Photography / Features

Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon

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According to Seth Resnick, camera companies have very loyal followings. “Nothing that happens is going to get in the way of a fan’s Canon, or their Nikon,” he says.

While generally considered a positive attribute, loyalty does have its drawbacks. “On the positive side, fans are so loyal, but on the negative side, it becomes hard to really accept things that are necessarily wrong with a product,” he notes.

Although Resnick’s 2013 switch from Canon to Nikon had less to do with product faults than politics, he admits, “If I had to be completely blind and pick based on what I now know, I would go with Nikon.”

This is the sixth in a series featuring the many stories and myriad reasons prompting users to switch camera brands. Make sure to follow the links at the end to read about other photographers who switched between DSLR brands, from DSLR to Mirrorless and from digital to analog film. The following views expressed are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent that of B&H Photo

Photographs © Seth Resnick

The Backstory

For 18 years of his prolific career, Resnick held an enviable spot as one of the first 50 photographers selected for Canon’s worldwide Explorers of Light program. He had started out a Nikon shooter as a student at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. After graduation in 1979, he quickly ascended the ladder of the editorial world, mixing a full-time position at the Syracuse Newspapers with magazine freelancing and the lecture circuit.

The Northern Lights over the Svinafellsjokull Glacier in Iceland. Camera: Canon 1DX/Canon, 14mm f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/2.8; Shutter Speed: 30 seconds; ISO: 3200

In January 1995, while chatting with Arnold Newman and other luminaries at the Palm Beach Photographic Center’s FotoFusion conference, he met Canon’s Michael Newler, who promptly asked what it would take to get him to shoot with Canon gear. Resnick responded with, “Send me a bunch of gear to start with,” figuring that would put an end to the matter. Soon thereafter, a stack of large boxes arrived on his doorstep, filled with Canon bodies and lenses. Newler’s prompt to “try it, you’ll like it,” and a subsequent invitation to join the ranks of Canon’s legendary Explorers of Light program was encouragement enough for Resnick to make the leap. 

The image above looks pretty clean, but there is extensive noise at 100%, as seen in this enlargement. The file would be usable with lots of noise reduction, but this was Resnick’s upper limit for ISO with the 1DX.

“The deal was interesting,” he writes in his blog. “We would not get free equipment… but the sponsorship would allow us to do speaking engagements and to be paid. It was an incredible way to talk about the business of photography and speak to trade groups about the power of the Internet and creativity. I accepted the deal and sold my Nikons, and started the adventure of a lifetime...”

Making the Switch

Fast-forward to 2013—Changes were at work at Canon to transition some of the Explorers of Light, including Resnick, to an Emeritus status, which compelled him to look for another home. “I knew that I was going to have to bite the bullet,” he says. “It was a tough decision… but this is business and I simply could not go on supporting a company [under those conditions].”

Another factor fueling his decision was a conversation he had with a Canon employee, who explained that the company was placing its hopes for the future in video. To Resnick, this signaled a total lack of understanding of the medium. “Just because I have a camera that shoots motion, doesn’t make me a cinematographer,” he says.

[B&H contacted Canon for comment, and the company denies this, stating, “Canon would never make such an overarching claim. We are committed to supporting photographers, filmmakers, and all creators who work with our products.”]

The world’s largest ice river, the Rode Fjord, contrasts large icebergs against red granite walls; Scoresby Sound, Greenland. Camera: Nikon D810/Nikkor, 300 f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/9; Shutter Speed: 1/500 second; ISO: 100

He started looking for a new home, trying a lot of other brands in the process. “But I was looking for a lot more than a brand,” he explains. “The cameras are tools and the tools help, but it is our wetware that creates the images, and it is people that make a company.” 

During his search, Resnick asked his Nikon contacts for their views on DSLR video. “It was one of those critical moments for me,” he says. The answer he received from Bill Pekala, then manager of Nikon Pro Services, was heartening. “We have to include video, because it’s something that the other guys are doing,” said Pekala. “It’s something that we need to do, but our commitment is to the still image.”

With Pekala’s support, Resnick soon switched from the Canon 1DX  to the Nikon D800 and Nikon D4, followed shortly thereafter by the Nikon D810 and Nikon D4s (now replaced by the Nikon D5).

