Although I’ve shot Canon for the last 8 years, it wasn’t something when I decided to switch that I thought I’d do forever. Prior to buying my first Canon Eos 1D all of my professional gear was Nikon and the Mamiya RZ-67 Pro II system. Prior to that I’d used Canon A-1’s, Canon AE-1’s, a Zenza Bronica EC, Rolleiflex 2.8 and the venerable Pentax K-1000. I’ve just so dated myself. Prior to Leica but during my Nikon F4s days I’d shot the Contax G2 system, which was the reason I started shooting Leica M’s. I don’t want to get off-track but the AF on the G2 system sucked and the MF was practically non-existent.
The day I sold my Nikon F5’s was a sad day. To be relevant in the market I was then shooting in it was all digital. Scanning film was finished as part of a serious workflow for most or us. The Nikon D1 was revolutionary. It was the first camera – felt a lot like my Nikon F5’s – that wasn’t one of those cobbled-together USD20,000 beasts made by Kodak for Nikon and Canon. Those bitches weighed a ton and they sucked. The D1 answered a lot of questions for me … ya’ know … with those massive 128mb and 256mb CF cards. I think I have enough of those things to actually use them as poker chips. Could probably complete a set pretty cheap I’d think. Aren't they like a nickle a piece now?
The 16gb and 32gb XQD cards I’m using now are way more like SxS cards than they are like either CF or SD’s. Looking forward to seeing video output from the Nikon D4 with hopefully less banding than I saw come out of the Canon 1D Mark 4 when I shot at more than 800 ISO.
Don’t get me wrong the Canon 1D Mark 4’s were great -- we deserved even better, though. Even though they were crop-frame cameras I found them to be the best Canon had produced. I know people bitched and moaned about the 1D Mark 3’s inability to handle autofocus well but the only Mark 3’s I had were of the 1Ds-variety; they worked exceedingly well for me. I punished those things and they all worked as well as I expected them to work. The 1Ds Mark III also did the best on DxO compared to other Canon bodies.
Unlike the Nikon D1X’s from back in the day that failed on me time after time, it was nice to be using gear that didn’t burn through shutter boxes. For whatever reason all of my bodies tend to do that frame 9999 reset to frame 0001 around the same time. Sometimes it’s literally during the same shoot but most often at least during the same day or 24-hour period. Always seemed odd to me. During the time I was being told by one of my agencies “you better get a Canon and start using one if you want access to the lens pool: We’re switching in a couple months” I had not one or two but three D1X’s fail on me. Funny thing is that I had two 1DX’s fail on me within one two-hour period and one fail the next day.
After returning from the Nikon repair depot I immediately picked up a Canon 1D and the lovely 70-200/2.8. I thought I’d dip my toe in the Canon world by using it as my ambient body alongside my primary Nikon 1DX’s. Honestly, I didn’t hate it at all. The colours were interesting ... different than what I was used to but ... interesting. The body worked really well. Even though Canons aren’t know to be “as durable” as Nikons it felt pretty good in my hands. I beat the shit out all of my Canon bodies and they did really really well. I'd made a Nikon 1DX crumble once so I was pleased.
What didn’t feel good in my hands was that stupid-ass big dial on the back of the Canons. Gone were the days of truly simple AF sensor selection. Yeah, I know diehard Canon guys say it’s “just as easy to hit the button and then turn the dial” but I never got into it. In fact, eight years later I was still not digging it. It never made sense to me after having used the Multi Selector on the F5 and then on the D1 and D1X I was a Multi Selector slut. The Sub Selector is pretty damn cool, too.
One of my Canon-loving friends said, “Say goodbye to easy aperture control, man.” Oh really!? You mean the stupid wheel that would rub against my hip and change my stop? I always like the Sub-Command dial much more for selecting my aperture. I don’t mind the Main Command dial for Shutter speed at all. The little joystick on the back of the D4 is nice, too.
