Canon vs Nikon: Which is the best camera brand?


canon vs nikon

Source: Composite image by G_marius

Nikon and Canon are usually considered the best camera brands, in particular when it comes to the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) segment. We compare the two Japanese brands and the top DSLR cameras on the market today. Join our poll and help other users decide which digital camera they should buy.


Canon vs Nikon

Nikon and Canon and have been the leading brands in the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera market for many years. Each of these two Japanese brands has millions of fans around the globe. Professional photographers would also argue that they have distinct strengths and weaknesses. From the 1960s to the 1990s most experts considered Nikon the undisputed leader among professionals. However, the launch of the EOS autofocus system in 1987 and the introduction of professional 35 mm cameras gave Canon the edge during the 1990s. When the DSLR technology was spread and affordable, Nikon again took the lead. Ever since Canon has been trying to catch up. First, with the the introduction of the Canon 5D Mark II in 2008, and later with that of the Canon 5D Mark III in 2012, Canon has matched and, arguably, surpassed Nikon in terms of innovation.

Which one would you recommend: Canon or Nikon? We compare these brands to help you make up your mind.

Canon: facts and history

Canon is a Japanese multinational corporation which produces and sells cameras, video recording devices, medical equipment, computer printers and photocopiers. The Canon group includes 256 subsidiaries and companies and employes about 190,000 people worldwide. In 2015 Canon reached ¥3.800 trillion revenues and  ¥220.2 billion profit. It is the tenth biggest company in Japan by market capitalization. Canon enjoys a great reputation in the electronics industry. Canon ranks high in most brand reputation rankings. Canon customer services have always been extremely good. It is the 3rd Japanese global brand according to Interbrand and the 8th best global brand by the Reputation Institute. In 2011 it was ranked 5th in Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies in the computers category.

It was founded in 1937 as Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. Initially it did not produce its own lenses but used those provided by Nippon Kogaku K.K. (later Nikon). Over the years Canon grew and contributed very strongly to the evolution of camera technology. These are some of landmarks in the history of Canon

  • In 1940 Canon created the first Japanese indirect X-ray camera.
  • The Canon IVSb became the first speed-light synchronized 35 mm flash-and-shutter camera.
  • Canon created the first field zoom lens for television bradcasting in 1958.
  • It introduced the first movie camera with a zoom lens, the Reflex Zoom 8 in 1959.
  • In 1964 Canon developed the Canola 130, the world's first 10-key electronic calculator.
  • Canon introduces the original electro-photography technology with the Canon NP System, and disrupt the plain-paper copier market.
  • The Canon F-1, a high-end single lense reflex camera, and FD lenses were introduced in 1971.
  • In 1975 Canon launched its first laser printer.
  • The world's first nonmydriatic retinal camera, the CR-45NM, was introduced in 1976.
  • In 1982 Canon launched the PC-10 and PC-20, the world's first personal copying machines with replaceable cartridges.
  • The RC-701, the world's first still video camera and video system was launched in 1986.
  • Canon introduced the EOS autofocus SLR camera in 1987.
  • In 1992, the EOS 5, the first eye-controlled AF SLR camera was launched.
  • Canon developed the Multi-Layered Diffractive Optical Element technology in 2001.
  • Canon invented a large-screen sensor for real-time X-ray imaging in 2005.
  • In 2008 Canon introduced the EOS 5D Mark II, the first camera to incorporate HD video.
  • Canon entered the motion picture production industry with the Cinema EOS System in 2011.
  • The high-end EOS-1D X DSLR camera was introduced in 2012.
  • In 2016 Canon introduced the EOS-1D X Mark II.

Watch this video explaining the history of Canon cameras:

Nikon: facts and history

Nikon is another Japanese multinational which specializes in optics and imaging products, including cameras, lenses, microscopes, binoculars and steppers for photolithography. Nikon was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kogaku K.K. thanks to the merger of the three leading Japanese optical manufacturers. Initially the company focused on the production of optical lenses and during the Second World War Nikon had twenty factories which manufactured bomber sights, binoculars and periscopes for the Japanese Armed Forces. After the conflict only one factory remained active and all efforts were focused on civilian products. Today Nikon employs 13,894 people worldwide. In 2015 Nikon reached ¥857.8 billion revenues and ¥30 billon operating profit. Nikon is part of the Mitsubishi keiretsu.

Throughout its long history Nikon has demonstrated itself to be a very innovative consumer electronics company. These are some of the milestones in Nikon's history:

  • Mikron 4x and 6x ultra-small-prism binoculars were introduced in 1921.
  • In 1932 the brand Nikkon was adopted for the lenses produced by the company.
  • Nikon brand name was registered for small cameras in 1946, the Nikon Model I, launched in 1948 was the first camera marketed with it.
  • Model I profile projector was introduced in 1948.
  • In 1954, Nikon introduced the Model SM stereoscopic microscope which featured a three-step variator.
  • In 1959 the first Nikon lens-interchangeable SLR camera is marketed. It was the world's first camera to have an exposure meter fully synchronized with aperture and a motor drive.
  • Ultra-micro Nikkor high-resolution optical lenses were introduced in 1962.
  • Nikon introduced the first underwater camera in 1963: Nikonos.
  • The MND-2, an extra-long distance meter which used light waves to measure distance, was introduced in 1971.
  • In 1980 Nikon launched the F3 SLR camera. This camera had an electronically controlled aperture-priority AE.
  • In 1981 Nikon marketed the world's first titanium ophthalmic frames: Titex.
  • The Nikon L35AF autofocus compact camera was introduced in 1983.
  • The Nikon F-501 autofocus SLR camera was launched in 1986.
  • In 1992, Nikon introduced the world's first autofocus underwater SLR camera, Nikonos RS.
  • The Nikon E2 and E2s digital still cameras were launched in 1995.
  • In 1999 Nikon launches the D1 DSLR camera.
  • In 2004 the Nikon f6 SLR camera was marketed.
  • In 2006 Nikon launched the NSR-S609B ArF immersion scanner, which incorporated Lithography Technology.
  • The D3 DSLR camera was marketed in 2007.
  • In 2016 Nikon introduced the D5 DSLR camera.

Watch this video explaining the history of Nikon cameras:

Best DSLR camera today?

Based on experts' reviews, we have shortlisted some of the best DSLR cameras available today. We have considered several dimensions to select them, including the quality of image, value for money, shooting speed and usability: 

  • Nikon D810
  • Canon EOS 5DS
  • Nikon D500
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Nikon D7200
  • Canon EOS 80D
  • Good cameras from other manufacturers: Pentax K-1, Fujifilm X-T10, Sony Alpha A7 II, Sony A7RII, Leica S (Typ 007), Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 Digital back.

Which of those would you recommed to buy or avoid? 

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Canon vs Nikon: Which is the best camera brand?

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