new york street photographer
Photo taken on the streets of New York City

Hi everyone

I thought I would do something a bit different today and open up my decision making process that I have gone through over the last month on if I was going to stay with my current Canon gear, or make a switch to Nikon. I know this post for some of you might be a bit too camera nerdy and tech related, but it is also a great post for all of the photographers that follow my blog and work across the country. I am allowed to have a few camera nerd posts once in a while and this is definitely one of them. There are a lot of fun photos to check out in between if you just want to look at those and skip the boring parts. The image above for instance was photographed in the streets of New York City while I was working on some street photography skills. It’s one of my favorites from the day. There is just something about the lady in the photo that makes me wonder what she is thinking.

I encourage you to leave comments if you want as you can with any of my posts!

I wanted to start this post and review by first saying that I have been with Canon for my entire professional career. I do not want to say in any way really by this review that the Canon doesn’t do a pretty good job. But there just comes a time where you have to evaluate and see what is on the other side of the fence.

In the photography world there has always been this “Canon vs Nikon” fight almost like the crips and the bloods and you were either on one side or the other. Once you “married” one of them, you tend to stay there for life. But at the end of the day, to me it is about the image and image quality. That is what I judged my review on more then any other feature. Will this camera perform how I tell it to, accurately, and consistently.

I am a big believer that the most important piece of gear you own is the piece that is between your ears. A camera is just a tool. That being said I do expect my tool to work each and every time I call on it.


What I was finding that I was night happy with in regard to Canon was a few things. Most importantly was consistency of sharp images and sharp, quick focusing in low light situations. I was finding that canon would often have a more “soft” look to it and was failing me a few times when it would come to finding focus quickly.

I also felt that Canon’s newer cameras are focusing more on features for video users instead of still photographers. That is a concern to me since I am of course a stills photographer.

The nail in the coffin for me that pushed me towards a test of new gear was when I purchased the 5dmk3. This camera was meant to be Canon’s answer for many of it’s problems of the past. I found that it actually took a step backwards in several ways from the 5dmk2. With equipment prices increased and what they were claiming it could do, I was let down. Further testing with the flag ship 1dx camera, resulted in similar results. Really disappointing.

Canon’s two shining stars by far is it’s video features, and also the new 600ex-rt flash system. The flash system is a giant step forward and something Nikon will surely need to compete with in it’s next model.

I will state it now for the record. This is NOT a scientific test, and you are looking for a pixel peeping style test, this is not for you. There are plenty of those out there. I am reviewing the camera based on the needs of a working photographer and that is how I tested it.

I rented for a 7 day test:
– Nikon D600
– Nikon 24-70 2.8 g
– Nikon 70-200 VR2 2.8 g
– Nikon 50mm 1.4g

The reason for the choice of the D600 was for it’s lighter weight and smaller file sizes that could prove useful for all day wedding photography. I also felt with saving some on rental costs, it would still give me a good idea of what a Nikon system can do. If this camera made me happy, the theory would be that their higher level cameras would make me even more so.


Here are a couple of test images and I will try to give a couple of examples in the comments of the images as to their settings and what they are about. Some images will also be marked right on the images. So check ’em out!

Journal Square nj
Journal Square, NJ
The Highline New York City
Photo in Chelsea on the Highline in New York City
A neat look at an over pass you can sit and watch the traffic go by in Chelsea

Times square
Times Square New York City
This is near Madison Square Garden
time square at night
Times square at night ISO 6400
ISO 6400
I am wondering who this is? He was making a commercial. If you know who it is, leave it in the comments!
ISO 6400
ISO 8500 I believe it was. H1 settings. Pretty darn impressive. A little grit in it but I like it in black and white
Test shoot done right in home as a challenge.
Photographed against a sliding glass door
olde city philadelphia model
Model test shoot in Olde Town Philadelphia, PA
Model test shoot in Olde Town Philadelphia, PA
Model test shoot in Olde Town Philadelphia, PA
Model test shoot in Olde Town Philadelphia, PA

From the start I was pretty impressed. The camera had fast focus response both indoor and outdoor in pretty much every lighting condition that I put it through. The assist beam is a definite plus and is something that Canon never added to their cameras.

The feel in my hands was definitely much different then canon. I found the D600 to be lacking a bit in this area with it’s grip size and comfort. But, then again this is a slimmed down camera on purpose.