I will say that going back from Canon’s odd zoom direction has been a bit odd … not to mention the fact putting lenses on bodies is different as well. I’m hoping this wears off quickly. Having had Canon bodies and lenses in my hands literally tens of thousands of times over the past eight years has made the Nikons feel much different in my hands. Feels ergonomically 10x better.
I’m actually pissed at Canon so I’m equating the “difference” of feel … mentally … as a way to deal with how much they pissed me off. Changing systems is not something many really want to do. It’s hella expensive and just a pain in the ass. Cables. Batteries. Flash cables. Not to mention ALL of the lenses. And … the flashes that are almost approaching the price of proper studio strobe heads – unless, of course, you’re using Alien Bee’s.
As an aside I can’t tell you how many people I know who actually work as photographers who are switching from Canon to Nikon right now. I’m shocked yet from what I hear there is a flood of guys switching to Nikon. I don't know anyone who's switching to Canon, though. ;)
I was able to use some Nikon D3s’s during real assignments and commissions – wholly different than wanking about with a bunch of gear geeks at a glorified meet-up and cooing about bokeh. I prefer the word unscharfen bereich. I doubt it will catch on, though. Whatever. The D3s’s in the real-real world and not what starfucker lackeys call real world … were … brilliant. Honestly, I’m not sure any manufacturer marketing rep has a qualified eye or they’d be able to see through the equipmentbator-driven page views and stop giving most idiotic blog writers evaluation cameras. Then again, I consider DPReview and their "cadre of the unqualified" complete shit.
Sorry. Canon. The D3s’s did what Canon could not even dream of doing: Making TTL flash actually work. In as much as I’d love to never have to use on-camera TTL flash that’s not my reality. If I did ambient or studio strobe work only, I wouldn’t have been as motivated to switch systems. Again, that’s not the case and from what I saw with the Nikon D3s and its ability to perform with TTL flash. It was superb. Every damn frame. Perfectly exposed. Light background, dark subject … perfect. Dark background, light subject … perfect. Not having to fight my equipment is a high priority for me.
Funny that when a lot of us were fed-the-fuck-up with Canon’s lackluster TTL flash performance someone from Canon said, “Well, you’re a pro, you should be shooting manual flash.”
So I buy USD500 flash units to shoot friggin’ manual? Yeah, okay. Sure. That makes a lot of sense. I never used the Nikon D3 and have no idea if it was as good as the D3s but damn was the D3s good. What I expect from TTL on-camera or even off-camera flash – I doubt Canon will ever get the off- part right – is that 90% of the flash exposures should be spot on. The Canon 1D Mark 4 was right about 70% of the time during great conditions and much less in questionable conditions. The original 1D sucked and exposures with flash looked blue/green-ish. I got over it. Still hated that stupid wheel but … ya’ know … if you’re in a bad relationship but just don’t want the hassle of breaking up or changing, you just put up with it. At that point I had a Canon 1D Mark 2 and flash was a bit better but still not great. The 1Ds Mark III was pretty good but still intermittently bad. I think the only time I used on-camera or off-camera flash with the 5D or 5D Mark 2’s was when I was seriously dragging the shutter and using the flash pretty much manual so I can’t really say if they sucked as bad as the rest of the bodies.
There was this other thing, too. I got some email that had CPS on it so I totally thought it was CPS-oriented. RSVP’d as I was interested in seeing the C300 cine camera Canon was touting. Turned out it was a Canon Live Learning event yet they spammed their CPS members for good measure. When I was in line I could tell that perhaps 1 in 50 of these people actually used their cameras to make money. The rest were lookie-loos taking time off from “forum patrol” or cruising for porn on DOMAI. That’s totally cool and good for them but I don’t want to be surrounded by these fucking donuts when I want to see some equipment up close and personal. Besides all of that … they ask the dumbest questions on Earth. Even though CPS is a pay-to-play service now at least they kind of weed out some of the people and allow real working photographers to actually demo the equipment.
