Like Godzilla and King Kong the eternal battle for supremacy in photography has always been Canon v Nikon. If you’re a photo beginner or looking to change up your camera we’ve got some important tips to help you decide which camera may be suitable for you.
It’s not just all Canon v Nikon though. There are other good camera brands available – we’re just checking out the big guns in this guide.
Read more about the best camera brands for beginner photographers here.
Canon cameras have a very similar model-naming system to Nikon which can sometimes make it confusing. All you need to remember is that Canon puts the ‘D’ (for digital) at the end of their model’s name i.e. 80D, 5D, 6D etc
You’ll notice some settings on Canon cameras are named differently to the same ones on Nikon. Aperture Priority mode is labelled as ‘Av’ (Aperture Value) on Canon, but just ‘A’ on Nikon.
Canon’s entry-level models are called part of the ‘Rebel’ series (USA) or labelled with a 3 digit numeral. The higher up you go through the range the fewer numbers in the model’s name.
Entry Level – EOS 800D / Rebel T7i
Mid Range – EOS 60D
Pro – EOS 5D
R / RP – Mirrorless Full Frame range.
M – Mirrorless APS-C sensor range.
EF / EF-S – Full Frame & APS-C DSLRs.
Sometimes in Europe and Asia Canon may name their camera a little different to how they’re advertised in the USA. For example, the Canon Rebel T7i in the USA is known as the Canon EOS 800D in Europe and Asia – same camera, different name.
In trying to spot a Nikon model camera remember that the ‘D’ (for digital) at the start of their model’s name i.e. D3500, D8700, D600 etc
Shutter Priority mode on Nikon cameras is labelled as ‘S’. Whereas on a Canon it’s called ‘Tv’ (Time Value). They work the same, just a brand difference.
Nikon labels their cameras similar way to Canon – the less numbers in the model’s name, the more high-end it is.
Entry Level – D7000
Mid Range – D500
Pro – D5
Z Series – Mirrorless Full Frame range.
Coolpix – Smaller point and shoot cameras.
Canon used to buy parts for its own lenses from Nikon a long time ago! One difference you’ll spot is that image stabilisation is called IS on Canon lenses but VR (vibration reduction) on Nikon.
While elements such as camera sensors, megapixel count and lens choice is pretty similar it’s also important to look and feel which camera style is right for you.
Ultimately neither Canon or Nikon is going to have a certain feature or component that the other one doesn’t. The design of the camera body though, while certainly not the most important camera function, can help you form a preference for either brand. It all comes down to comfort here.
The ergonomics of how camera feels in hand and the layout of the buttons is important to resonate with you. Having a complicated layout and a poor grip is something that’ll annoy after a short while.
Here’s a comparison of button layouts on two comparative DSLRs.
Image: Canon Camera Layout
Image: Nikon Camera Layout
We would recommend getting down to your local camera shop and holding some Canon and Nikon cameras to see which you prefer the feel of.
Nikon uses simpler terminology for autofocus modes. For example, Continuous Autofocus on a Nikon is called Al Servo Autofocus on a Canon. They’re both the same tool, just brand-specific names.
Basically, when you’re deciding on Canon v Nikon it’s really going to come down to a few factors, given how many of the technical aspects are similar with both brands.
1. What is the most important thing for you? Easy to understand layout? Comfortable to hold?
2. What does each brand offer at your current experience level and for your current budget in the way of lenses (it’s important to future proof)?
3. Do I need a DSLR? Though DSLR cameras have been around for a while, mirrorless technology is rapidly catching up. Despite the smaller form factor of mirrorless cameras, they shouldn’t be dismissed as a lesser unit.
4. Look for equivalent mirrorless cameras from Canon and Nikon within your budget to compare.