If you don’t know it by now, everything on the Nikon is backwards to the Canon. The zoom ring rotates the opposite way, the lens itself is put on the opposite direction. It is something to definitely get use to.

I also found Nikon’s lenses to be designed very differently then their Canon counterparts. They are much thinner making them at times longer, which distributes the weight a bit differently.

Here is where the Canon again wins some points over the Nikon. Button placement on the D600 at times makes you scratch your head and say “what on earth were they thinking”. Canon has most of it’s controls you need for shooting on the right side of the camera on top near the LCD display. Nikon has many of their’s moved to the left side panel as well as the front of the camera. This means more two handed operations for buttons with Canon you would only need 1 hand. That is a big difference when trying to make changes while shooting.

E. DIFFERENCES – Pluses / Minuses
Canon Pluses:
– Better video performance over the D600
– Slightly warmer tones in your images, with a bit more contrast
– The feel of the camera is much better then the D600 but only slightly better then the D800
– The 600ex-rt flashes are a lot of fun with their built in radio triggers
– CPS – Canon Professional Services is pretty good, I have not of course tested Nikon on this yet.

Canon Minuses:
– “Soft Images” out of camera
– In mid to low light they still have problems finding focus on their own
– No assist beam on the camera to help with focus
– New cameras and lenses upgrades have taken a huge price jump
– “soft images” yes it is that important
– Lack of a good 24-70 lens range (note, I have heard great things about the 24-70L mk2, however the cost is insane)
– Innovation. Their focus seems to be on new video features instead of new photo features.

Nikon Pluses:
– Much sharper images straight out of camera
– Image quality out of camera is great.
– Better ISO high noise performance (at least through my tests)
– Seems much better at finding focus quickly in low light
– Assist beam is brilliant!
– 36mp option in the D800 allows me to use this for both wedding and commercial work.
– Lower costs
– Seems to be focused on photography innovations over video features.
– Being able to change the tone and volume of the focus confirmation chirp is nice
– The feel of the shutter of the Nikon is very nice. There is no better way to describe that without having it in your hands.
– It’s new and shiny and it’s always nice to have something new and shiny once in a while.

Nikon Minuses
– Button placement. Although much better in the D800 it will still take some getting use to, or maybe reprogramming of a few buttons
– The 36mp of the D800 will cause for need of higher Compact Flash card size and hard drive space (but acceptable to me).
– The D600 will not allow for aperture adjustment during video modes
– Kingston CF memory cards will not work in the D800 for some reason. Meaning I have to purchase all new cards.


nikon d800
Nikon D800, 70-200 vr 2, 24-70, 50 1.4g, SB-910

I decided at the end of the day that switching to a new system was the way to go for me. Although the D600 will get the job done, I decided to go with 2 D800’s. I like both my main and secondary cameras to match whenever possible. The button placement and comfort of the D800, as well as the better sealed body and 36mp sensor was enough to push me over the top to go with the D800’s versus the D600’s. It was a little bit more of an investment, but I think it will be worth it.

Now some will say, the D800 is not for weddings. They basically say that due to file size. To me, file size is not that much of an issue. Compact Flash cards and storage memory these days is not that much and they are constantly coming down in price. Image quality is what matters most to me over anything else.

I do expect the camera to have a little bit more noise at high ISO’s, but at the same time I have a hard time coming up with a scenario where I will often need to photograph above ISO 6400.

So in the end what all did I go with? Here is the list:
2 – Nikon D800’s
2 – Nikon Sb-910 flashes
Nikon 70-200 2.8g VR 2
Nikon 24-70 2.8g
Nikon 50mm 1.4g
Nikon 14-24 (will be purchased in the next 2 months)
A mix of San Disk and Lexar Compact Flash and SD cards

Couple more images.

These are a few images that I did with the D800 since purchase. I thought I would show a few from this session since the test images were all shot with the D600. Keep coming back for more photos and examples from the new cameras!

nikon d800 test image
D800 image with 50mm 1.4g at f/2
D800 image with 50mm 1.4g at f/2
D800 image with 50mm 1.4g at f/2


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Great review and comparison. I am debating over a pair of D600(s) or D800(s). The D600 menu is very different compared to the D700 or similar Nikon bodies.

Comments are closed.

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