Is Canon better than Nikon for a DSLR or it is the other way around? Let us find out which is the right DSLR for you.
Canon versus Nikon will always be like Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Marvel vs DC, Microsoft vs Apple, and the United States vs the rest of the world. They are two of the biggest camera manufacturers in the world and therefore, are often compared with each other. But – which one of them wins the competition when it comes to making better DSLRs.
We will uncover major differences between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras from both brands. Similarly, we will also explore some of the best Nikon and Canon DSLRs to buy in 2022 in our article.
Which is better Nikon or Canon?
Photographers who love to use only these brands are responsible for Nikon vs Canon debate. They are the largest and most popular DSLR brands in the world. Naturally, they are the topic of most discussions about DSLRs.
The debate was almost nonexistent in the golden age of film photography. All the cameras during that time delivered something different along with excellent images.
The advent of digital photography has changed everything though, especially for big camera manufacturers including Nikon and Canon. Beginner photographers mostly choose from these only. Apart from DSLRs, both companies also make some terrific mirrorless cameras in the likes of Canon EOS R5 and Nikon Z9, threatening Sony’s position as the world’s leading mirrorless camera brand.
Nikon vs Canon Real World Comparison
Canon and Nikon dominate in different niches and target audiences. We will highlight the areas in which both brands differ in the following paragraphs.
First and foremost, Nikon and Canon cameras, especially DSLRs are compatible with a wide range of Lenses. That is also why they are the most popular brands in the world.
Nikon’s F mount lenses date back to 1959 whereas Canon’s EF range began in 1987. Most of these lenses still work with modern digital cameras, offering exceptional versatility and options to Nikon and Canon users.
Canon has always been slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to lenses. Both companies offer a wide variety of lenses at every price range. However, Nikon initially made cheap or budget lenses. On the other hand, Canon produced expensive and premium lenses right from the beginning. But – current Nikon lenses are slightly more expensive than their Canon counterparts in every segment.
Lenses from both brands also cover all popular focal lengths. Similarly, they make specialty lenses to meet specific needs such as lenses for macro photography, wildlife photography, or sports photography.
Therefore, it is better to learn more about the lenses and their respective uses before buying one.
Canon is also the most innovative brand in terms of adding new features and functions to its lenses. For example, Canon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II was the first ever DSLR lens that displays the depth of field and focal length on an LCD. Similarly, Canon 17mm f/4L TS-E is the widest full-frame lens in the world.
No other company can surpass Canon in the lens category. Even Nikon is mostly playing catch-up the game here.
Canon and Nikon make both full-frame and crop sensor cameras as with any other company. The crop factor defines the magnification of a lens when you use it on a crop sensor or APS-C camera. The two brands have different crop factors for their cameras.
The crop factor for Canon and Nikon is 1.6x and 1.5x respectively. It means Nikon has a larger sensor and therefore, offers higher resolution. The 0.1 crop factor may seem negligible or insignificant but it can make a world of difference to the picture quality. Even 0.1x gives a tremendous boost to the image resolution.
However, you also need smaller sensors for better magnification. For example, a 200mm telephoto lens can become 320mm with a Canon camera and 300mm with a Nikon camera. Canon takes the lead in this regard because it has comparatively smaller sensors than Nikon.
Image and Video Quality
It is difficult to find any difference between images taken by Canon and Nikon cameras since they compete so fiercely with each other. However, Nikon is marginally better in certain areas such as ISO. For instance, you can increase the ISO on Nikon D6 up to 3280000. Therefore, it delivers tremendous performance in low light conditions.
Nikon is the brand for you if you want excellent image quality in the dark or at night. However, Canon and Nikon are neck to neck in all other situations.
Canon also lags slightly behind Nikon against some sensor performance parameters. But – it does not really affect the image quality in the real world and therefore, is not a fair comparison.
Some people would lampoon me for placing Canon higher than Nikon in some categories. But – it is also a fact that Canon has historically delivered better video quality. The video features offered by Canon are second to none to say the least. Although Nikon has almost bridged the gap between the video quality offered by both brands yet Canon still takes the crown. Canon has a great history of making terrific video lenses besides having better video autofocus.
Build Quality and Design
The next thing to discuss in, “Is Nikon better than Canon” debate is the design and build quality. Only Nikon’s high-end cameras are made in Japan. The company makes all the cheaper and midrange models in countries like Thailand and China.
Canon, on the other hand, manufactures majority of its cameras, both cheaper and expensive, in Japan. Similarly, Canon makes all of its lenses only in Japan.
The cheap or beginner Canon cameras are generally sturdier than Nikon due to this very reason. Canon thoughtfully uses metal in its lenses compared to Nikon lenses that mostly consist of plastic.
You should only buy a camera that feels comfortable in your hand when it comes to design. Once again, Canon bodies are easier to hold and use due to some attractive features.
