First DSLR. Should I choose the Nikon D40x or the Canon Rebel XTi?
November 12, 2007 1:37 PM   Subscribe

First DSLR. Should I choose the Nikon D40x or the Canon Rebel XTi?
posted by kdern to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have access to any Canon or Nikon lenses? If so, go with that company's camera.

Otherwise, it really is your call. On balance, the 40x seems to be a little better; I went with Canon because I had a really nice Canon-mount lens available, and because I want to eventually go full-frame, which wasn't possible at all with Nikon and, for now, is only an option at the very top of the price chart. This is, however, very much a can't-go-wrong kind of decision - at least until the unforeseeable future arrives. And neither option really has any potential to be a disaster.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2007

A lot of the debate is discussed here.
posted by k8t at 1:47 PM on November 12, 2007

There are differences between the two cameras which I'm sure other camera equipment nerds and tomorrowful's thread link can help you discover. Both Canon and Nikon have large camera systems that will likely meet your needs, and both cameras are good choices for a first DSLR.

My advice from personal experience is to pick up both bodies at a camera store, and play with them for a while. Try a couple different lens, try setting the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc. Pick the one that feels most comfortable in your hands.
posted by jacobbarssbailey at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2007

I just researched this exact comparison myself and got the 40X. I'm not knowledgeable about cameras at all (it's for a gift) but I can tell you that everything I found indicated that the two are pretty much a draw.

What tipped me to the Nikon was that the recipient already has at least 1 Nikkor lens, possibly more (although only the AF-I and the AF-S lenses give you autofocus, any other lenses you have to manually focus).

I bought mine at and paid $620 shipped for the kit (includes 18-55mm ED II Zoom Lens), and they threw in a 2GB SD card. That was the best deal I found.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:11 PM on November 12, 2007

I'd go Nikon. I have Canon but right now I wish I had Nikon.

Nikon has a full frame sensor now. But really, I wouldn't worry about this for now, if this is your first camera.

Both choices are fine. I'd go Nikon now. The flash system is much better, I think.
posted by sully75 at 2:25 PM on November 12, 2007

Response by poster: I have no lenses - all my prior cameras were point-and-shoots.
posted by kdern at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2007

My personal opinion is that all other things being equal, you should go with Canon.

You can't go really wrong with either of them, but you're setting yourself up for lock-in that only increases over time as you acquire new lenses, and each one you get makes it harder to justify switching over. Even though Nikon seems to have caught up recently, they were chasing Canon for a few years, and I think the scales are likely to tip towards Canon again in the near future. There are a few major areas which differentiate DSLRs from one another:

1) Lens selection & Price
2) Battery life
3) Sensor size / resolution / noise
4) Image processing clarity / speed / noise
5) Image stabilization
6) Preview & File format support
7) Misc. (anti-dust, lcd panels, ease of controls, etc...)

My impression is that while the others seem to be roughly equal, Canon has significant advantages in 3 and 4, because they control the entire chip fab end to end, and Nikon does not. This means that while Nikon will catch up eventually, it's much easier for Canon to incorporate broad swath changes across their entire line which revolutionize things - full frame sensor, Digic II/III (and future) enhancements, etc... This has the result of pushing better image quality into their cheaper bodies faster, and that will continue to accelerate.
posted by Caviar at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is a real Coke vs. Pepsi kind of thing (that analogy is flawed, as Coke is it, as they say--suffice it to say that there is no clear winner). I am a Canon digital person, but I was a Nikon 35mm person. I have no regrets two years in to my new affiliation.

A couple of observations: Nikon has a great lens that I wish I had on my Canon--the 18-200 VR. Not sure of the aperture, but that's a very versatile range. I think there is one kit that comes with this (but it may be the Nikon equivalent of the Canon 5D/24-105 IS kit, which would be above what you're proposing to buy).

Second observation would be, notwithstanding my first point, don't buy a kit. The basic lenses that come in the kits are junk. I would highly recommend buying a nice new body of either denomination and buying a better lens than comes in the kit used on Craigslist. For Canon, I HIGHLY recommend the 50mm 1.4 prime--which takes beautiful photos (great, great color and contrast) or the 28-135 IS, which is very versatile, if not quite the standout that the 50mm prime is. I'm sure some of my Nikon counterparts could recommend similar affordable lenses that are better than the kit lens.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:17 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

you need to handle both. hold them, frame some shots, work the interface; they'll handle differently, choose the one that feels better in your hands, it's always the best thing to do with SLRs, digital or not
posted by matteo at 4:27 PM on November 12, 2007

It's Coke vs Pepsi and you'll be locking yourself into a brand... the specifics of that particular body are not really important because you'll likely end up spending 5x its value on glass over a few years.

