Canon 7D vs Nikon D300s – Duel of two powerhouse

by Enche Tjin on September 5, 2009

Canon 7D and Nikon D300s are the most advanced cameras released this year (2009). It is quite surprising because in the last two years, Canon and Nikon never release cameras in the same class (similar in feature and price). Canon usually takes a price leader position and Nikon takes top performance position. But now, it has changed. Canon has announced EOS 7D, which is definitely a big step up from Canon 50D.

canon-eos--7d-front

Both cameras are designed for sports or fast action photography, but both are also excellent for other kinds of photography. As discussed previously in this blog, Nikon D300s is an update of Nikon D300. It adds movie recording feature, newer image sensor, dual cards (SD-CF) and quiet shutters.

On the other hand, Canon 7D is not an update from Canon 50D. It is Canon new breed that open a new class in Canon DSLR line up. It is significantly more advanced than Canon 50D and compete directly with Nikon D300s.

So what are their strenghts and weaknesses?

Sensor size and Image resolution

Nikon D300s has a slightly bigger sensor size but lower image resolution (only 12 megapixel), while Canon 7D has record breaking 18 megapixel. thanks to Canon new gapless microlens technology, the image quality in high ISO setting is still as good as Canon 50D which has lower image resolution (15 mp). On the other hand, Nikon feels that 12 megapixel are good enough for most professionals or amateurs and decided to keep the megapixel on 12 mp so that the camera is better in controlling noise in high ISO.

In practice, especially for sports photographers who frequently crop images, 18 mp is much better than 12 mp on Nikon D300s. The downside is when you shoot in low light condition such as evening or indoor sports. Nikon D300s might produce cleaner images.

update 12/12/09 : Based on DXomark lab test, Nikon D300s is slightly better in color depth and dynamic range, but Canon 7D suprisingly slightly better in noise handling despite the 18 megapixel.

Fast continuous shooting burst

In sports or wildlife photography, continuous shooting burst is an important feature. Both cameras are very fast. Canon 7D can shoot up to 8 fps, While Nikon D300s also can shoot up to 8 fps but you need Nikon battery grip. Without grip, Nikon D300s shoots 7 fps.

Auto Focus

nikon-d300sBoth camera has advanced auto focus system. Canon 7D has 19 points AF points, all of them are cross type sensor which is more sensitive and accurate. 7D also has several AF mode such as single, zone, spot. I think zone AF will be very useful on many occasions. While Nikon has 51 AF points with selection of single points, 11 points or 51 points.

Canon develops new AF tracking in which they claim will be very accurate even in close-up/macro photography. On the other hand, Nikon’s AF tracking such as 21 points AF tracking or 3D AF tracking is famous for its speed and accuracy.

Movie recording feature

Canon offers HD video recording with manual exposure control with optional external stereo microphone. Nikon D300s offers the same without manual exposure control. Canon offers full HD 1080p while Nikon D300s only offers standard HD 720p. So, it is a clear win for Canon. But, movie recording in DSLR cameras are not perfect. For casual movie recorder, camcorder are still more practical to use.

Body and handling

Both cameras are substantially heavier than entry level camera. They are approx. 825g without lens. If you are traveling, you might find it to be a burden to carry around for a long time. But heavier camera usually are better to help you to combat hand shake and balance the camera when you mount it with heavier or longer lenses.

Canon and Nikon has difference approach on buttons and settings. Canon 7D layout and built quality has been improved from Canon 50D. The buttons are now placed on the left instead of the bottom. There is a dedicated button for video recording. But Canon 7D is still not as advanced as Nikon D300s. For example, there are metering mode switch and auto focus switch in Nikon D300s. If you use Canon 7D, you still need to press button and dial to change it.

I find Canon’s menu interface better because it groups menu logically and group functions that are less people use in the custom function. The result is you can find and change setting faster than Nikon menu.

Some similarities

Despite the differences, both cameras actually has many similarities. These features differentiate them with lower class digital SLR cameras. They are:

  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • ISO range from 100-6400 and 12800 (expanded)
  • Shutter durability 150,000
  • Virtual Horizon

Unique  to Nikon D300s

Quiet release mode : soften the noise when you press shutter in the expense of speed
Dual CF/SD card: Could write on both cards in the same time or as storage for overflow datas

Conclusion

Both cameras are an excellent cameras for sports photography or wildlife. These cameras are quite heavy and bulky so it might not a great camera for travel.

