Three Things I Appreciate About Canon Cameras

Three Things I Appreciate About Canon Cameras

Canon cameras tend to get a lot of flak for seemingly being behind the times technologically speaking, though they remain the top brand in the world. Nonetheless, it's not all bad with them. Here are three things that I think Canon cameras do very well.

When I was a kid, I shot with Canon film cameras, though I didn't know much about photography; I just liked taking pictures. I continued shooting with them as I moved into the digital world, but being the nerd I am, I eventually branched out. I've shot with Pentax, Panasonic, Sony, Fujifilm, and Hasselblad, and I currently shoot mainly with a Sony a7R III and a Canon 1D X Mark II. In all that experimentation, I've come to appreciate certain things about Canon cameras that might get overlooked when one looks at the spec sheets and the like.

Ergonomics

There is really no codified way to quantify this, and thus, it often gets swept under the rug by more marquee features like frame rates and dynamic range. But taking pictures is a physical act, and as such, how a camera fits in your hands has a significant impact on how comfortable you are and can even affect if you get a shot or not, as having a strong, intuitive feel for the device's operation can shave off precious milliseconds that make the difference between getting the shot and being just a smidgen late. 

In this regard, I think Canon can't be beaten. In the race to shrink the size of bodies in the last few years, I think ergonomics have suffered a bit. I love the files I get out of my Sony, but holding it for extended periods of time can get a bit uncomfortable, and it never feels deeply molded to my hands so much as simply being gripped. On the other hand, my Canon feels like an extension of my body. Whereas most camera bodies have grips that simply aren't big enough, causing me to hold them more with my fingertips, the Canon's grip allows the entirety of my fingers to wrap around it, sinking deep into my palm. The textured material adds the right amount of friction to keep it in place. Whereas other cameras feel acceptable in my hands, a Canon camera legitimately feels comfortable; it's an enjoyable physical sensation to pick one up. And over the course of several hours of shooting, that seemingly minor distinction can add up to a big difference.

This feels amazing in my hands.

This is further backed up by the controls layout. I personally think Canon does a great job with the physical placement and feel of controls. I can keep my eye to the viewfinder and change all of the most crucial settings with ease and efficiency, which is again a very important aspect of staying agile while shooting. This is why I always say that if I could drop a Sony sensor into a Canon body, I'd have my perfect camera.

Menu System

I used to scoff at complaints about menu systems on cameras, thinking photographers were being overdramatic. But I've come to appreciate how much a logical, well laid out, and well labeled menu system is. We've all had that experience on a shoot where the camera isn't behaving the way we expect, and we have to try to quickly diagnose and fix it before we start missing shots. Canon's menus are very well organized in an intuitive fashion such that even if you don't know where a feature or setting is, you can quickly guess and find it.

Even the 1D X Mark II's tremendously sophisticated AF system is easy to tame and customize with its menus.

Even more importantly, feature and setting labels are well named and clearly indicate exactly what they're affecting. There are many other camera systems on which the names given to menu settings are too technical, nebulous, or just plain weird to tell you what they're actually affecting, and that can be tremendously frustrating. You shouldn't have to keep the manual in your camera bag or refer to Google for these things. Also, I often find the organization and location of settings on other cameras to be less well thought through. But perhaps most frustratingly, I've found that sometimes, changing settings on another camera results in unanticipated consequences on other settings or features. With a Canon camera, you can intuitively follow the camera's internal structure and logic with ease.

Lens Selection

Other companies are definitely catching up, but Canon remains the brand with the deepest library of professional and more esoteric lenses. And while most brands have the standard sets of professional lenses now (the holy trinity of f/2.8 zooms, standard primes, etc.), Canon has some of the most interesting lenses that can give you a competitive edge in specialized applications or that can inspire creativity. For example, they have a highly regarded line of tilt-shift lenses ranging from 17mm to 135mm, with the longer focal lengths featuring macro capabilities. Their 28-70mm f/2L is a stunner that blurs the line between prime and zoom in terms of capabilities.

