Dumping Canon for Nikon

34 Happy Years of Canon

I've been a dedicated Canon buyer since I bought my first SLR at the age of 13. 

  • 1979 AE1 (50mm, 80-200 zoom)
  • 1989 AE1 program (30-70, 70-300, 500mm reflector)
  • 1997 EOS Rebel for my wife (35-70, 75-300)
  • 1997 Canon 8mm video recorder
  • 2005(ish) Canon SD700IS
  • Canon point and shoots for my kids

We had a very happy Canon home. Then my Canon video camera died after running through about 4 video tapes (admittedly over the life of several years beyond warranty but it's not like it was abused). Then my point and shoot stopped focusing about 6 months after the warranty expired (no sand in the mechanics). So, when it came time to shop for a DSLR, I was hesitant to buy another Canon. However, The 60D had just been released and it sounded awesome. I tried it out in the store and it felt great. And it turned out I could continue to use my wife's 75-300 zoom. But I still had that little voice in the back of my head saying "Canon quality isn't what it used to be. Remember your video camera and your point and shoot). But the Nikon 7000 wasn't due to be released any time soon and when I test drove the 60D, I really liked it.

  • The Canon 60 feature set is almost perfect.
  • The ergonomics of the Canon 60D are fantastic.
  • The user interface of the menu system is incredibly well thought out. I don't know if it's just because I've been a Canon user for so long but I found the camera very intuitive to use. Even features I'd never encountered before were very easy to master.
  • The flip out video screen seemed a bit gimicky but it seemed like it might be handy and I really grew to like this feature a lot when shooting video.
  • It doesn't have the lens micro-adjust/calibration that the 50D had but that didn't seem like a big deal at the time.

I bought the 60D along with a 15-85 zoom lens from a local camera shop and loved it. It was great to take pictures with. I shot fantastic quality videos of my kids plays at school. I shot in low-light in the house and captured family events without a flash as the fast ISO and image stabilization made hand-holding in low light a breeze. The Canon 60D was a pleasure to use and generated beautiful results. I was thrilled to be back into the world of SLR photography again. 

Then the Wheels come off

Then, (you had to know it was coming), I rented a Canon f2.8 70-200 IS2 zoom lens to shoot figure skaters at the local skating club. The subjects were mostly lower level figure skaters, so most of them don't move too quickly. I set up my camera as I described on this page which means I'm shooting at 2.8 to compensate for low light. I shot about 1500 pictures from the boards but I was very disappointed with the results. Most of them did not show the kind of sharp focus I would expect from such an expensive lens on a mid-range camera from Canon but I put it down to my inexperience in this shooting environment. I'd never really done sports photography like that before but it seemed like there might be an issue with my Camera. I had two photographs of a stationary skater taken less than 1 second apart and one was crystal clear and one appeared to have focused about 2 feet in front of the skater, but the framing of the two shots were identical. But, like I said, I was new to digital sports photography and figured it might be me. 

So I tried again a second time and rented a f2.8 70-200 IS1 zoom lens the next time I had a chance to shoot the skaters. I concentrated really hard on keeping the skater centred in the frame so that the centre focus element would be sure to get the right target. I shot 4000 shots and my results were worse than the first time. While I was definitely starting to suspect my equipment, I figured that I should go back to the IS2 lens and with my improved technique, I should be able to get good results. Results were no better. Consistently, most of the images looked a little soft but the ice in the foreground (about a foot or two in front of the skater) appeared sharp and clear. Although when you're looking at a sheet of ice, it's a little tough to tell exactly what's in focus and what's not. 

Getting to the bottom of the Problem

So, I took my photos down to my trusty photo shop where I bought the camera to get to the bottom of the issue. They agreed that the lens didn't appear to be focusing properly but I'd tried three different lenses and no-one else was complaining about the lenses not focusing for them so the problem appeared to be with my camera and the rental lenses. My own 15-85 lens didn't seem to have the issue, but it's not as high quality a lens so it's more difficult to really say how well it's focusing. The bad news is that my camera is out of warranty, so anything that needs to be done to the camera will be at my expense. They suggest that I could send the camera in for calibration. Estimated cost $150. And they have to calibrate the camera to a lens so I'd have to calibrate it to my 15-85 lens but there's no guarantee that once it was calibrated to that lens that the 70-200 lenses would be any better. Obviously calibrating my camera to a rental lens doesn't really make sense and probably isn't practical, so I'm left with the question "what do I do". Do I rent a Canon 60D and a lens and see if my results are the same? That's a couple hundred dollars of rental just for a test and if it turns out that my camera is the issue, I still have the question of what to do about it. 

Let's Try Nikon to Make Sure it's not Me

So, I decided to borrow a Nikon D7000 from my brother-in-law and a f2.8 VRII 70-200 from a friend and take that rig to the rink. Happily, it turns out that I'm not an incompetent photographer. I'll admit the shots aren't all perfect, but the success rate is much, much higher. The vast majority of the shots are in sharp focus.

Now, to be fair, before I went to shoot with the nikon, I borrowed a focus target from a friend and calibrated the lens to the camera (something that is not possible with the Canon 60d). Before doing that, the lens calibration was way off. Even after calibration, the lens was still not focusing exactly where it thought it was focusing. Before calibration, it seemed to be focusing about 8 inches behind the target. After calibration it was off by only an inch or two. 

For comparison, I put my Canon with it's 15-85 through the test as well as my Canon with my cheap 70-300 lens. My 15-85 was just about perfect and the 70-300 was pretty close. So, my camera is clearly capable of focusing (at least on a stationary target in bright light) but since it can't be calibrated to other lenses, it eliminates the possibility of using other lenses. 

It's Shopping Time Again

In an unpleasant twist of fate, my camera and cell phone were stolen recently so I'm now shopping for a new camera. And no, I'm not really happy about it. After paying my deductible, I'm further behind than if I'd traded it in. As I start to do my shopping, the first question is of course Canon or Nikon. Sadly, despite 34 years of mostly happy Canon ownership, the answer now has to be Nikon. It was very short-sited of Canon to drop lens calibration from the 60d when it was upgraded from the 50d. It makes the 60d nothing but a recreational camera. A really nice recreational camera but not for serious amateurs.  

I know Nikon has had it's share of complaints too but I feel betrayed by Canon and can't really see buying another product with that name on it. I'm just really disappointed.