Comparing Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Sony Cameras
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I read a lot of camera reviews before I bought my first Canon but none of them really helped me figure out what camera I should get. Eventually, I went through Flickr and bookmarked a bunch of images I liked, looked through the EXIF data when available and found that about 75% of the photos I particularly liked were shot on a Canon. That’s how I picked my first camera.
There are a lot of sample images in reviews but I’ve always wanted to see comparison images between different cameras, not just sample images for a single body or a single lens. For years I assumed someone would do this sort camera comparison (and perhaps they have but I’ve never run across it). The curiosity of how different camera bodies shoot and the idea to compare them has been rolling around in my brain for years now. Originally, I thought about renting different cameras as a personal side project. I was trying to work out the logistics of this while commuting between shoots when I realized that I knew enough photographers with different gear that I could make this comparison happen with friends.
I brought my 5d Mark IV Canon, Alina brought her Nikon D850, Sonja brought her Fujifilm XT-3 and Kristen brought her Sony A7RIII. We all met at The Robey Hotel, which kindly let us use their space for this and took comparison shots of food, a portrait (with Caitlin modeling) and the skyline.
To try and keep the shots as consistent as possible we each brought a 24-70 lens (though the Fuji has a cropped sensor so Sonja estimated at the 24mm equivalent) and I brought a tripod. I set up each shot and then shared my settings with everyone else. I made small edits to the images but they’re edited almost identically.
The food Photo comparison
When I organized all the photos and started looking over them, I was struck by how much the differences felt like a break down between DSLR and mirrorless bodies. The Canon and Nikon are both DSLRs and the images certainly have differences but are way more similar to each other than the Fuji and Sony images.
Close up photo comparisons
I was the one to pick the settings for each image, which now I feel unfairly advantaged the Canon. It’s clear that the mirrorless bodies shoot darker than the DSLRs but I didn’t know that going into this so we didn’t compensate for that. All the the images were shot RAW and they are large files with a lot of flexibility for possible editing routes.
After the initial comparison, I went through and edited all the photos to be as similar as possible. Working with RAW files you can take the images and make them look very similar. There’s still a difference with the lens distortion between each of the lens, which is interesting since we were all using the same focal lengths. Additionally, the grain of the images ranges a lot.
Portrait Photo Comparison
I’m wary of making camera recommendations, if you look at Kristen’s work, Sonja’s photography, Alina’s portraits and my portfolio there are no telltale signs of the cameras we choose to use. The equipment is a starting point. It’s a tool. All that said, I will note that if I was personally primarily focused on portraits I would switch to Nikon. The Nikon D850 is an amazing camera and in my opinion, it particularly shines with portrait photography.
Below I edited each of the images to match more closely. Since I’m most comfortable with Canon photos I usually started out with the Canon image and then edited the rest. For the portrait, I edited the Nikon image and then matched the other images.
Skyline Comparison Images
I feel like the camera differences are most noticeable in the urban skyline shots. The difference in colors is really apparent in the sky. Also, there’s more texture and contrast in the sky with the mirrorless shots. Most of the street and urban photographers I know use sony cameras. For a lot of them, I think the weight was the biggest attraction but the images from the mirrorless cameras also lend themselves nicely to urban landscape shots.
There was a larger range in the images than I expected. Ultimately, I think that each of the cameras gives you an image that has a different starting point but with editing you can morph the images to look whatever way you want.
It seems sort of obvious now that the biggest difference would be between DSLR vs. Mirrorless but I hadn’t thought about that going into this. I would love to see the Canon DSLR compared to the new Canon mirrorless camera. Additionally, I’d be curious to see a comparison between digital medium format cameras and DSLRs but that’s for some other time.
After all this, I would say that if I was doing portrait work I’d get a Nikon, if I was mostly shooting urban street photography I’d go for a Fuji or a Sony but as a food photographer I’m happy with the Canon. Also, I think the camera doesn’t matter as much as learning how to use it to get what you want out of it. All of these cameras are incredibly flexible in creating whatever type of work you want to make.