Canon lenses vs Nikon lenses 2009 – 2010

by Enche Tjin on September 27, 2009

Legend: BQ = Built Quality, IQ = Image Quality
kit-lenses-canon-nikon

Kit lens is usually relatively a low quality but high value lens that packaged with new cameras. They are inexpensive and get you started. 18-55mm kit lens usually bundled with beginner DSLR camera, and 18-105mm/18-135mm usually comes with a mid-range cameras such as Nikon D90 and Canon 50D. In kit lenses category, it is pretty much a tie.
nikon-vs-canon-lens-step-up-lensesNikon  and Canon both has specialized lenses for DX (APS-C) camera users. These lenses has smaller circle and not for full frame cameras.  In this category, Canon lenses are generally cheaper except Canon 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. Note that the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 is way much expensive than Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, although Nikon does not have built-in lens stabilization. However, Nikon 17-55mm lens’ built quality is better than Canon 17-55mm.
canon-vs-nikon-telephoto-zoom

In telephoto zoom category for APS-C sensor cameras, both manufacturers offer two types of lens. Nikon 55-200mm, 55-300mm and Canon 55-250mm are lightweight, inexpensive lenses which is great complement of your kit lenses. The 70-300mms are actually designed for full frame cameras (FX) but they are popular among APS-C sensor cameras user as well. The 70-300mms are sharper, focus faster and more expensive.
prime-lenses-nikon-vs-canonIn prime / fixed zoom lens category for consumer, Nikon has a bit an edge because it has Nikon 35mm f/1.8 which is close to 50mm or classic focal length when mounted in full frame camera. However, keep in mind that the 35mm f/1.8 is not compatible with Nikon full frame cameras like other prime lenses listed above. Overall, Canon prime lenses in this list are cheaper than Nikon equivalent.

wide-zoom-lens-full-frame-fx-canon-vs-nikon

Full frame (FX) lenses are generally higher quality lens optimized for full frame cameras such as Canon 5D or Nikon D700. But if you use APS-C sensor camera, you will also benefit from the higher quality lens. These lenses are usually use by professional photographers. However, these lenses are not cheap, most of these lenses are selling at $1000-2000 a piece, which are more expensive than most DSLR camera in the market.

In this category, Canon is again cheaper than most Nikon equivalent. However, Nikon lenses are usually a bit better in term of build quality or image quality.

In 2010, Nikon released many new lenses. One notable one is 28-300mm. This lens is very versatile for full frame camera users. Canon has 28-300mm lens for a long time, however it is very bulky and heavy (more than 3 lbs) and not practical to carry around. It is very expensive too.

full-frame-telephoto-zoom-fx-canon-nikon-lens

In this telephoto zoom category, Canon comes with more selection than Nikon. For example, Canon has 4 version of its 70-200mm zoom lens. However, Nikon has better quality 70-200mm f/2.8mm VR and has modern, big, high speed 200-400mm f/4G for sports or wildlife photography.

prime-lenses-fx

In pro prime lenses category, Canon generally cheaper than Nikon counterpart, especially for wide prime and telephoto prime above 135mm. Canon has better 50mm and 85mm prime, which open all the way up to f/1.2 instead of f/1.4.

To be continued… Come back later

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{ 33 comments }

A September 28, 2009 at 6:17 am

This is a great comparison for anyone considering to jump to the other side.

Teddy September 28, 2009 at 9:48 pm

the Nikon 200-400 f4 VR should be mentioned in your Pro Grade zoom len. BTW,your entry is very nice and informative. Thx for sharing
I hope that Nikon sooner releases more F4.0 pro zoom such 17-40f4, 28-135 f4 or 70-210 f4 to fill the spaces they have missed….

kamera-gue September 28, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Great comparison and explanation, I must say thanks..

My opinion :
Canon EF-S 15-85mm at $800 is way too expensive for a slow zoom. Even Nikon AF-S 16-85mm at $675 is still expensive. I know both have good IQ and build, but the main target is consumer market, not a pro market.

admin September 28, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Thanks. yes, I agree with you.

admin September 28, 2009 at 11:41 pm

$800 is MSRP, so price might drop $50-$100 but yeah i think it will be more expensive than Nikon’s. It feels expensive because Tamron has 17-50mm f/2.8 for much cheaper price.

jeff October 8, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Very informative. I’d also like to see the Nikon 200-400 f4 VR added to the Pro Grade Zoom lenses list.

