Which DSLR Camera Should I Buy?

Help!...Canon, Nikon, Sony or Pentax?

A question photographers often ask is “Which DSLR camera should I buy?”  Given the bewildering array of digital cameras out there, it’s hard to know where to start. Should you go with Canon, Nikon, or some of the other camera manufacturers like Sony or Pentax?

If you're looking at purchasing your first DSLR camera, this article is meant for you, and will focus on which camera manufacturer to select.  I’ll keep it short and simple, to avoid overwhelming you with technical information you don’t really need.

The Biggest DSLR Camera Manufacturers

First things first. Canon and Nikon are by far the biggest players in the DSLR game. They have been around the longest and make up the vast majority of the market.  While Sony and Pentax offer a growing range of DSLR cameras and equipment, Canon and Nikon are the giants in this market.  Combined, they make up more than 80% of the DLSR cameras sold worldwide, according to CIPA. How does this affect your camera buying decision?  In a couple of different ways.... 

1. Generations of Perfecting the Product

First of all, it means that Canon and Nikon have been through many more generations of DSLR cameras over the years, and have had much more time to perfect the manufacture, ergonomic, and user philosophy behind the cameras.  For example, Canon is on the 10th generation of its mid-level DSLR camera, the Canon 70D, while Nikon is on its 7th generation (the Nikon D810).  (See Canon's DSLR lineup here Nikon's here.)  This experience has given both these manufacturers the customer feedback and time to act on it that is required to perfect their products. 

2. Range of Lenses

The second, and perhaps more important part, is the range of lenses that Canon and Nikon offer for their cameras.  Because, Canon lenses only work with Canon cameras, Nikon lenses only work with Nikon cameras and so on, once you buy a camera from a certain maker, you are locked into using their lenses. 

If you buy a Canon camera, there are approximately 90 different lens models available currently, all the way from wide angle (for example, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L to serious telephoto zoom lenses such as the Canon 100-400mm L to even more extreme lenses, such as the Canon 800mm.) Nikon has a similarly broad range of lenses, for example the wide-angle zoom Nikon 10-24mm all the way to telephoto zoom Nikon 80-400mm and beyond.  

Both of these manufacturers have had multiple generations to perfect the optics inside these lenses to give you the sharpest, clearest pictures with the lowest amount of aberration and dispersion.  Manufacturers such as Sony and Pentax have approximately half the lens models available as the two big guys, and their lenses have mostly been launched over the past few years, and are still in the process of being perfected. 

Different Features?

You might be wondering, do Canon cameras have more features than Nikon, or vice versa?  The short answer is: NO.  While each camera manufacturer likes to point out the various features it is currently leading in (highest ISO possible, most frames per second, and so on), in general Canon and Nikon generally have similarly performing cameras at similar price points. 

While a top-of-the-line Nikon DSLR camera might have more features than a mid-range Canon DLSR camera, in general, when you compare the price points, the features are the same.  Keep in mind that these guys are constantly competing to keep up with each other, so when one launches a new feature (such as embedded Wi-Fi capability), the other one is usually not far behind.

Now that I’ve made the case for going with either Nikon or Canon, you’re probably wondering, “Which specific Nikon or Canon camera model should I get? There are dozens of different DSLR camera models and I don’t know where to begin!”  Never fear.  My next post discusses this and provides some tips and strong direction.  (Hint: it depends on who much you want to spend!).


When shopping for your first DSLR camera, it’s hard to differentiate between manufacturers.  I’ve laid out some reasons I believe it’s best to stick with the tried and true giants in the DSLR market, Canon and Nikon.  If you’re serious enough about photography to invest in a DSLR camera, you’re going to want the time-tested quality, broad product range, and powerful lens portfolio these two market leaders offer. 


Peter Kellogg has been a photographer for 20 years and is dedicating to helping beginners master both the art and science of photography. 

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