I’d been playing with the idea of really switching but after that P.O.S. event Canon my decision was solidified. Actually, though, the odd thing is that my kid bought me a lens coffee mug as one of her Christmas presents to me. It was a Nikon lens mug. I asked her “You know I shoot Canon, right!?”
“I thought you said you didn’t always so I bought you that.”
Fair enough. I guess it was a sign.
Whilst on the subject of CPS I’m sorry but seriously … you can buy your way in? Didn’t used to be that way but now … anyone can join and reserve lenses to borrow. Nikon Professional Services still requires tear sheets, letters from editors, references from other NPS members and approval by NPS. Sorry I know that sounds exclusionary but it’s way better than buying your way in. Seriously, it’s kind of like photo schools that don’t require a portfolio for admission. Same mentality. I love the fact that NPS requires sponsorship from two current NPS members. It really does cut down on the rich wannabe’s who just want to flash an NPS card. Those kinda donkeys also reserve new equipment that could have gone to legitimate working photographers. Ya’ know … the equipment that’s very tough to get at present. Many times they're the same ones who get a body or two before the masses and sell them on eBay.
Besides that lame Canon Live Learning bullshit, using the D3s and loving it, the fact my kid bought me a Nikon coffee mug … I left Nikon because the 1DX wasn’t the greatest camera and I sure as hell wasn’t going to be buying a camera with essentially the same name but made by Canon. Really Canon? You couldn’t have come up with a better name? The Eos 1D-X? I think that Canon's brilliant marketing people must have thought, "It's extreme: We'll call it the X." Not only that but I knew it’d be delayed in typical Canon style. Since the AF is nice on it ... I wonder what friggin' issue they're trying to solve now? TTL flash perhaps?
I think their success with the 1Ds Mark 3 killer revolutionary 5D Mark 2 made them arrogant. I’ll never forget them telling me to “shoot manual flash” or spamming me with Canon Live Learning pedantic bullshit all because I was on their CPS list. Donkeys. Dumb donkeys. I feel bad saying that as I like donkeys.
A few weeks ago I had a couple friends over. One is a staffer from a Canon-shop and the other from a Nikon-shop. It was hilarious seeing the Canon guy's face when TTL flash exposure after TTL flash exposure on the Nikon D4 was absolutely perfect.
“Think you Mark-fucking-Four can do that, man!?”
He shook his head and the Nikon-shop shooting friend said, “We’re all getting those in a couple weeks.” Should be interesting to see the stills come out of the Olympics in London soon. Canon should have released their 1D-X’s long before that event but … no … just a delay. ;)
Since I was swapping systems, I thought a lot about the lenses I was shooting, too. The standard set up I shot back in my old Nikon days and the current Canon days was the 16-35/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.4. At one time I also had the 300/2.8 but lens pools make it so you don’t have to own that beast or any of the other beasts. I thought a lot about how I really shot and what I really needed.
I know it sounds like heresy coming from me but … ciao-ciao Zeiss ZE manual focus primes. Yes, they’re nice but they tended to have lateral fringing when shooting backlit subject matter. Not only that but when shooting a concert I’m done using manual-fucking-focus unless it’s a Leica body I’m using. I can’t focus as fast as AF … especially the Nikon AF that’s in the D4. Jesus. Amazing.
The one lens I was always pissed I felt like I had to buy was any 24-70/2.8. For me this lens was what I used when I was commissioned or assigned to shoot some fancy event or party. No, not on the outside but as the official inside photographer. I love when I get comments from anonymous commenters saying “you’re a paparazzi.” Sure, you uninformed forum troll neophyte … I’m a paparazzi. Anytime any entertainment-related subject is who you’re shooting there is some landscape-only shooting forum troll who thinks you’re a paparazzi.
I never shot the 24-70 at full 2.8 aperture. Almost ever. Seems like a waste of about a grand just to have a two-eight lens that I’ll never use at its fullest potential. I only ever used this lens at events and whilst on the wide-side was fine with fullframe sensors but a bit tight with crop-frames like the Mark 4 on the long-side it just wasn’t tight enough for me. This is the lens that would also get beat to shit just from working. Yeah, beat an almost two grand lens just for the fuck of it. Fun.
