Why I Will Only Ever Buy a Canon

Canon is the only brand of camera I will ever buy.

My first digital camera I got as a birthday present in 2006 was a point-and-shoot Sony. Obviously, I wasn’t taking anything profound on this thing, even if I thought images of my friends at prom were great.

In 2010, I was gifted a Canon 60D as a Christmas present, and this was the camera that really broadened my understanding of photography. That camera lasted me until about 2019, almost a decade. When that camera died, I bought the 5D Mark IV and haven’t given it much thought since. I’ve always said a camera is just a tool. So, why then have I only ever shot on Canon?

The System

The first point is quite literally the system of a camera. I mean, I say camera, but it also means any sort of systems-based product. Anytime you buy an item that works as part of a whole, you are essentially buying into the whole. So, my Canon camera has Canon lenses. Once you add up the bodies and the lenses, the funds start to add up. I absolutely have no issues with my Elinchrom lights. But if I wanted to switch brands, I’d need to buy not just new lights, but also all the modifiers. Most of my editing hardware and software is Windows-based. If I want to switch to an Mac system, I’d need to buy the whole system.

Realistically, you never really buy just an item. You buy into all the things that go with that system. In this way, me being with Canon isn’t just about the camera, but rather all the other things that go with the camera. It’d take something mighty special for me to change systems, to sell what gear I could and recoup some of those funds to buy into a new system.

The Switch

Like most photographers, I pay my monthly Adobe fees. There really isn’t much of an alternative that would warrant me switching over. Or rather, what would I even switch to? I can’t really work without Photoshop. And I use enough InDesign to pay a little bit extra per month to be on a bigger plan.

But I dropped Lightroom recently. I still pay the fee (there’s no getting out of that). Instead, I use Capture One in my workflow. I bought it outright. It just offers me things that help me work more efficiently. In this case, it’s less about this system or that, but rather finding a solution where the initial outlay of funds can be recouped by working quicker.

However, I’d also argue that due to the way Capture One renders images, I’m not only working quicker, but better. That’s probably a discussion for a different article, though. The point stands that buying into a system is one thing, but if something is inarguably better, there is merit to making the switch.

The Value of Brand

In developmental psychology, there exists a distinction between sensation and perception. The sensation is the raw information of the physical world; for example, we can measure the wavelengths that reflect off an object or we can describe in decibels how loud a given sound is.

Our perception of these raw sensations is the learned knowledge we then ascribe to them: a square object with pigments of various organic and synthetic compounds may be perceived as a picture of flowers. It is not really flowers, but rather specific wavelengths of light sensed with our eyes and compared to a repository of lived experiences perceived in the brain.

In a similar manner, Yuval Harrari, in "The Legend of Peugeot," posits that there exists a collective social agreement for an imagined reality. That is to say, there is a reality that can be sensed, but also an imagined reality, which only exists as a collectively agreed-upon narrative of social customs and beliefs we perceive to be true.

This can be exemplified with economics: certain things have intrinsic value, but other things only have value because of this collective imagined reality. Food, shelter, clothing have intrinsic value: not how much it costs to purchase them, but rather the benefits they provide in way of nutrients, protection, and warmth. In this way, an apple is more nutrient-rich than celery. A cotton shirt provides protection from the sun but is breathable enough to allow temperature regulation, whereas a jacket might be too warm in summer but better protection from cold in the winter.

Money doesn’t have this intrinsic value. The value of money is based solely only on a collectively agreed imagined reality. A 10-dollar bill and a 20-dollar bill are printed on the same paper. In this example, the symbols nor the color on the bill are intrinsically worth more. It is what they are perceived to represent which differs.

What Does All This Have To Do With Photography?

Harrari also touched on this idea of group dynamics. You can reasonably work with a handful of people. You can probably know about 50-100 people by name, but not know them well enough to interact meaningfully with them. Anything beyond this is a bit too much.

To work with larger groups of people, you have to create an imagined reality. Not lies. Not falsehoods. But legends. Things that everyone can believe in and rally behind. Sports teams do this. As do nations. But also corporations and brands. Imagine what the typical Canon or Nikon camera is like. Or what values the typical Canon or Nikon shooter has. How is this different from a Sony/Sony shooter? Leica? Hasselblad?

For some folks, it isn’t just about having bought into a camera system. But also of having rallying behind their brand. There is the real-world tangible entrenchment in a system. You bought one part of a kit and all these other parts that go with it, but there is also an intangible ideology of brand: I use this brand, so this is how everyone else should do it too.

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84 Comments

Previous comments
Rhys George's picture

Hilarious, anything constructive to add?

Deleted Account's picture

Paragraphs and punctuation are your friend, Rhys. They are calling out to you and want your attention.

Marc F's picture

My Canon camera works perfectly. It’s a full frame mirror less full spectrum 7s with the 50mm f/0.95 lens. It’s now more than 30 years since I bought it second hand.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

30 years ago. They had already digital cameras then? I must be getting old. That was 1991. I don’t think that camera existed then. Are you sure?

Marc F's picture

It’s a 24 x 36mm (full frame) camera It is “mirror-less” because it’s a rangefinder like the Leica M3, and “full spectrum” because there is no internally fixed UV and IR filter in front of… the film… The Canon 7s body with the 50mm f/0.95 lens it is a well known set called “the Canon dream”.