And if you're not spending that much on glass, you're buying bargain basement lenses which are uniformly poor across all brands so it definitely doesn't matter much which you pick from the D40x or XTi (400D in other parts of the world).

If I were you though and you saw yourself having this body for some time, I would not buy the D40 because it does not AF on all except current model lenses. There is some *fantastic* old glass in the Nikon line that you won't really be able to use. But if you just want to buy new and cheap lenses, that won't matter.

Personally, I'd go for a Sony A100 instead (and I did!), or its replacement that's expected to be announced in the next few months (not the A700, that's the next model up and competitor to the 40D). A100 is 10MP like the XTi and D40x plus it has in-body stabilisation, so you get anti-shake on all the old cheap fast lenses, like the 50/1.7, 28/2 and the awesome portrait style glass like the Minolta 85/1.4. None of those lenses are available stabilised from any maker, so anti-shake in the body is a huge bonus. Not to mention you get anti-shake on stuff like the Sigma 100-300/4.

See Dyxum for excellent lens reviews for the minolta mount, including a load of 3rd-party (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc) lenses that are available for Canon and Nikon also.
posted by polyglot at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Pentax. They invented SLRs, after all...
posted by zadcat at 4:50 PM on November 12, 2007

Seconding what polyglot said. I bought the Sony A100 last April and couldn't be happier.
posted by PossumCupCake at 5:00 PM on November 12, 2007

I have a Canon 30d, and I am very fond of it. One of my co-workers just picked up an XTI, and while I'm loyal to Canon, I was underwhelmed by the controls. Perhaps it's because it's a simplified version of what I'm used to, but it just bugged me. I know that in terms of technology, it's rock solid, and the pictures it will take will be fantastic, but I think I agree with jacobbarssbailey, in that I would go into the store and check out which body felt best.

For what it's worth, the general assessment seems to be that Nikons are easier to use and master, and that Canon has better low light sensitivity.
posted by quin at 5:13 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

BTW - I owned a Rebel XTi until moving up to a 40D, and my only real complaint about it (as opposed to additional features I wanted on the 40D) was the low light noise performance at high ISO. Don't get me wrong - it's quite good (and certainly worlds better than your point and shoots), but I found that my f/4 lenses were largely useless for handholding without a flash indoors, because I'd have to shoot at ISO 800-1600, and a lot of those pictures were too noisy to be useful. Comparatively, on the 40D, which has outstanding low light noise performance, 800-1250 (the latter ISO is not available on the XTi) pictures are completely usable. I'd expect the low light performance on the comparable Nikon to be similar (or maybe worse, as quin says above), but be aware that this is one of the things that you're sacrificing by buying a cheaper DSLR body. You can compensate for it by using the flash, or getting faster lenses which will enable you to shoot at lower ISO.
posted by Caviar at 6:09 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and on the subject of controls - yes, the controls on the Rebel line are super simplified, and not at all optimized for manual shooting. But that comes with the territory of being a transition camera between a digicam and a DSLR. I shot with one for years, and didn't really find it limiting except for fast manual adjustments, but that was fine as part of the process of learning why and when to make those adjustments. By the time I moved up to the 40D, I felt like I really appreciated what all of those extra controls were for, where I think I would have been confused if they'd been available to me from the outset.
posted by Caviar at 6:14 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would choose based on the usability and your feel for the cameras. Which one has the controls you like, a viewfinder you feel comfortable looking through, and feels good in your hands? Go to the store and try them out for a while. I eventually went for a Nikon D80 because both the D40x and XTi felt too small for me, I didn't like the placement of the controls, and I thought the viewfinders on both presented the image too small. The D80 was more optimized for easily adjusting things on the fly, without having to stop and look at the screen, had a nice big viewfinder (which appears even larger when I added a magnifying eyepiece), can use the full range of Nikon autofocus lenses, which the D40x cannot, and is not that much heavier than the D40x or XTi.
posted by lsemel at 11:27 PM on November 12, 2007

They are both more or less exactly the same. Seriously. Just go to a shop, use both, and see which one you like more. If you have friends with either camera, as to try them out. They both make great cameras and lenses. You really can't loose either way.

I have a Canon XT, which I love.
posted by chunking express at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2007

+1 on the Sony A100. one of the awesome things about an SLR is the ability to shoot w/o flash. With the A100, the sensor in the camera tells you when you're steady so you can take the shot knowing it'll be clear!!

please do check it out, in the viewfinder there's a 'shake-o-meter'. it's like the bars on your cell phone. except when the bars go down, you're holding the camera steady.
posted by maulik at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2007

This article helped me make my decision between the two.
posted by Ugh at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2007

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