Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My troubled Marriage with Canon...

Oh - it was great while it lasted - but I was seeing that my days of joy with Canon were coming to an end. I would love to clarify it - though it may take a hell of a time...

My love affair with Digital photography had a modest beginning - a prosumer, Nikon Coolpix E4300, 4 Mega pixel beginning to put it to right perspective. It was a camera that I loved. Released in 2002 Aug, I had it in my hands in Aug 2003, one year after its release. This camera was remarkable. The results usually would blow me off. Though for birdwatching I trusted most of the times on eyes and old set of Binoculars still as the reach of this camera was hardly enough to ensure bird pictures. All the same - it was part of my digital life and I carried it everywhere... 
My prized picture clicked with Nikon Coolpix E4300

This all lasted till mid 2010 - a full seven years before I was a able to afford an upgrade to Canon 550D. How I jumped to the canon Bandwagon - reviews - there were tons of people out there who were swearing by canon especially for nature and outdoors. I read and saw many a review - the base line was simple - you want to do indoors, or studio photography - buy Nikon - the sensors have been doing well, but if you want to be on to sports, wildlife - then the range of equipment (lens and related) and focus systems - the canon is unbeatable. This relation too was great while it lasted - with canon I mean. I moved relatively quickly, considering it took me seven years to move on to a DSLR. I was hooked on to Canon - 550D to 70D and finally 7D mark ii. As I moved this period I was also taking small baby steps upgrading my lenses to meet the requirements of birdwatching. The first lens was the 55-250 EF lens that gave me reach to start photographing birds. This was my humble beginning to photographing birds and becoming crazy for the same. Next lens that took me to next level of photographing birds with the Canon 100-400L in my hands. The lens was great and coupled with 70D - I really had some good times. 70D was really a stop gap with rumours of 7D Mark ii flying thick and thin. The day 7D mark ii was released I was on the ship with the new Canon 100-400L mark ii. All this while I will admit that I was missing the results that I got from my 4 megapixel Nikon. This never ever left my mind. Perhaps this - coupled with some more reasons finally resulted in my moving on from Canon.
Canon 7D mark ii picture edited from the picture below by 1.6 times exposure. This is not a planned underexposure or anything, just a old file picture that I had and am using as an example.

Original picture clicked in RAW by Canon 7D mark (@ISO 800)

The combination of Canon 7D mark ii with 100-400L series ii was great. I was getting good results and fair amount of keepers in my birding trips. Then in 2015 Oct I did a trip to Sikkim with few of my birding colleagues - during that trip three of us were with canon and one with Nikon. Infact during the last three days one more Nikon joined - the camera of our birding guide. We had great birding for a day we were with him - the problem was that when I clicked and compared the same bird in the same settings - I found his results to be superior. Finally I could not resist but strike up a conversation with him. That conversation was one of the factor that started taking Canon down south in my mind. He too said that he was with canon but by the day getting more and more dis-satisfied with canon and finally made a hard decision and jumped to Nikon - as per him - he was fully satisfied.
This is a recovered photograph clicked by D500 and exposure ramped up by 1.6 times the exposure. It may not be a fair comparison to the Canon set of pictures above but then the closest I could manage out of my archives.

Original picture clicked in RAW by D500 (@ISO 400)

As I had started growing into photography - I was also trying to become hyper-critical of my photography. One of the reasons that Bird Photographers would swear by was the "Reach" - reach as in every jump in lens where-in I can be ever so slightly more closer to the bird. 250 mm - ummm... 400mm - good but could be better. This was also the stage that when I was now seriously considering 500mm. Well there were factors that my thought did not result in action and I went on to the next birdwatching trip to Australia in Oct 2015 - the photography was not bad but I was asking for more. More reach and even better results. I was confident and will admit here that I was fairly proficient with my photography with canon - and I am sure I could have improved - but I was doing whatever I could.

