Well, I did it. I ordered a new camera. This will be my first DSLR, though I have been wanting one for close to 20 years. Even though it is my first, I am no stranger to using and understanding SLR cameras. I started using SLRs in college some 20 years ago and spent A LOT of time in the dark room and understanding the use of a manual camera. I still admit to being a pure amateur, but I am a competent amateur.
My ChoiceI went with the Nikon D5300. I did a fair amount of research on this. I tried to find a Canon that would work for me, but at under $2000 I could not find a Canon with acceptable low-light performance, which was one of my deciding factors.
In Canon's I looked at the T5i, the EOS 60D, and even the 7D (which was out of my price range).
The color depth scores on the Canons were only slightly lower than the Nikons (22 vs 24 bits). The dynamic range scores were a little more significant in their difference (11.7 EV vs 13.9EV). Where the Nikons really shone was in their low light performance.
The lower-end Canons all had sub-standard performance in low light according to the benchmarks (and in my own experience with the t3i).
The DXOMark benchmark defines the low light score as, "This refers to the maximum ISO at which the camera still captures excellent quality images."
I experienced this with the t3i (which has a higher score than the t5i, t4i, and a comparable score to the 60D.
The t3i has a low light score of 793 ISO, which is essentially saying that if you go higher than 800 ISO sensitivity, you stop getting high quality pictures. The highest scorer above was the 7D which had a score of 854 ISO. Which is pretty good. That means you can still shoot at 800 ISO and get quality shots.
The Nikons, however, have low light scores in the 1100-1300 ISO range. The Nikon D5300 I chose has a rating of 1338 ISO. Which means I can easily go to 1200 ISO when shooting in low-light and still get high-quality photos. That is in addition to the better color depth and dynamic range scores in the Nikons.
Now, I understand that lens quality also makes a huge impact on image quality and low-light performance, but it is not the only factor. The sensor is an important piece, and it seems that the entry-level Canon sensors are not as good as those of Nikon or Pentax.
I am not saying Canon sucksI want to be very clear about this. I think Canon is great. Their popularity is evident, and I have no doubt that they make great cameras. But the entry-level Canon's, on paper, do not appear to be as good.
Now at the higher levels (semi-pro to pro) the Canons rock just as hard as any of them. If you're willing to throw down $2000-$5000 on a DSLR, canon offers some fantastic options. You can get great low-light scores (2000 ISO or more) and great color depth (23-24 bits) and better dynamic range (12.7 EV). At those levels the Canons are, for practical purposes, just as good as the Nikons (even though Nikons numbers are still better).
But I am not in the market for a $2000+ camera. As I said, I am an amateur and just doing this for fun.
For the rest of this article, I will use the Canon 60D and the Nikon D5300 as my comparisons. Those were the two cameras I was evaluating most, in my price range with some or all of the features that were important to me.
The 60D, without question, had the better viewfinder. This is exactly as my pal Jared said. The view finder on the 60D was HUGE compared to the Nikons. To get a comparable viewfinder in a Nikon I would have to move up to the $2000 Nikon D610 area. The pentaprism viewfinder on the Canon was head-and-shoulders above the D5300.
The low light performance was one of the biggest deciding factors for me. In bright sunlight at 200 ISO the Canon and Nikons are probably pretty damn close to the same. But the activities I will be shooting are primarily figure skating and hockey. Indoor, low, florescent lighting. When I shot figure skating a few weeks ago with a borrowed t3i I was definitely having issues with the low-light performance and the 60Ds low light score is only slightly higher than the t3i.
The crop factor of the D5300 (1.5x) is better than that of the 60D (1.6x).
The D5300 captures 33% more pixels than the 60D (24 megapixel vs 18 megapixel)
The D5300 has 60% of the weight of the 60D. Now that is because the 60D is a sturdier built, partly metal camera. But it is also a very heavy camera.
The D5300 has built-in GPS. Not sure I care, and I hear it sucks, but I guess we'll see.
The 60D has a slightly faster continuous shooting rate (5.3 fps vs. 5 fps)
The battery life on the Canon is almost twice that of the Nikon
The D5300 has 39 focus points, the D60 only 9. I am not good at manual focusing, so the more helpI can get with that, the better.
The 60D's shutter can go considerably fast (1/8000th vs 1/4000th), but most of my work will be far slower than 1/4000th anyway.
DXOMark ScoresAnd finally, the DXO mark scores. I am still not sure how much weight to give these scores, but no one has yet given me reason o not accept them at face value.
60D: 66 D5300: 83
That is a considerable difference.
The breakdown of those scores:
Lowlight 60D: 813 ISO D5300: 1338 ISO
Color depth 60D: 22.2 bits D5300: 24 bits
Dynamic range 60D: 11.5 EV D5300: 13.9 EV
For a comparable price the D5300, in theory, give me more than the Canons can. With some exceptions (viewfinder, battery life, shutter speed, continuous shooting rate) the Nikon out-shines the Canon, and it is in all the ways that are important to me.
So I chose the Nikon. Perhaps it will turn out to be a decision I regret, but I doubt it. Nikon has been making quality cameras for a very long time. I have no doubt that I will love this camera and be very happy with it for a long time.
Your comments are welcome but will be treated with care proportional to the amount of thought you put into the comment.
The CameraMy final purchase was:
- Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera
- Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S lens
- Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens