Why I Switched From Canon to Nikon « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Why I Switched From Canon to Nikon


The last two days have been busy, chaotic, and exciting. Even I have been impressed by the reach of the blog — at 3:55am Pacific time on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 I have sold all but a single listed Canon item (with several folks interested in the 70-200mm f/4L IS). Thanks to all who purchased my stuff at the give-away prices. I have a private client this morning and look forward to being joined by my new friend Lee Sommie midday tomorrow. Lee is signed up for San Diego #2.

Coming on Thursday

Coming on Thursday, a blog post entitled “Canon Does Not Suck.” So stay tuned.

Late Registration Discount

Due to a cancellation, there is a single opening on the second San Diego IPT. I am offering a $200 discount on the course fee. It is mandatory that you get in touch via e-mail or call me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Scroll down here for details on San Diego #2.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred seventy-seven days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took more than two hours to prepare including the time spent optimizing the image. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on January 22 at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 440mm) and the blazingly fast professional digital camera body, the Nikon D5 DSLR camera body with dual XQD slots). ISO 400. Matrix metering probably +2/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 7:52am on a mostly clear sunny morning.

Center Group Shutter Button AF. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Brown Pelican, Pacific race, taking flight.

The Dramatic Take-off Image

I tried and failed for decades to create images like this with my Canon gear. Do understand that many others, more skilled than I, have made images like this with their Canon gear. With my new Nikon gear I now feel that I at least have a good chance. That gives me more confidence to at least try in difficult or even near-impossible situations.

It took me a while to realize that when a big wave hit a pelican or two would take flight. I finally figured it out with this image. There is an amazing Content Aware Fill story that goes with this photo. I will share in a future blog post.

Why I Switched From Canon to Nikon

I was one of the original 55 Canon Explorers of Light. After speaking with Dave Metz (who was then with Canon) at some photographic event, I was invited into the program — probably in 1996 or so — by Michael Newler (aka “Captain Explorer.”) It was quite an honor. I served in that role for about eighteen years. Canon was exceedingly generous. Right after I signed up I did a commercial for the EOS-1V film body that aired worldwide. At some point Michael left Canon and Dave Metz took over the EoL program. When Dave moved on, Steven Inglima assumed leadership of the program. Michael, Dave, and Steve were all good to me. Unbelievably good to me. When I submitted no end of speaking gigs for EoL approval, Michael liked to argue, Dave seemed like a tough guy but had a heart of gold beneath that facade, and Steve liked to ask questions. That said, those three wonderful gentlemen approved everything single thing that I proposed. Heck, they often lined up speaking gigs for me and sent me on the next plane. That support included two major exhibits of my work, the first at the Peterson Institute in Jamesburg, NY, and the second at the National Zoo in Washington, part of the Smithsonian. Canon sponsored both of those exhibits to the tune of $30,000.

About three or four years ago, Steven Inglima called me. Steve never called me. He was going on and on about nothing and suddenly it dawned on me: I was being let go as an Explorer. And that’s what happened. As a result of political BS at Canon. Steve fought hard to keep me in the program. In about a year he was fired too. He did get one concession. I, and the other photographers who were let go, were OKed to use the title Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus. And the plan was that while we would not have formal Canon contracts, that EoL would continue to support our speaking endeavors on Canon’s behalf. That worked for a total of two events. But the new team at EoL steadfastly refused to support my exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. B&H came to the rescue. Canon EoL did support the slide program that opened the exhibit. And one more speaking gig in South Florida. I submitted a request for support for a speaking engagement near Denver but they never responded. When the gentleman trying to arrange the program wrote them, they responded with a simple answer. “No.”

I opted to choose the high road. I continued to support Canon on the blog most every day of the year. I had a great 18 year run with EoL and Canon’s generosity was unparalleled. So thanks again to Michael, Dave, and Steven, to good friends, the technical advisors Rudy Winston and Chuck Westfall, and to Canon USA and Canon Japan.

