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I am about to pick up my first DSLR camera and have shortlisted between Canon 600D (Rebel T3i) and a Nikon D5100. The Nikon camera is about 200 USD cheaper but am not sure if the Canon is still a value for its money. Is Canon 600D better than Nikon D5100 on the following counts and thus worth spending the extra money? -

  • Buying new lens later. Are Canon lens of the same type generally cheaper then Nikon ones?
  • No body motor in Nikon D5100. Does it matter?
  • Image quality
  • Low light photography
  • Portability
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3 Answers 3

This comes down to choosing a brand of DSLR as your purchase will dictate what lens mount you have and therefore tie you to that particular brand. See this answer for general information about choosing a DSLR brand.

The D5100 being cheaper in your area is actually very good since it is known to have one of the best image qualities in its class, this is particularly true in low-light.

As for lenses, both Nikon and Canon make a variety of lens grades from low-cost low-quality lenses to hyper-expensive high-quality ones too, with several steps in between. You may want to check the lens lineups of Canon and Nikon to see if there are some you like better.

Saving money on the body also means more money for lenses, so this is great option too. The lack of built-in focus motor means some Nikon lenses (mostly older ones) will not autofocus with the D5100 but since you have no legacy of lenses, this should not be much of a problem.

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1  
+1 - But "Since you have no legacy of lenses, this should not be much of a problem" - it does mean that you'll have to save up for more expensive lenses in general though. For example, I'd love a 85mm f/1.8 but it won't autofocus with a D3100 and the close equivalents are considerably more money. –  rfusca Jul 2 '11 at 14:19
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Not being able to auto-focus with older lenses is not just a limitation if you aleady have older lenses...it limits your options in the future if you wish to buy older lenses. There are still a lot of fantastic, older lenses from both manufacturers that, once someone gains experience, may also wish to buy and use. Some are indeed manual focus, but some are not. –  jrista Jul 2 '11 at 16:01
    
I am under the impression that equivalent lenses of the two brands cost more for the Nikon versions, so, in the long run, the cheaper solution will end up (far?) more expensive. For the long (!!) run, $200 will be a drop in the sea of $$ spent on equipment, and the differences between the brands will accumulate. –  ysap Jul 2 '11 at 16:03
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It is hard to generalize and it was my impression too, but I think it is due to the fact that Canon has more intermediate lenses and variants of the same focal-lengths. I took a quick look, finding lenses which had a match of focal-length and max aperture and each brand was cheaper at BHPhoto some of the time. –  Itai Jul 2 '11 at 16:18
    
There is a big difference between the equivalent nifty-fifties though. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is more than double the price of the Canon 50mm f/1.8, though the Nikon does have AF override/FTM capability and a nicer focusing ring. –  Chinmay Kanchi Jan 8 '13 at 0:00

•Buying new lens later. Are Canon lens of the same type generally cheaper then Nikon ones?

No, both brands have competitive prices. And of course there's 3rd party brands like Sigma and Tokina whose products can be purchased at about the same price (might be a tiny difference sometimes, just a few percent) for either.

•No body motor in Nikon D5100. Does it matter? Yes and no. Yes in that it excludes you from using a lot of Nikon lenses. No in that you don't yet have Nikon equipment so don't have that problem (you just have to be a bit more careful with your purchases, looking at the specs). No also because no Canon camera has an in-body motor, Canon using in-lens motors exclusively.

•Image quality •Low light photography •Portability

No doubt they're similar enough there you'd not be able to find major differences. I'm not intimately familiar with either model to be able to tell you which is marginally better (and that's where you'd have to look) at what, but it'll be marginal, more than offset by photographer skill.

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You have sparked a religious debate, asking the Canon versus Nikon question. Both brands have their strengths. Admittedly, I do not know Canon products as well as Nikon, but they do tend to have better results at higher ISO and cheaper glass. Nikon's best known strength is its ergonomics and high end glass. Nikons support more of their older glass too, with the exception of versions that need the motor to use AF, else you're MF only. I'm unsure how Canon equipment handles resell value, but Nikon glass and accessories frequently increases over time, at least the gems do.

For me, the camera needs to be comfortable in your hands. If you feel fumbly with the camera, you're not going to take good photos. The technical specs between your two choices are very very similar. The Nikon has a slightly larger sensor and the Canon a slightly higher resolution viewing LCD. The Nikon appears to have slightly better battery life too.

Get both cameras in your hands at your local camera shop or electronics store and see which one the buttons feel better to you and go from there. Overall, as you get new cameras, the hand feel is going to be very similar within the Canon v/s Nikon families.

Oh, another consideration would be what do your friends shoot? Not because they know better than the rest of us, but if they're already used to their cameras they're going to be more help to you plus they may have more lenses to share when you go out on photo runs together.

Happy Shopping!

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I wouldn't say a religious debate has been sparked...its a possibility, however it generally does not actually occur around here...we have quite a few very level-headed members who usually answer these questions without any personal bias. –  jrista Jul 2 '11 at 16:03
    
That's great, @jrista . I wasn't intending to imply there was an active one here now either. I too try to be unbiased as possible and shared what I knew about both. I was more referring to "the great debate". –  NoMoreNegatives Jul 2 '11 at 21:57
    
I think the best high ISO cameras for both full frame and APS-C are both Nikon, if I'm not mistaken. I'm not trying to spark a debate here, its just a mistake in the above I believe and its a rather objective measure. –  rfusca Jul 3 '11 at 1:23
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@NoMoreNegatives: I understand. I guess if that is your intent, you might want to reword as "You've entered into a religious debate...", if you are referring to the OP encountering the established, ongoing war between Nikon and Canon amongst their die-hard fans. Otherwise, it does seem implied that you are referring to this particular topic, and a potential "religious debate" that might ensue. –  jrista Jul 3 '11 at 2:32

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