All in all, you should go for Canon cameras if your primary concern is design and build quality.
Canon vs Nikon Cameras Comparison
Mirrorless and DSLRs from Nikon and Canon are extremely popular among professionals and hobbyists. Therefore, we are going to compare both these types of cameras in the following lines.
Mirrorless cameras have garnered immense popularity in recent years. Therefore, it is fitting to start the comparison with these cameras.
Beginner Mirrorless Cameras
Canon dominates the entry-level mirrorless market. Canon has some terrific cameras in this category such as Canon EOS M200. Nikon has no real competitor in this segment as a fact of the matter.
M200 features a 24 megapixels APS-C crop sensor. A built-in flash, continuous shooting speed of 6fps, vertical 4K video, GPS, and ISO range of 100-25600 are some of its other important features.
Similarly, some of its features such as the touchscreen as well as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are nonexistent in older DSLR cameras.
Available for just around $500, it is an ideal investment for hobbyists and inspiring photographers alike.
Midrange Mirrorless Cameras
Nikon Z50 and Canon EOS RP are the two most widely used midrange mirrorless cameras in the world. These cameras have some similarities but significant differences as well. Both are available for less than $1000. They feature the latest lens mount that is Canon RF and Nikon Z-mount from respective manufacturers.
The body size is also similar as both the cameras are extremely small, lightweight, and portable. However, Z50 is slightly lighter though. Both cameras have either electronic stabilization for videos only or in-lens optical stabilization for images.
The major difference is the sensor size and type. Nikon Z50 is an APS-C crop sensor camera with 21 megapixels sensor. Canon EOS RP has a 26 megapixels full-frame sensor. Both APS-C and full-frame sensors have their merits and demerits. A full-Frame sensor is a better choice for creating most background blurs. APS-C cameras are smaller and best for telephoto images because of their long reach or higher magnification.
Full-frame cameras deliver better low light performance but Z50 is an exception as it is better than EOS RP for shooting in darker conditions.
The larger sensor means the image quality of EOS RP better. However, Nikon’s camera is much faster with 11fps continuous shooting speed instead only 5fps speed of Canon’s body. Therefore, it is a better option for sports, wildlife, and action photography.
Canon camera has 4K/24fps video resolution whereas Nikon offers 4K at30fps. Both have Full HD resolution as well but up to 60fps and 120fps respectively. The weakest point of Nikon cameras has always been video autofocus. But – Z50 is right up to EOS RP in this aspect as well.
Advanced Mirrorless Cameras
Canon and Nikon are giving tough competition to each other in this category. Canon EOS R6 and Nikon Z6 are head to head in the enthusiast full-frame mirrorless camera segment. You cannot choose the clear winner here because both cameras have similar features and functions.
However, Z6 has a more favorable grip and price. Similarly, it has a 24.5 megapixels sensor compared to the 20 megapixels sensor of R6. Therefore, the image quality offered by Z6 is marginally better than R6. On the other hand, R6 performs better in low light conditions thanks to the DIGIC X image processor. It also has superior video shooting features than Z6.
The best mirrorless cameras from Nikon and Canon are Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R5. Once again, R5 has better low light and video capabilities. It has a higher ISO range and 8K video while Z7 only has 4K video. It is mainly because Z7 is an almost a 4 years old camera and a lot of advancements and improvements have happened since its inception.
R5 also leads Z7 in almost all other departments. While both cameras have similar 45 megapixels resolution, R5 has up to 20fps continuous shooting speed with the electronic shutter whereas Z7 has only 9fps. Similarly, it only has 493-point on-sensor phase-detect autofocus compared to R5’s autofocus with 1053 points and 100% coverage. Z7 has up to 5 points of vibration reduction while R5 has up to 8 stops of image stabilization.
The latest mirrorless cameras by Nikon and Canon are Nikon Z9 (December 2020) and Canon EOS R3 (November 2020) though. They are still very new and it will take time to determine which of these is better than the other.
All in all, Canon is currently offering much superior mirrorless cameras than Nikon.
In the next segment in our, “Is Nikon better than Canon for a DSLR”, we will compare some top DSLRs cameras from brand brands. Keep in mind that Nikon truly shines when it comes to DSLR. It will always come out victorious in all the Nikon vs Canon DSLR debates.
Canon has a greater variety in terms of entry-level DSLR cameras. DSLRs like Rebel SL3/250D, Rebel T7/2000D, and Canon EOS 4000D are terrific cameras with great features for a novice or beginner photographer.
The SL3 has a 24.1 megapixels sensor with a highly advanced DIGIC 8 image processor. The 3-inch touchscreen, Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, and 4K video resolution are quite impressive. On top of that, it is an affordable camera as well.
Variety is important but you have to consider other factors as well. The performance of the camera also matters and this is where Nikon outshines Canon in every department.
