Asking Canon or Nikon in a room full of photographers can often yield the same type of results as tossing a bucket of chum in to shark infested waters. Many people will often cling to their brand of choice without thought of switching ever crossing their mind. Others may think about or want to switch, but are too heavily invested in terms of gear. After years of shooting, it’s not uncommon to acquire a large arsenal of brand specific lenses that one could possibly take quite the financial hit while trying to make the move.
My first two cameras were both Canon brand, a Canon XTI and later a Canon 7D. To be honest, until the point right before I moved on from each, I was very happy with them. The XTI served as a nice entry level camera and the 7D provided a nice range of upgraded features. Once my trek in to night photography became a bit more serious, I began to look at cameras with full frame sensors. When I first started my research, new cameras from both Canon and Nikon were on the way. As much as I was itching to make the upgrade, I figured it would be best to wait for their arrival and try to make the decision from there.
While researching my difficult decision, I found myself in a very fortunate situation. As I said earlier, many people who have been with one brand for a longer period of time tend to acquire lenses that will outlast the camera body they’re using. For myself, I generally only shoot at very wide angles and have not invested in more expensive telephoto lenses. If the situation arises, I have the easily accessible option renting a lens for a short period of time. The primary lens I was using for my night sky work at the time was a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. I was very happy with the lens itself, but it wasn’t compatible with a full frame sensor. Aside from the kit lens that came with my 7D (Canon 28-135 f/3.5-4.5) my only other lens was a Canon 17-40 f/4L. Again, I was very happy with the lens, but after I made the switch to a full frame sensor, I would need something faster to continue shooting the stars. This situation definitely made my life a bit easier when looking at my options. No matter what I was going to have to purchase a new lens along with my new camera body of choice.
On a trip to Maine this past summer, I rented a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II from BorrowLenses.com. I had my 7D with me, but after using the Mark III, I instantly lost interest in looking at any image captured on my 7D. The quality just blew it away. Needless to say I was very impressed with the results and at this point I was leaning heavily towards extending my Canon stay. Still, I wasn’t completely sold as I couldn’t get over the numbers I was seeing from the sensor reviews on the Nikon D800.
After voicing my dilemma to good friend, fellow photographer, and current D800 owner, Ray Yeager, he kindly offered his D800 for a night, so I could see for myself. It took a few nights for the sky to cooperate, but the forecast finally fell into place and I was ready to head out. It was my first time using a Nikon product and to be honest, I probably should’ve taken a better look at the camera before I headed out and tried to use it in the dark. Still, I managed to fumble my way through and eventually find all of the buttons/menus that at the time I was convinced were placed opposite of Canon buttons on purpose. I shot off a few frames at a couple of different locations and headed back to review.
Upon reviewing the images, I was incredibly impressed by the detail and the clarity of the raw files. There was a sense of depth to them that I hadn’t seen before. Although I knew that with the 36 megapixel files of the D800, the required storage space would be an issue down the line, the ability to blow up images to massive sizes was a huge plus. It was shortly after this point that my mind had been made up.
I kept my final decision to myself until the day my camera arrived. I had previously posted and spoken with a number of friends about the upgrade I would soon be making and was met with calls from both sides. Ultimately, I informed my friends that I was feeling a bit darker with an attached photo of a Nikon D800E and a Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8.
Stay tuned for a follow-up on how my first few months as a Nikon shooter have gone so far!