Not only that but the Canon 16-35/2.8 always seemed wonky to me. Things didn’t look right to me. I could always tell when I looked at someone’s photo and it was shot with that P.O.S. Honestly, 16mm never seemed wide enough to me either and what the hell do i want a 2.8/35 anyway.
The 70-200/2.8 Canon lens was pretty damn good, though. Then again, the one I just replaced it with is just as good if not a bit better at AF.
This time around I purchased the following lenses:
All of these lenses on the D4 have been superb. The 14-24/2.8 is ridiculously good. The 24-120/4 is way better than I expected. I know a lot of staffers who’ve been given that lens to use and if they love it … I felt I’d probably love it, too. I do. The 70-200/2.8 kicks ass as I thought it would. My past Zeiss ZE primes were great except putting them on one of the best AF platforms to ever hit the planet seemed antithetical. That … and I’m getting older. ;) The Nikon 50/1.4 is pretty damn nice and doesn’t seem to lateral fringe like the Zeiss or that P.O.S. Canon 50/1.4 did. I know. I know … I should have bought the 50/1.2 or the 85/1.2 for that matter. Well, I owned the 85/1.2 and found the AF slow as shit. The 50/1.2 was the same. Heavy and slow and expensive for what it is/was. Nikon's newest iteration of the 85/1.4 is so lovely. I got the 35/2D to shoot on either an F6 or F100 for some street photography. :) Heresy ... shooting an SLR for street, right? And, no, I didn't opt for the 24 or 35 1.4 Nikon primes. Given the fact the D4 has such good high ISO performance there really was no reason. Shooting 6400 clean is a gift. Thank you, Nikon!
Besides … why the hell would I want to have same “special sauce glass” that all of the mamarazzi-turned lifestyle-picture-takers so loved to shoot and post on blogs proving to their suburban white friends they’re amazing? Not that suburban moms have a "qualified eye."
The Canon one-two glass is a gimmick. Did I mention it was expensive as hell?
With the Canon system I had the 24/1.4 but honestly it was big and heavy and seemed like a chore to carry. Hence the reason I didn’t get either a 24/1.4 or 35/1.4 with the new Nikon kit. Great lenses but … seeing as how the D4 handles 6400, which is the highest ISO I’ll ever use, I didn’t need one-four glass on that prime. Two-oh is fine. No, it’s not a fancy AF-S but the little AF-D focuses really fast.
Perhaps the 1D-X does a better job with whatever new flash they’ll throw at the problem but I don’t think it will. In fact, I’ll bet it will still suck. Wasn’t gonna spend seven grand to find out. I’d waited them out long enough to get it right. They didn't. In fact, the 5D Mark III is kinda how D3S users feel about the D4 if they already owned the 5D Mark II. Ciao Canon.
Honestly, I think that because Canon develops their own proprietary sensors – unlike Nikon that uses Sony sensors – they lag in other areas. I don’t think they put enough research and development into AF or TTL flash for that matter. Now they have the whole video-thing to worry about so … more R&D into that and less into things that matter to stills-only photographers.
The Nikon D4 completely leap-frogged Canon in every way possible. I know that there are guys who say the D4 isn’t sharp and doesn’t have enough contrast. Others say there’s some weird colour-cast. Others that say it didn’t work tethered. First off, this camera is sharp as hell. Since shooting motion projects with the 5D Mark 2, I always set the camera to a flat picture style to suck all dynamic range I could out of it. Have you ever seen RAW Alexa or RED picture before? To those with a surface understanding they’d look like shit. Once you do a little post … they look amazing. Whilst this isn’t the case with the Nikon D4 completely I like to shoot flat and D4 files look flatter to me. I’ll add the contrast and sharpness myself, thank you. I don’t need a camera cooking files for me. Then again, I prefer shooting RAW. Coming from what I was shooting D4 files looked lovely!
