Canon, Nikon Top User Surveys

Nikon D7000
The Nikon D7000 gets very high marks in user satisfaction

The big names in the photography business are there for a reason and that reason is because they have consistently produced some of the best cameras in the history of photography. All the same, the question I get a surprising number of times is, “What is the best camera on the market?” That’s not a question anyone can answer. Best in what terms? Best for studio work? Best in a combat zone? Best family camera? Best value for the money? Best for a professional? Best for a beginner? There are different answers for all of those questions and sometimes a different answer between one person and the next.

A quick look around at 10 camera web sites will yield 10 different rankings with a bit of overlap. With so much variation in the rankings, how do you figure out which camera is right for you?

A survey by PC World does present some broad conclusions. An aggregate of other rankings, including here at  Snapsort, does outline some interesting trends.

Canon and Nikon Are The Big Kids On The Block

The data taken together supports the perhaps obvious conclusion that Canon and Nikon are the big two, though the reasons for their popularity are quite different and challengers are evolving. Canon cameras are rated as being more reliable, with Nikon coming in 5th in the reliability survey, behind Canon, GE, Panasonic and Casio. Seriously, if you’re losing to Casio in reliability, maybe you need take a hard look at your QA/QC methodology.

Nikon ranks number one when it comes to owner satisfaction with their camera features, just edging out Canon for the number one spot. Yet Casio and Panasonic both score high marks and end up in the top five in both categories.

With their domination of the video market, it’s likely Canon will stay on top. Nikon was slow to react to the DSLR video trend and Canon carved out a nearly exclusive domain in the video space. Nikon has since improved their support for features like 24p, but with so many wedded to Canon glass and shaping their work flow around Canon, making headway into the video market is going to be slow going for any of the challengers. If Nikon has an edge to elbow into the video market it’s their lenses.

One thing to keep in mind is that one of the reasons it may be so hard to pick a “best” camera is that there are so many good contenders out there these days.  If you have the talent, you can take almost any camera and take fantastic photos.  Truly it’s little things that will make the biggest difference.

As you can see there are no easy answers when it comes to choosing a camera. Take your time, compare a lot of models, ask a lot of questions, and focus on the features most important to you.

Be Careful Who You Buy From

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It's one thing to buy some flash units or lights from overseas, but don't risk it for cameras and lenses

As the world gets smaller and shipping gets easier, a new phenomenon is appearing in the camera market: Web sites that appear to be stores located in the U.S., U.K., or Canada that are actually storefronts for operations in other countries. For many of the cameras and camera electronics, the vendors are located in Hong Kong.

First off, there’s nothing at all wrong with shopping for camera gear outside the country, provided you know that’s where you’re shopping and are prepared to take the risk. I routinely shop at DealExtreme, one of those sites that ships from Hong Kong, because the discounts are pretty good and shipping is free. I know whatever I’m going to buy from them is going to take between 2 and 3 weeks to arrive and I’m okay with that.

I buy a lot of my flash units and strobes from Hong Kong vendors and quite a few of my video lights came from overseas, but buy a high end camera or expensive lens through them? No way!

The biggest issue for me is making sure I have a valid warranty here in the U.S. When you buy from vendors in Hong Kong, you may be getting grey market products, refurbished units, or products with menus in another language. What you won’t be getting in any case is a valid factory warranty where you live.

I probably see two or three sob stories every week from people who purchased products from an overseas vendor only to realize they would have to send the product back to China if they need warranty service. Most of those people were just trying to save a buck or two on their camera purchase.

Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more to be sure of who you’re dealing with and that you’re getting a top shelf product. When it comes to camera and video gear, I only shop three places:

B&H Photo Video

I’ve never had a problem with a return or exchange at B&H Photo, ever. You could buy a turkey from B&H, bring them a bag of bones the day after Thanksgiving and they’d still probably give your money back if you weren’t happy.

Shopping through Amazon you’re sometimes paying a higher price than direct through the vendor, but that means the vendor has to adhere to Amazon’s return policies. That’s a big friend to have on your side and the convenience of one-stop shopping is a time saver.

Snapsort only sells products through reputable sources, so you can shop with ease.

Sometimes it’s just not worth the price difference to shop with vendors you haven’t worked with before. There’s a reason companies like B&H have been around for years and have an excellent reputation in the professional community.  If you want to save a few bucks on a site that doesn’t have that reputation, you’re taking your chances.


Fujifilm’s Hot New Retro Styled X-Pro1

Fujifilms hot new X-Pro1 features a new image sensor combined with sexy retro styling

Fujifilms retro-style XPro-1 with interchangeable lenses looks to be one camera that’s going to live up to the hype which has been swirling since 2010. In a stylistic coup, Fujifilm managed to beat Leica at their own rangefinder game.

Inside the XPro-1 starts with a 16-megapixel APS-CX-Trans CMOS sensor, a brand new sensor type Fujifilm claims will offer better resolution than a Canon 5D MK II. While that remains to be seen, what it does do is eliminate the old Bayer pattern of color filters over the pixel layer and replaces them by 6×6 arrays of RGB filters in a quasi-random pattern that is supposed to mimic film grain. The non-regular pattern eliminates moire and the need for a low pass filter to manage it.

