Canon EOS 7D vs. Nikon D300s

Canon or Nikon? Head to Head Review of DSLR Cameras

The Nikon D300s.
The Nikon D300s. Nikon

The Canon versus Nikon debate is a long-standing argument within the photography world. It began in the days of film and has continued into the modern technology of DSLR cameras.

Though there are other camera manufacturers, these are the specialists and it not likely that the debate will end anytime soon. Once a photographer becomes tied into one system it is hard to leave. It is entirely possible that you will become fairly fanatical about it as well!

If you have yet to choose a system, the choice of cameras can seem bewildering. In this review, I will be comparing Canon's EOS 7D and Nikon's D300s. Both of these cameras are the manufacturers' top of the range APS-C format DSLRs.

Which one is the better buy? Here are the key points on each camera to help you make an informed decision.

Editor's Note: Both of these camera models have since been discontinued and replaced with newer models. As of 2015, the Nikon D750 would be considered the replacement for the D300s and the EOS 7D Mark II is the upgrade for the Canon EOS 7D. Both cameras continue to be available in used and refurbished condition.

Resolution, Body, and Controls

In terms of numbers alone, the Canon wins hands down with 18MP of resolution versus Nikon's 12.3MP.

Compared with most modern DSLRs, the Nikon seems low in pixel count. However, the tradeoff is that the camera has a fast frames per second rate (fps), and it is exceptionally good at high ISOs.

The Canon follows the tradition of newer cameras by adding more pixels for your buck, resulting in images that you can blow up to enormous prints!

Both cameras are made from magnesium alloy and both feel substantially heavier than other APS-C cameras in both manufacturers' ranges. These are "working" DSLRs, designed to be used by pros and dragged around inhospitable places.

If you can afford one of these, their rugged exteriors will see you through many, many years of trouble-free shooting.

When it comes to controls, the Canon 7D edges past the Nikon D300s. For once, Nikon has actually included ISO and white balance buttons but they are on the left-hand, top side of the camera. Users will need to take the camera away from their eyes to find the controls. Canon's ISO and white balance controls are on the other side of the camera and they can be changed much easier.

As far as the other controls are concerned, existing Canon users could find the controls on the 7D a little different than those they are used to unless they have been using the 5D range. The Nikon's controls look much the same on the back of the camera as all of its other DSLR models.

Auto-Focus and AF Points

Both cameras have fast and accurate auto-focus and both are ideally suited to shooting sports events with fast frames per second rates (8 fps for the Canon and 7 fps for the Nikon).

However, as is becoming woefully commonplace with DSLRs, neither camera can focus at any great speed while in "Live View" or "Movie Mode." You are better off focusing manually. The systems are perhaps slightly better than in cheaper models, but it is a marginal difference.

Both cameras come with sophisticated focusing systems and a lot of AF points. The Nikon has 51 AF points (15 of which are cross-type) and the Canon has 19 AF points.

The Nikon D300s is undoubtedly easier to use straight out of the box. In full automatic mode, you can easily switch between AF points using the back joystick.

With the Canon 7D, however, you need to spend some time setting up the system to match your requirements. Once you do, the rewards are obvious.

Not only can you automatically or manually select AF points, but you can also use different modes to help you make the most of the system. For instance, there is a Zone AF system, which groups the points into five zones to help you concentrate the camera's attention on the portion of the image on which you wish to focus. "Spot AF" and "AF expansion" are other options and you can even program the camera to jump to a certain mode depending on its orientation.

You would have to try quite hard to get the image out of focus with either camera, but the Canon is a better system once you have learned how to use it!

HD Movie Mode

Both DSLRs shoot HD movies. The Canon can shoot at 1080p while the Nikon only manages 720p. The Canon 7D offers full manual control as well.

The advantage in movie mode is a no-brainer: the Canon wins hands down when it comes to making movies. Having said that, do not think that the Nikon D300s isn't capable of producing good movies because it is -- it just isn't as good as the Canon!

Image Quality

Each camera has its strengths and weaknesses in this area. Neither camera copes well with white balance under artificial lighting and you will need to set the white balance manually to achieve the best results.

If you want to shoot straight out of the box in JPEG mode, the Nikon copes far better with noise. While its ISO settings only go up to ISO 3200 (compared to ISO 6400 on the Canon), detail is maintained far better at higher ISO settings with the Nikon D300s.

In RAW mode, you would be hard pressed to tell any difference between the two cameras in terms of image quality...unless you plan on making billboard-sized prints, that is!

I personally feel that the Nikon D300s produces slightly more lifelike colors, but the Canon 7D is extremely easy to tweak with either the camera settings or an image editing program.

Essentially, both cameras produce extremely high-quality images and any photographer would be delighted with the results.

In Conclusion

This is a very close contest and it probably comes down to personal preferences and which camera feels right for you. I honestly could not make a clear-cut choice between the two cameras as they are both excellent machines!

I will say this... If shooting at high ISOs is vitally important to you, then the Nikon D300s is probably the more suitable DSLR. Whereas, if focusing systems are important, go for the Canon 7D. Either way, you will not be disappointed.

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