Nikon D5 DSLR Camera

His learning curve was practically instantaneous. “I was worried about focusing the wrong way and all that,” he says. “But, you make the mistake of turning the lens the wrong way once or twice and then it clicks in.”

Most important, the switch reawakened Resnick’s sense of exploration. “The fun part was the discovery of things that one company has, but the other guy doesn’t. You’d probably not even investigate a lot of these details unless you make the switch,” he admits. “But I think it’s healthy to try another product for real, and see what some of those benefits are. I’m now more aware of certain features that I wouldn’t have taken advantage of otherwise.”

New Brand, Multiple Options

One distinction between brands that makes Resnick appreciate his Nikons more is the individual nature of the two different bodies he uses. “A lot of people buy two of the same body. In fact, Nikon suggested that I do that so the menus would correlate, but I actually like shooting with two different camera bodies,” he says.

He found there to be less of a distinction between the various Canon models he worked with. “The quality was good all the way around and it made more sense to have two of the same camera,” Resnick explains, “whereas with Nikon it makes more sense for me to have the two different cameras.”

Belching geyser with toxic fumes, Rotorua, New Zealand’s North Island. Resnick was able to get very close, but needed to get in and out quickly to avoid toxicity. Camera: Nikon D5, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/11; Shutter Speed: 1/125 second; ISO: 100

He elaborates, “Because the D5 shoots 14 frames a second, it’s my camera of choice if I’m walking around looking for a guttural response to the environment,” he explains. “When I’m shooting key moments, the ability to get every part of that key moment three times is pretty amazing.”

Yet, when he really has time for composition, Resnick favors the slower pace of the D810, with its larger file size and more megapixels. “For example, when I’m in a Zodiac in Antarctica with long lenses, I go right away for the D5. But when we pull up to an iceberg, and we’re going to be there for a while, I want the D810 with a wide-angle lens, because it’s really about composition.”

Another perk to Resnick’s new gear is the fact that both cameras use the same battery charger, especially since his travels to remote locales entail challenges such as severe weight restrictions. “Literally, we’re only allowed 50 pounds, including all our clothes, expedition gear, and the cameras,” he says. “Little things like not having to pack two complete sets of gear are a big plus for me.”

Favorite Features: General Durability and Battery Life

Resnick has a penchant for working in extreme climates, and during a recent trip to Africa he encountered sandstorm conditions that really put his cameras to the test. “The sand is so fine that it gets in your own physical body all over the place,” he says.

Hanging out of a helicopter in temperatures at 130°F was a test for any camera, Sossusvlei, Namibia. Camera: Nikon D5, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/4; Shutter Speed: 1/800 second; ISO: 200

Yet, after cleaning his cameras on return to the U.S., he notes, “I think the camera seals have gotten significantly better. It’s pretty remarkable I didn’t seem to have anything on the sensor or inside the chamber.”

This was particularly true of his D5. “The D810 needed a little more work,” he says, “but the D5 was really like the old workhorse from the days of the Nikon F. When I shot with Canon, however, it did penetrate, sort of everywhere,” he points out.

In another instance, this time in Antarctica, Resnick was leaning over a Zodiac with two cameras when he suddenly discovered his D5 dipping into the Antarctic Ocean. “The camera still worked, so I washed it off with fresh water as soon as I could,” he explains.

It continued working for the rest of his trip, but Resnick sent it off to Nikon when he returned, figuring they would find corrosion or other damage. “They actually wrote back saying the camera was perfectly fine,” he notes. “I’m really amazed at how durable they are,” he adds. “My Canon cameras broke more often.”

Resnick has also found his Nikons to have a longer battery life, particularly in the extreme cold. “I had to keep my Canon batteries in my pocket and swap them out, but the Nikon batteries seem to be just fine without having to warm them up on a regular basis. That’s sort of huge,” he says.

High ISO Performance

Since growing up on Kodachrome film, Resnick is a self-described old-school-type shooter. “I think in those low ISOs, and like the results of low-ISO images, with better shadow and highlight detail,” he says. “I’ve never been psyched about products that claim they can do ISOs of 40000 or 100000.”

