Building a Film and Digital System - Age Old Canon v Nikon
Within the next two weeks I'll be slapping down my cash and finally dedicating myself to a system. I've had on loan to me a DSLR (Nikon D40) and an SLR (Eos 3000v.) Up until an hour ago I was pretty much decided on Nikon without looking too hard at Canon. The Nikon F5/F100 choice makes for a compelling argument for them, seeing as good examples of both cameras are readily available. However, I was becoming increasingly dismayed with the differences in Nikon's systems, different lenses worked with different cameras (beyond the FX/DX dichotomy,) certain modern flashes wouldn't work with older bodies, etc. I was resigned to put up with that, until an hour ago. And I saw a Sigma 300mm F4* available for dirt cheap for the Canon. While I had resigned myself to no sports photography (I simply couldn't afford long, fast lenses for the foreseeable future) this is offering something new. I could shoot sports on B&W film and develop them myself on Canon. In theory I could move onto shooting colour film and developing myself.
The debate between the two systems doesn't really amount to much, for me, when I compare their digital offerings side by side. To me they're much of a muchness. However, Canon's integrated post-FD world has suddenly become a possibility for me.
Am I mad to abandon the F100/F5 idea that I had latched onto? (Mainly for the feel of the cameras and the look of them.) Or is Canon going to win out in the final furlong? If I am going towards Canon, what should I be on the look out for? At least with Nikon, however divisive we may be, there is always Ken Rockwell to steady your thoughts with.
I think I need a bit of coaching when it comes to Canon.
*I can't post links yet, but it's at the Ffordes second hand shop, under Lenses > Canon> EOS Fitting > Page 6 (Cost £199)
I can't speak for film, but trying to decide whether or not you like Nikon by using a D40, is like trying to decide if you want to ride a bike by trying out a childs tricycle. Not only is the D40 an older model, it is the very very very basic entry level DSLR. The "pro-sumer" and advanced level cameras have many more options to choose from.
Since I'm a Nikon digital shooter, I chose to start buying Nikon film gear. With the exception of the "G" lenses, any other Nikon lenses should work as long as they have an aperture ring... or so I've been told. I have yet to put my 80-200 2.8 "D" on my Nikon FM however. I've been using a 50mm and 28mm series "E" lenses on my film cameras.
One advantage for Canon is you can mount many more types of MANUAL focus lenses via adapters.
It was the G lens business that got to me with Nikon (along with their flash system.) There's already going to be lenses that aren't suitable for me because I'd be using an FX and DX system (there's no way I can afford an FX digital system.) Case in point here being the 35mm, I can go for a DX lens, which won't work on my film body. Or I can go for a D lens which won't work on a DSLR I'd be able to afford (unless I was to go for a D90 where there's no guarantee that such functionality would exist in future models.) Or I can go with a G lens, which won't work on certain older film bodies. Then there's flashes, if I was to get an F100/F5, I'd be limited to second hand SB28s or being able to pick up whatever shops have left over from their SB600s. And Nikon seems to have made a point of not including backwards compatibility with their newer flashes on their old film based flash systems.
Like I said, I've probably only been looking at Canon for the past two hours. And that was simply because I saw a 300mm F4 that could be had for cheap, along with people hinting at Canon's better interoperability between their lenses and range of (D)-SLRs. I'm still investigating. And to be honest, Ken Rockwell's site is a great facility for finding out these interoperability issues for Nikon systems and I haven't found something similar for Canon. So I'm hoping to tap into the hivemind here for that.
May I recommend you also look at Pentax. I use my Pentax film lenses on my K5 with no problem. The older manual lenses are very good and dirt cheap on ebay. All mounts will work, even screw mounts with an adapter. However, you lose f-stop meter coupling unless you use KA mount lenses, which most of mine are.
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Nikon has the greatest scope for legacy lenses across their film/digital bodies.Friends and I swap digital and film bodies often and I've not really sensed much frustration with body/lens/flash issues. Frankly, early DSLRs and later film bodies are so cheap now that it's possible to cover all bases without going broke. Flash compatibility can be annoying but many people take the "Strobist" with older flashes and manual settings and work productively around it.
To be honest, it's really the F4 300mm Sigma lens that got me thinking. I was happy to work around the Nikon shortcomings until that popped up in my view.
This one: This one: http://www.ffordes.com/product/11080310210181
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that current Canon lenses also are 'G' lenses - that is, they do not have a dedicated aperture ring, causing the same type of compatibility issues as G lenses do with older bodies.
(Also, Canon revised their lens mount in the late eighties and again in the early 00's - effectively ensuring that pre-EF lenses only work on current bodies via an adapter, and the crop-sensor lenses introduced post-'00s-change will not work on EOS film bodies - which, arguably, isn't much of a practical inconvenience though some zooms may give a large enough image circle at some focal lengths to be used on a full-frame body...) All told, I don't think it fair to say that Nikon pays less attention than Canon does to product longevity.
Depending on which Nikon you choose (and, obviously, which lenses you choose) you'll have a very versatile system indeed.
For all-round compatibility the F4 is king - it takes just about every F-mount lens since the introduction of the mount in 1959, allowing you to use the latest G lenses in shutter priority mode. (No VR, though)
Granted, my opinion is biased by the fact that I'm heavily into the Nikon F system - but for overall compatibility, I'd grab a decent Nikon APS-C body with an integrated autofocus motor (That is - just about anything except the D40(x), D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and D5100 IIRC).
As for flash photography, I was under the impression that current Speedlights would provide TTL on older, TTL-compatible bodies, but I'll have to check that out - I mostly use flashes for macro photography (Exclusively digital) and hardly at all on any of my film bodies.
For me... Nikon, without reservation after the D700 (full frame digi) came along.
And here is the big reason, I am not a huge fan of many of the plastic lenses,
The 80-200vr and the 18-35 are the two I love and stand by.
OTHERWISE.. it's old brass AIS for me.
105 1.8 is my most used lens for film or Digi. It's at home on the F, or FM2 as it is on the D700.
Same goes for an old 300mm f2.8 and my 55 micro nikkor which is crazy sharp.
If you're going to shoot movie on a DSLR, Canon has the best system as things stand. I shoot Nikon MF lenses on a 550D body and for film use Nikon and Canon FD systems. If you have no intention of shooting movie, things are closer between Nikon and Canon.
If you decide to buy a crop sensor camera, one side effect is your 50mm lenses become nice wide aperture short telephotos but if you err towards wide angle shooting it's likely to be on a zoom, with a less wide aperture. In truth, very little modern automation carries over between different camera eras from the same manufacturer (and never cheaply), but the good news is there are adapters available to convert pretty much any lens mount to any body, and they're cheap on ebay.