Why I Chose a Canon Camera

Why I Chose a Canon Camera

I recently had the opportunity to completely replace my camera system. I chose the Canon EOS R and Canon lenses/flashes. If you had asked me a couple of days ago, Canon would have been my last option. This article is about what changed my mind.

I’m a long-time user of Canon, going back almost 15 years. When I got first 5D, Nikon didn’t even have a full frame option, and they were still using CCD sensors that performed horribly. Sony was not even in the equation.

Recently though, it’s becoming increasingly frustrating staying with Canon. The other brands all seem to innovate, releasing features like in-body stabilization and full sensor width 4K. In comparison, Canon seem to be doing just enough to stay in the game.

Bloggers, vloggers and everyone else with a platform have only added to my disappointment with Canon. New models by Nikon, Sony and Panasonic are widely praised while Canon models are largely shot down. I became desperate to move to another system.

Then the unbelievable happened. A client offered to buy me a new system. Finally, I had a way out. I could be using one of the new models that the internet raves on about. Would it be Nikon or Sony or the newcomer from Panasonic? After a ton of research and introspection, somehow, Canon re-entered the equation and by the time I made up my mind, the Canon EOS R had moved to my first choice.

Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R, a camera that I had written off that is now my first choice.

The Problem With Reviews

Most of us enjoy watching or reading reviews about the latest camera gear. I find them to be very useful for understanding the capabilities of new equipment. The problem with reviews is that they aim to reach a broad audience. This means that they’ll evaluate every feature of a camera. In practice, though, very few people have a use for every feature in a camera. For example, the Canon EOS R and the Nikon Z7 got a lot of flak for only having one card slot. I know this is a dealbreaker for some photographers, but most photographers I speak to have never used a dual card system. Similarly, the video performance is often the differentiator between cameras. This is completely irrelevant to someone who doesn’t shoot video.

Still Shoot

90 percent of my work is still images. For my video work, I've never had a client request 4K output.

Beyond the Specs

On paper, the Nikon, Sony and Panasonic equivalents are all better cameras than the EOS R. In fact, on paper, the other cameras are not even equivalents, they’re a level up.

In sports, you compare the teams on paper to determine a favorite. The commentators often say, “Team A is the clear favorite, but the game isn’t won on paper.” I found this to be true of cameras. There are unmeasurable factors that also influence which is the best camera for you.

Why Canon Is Best for Me

Over the next few years, I will be moving from being a hybrid of a travel photographer and an architectural photographer towards concentrating on just architecture. Most of my work will be still images with some video at a 1080 output.  I will be covering very large buildings with limited space. All my work will be on a tripod. Considering what my shoots will look like, I do not require the following:

  • 4K video
  • 5-axis stabilization
  • Extreme ISO performance

I will benefit from the following:

  • An excellent, fully articulating LCD screen for tight spaces
  • WiFi link to compose with an iPad
  • A balance between resolution and efficiency of image processing
  • 15 years of muscle memory using Canon cameras
  • A native 17mm tilt shift lens
  • Thousands of hours of retouch in Lightroom with Canon color profiles.

Canon 17mm TSE

London, my home city, is full of large buildings with tight spaces to shoot them from. Many of my images could have only been taken with the Canon 17mm tilt shift.

If it is not clear why the EOS R is the best option for me, let me expand on a point. When I photograph a building, I’ll shoot around 200 images. Many of these need to be merged into either a panoramic image (using a tilt-shift lens) or an HDR image. Doing this process on my Canon 5DS 50-megapixel files takes a long time and is very resource intensive. In addition, the 50-megapixel resolution is usually overkill. I’ve recently taken to using my Canon 1DX Mark II for most of my shoots, and it only has a resolution of 20 megapixels. The 30-megapixel resolution of the EOS R feels like the right amount for what I do in terms of resolution and ease of use.  

I spent a year with the Sony A7R II. Everything that was said about the image quality proved to be true: incredible dynamic range, low light performance, and noise handling. However, it took a lot more time in Lightroom to get the best out of a file than it takes for a Canon file. This could be because I’m used to working with Canon files, or it could be because Canon files look more “natural” by default. Either way, I get through photos from Canon cameras in less time.

Considering I will be using this camera every day, I want the workflow to be painless and efficient. This is worth more to me than extra resolution or dynamic range.

Why Not the Other Brands

The Panasonic S1R looks incredible, but currently, it lacks the specialist lenses needed for architecture.

The Sony A7R III was my early favorite. It seemed to be the complete package, performing well in every aspect. Like Panasonic, it doesn’t have specialist architectural lens options, but Canon lenses can be adapted to it. What put me off Sony is that the adapters are not supported by either Canon or Sony. When I used a Sony A7R II for a year, the performance of two of my Canon lenses took a big dive while the rest seemed unaffected. This inconsistency poses too much of a risk for professional use.

Nikon Z 7

The Nikon Z 7 was the closest contender. If I had been a Nikon user previously, it would have probably been my first choice.

My choice finally came down to Canon EOS R or Nikon Z 7. I have the opinion that the Nikon D850 is the best DSLR ever made and with the Nikon Z 7 sharing a similar chip, it was a compelling option. Nikon also has native, architectural lenses. When I compared all the factors that were important to me, the cameras were like for like. It was the familiarity with the Canon system, my existing Canon lens collection, and my time spent retouching Canon files that became the differentiator.

Apple Versus Android

The best Android phones are all better on paper than Apple phones. I have a few friends who are software developers and they love the flexibility and power of Android phones. However, when it comes to usability, for the average user, Apple wins. This makes Apple the better phone.

It is for a similar reason that the EOS R is the best camera for me. The best camera is the one that best serves my needs and makes my job easier. Despite my initial reluctance, after making these considerations, I feel surprisingly at ease with my decision for the Canon. The reason I chose the Canon EOS R and the Canon system was not because it was the best system. I chose it because it was the best system for me.

After reading through my thought process, do you think I’m going to regret my decision? If so, why?

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191 Comments

revo nevo's picture

This is the time when you have to make excuses for using canon camera...

Martin Kirikal's picture

Exactly my idea :D

Jonathan Reid's picture

Well no, because I could have chosen anything.

Having a reason for having made a choice is not equivalent to having an excuse for having made that choice. As it turns out, the author claimed and defended the claim that he picked the best camera given his needs and capacities. That's not an excuse for having picked the EOS R. It's a claim that the best Sony camera was the inferior product given this customer's needs.

Exactly my thoughts too. I have gone mirrorless long time ago for one. Canon and Nikon were both dragging their feet for the longest time, resisting the trend and stubbornly stuck in the DSLR camp. Now they finally had their wake up call and trying to play 'catch up'. Unfortunate for them, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, Sony and the likes has a 10+ year lead over the wannabies.

As for the author's needs, they are subjective and biased as is the case for every one why they will choose one camera / lens versus another. One example, 4K is a non-consideration for him. These days with 4K being the defacto standard snd 8K on the horizon, I will not consider a camera that does not have 4K video support, period. I also shoot mostly stills but when I do shoot video clips I want it in 4K and preferably 60p but 30p is acceptable. This is just one example. There are other considerations too, but I won't belabor the matter.

Jonathan Reid's picture

The point of this article was that the “best camera” is the one that best suits your needs - of course these are going to be subjective and different for every photographer.

Robert Tran's picture

I interpreted from Jerry's response that while 4K is not a need today, it is increasingly becoming the norm in many fields. As a result, not having it may impact you in future if you decide to move (back) into other genres or if 4K becomes mainstream in architecture. I have absolutely no knowledge of the architectural photography space though, so if this is not a reality in the next 6-7 years, then you were right to eliminate this feature from consideration.

Based on the responses to these sort of articles, it seems that many photographers are well aware of their own shooting needs and select their gear accordingly. The Fs community is obviously savvy and frankly, I don't know that most of the members are your primary audience for this piece. Not that there's anything wrong with your underlying points, I just consider it to be more of a public service announcement for camera buying, which is getting to be a saturated topic in and of itself.

