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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Previous comments
Pedro Pulido's picture

yes yes and yes my friend. you are so right.

Ariel Martini's picture

The test was done with +6EV as an exaggeration for comparison purposes. If you re-do with an smaller step, results will also put Canon behind. After that, all you said don't invalidate and is not related to the fact that Canon do have worse DR, and that photographers will have worse output. Maybe they will have to crank up noise reduction, or rely on bracketing.
For me, that usually shoot concerts and festivals, having a camera with worse DR is unthinkable. Here's an example from a concert I shot last week. The first is the out of camera. See that I exposed correctly for the highlights (moving lights). In the middle is the +6 EV just for an idea. The last part is the final image. If this was shot on Canon, it would look just bad, as obviously you can't bracket this. Or I would have to overexpose and lose information on the highlights, the LED panel would be blown out for instance. (My camera is a Nikon D750)

Andre Goulet's picture

I shoot live community theatre, which almost by definition is lousy lighting for photography, and mostly musicals which have a lot of motion, on a Canon 6D. We ALWAYS print 20x30's of the best shots for hanging in the ticket area, and we have no problems with them. So, I don't buy that Canon (or any relatively recent camera) can't handle these situations. Pixel peeping will just drive you mad.

Eric Crudup's picture

I see a photo where you raised shadows by a large amount because you could, not necessarily because it made a better picture. The final image would have a more clear subject and focus with shadows raised less. The focus should be on the stuff happening on the stage, or the crowd, but in the final image there is no real focus/subject. The blown out image in the middle is almost a better photo than your final image because at least there is a clear subject. My only reservation about calling the middle photo "better" is the red tint.

The lights on the final image are effectively blown out. I'm sure if I went and took a color checker most of the values would be slightly below 255 but they'd be pretty high and the effect is pretty much the same to viewers. If I took the same image on a Canon 1 stop brighter, viewers would notice the lens quality and processing WAYYYY before they noticed that the highlights are a tiny, tiny bit less white on your image. This is because viewers aren't thinking about the technicals at all, they are thinking solely about the art. And when you forget the technicals and focus on the art, blown out highlights can actually look really cool! The middle photo you gave is almost an example of this, but taken to an extreme. What looks more epic and exciting, the final image where I cannot focus on any elemnt, or the middle image where light is exploding everywhere and the crowd creates vanishing lines leading into this light explosion?

Having moved from entry level APS-C canon cameras to several full frames including my current EOS R, the difference after you get to about the 6D mkI level isn't all that significant. I was actually disappointed with how insignificant the increase in DR was, giving the hype from internet commenters about how important DR is. The difference between my old 6d and my current EOS R is about 1-1.5 stops DR, and it barely matters. The extra stop above that from a current Sony or Nikon full frame would matter even less. But that's from my own actual experience, and NOT from reading/watching tech reviews from people who are reviewers rather than actual photographers, and need to sensationalize stuff for hits/views.

Adil Alsuhaim's picture

Boosting entire image by 6 stops is idiotic, but boosting the shadows only is very common, and the difference is actually noticeable when it comes to high dynamic range.

oliver ahrndt's picture

If you underexpose that much regularly that you need that level of dynamic rage, maybe classes would be money better spent then a camera.

The article though is kinda yeah I bought a canon because it suits me best but other brands might suit others best. well yeah, thanks captain obvious. It all comes down to personal preference.

Ariel Martini's picture

DR was the reason I sold all my Canon equipment. I had a 6D and DR quality loss was really bad even with +1 recovery, compared to my old Pentax K5. Nobody told me that I would have this problem. This is overlooked in many reviews and "Why I switched" articles. Pointing this can help people decide their next step, as would have helped me when I switched to Canon in the first place. Yes, 5d IV and EOS R are much better than 6D, but still lags behind other makers. This is not a personal preference if you usually shoot high DR scenes that can't be shot on tripod. +6 EV is an exaggeration to show performance, not always a real world scenario, but it may happen on a unique scene that you can't go back to re-shoot, and then that's the difference between having an usable image and not.

michaeljin's picture

Needing to pull up shadows doesn't always mean you missed your exposure. If you have a high dynamic range scene and don't want to blow it your highlights, you common for your shadows to be several stops darker than yi want them.

Exposure blending is a solution, but it's not appropriate or practical in all scenarios.

AJ Pink's picture

Anyone else noticed the size of the EOS R raw file used to demonstrate "how bad" the camera is?

Pedro Pulido's picture

well spotted. how the hell does the raw file only have 17mb ??

Usman Dawood's picture

Seriously though, who the heck is recovering their images by 6 stops? The most I've ever recovered an image for a job was 1.5 stops. Dynamic range is such an overrated feature I mean it's good but people have really blown it out of proportion.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

That also depends on what you are shooting. If you mainly shoot in a studio or with artificial lighting, it won't matter. If you take travel pictures in bright sunlight and can't use a tripod in most places, you will need to be able to recover as much of the shadows as possible.
I took travel pictures during a group travel in Morocco and believe me, the dynamic contrast is huge. The problem is also that you are always in a hurry because the bus won't wait.
In this picture, it was bright artificial light, and daylight from above.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

As a former Canon user (still have a couple bodies and lenses) I see where you are coming from. Canon DR is not a strong point, so it's fair to dismiss it.
I shoot a lot of car and truck projects. Sometimes, both in a studio or on location the light is low in order to get nice tones and shapes on silver or white car you want to nail that exposure, but in that case the tires are going to be detail free black holes. When I shot with Canon, if I tried to lift those tones it would be snap, crackle and pop with red and green noise. Even if I desat the color out, the noise is there. With Sony I can dodge or adjust the curve and get some nice dark tones to show the tire a bit. A friend with a Nikon that shared the Sony sensor showed me that trick.

