As photographers we strive for gear that can produce the images that we dream about inside of our heads. It must be up to a standard of professionalism which is flawless in high quality and consistency that can create great resulting images day in day out. If I feel the camera is struggling with the situations I'm placing it into, I will first look at myself: "What am I doing wrong? Is there something I don't understand about one of the camera's settings?" If I cannot answer these questions I will then do more research on the camera and see if I've missed something when reading the manual. I tend to also ask other wildlife photographers who use the same gear to see if they're experiencing similar problems.
I got my first Nikon camera about 3 years ago which was a D700, until about a year ago I decided I wanted to move to Canon for the video functions and because the large lenses were cheaper. So I got a 7D and a 300mm 2.8 with a 1.4 converter. When I look back at it, it was a huge mistake but I don't regret it as I wouldn't have learned anything from my experience using Canon. Every photographer is different, how one camera works for one person may not work well for another and this was one of the main problems I faced. The ergonomics of using Canon didn't suit me at all, everything always felt awkward and uncomfortable. I'm not saying Canon cameras are crap as I've taken some of my best shots using the 7D but it's always been a struggle and during these times it just made me miss Nikon even more as I never had any problems with them.
One of the main reasons I moved to Canon was because there were a lot more lenses to choose from and they seemed to be a bit cheaper than Nikon's, especially with lenses of a long focal length. As when I was with Nikon there was no way in hell I could afford a 600mm VR and because of this I couldn't create all the wildlife images that I had inside my head. Having the crop factor with Canon really helped in getting me closer to my subjects but as a consequence I ended up losing detail and the 7D was terrible for noise, I could even see it in shots taken at ISO 400! So sacrificing Nikon which had great image quality but lacked in cheap long lenses, Canon had really good focal length distance but lacked in image quality.
After winter of this year had ended and I had finished my project with the Short Eared Owls, I had lost complete faith in my camera and it was really starting to annoy me: focus issues, lots of noise, that dial on the top left which would move without telling you. Image agencies were turning my images down due to excess noise and this was on images taken at ISO 600-800! So I went back to drawing board with my gear, I sat down in my office and did some serious thinking about the situation I was in and seeing what possible options I had. As most of you may know I'm pushing myself to become a full time professional wildlife photographer and at that time I felt I was at a dead-end with the gear I was using. I also felt that I expand in the professional world when I'm constantly shouting at my gear.
So what did I do? After a lot of thinking and arguing with myself I decided to sell all my gear and move back to Nikon. I noticed at that time that there were a lot of non-VR super telephoto lenses popping up on ebay at really good prices so that was what drew me in to moving back to Nikon and also due to the release of the D4, D3 prices started to rapidly go down in price which to me was a sign. When I first started getting interested in photography the D3 had just came out and I wanted one! There was no way I could have afforded one at the time but it was always my dream to get my hands on one as this camera was a major leap in professional photography and now I've got one!
The Nikon D3 is the best camera I've ever owned, there isn't a single flaw in it all. As soon as I started shooting with it I knew I had made the right decision to move back to Nikon, everything about the camera felt right and I knew that this has always been the camera for me. And also, to go nicely with the D3 I got my hands on a used Nikon 600mm AF-S II. It may not have VR capabilities but after reading a lot about it from other photographers if I use a good support for the lens e.g. a gimbal head or a bean bag then I shouldn't have too many problems when shooting at slow shutter speeds. So that was it, I'm all set up now and ready to travel all across Scotland in the next few months as I will be moving up to live there in next week. :)
I'm not writing this to slag off Canon, they make incredible cameras for photographers but everyone has different needs and requirements when they choose gear that should last for them for years. I don't regret moving to Canon last year as it taught me a lot about the differences between the cameras and about the pros and cons each camera has. At the end of the day these are just tools in which we create beautiful images of the nature that we come across through out lives, if we feel the tools we are using are not suitable for the job then we must take the time to understand our gear to make sure that we are not the problem in the equation. That is why it took me 6 months to finally make a decision to move back to Nikon after I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong and not the camera.
I would just like to emphasize that from what I have spoken in this blog post does not mean that Nikon is better than Canon as they are both equal in every aspect but what makes them better is the photographer that is holding them and what he wants to capture with his tools.
All the above images were captured with a Nikon D3 and 35mm lens on a recent trip to Scotland, If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below.