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.
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.
Both 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.
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
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