GP October 10, 2009 at 7:14 am

Which source(s) do you use(d) to grade the lenses.
Which sites offer quality in depth reviews ?

admin October 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm

slrgear.com

steve November 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Is there any reason why the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom Lens is omitted? I think the street price is $1,100 and it has a good reputation as far as IQ and BQ.

Great comparison and the update is appreciated!

William Kazak November 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Did you forget the Nikon 105DC F2?

Peach December 5, 2009 at 1:16 am

Nice summary. You did a good job of including all current, popular lenses.

It’d be interesting to see a comparison between both companies PC-E lenses.

The bottom line is, no matter which system you choose, both Nikon and Canon offer some great lenses for every price range. If one can’t take top notch photos with either brand, it ain’t the camera’s fault!

Stve December 24, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Regarding
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
you give them both a 9 for image quality ?
Every review I’ve seen rates the Nikon better for image quality .

You also rate the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 better than the Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8 USM for image quality.
I know the Nikon has very good performance in the centre but the corners are poor so giving it a 10 for image quality is laughable.
The poor performance in the corners is the reason Nikon had to bring out the
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II .

admin December 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

@Stve: The poor performance is only when you mount it in Nikon FX camera

tim January 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Hey thanks very much for this list, I use it often as a way of comparing a lens I know to one I don’t.

Suggestion: since your older list has some lenses that this list does not, perhaps you could add a link in this post back to the old post? I just use google search to get back but it would be easier with a link :) Reason: i’m a budget buyer so older lenses are still very appealing to me (the used market)

Enche Tjin January 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Glad it could help Tim, the link to old one is at the Trackback section.

Marco January 18, 2010 at 11:27 pm

i think i have to disagree with canon 15mm fisheye on IQ (rated 7). it can easily be rated 10 even on untrained eyes.

Jeff February 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This sounds like it was written by someone who works for Canon. Especially the lack of any mention of the Nikon 14-24mm lens.

Enche Tjin February 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I did mention that 14-24mm is part of formidable trios along with 24-70mm and 70-200mm.

Quazi Ahmed Hussain February 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

When it comes to lenses; Canon is a clear winner due to variety, quality and price competitiveness. Same time I wish I could mount Canon lenses on Nikon bodies. While Canon is still running the weird high pixel race, Nikon is successfully turning out high quality bodies that take decent pictures. Ironically, both are adding video options to their bodies to make it unnecessarily clumsy and pricey.

Enche Tjin February 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

yes that is ironic haha.. Canon is far better in implementing video feature tho, and I think this is what set them apart now and in the future.

Quazi Ahmed Hussain February 10, 2010 at 12:55 am

Why inclusion of video option in still camera bodies is annoying? Because the whole idea is unrealistic and unnecessary in the first place. Dedicated camcorders are always better performers in video recording. Whenever one desires primarily video shooting of any event, (s)he will look for either a professional video camera or at least a camcorder – not his/her still camera. Both these equipment allow the shooters to capture videos the way it is desired by offering various relevant options and flexibilities. If the still camera videos performed with same efficiency, video cameras would have gone out production long ago. But in reality it didn’t.

Whenever multiple functions are crammed into one system; quality becomes a casualty.

The very fact that still camera manufacturers are producing video cameras as well testifies that these 2 are not the same. In doubt? Ask the video/camcorder sales people at Canon or Sony.

Geert April 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm

@Quazi Ahmed Hussain, just one answer on that video comment you made:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu3bQqCTAIw

Entirely made with the Canon 5DmII… a clear example that video functionality in still camera’s doesn’ t work at all! ROFLOL

Taruf April 19, 2010 at 10:53 am
Mon Lopez June 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Thanks.The lens comparison is very informative for photographers needing to upgrade their lens collection/ requirements.