Whatever the scenario, there's a Canon lens for it.

Whatever (possibly justified) complaints photographers have about a lack of innovation in camera bodies, Canon certainly creates a veritable bevy of reliable, high quality, innovative lenses, and anyone working with the Canon system is certainly not left wanting when it comes to glass. Even as I continue to migrate away from Canon bodies, I find myself hanging on to a few of my favorite lenses and using adapters simply because the results I get from them are so consistently excellent. If you're a photographer who relies on more standard lenses, that might not matter as much to you nowadays, but if you need more specialized glass, Canon is still one of the leaders. 

Conclusion

Canon tends to get a lot of criticism for a seemingly glacial pace of evolution, and some of that criticism is certainly justified. Nonetheless, behind the headline features that attract the attention of photographers, there are a lot of subtle aspects and features of the Canon system that add up to what's quite often a very enjoyable and reliable shooting experience.

What are your favorite features of the Canon system? Let me know in the comments! 

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60 Comments

My 1dx feels amazing in my hands but horrible on my shoulders! one of my favorite cameras of all time. the sonys are ok with Meike MK-X1EM grip extension but the canon fits like a glove. thank god sony is not in the mattress industry. canon sensors were not my favorite due to dynamic range. i love their new rf line up and it has done the near impossible: making sony lenses look cheap in comparison.

as it is these are just tools and sony is the one that works for my needs at the moment. i hope to one day be able to use canon mirrorless when it eventually matures.

Rk K's picture

Most of these depend on the brand you started with and are used to. Expecially menus, but also ergonomics. I find both Canon and Nikon menus, and more importantly controls and button layout, a confusing mess that can't even be operated one handed. It's because I started with olympus then moved to sony.

EL PIC's picture

I would agree with your 1 2 3 choices. I would put #3 as #1.
Invest in Glass ...

One thing that still make Canon the King of all is the 11mm Zoom that takes photo like no others.

Alex Cooke's picture

Oof, that is a gorgeous lens; I loved it when I had the chance to shoot with it.

Terry Wright's picture

What a coincidence, those are the three things I appreciate about my Fujifilm camera. Those are also the three things I appreciate about my Nikon camera.

Should have been titled "Three things camera systems have - sponsored by Canon"

😐

Alex Cooke's picture

The three things I mentioned are not equal across those systems, nor was this article sponsored by anyone.

Terry Wright's picture

My comment implies you haven't named anything Canon does objectively better than others.

Having an opinion is fine, but having no compelling reasons to back up those opinions makes for a pretty empty "article".

Alex Cooke's picture

Ergonomics and menu system preference are generally subjective, though you could probably quantify them based on how quickly a neutrally biased photographer could change select functions, how long one could hold a camera before experiencing discomfort, etc., but no such studies have been performed to my knowledge.

As for the lens library, that is objective and I gave examples. No other company has such a complete lineup of tilt-shift lenses. No other company has a full-frame, normal focal length f/2 zoom lens.

Rk K's picture

The lens lineup is very much a mixed bag. It's the most complete for sure, but a lot of them are old and not quite sharp enough for modern 50mp sensors. Also the R mount is pretty much the least complete unless you adapt, which brings a lot of drawbacks in itself.

When the 50.6mp 5dsr was released four years ago Canon put out a list of 36 lenses to get the best out of the sensor.

Terry Wright's picture

Naming a couple of lenses that are unique to Canon doesn't really make for a convincing argument when you consider that every company will have certain lenses exclusive to their lineup. Unless the lenses are useful to you specifically (which, by the way you write about them, sounds like you don't own them or have used them for long), heaping praise for a system that has exclusive lenses seems disingenuous to an opinion piece.

Well, each system has unique lenses. The 28-70mm f2.0 is great... if you don't need 24mm which most users of transtandards zoom use a lot.

Besides, I would argue against mixing R lenses and EOS ones since Canon has not decent body to use the two current great R lenses on.