For example, Nikon D3500 has a 24 megapixels sensor, Full HD video recording at 60p, and an ISO range of 100-25600. Similarly, it has excellent features and a comfortable grip for new photographers. You can also take a whopping 1550 shots on a single charge. The camera is also small and lightweight besides having a larger sensor for beautiful images.
Canon vs Nikon DSLR discussion is incomplete without mentioning cameras like Canon EOS 90D and Nikon D7500. Unlike entry-level DSLRs, Canon dominates the midrange DSLR market. They keep introducing new and better midrange cameras regularly while the best Nikon cameras in this category, which are D7500 and D5600, came out in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Canon EOS 90D was released in 2019 and has 33 megapixels sensor, 11 fps continuous shooting speed, 45 cross-type focus points, and a 3-inch tiltable touchscreen. The D7500, on the other hand, has only 21 megapixels sensor, 15 focus points, and 8fps continuous shooting speed.
Keep in mind that Canon’s midrange models also more powerful batteries and offer improved functions and features in general. Therefore, Canon is a clear winner in this segment.
Prosumer DSLRs mostly include beginner full-frame and professional APS-C DSLR cameras.
Nikon has better offerings in this department in the likes of the Nikon D500 (released in 2016) that is much more advanced than Canon’s 7D Mark II, launched way back in 2014.
Canon’s camera has a more ‘traditional’ and comfortable ISO range of 100-16000 whereas D500 has an ISO range of 100-51200 (extendable to 102400). Canon has only 99 cross-type focus points while D500 has 153 autofocus points. D500 is also a smaller and more lightweight camera besides having longer battery life as well.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II is perhaps the cheapest full-frame DSLR camera on the market. Released in 2017, it gave stiff competition to everyone’s favorite DSLR, the Nikon D750. However, Nikon has released better and more advanced full-frame DSLRS since then such as Nikon D780 that was released in 2020.
Nikon’s full-frame DSLRs outshines Canon in every area including image quality, ISO range, video capabilities, autofocus, image stabilization, and speed. However, there is a caveat that is Nikon cameras are considerably more expensive than their Canon counterparts. Therefore, Canon EOS 6D Mark II remains the ultimate choice as an affordable full-frame DSLR camera.
Advanced or Professional DSLRs
We can further divide this segment into two categories. Advanced DSLR cameras like Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850 and absolute best and professional cameras like Canon EOS 1D-X Mark III and Nikon D6.
Nikon takes away the first category because of the highly impressive and popular D850. It has a 46 megapixels sensor compared to the 30 megapixels sensor of 5D Mark IV (released in 2016). Similarly, the 153 focus points are more than double than that of Canon’s camera.
Nikon D850 has 8K and 4K video resolution compared to only 4K resolution in the case of 5D Mark IV. It has a higher continuous shooting speed and ISO range. Some other features that make it a better camera are a higher dynamic range and excellent bracketing capabilities.
Canon wins the second category though. Both 1D-X Mark III and D6 debuted in 2020 and since then, there is a heated debate about which is better. But – the consensus is that Canon’s model is still the best high-end DSLR camera in the world and Nikon has not found a way to beat it
Both cameras have very similar features in general. However, there are some areas where 1D-X Mark III outclasses D6. For example, it has a 20fps continuous shooting speed, DIGIC X image processor, 6K video resolution, 191-point autofocus, and built-in GPS.
D6, on the other hand, has only 14fps continuous shooting speed, and 105 autofocus points. 1D-X Mark III has an ISO range of 100-102400 (extendable to 50-819200). D6 also has the same ISO range but it is extendable to 3280000. This is the only area where D6 offers better results than Canon’s camera.
Which is better Canon or Nikon DSLR?
So, is Canon better than Nikon for a DSLR or you should only choose Nikon? They both are the world’s leading camera manufacturers and we cannot determine the clear winner no matter how hard we try. Both brands excel in certain camera categories and appeal to different market segments.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Canon wins the mirrorless market in our opinion whereas Nikon is the world’s leader when it comes to DSLR.
Canon is also a better option for compatibility and superior video capabilities. Nikon is the way to go if you want excellent low light performance.
Both brands make excellent cameras at all price ranges, catering to the needs of all types of users and budgets. You can find some fantastic entry-level DSLRs from Canon or a terrific high-end APS-C camera from Nikon. The choice of the brand also depends on your preference and the photography equipment such as lenses you already have.
I hope we have clearly explained the similarities and differences between Nikon and Canon in our guide, “Is Canon better than Nikon for a DSLR?” These are the two most popular camera brands in the world. However, you can try other companies such as Sony, Panasonic, and Fuji if you are brand agnostic. These companies do not only make some brilliant cameras but are also are challenging the monopoly of Nikon and Canon.