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Canon 10D vs. Nikon D100 Review Test
2004 KenRockwell.com

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WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU GET?

This is a common question, and luckily the answer is fairly easy since the cameras are very similar.

You can see my detailed comments on the D100 here and the 10D here.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TODAY?

If you already own lenses and accessories in the Nikon or Canon systems, just get the camera of that brand, end of story.

I'm serious here: the two cameras are so similar that it makes no sense to change from one brand to the other unless you really want to change brands. Just order your 10D here or D100 here and be happy.

If you are starting from scratch either is great, so read on for particulars.

PICTURE QUALITY: THE SAME

First off, just forget about there being any visible difference in the picture quality for real pictures.

People are always worried about CCD vs. CMOS or whatever, which actually means nothing. Contrary to the popular beliefs among people new to digital, the image quality of similar classes of digital cameras are just about identical. Each manufacturer makes up some technical gobbledygook to impress the innocent that their camera is better than the others, and camera store salespeople stir this up too. I've tried these style cameras against each other, and the results are the same.

Sure, there may be differences in color rendition just as there are between different films, but those are subjective matters of personal taste that only you can decide for yourself. When you try these make sure to bring the images home and look at them on the same computer. DO NOT compare cameras by looking at the images on the LCD screens on the cameras, since there are bigger variations between camera LCD panels than differences in the actual images recorded.

The parameters that can be measured objectively, like resolution and noise, are so close that only by shooting test charts or using special instruments can one find any difference among digital cameras. Ignore the other websites out there written by non-photographers loaded with all this info. You'll notice that at best there may be an insignificant 20% difference from one camera to the next. You and I just can't see this in real photos. There are much more important things to worry about, like:

SPEED AND EASE OF USE: SIMILAR

This is the most important difference between digital cameras.

Luckily, both the 10D and D100 are each very good. Each works as fast as a film camera with none of the delays that plague most other under $1,500 digital cameras. (detailed comments on the D100 here and the 10D here.)

To my taste and experience I prefer the Nikon D100. This may be an absolute thing, or just my familiarity with Nikon.

I find the Canon slower because the playback previews take a little while to come up as you go forward or back. Each little image comes up fast but fuzzy, and takes a second to come in clearly so you can see it. Personally I don't have that second to wait while running through hundreds of images. I see no delay in the Nikon D100. I also find things that I need to adjust often, like image compression, are hidden as menus on the Canon 10D but available as a knob on the Nikon D100. I may be wrong about the menus: have a look yourself at the Canon and see if you can find the direct access buttons. That's another gripe I have with the usability of the Canon: instead of meaningful English words on buttons and displays like the Nikon D100, the Canon uses a lot of meaningless pictographs. Since I have no idea what these pictographs mean without resorting to a manual I find it difficult to set things like file size that always need to be adjusted. Again, this may be my personal taste or a serious issue.

FIRMWARE UPGRADES: ADVANTAGE: CANON

These cameras have new firmware released from time to time to fix problems and improve life in general. With the Nikon you need to send the camera away and pray it comes back OK. With the 10D you can just do it yourself here.

ULTRA WIDE ANGLE LENSES: ADVANTAGE: NIKON

Canon makes no lenses other than a super-expensive fixed 14mm lens, which still only gives a field of view similar to a 22mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Nikon makes a unique 12-24mm zoom that give a field of view similar to an 18 - 36mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Both of these cameras have sensors smaller than film, so all your lenses act as if they are of a longer focal length.

But wait! Yes, you can use front-lens attachments with any camera. Call Century Optics and see what they have for you. Century Optics make professional motion picture and video converters for hundreds of dollars that may do exactly what you need for either camera.

PRICE: THE SAME

As of November 2003 they both sell for $1,499.

LENSES: THE SAME

Nikon and Canon lenses are of the same quality.

Anyone who tries to convince you that there is some huge difference is clearly misled.

Nikon and Canon are equivalent. Sure, if there is one particular lens without which you cannot live (like the 12-24mm from Nikon or the IS lenses from Canon) by all means go for that system, but overall there is more difference from lens to lens within each brand than any major difference from Nikon to Canon. Sharpness, color, focus speed, etc. are all equivalent. People who perceive huge differences are actually perceiving big differences between what they shot one day on one system and the next day on another, not actually any difference between brands!

SUMMARY

As I said above, if you are already in Nikon or Canon stay there. If you are starting with a clean slate either is great, so go try them both this way:

1.) Buy a compact flash (CF) card.

2.) Take it to a store and try each camera, recording images to the card you own.

3.) Ask yourself which camera was easier to use and faster.

4.) Take your card home and load the images in your computer. See if you see any difference. ONLY make this comparison if you have both cameras photographing the same thing at the same time. Honestly, you can get more variation inside each camera with the way you set the settings then any difference between the two cameras, so don't put too much weight on which looks better for any one scene (like the inside of a camera store). For instance, a camera store is the last place to try a camera, since they are lit with old fluorescent lights which look awful on any camera, so whatever differences you see in color will have no relation to things you really want to photograph. Remember, with a different subject your preferences may be different! Look for color rendition; resolution is the same so ignore looking at that.

So which was easier to use? There's your answer if you are starting from scratch. Hope I've helped, and personally I'd go for the Nikon if you don't want to try these for yourself.

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