Resnick’s son, Zac, in a group setting, shot as a high ISO test. Camera: Nikon D5, Nikkor 28-300 lens; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter Speed: 1/250 second; ISO: 10000

When shooting with Canon, Resnick found that he could go up to ISO 400 and still be very happy with the results, and he could even push the limits up to ISO 1000 by doing a lot of work in the shadows.

But since switching to Nikon, he says, “I’m finding the higher ISOs are much, much cleaner. It’s been a whole new way of learning for me. I’ve done side-by-side testing, especially of night photography and star photography where noise is really more prevalent,” Resnick explains. “I’m very comfortable saying there’s pretty close to a stop and a half of difference in dynamic range between a high-end Nikon and Canon’s version.”

As seen in the 100% enlargement above, image quality is quite astounding, with no noise reduction. Based on Resnick’s testing, one of the biggest differences between Nikon and Canon is at high ISO, with the Nikon files showing less noise and a solid stop or more of dynamic range.

He was also impressed by some Nikon D5 images he shot indoors at ISO 10,000. “If someone else had shown me the results, I would have asked to see the raw files to convince me they didn’t go through Photoshop. When there isn’t harsh light, it’s really amazing.”

Autofocus Override

Resnick has a complicated relationship with his cameras’ autofocus capabilities. “I’ve always felt that autofocus is fantastic when it works,” he says. “But it absolutely drives me nuts, with both systems, when you’re poised to shoot, and it’s all about the moment, and then you get that whirring sound of the lens trying to find its focus after pressing the button. For a long time, I actually manually focused. Period,” he points out. “I trusted my own abilities more than the autofocus.”

Beautiful light penetrating dense fog, Antarctica. Camera: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14mm f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/8; Shutter Speed: 1/160 second; ISO: 100

After Resnick switched to Nikon, a tech rep showed him how to operate the autofocus override that correlates to the camera’s back focus button. “You press that button to autofocus but, if for any reason, it’s not operating the way you want, it goes into a manual override as soon as you rotate the lens barrel,” he explains. “It’s been absolutely amazing to have that feature, where you’re getting the best of autofocus and an instant ability to override it when it doesn’t want to work right. I was able to do that with Canon, but I had to disengage the autofocus first, and the spontaneity of the moment was gone.”

Challenges and Pet Peeves: Too Many Buttons

About the only challenge Resnick encounters with his gear (both new and old) is something he terms, “The implied perception of the expense. The cameras look expensive,” he says. “As soon as somebody sees Nikon, or Canon, they want money.”

Moroccan Man in a Doorway, Chefchaouen, Morocco. Camera: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/11; Shutter Speed: 1/80 second; ISO: 100

To counter this, he covers the brand names with black tape. “It really makes a difference when you’re out photographing people,” he notes. He also doesn’t carry a camera bag. “I tend to take one camera and one lens in those people environments, to try and tone things down.”

One aspect of today’s DSLRs that Resnick views as overkill is the profusion of buttons and camera menu settings. “There are so many options on these cameras that unless you carry the manual and become more involved with the technology part than with shooting, you can’t remember all the stuff they do, nor does it apply most of the time,” he points out.

High on his wish list for camera manufacturers is, “to put more emphasis on removing some of the buttons, or making them optional in a stripped-down version of a pro-level camera that just covers the basics. When you really understand technology, you realize that if you’re shooting raw, the only thing that matters is ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop,” Resnick explains. “The other 10,000 buttons are all basically about a camera shooting in a JPEG mode.”

Biggest Wish: A Unified File Format

Looking beyond buttons, his biggest desire is for all camera companies to offer a unified file format, to eliminate the problems of waiting for software. “I was really psyched to see Apple offer a DNG format in the iPhone 7,” he says. “That’s a game changer.”

