Switch to the dark side?

Switch to the dark side?

Those of you who follow my work have probably heard that I have been selling the bulk of my Canon gear recently; I plan to substitute it with Nikon gear, namely the D5 and the Nikon 600mm FL. I have received many questions, I wanted to answer some of these questions. First, obviously the news of my switching to Nikon is true.

Q: Why are you switching to Nikon now? 

A. In the past 13 years, I have been exclusively shooting with Canon gear, I briefly tried Nikon gear, that is the D3s and the Nikon 500VR for a few months in 2010 and it didn’t meet my expectations. After Nikon’s latest release, the picture has changed. Nikon has gained the upper hand in the AF department for such subject as birds in flight.

Q: Is the AF the only reason? Is it that much better?

A. Yes, that’s the only reason. The Canon AF system is and has been great, it has produced many exceptional and dynamic images for me, however it does have some shortcomings. At this point, more than before, I find myself after that top 5% action frames where AF makes or breaks my day, and for this particular subject the difference is clear and measurable.

Q. When did you decide to switch? 

It was mid summer last year when I tried a Nikon D5 and 600 FL briefly in SoCal when I saw the potential. I reckon that recently a number of well respected bird photographers also made the same move, but my decision followed only my own observation.

Q. Do you believe that Canon gear is inferior to Nikon? 

A. Not at all, Canon continues to be a strong performer with excellent lenses such as 600mm II that is equally great with the extender 2X III and the superb 400 DO II (missing from the equivalent Nikon kit). In my opinion for general bird photography, Canon still has the upper hand with their excellent selection of lenses and extenders. Nikon excels when capturing complex action frames due to their excellent AF system.

Q. In what ways is the Nikon AF better? Is it faster?

A. It is not faster, to the contrary, I feel the servo drive in Nikon lenses is slower than that of Canon. The Nikon 600 FL far focus limit is 10m-infinity compared to 16m-infinity for the Canon EF 600m IS II, perhaps the greater travel distance is the reason why Nikon feels slower. What pushes Nikon ahead is the overall stability of the AF system and consistency in tracking the subject once the initial lock has been achieved. Canon system in contrast is is a bit unstable or “nervous” when tracking a complex subject against a varied background. For over a decade and in the course of working with many different Canon bodies, I have, rather successfully, developed a number of techniques such as late acquisition and AF bumping as well a matrix of AI-servo settings to overcome this issue (as outlined in detail in my BIF guide). However even with the perfect technique, there are still a number of shots that are going to be soft. I want to emphasize, this is not an issue for an average photographer, those who shoot perched birds or even those who have repeat opportunities at setup action. But as I mentioned, for capturing that top 5% of the shots in the wild, and when one and only one chance exists, it becomes an issue.

Q. Have you ever talked to Canon about these issues? 

A. Yes, I have sent very detailed feedback to Rudy Winston at Canon, and I hope to see changes in future Canon cameras.

Q. Will there be a comparison between Nikon D5 and the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II at some point? 

A. Yes, I have thought about it and I will write it up once I get to put the Nikon gear through its pace.

Q. So are you leaving Canon for good? What happens to DPP4 and the Canon BIF guides?

A. No, I am keeping one of my Canon super-telephoto lenses to try out future Canon bodies so I can keep the BIF guide up to date. I have tens of thousands of CR2 files on my computer so I will be using and updating Canon DPP as long as Canon come up with updates. Both Arthur Morris and I remain fully committed to updating and improving these guides with a new edition every year.

Q. Will there finally be guides for Nikon users too?

A. Absolutely. As I develop my in-flight and post processing techniques I will share it in my guides and here on my blog as I did with Canon. So be sure to bookmark and come back!