I get this question frequently and I thought it might be useful to post my opinion. This post is strictly regarding DSLR’s as this is what I use and have experience with.
If you look at the market the two giants are obviously Nikon and Canon.There are many other camera manufacturers but to be honest the majority of camera owners own either a Nikon or Canon. I will put the disclaimer out there, I am a Nikon man. I inherited this from my mother. I have heard arguements from both sides about why they would pick one over the other and it seems the battle from both sides will never be over. It’s as if there were only two pro NFL teams and if you are not on the good side you are on the evil side.
The first thing you need to decide is your budget. Entry level DSLR or are you going to splurge? If you are looking for an entry level DSLR that makes it fairly easy. Both major companies have their entry level around the same price. You will get your basic DSLR features and it will be a great start to your photography hobby. If you decide to splurge a bit and buy a higher priced model then you will need to make some decisions. How much are you willing to spend? What features are most important to you? Research will need to be completed. Find out what features are important to you and get online to find out what camera have those features. Typically Canon and Nikon will have similar competing models around the same price point and they will offer similar features.
Once you decide what features you want and which models have those features you desire(assuming you can afford them) you need to read those reviews and do your research. We aren’t talking about a couple hundred bucks here. If I am spending close to a grand on a piece of equipment I want to do my best to make sure buyer’s remorse will not hit a couple of months down the road. You will most likely narrow your choice down to a couple of cameras that are at the top of your budget, have the features you want, and have good reviews. Just keep in mind once you buy that awesome piece of equipment, I will guarantee there are going to be future purchases that you will want to make. Such as, new lenses, filters for those lenses, an extra battery, camera bag, a speedlight (aka flash), memory cards, lens wipes, cleaning supplies, a tripod, extra battery grip for the camera, another new lens, a new bag to fit all your new gear… I could go on forever. One piece of advice. Do not always buy the bargain. More often than not you will regret it, be unhappy, and later spend the money to buy what you should have purchased in the first place. If you can’t afford what you want now, save for it and wait. I know that’s a hard thing to do but it’s a wise choice.
Both Nikonians and Canon-ites have valid points and arguements as to why which is the best brand. My opinion? Go to the store and try them out. Find a friend who has one and play with the camera. Then find another friend who has the other brand camera and play with that. You have to try them out to determine which YOU would prefer. BOTH will give you great quality photos, that I have no doubt.
If you are bitten by the photography bug I can also guarantee you will most likely purchase a “better” upgrade eventually. I always recommend keeping the original packaging and non-used accessories in a safe place. Someday all of that might come in handy when you wish to sell that first camera. It helped me, twice. Plus if you were buying a used camera would you rather have the pretty setup it originally came in or a cardboard box with no accessories?
Where should you buy? Well first let me say Wolf Camera/Ritz Camera has one of the highest markups I have ever seen. I would recommend NOT purchasing from there. Although it is a great place to stop by and see the camera and play with it hands on, but then walk out and buy it from one of the links below. Same with Best Buy, great place to try the camera but they typically have sick mark-ups.
These two retailers are reputable and you can trust them. If you find a better price than they are offering beware of a scam.
I certainly do not boycott brands other than Nikon or Canon but as a consumer I want to have the widest possible selection of cameras, lenses, and accessories these two have it.
Here is an independent online camera study performed by JD Power and Associates that pretty much drills home my thoughts above that Nikon and Canon are currently the choice brands to stick with.
A few notable facts from the study:
*Online buyers spend an average of $937 on their camera.
*Online buyers report taking an average of 918 photos per month using their DSLR camera.
*A vast majority of online buyers (87%) say they “definitely will” recommend their DSLR camera to friends and family.
*One-third of online DSLR buyers use their camera for shooting video.
*While overall performance is cited as a reason for purchasing a particular DSLR model 31 percent of the time, online buyers cite previous ownership and brand reputation nearly as often.