For years I had seen the great flight and action images of some of the top bird photographers made with Nikon gear. I simply assumed that they were more talented than I. When I heard recently that BPN Avian Moderator Doug Brown of Albuquerque, NM, had switched, that got me thinking; Doug is a quite competent flight photographer. As I was no longer an EoL in any way, shape or form, I decided to borrow some Nikon gear and see if it was any better for flight and action. From the first moment that I acquired focus on a bird in flight three days ago on January 20, I thought “This is different. This is much, much better.” Like Canon, the system acquired focus quickly. The difference, for me at least, was that the system would hold focus perfectly even with bird flying in front of a cliff or just over the ocean. Talk honestly to any top bird photographer who uses Canon gear and they will voice their frustrations. “I was locked on and then had to bump the focus. AF keeps going to the background. More than half of my flight images are not sharp on the eye.” There is none of that with the D5. I probably created 100,000 images of birds flying right at me at 60 mph with my Canon gear. 99.99% of them were sharp. Sharp on the feet. For me, Canon AF simply could not keep up. Some of the very best Canon flight photographers have had success in this area with their cameras set up perfectly for flight. But never me. With Nikon this situation is a piece of cake. I will share a Brandt’s Cormorant image with you here soon.

Before I even saw the images on my laptop I realized that I would almost surely be switching. Once I saw the consistently sharp results on my Macbook Pro with Retina Display, I was convinced: for me, photographing birds in flight with Nikon gear would be a huge improvement, the chance to be the flight photographer I always wanted to be. With the Canon gear I rarely made more than two or three images of a given bird on a flight pass. Several times in the past few days with the Nikon gear I have created 12- and 15-frame flight sequences with all of the images well-framed and sharp on the eye. AF is that sure even when and if the AF Group cluster is nowhere near the bird’s face, head, or neck. There is no way in the world that I could have created today’s featured image with my Canon gear. Others maybe, but not me. I look forward to thousands more quick-grab and take-off images in my Nikon future.

If Canon versus Nikon for flight photography were a championship prize fight, they would be best to stop the bout at the weigh-in …Unless you totally screw-up there is no need at all to bump the focus. The whole Nikon thing has been like a re-birth.

I thought on the dilemma for about a day and then decided to go all-in by selling off my Canon gear, most of it in a single afternoon.

Folks have asked if my decision was vengeful in any way, if it was politically motivated, if I was now under contract with Nikon, or if it had to do with my being let go by Canon as an EoL. The honest answers are no, no, no, and no. In The Work (The Work of Byron Katie) we learn to ask if the thing that we fear the most (being let go as an Explorer) could possibly be the best thing that could have happened … In this tale, that has been exactly the case.

Other factors include Canon’s continued denial of oil spatter on the sensor problems with individual EOS-1DX Mark II bodies (like my first one) and problems with folks using Canon Repair centers. No worries on that though; I have heard that Nikon repair service is much worse. ๐Ÿ™‚

What would I have done if I had learned that Nikon was the best system for me while I was still an Explorer of Light? That is a very tough question and I am a very loyal man, but boy, I would have been very tempted to end my relationship with Canon …

I have enjoyed the firestorm on the blog and on my two Facebook pages and have enjoyed the challenge of learning to work with an entirely new system. And most of all, I have been having a ton of fun.

Summing up I can only say that I switched knowing that Nikon was better for me at this point in my life. Please do not be fooled into thinking that the Nikon system is dead solid perfect; there are many things that bug me. I will be sharing those with you in future blog posts.

Many fear that I will quit teaching folks about Canon on the blog. That will not be true. If I never posted a single Nikon image I could do a blog post every day for the rest of my life with as yet unpublished Canon images. That said, the switch will allow me to broaden my horizons and become an even stronger teacher. Wait till I learn my two new camera bodies and learn how to zoom out with the 200-500!

Those who have read this far would likely enjoy reading my replies to various comments in the last three or four Nikon-related blog posts …

Nikon Menu Help Needed

If you know how I can assign Focus Stop to the AF ON button please leave a comment.

