Canon and Nikon comparison pt.2


Sorry folks… I’m actually taking my time in between articles to get to be more acquainted with the Canon. The system is still pretty new to me & I’m discovering new things on it each day, either through research or simply taking the camera out to shoot stuff with it.

One of the less talked about thing on a DSLR especially when it comes to comparisons is how the menu options are designed. What is often talked about however is how many features & functions are available on the camera.

The Nikon menu system

Since I started shooting Nikon many years back, thinking about it I wondered if I ever did learn to master the menu system on the D50, D60 then ultimately the D300. I’d say that throughout the number of years shooting Nikon, I’ve never really learned how to fully utilize the menu system. Just to illustrate how complex the menu system really is, Nikon’s D300 manual has 452 pages… where else the 5Dmk2 is only 228. That’s like almost 2x the number of pages for a camera supposedly less technologically advanced compared to the 5Dmk2!!

I’ve included some screenshots of the Nikon menu. The top menu options are shown on the left. As you “scroll down” you are presented with other options. As you select options from the main menu, you are presented with a whole new set of options…as you enter into each section, more options are presented… so on…so forth. All this is controlled using the D-pad by they way so you need to press it to get around.

See the next screenshot & you will see the autofocus options. So as you can see from the main menu you enter into another set of options which are labelled…. a1, a2, a3… then another set with b1, b2, b3… so on so forth until you reach fx…. Somehow this way of numbering seem to be rather confusing. I’ve never really mastered this part of the menu system until this day. What I often find terrifying was the fact that you’d go into the maze of menus somewhere, make a change… then later you want to disable or reset what you have changed… but err… you forgot where it was?

I was asked to shoot a DRC event last year at the townhall… that was when I didn’t shoot for a couple of months. I had problems with my D300 so much I forgot how to make changes to the autofocus system. No doubt Nikon has one of the best autofocus systems around, but having to remember to use the levers & menu options drove me nuts while I was trying to capture some of the performances on stage that day.

To give you an idea, I had to wrestle with …
1. Nikon lenses have an AF-MF switch… pretty normal here so do Canon.
2. On the front lower left side of the lens mount area, there is a lever for the Focus mode selector. Here I have options for AF-C, AF-S & full manual. What? I have another option to change to manual? I thought it was already on the lens?… anyways AF-C is Nikon’s continuous focus mode while AF-S is the normal single focus mode.
3. For the AF-C, I have a choice of whether I want to ‘release’ which is the photo can be taken whenever the shutter-release is pressed, or ‘release+focus’, photos can still be taken when not in focus & last options ‘focus’ when photos can only be taken if the subject is in focus. Confused yet?
4. Then there are a whole strew of other stuff, like setting AF51 points or AF11 points… setting if you want the focus points to “wrap” around the screen..meaning if you scroll to the right, it will wrap to the left if you continue to go right. Then more AF-C options to track the subject or to remain stationary… oh in either 51 or 11 points as well.

….you get what I mean? BTW this is only the autofocus options. I think I’ll just stop here otherwise my post will be 452 pages long lol! If you think things got better with the D700, that manual has 472 pages!! Tough….

The Canon menu system

Now instead of having the top menu options to the left side, Canon’s system is on the top. You scroll from left to right & your main dial (the one behind the shutter-release button using your forefinger) is used to dial the options from left to right. It also wraps around if you go too far left or right. Then to scroll down once you’ve made a choice, use the quick control dial (the one that you use your thumb on) to dial down the menu. From this design alone I can already move around the menu system quite swiftly.

Also the menus don’t go very deep. Flip the main dial to the required section, use your thumb to select the option & press the SET button which is located in the middle of the quick command dial. Most of the options are 1 level deep… some 2. There are no overly complex menu options, perhaps the most complex part is the Custom Function Settings which has a sub-menu section for more advanced stuff like altering the “highlight tone priority” & the “auto lighting optimizer” settings.

One of the best thing on the Canon is the “Camera User Settings” function. On the mode dial, there is the C1, C2 & C3 option. What it does is, it allows the user to preset a predetermined set of options on the camera & save it to one of these 3 slots. Each type you dial another custom setting or turn off your camera, everything automatically resets to its preset that the user saved earlier. This is pretty awesome I feel!

Things were simpler on the Canon. I learned the menu system without having to read the manual actually. Only a couple of things I had to refer to the manual.

The comparison

It’s obvious that the Nikon has more advanced settings & customization compared to the Canon. If you are the kind of person who like to fiddle with settings & options, Nikon is for you. If you like simplicity & user friendliness, then go Canon. For me, I prefer the Canon menu system.

In Nikon’s defense, the Nikon menu system has one of the most configurable set of options available on the DSLR. You can change things from how each button works to swapping the command dials & even having them turn in opposite directions.

One of the more practical reasons for liking one system over another is… picture this…

You’re shooting an event & you’re having problems with your D300. A colleague offers to lend you his. Then you discover he made a strew of modifications to the camera to the point the buttons aren’t what they are, the dials don’t turn the right way…

So let’s take a look.

Nikon menu – What I liked

1. Extremely detailed
2. Good for folks who like to fiddle with settings
3. Allows customization of buttons, settings & countless of other changes to the camera

Nikon menu – What I didn’t care for

1. Very complexed
2. No indication of what has been changed other than going into each setting to check
3. Slow to navigate with the dpad
4. The OK/SET button is on the left side of the body. You’ll need your other hand to press this.

Canon – What I liked

1. A more simplified menu system
2. User customization (C1-C3), easy to use & able to snap your way back to the original settings quickly
3. Use of dials instead of dpad to navigate, much quicker
4. The OK/SET button is right on the quick control dial. You can use one hand to press this & navigate the menus.

Canon – What I didn’t care for

1. Not enough customization – eg. I want to swap the dial controls in M mode but I can’t. On the Nikon I can!
2. The icons on the main menu (camera & wrench), doesn’t make the camera feel professional.

There you have it…

… to be continued…


2 responses to “Canon and Nikon comparison pt.2”

  1. James says :

    How did you make those menu screenshots?
    Looking for a way to do this on the camera. Is that possible? Thanks

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