Dan Jefferies's picture

Yep. I have a potful of Canon film slrs that I bought just for the lenses. Wish I could send them back in time.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

Never put cameras into a pot, my advice, it’s free.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

Ok, got it. A film based rangefinder camera. Yes, good for you. I had a rangefinder Voigtlander once, very fine camera similar to a Leica. Staying with film though is hard these days, because for one it’s difficult to find film and processing, and also it gets expensive.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

Sorry I come originally from the large frame and sheet film field, so for a long time I just ignored those little 35mm cameras, they seemed like toys with tiny grainy film. But then I wanted to become more flexible and able to travel with my equipment and for the first time I bought a used Konica 35mm. I had met a ballerina and wanted to do dance photography and also travel to her homeland Canada and shoot scenery. I still did some portraits with sheet film.

Marc F's picture

Good. I still have my Sinar 4”x5” but haven’t used it for a long time. I still have expired Kodak infrared sheet film in the freezer.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

Trust me it is now shit film.

Charles J's picture

That camera is so old manufactures have produced modern digital versions marketed as innovative.

That camera is so old an adapter ring requires another adapter ring to use new lenses.

That camera is so old it overlays the 70s onto whatever you're shooting.

I love it already.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Exactly this! Haha!

Michael Engshun's picture

There are ways to engage a discussion vbut this isn't it

Helmut Schillinger's picture

You must teach us how, oh master!

Helmut Schillinger's picture

Ok, again, master show us the way.

Dan Jefferies's picture

vbut?

David Purton's picture

Real pro's use Nikon :) You know, the thing is its the tog who takes the pictures and when it comes to FF format or smaller Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji are all equally capable. But at least I can fit the peerless mechanical metal and glass lenses from my f2as to my dslr's!!

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

The 5th article about someone buying a canon and is soooo happy about it.

One guy wrote two articles how he loves the fact that he bout a canon DSLR and another one where he is so happy that he did not buy a canon mirrorless but a canon dslr, and another one where questions mirrorless cameras and compares them to canon DSLRs

hehe

Dan Jefferies's picture

All I saw was a sea of white lenses so I thought Canon was it. Then Nikon constantly delivered better sensors and made me cry. But I persevered and Canon is on top again. If I could start over (at that time) I would have gone Olympus. Live and learn.

R Adams's picture

Stick with the system that works best for you is my motto. There is no perfect system. If it works for someone's work set and flow? Good to go.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Exactly this.

Orange Fifty's picture

Yawn. I only use Nikon. Their controls are much more logically laid out and fit better in my hand. That's enough to make a difference. Canon and Nikon make awesome glass - so that's a wash. Everything is subjective. I've never cared for the ergonomics of Canon.

Steven Seidner's picture

My choice was a Nikon because it's backward compatible with F type lens mount. I love how my 1977 $20.00 Nikon 70-210 F4 works with my Nikon D810

Tristan Caron's picture

This was a very engaging and thought provoking read. I got to the end and continued to scroll expecting it to continue on to a more direct point, but I guess the goal was to leave it open ended to encourage discussion. Well done! When I bought into the Canon system it was after months of indecision. Ultimately it came down to the versatility of the entire system and the option to easily grow in multiple directions. This decision was almost entirely based on the system as a whole as opposed to any singluar piece of gear or specific features I felt I needed.

Helmut Schillinger's picture

50 years ago you bought a camera and it was for life. Yes there were small changes and upgrades such as film winders and built in meters, but overall the cameras stayed the same. Now it has developed into and rat race of photography equipment. You may buy into a “system”, but your camera body will soon be outdated. With soon I mean only months. In a few years any of your cameras will be dinosaurs. Even lenses will soon be liquid based and their elements react to magnetic distortion. Everything changes at a geometrically increased pace now. Old cameras were cumbersome and the processing of film and paper image was unhealthy and complicated. But the dedication of the artists was amazing! You stand on the shoulders of giants!

Ali Choudhry's picture

Thank you Tristan. That was indeed my point that there isn't a perfect system and that it's not exactly easy to cheap to change around constantly. But I guess also, sometimes it really just comes down to small differences that do warrant switching. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Deacon Blues's picture

Shouldn't you mark ads as such?

Robert Teague's picture

I'm sticking with Nikon. I've used Nikon since the days when Canon was a nobody.

George Popescu's picture

Been with Canon since 2004 and not interested in another brand or camera. The benefits are negligent actually, but no need to spend $$$ when you can use that $$$ for lenses in your own brand or other accessories or paying for a nice trip to get some great photos.

Michael Piziak's picture

Canon has changed their mount a lot over the years. That's why I use Pentax - they've had the same k mount since 1975.

Ian Cuthbert's picture

"If I want to switch to an Mac system, I’d need to buy the whole system."

Not sure what apps you use, but Adobe is cross platform and if you switch between Mac and Windows, you can take your apps with you with no additional cost.

But, basically, you are saying that you wouldn't switch because you'd have to update your whole system and that would cost a lot of money. That's always been the case.

At the same time you say that "a camera is just a tool" and that you're completely brand loyal to Canon. There's definitely a conflict in that position.

I'd put it this way: if your client, demanded certain qualities in your photos that your existing brand consistently failed to deliver and you started to lose business as a result, you would probably reconsider your position. In my case, that quality was image quality as high ISO when shooting in contexts where no light augmentation was possible and/or where silent shooting was essential - performing arts, conferences, events. Once upon a time people had to put up with noisy images and noisy shutters, but now they don't need to and people expect results that some cameras can't deliver.

Does using a Sony system make me a better photographer? Does having images with lower noise at high ISO make my photos intrinsically better? No, for sure. But that's what is expected. I'll switch brands at the drop of a hat if I think I'll not be able to deliver what my clients expect.

Charles Mercier's picture

I assume that this was written because of the "why I'll never buy a Canon" article.