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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195 Comments

Previous comments
Jan Kruize's picture

Don’t react on that guy..... he’s poisoned by guys like Jason Lanier and the mouth of this man is much bigger than the quality of his work.

Z K-P's picture

I am not the only one that asked. I did not accuse you, it is your own fault for writing what looks like a fanboy Canon article. Since most people know that the camera you chose has left the vast majority of people asking for a lot more from a brand like Canon. In this day and age question ALL media. I am not the only one that thinks this was an advertorial.

Haha, you really do enter the lion’s den when offering your opinion on camera gear, especially if it’s Canon v .....

I for one found your article of interest, thank you Jonathan. I’ve been a Canon man for years, mainly for reasons of lens investment, otherwise I’d probably have switched to Nikon some time back. I concur with much of your other rationale.

I’m quite excited about mirrorless and am currently awaiting delivery of my EOS R after pondering whether to go for that or a Canon 5D MKIV for wedding and portraits mainly. As you can probably tell, I’m not one for buying new kit for the sake of it and have found that my trusty 5D MKII is still performing well - but needed a newer second body for resilience, as my current backup is a 5D MK I, which is showing its age a bit..

In pretty much every regard the EOS R matches the 5D MKIV. I’ve never worried about a second card slot or had a failure with only one. I was a bit concerned that, needing reading glasses these days, a digital viewfinder would be problematic, but have been reassured that the diopter adjustment (up to +2) would more than suffice, so should be able to continue wearing the glasses on top of my head! We’ll see..

I had this conversation with a close friend. He switched to Sony but only stayed 6 months. His experience was exactly as you described in your article. He switched back and is enjoying his photography more. Photography is a science and an art. Tech is great but in the end other factors can enhance the experience beyond megapixels and 4K.

calaveras grande's picture

TLDR;
'I chose Canon even though they are sucky grandpa cameras because they are the only platform with so many tilt/shift lenses.'

I kid, but seriously I was a Canon guy for years. It took me about 2 weeks to switch to Fuji. I've since caught up to the same place in terms of kit for my Fuji as my Canon for a lot less. Fuji lenses are just a better value.
I also find the Fuji approach to ergonomics to be much better than Canon.
Canon's cameras are still rehashing the same kind of goofy ergonomics from 15 years ago. The new touch bar and extra ring on their EOS-R system are steps backward.
Sure you can freely assign the ring or the touch bar to be ISO, Iris, exposure compensation or whatever. But that is the problem. It's not a universal control like the exposure triangle controls on a Fuji or Olympus. Nor are they typical mode select controls.
I'd hoped Canon's mirrorless full frame would be more adventurous and make a clean break with the old Canon approach. But I am not surprised that the EOS-R is just a 5D MKIV without the flappy mirror. They will doubtless sell millions of them.

Thanks for taking the time to write this all down. It's pretty clear that you were 1.5 feet out the door to another manufacturer, so it's interesting to see what compelled you to move to Canon's interpretation of a mirrorless system.

Did you find yourself substantially changing your presets in Lightroom, etc?

Jonathan Reid's picture

Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you got the point of the article. I haven’t started using the camera yet, just made the decision to get one. It might be an interesting excercise to return to this article after a couple of months with the camera to give a verdict.

Please do. I’m interested in hearing how you adjust the work you’ve put in to the software tools by way of adjustments. Not a pro but weighing my own move.

David Schloss's picture

I completely understand that someone with "muscle memory" with a system would feel comfortable with the system they've used over another. I'm a bit confused about the section on the lens requirements.

You're using a manual focus 17mm tilt shift lens. There is not a native t/s in the E-mount at that focal length, sure. You said "What put me off Sony is that the adapters are not supported by either Canon or Sony. "

But they work fine, especially for a manual focus lens. Nikon and Canon don't support them, because they allow you to switch to a competitor. It's like saying Tesla doesn't support adapters that let you power your BMW at a Tesla charging station. Of course they don't.

The converters needed for a mechanical focus lens like the 17mm is simply a pin out lens adapter and flange distance space. Any lens adapter would work fine. There's no motor to drive, all it needs is aperture data.

If you're going to pick a system based on adapter performance, the 17mm t/s lens is one of the worst cases to base it on adapter performance.

I get that you might want to stick with Canon because you're a Canon shooter, but not sure I get the adapter issue here.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I can comment on my own personal experience using the Canon 17mm on my Sony A7RII (also my 12-24), but I can't explain why. Using the 17mm shifted either up or down made the corners of the image so blurred, they were unusable. I thought it was the lens, so I sent it to Canon and paid almost $1000 for a repair. It made no difference. A year later, I swapped my Sony for the Canon 5DS and the problem dissapeared. The problem seemed present in ultra wide scenes. As I said, I can't explain why but this thread touches on the issues:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1415739/3

As for Nikon and Canon not supporting them, I understand why and in my case, it actually prevented me from moving over. The problem I have with an unsupported adaptor is that when I had my issues with the two lenses, neither Canon or Sony could help me. I don't want to go down the route of investing in a Sony camera and two expensive Canon lenses and then find a similar issue.

