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A guide to "Capturing Motion" in low light situations

Nikon D4 vs Canon 1D X Shootout

Is this the camera battle of the century or just the flavor of the week? I went ahead and pitted the Nikon D4 with Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII against the Canon 1D X and 70-200 2.8 IS II in a skateboarding shootout.

As always my is not to test cameras in a studio but take them out in to real world shooting situations and run them through their paces. These are the top of the line offerings from both Nikon and Canon along with their newest 70-200 lenses? Who do you think will win, will there even be a winner?

Starting out I wanted to make it clear that I have long been a Nikon shooter which means I am very familiar with how they work. I understand the focus modes, the shooting speeds and everything else needed for going out to shoot. With that said I had not had the Canon 1D X very long when I conducted this shoot out. I do wish I had more time to work with the Canon before the shoot but it is what it is. Please understand, I do not care which camera comes out on top.

The idea behind the shoot was to attempt to have as close to the same settings as possible form the Nikon to the Canon. I wanted to shoot with the same focus modes, frame rates and focal lengths. Of course in the real world with a moving subject not everything is going to be perfect but we tried our best.

Canon 1D X VS Nikon D4 Focusing

What a fantastic camera, it feels substantial in the hands, offers fast and accurate shooting and is far more customizable. There is a manual dedicated to setting and tweaking the focus modes. I was amazed to see how many different options you have to play with. The funny thing is that I did not discover that manual until after this skateboarding shoot. Once I did I started to find which setting would work best for me. JPA_9450

There are options that make it almost impossible to back focus. The camera knows you are tracking a subject and not to get distracted by the background. This is something that Nikon D4 does not really offer. The Nikons have their focusing options but they are no where as customizable as the Canon. Leg up to the Canon for having better focus customizability.

Some of you may think it is a downside to have so many tweak options and would prefer the fewer tweaks that Nikon makes you do. The more options you have the better you can customize your personal settings for your shooting needs. Once you understand the ins and outs of the settings you will be better off.


Now that we talked about how the focus tracking works lets take a look at how the cameras switch actual focus. When you want to change the Nikon focus points you simply move the d pad when the meter is engaged. Nikon offers the 51 points that you can individually select and clearly see which point you are using in red.

Canon has a few different ways you can change the 61 focusing points many of which I have found to be confusing. This could be that fact that I have not been using their system for the last ten years or it really is confusing. Out of the box you have to hit a button on the camera to engage the focus points followed by turning the back or front wheel to move the focus points around to where you want them. This to me does not cut it when it comes to shooting action. But when you know where to look in the custom settings menu you can simply make the change to allow you to use the new joystick on the back of the camera.

One of the differences between the Nikon and the Canon is that the red focusing points stay illuminated on the Nikon where the Canon’s can not. I spoke with my tech person at Canon and they verified that this is correct. That right there is the one small difference and advantage I can give to Nikon for focusing.

In terms of which camera has better continuos focusing it is pretty much a toss up. I felt extremely comfortable going from the Nikon to the Canon and back again. They function very similarly, both are quick and accurate in my opinion. The Canon offers more focusing points with 61 compared to Nikons 51.


Shooting Speed

The Canon clocks in at 12 FPS with continuos autofocus and the Nikon clocks in at 10 FPS. When you unleash 12 FPS on a subject it feels like you have the power of the world in your hands. I found that I ended up motor-driving way more than normal. You start thinking about who is going to edit all of these photos and do I really need that much speed? Sure the speed is nice in quick bursts but wow, you really can waste shots. The Nikon on the other hand is slightly slower in terms of FPS. Does this mean you will miss shots that the Canon wont, I really don’t think so. Again it is hard to say which camera has the advantage here. Sure one shoots quicker but that doesn’t mean that quicker or slower for that matter is better.

RAW Files

Canon again offers more tweakabilty when it comes to setting up for shooting RAW in the camera. They offer you small, medium and large raw files where Nikon does not. I will tell you that no matter what camera I am shooting I set RAW to its highest uncompressed setting and go from there.

Both camera produce incredible files with slight differences. The Nikon files tend to have more of a green shift which is easily correctable in post. The Canon files on the other hand seem to have a slight magenta shift which also is easily correctable.

I did notice that the Canon files seemed to have a little more contrast when they were brought in to lightroom. As you know I love to make my files go boom with contrast and will take all the contrast I can in my files. I am not fully positive that this is the case, it just seemed that way visually to me. In the end it is still what you bring out of the RAW file that truly matters.


So which camera offers you a better RAW file, that answer is, which ever camera you are using the capture the images.

If it sounds like I am having a tough time deciding which camera is better it’s because I am. As someone who has shot Nikon’s for years and getting the chance to use Canon’s top of the line offerings I was really pleased. I continue to debate if I should sell all my Nikon gear and go with the 1D X and their newer lenses. But with every decision there are pros and cons to both systems.

I love my Nikon 14-24 2.8, I love the angles that it allows me to capture but Canon does not have that lens, yet. Canon just came out with a NEW 24-70 2.8 that is truly fantastic. The Canon set up is more substantial in terms of size in your hands where the Nikon is slightly less meaty. Both cameras offer fast and accurate auto focus with the Canon offering more customization.

I have uploaded all of the FULL RES exports form the photo shoot. You can find all the Nikon files right here and the Canon ones right here.

In the end I would be perfectly happy shooting with either of these cameras. For a little while from the D3 and the D3s Canon was getting their hat handed to them. With the release of the 5D MK III and 1D X I feel that Canon has taken a slight lead back over Nikon. If I were to sell all my Nikon gear today and pick up a 1D X I know I would still capture great images.