Canon 7D has some clear advantages over Nikon D300s in some areas such as higher image resolution, faster continuous shooting without having to mount a battery grip, and better movie recording with full control of exposure.

While Nikon D300s has half to one stop cleaner image in high ISO setting, better body design and some features you might appreciate such as double cards slot and quick release mode.

Any of this powerhouse will get the job well done. To make decision which camera to buy is not very easy, but here is some tips:

  • If you have lenses collection of either brand, stick with the brand.
  • Get Canon 7D if you are shooting in bright light most of the time.
  • Get Canon 7D if you like to crop pictures a lot
  • Get Canon 7D if you will often use this camera to record creative movie

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

Enche Tjin February 11, 2010 at 4:03 am

the new AF is pretty sophisticated. Check out Canon learning center for the tutorial. But if it still fails, then you might want to exchange it.

Enrico Ponziani February 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm

By the looks of it it sounds like the 7D comes out winner.

Quazi Ahmed Hussain February 14, 2010 at 9:14 am

If one contemplates 1,700/- dollars for a crop body; shouldn’t he think a little higher and focus on 5D MK II for 800/- bucks more? It has 3 MPs more resolution on an almost double size sensor. Full frame is full frame – bigger pixels = cleaner images. Crop sensors will always suffer from noisier images compared to the FF.

Mike February 16, 2010 at 10:46 am

Funny you should mention gapless microlenses. Nikon has em too, introduced in the D3 sensor way back in 2007.

Jackie February 16, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Good article!
I heard so much good things on that D300s… Nikon just make good stuff.
Yes, I love Canon but I am not heavily invested in it. I still have the Rebel XT and 2 lens; Kit and 50mm f/1.4 -which I love!
However, when I shot in low-light… I just want to cry! That darn rebel can’t see anything!

So, I hope when I get the 7D, it better outperform me, my eyes, and the rebel!
If not, 5D2 here I come or wait out on the 7D2…. I don’t want to jump on Nikon… I need something thats guarantee for $1600 bucks or $ 2300 bucks!!

Enche Tjin February 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

hehe funny comment :) I hope you like the 7D

kharen moreno March 10, 2010 at 7:15 am

CANON RULES! yeah!

Quazi Ahmed Hussain March 11, 2010 at 5:43 am

I’m not happy with 7D due to overcrowding the crop sensor with 18mp. Rather save for 5DMkII, with more than double real estate to produce cleaner images. Whatever the odds may be, Nikon doesn’t meet my needs therefore, a switch is not in the horizon.

Now a question to 7D users. What are the catch points of this body? Pls mention 3 significant features that could inspire Rebel users to upgrade.

anuar media photo April 2, 2010 at 4:30 am

d300s the best camera for 1.5 frame camera catogary

Quazi Ahmed Hussain May 2, 2010 at 2:57 am

Yes David, I have the same problem. I’ve invested in Canon lenses. They are great, got more variety and price wise competitive compared to Nikon. Both these makers suffer from unique problems of their own.

Since, you have Canon lenses, wait for a while. I’m also waiting for the release of 60D (if there is any at all) as I would like to upgrade from 450D which is a decent performer. Or else I may have to settle for a 50D.

Enche Tjin May 2, 2010 at 11:44 am

3 Main features of 7D?

1. Magnesium alloy body
2. 8 fps continuous shooting
3. Auto Focus system

jack jones May 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

thanks for this review, i have just purchased the Nikon D300s for motorsports action pics.

Jack May 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

Good stuff.

Arnold June 21, 2010 at 1:11 am

Some people are funny or dont get the msg… Forgeting about the “IF” part of the tips. I guess what Enche is telling you is that. If you want a CHEAPer video camera BUY the 7D. LOL! He’s saying it really depends on what you use your camera for. I guess for beginner film makers that cant afford real video cameras. 7D is a good start. And for those are serious about photography can get the D300s.

If you have lenses collection of either brand, stick with the brand.
Get Canon 7D if you are shooting in bright light most of the time.
Get Canon 7D if you like to crop pictures a lot
Get Canon 7D if you will often use this camera to record creative movie

tsokoy June 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

NIKON rules….for best quality pictures Nikon is no. 1……….

nolicio June 29, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I’m using D300S & I’m very satisfied with it specially during night time shooting.