The San Diego Site Guide

Whether you are visiting San Diego for photography for the first time or live in the area and have done the pelicans many dozens of times, you will learn a ton by studying the San Diego Site Guide. Why spend days stumbling around when you can know exactly where and when to be depending on the wind direction and sky conditions? In addition to the pelican primer, there is great info on the best beaches for the gorgeous gulls, on Marbled Godwit, on the lower cliffs, Lesser Scaup, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks as well.

Learn more or purchase your copy here.

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Please help support my (stupendous) efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

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Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store ๐Ÿ™‚

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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63 comments to Why I Switched From Canon to Nikon

  • A common question I get from new students when teaching one-on-one in the field: “Should I buy Canon, Nikon, or Sony?”. My answer is always the same: “Yes”. My point is that it has far more to do with the individual wielding the equipment than the equipment itself. I think most folks would agree that I’m more than just a little good when it comes to BIF photography. I happen to use Canon gear but could do the same with any of them as I’d use the same technique/process regardless of brand. All gear has strengths/limitations but as a photographer, you develop a “feel” for your gear. When I photograph BIF, I never use back button focus, and use a single focusing point (typically held at the point where the neck of the bird connects with the body). It takes practice to perfect….lots of it…but it works equally well on all brands. It’s now just instinctual for me for me to acquire the BIF and follow it through the sequence….just like an expert trap/skeet shooter never misses. I think it’s a tough decision to switch platforms when you have so much invested in one. I don’t believe that any “technical” advantage in any of the brands is long-lived enough for the switch to be worthwhile for most people. They tend to leapfrog each other every couple of years or so anyway. It’s almost a certainty that the competitors will reverse-engineer and respond to anything one of the others is doing to gain an edge. That’s just business as usual.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Bob, All good but in this case you are wrong. But only 100% wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

      Try it and you will see.

      with love, artie

  • Hi Artie and welcome to Nikon. Canon’s decision is their loss. Having watched many of your instructional presentations via the B&H “Event Space” YouTube channel, I’ve no doubt you could use one of those old disposable instamatics to create amazing photos. As a long-time Nikon shooter, I learned a lot about the important things – print the sun and wind at your back, getting there before the sun, etc. – from you. I hope your followers who are Canon shooters don’t make the mistake of thinking that, just because you’ve got a different brand camera in your hands, they can no longer learn from you. Brands doesn’t matter. It’s what goes on in the old melon that matters and you are very generous sharing your knowledge with all who enjoy photography.

    Regarding AF-Lock with Nikon, if you use back-button focus in AF-C, you can effectively lock focus by removing your thumb from the AF-ON button. Set a8 to “AF-ON Only” so pressing the shutter release only activates VR and initiates a shutter actuation.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words. With the D-850, it is not a good idea to use any form of rear button focus unless you are on a tripod. With both cameras I assigned the AF-ON button to AF stop.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Dee Bee

    What’s next Ford vs Chevy? Personally I own both brands, like both brands and shoot both. I do think some Canon owners are like Harley owners. They tend to bash Nikon like the Harley guys bash Honda but……every Harley rider out there cut his teeth on a Honda, AND every Canon user out there cut his teeth on a Nikon. And, while I’m at it….I like Pentax and Mamiya also. I have two bags packed always. A Canon 6D MK II and a Nikon D750. Usually, I pick up the Nikon.
    Anyway, good shooting with the Nikons but never, never, never burn a bridge.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. You own both a Ford and a Chevy?

      with love, artie

    • Love the comment, if I had the funds I would likely do the same. I picked Nikon from the beginning and have been very satisfied I did. But I started the Journey with a Pentax K1000 in 1980 and will likely invest in that platform next leveraging my excellent Nikon glass. If there’s a compelling reason to try Canon I may try that as well.

  • I have worked with a UK pro who fell out of favour with Nikon and switched to Canon. Like you, Arthur, he also advocates the new system he has switched to. And, also like you he does not dismiss or diminish the gear of his previous “employer”.

