I'm starting the switch from Canon to Nikon. Having used Canon gear for 10 years I'm pretty familiar with their system. As I move to Nikon, what things should I know that are different and would be helpful to know ahead of time?

(I don't know that my reason for switching is of too much relevance so I haven't gone into details about that).

One example I know: the zoom rings on Nikon lenses turn in an opposite direction compared to Canon.

  • I've flagged this to be made community-wiki
    – ahockley
    Jan 28, 2011 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


The APS-C crop-factor is 1.5 for Nikon, compared with 1.6 for Canon.


By default, everything turns the wrong way on a Nikon if you are used to a Canon. Zoom, focus, shutter speed dial, aperture dial, even the light-meter is the wrong way around. On the more advanced models at least, it is however possible to reverse the direction of the on-camera dials and lightmeter.

One caveat: On the Nikon-mount lenses without built-in focus motors that I have tried, focus speed was extremely sluggish compared to my Canon stuff. This on a D300 body, which is a rather beefy camera house. The Tamron 90mm macro can understand being slow compared to a 100m Canon macro with USM; the pro-level push-zoom Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 is quite another matter - my ca 1991 80-200 f/2.8L is so much faster focusing that it is not even funny! Just something to keep in mind if you intend to buy secondhand lenses.

  • Indeed about things turning the opposite way. Thank god you can reverse the light-meter dial! IIRC, you cannot reverse its display though, so you turn one way and the indicator goes the opposite! It gets worst if you you third-party lenses since they are manufacturer to turn the same way on all cameras. So you may end up with one lens which turns the opposite way as other ones you have!
    – Itai
    Jan 29, 2011 at 0:58
  • Thanks for the info. I'm actually looking at the 80-200/2.8 as one of my potential purposes but the good news is that they've updated it and the current model (which also is a turn-to-zoom instead of push-pull) has a good AF system.
    – ahockley
    Jan 29, 2011 at 4:48
  • 1
    Just like Canon, Nikon has some awesome lenses, especially when you get into the pro-quality ones. The twist-the-opposite-way-to-zoom thing is something you'll want to practice with if you have any critical/commercial work coming up shortly after converting. I had been shooting Nikon, and switched to my wife's Canon while mine was being repaired. I had a few hours to reacquaint myself and lost some shots in the heat of the moment when I zoomed the wrong way. A similar, but opposite problem happened a year later when I had a mechanical problem and had to temporarily go back to Nikon.
    – Greg
    Jan 29, 2011 at 7:17
  • 1
    Itai; too true about third-party lenses. I had an otherwise excellent EF-mount Tamron 28-75/2.8 back in the day; a great lens in very many respects but with "arsy-versy" zoom and focus rings.
    – Staale S
    Jan 29, 2011 at 11:14

For one, Nikon has a smaller lens portfolio, and generally, more expensive. But I'm sure you knew that already...

  • 4
    I don't agree on it being smaller, Nikon has an ungodly lens array and unlike Canon thirty-year old manual-focus stuff will happily mount on the newest camera bodies. However, compared to Canon they are latecomers to USM focus motors and stabilized lenses, which means that if you want this you have to buy a relatively new lens even if you buy used. On Canon you can buy decade-old, secondhand stuff that has this and it is of course much cheaper. (I've pursued a policy of getting an array of used pro lenses instead of new consumer lenses, and it has worked for me.)
    – Staale S
    Jan 29, 2011 at 11:19

One thing is that you know with Canon's EF mount, that every lens you put on there (that is supposed to) will auto-focus.

With Nikon, some lenses do not have an auto-focus motor built into the lens, and require a focus motor in the camera body to turn a screw on the mount, which then drives the AF. Depending on what model camera you get (generally the low-end models), the body may not actually have a focus motor in it, meaning some auto-focus lenses won't autofocus after all.

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