In Jan/Feb next year - that is 2016 - my planning for birding trip to Uganda was being finalised. I was now seriously considering and searching for a 500mm option. The search was not difficult - there was only one option of canon prime and costed roughly ₹ 6,00,000  ($ 8,999). That is a cost of one arm and a leg. I had some friends using Sigma and Tamaron - but my basic nature just did not let me move on to anything but the original OEMs. Then there were problems - lens freeze, slow focus and related in using these lenses. As the dates of the visited creeped upon me I was becoming more and more of a moron. Another thing troubling me was - I knew that moving on to Nikon I will miss the 10fps that Canon 7D mark ii was offering me.
Birds in Flight: got a good amount of keepers with D500. The camera and the lens are responsive and programable controls mad BIF a little bit easier.

With two months to go - I was out birdwatching with Mr Sriram (who had recently acquired the newly released Nikon D500). Before we reached the birding spot - we stopped for have the early morning cup of tea, the sun had just started to lighting the sky and where we stopped at the roadside for tea - there were a few cocks and hens running around. Joking about Canon and Nikon we both took shots with our cameras (me with canon and him with Nikon) - when we compared the results - my heart sank - his images were far sharper than what I was getting and that was consistently. He was also lugging the 200-500mm f5.6 lens of Nikon that too was recently released. My mind was made up  (psst... ask my wife - she blames be for instant decisions, she calls them hasty most of the times - but I do not remember I have got them wrong too many times) I told Mr Sriram to call the distributor of Nikon who helped him bagging this camera and secure one for me. (The Nikon D500 was just launched and was just not available at that time, the demand was just too great). Anyway the delivery time frame was not suiting me as I wanted to try the camera atleast for a month or so before I go to Uganda. I was in Chandigarh next and was frantically searching for the distributor at Chandigarh, I got a negative from him too - but he put me in touch with a distributor in Punjab - who secured a piece from Pathankot and was shipped to me along with 200-500mm lens. This entire search took ticked off another two weeks of my preparation time. Simultaneously I had put my entire canon gear on sale. The first thing that got sold was my 100-400L mark ii lens. Now there was no bird photography to do in Uganda if I did not get the new gear in place. subsequently all my gear was sold and I was almost ready to move on to Nikon (financially I mean. Though the deferential of my sold and gear to be bought was still 1.25 lacs) Slowly and steadily my gear got delivered. Lens 200-500 f5.6, Kit lens 16-80mm, 1.4x teleconverter, Battery Grip (shipped from US and my customs gave me a jolt by charging almost 30% duty), Flash, XQD card (interestingly the XQD card 64 GB is costing ₹ 14,000 in India and was costing 6,700/- ($ 100), XQD card reader gave me another set of problem as firstly it was expensive and secondly version ii was not backward compatible. Initially I did a work around where in I copied all the pictures to SD card in the camera itself and then transferred the pictures on the Laptop. I must tell you that it was not a neat arrangement were in I once overwrote pictures in my SD card. Pictures once overwritten are not retrievable and I still mourn the loss. More about the XQD card later in a separate blog. I was now a student in the earnest with exams on top of my head. My classes were the Youtube, pamphlets and all. By the end of it - I was still not confident as I sat on the Aircraft heading towards Uganda.

The trip went on to be great - good birds - and terrific photo opportunities. I did create chaos - in the sense - some bird photographer perhaps recommended shooting birds in the manual mode and I did so - that combined with the fact that I was relatively new to the camera - well lost many a shots. But the crib of "Reach" - well - 500 mm almost satisfied me to the fullest. That in no way my guarantee that I will never ever ask for a prime or a 600 mm - but it is me admitting to the fact that 500mm did give me opportunities that I wanted in my kitty. Let me got down to spelling out advantages and disadvantages of the camera I bought along with the kit and accessories. I am now writing this article with almost 10,000 shutter operations and three months of usage. There would be - as expected a lot of references and comparisons with the canon camera I owed.

I will start with a disclaimer, Canon 7D mark ii was a great camera and aged 1 and ½ an year older than D500. There will be places where in you will have to take the points I write with a pinch of salt. There is no particular fashion in which I discuss the advantage and disadvantages - they are as they come to my mind.
Reach - and a memorable time in Uganda...

