history. My worry about having to learn an entirely new camera system lasted about two days. As I read the manual, watched tutorial videos online, and overall just experimented with the D810, I realized how easy it was to operate. The buttons to control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO took some getting used to, but after I memorized where they were, it’s become almost second nature to me. (and I can adjust these settings more-or-less in the dark.)

Some photographers out there might be as dogmatic about shooting with Canon as Gordon Ramsay is about how he prefers his steak: the redder (rings), the better. I get that, and I know I can’t speak for everyone. At the end of the day, both Canon and Nikon produce great camera bodies that can take phenomenal images, but really, it’s the photographer that clicks the shutter button and not the camera. Ultimately, whatever camera body one chooses to use, I say go for it and capture what matters to you most.