Why Choose Brand A over Brand B?

So here's a question no one asks (but should): if a Canon, Nikon, and Sony camera at a particular level were all basically equivalent in performance, which one would you buy? And why?

More and more I see people arguing over nuance in performance. A third of a stop dynamic range. Some anecdotal perception of slightly faster autofocus. The CIPA ratings for something (e.g. battery or stabilization). 

Couple that with people arguing over things they don't actually encounter or use (e.g. 30 minute video recording time versus infinite, or just 4K versus 8K or 60P versus 120P). 

So much of the gear discussion these days has moved away from useful information to a disorganized pile of too much un-useful information, that it's impossible to see forest for the trees. 

I've recently mocked Nikon's Zfc for being designed more for casual and fun photography, but Nikon does have a point: people used to enjoy taking photos rather than obsessing over gear nuance. This is one reason why I felt that the Zfc would be successful, though perhaps not the long-term hit that Nikon was hoping for. The Zfc is an approachable camera in design and function, though perhaps not quite as good in use due to lack of follow through on a few things, particularly things associated with those dials.

But let's get back to my lede: when things become functionally the same, how do you choose which to buy?

You already face a relative of this problem in deciding which auto to buy. Functionally, all new cars today do the basic job you need, which is to get you from point A to point B reliably and safely. While you might have chosen an auto that can go from zero to sixty in under five seconds and hit 130 mph (210 kph), are you really using those abilities or are those just bragging rights you sought ("mine goes to 11"). 

We pretty much reached the "basically equivalent" point in film SLRs in the 90's, with DSLRs in the late aughts, and here we are with full frame mirrorless pretty much at that level now (or very, very soon if you need a top pro camera). I've re-iterated my point lately: if you aren't getting good photos with any current interchangeable lens camera at up to the size an inkjet printer can produce, it isn't the camera that's the problem. That really is a relevant statement you need to consider. 

Now, it may be that some feature of some model might help you get past your problem (;~). Many who've picked up Sony mirrorless cameras and set them to all-automatic focus are getting better results than they got with the autofocus system they didn't bother to learn on their DSLR, so they proclaim Sony as a clear winner. This isn't performance, per se, but a feature controlling performance. With a little study, I get perfectly fine focus results with every full frame camera these days, DSLR or mirrorless. Indeed, in most cases—even on the Sony models—my controlled focus produces better results than Sony's all automatic modes. I'm comfortable with taking the time to produce a better result, some of you aren't. But at the same time I'm not sure that today Sony's all automatic is particularly better than Canon's or Nikon's: you have to get into nuance to distinguish them is my contention.

So why are you picking Brand A over Brand B? 

To me, this gets back to something that all the camera companies tend to be poor at: marketing. And something deeper than just advertising or product brochures: customer engagement. 

I'll return to the Zfc as a case in point: let's say that I buy into the Zfc as a fun and casual product I'll enjoy. Nikon's marketing just wants to get me to buy the box, and then they think they've done their job. Are they truly helping me in having fun using the product? Nope. They've moved onto finding another person to convince, because they have your money. At this point, Nikon marketing should have already sent registered Zfc purchasers a video entitled "Sharing your Zfc fun with others." Yeah, using Snapbridge and Nikon Image Space quickly and casually. Other "fun" handholding campaigns should continue with other topics. That's how you engage a customer. 

Of course, one problem Nikon is going to have with the Zfc is that it needs a set of lenses all of its own, and Nikon has fallen behind delivering the lenses it's already promised for other Z System users. Nikon's marketing will likely send all us Zfc registered users an email about the 40mm f/2.8 compact lens indicating that it's "just right for the Zfc." But I suspect they won't be able to tell me how to have casual fun with it ;~). 

This is not Nikon's first consumer rodeo. They've been in a lot of them, dating back to the early film SLR days (my mom had a Nikkomat). The problem is that once they've sold that customer a consumer product, they don't really know what to do next with/for that customer, and their house of cards collapses when they run out of new folk to target. Oh sure, they'll suggest that the customer move to one of their higher-end products, but what if the consumer customer just wants to continue having casual fun? What does Nikon have for that? [crickets]

Sony was on the right track with Alpha Universe and Kando, though the Universe has gotten to be a bit disjointed and seems to be plagued by entropy as it expands, and Kando was made into Kandidn't by the pandemic. Still, I feel more engaged with Sony than I do with Nikon, even though I primarily use Nikon gear ;~). 

I'm not going to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article for you, because you're the one that has to answer it. I find that many deflect from dealing with that basic question by cluttering their decision with lots of minutia that, in the end, won't lead them to a convincing answer. 

That's exactly why a lot of the Leakers and Samplers I noted in articles over the past decade have either Returned or are Still Sampling. Getting lost in the details, particularly details that weren't absolutely of importance to them, made them spend money on a product that ultimately didn't satisfy their needs (or wants). 


Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: dslrbodies.com | mirrorless: sansmirror.com | Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com

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