Canon vs. Nikon: Which is Better for Landscape Photography

by | Feb 24, 2016 | Photography

Canon vs Nikon : Which is the best camera for landscape photography?

February 24, 2016

This is a question I get all the time, or some derivative of it. Before I dive into the answer, it’s important to note that there are many other reputable brands of cameras out there besides just Nikon and Canon. We can easily be having this same conversation between Phase One and Hasselblad, or Olympus and Sony, or Pentax and Leica, etc.  You get the picture, but for the sake of this argument we’ll focus on Canon and Nikon since they are by far the most popular choices for landscape photography professionals.

Furthermore, I want to note that all opinions based herein are my own, and they are just that: opinions. Only you can decide which camera to purchase for photographing your perfect landscapes.  But here are my thoughts on the subject and the cameras I use…

When I started to shooting photography professionally, I initially bought a Nikon camera and lenses. This was way back in the day and to be honest, I can’t truly remember what drove me to Nikon at the time over brands like Minolta, Olympus, Canon, etc. These were the days of film, and I was shooting freelance for distribution houses like Winn Devon and Canadian Art Prints. Anyway, that’s where I started. With Nikon.

As the quality of digital cameras got better and better, I jumped ship from Nikon and purchased a Canon 10D. At the time, this was an incredible little camera that could shoot excellent images at 6 megapixels! The reason I moved to Canon at this time was because of the weatherproofing of their gear.  Living and working on the beach in Hawaii, the sand and salt in the air are extremely devastating to the camera. And saltwater… forget it. At the time I felt Canon had better weatherproofing of their gear than Nikon did, which led to the switch.

With the introduction of the full-frame digital SLR cameras, Canon had me with the 5D and later the 5D Mark ii. These cameras were beyond fantastic: rugged, durable, sharp images, great optics, etc. Nikon had some nice cameras as well at the time, but nothing that prompted me to switch.

Then I got to the point where I was in the market for a new camera and a new shooting environment was on the horizon.  For the previous 10+ years I shot mainly in the tropics. But as 2014 was rolling in, I was beginning to plan a trip to the arctic to shoot the aurora borealis. This would take a new approach to shooting photography for me, nightscapes and astrophotography were not realms that I was overly familiar with. Nor was shooting in cold environments. So I decided I needed to do a bit more research, phone some friends and prepare with the right gear.

Nikon D810

The Nikon D810. Possibly the best camera Nikon has ever made.

At that time, it was easy to narrow the field down to two cameras, the Canon 5D mark iii and the Nikon D800E.  The Canon was a great camera, a big upgrade from the Mark ii.  It was better in low light, slightly more megapixels and a little better in weatherproofing.  The Nikon appeared to be better in low light even than the Canon, had significantly higher megapixels (this is important when you’re pushing the limits on printing huge images) and it had removed the anti-aliasing filter for even sharper images.

At this point, it was clear to me to switch back over to Nikon. Switching between brands is a huge process, especially when you have quivers of lenses and gear that work only with one particular brand.  Since making that switch a couple years ago, I’ve been very happy with the Nikon.  Most of the lenses are about the same quality as the Canon equivalents as far as I can tell, except for the wide angles.  With Canon they had a 16-35mm lens that was my go-to. It was a nice lens, but I never felt it was a great lens. The Nikon equivalent is a 14-24mm f2.8 which is far and away better. Considering this is the lens on my camera 90% of the time, this is a big deal.

Canon has a better level of service as far as I can tell, more people in their technical support centers and better professional services for the most part (Canon CPS).  Then again, I haven’t really had to use the Nikon support centers hardly at all. So maybe the build quality of the Nikon is better? Or maybe I got lucky with the gear I have.

Canon 5DSR

This is the goliath 50 megapixel camera from Canon.

Recently, Canon has released a slew of new cameras, including a 50 megapixel camera that dwarfs Nikon’s 36 megapixel counterpart. It also has released new wide angle lenses that have seen some very good reviews as well. There is even talk Canon is working on a 120 megapixel camera.  That’s an incredible number and probably too much for a full frame sensor to handle or for the current lenses of either manufacturer to handle for that matter, but that’s a topic for another article.

Canon has a bigger lens lineup than Nikon or anyone else for that matter, but in my opinion there are only a handful of MUST HAVE lenses that every landscape photographer needs, and both companies offer variations of each of these (this too is a topic for another article).

So, who makes the best camera for landscape photography, Canon or Nikon? Well, sorry to disappoint, but I think with the level of cameras where they are right now, there isn’t a true winner or loser.  Canon has some very impressive new gear that they have recently rolled out.  Nikon has some incredible gear that has been out.  Canon seems to be a company that pushes the boundaries of what’s next with regards to DSLR photography, while Nikon seems to take their time and make sure their products are a bit more refined when they go to market.  Either way, both companies have exceptional products.

If I had to start over today, I might be swayed to jump to the Canon 50 megapixel goliath as I regularly print images 60″ wide or wider and those megapixels do make a difference. I would most certainly keep my 14-24mm Nikon lens on it though. Then again, I’ve had no reason to leave the Nikon brand just yet. What it boils down to is you must choose for yourself, both companies offer excellent products. Get the one that feels right to you. And don’t discount other great brands like Lumix, Sony, Olympus, etc. But beware, whichever brand you think has the edge today will surely be two steps behind tomorrow… 😉

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