Coupled to the new sensor is the EXR Pro Image Processor behind a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. Keeping with the rangefinder styling, Fujifilm put the emphasis on knobs and dials for controls over soft menus and touch screens.

The series will launch with three XF prime lenses: The XF 18mm f/2, a 35mm f/1.4 and the XF 60mm f/2.4. The lenses feature traditional aperture rings and a long manual focus ring.

The only plain feature on the XPro-1 is the shutter, which clicks in at a max 1/4000th of a second and relatively slow flash sync.

On the back the Fujifilm XPro-1 has a 3 inch 1.23 million dot LCD, featuring the on-screen Q control panel.

Definitely reflected in the build and styling is Fujifilm’s commitment to listening to users and reviewers alike and sports a somewhat larger body style, pushing the boundaries of the word “compact”.

Still, you have to dig deep to find a negative with the Fujifilm XPro-1 and you can expect sales to be brisk with appeal to the admirers of the old Leica M9’s. The only thing that could limit sales is the $1,700 price tag, which seems a little steep compared with other cameras in the same class.

Compare to:

Fujifilm X-Pro1 vs Finepix X10

Fujifilm X-Pro1 vs Leica M9

Fujifilm X-Pro1 vs Sony NEX-7

Nikon Flexes Video Muscle With New D4

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The Nikon D4 boasts improved video specs and a high capacity battery

It looks like Nikon is finally fully on board with video with the introduction of the new powerhouse Nikon D4. For many video shooters it was a mystery why Nikon ceded the video market to Canon for so long, but they have been steadily improving their video offerings and finally brought it all together in the new D4.  The D4 replaces the Nikon D3s and Nikon D3, see our comparison of the Nikon D4 vs D3s.

Built around a 16-megapixel full frame sensor Nikon really pushed the low light performance with an extended ISO range out to a nearly unbelievable ISO 204,800. The D4 delivers 1080 video at 24 or 30p, and 720 HD at 60p, with 20-level audio meters. Though the D4 delivers uncompressed video via HDMI, the output is limited to 720p.  there is some question whether it’s full 1080p or limited to 720p.

Nikon also included a low pass video filter which should help prevent moire and aliasing, a constant problem for DSLR video shooters. How they did it without impacting the quality of still images remains a mystery, details that I’m sure will emerge when the D4 hits the streets.

Other than the video features the differences between the D4 and D3 are incremental rather than generational. The D4 can pop through 10 frames a second with AF and AE and 11 fps with focus and exposure locked.

Nikon managed to squeeze in a 91,000 pixel sensor for metering white balance, flash exposure, and face detection, which also functions through the viewfinder.

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The 16-megapixel full frame sensor. Thankfully they didn't choose the Sony sensor for this model

The ergonomics of the Nikon D4 have also been improved for portrait orientation, a feature Canon included on the 1DX. Nikon added an additional rubberized lump and an additional function button next to the vertical shutter release.

With the new high cap battery Nikon is claiming you can get up to 2,600 images on a single charge, so no worries about your battery dying in the middle of a shoot.

The Nikon D4 includes a new carbon fiber shutter that’s rated for an eye-popping 400,000 snaps, so you can look forward to getting a lot of years out of your D4, which will help ease the sting of the $6,000 price tag. The D4 is already sold out on Amazon, but I am sure more will be available soon.

Check out some of these Comparisons:

Rumors Swirl Around Nikon D4


nikon logo
The new D4 could be a video powerhouse - by Rama

NikonRumors is abuzz with rumors about the D4 and if their intel is accurate, Nikon could finally be ready to challenge Canon in the video market.

The problem with speculating about a camera that probably won’t hit the market until August of next year is that the specs are a moving target in this phase of production. Still, a few general conclusions are starting to emerge.

The D4 will sit atop the Nikon line with a full frame sensor right now estimated at 16.2-megapixels but at least one source thinks that could go as high as 24 or even 36-megapixels if Nikon opts to tweak the Sony sensor.

From the specs it appears as if Nikon is finally taking DSLR video seriously. Originally Nikon included video capability as a favor to those using their cameras for news gathering, but they never really embraced it and Canon has managed to own that space until recently. That could change with the D4.

The D4 will offer 1080 video at 30/25/24 fps but the real winner will be serving up uncompressed video out through the HDMI port, a feature also rumored to included in the D800. RAW video out is a feature Canon DSLR video shooters have been clamoring for since the 5D MK II hit the market and a feature the folks at Magic Lantern have been working toward for months. If Nikon gets uncompressed video output working before Canon, that could make a dent in Canon’s filmmaking market.

Another nod to filmmakers is the ability to assign the two buttons in front for smooth aperture control during video shooting. Competition is a wonderful thing.

Other rumored changes in the D4 will be XQD memory card slots along side the CF card slots, integrated ethernet, face detection, and an auto-focus system that uses 9 cross-type sensors operational up to f/8.

The price tag? While not known at this time, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. With the Nikon D3 priced at almost $7,000, you can expect the D4 to be…more.

But then when has photography ever been an inexpensive hobby?  And, for video shooters, $8,000 for RAW video out would be a bargain.