Advantages (Nikon D500)

1. Anyone will tell you that for birding full frame is not the right choice. So all my holdings (till I can afford bigger prime lenses) are crop sensors cameras. There is a lot of chit chat regarding Canon and Nikon crop sensor cameras - the fact is that the crop factor is 1.6 in case of Canon and 1.5 in case of Nikon. What is means is that putting same amount of pixels on the sensor - logically the Nikon pixels are slightly larger and give a better performance. I will agree with it - because I find the pictures slightly better.

2. Canon 7D mark ii had the advantage of a better frame rate - that is 10 frames per second. Nikon matched it and took it a step further - it gave virtually unlimited no of shots in RAW format. There is a restriction of course but the restriction is at 200 shots continuous and that too with the Nikon restricting - giving a reason that if you have your camera in a bag and for some reason the camera is on - it will run out of the card and battery if the shutter button was to remain pressed. So Nikon nailed it here.

3. Canon I always felt that had better and natural colours to the un-edited and unprocessed pictures. However after using Nikon and turning off all in camera processing and sharpening effects - Nikon pictures too are not overly saturated or anything like Samsung mobile phone cameras - by default post process the pictures to make them seem better, brighter and more vibrant on the screens. This may work in general but for a purist photographer - who might distort the picture in post processing himself - will still not accept the camera doing it. So I will grade them equal here.

4. I do not know the technical reasons - but I feel strongly that the detail in the photographs out of Nikon is better than Canon. I have seen many a reasons on the net - because of lack of anti-aliasing filter or something - I really do not know the technical reasons - but to my naked eye that is the truth so I will grant that to Nikon.

5. Canon had an advantages of better focus system. Now having used both the cameras - I feel Nikon has overtaken Canon in photography - but if you want to do videos off and on - Nikon still is way behind - the canon focus shifting is just beyond Nikon's league.

6. Nikon beats Canon in some areas of Aesthetics - the button placement is beautiful. Get used to it once and you will be hooked. Infant touch screen, bluetooth and Wifi adds great advantages that I feel canon seriously missed out in their release. But if I have to believe the online debates then Nikon has jumped the gun and SnapBridge so proudly being advertised is a no-go on iOS. Well - will wait for the final word. (I might have to eat my words here - the SnapBridge is now available for download - and what irony - it was available within hours of this article being published. I will test it and come back to you regarding it). 'Okay now having tested SnapBridge - what works seamlessly is Time update for the Camera and the GPS location updates. The camera trigger is somewhat okay but has a lag. The downloading of pictures wether by choosing or by choosing auto download is buggy and no go as of now' - updated on 12 Sep 2016.

7. As I saw the online tutorials and reviews of D500 - there were people saying that you can correct the photographs clicked in RAW in D500 by four stops in post processing. Well I found 3 stops was a more realistic figure or perhaps ⅓ rd of a stop more. Well it is still better than what I could achieve on Canon 7D mark ii RAW photo processing.

8. Like I said before - there is no zoom lens in Canon kitty that can compare with 200-500. See - Nikon and canon both got kicked with Tamron and Sigma releasing 600mm and 500mm lens. I saw so many friends carrying Tamrons and Sigmas - I am sure that it hurt both canon and Nikon - but the matter of the fact is that Nikon woke up to the challenge and canon is still sleeping. Nikon's launch is at the same or lower price point of the rivals and the lens matches perfectly with the D500. No freezes, good and fast focus, no problems at all - so a home run all the way. And me - along with thousands others got the reach without spending an arm and a leg...

9. Usable ISO range in the Nikon seems better - I will not rub in this because of the reason I wrote earlier - the Nikon D500 has released almost 2 years after Canon 7D mark ii. So I will write it here - in my hearts of hearts I am not taking this terribly against Canon.

10. The focus of Canon 7D mark ii was phenomenal - I am saying this because the birds in flight - pictures were spot on. Luckily for me - D500 has given the same quality - if it has not surpassed 7D. I would say that it has surpassed but since this is subjective - I will add that - that it is as per me.

