Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I'm planning to buy one of the above, and, leaving aside image quality, lenses, and other issues, how do the 2 bodies compare in terms of handling to each other as well as to the 450D (Rebel XSi) I'm currently using?

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Can somebody please explain why this has 2 close votes? – eWolf May 29 '11 at 1:35
Probably because of the unwritten rule against using Canon and Nikon models in the same question ;) I'm not bound by that rule since I've been reviewing cameras for years and understand the differences, pros and cons well. There are reasons more than one model sells. As long as the pros and cons are factually explained, the information is useful to consumers and manufacturers. – Itai May 29 '11 at 17:21

This is highly subjective so the best answer is for you to try them out in a store. If local stores do not have those, you can at least get a feel using the another close model for each brand like the Canon 7D and Nikon D300S.

Obviously both cameras you are looking at are high-end units which dual control-dials, plenty of external controls. In terms of handling, the placement and shape of those controls will make the difference.

For example, one area where I prefer the Nikon is the control dials, having them both high up on the camera lets me control it without shifting my grip. The Canon has its rear control dial lower on the body which for my hands feels awkward. If you use a hand-strap rather than neck-strap, the lower control dial feels even more inconvenient. Also the Canon's joystick is too small and overly sensitive. Then there are subtleties like the Canon's AE-L is sticky and does not let go when pressed again if you change your mind. If you use long exposures often, you may also prefer the Nikon because of the built-in viewfinder shutter.

Now, I am sure someone can say different things that favor the Canon. I manage with my Canon DSLR too ;) but, for the features that I use, the ergonomics of the Nikon suit me better and even more that of my Pentax DSLRs (both cropped-sensors, so a different class).

EDIT: Forgot about the 450D part, which I believe is the Rebel XSi on this side of the Atlantic ;)

The move to a higher-end body is always about the handling and you will notice it. In your case you will also go full-frame which gives quality too but among high-end cameras of the same brand, the handling is extremely similar (Ex: D300S vs D700).

The dual control-dials and extra buttons simply let you work faster. Changing common settings can nearly always be done (IIRC except measuring custom white-balance on the Canon) without going through the menu which gives you more time to take pictures and reduces the chances that you will miss the shot.

The bigger bodies are less cramped too, giving a more comfortable grip and you won't have to smash your nose against the rear LCD and wipe-off sunscreen later because you can't see anything anymore.

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Thanks for your answer! I did go to a store already, however, I don't think it can tell me how I will feel with the camera after working with it for one month. As a Canon-guy, I kind of drift through the Nikon menues unorientedly, discovering interesting stuff here and there, but I don't feel I fully grasp it. – eWolf May 28 '11 at 14:33
Also: Can you tell me anything about the switching of the continuous/one-shot and the auto-choice/center-sensor AF mode? On my 450D, I need to press at least 2 buttons for each of those and cannot do the former without taking the camera down to look at the display. Is that better on the 5D/D700? Furthermore, I've heard the 5D has a very good system for saving different sets of settings. Is that correct? Does the D700 have anything similar? – eWolf May 28 '11 at 14:36
D700: A 3-way selector on the front chooses between single-shot, continuous or manual focus. Another 3-way dial on the rear chooses between auto-AF point, single-point and dynamic (groups of points). Press OK to return to center-point. 5D Mark II: Use the joystick to move the AF-point around, press it in to select the center, once more for auto-select. AF mode changed by a top button combined with the rear dial. With practice you'll be able to do it on both but the Nikon's controls are more direct. The Nikon supports custom settings too, I have never used them though. – Itai May 28 '11 at 15:57
This does come across as a particularly biased answer. You've plainly listed all of Canon's detractors (at least, according to you), all of Nikons attractors, but none of the converse for either brand. Obviously, both cameras have their pros and cons, and I think that should be represented. I am not a heavy user of either high-end camera, so I can't speak to them well enough...but I don't think this is really the best answer given the bias. – jrista May 28 '11 at 17:30
Note the emphasis on the I. The D700 vs 5D statements are only examples of handling differences based on my use. Note that the question is restricted to handling, of which I prefer the Nikon. I also said someone can find handling differences that favor the Canon. That would of course depend on workflow and photographic style. I did mention I own a Canon DSLR too, for very good non-handling reasons. I would answer in favor of Canon or any other brand given a question where I truly feel that brand to be better suited for. – Itai May 28 '11 at 19:37

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