    We “the Nikon Tribe” or They “the Canon Tribe” seem overly keen to argue one is better than the other; one is worse than the other. As you say “neither are perfect”; both have their strengths and weaknesses and these change as new products are launched. Good health competition between manufacturers makes us all better.

    I have shot Nikon for nearly 45 years. I built muscle memory for the Nikon system. So I found it difficult to shoot as effectively when I was allowed to try a pre-launch 1Dx Mark II back in late 2015/early 2016 — it was my lack of system familiarity that caused me to stumble with the canon system. I was relieved when the d5 and d500 came out in early 2016 which gave me at least as good performance as the canon within a system I could use to its full potential. Canon wildlife shooters tell me they like the ability to customise AF-response; we have less complex options in the D5/D500/D850 and I am yet to push these to their full potential.

    My largest investment is not in bodies – it is in glass. I had always “understood” canon glass was claimed to be better than Nikon — nope – it was lighter. Now with E/FL Nikon super-teles Nikon glass is about the same weight or in some cases slightly lighter than Canon (the Nikon 600mm being 3810g -vs- 3920g for the canon; whereas the Nikon VR was 5060g. I have to say that moving from VR (or VR II) lenses to the E/FL has made travel and handling much easier. I doubt there is any real performance difference between Nikon and Cannon glass – to be frank now I have made this investment I don’t really care. With the announcement of the new 190-400 f/4 with built in TC. There is a direct competitor to Canon’s fantastic 200-400. I owned the older Nikon 200-400 VRII and it did not do it for me — again too heavy. The new lense is much lighter and seems to have great potential.

    So Arthur – while I see that you have been using the 200-500/5.6 and it is a great value lens; I am interested to see your feedback when you try some real pro glass. I am sure you will be picking up some Nikon Long glass — many pro bird shooters seem to go for the 800/5.6E FL and it is a winner in my books, but so are the 400/2.8E FL and 600/4E FL too. I use the latter on every safari and am gradually replacing my other lenses as the E/FL options become available. The new 70-200 E/FL is a revelation compared to previous Nikon 70-200s.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Tanks again for sharing your thoughts. I am gonna stick with the 2-5 to replace the 1-4. The Nikon 200-400 (both the last version and the new one with the internal TC) are far too heavy for an on your shoulder intermediate telephoto. And I have not heard great things about the latest version of the 80-200 VR … I have made it a habit of making great images with lenses that are routinely trashed by the internet experts.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Freeman Burgess

    Artie, There is a very good Nikon wildlife photographer named Steve Perry of Backcountry Galleries. He has a Youtube channel named Steve Perry and he’s written an ebook about Nikon’s AF system which includes the D5, D500, & D850. Focus stop may be included on one of his videos. He’s very approachable, and I hope the two of you can connect.

  • I am sorry that you had this experience with Canon, but I know you will come through it even stronger and better than you were before. Frankly, I am shocked Canon did not keep you on as I can’t think of anyone else who “sold” the brand better than you (even when Canon put out a couple really flawed designs). I am looking forward to reading what you have to say in the future!

  • Artie, no way I can squeeze in all my thoughts regarding your revelation about yourself, The Work and what it means and how it has transpired in this change of gear. Just wanted to let you know I have learned much from you and am delighted for you at this latest turn of events. I still have plenty to learn about technique which I will do with Doug Brown’s old IDIV and Issac Grant’s IDX. However, I will be keeping a close eye on your findings and look forward to learning much more from you. Gear’s gear; it exists to help us get our job / passion done! I’m really happy for you that you’re pumped and rarin’ to go with this new lease on bird-life! You’re off to a wonderful start with these stunning images!

  • Hi Artie

    Your flight shots of the the Pelicans tick all my boxes, pin sharp crisp, exposure bang on the
    botton I would love to have a go with Nikon system, my luck might change I could win the UK lottary It would be the first thing on my list if I did win. I must agree with you I don’t think Canon L lens our good at flight shots I find the auto focus lock on is to slow.

    Best and love

    I wish you all the best with Nikon, I will following on your blog.