Finaly, Sony, Nikon, Fuji,... all have unique lenses either in terms of specs or quality.

Terry Wright's picture

For what it's worth, I'm not trying to start a fight or bash you as a writer or Canon as a manufacturer, but instead I'm questioning what the audience is learning when they read this.

David Pavlich's picture

Most of this audience consists of fairly knowledgeable photographers that pretty much know what works for them. If this article was posted in the Beginner's section of DPR, it might be a different story, but for this group, it's not going be a mind changer. What we learned is what the author likes and little more.

Hhhmmmm, must be a slow news day, then. Some of us still visit here for useful information. Should every writer be putting up why they love their gear without any general fact to aid that, then what is this forum all about (feelings days?). I love shooting Nikon and so do most Pro's that I know of. I still shoot with Canon from time to time but I just adore the Nikon ecosystem.

David Pavlich's picture

Why not? Nobody is forcing any of us to read anything that's posted here and considering all of the fees that FS charges us to be here,.....no, wait!

Campbell Sinclair's picture

alex he's having a joke about canon.

Why upset?

Ergonomics doesn't fit Fuji except with GFX-50S
Lenses are good, but not as vast as Canon
Menu system is fantastic in Fuji

Terry Wright's picture

Nobody's upset, just trying to learn what the objective is. What do you appreciate most about your camera system, Mr Rose?

John Ellingson's picture

It is about what you get used to and invested in. I have been using Nikons since the very first F -- over fifty years ago. I do like the larger body of DSLRs and find the ergonomics better than the mirrorless cameras. I agree with the investment in glass. However, there is no need to only consider lenses from the same company as the camera. In recent years I have migrated to the top of the line Sigma lenses and could not be happier. I am a member of Nikon Professional Service and love my Nikon bodies (D500s and D850). My gear gets treated hard on location. Things get scratched, dented and dinged -- and keeps on working fine. I like strong and durable equipment that I don't have to worry about in the field.

Dave Morris's picture

My experience was similar. After an less than a year affair with Sony a7iii I'm now back shooting mainly with my 5DIII. Despite being an older camera it has much nicer colors and feels like an extension of my hand.

You're not the first photographer I've come across that has done this and I doubt you will be the last.

Brock Torunski's picture

There's something about Canon that always brings me back. People focus so heavily on the spec sheets and forget that there's more than what advertisers and tech junkies put on a piece of paper. I remember shooting with a fully kitted GH5 and a C100 mk i (not even mark ii at the time) and we all preferred the image out of the C100 10-fold more than the GH5.... for the same price. Actually, a GH5 would be more to kit with everything that a C100 has built in. It's objective, but there's also things that aren't. Every brand can have well-fitted bodies and mirrorless is absolutely ruining that comfort. I'd rather comfort over size for sure, Canon's menu is much easier to navigate and it isn't what you're used to. I was initially a Panasonic shooter, then Sony and now Canon and I'd never go back. I like what Fujifilm is doing though. As for lenses, he's right, their lineup is far more complete and usable on a professional level.

Kawika Lopez's picture

I have both, but when push comes to shove, I reach for the 5D because I know it will reliably get the job done and I’ll enjoy using it.

Same. I shot with the A7III for 8 months and I just couldn't get on with it. I am back on Canon and happy, although the EOS R has some issues I have to work around.

Will Murray's picture

With respect to the rate of evolution, these are mature technologies, and these cameras produce spectacular images. We were always going to hit the law of diminishing returns some time.

I have been a Canon user since 1989. I prefer the ergonomics and menus of the Canon over Nikon. I have used Nikon Film and digital cameras in the past and really didn't care for the layout and functionality of the cameras. I don't have an opinion on Sony because I have NOT had the chance to use any of their DSLRS or mirrorless systems yet. I have and use the EOS 6D, EOS 7D mark 2, and the EOS 50M with the EF/EF-s Lens adapter.

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