My Opinion July 3, 2010 at 7:47 am

One thing is clear. Both manufacturers charge too much. When they offer something they have reviewers write about extensively like IS/VR they go out and double the price. The Canon 70-200 f/4 compared to f/4 IS for example. Oh, dear amateur drooling for a top grade super telephoto who has to hope to find a medium range to longer range u can afford to gamble on (bring it back in 7 days for a full refund? Or rent one for a couple hundred for a week!) you can get this el cheapo for only 1200. It won’t have the f/stop you hear is really necessary for the low light shots, it won’t have the length for indoor or the speed but you can sit on your porch and gather shots of passing motorists. They both spend a fortune on advertising their superiority and that’s what hurts the price to consumers. Neither has the chutzpa to stand on their quality alone. They insist on budgeting 25% of the cost built into media extravaganzas. But thanks for the worthwhile review.

Enche Tjin July 3, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Thanks for your opinion. I agree they charge too much for IS or second generation lenses (70-200mm). That’s why I am glad that third party lens maker such as Sigma is stepping up in making high quality lenses today.

Mark M. September 27, 2010 at 9:28 am

Hello Enche,

I really find this page valuable as I am wanting to make the jump to DSLR and need to choose between a Canon or Nikon system. I have made it to a good camera shop and found that the Canon EOS 7D fits my big hands much better than the other choices from Canon and Nikon.

My question is where did the Build Quality and Image Quality ratings come from in the table above?

Thanks,

Mark

Enche Tjin September 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

Hi Mike, mostly from slrgear.com, a lens review site

Blackbeard Ben September 28, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Still no Nikon 105mm f/2 DC or 80-200mm f/2.8D AF on the list… or the 85mm f/3.5 Micro. It seems like time to remove the original 70-200mm VR too, since it’s been discontinued, replaced, and is no longer available new…

Oh, and you can still get eight of the best manual focus Nikkors new, as listed on Nikon USA’s website.

Mike M. September 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

I have Nikon D80 and Canon 550D. I’ve used both cameras extensively and I must say this: Nikon lens selection in the consumer category is much better (and much cheaper) than Canon’s. Nikon consumer lenses (the good ones) can produce the same image quality as the pro lenses. Canon consumer lenses are either toys or too expensive to be called “consumer”. Nikon almost never compromises the picture quality in their consumer lenses. Canon always does. For smart amateur photographers, this should be the clue. Here’s a quick comparison based on my own experience:

- Nikon 35 f/1.8 G is an excellent, beautiful lens that sells for practically free. Canon has nothing to match the quality/price of this lens.
- Nikon 50mm 1.8D is much better in every possible way than Canon EF 50 f/1.8 for the same money.
- Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G is way and above superior to the Canon EF 50 f/1.4 for the same money.
- Nikon 85mm 1.8D vs Canon 85mm 1.8D. Nikkor looks much cooler to me, but otherwise they are equal in both quality and price. This is clearly an exception to the rule.
- Nikon 18-70 (or discontinued 24-85) is superior to any Canon mid range zoom in this price range, and it’s dirt cheap too. Canon has absolutely nothing in this price range to match the quality of this lens.
- Nikon 55-200 is superior to the Canon 55-250 in terms of contrast and color. Nikon is a miracle lens that rivals the 2-3 times more expensive alternatives. Cannon is a toy again, with bad color rendition, saturation, and sharpness uniformity.

With aforementioned Nikon lenses, I can make pictures as good as I would with pro grade lenses. With Canon, I have no choice but to move up to the L series lenses to get the same picture quality. I use 550D to shoot video in fully manual mode (i.e. can use Nikon lenses). I’ll continue to take my photos with Nikon, I think. The heavy, expensive, and ugly-white L’s are not my idea of fun, I’m afraid.

jayanta October 6, 2010 at 5:28 am

pl in from me canon t2i price and nikon 90d

djh October 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Don’t forget the excellent Nikon 180mm f2.8 prime
It’s small (less than 5″ long) light and tack sharp, for about $800

Sinisa Pavlovic October 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm

It is true.
Canon lenses I have 17-85 IS and 50 1.4 were junk, inconsistant. 85 mm 1.8 was good.
So I sold 40D and these lenses and bought D300s. 18-200 VR shoots sports outside without any problems. 50 1.4D is much more prodictable then canon 50, 1.4 to shoot inside sports – volleyball. 50 1.4D nikon can shoot sharper pictures in indoor sports (volleyball) then canon. 300s is very fast and pridictable. Canon 40D sometimes couldn’t shoot?! Canon has litle bit better ISO (1600) at full resolution, but this is not as much important.

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