In your defense though, I don't feel that this is an ad or justification for buying Canon per se. It's a positive message and if it helps even one person from following hype, and focusing on needs, then its served its purpose. As background, I shot Canon as an enthusiast for many years before switching to Sony. For my needs, the newer features as well as the way I felt it set me up for developments over the next 6-7 years is what converted me.

What a rude comment to the author of this article. He's simply trying to explain the reasons that work for him; he is very clear about that.

I am sorry for the author that he has to be subjected to some of these mean spirited comments when he is only sharing his experience. It seems that for some, if the author didn't make the same choice as they did, that they then feel a need to insult or ridicule the author and his own opinions. That is very sad.

How about an article about 'Why I chose a Pentax camera' would be a more enticing article to read.

Tom Stoncel's picture

This feels like an advertorial for Canon

Jonathan Reid's picture

In this case, the Canon was best for me, but for another photographer, it would be something else. The point of the article is that there is no such thing as an outright best.

Great that you chose Canon, but honestly, how is this an interesting article?! There's millions of photographers out there making choices of which camera system to buy. Do I want to hear about their choices and reason? I don't think so.

Jonathan Reid's picture

The point of this article was to highlight my surprise at choosing Canon and the realisation that each photographer is going to have a different camera that is best suited to their needs. I wanted to highlight the importance of considering your own needs when choosing a new camera and not the generic needs that vloggers cover. I hope that message came across. It is most certainly not a defence of Canon or a brand loyalty post.

Very smart article, Jonathan. And yes you bring up some very real world issues. Like the idea that specs don't tell the whole story. And that a reviewer's point of view may not align with the way real world users operate. And the idea that experience using a particular brand of camera counts too.

Roger Cicala of Lens Rentals noted that for some, they do not want you to be happy unless you choose the same gear they did. I think you are seeing that phenomenon with some of these comments.

Ariel Martini's picture

After you shoot Nikon/Sony/Fuji/Pentax and get used to recovering shadows or dark pictures with almost no quality loss, you can never go back to Canon. The only way to not experience this is if you shoot only with tripod and bracketed shots. This picture show how bad Canon recovery/iso invariance is:

Jonathan Reid's picture

I see what you’re saying and was aware of this, but 6 stops under exposure not going to be a regular problem, even in the shadows. Again though, this applies to me and my situation. I get that this is a major consideration for other photographers

"The only way to not experience this is if you shoot only with tripod and bracketed shots." - eg, exactly what the author is likely to be doing given the nature of his work.

Pedro Pulido's picture

i don't decide my next camera based on an image that is 6 stops underexposed.... why on earth would i do the mistake of under or over exposing as much as 6 times what i should have?

blabla, the purpose is to show dynamic range... seriously, technology has gotten so good on all brands, i don't think these technical things should matter when you're deciding on your next camera.

I've shot Canon for years and changed to fuji. Once i got to the fuji system, i quickly changed all the settings to what i had gotten used to in my 5D.

I haven't shot canon in 3 years now, but i'm pretty sure i'd still feel at home with it.
What i'm trying to say is - i understand the point of view of this guy and probably so do a lot of people that used canon for a long time. it makes sense.

fyi, fuji is better than canon (for me at least)

Michael Jin's picture

Depends entirely on what you're shooting. If you're regularly shooting in high DR situations, then having your shadows 6 stops underexposed doesn't necessarily mean that you exposed the image improperly. Saving your highlights in high DR situations will often force you to have shadows that are 6+ stops below.

I agree that every manufacturer is making good cameras today, but it's important to be realistic about the capabilities of your camera and take them into account when you're shooting. For Canon shooters, that will often mean turning to HDR, exposure blending, or a ND grad filter before some other shooters in such situations.

Pedro Pulido's picture

what is the percentage of photographers that need DR of 6 stops? i mean, seriously... come on now. that is ridiculous! even if you're shooting bracketed images, you'll most likely go 2 stops down, 2 stops up.
6 stops is insane.

Michael Jin's picture

Depends entirely on what kind of scenes you're shooting and whether you care about preserving detail in the highlights and shadows. Not useful to everyone, but not useless either.

