Canon vs Nikon DSLR cameras 2009

by Enche Tjin on November 23, 2009

Many people asked me what to DSLR cameras to buy, which is the best DSLR cameras, Canon or Nikon, sometimes I also get question about other brands. This post will provides you a chart and guide to find the most suitable digital SLR cameras according to your needs. I will start with Canon and Nikon cameras first because it is the most popular. Later, I will also work on other brands like Sony, Pentax and Olympus.

Beginner DSLR cameras

In the beginner DSLR section, we have Canon EOS Rebel series: Canon XS/1000D, Canon XSi (450D), and Canon T1i (500D). These cameras are compact and light weight (relative to DSLR cameras). Like Nikon, Canon cameras do not have built-in image stabilization in the camera, Canon & Nikon use lens-based image stabilization instead. Canon beginner cameras benefit from full compatibility with all Canon EOS lenses which are regarded the most complete and sophisticated in a relatively lower price compared to competitors.

On the other hand, Nikon beginner cameras do not have built-in AF motor, so while you can still mount Nikon AF lenses (older lenses especially prime lens) to it, you can’t auto focus. This might not bother you if you only buying newer lens or don’t plan to buy any other lens at all. Nikon D40, D60, D3000 also do not have live view like Canon beginners cameras. However, I like the ergonomic and handling on Nikon beginners camera better than Canon beginner cameras.

Canon Characteristics Notes
Canon XS, XSi Canon XS Compatible with all Canon EOS lenses, live view, 5-9 AF points, compact. XS has 10 mp, XSi has 12 mp. Beginner digital SLR cameras. Price: $480 – $750
Canon T1i All of above plus video recording and hi-res LCD screen. 15 mp image sensor
Canon 40D, 50D Excellent built quality (magnesium alloy), fast continuous burst (6-6.5 fps), better handling, top LCD screen. 50D has hi res LCD screen and 15 mp. 40D has 10 mp. ISO is acceptable up to 1600 Advanced SLR cameras. Price: $800-$1700. Geared towards sports photography and photojournalism
Canon 7D

Feature video recording, sophisticated 19 AF points and zone system. 18 mp. Improved interface, 8 fps continuous shooting. Good noise control up to ISO 3200
Canon 5D mark II Compact body, HD video recording with exposure control and external mic.Great noise control up to ISO 5600 Full frame format cameras Price: $2700 Designed especially for pro or serious amateur.

The first DSLR with Full HD movie recording features

Cameras from here to below do not compatible with Canon EOS E-FS lenses.

1d mark III, IVCanon 1d mark IV Weather-sealed body, very fast continuous burst (10 fps), 1.3x crop factor, moderate noise control up to ISO 2400 and 4000. Designed for sports/photojournalism Pro cameras with weather-sealing and integrated battery grip. Price: $3500-$6500.
Canon 1ds mark III Full format high resolution 21 mp, Designed for studio work.

Advanced DSLR cameras

In advanced DSLR camera section, Canon cameras are famous for its high quality magnesium alloy body and fast continuous shooting. 40D,50D can shoots 6 fps, and the new 7D can shoots 8 fps. Nikon advanced cameras such as D300/D300s also can shoot 8 fps but they will need a battery grip.

On the other hand,, Nikon advanced DSLR has wireless flash commander that let you to use built in flash to trigger external flash(es). Canon 7D also has this feature, but Canon 40D and 50D does not. You need to buy separate wireless trigger. However, Nikon has advantage in ergonomic, handling, and auto focus system. Noise control in Nikon advanced DSLR cameras are better too, however, image resolution stays at 12 mp, while Canon 50D and 7D has 15 and 18 mp respectively.

Nikon Characteristics Notes
Nikon D40 Very affordable, 6 mp, 1/500 flash sync, 3 AF points Nikon beginner digital SLR cameras. Price from $460-$575.

Do not have built-in AF motor and live view. As a result, you can’t auto focus with lenses without built-in AF.