Bill Peppas's picture

Please kill me now.
Trying to make what is most likely the worst camera Canon ever released sound like a good choice just to stay with Canon.

Really ? Are people so stupidly blindfolded by brand loyalty and pure fanboyism ?

This would be a pretty damn bad article even if it was sourced by Canon's marketing team.
I would just quit writing.

Jonathan Reid's picture

This has been the most successful article I’ve ever written and not even by a small margin. But your expertise advice is noted.

Phil Kogan's picture

I chose a Sony A7Riii as a successor to my Canon 5Diii and I'm pleased with the choice. But you artfully illustrate how there is not always one right answer about buying a new camera. Particularly, given the overall high quality of the available choices!

Gergö Nyirö's picture

but the TS lenses will be also adapted on the EOR R, will they not take the same dive?

Jonathan Reid's picture

No, because Canon is obliged to ensure that their adaptor works as advertised.

Gergö Nyirö's picture

f*cking BS and this doesn't affect optical performance, they are both adapted

classic case of stockholm syndrome.

also love he doesn't "require the following: 4K video, 5-axis stabilization, Extreme ISO performance"...

hope he requires the following: unusable touch pad, top lcd that cracks prematurely, bad tracking during bursts, subpar dynamic range, bad erganomics...

J.M. Kariuki's picture

You had me until 'Apple is the better phone'.

On serious note, I'm interested in the adapting issues you encountered with Sony Do you mean autofocus? It's not clear from the article especially since the tilt shift lens isn't an autofocusing lens.

Jonathan Reid's picture

No, the issue I had was very poor corner performance when shifting the lens or using an extreme wide angle like the 12-24.

Why do people care what other people use? If someone is using what you view as an inferior product isnt that better for you?

Jonathan Brady's picture

You were always going to choose Canon given your criteria (familiarity and lenses). This was an exercise in futility on your part. It's POSSIBLE it might have gone differently in the case of something like a fire or theft where it was ALL gone, but given the importance you placed on familiarity with the camera in hand as well as the processing, probably not. The other options never actually had a chance.

Jonathan Reid's picture

This is a good point. Before I had the opportunity to replace my system, I hadn’t thought through factors like muscle memory. I automatically had the mindset that another camera would serve me better. It was only after weighing everything up that I came to realise that factors like muscle memory were more useful to me than small boosts in dynamic range. If I had no lenses at all as in a fire claim, the draw of the 17mm TSE would have still been strong but maybe not strong enough to keep me from the Nikon.

Benton Lam's picture

When someone else is paying the bill for the camera gear, and there isn't a big price difference, I would have picked up something with IBIS any day.

However, the fact that you have a tilt-shift that is at least staying with the same OEM is probably a good idea, even though I doubt that it's AF and needed the electrical contacts at all.

Jonathan Reid's picture

It wasn’t autofocus that was the issue, the corners of my images were terrible when connecting the 17mm TSE to the Sony A7RII with a Metabones V. I would be weary of having the same problem with the Sony A7RIII.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Why I chose a Fuji camera....
Why I chose a Sony camera....
Why I chose a Nikon camera....
Why I chose a Hasselblad camera....
Why I chose a Leica camera....
Why I chose a Pentax camera....
Why I chose an Olympus camera....
Why I chose a Lumix camera....
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.
Come people...help me out here. Name some more.

Jonathan Reid's picture

This is an article on why I chose Canon desipite my initial reluctance. It goes into looking beyond specs when choosing the best tool for the job. What would you have titled it?

Timothy Gasper's picture

Understandable. The same can be said for any other camera. It's all personal choice. I've just seen too many articles on....'why I chose this...or...why I switched from that to this, etc'. Does it really matter? If it goes beyond specs when choosing the best tool for the job...anyone can justify their choice to that end as well. It just "appears" that someone is trying to promote a brand and/or sway others into a 'choice' or to look into it biasedly. It's a valid point and if you've seen as many of these types of articles as I have...well maybe look at it more ojectively. I could easily write on why I chose Fuji or Nikon or Leica. But why would I? I don't care what anyone else is shooting with.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Don't pay any attention to me. I used to write stories too. Just keep up your good work.

Jonathan Reid's picture

Thanks for the feedback Timothy. I think the reason why I chose to make this an article was that I had become so anti Canon based on all the reviews I had read that when I ended up choosing a Canon, it was a surprise to me. Although I used an actual brand and an actual model as an example, it was the principle that I was writing about. Don’t get too caught up in reviews. If you scroll through some of the comments, you’ll see some big arguments over fairly trivial matters, like the ability to push a Sony file by 6 stops. This is a matter that has become a major factor for some when choosing a camera, but imo, it shouldn’t matter as much as something like lens range selection. I’ve been swayed by these trivial matters on review sites so I thought others may have too. The article was for people like me.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Thank you sir and I apologize for seeming rude.

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