  • avatar Gary S Meredith

    Dear Artie
    Gary Meredith here
    I just have a hard time believing that you would switch to Nikon after all the years that I’ve known you and the times that you and me and Ned Harris have been out taking beautiful photos of all the beautiful Birds @ places like Bolsa Chica , Bosque Del Apache , and @ all of these locations
    we were all of us all using our Canon gear and you ( Artie ) have been A great teacher on how
    use the cameras in the best way we can and these are CANON cameras .

    This switch to Nikon does not make much sense to me already , because the Nikon camera does not have the large lens mount that the Canon camera has , auto focus on any camera needs light to go through the lens then to the sensor , so how can a Nikon camera Focus as quickly as a Canon camera.

    Happy Birding
    Dr Bird

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Believe it. The switch makes very much sense to me ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s why I made it!

      with love, artie

  • avatar Lee Sommie

    I’m not a brand snob when it comes to my camera equipment. I own Canon because I had to start somewhere and I liked the look it produces from the sensor. If and when I can afford it, I want Nikon and Sony in my stable of photographic tools. Each has it’s advantages. You are so right about broadening your horizons with gear. Canon, Nikon and Sony are all great systems. Learn the systems well, expose correctly and use your techniques as a photographer to create great work. It’s a recipe for success. Looking forward to meeting up with you this week my friend and checking out that Nikon gear!

  • Hey Arthur, great read. Nice image as well love all that splashing water in the background.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks John. That was one big wave. We enjoyed some really high surf over the past week.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Marco

    Well ARTIE,

    if you are so impressed with Nikon after trying the 200-500 all I can say is that I am just looking forward to see your images with the 600mm f4…the acquisition speed is just supersonic, no comparison with the 200-500 which is a sharp lens, keep the focus brilliantly once acquisition is done but is unbelievably slow in acquiring focus in the first place (vs primes).
    The 600 is just going to change your religious beliefs !
    Keep the great stuff coming to this site, I absolutely love it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Can’t wait!

      With love, artie

      ps: I have had some serious problems acquiring focus with when using the 200-500 with the TCE 14 … Strangely enough, those problems only with static subjects!

      • avatar Marco

        it is strange that the problems are only on static subjects in effect.
        at 5.6 with the 1.4tc you have only 15 focus points available, of which only 9 can be selected, the center cross basically. Only 5 of those are cross type, basically only the center point. So i can imagine the camera struggle a bit. But it should struggle in any circumstance.
        Are you using single point focus or are you in another mode ?
        It will be much better with the 600mm f4 and it is even better with the 400 2.8 even if, for the 400, it is only derivative knowledge, I never used it before.


  • avatar Graham hedrick

    Canonโ€™s loss. People are influnced by leaders in the industry. Your move will an effect on canons sales

  • avatar Graham hedrick

    Now you can hang out with and tell stories with Moose of Peterson. Woot!

  • avatar Graham

    Very interesting. I have been considering making the switch from Canon, not least because of reliability issues with my 1DXII and 5DIV. The main problem is the cost of replacing all my Canon glass. The only non-financial issue is the lack of GPS in the Nikons (which is incredibly useful for my travel photography) and, to a lesser extent, Canonโ€™s superiority in live view. When the time comes to replace the current bodies anyway, I may well take the plunge and switch, unless Canon has by then played serious catch-up.

  • avatar Linda Avitt

    Well, I’m just grateful for your teaching, no matter what you use. Thanks, Artie!

  • I learn’t a lot about photography and image design from the blog, even though you were using Canon Stuff (I use Nikon).

    Now that you are switching it make s it much more interesting

  • avatar Tom Speelman

    custom setting a8 and select โ€œAF-On Onlyโ€. You also need to have the release mode selector set to Continuous High. Then youโ€™re good to go.
    Also custom setting a8 on the D850.