The Moeraki Boulders along Koekohe Beach, New Zealand’s Otago coast. Camera: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14 mm f/2.8 lens; Aperture: f/2.8; Shutter Speed: 1/40 second; ISO: 100

He sees Apple’s move as a wake-up call to camera manufacturers, but questions whether they have really taken notice. “Going forward, I worry that both Canon and Nikon have lost the idea that the competition is now with an iPhone,” he says. “Part of that is the Japanese mentality, which is slow to accept change, but by the time they figure it out, it’ll be like Kodak and they’ll be surpassed.” 

Ultimately, however, the matter of a unified file format is all about the challenge of maintaining a permanent archive. “My big fear is that, as amazing as this technology is, I can still take a glass plate negative and turn on a lightbulb and process it,” says Resnick. “But as operating systems change, will we be able to open these proprietary file formats in 50 years, or even in 10 years from now? Until we have a standardized format, it terrifies me to think about that.”

To learn more about Seth Resnick, click here to visit his website.

To read the other stories in our series, Why I Switched, click here https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/p/why-i-switched.

Do you have a story or some insights to share about switching brands? If so, please add your voice to the Comments section, below.

Discussion 25

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I have possibilities work with lot of different cameras. This war between Nikon and Canon go over and over and over. 

I have not any support from any company and i learn my self anything and everything about my cameras by practicing.

If i feel the camera in my hand i can feel is good or bed and I can work with the camera. If not the camera can be superb for some photographers, but not for me. But this do not mean the camera is bad.

Each company ( Canon or Nikon or Sonny or.......) make good camera. All is about your eye and imagination. But if this do not click together. I better switch to another company.

I'm Canon shooter and I love my cameras. Some of my cameras ( 20D, 5D, 50D, 1D ) I give to my daughters and the camera work like charm. 

But switching because company do not support me..... sorry . 

In conclusion: here is not bad camera, only bad owner.

Hi Jan, thanks very much for writing in. I hear what you are saying and appreciate your comments. However, I'd like to point out that the purpose of this story (as well as all the others in this series) is not to say that any of the gear mentioned is good or bad; these stories are all about how the evolution of a given photographer's choice of gear affects their process and the resulting work. It's not at all about good or bad ... it's all about change and difference, which are essential compenents to growth and progress. Thanks again for reading Explora!

Yes, I understood. And this is what I mean when I wrote  "If i feel the camera in my hand and i feel connection with the camera, I can work with the camera".  This is normal process for me, and if do not feel my tools, I can't produce good work.

In my live I met  lot of people who say Noon is better or Canon is better or Sonny is better......     You know I don't care who make the camera, in my position, give me any camera and 15 minutes and I will work with the camera. 

And yes, you right if your tools don't fit you, is better chance and find right tools for your creativity.

There is many factors influencing your work and creativity and right tools is one of them.

I have the pleasure (and task) of managing 1200+ weddings per year, and that means that I view the results of all the favorite flavors of Canon, Nikon, and now, even Sony. Personally, I've been Nikon for many years, but there was a day when a Canon F1 was my choice. After a few years of viewing so many submissions, I feel like I can guess the manufacturer just by viewing the images, and usually I'm accurate. But both main mfg's have good points, and some areas where they may be lacking. Sony is a different subject, and a different look. So make your choice based on what you can afford, maybe. But learn how to use that camera without anything Auto. One place that I will put Nikon hands down over Canon is in their flash units - reliable, powerful and they all come with everything you need. Learn how to use small flash units effectively, too. I think flash scares a lot of people because they don't learn how to use them in Manual.

Thanks for writing in Billy, what a fascinating job it must be to view all those wedding pictures. You bring up a very good point about learning to use your camera of choice in manual mode (and related accessories such as flash). The use of manual controls is precisely what will allow a user to take advantage of the distinctions between given brands and models From my point of view, a photographer who doesn't know how to use his or her camera's manual controls is simply a snapshooter at best. Thanks again for bringing this up, and for reading Explora!

Good article. I feel vindicated in sticking with Nikkon. Had a friend who shoots Canon professionally tell me Nikkon was, well, I won't repeat what he said here since this is a public forum. I've shot both brands and liked them. I just started with Nikkon back in the film days and have stuck with them ever since. However, I think my I-phone is an interesting option because it is so compact and produces some decent pictures although the resolution is a problem. .  