Quazi Ahmed Hussain July 14, 2010 at 5:51 am

May I request Canon and Nikon lovers to kindly mention 3 specific qualities of their brands in order to help decision making easier for would be DSLR users?

Enche Tjin July 14, 2010 at 12:30 pm

For me:

Canon:
- Cheaper and more complete lens collection especially high-end Luxury lenses
- Fast continuous shooting
- shutter sound (40D and above)

Nikon:
- Creative lighting system (Nikon D90 and above)
- Reliable 51 AF points
- Auto ISO with limiter

Duane August 3, 2010 at 3:39 am

I’ve owned my 7d since october 2009. I have alot of friends that owns Nikon. They all mentioned the great picture quality of the 7d. We can all agree that the d300s and 7d picture quality are subjective and close enough but what separate the 7d from the pack is the superior movie mode. Nikon still has a long ways before it is in the same league as the Canon dslr.

Ivan August 29, 2010 at 11:29 pm

When I used to shoot film , I was a diehard Nikon fan .But now that almost everything is digital, I think that with the exception of the Nikon d3 series,Canon definitely has the edge in photography today. Nikon could regain the crown if they decided to produce their own sensors(as Canon does and will continue to do)

poo August 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm

i love canon colors. i hate how canon is fueling the megapixel wars… yet they know that more pixels= more noise. lame.

iVolls September 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I’ll Say that Canon 7D is top of Nikon D300s, because I’m using both of them.even i am using Nikon D80, Although i am Nikon fan but definitely Canon 7D is Winner in this war.

Sheldon September 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I own the 7d and love it. Low light is = to the D300s. I have seen raw files from both cameras and they’re very similar. Noise levels and such. Where D300 is better is autofocus on low light because the 7d does not have a focus light. I have a 580ex II and use the AF beam’s from the flash unit so this is a non issue. I can of course turn off the flash and still use the AF.

The major difference is that the D300s is more aggressive with inbody sharpening and noise reduciton and the Canon 7d is more about post processing with Lightroom or Digital Photo Professional to get the best out of the image. One has inbody software the other doesn’t. I prefer to post process as it gives me more control however it’s all about preference.

I love the 7d’s autofocus and handling. Spot AF is amazing for Marco photography.

I need the Extra mega pixels as I do a lot of creative croping or print very large print. 12mega pixels is just not enough. I am thinking of jumping to fullframe for 21megapixel. And to those who think this means more noise, I cannot see any change from this camera to the Nikon D300s in terms of noise. At low or high ISO. Mind you I rarely go above 800 ISO as I prefer to have the cleanest images. I often use a Tripod and have a cable shutter release. At 1:1 the images are clean enough to lick, even at ISO 3200+

Is 12 megapixel’s enough for websites and regular prints and magazine ads. Yes of course. But for Large mural size prints, 18 is very low. I love Panoramic shots so that is why Megapixels for me count. 50% more gives me a lot more detail. Some of the old film would require up to 120megapixels to get the same level of detail which is awesome because canon made a 120megapixel sensor that is 40times larger than a 35mm. Tech will always evolve, sensors that made no sense yesterday will make sense today. In the future we will have 120megapixel in point and shoots that will be super clean.

In the end, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax all make good products. Select what feels best to you and shoot and don’t get involved in who’s best and what’s best.. in the end it’s all about what’s best for you.

Rob September 21, 2010 at 4:53 am

D300s vs 7D, it’s a tie. There are no unique features on either camera that are important to anyone who is not a complete camera geek.

Leech7 September 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Why all the argument who’s the best? No matter who win Canon and Nikon will laugh all the way to the bank. Most of you already know which brand to buy and not really rely on the review to buy. The review is just to make you feel good. Every brand have it’s unique features and flaws. Just enjoy the review . Cheers

Dipankar Biswas September 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

I want know that which camera is best Nikon D300s or Canon 7D ? plz help me

Top Rated Cameras November 2, 2010 at 5:12 am

This is such a wonderful review! I think choosing a DSLR should not be as simple as looking at the functions and megapixels. It is much more than that.

I am thinking of getting a new pro-level DSLR this week and my choice is between the Nikon D90 and Canon EOS 50D. I still can’t decide what to get but they are both one of the best in their class of DSLR cameras.

Which one do you suggest then? And which of the two has cheaper accessories and lens?

