Deciding Between Canon and Nikon
As you will see in the next few sections I have limited my recommendations to either Canon or Nikon because they are the largest and most successful DSLR manufacturers. Determining the brand and model will depend on your specific needs and how much money you can spend. Overall, either brand will work and any of the cameras included in the following recommended sections will give you good to exceptional results. As a general rule, the best camera is the one that meets your specific photographic needs, which may or may not be different from the most popular camera at any given time. So the most important part of your decision is to gain clarity on your specific photography needs and then purchasing accordingly.

The following are a few Canon verses Nikon brand generalizations worth mentioning:
  1. Canon and Nikon products are always staggered so that it is nearly impossible for consumers to make direct comparisons. Each manufacturer specs their products to come just below or above their competitor, in addition, differing release cycles mean that one manufacturer will inevitably have the newest, most feature packed and more expensive model at any given moment.
  2. Canon tends to protect their top-of-the-line models by holding a few desirable features at this high-end level and thus prevent those features from trickling down to their lower level models. Nikon is much more generous in populating features throughout their product line. For example their mid-level crop sensor D90/D7000 cameras are very popular and easily undermine their high-end crop sensor cameras, such as the D300/D300s. The same goes for their full frame cameras, as the D700 matched specs with what was their top-of-the-line D3, yet the D3 cost nearly twice as much as the D700 at the time of release. This often means that Nikon produces some of the most feature packed and best general purpose middle level cameras.
  3. Canon provides slightly higher resolution on most comparable models, while Nikon provides slightly better per-pixel high-ISO performance. Higher resolution cameras when shot at low-ISO settings provide superior image quality if you can deal with the larger file size. When these higher resolution cameras are shot at high-ISO settings the extra resolution allows you to down sample the image to a lower resolution and thus match a lower-resolution/high-ISO camera. So your intended print and digital posting size should be used to determine if you need the extra resolution and larger files sizes. If you want to print or display large format images then you need the resolution, if you don’t want to print or display large images then take advantage of the smaller file sizes and better per-pixel high-ISO quality of low-resolution cameras. Smaller file size allows you to take more photos on any given storage card, speeds up post-processing work on your computer and often allows the camera to shoot at higher frame rates. However, if resolution is important to you then get the higher MP. Once you've worked with 20+ MP RAW files you will be amazing at the difference in file quality. Take note, do not be fooled by 100% crop comparisons. When viewing an image taken from a sensor that has double the resolution you will need to press the zoom button on Photoshop twice as many times to get to the 100% crop view. The only way to compare sensors is to shoot the cameras side by side with the exact same view and exposure, then zoom in so that the same area is displayed on screen or print. The higher resolution sensor will provide more detail.
  4. Canon holds top honors for the best crop DSLR with the entry level 550D/T2i and high-end 7D when coupled with the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens. Canon offers the best image quality per dollar with the 5D2 when couple with Canon's affordable primes (50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 100 f/2). Canon provides the best specialty use packages with their wide range of high quality lenses. Nikon holds top honors for best full frame high-resolution DSLR with the D3X, best full frame high-ISO DSLR with the D3s and the best crop sensor DSLR with the D7000. Nikon provides the best general purpose packages, first crop sensor D7000 w/ 18-105 VR or 16-85 VR and 50 f/1.8 and second full frame D700 w/ 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 f/2.8 VR II.
  5. Canon has a huge selection of the high quality lenses, including large aperture autofocus primes (14 f/2.8L II, 24 f/1.4L II, 35 f/1.4L, 50 f/1.0L, 85 f/1.2L II, 135 f/2L and 200 f/2L IS), super telephoto primes (200 to 800), macro (50, 60, MP-E 65, 100, 100L and 180L), specialty wide angle (tilt/shift 17L and 24L II TS-E and fisheye 8-15L), f/4 zooms (24-105 f/4L IS, 70-200 f/4L IS and 200-400 f/4L IS), f/2.8 zooms (16-35 f/2.8L II and 70-200 f/2.8L IS II), affordable high-quality EF primes (50 f/1.8, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 100 f/2) and crop sensor zoom lenses (10-22 and 17-55 f/2.8 IS). While Nikon has the best overall wide angle zoom (14-24 f/2.8G), an excellent crop sensor zooms (18-105 VR and 16-85 VR) and some great primes (24 f/1.4G, 35 f/1.4G, 85 f/1.4G, 105 f/2.8VR and super teles).
  6. Nikon has a better external flash system when using auto modes, although, with some practice Canon flashes produce identical quality.

Quick Recommendations:
  • Crop Sensor: Nikon D7000 w/ 16-85 VR and 50 f/1.8
  • Full Frame Sensor: Canon 5D2 w/ 24-105 IS and 85 f/1.8