I’ve never seen any colour cast in my D4 files. They’ve looked fantastic. And before I ever used any camera on an editorial job I think I’d check to see – ya’ know seeing as how the camera had been out for a day or two – if it was compatible with my tethering software. I know at least a few guys who’s D4’s are still in the boxes as they haven’t had time to completely familiarize themselves with it. Anyone who would bring an untested new camera to a shoot deserves the problems they had with tethering. No matter if they think they’re cool and live in Brooklyn or not.
I could NOT have chosen a better time to not just “come back to Nikon” but swap systems … for a MUCH better system. The D3 led a lot of temporary Canon shooters either to or back to Nikon but the D3s really turned the tide. I suspect The D4 will bring even more Canon shooters to the Nikon system. Haven’t even talked about the Nikon D800. Another time.
Agencies and photographers don’t want to have to switch from one system to another. It’s expensive. It’s a hassle. There’s a learning curve. I gotta say, though, if you do what I do for a living, there’s no way you’re going to still be shooting Canon unless you’re a total fanboy and are deluded to think that a better tool doesn’t exist to do your job.
The learning curve has been easy. Menu systems are great. I have buttons on the back of my camera that light up because it gets dark in VIP areas and in the pits of concert venues. Canon never gave me that. Canon never gave me truly great AF like the D4 has been giving me. Mind you … I’m not a sports guy. The most sports I’ve shot has been golf and those fuckers don’t move very fast. I think I’ve shot two soccer games in my life. I have shot my share of polo games all over the world and some high school water sports at the behest of my kid and other parents. Hmm … I’m sure most wouldn’t consider the showing of dogs a sport.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want really good AF. I do.
Canon’s also arrogant for charging USD6,799 for a 1D-X body. Sure it’s got barely 2mp more sensor-wise. Is there much of a difference in me doing my job with 16mp or 18mp camera bodies? Um, no. Those are concerns of gearwank blogs. Canon thinks their camera is worth almost a grand more than the D4?
The difference in price between buying the D4 and passing on the 1D-X bought half of the beautiful 85/1.4. What I got for the Zeiss 85/1.4 ZE bought the other half. Effectively, it was a complete wash. Is the Canon 1.2 USD500 better than the Nikon 85/1.4? Perhaps, only to those needing that fraction of a stop because optically I prefer the Nikon. I also prefer 9 bladed apertures over 8. Is the Canon 50/1.2 at USD1,599 a grand better than the Nikon 50/1.4? Well, again, if you really need that fractional f-stop, sure. Optically, it may be a bit better but when I shot the one-two I saw a lot of lateral fringing. The Canon’s got 8 aperture blades and Nikon, again, 9. Call me an elitist but the Leica lenses I’m most accustomed to have 9 and 11 blades respectively. Only my seventy-five ‘cron has 8 blades like Canon but I don’t think it could physically have any more if memory serves. Hell … my Nocti’ has 11 blades. What does Leica and NIkon know about using as many aperture blades as possible that Canon doesnt?
I think the more blades a lens has the better the unscharfen bereich.
Pretty sure I’ll add a Nikon F6 as well but I may end up with an F100. I’d love to see how this new Nikon glass renders to film.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to include photos with this blog. Anyone who really knows me knows where I post and I think I’ve grown tired of including photos in a long-form blog post. I’d much rather tumblr a photo stream than do photoblogs. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy checking out traditional photoblogs but it’s way too much work to post.
Thank you Canon for making my decision so easy to once again shoot Nikon. Funny enough, though, a friend of mine tells me that the new 1D-X actually does focus much faster than anything Canon’s produced so far. TTL-flash was still questionable and I hear the wireless capability of the 1D-X isn’t that great. So slow ... it's almost unusable. ;)
So, yeah, still happy with my decision! :)
Hope this finds everyone well! Wish I could do these more often but when you actually work making photos these kinds of things have to take a back seat. Pretty much the commenters I care about interacting with are FB friends anyway. ;)
And, no, I decided I'm not posting photos to go along with this entry. Go find me on tumblr for photos.