Thanks for your compliment on the article Prentiss. While I believe there will always be benefits to working with the full range of camera formats and brands, I think the iPhone (as well as other brands of mobile devices) is definitely a force to be reckoned with, especially as these technologies develop further in the future ... an interesting option indeed! Happy shooting and thanks for reading the blog.

What wonderous battery charger exists that works with both the D5 and D810, as stated in the article?

Hi Michael, thanks so much for writing in. The battery charger Seth uses for the D5 & D810 is linked in the body of the article, but I'm also pasting the link here for your convenience: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1068251-REG/nikon_27112_mh_26aak_adapter_kit.html

Hope this helps ... thanks for reading!

Nikon will always blow Canon out fo the water. But anyone can shoot landscapes. Try naked women, much more difficult.

Thanks for writing in and voicing your opinions.With a name like Flogknuckle, I have no doubt that you'd have difficulty trying to photograph your preferred subject. Good luck trying, and thanks for reading the Explora blog!

We're talking about tools to accomplish tasks.  Rarely is there one that does all things well.  I'd really like the guts of a DF in a D700 as quality stills don't need or want video capacity.  I am a Nikon user, but I tell anyone asking that the brand won't matter as much as learning and practicing the art of photography.  It's all about the glass, the boxes will change.

You are so right Regan. However rather than it just being all about the glass, I think this really boils down to the experience and practice of the user holding the box (and the glass) and determining what, and how, it captures a given subject. Thanks for reading and writing in!

A camera is a box which captures light.  A professional can use a shoebox as a camera because they understand this.  

Gearmania is not photography.

This is political: NikonvsCanonvsFujifilmvsOlympusvsSonyvsPanasonicvs whomever.

This is an interesting article if you are just getting started in photography and deciding which system to go with.  Sadly the market for DSLR's is pretty bad and has been for years.The trend has been with mirroless and neither of these two behemouths comes close to competing with the other brands.  

Check out Sony Artisians, Olympus Visionaries, and Fuji X Photographers, its a whole new world.

You bring up an interesting point in regard to mirrorless cameras, Patricia. I hope you've checked out our switcher stories about DSLR shooters who switched to Sony and Fujifilm. If not, you can easily find them among the links at the end of the story above. Happy reading and thanks for your comment!

Reading this article, one gets the impression that all Canon cameras are crap. It is unfair for this photographer to generlise about the weaknesses of Canon cameras, without distinguishing the different models of this camera. At the end of the day different models have different capabilities, thus they are priced differently. However, here we see an opinion given based on the Nikon cameras this individual has had experience with. We here about the Nikon D5, D4, D800, D810 etc.yet nothing about the Canon 1DX, the different 5D series etc. Surely, if this article were to be objective, and therefore be taken seriously, then we should have heard something about the individual Canon models as well in comparison to the Nikon models, but in the same category of ability, instead of subjecting every Canon camera to a blanket dismissal. Also, I should have liked to see images taken by a Canon camera, as well as a picture of a Canon body incorporated in this article just like the Nikon, otherwise this story looks like something pulled from the Nikon website.

Thanks very much for writing in Geoffrey. While I respect your point of view, there is nowhere in this article where the photographer bashed the Canon cameras he had worked with. In one passage, he actually says "The quality was good all the way around," about his Canons. Please understand that this article (and the series overall) is not meant to be a head-to-head comparison between products and brands, but rather an investigation of why and how photographers are exploring new gear options and the effect of these choices on their working methods. Also, the first image in the story was shot with a Canon camera (as you'll find in the caption and related descriptive text), while the rest of the images are from after the photographer's switch. This presentation is consistant with the layout guidelines we've followed since the first story in this series. Lastly, you may be happy to hear that we are currently working on some stories featuring photographers who have switched to Canon products from other brands, so please be on the lookout for that in the weeks ahead. Thanks again for your comment and for reading the blog!

It doesn't matter if a photographer uses Canon or Nikon it's a matter of preference at the end. What really bothers me is that B&H is a world renowned supplier for photographers and sell both brands, and none should be promoted in this way. Sorry, but I do not agree with this kind of publicity.

If the photographer had a problem with Canon for stopping his sponsoring that's between them and just moving to another brand makes it perfectly clear that something changed and that's it.