A.S.Firoz November 3, 2010 at 4:55 am

Canon 7D is very good. I have been using this for the past four months or so. Not very happy with the 70-200 4L USM IS lense – fell below expectation. It is neither here or there. Should have bought a longer range telephoto lense. Other lenses are okay. Used canon 300S too. Since I do a lot of photography in low light conditions, this one works a tad better.

Jam.Mac November 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I have just sold my Nikon D3000.

Do I stick with Nikon and get the Nikon D300s or change to get the Canon 7D?

Help Please?

Enche Tjin November 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Do you have Nikon lenses? or you are starting new? As I said in the article, Canon 7D has advantages over Nikon D300s in some areas such as movie recording, image resolution and interface.

Quazi Ahmed Hussain December 5, 2010 at 7:25 am

Finally I bought EOS 50D in May 2010. However, as per present Canon practice, all cameras are coming with higher and higher megapixels making them more and more noisy. 50D is no exception. Canon engineers are also frustrated as their management forces them to squeeze more resolution into their sensors in order to attract common non-photographer people. Certainly this gimmick works; as sales is sky-rocketing amazingly even during this age of austerity measures. Many of my Nikon user enthusiast photographer friends switched to Canon 7D (just being a victim of the enormous publicity hype) apparently without actually knowing what to do with it. But at the end of the day, law of physics cannot be defied. Now everyone knows Nikon bodies produce cleaner and better images than Canon bodies.

My suggestion to new entrants into DSLR world is – please buy cameras after some research based on what you want to shoot. If you want to produce very high quality images, willing to invest substantially and gradually turn pro; Nikon is probably a better choice.

Advice to Nikon: Please look into your lens department. You have to become more competitive in that area by introducing more varieties at affordable prices.

Joko December 30, 2010 at 9:10 am

I shot Canon for five years before I realized that equipment kept breaking or just not working as well as I thought it should. I needed a new camera and it was between the 7D and D300s. This last summer I decided to make the pricey switch over to Nikon just to give it a fair try and see for myself witch brand to prefer.

In all honesty, after holding both cameras and working with the D300s, Nikon builds a more solid camera. The menu does suck in comparison to Canon’s, but you’ll spend less time in the menu anyways since the D300s has more dials and buttons to change settings anyways. Plus, you can still add a custom menu for the D300s as well.

One design flaw on the D300s is it’s AF illuminator. If you are using a f2.8 lens or larger, the light hits the lens more than it hits the subject it’s suppose to be helping you focus on. However, Canon’s flash AF illuminator just sucks and is annoying. I shoot a lot of action sports at night, and Nikon still shoots better in the dark than any Canon I have ever used.

I’ve produced some pretty good videos with the D300s. The 7D allows you to record for as long as you want, where as the D300s stops recording after five minutes. This has only become a problem for me once, but I’m never shooting stuff that lasts that long. So keep that in mind if you plan on shooting vid.

Joko December 30, 2010 at 9:20 am

Oh, and also dealing with video, buy an external microphone. I’ve never tried video on 7D, but I wouldn’t think it’s any different than any other DSLR because they all stick the microphones around the same area. The sound recorded just sucks, never use the AF when recording video. You’ll hear something that sounds like a machine gun going off and it’s the mic picking up the focusing motors of your camera. It’s terrible, get a shotgun mic, I found one for $50 and then use manual focus while shooting video. Pain at first, but if you want to see some video work I’ve done with the D300s then just check out my blog joshkodis.blogspot.com.

ian rose February 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Can any of you guys spell or have any knowledge of grammer???? I like the Brownie Box .

Narada Thomas March 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Hey mate, remember me? :) I bought a D300s over D7000 and 7D. :)

is it a good investment?? :D

Enche Tjin March 1, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Hi yes, how have u been. I’ve been very busy lately. It is a great camera for action photography. Why do u get the D300s?

raj August 20, 2011 at 12:25 am

hi which camera best d300S & 7d for studio photography
please hlep

raj August 20, 2011 at 12:26 am

hi which camera best d300S & 7d for studio photography
please hlep which camera Bye

raj August 20, 2011 at 12:27 am

hi which camera best d300S & 7d for studio photography
please hlep which camera Buy.

nikon d300s August 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Hi everybody,
I have a d7000. do you recommend me to change it with nikon D300s?

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