Canon vs Nikon is the camera equivalent of iOS vs Android, even if the two Japanese mega-brands are no longer the all-conquering giants they once were. For many people who are buying a new camera, it's still generally one of the two that first-time buyers will settle on.
Thanks to Canon and Nikon's heritage and lens ranges, this is particularly the case if you're looking to buy a DSLR. If you’re new to the game, picking your first model can be a difficult choice. Whichever brand you plump with, it stands a good chance that you’ll be with them for many years to come – especially once you’ve started investing in compatible lenses and accessories.
Once you’re a bit more into it and looking for the next step up, there’s a plethora of mid-range options to muddle through, and even those who have gone on to become seasoned pros still have some choices to make.
The good news is that both companies make excellent DSLRs. The hard part is picking the one that suits your needs best – with each having several on the market at any one given time, it can be tricky to choose the right one.
That’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up the main DSLRs which are currently available from the two big companies, comparing them with its biggest rival – usually that which is in the same price bracket.
Both Canon and Nikon both now also have mirrorless options - so we’ll be looking at those too, for completeness.
So, whether you’re just thinking about your first 'proper' camera, or you’ve been in the game a long while, you should find something here to suit your needs. Keep on reading to discover what’s right for you.
Canon vs Nikon: Beginner-friendly DSLRs
Generally we consider anything under the £600/$600 mark to be the benchmark for entry-level buyers. Luckily, if that’s your budget there’s plenty to choose from.
Not only is there a good selection of latest models which can be picked up for that price, Canon and Nikon often keep slightly older models in their line-ups to hook you in to their system. You might also see good discounts and cashback offers on these older models, especially those that have been replaced with a more up-to-date model.
As it stands, the best new options are the Nikon D3500 and Canon EOS 250D (known as the Rebel SLR in the US), with the former edging it in our book.
The Canon EOS 250D sits towards the upper end of the company's entry-level options. The cheapest options you can pick up are the Canon EOS 4000D (known as the EOS Rebel T100 in the US) and the Canon EOS 2000D (known as the EOS Rebel T7 in the US). The Canon EOS 250D (known as the Rebel SL3 in the US) is the newest of the entry-level models, while you can still find the older Canon EOS 200D (the EOS Rebel SL2 in the US) in some stores.
So what are the differences? The cheapest model, the Canon EOS 4000D / EOS Rebel T100 is very affordable, but you have to be prepared for some fairly big compromises. It features an 18MP sensor, a plastic lens mount and a less than mediocre 2.7-inch display – in short, it’s worth saving up for a bit longer and buying something of a better quality if you can.
Step forward the Canon EOS 2000D (EOS Rebel T7). For your extra cash you get a jump in resolution (24.1MP from 18MP), plus a better screen for a much better user experience.
Invest even more money and you’ll end up with the Canon EOS 250D (EOS Rebel SL3), which has a newer 24.2MP sensor, along with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system which comes in handy when using Live View (or video recording, which is available in 4K). It can also shoot at 5fps, which while not blisteringly fast, can be handy for capturing moving subjects. There’s also a handy vari-angle touchscreen, and the latest Digic 8 processing engine. The downside is a fairly basic 9-point autofocus system, but it’s a great camera to learn with.
If you can find the EOS 200D / EOS Rebel SL2, it’s well worth considering that. You don’t get 4K video, or the latest processing engine, but if you mainly shoot static subjects, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Nikon has been a little bit quieter recently when it comes to entry-level models, but in the current line-up we have the Nikon D3500, which is our currently number one in our list of the best beginner DSLRs. You might also be able to find the Nikon D3400 on sale in some places. Both have 24.2MP sensors, with an 11-point AF system and 5fps shooting. The Nikon D3500 has a better battery life, a larger handgrip (for better comfort) and a redesigned sensor.
Overall, at the cheapest end of the market, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the two manufacturers. That said, Canon has launched beginner-level models more recently, so you’ll get newer tech if you opt for one of those. If your budget is quite fluid, we’d suggest the Canon EOS 250D, but if need to keep it tight, the Nikon D3500 is the best first-time choice.
Winner: Nikon D3500