11. Tilt screen of D500 - even if not fully articulating is still an advantage. That coupled with touch screen - it is rocking to say the least. Let me tell you when I used 70D - the wifi feature and the touch screen were one of the very strong features of that camera in my opinion. It is not that I use this feature every now and then - but when I do use them - it is heavenly.

12. There are more usable focus points in D500 and I found that that during Birds in Flight photography - they were great. Also some of the programable features I use are absolutely rocking. Ofcourse I use back button focus - but using the back button remain at single focus point - and using rocker button for 25 point for BIF is a no brainier winner hands down.

Disadvantages (Nikon D500)

There may not be a long list and the things may be small - but they are irritants and there are definitely some gripes that I have.

1. The first one is - Nikon feel is just not as good as Canon. Though once again a very very subjective thing to say but Canon felt more manly and my hands just loved the feel. If Nikon was to ask me - what and why do you say so - I will be hard at words - but this is the fact. Ask any one who has used both the cameras and reply will be the same - atleast I did ask and got this reply. I must add that I have found Nikon fairly aesthetic in the button layout and everything but that feel - it is missing.

2. Lens build quality - well I am talking about 100-400L mark ii and Nikon 200-500 - like the camera - the canon lens build and feel quality is miles ahead of Nikon. There is a disadvantage for Nikon here - we are comparing a 90,000/- lens with canon at 1,50,000/- lens. Unfair ? maybe - but this is the fact. Simple things - the hood on Nikon lens has knocked off atleast half a dozen times in past three months - canon? not once in past year and a half. The buttons are smooth to operate on Canon. The hood on Nikon either way takes time clicking into position. The rear cap screws counter intuitively - what do you do to close a tap ? turn it clockwise - on Nikon lens rear cap you turn counter clockwise to tighten it and clockwise to open. Though nothing in the world says it has to be so - but then nothing says it has to break what we have followed since our birth. Next the lens cover just does not fit in to a simple click. Even after fitting in there is no guarantee that it will not fall off.

3. Small details are missing - what do you do when you keep the camera in a bag - atleast I rip it apart - Camera body, Lens, Teleconverter - all are packed separately. When you screw on the lens you have one set of caps free. When you put on a teleconverter - you have the second set of caps free. Here comes the problem. I was using a teleconverter and wanted to stow it away. I took off the teleconverter and tried to pack it - the teleconverter would not fit - bloody hell - the caps of teleconverter are not similar to the other set of caps you have - and I had to keep the teleconverter on as I had unfortunately picked up the wrong set of caps. These this are not there in Canon. After all look at it - how the hell should it matter. It is illogical to have two different set of caps for these.

4. Having wifi and bluetooth and you have to buy an instrument worth $100 to trigger the camera - that's a shame without doubt. Also if the internet reports are to be believed - SnapBridge is not likely to become a reality anytime soon. Basic problem of Wifi being coupled with bluetooth over a channel or something.

5. Built in flash - well i must say that I miss it. It was there in Canon and they made a weather sealed camera but they could not get the wifi and bluetooth citing that it is not possible. Now Nikon has bluetooth and Wifi but not the flash - either they wanted to give it a premium camera feel or they feel it will affect weather sealing. My reason is that with a built in flash I could fire the slave flash seamlessly and I did not have to spend a penny more. Now in case of Nikon I have wifi and bluetooth but cannot fire the flash off the camera. That's not good - is it?

6. No GPS. I miss the Canon GPS - once I started using it - it was so easy to see the locations I clicked it even telling me what direction I was facing while taking the picture. That was seamlessly displayed in Lightroom and I loved this feature. Well there is a way around in the SnapBridge where in the GPS location is picked up from the smart phone and then imbedded in the camera - well I have an Android mobile but could not make it do this. I have the other phone as iPhone and that is a no go due to what I wrote in the point enough. There is a chance that SnapBridge for iOS does not see the light of the day ever.

7. There is a pronounced jump of the mirror that jumps after a click and takes time to settle back in place. Never had that problem in and Canon gear.

