Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Canons and Nikons: The Debate

I'm frequently asked by people purchasing their first serious SLR digital camera: Nikon or Canon?
It's a little bit like asking someone if he or she prefers a Ford or a Chevy. Personally, I use Nikons and except for my very first camera _ an East German-built Hanimex Pracktica for which I ponied up the then-princely sum of $100 in 1968 _ I've always used Nikons.
One reason was that back in the 1960s when I embarked on this career, Nikons arguably were king of the professional shooting hill with Canons coming in a serviceable but distant 2nd.
For another, my hometown paper's publisher somehow had wrangled a coveted Nikon dealership out from the U.S. distributor of Nikon products in the early 60s when the brand was just becoming recognized as top-flight pro gear.
Since I worked part-time at the paper, I could buy Nikon gear for cost, which was significantly less than what it sold for at retail prices.
And forty years ago, as a senior in High School, that's exactly what I did. After saving and scrimping, I ordered a Nikon F body (in professional black, naturally). It retailed for $225 and ended up costing me $152.
I've still got it (along with several other film Nikons of various vintage that I hung onto a little too long into the digital age and now are worth so little I use them as bookends). In spite of its dings and dents, the old F still remains silky smooth, functional, and nearly bulletproof.
But back to the Canon-Nikon debate. Each brand has had its positives and negatives in recent years and really, both are excellent cameras.
I still use Nikons for a couple of reasons. One is that the Free Press always has been Nikon-based and the specialized, really expensive lenses it owns/owned have been Nikon
For another, Nikon lenses focus exactly in the opposite direction that Canon lenses do. Auto focus is great but frequently, I prefer manual focusing. After so many years it just comes naturally.
Trying to focus a Canon lens is for me a little like getting into a car and discovering the gas and brake controls have been reversed.
Bottom line? They're both good cameras. Compare a $1000 Nikon digital camera and a $1000 Canon digital camera and you'll discover they usually have similar capabilities and features.
Buy either one and you'll soon find out that as just as quickly, a newer improved version inevitably will be introduced making you wish you had waited.
And unlike my old Nikon F which wears its patina of hard use well, nothing ages less gracefully than a digital camera.