Hi Erick, I couldn't agree more that the camera one uses (as well as how it is used)  is very much a matter of personal preference. Yet, I must say that this story, and the others in this series, are not meant as promotion for any particular camera or brand; the goal of this series is to explore the evolving nature of our tools and gear preferences in stories that discuss practical aspects of user experience.

Perhaps Seth Resnick explains this best in the following comment, The fun part was the discovery of things that one company has, but the other guy doesn’t. You’d probably not even investigate a lot of these details unless you make the switch. I think it’s healthy to try another product for real, and see what some of those benefits are. I’m now more aware of certain features that I wouldn’t have taken advantage of otherwise.

I'm sorry if you find this story bothersome, but it seems that a number of other readers have found it to be informative, entertaining, and even helpful. Personally speaking, I find it endlessly fascinating to investigate different photographers' working methods, and I always come away having learned something. Thanks very much for writing in to voice your opinion, and for thanks for reading Explora!

The owner & technician of a licensed photography repair business came to talk to my photography class about maintenance & repair issues that we could face with our Nikon & Canon cameras. He reaches the level of being the technician who handles last minute camera repairs at our local stadium before professional NFL football games for the professional photographers there. He explained a lot about the insides of the cameras & he even showed us stripped down camera bodies of the consumer, semi-pro & professional cameras to show us the difference in the construction of each level of camera. Naturally he was asked whether he thought Nikon or Canon was the better camera. He told our class that personally he thought Nikon had better construction since they didn't use screws to hold it together. He said that he found that heavily used Canon cameras sometimes had screws coming loose & that if he saw them coming loose on the outside then it could be assumed that they were probably doing the same on the inside.

Hi Judith, thanks for writing in. What an amazing guest to have visit your photography class, this must have been a fascinating discussion. Since you bring up camera repair, I should mention that both Canon and Nikon have Professional Service programs for expedited camera repair and service for qualifying professional photographers. Seth and I discussed these programs in more detail than I had room to include in the story, but I'll note here that he was very complimentary of Canon's Professional Services program since, as a larger company, they have greater resources than Nikon. Both services have dedicated websites, containing a lot of additional background and resources. Hope this is helpful to you, and thanks again for reading the blog!

I was doing some astrophotography in 2011 with my Canon A-1, which I bought new in 1980. At the end, I was in the process of removing the A-1 from the tripod when the tripod fell over. Through the viewfinder, I noticed a dark spot, so I sent it off the KEH for servicing, along with the FD 28mm f2.8 lens and the MA Motor Drive. The MA Motor Drive had quit advancing the film, but I kept it on for its use in portrait mode. KEH cleaned and serviced the A-1, fixed the motor drive, and there was nothing wrong with the lens. In 2013, I bought a used New F-1; that thing is built like a tank!

I still shoot with the A-1. Not bad for a 36 year old camera.

Great artical , I really enjoyed it. I also am a Nikon shooter have been for a long time. I'm invested into the system and still learning it. 

I am looking into other systems and mirrorless and am extremely interested in the new Fuji stuff. I really like the simplicity approach and high quality build. I sure hope Nikon goes this path with the pro line of products also. 10,000 buttons are a  deterrent to me . I cannot remember all that they do and find I don't need most of them to capture what I want anyway. Saying that I do plan on figuring out more of what some of them do. I've just been shooting digital for 3 years now and serious for about 8 months. Before the 8 months I wasn't very serious but now I am. I'm getting jobs and notoriously within my area of photography. I plan to learn a lot more and keep moving forward. 

I really appreciate good articles where we all can learn and grow. Thanks for this one

Thanks for the compliment on the article Troy, I'm glad you found it to be an informative and enjoyable read. The new mirrorless systems are indeed very interesting. If you are curious about Fujifilm's offerings, I'd encourage you to read the story Why I Switched from Nikon to Fujifilm, linked above. I've got another article in the works about a photographer who switched to Fujifilm from a DSLR, so please stay tuned for that. In the meantime, keep up your enthusiasm for shooting and leaning all the buttons, and thanks again for reading Explora!

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