    • I read the question differently — “how I can assign Focus Stop to the AF ON button” — if by this question you mean “How to assign AF-Lock” (i.e. the AF is to stop auto-focussing so you can, for example, recompose. Then in Menu F1 (control assignment) you can select to allocate AF-Lock to the AF-On button (this is one of many potential choices you can make). Now many “back-button focus” devotese use the AF-ON button to control when AF (servo) is turned on (they switch of this function on the shutter button) and then when they have the focus they want they lift their thumb off of the AF-On button to stop AF continuous servo running recompose and then shoot. I am not a devote of this method — I find moving the focus point to the place you want you subject to be in the frame to be a better solution for stationary objects and keeping AF-C running and tracking is more effective for wildlife. Now I shoot big cats rather than birds and so I tend to have more time when they are stationary, than those of you who need to switch very fast.

  • avatar Dave Lawrence

    I’m going to miss you; you’ve been very kind to me and a great teacher. But I am committed to Canon because I, and not the equipment, am the limiting factor. I just don’t think your information will be as helpful to me as you enthusiastically promote Nikon and draw those with similar views more and more into your influence sphere. This is a sad day for me, and I do wish you well. You are a remarkable photographer, regardless of what gear you hold.

    Dave Lawrence

  • avatar Roger Smith

    Good luck with the new gear Artie. But maybe more importantly, thanks for taking the time to explain your decision. I’m looking forward to the “Canon doesn’t suck” blog entry. You are very clear about your desire to match your birds in flight aspirations and Nikon has the tools to do it. For many of us who are still finding our way with broader interests, perched birds, mammals, some landscape and general shooting, I’m already sensing you are fine stating Canon is a sound company producing good products that no doubt will continue to evolve in time. Wasn’t that long ago that the 5D Mark II was making everyone else catch up!

  • avatar Anthony Sakal

    Why did you not simply buy the two Nikon bodies and play with the 200-500 before dumping all the Canon gear considering that many of your photos are not BIF. I applaud you for recognizing the fact that Nikon does enable you to keep birds in flight in constant focus and, as result, I plan to purchase a Nikon D850 and the 200-500 but I’m not about to forgo my Canon bodies and the 100-400 especially when it comes to photographing warblers at Maggie’s Marsh which is what I prefer to photograph. In fact, I love your manuals and look forward to what you are going to write, related to using Nikon gear, because, considering your understanding of Canon gear, who would be best capable of giving out a critique better than an honest, intelligent and artistic user, such as yourself, of both systems? I think you are going to benefit many of us more than even yourself but consider that many of us also do double duty with what we own and Canon gear is still what I see used, by pros, at sporting and other events. But when it comes to BIF I can’t disagree. Nikon has more than an edge.

  • avatar john

    to me Nikon an Canon r like apple and android just wait another year and canon will have something to match Nikon.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I seriously doubt that as the D5 has been around for at least 3 years. But it would be nice. Maybe I will switch back ๐Ÿ™‚

      with love, artie

  • The tides are turning…soon enough I’ll find myself being the only one of a group with Canon gear ๐Ÿ™‚ Have fun on your transition!

  • Artie – Welcome to the dark side!

    Your amazement with the AF performance of the Nikon system is no surprise. When I picked up a D500 and used it to photograph foxhunting, my keeper rate went from 65-70% using a D810 to 98% with the D500. The D850 has maintained the same level of performance with exceptional AF accuracy. I was recently photographing sandhill cranes in flight, and AF produced a sharp image and eye on almost every image.

    Congratulations on the new gear! Steve Perry has written a nice guide to the Nikon AF system and his work may save a little time. Maybe we’ll see a new book from you sometime soon.

  • avatar Jack D Waller

    As I said yesterday, my blessing and may Canon notice and maybe steal the secret from Nikon for those of us that will stay with them. Not that it would help me because my big body purchase will likely be my last.

    I think many tend to dream of the perks of being sponsored but reading your words there is obviously a potential downside. Ultimately, being free is worth quite a bit.

    I must admit it did bother me a bit hearing the, what seemed excessively glowing, comments about each Canon camera that came along and now at least it makes sense.

    It’s sad when those in power do not behave appropriately and it sounds like what happened to you was underhanded. It’s public now, so shame on Canon.