Pedro Pulido's picture

a 6 stop underexposure goes beyond the need of recovering highlights or shadows. maybe once out of 1000 times you'll need that much under or over exposure to recover information. 99.9% of the time, 3 stops is more than enough!

Michael Jin's picture

6 stops doesn't mean you have to use all 6 stops. Pushing 3 stops with 6 stops of latitude available will have better results than if you pushed 3 stops with only 3 stops available where you are pushing your sensor to its technical limit.

That having been said, I've been in situations where I didn't have a fill flash (or using a flash would have been inappropriate) and it was good to be able to pull a shade of detail out of what might otherwise be pitch black. Obviously, it's best to try to get everything right in camera, but not all situations allow for this.

Pedro Pulido's picture

congratulations Michael. You represent the 0.001% of the number of photographers that need to shoot 6 stops over or under.... the market should focus on you if they want to move forward.

Any new camera with DR under 18 stops won't do it......

Michael Jin's picture

No. The market should focus on constantly improving products in all aspects of performance. I vividly remember a time when people used to say that 6 MP was all you really needed. Then it was 12 MP is all you needed. Truth be told, they were right. Do you NEED more than 6 MP to take a good photo? Of course not, but aren't you glad that camera manufacturers decided to continue to develop their sensors regardless?

Resolution, color fidelity, dynamic range, etc. Companies should be striving to improve everything all the time as improving technology allows. Does having more dynamic range hurt you? No? Then shut up and enjoy the improved capability.

Pedro Pulido's picture

technology doesn't make you a better photographer.

Photographers won't start shooting 9 stops underexposed because their new model has 25 stops DR. If you think that's where photography is heading you're deluded.

i don't have the need for further development of cameras to get better shots, and definitely, don't need to shoot anything that requires a 6 stop exposure development...
That said, of course, the market will continue to develop. duh... happens in everything technology related. and we all gain from that. there's no argument there.

Michael Jin's picture

"technology doesn't make you a better photographer."
Nobody said it does so this is a complete non-sequitur.

"i don't have the need for further development of cameras to get better shots, and definitely, don't need to shoot anything that requires a 6 stop exposure development..."
Good for you. I bet you like the ability to whether you actually need it or not.

"That said, of course, the market will continue to develop. duh... happens in everything technology related. and we all gain from that. there's no argument there."
You basically equated the natural progress of increasing dynamic range capabilities to the market focusing on the "0.001% of the number of photographers that need to shoot 6 stops over or under". Now you're saying that you agree that it's all just the natural course of technological development. So which is it? Are camera companies unreasonably focused on edge cases or are they just trying to make better all around equipment and people shooting in more extreme situations simply happen to benefit from these increased capabilities? If the former, you might have an argument. If the latter, then I have no idea why you are complaining about the high DR of new cameras.

Actually, I have no idea why you're complaining about it either way since nobody's holding a gun to your head and telling you to underexpose by six stops. Just live your merry life and stop telling the rest of us how we ought to be exposing our scenes or manipulating our images.

Pedro Pulido's picture

ah, you're one of those. i'll let you win buddy. you're absolutely right!! cheers!

A good photographer is not limited by their equipment. Do you seriously believe that the better equipment you have, the better your photograph can be?

You’re kidding if you think camera companies are doing this to improve the ability of photographs. They’re doing this so gearheads can funnel their hard earned into their money pits. Sony we’re improving their cameras bi annually because suckers lapped this up.

Marketing & Pixel peepers. It’s a win - win.

Eric Crudup's picture

No one boosts by 6 stops. This is idiotic. Somehow magically, by some fluke, Canon users are capturing WORLD CLASS images. When you see an amazing image not only is it impossible to tell if it was done on a specific camera, but most are actually shot on Canon because it is by far the most popular brand.

Most of the people on the internet crowing about specs barely even take actual pictures. They spend more time on the internet reading about photography than actually doing it. Meanwhile pros are out there getting great shots on 6 year old cameras because they know how to run a business and they know how to take great pictures.

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