So all in all I do not have any issue so far with the performance per s├ę - but then there is a scope to address so many issues. There are other things I would have liked like the camera to take panorama photographs - after all landscapes are important in the nature photography. If you have noticed I have not talked about the videography because personally I am not interested and have not used my DSLR so for for this purpose.

If you do manage to read this much I do applaud you. Do me a favour of following my blog or on Google+ if you can. It gives me more reason and motivation to write and share ­čśÇ

Links to D500 kit and related


  1. Sir what an amazing read. Being a Canon user i feel the same. Though I am not a birder but the way you have brought out the facts with brevity and dexterity..its brings home the point. This is an honest confession and brings out your nostalgia with Canon too...but I strongly feel will help lot of people in making a correct decision.

    Amazing blog sir... Kudos

  2. Great article, taking time out to document your experiences that can help so many birding and wildlife photographers is really amazing. Thanks a ton! Enjoyed reading your articles.

  3. Thank you Prasanna for taking out time to read the article.

  4. Excellent article from a real person and not one of those pixel peepers. I have sold some of my Canon equipment and looking to upgrade. Had 70D and 400 prime, 5.6 (cheaper lens, but excellent in every way) along with 6D, 70-200, 24-105. Will keep the ff and lenses that are left above, but seriously thinking of switching to Nikon D500 and 200-500 lens for wild life and birding. Just can't get the shots with the 400 on the canon. Your article was very convincing that I should go with Nikon. Have to watch how much I spend, but with selling some things, I believe it will be do-able. Thank you so much for an indepth, real person-experience. Linda

    1. Thanks you Jaclin. The problem with the world is that it is changing very fast and there is no time to sing and celebrate the past glories. Sometimes a shakeup is required even to the best of the corporate to more on. Not all is well with D500 i am told - basically non-wildlife people are moving on to full frame because this camera is a corp sensor and costs as much. All the same I am happy. That being said after using their SnapBridge for past month or so - i feel Nikon should roll the head of whosoever conceptualised this. It is fairly junk piece of concept that is neither practical nor worth the time and effort.

    2. S S Cheema, I wanted to followup and let you know that I have purchased the Nikon D500 and the 200-500 lens about a month ago, haave done extensive reading and videos on how to operate and I am one very HAPPY CAMPER! This system is amazing. I have far more keepers, as a matter of fact, it is difficult often times to decide which pictures to discard. Totally amazed and I notice on my fb page, people are astounded with the photos Ii post. Thank you again for this very wonderful article. I have kept it and archived with my bookmarks on the Nikon setup. You are an awesome person for sharing your view!

    3. Thanks for the followup Jaclin-rn. Infact now almost 5th month into my possession I too agree with you. The camera is now my perfect companion everywhere I go and I do travel a hell of a lot for birdwatching. Some of the gripes of the SnapBridge too seem to be sorted out but it has a long way to go as it is far from perfect. The 200-500 is giving snaps almost as good as some primes. Well it may seem like an overstatement and I might be shouted upon but I too am happy as hell.

  5. Wow, Read Full article after reading i was fully shifted to your trip days and experienced me there. Its not about Canon or Nikon, Its like Birding. Loved it will expect more from your blogs.

    1. Thank you Pramodh. Will surely continue scribbling notes and blogs every now and then...

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  7. I recently did a birding trip with a Nikon guy. He was having D500 and Nikon 200-500 lens. I was on Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 400 f/4 DO. After the trip, the Nikon guy was frustrated when he compared his output with mine. But then again, it was only one birding trip with 30 species clicked. And moreover, sometimes it can be about the person behind the viewfinder too. Well, whatever it is, you have done birding with me too, so you know i am not a person who has a habit to boast.

  8. Hello Sir,
    Greetings from Mumbai. I am truly impressed by your writing and the efforts that you have taken to spell out the differences between the two systems.
    I myself moved to the same Canon combination that you had around 2 years ago, previously using the Olympus DSLR and the M4/3rds system. Moved because of the lack of reach and had contemplated switching to the Nikon system that you are using right now. Aborted the thought of the Nikon system because of the weight of the camera and the lens, but your article has set me thinking again.
    Makarand Saraf

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