So it is doubtful that people are regularly shooting at -6 stops, but parts of the scene might be 3 or 4 under like a tire on the shadow side of a vehicle.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Right, the lesson learnt is that circumstances differ. The photographer taking pictures in a studio can dictate the circumstances. If you can set up your studio lights,exposure wise things will be easier.

In other cases such as street or travel photography you often cannot choose the lighting or the time of day. As said I travel in tourgroups and there is nothing to choose. You are there at a certain time and the light may be great of rotten, it is what it is. You cannot go back at another time and you have to deal with the situation.
I often go to hot and dusty countries and the maximum amount of dr is a great benefit.

Yin Ze's picture

also the difference in dynamic range on the original 1dx vs d800 was definitely noticeable and an issue if anyone was wearing bright shirt. d800 dynamic range was excellent for its time even though the camera was slow. even with proper exposure you would need to tone down the highlights with 1dx.

michaeljin's picture

In my night shots, I'm regularly recovering 3 or 4 stops in the darkest areas. I could choose to blow out the lights instead, but I don't see why I should when I don't have to.

Yin Ze's picture

Seriously though, why the heck are you recovering your images by 3 or 4 stops? The most I've ever recovered an image for a job was .0002 stops. Blown out lightbulbs are an issue that is blown out of proportion.

michaeljin's picture

Recovering SHADOWS by 3 or 4 stops is not the same as recovering IMAGES by 3 or 4 stops. Also, blown out lightbulbs is an issue when those lightbulbs are neon lights and blowing them out also means that you lose all of the color information within them.

Having latitude in dynamic range isn't always about saving screw=ups. When you have more dynamic range, you also get less noise in the shadow areas when you do minor adjustments than you would with a sensor with lower dynamic range. Being able to boost 6 stops doesn't means you have to boost 6 stops. It just means you have more headroom and any adjustments you do in bringing up shadows will have better looking results.

Have you ever shot a sunset scene with people walking around in the foreground? Barring setting up a strobe in the middle of a street, you're going to be relying on the ability to bring up your shadows a good amount unless you plan to silhouette them. Either approach is fine, but it's good to have options.

Yin Ze's picture

Having detail in neon lights is overrated and not important yet people keep flipping out about them. Nailing the exposure in camera should be a future article. Dynamic range is overrated for those who need to push/pull their exposures by more than .002 stop either way.

michaeljin's picture

Overrated according to whom? You? There is no single correct exposure for any given scene so an article about "nailing" exposure would be about as dumb as your .002 stop claim.

Everything comes down to shooting style and aesthetic preferences.

Yin Ze's picture

WELL ACCORDING TO AT LEAST ONE SEASONED PRO LIKE USAMAN DAWOOD WHO KNOWS MORE ON THE TIP OF HIS SHUTTER FINGER THAN THIRTY SEASONED PROS AND THEIR GRANDCHILDREN. I used to shoot slide film on one slot for 25 years and never under/overexposed any image beyond 1/200th of a stop and slide film had very narrow dynamic range. DYNAMIC RANGE IS OVERRATED. I LONG FOR THE DAYS OF SLIDE FILM. Canon should release a 1dK to mimic the dynamic range of Kodachrome.

michaeljin's picture

If you long for the dynamic range of slide film, just go out and buy a first generation DSLR. We've been there. We've done that. We've progressed to better tools and technology.

Yin Ze's picture

Dynamic range is essentially overrated. Sounds like you're mixing up something being important vs something being overrated. There's a difference.

michaeljin's picture

Dynamic range is properly rated.

Pedro Pulido's picture

i agree yin ze. DR is massively overrated.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Well, if you have to recover four stops on the entire image, your exposure was sloppy. But during daylight in hard sunshine, you might have to recover shadows four stops. Or you expose for the shadows in which your highlight will be seriously overblown.
People who don't see the value of as high as dynamic range as possible, probably only shoot with studiolights. In the world outside, DR is often an issue. Especially if you either have to take the shot in rotten conditions or take no shot.

Pedro Pulido's picture

agree that you might need to recover some info, specially in landscape due to the different light of highlights and shadows. But Pieter, have you ever had the need to change the exposure 6 stops to recover highlights or shadows??

Yin Ze's picture

Peter, to go with what Uzmen said dynamic range is overrated: DON'T SHOOT IN HARD SUNSHINE. Problem solved!

Pieter Batenburg's picture

No it isn't if you are there at a certain time and aren't to go back at another time.

Yin Ze's picture

Usman has written 114 articles for fstoppers and says dynamic range is overrated so avoid contrast, go at the right time, you won't have to go back another time.

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