  • avatar Jean-Guy Gallant

    Artie, I read your blog every day and enjoy all of it. Since I’m a Nikon user, it will be twice as much interesting. Looking forward to see all you post on Nikon equipement.

  • Artie, What a. surprise to hear about the.switch to Nikon. Can understand though looking at the images. Although through the years, I have learned a lot about the fine points of using my Canon stuff, the most important things and the most valuable have been lessons on approach to birds, evaluating/anticipating the situation, technique etc, etc. This wonโ€™t change even if you later switch to Holgas (no offense, Holga). Looking forward to more lessons on the blog and IPTs.

  • Kudos to you, Art, for having the gumption to act on something as radical as a complete system changeover after all this time. I hope you won’t become too smug with your new toys. (joking) Some of my best friends shoot Nikon. I try never to judge a man (or woman) by his camera. Enjoy the new system.
    Stop me if you’ve heard this…the President, the Pope and a photographer walk into a bar…..

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Thanks. I have heard and to some degree observed what you say about Canon AF: immediate lock-on but doesn’t always hold focus against a busy background. There are workarounds that help but if Nikon’s new cameras really can keep focus on a fast-moving bird against a busy background then indeed your switch makes sense.

  • I was a Nikonite from the early 1970’s till 1999 when I divorced it and moved to Canon mainly because the lens stabilizing technology. Canon has in the last decade put their $ in public relations at the cost of making small increments in their cameras technologies. In the recent past when asked what gear would I buy I recommended Nikon…better sensors and new released lenses. Know I am moving into the future with Sony mirrorless a9 and a7III cameras. It will take a while for Canon to match the technical competence of the Sony cameras if ever and I have no time to wait.

  • avatar Jim Cash


  • avatar Tom Applegate

    When we’re through discussing Canon versus Nikon, can we jump into religion and politics?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Tom,

      This is not about Canon vs. Nikon. It is about what works best for me ๐Ÿ™‚

      with love, artie

  • Artie,

    Don’t worry about Nikon service. I’ve been a die hard Nikon user for 30+ years and never had issues. Last year I dropped my D750 with 70-200 off the tripod. I watched in horror as the lens and body separated on the rock, and the lens took the lens mount flange with it – guts hanging out of the body. I cried. I sent the remains to Nikon in New York. For about $800, they fixed both the lens and the body – even putting in a new shutter mechanism. I hope you have similarly good results.

    I’m interested to see if you adopt Nikon’s Capture NX-D. I found it to be clunky and abandoned it. Maybe you will have better results.

    Welcome to the Nikon family – now you just need to become a Nikon Ambassador (I’m sure you’re working on that already).


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That is good to hear. I personally have heard a few nightmare stories from unhappy Nikon folks. No Capture NX-D for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I will be exploring Capture One. Not working on anything with Nikon ๐Ÿ™‚

      With love, artie

      • avatar Gary Irwin

        Artie, like anything else the interface takes some getting used to, but the output from Capture One is very hard to beat…itโ€™s my current NEF converter of choice. My second choice would be DXO Photolab, as the latest release added Nik control point technology and their Prime noise reduction module is the best there is.

  • Artie
    Welcome to Nikon. I remember all the kidding that I got on IPTs when I was the only Nikon shooter

  • avatar Joe Randle

    Good morning Artie,

    Awesome photo… “Brown Pelican, Pacific race, taking flight”… one of the best I have seen for a long while…

    I love your boldness of making the switch… You’re happy… then you will make others happy… keep up the great work… I am impressed…

    God’s Blessing,

  • avatar Geoff

    To have the AF-ON button cancel AF you go into Custom Setting Menu and go to item “f controls”. Then go to “f1 Custom Control Assignment”. Then go to the AF-ON button and you want to select the last item that says “AF lock only”. Then if you are focusing with shutter button and hold the AF-ON button it won’t refocus on you.