Nikon D60, D3000

Nikon D3000

Very good ergonomic, 10 mp.D3000 has 11 AF system, improved user friendliness with guide mode feature
Nikon D5000 12 mp image sensor. Excellent noise control up to ISO 3200

Live view, movie recording mode and swivel LCD screen

Beginner/Mid range DSLR camera. Do not have built-in AF motor. Price: $720
Nikon D90Nikon D90 Excellent ergonomic, top LCD screen, high res LCD screen, great high ISO noise control up to ISO 3200. Wireless flash commander. First DSLR with video recording feature Advanced SLR cameras. Price $900-$1700. Geared towards sports photography and photojournalism

Have built-in AF motor so it is compatible with all Nikon DX and FX lenses

Nikon D300/D300s

Nikon D300s

Same as above plus improved build quality (magnesium alloy body, fast continuous shooting speed especially with grip (6-8 fps).

D300s has video recording capability, dual memory card slots, quiet release mode

Nikon D700 Affordable full frame, compact body, Great noise control up to ISO 6400. Fast continuous burst when mounted in battery grip (5-8 fps) Full frame format cameras Price: $2450, designed for pro or serious amateur.

Cameras from here are compatible with Nikon DX lenses but you will get cropped image and lose around 60% of image resolution.

Nikon D3/D3s Weather-sealed body, very fast continuous burst (9-11 fps), excellent noise control up to ISO 3200 and 12800. Designed for sports/photojournalism Pro cameras with weather-sealing and integrated battery grip. Price: $4900-$9900.
Nikon D3x Full format high resolution 24 mp. Designed for studio work.

Professional DSLR cameras

In professional DSLR camera section (most of the cameras has bigger image sensor and also known as full frame sensor), both Canon and Nikon has compact model and full size with integrated grip model. In compact model, Canon has 5D mark II, which is a very versatile model. It has big image resolution (21 mp), good noise control and shoot full HD video, while Nikon D700 stucks at 12 mp, and does not have video recording feature. However, D700 has Nikon proven 51 AF system, fast continuous burst 5-8 fps (vs 3.9 fps) and better noise control in high ISO setting. As a result, many photojournalists favor D700, and many studio shooters favors Canon 5D mark II.

High end professional DSLR camera section is divided into two types. The first type focus on speed and the other focus on image resolution. The first type consist of Canon 1d series which compete with Nikon D3/D3s. Canon 1d use 1.3 crop sensor, which is smaller than full format, but it provide a bit of extra reach. The Nikon cameras has bigger sensor, so it handles noise in high ISO better. These cameras has a very fast continuous shooting mode (9-11 fps), and integrated battery grip. Newer models have video recording features. The second type focuses on image resolution. This type of camera is very expensive but give the best image quality in DSLR full frame format. These cameras are ideal for studio works.


Canon beginner DSLR cameras are packed with more features than Nikon. They are fully compatible with all Canon EOS lenses and live view. However, Nikon beginner cameras has better ergonomic. In advanced DSLR camera section, Canon strategy is boosting image resolution while Nikon stays conservative and improve noise handling in high ISO setting. Nikon D300/D300s have the advantage of 51 AF points system and great ergonomic and handling. However, Canon latest 7D has been improved in many aspects including revamped AF system and video recoding features. In professional camera DSLRs, Canon cameras are great for studio works, where speed is not crucial, and Nikon cameras are great for photojournalism/candid assignments because of the speed, proven AF system and superb noise handling in high ISO setting.

For more comparison and discussions, visit our Digital SLR cameras archive.

Related Post:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frederick January 10, 2010 at 2:58 am

I totally agree on you with that of how the cameras are used. Nikon is wonderfull for great outdoors – which usually where a photographer is?!

Dave January 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Frederick, is that why the Canon 5D is classed as the best Landscape fullframe 35mm camera out there?

joe October 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

what it the best DSLR camera (Nikon or Canon) for razor sharpe flower photos?

I have the best lens canon makes (L-series) but still can not obtain photos anywhere as shape as I did with my Canon 35mm camera.
I’m tired of getting poor quality (compared to film) flower photos with my canon.
I’m looking for a $1500 to $3000 price range.

Enche Tjin October 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I guess you need to get full frame DSLR cameras, such as Canon 5D mark II

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post: Thanksgiving photography deals and sales

Next post: Canon 1d mark IV field review by Jeff Ascough