    Hope that helps.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Many thanks. At first I misread your instructions ๐Ÿ™‚ But once I reread them and followed the simple directions, it worked perfectly! I looked at that menu several times but never looked at the stuff under f1 …

      Any suggestions for making it easier to change the focusing patterns, i.e., grp to d9 to d25?

      with love, artie

      ps: It seems that I needed to do that for both the horizontal and vertical AF ON button controls. So I did ๐Ÿ™‚

      • avatar Geoff

        Glad you got it working.

        As far as changing between focus modes there is no magic button like on all the Canon bodies or fancy 5D4/7D2 toggle switch.
        Other than using the horribly placed button on the front of camera near the lens mount, the only way I have got it setup is to have different buttons change to a different AF mode when pushed. I use back-button focus for all my shooting so I have AF-ON button set to D25, I have the joystick pushed in set to Group. I have the Pv button on front of the camera set to Single Point. Mostly I use just the AF-ON button and the Joystick push as Pv is a little hard to push on the D500.

        If you are using shutter button AF then you can still have those buttons switch AF modes but only while you hold that button down. There is no way to assign a button to act like the AF mode button on the front of the camera.

        Customizing these buttons is all in that same f1 Custom Control Assignment menu.

  • Thanks for the honest and heartfelt explanation. I second Dave’s comments (and question) above, but wish only to point out that in your sentence ” I will share a Brandtโ€™s Cormorant image with you hear soon,” you meant “here.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  • avatar Craig Weeson

    I have used both and can say there are good and bad points
    For both companies.
    Good for you Artie a change is as good as a rest, they say !
    I still look forward to your teachings.

  • avatar Mike Cristina

    I think people get stuck on gear. It’s not a Canon image or a Nikon image. It’s what you teach us about being ready, exposure, exposure compensation, composition, DOF, etc. Your blogs may get even better. More technique, less system. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t need the latest piece of equipment. I’m not switching to Nikon, but I look forward to reading about your evolution, and the new techniques you’ll learn and pass on to us in the process.

    Thanks again,


  • Arty – I didn’t even know you and Canon had parted in such a way – that’s really bad form on the part of Canon, considering the huge amount of business you must have put their way over the years.

    I shot a lot of White tailed Eagles in Norway, shooting hand held from a boat.

    Being a Nikon shooter and a lover of a 200-400, it always frustrated me that the older MultiCam 3500 used to give rise to some really stupid fails.

    Then i borrowed a 1DX and a 200-400 for a trip about 3 years ago – and I could not believe how many epic tack sharp sequences I shot. But the 1DX image quality was always a drawback over the likes of a D4.

    Then trying a 1DX Mk2 I soon became aware of the AF +/- bumping requirement – which I still don’t understand to this day if I’m honest.

    I did two trips to Norway last year, and took a D5 + 500mm rig with me, together with a D4S – and to be honest I was very disappointed with the D5 in terms of AF and image quality. The D4S performed much better, but by no means perfectly.

    On the second trip last year I was back to a 1DXMk2 + 200-400 combo again – the results were consistent with my previous experiences.

    But I have to say the Canon AF system was more consistent in the pre Mk2 days.

    Personally, I don’t think either Nikon or Canon have got their acts together, and Canons system is slightly more suspect with the need for adding + or – AF adjustments.

    Have Canon even acknowledged the problem?

    Amyway, the very best to you Arty.

    Andy Astbury, UK

  • avatar Dave McShaffrey

    Artie – I did have to do a double-take the other day and check to be sure it wan’t April 1 ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a second valuable lesson I’ve picked up from you; don’t let emotion stand in the way of doing what’s right. I’m often telling my students not to judge their photos based on their emotional attachment to them; your recent experience tells me that if the equipment isn’t doing it’s job – and other equipment does – it’s time to switch. BTW the first lesson was if you love doing something jump in with 2 feet and work hard at it.

    When you get a chance, I’d love to see you address one issue. You’ve convince me that the Nikon system is better for flight photography – what about other situations? Are you giving something up? Certainly in terms of autofocus flight is the toughest problem, so maybe getting that right is most important, but I’m interested in other tradeoffs.

    Best of luck with the new gear!