So, this a contentious one. Especially in the digital SLR world.
Our advice, and sorry to fans of any other brands, it to go for a dSLR from Canon or Nikon. Every camera model they release can be relied upon to be on a par with the equivalent from the other manufacturer, and are often (according to reviews) better than the offerings from other manufacturers. Sony is probably up there too.
Other things in Canon and Nikon’s favour is the vast array of lenses made by them, and the fact that every third party lens manufacturer will produce lenses that fit.
Other than that, it’s a bit of a toss up, but here are a few differentiating factors:
- Canon is considered better at video.
- Nikon cameras are compatible with loads of old Nikon lenses, Canon less so.
- Nikon has a better off camera flash system.
There are others, but these are probably the main performance differences.
Canon are the biggest by volume sales, followed by Nikon, then we have Sony, Pentax, Olympus and some niche manufacturers such as Sigma. None of them makes a bad camera, but Canon and Nikon are used by most professional photographers and that has to mean something.
You really need to handle the cameras. Some brands feel better in your hands than others and this is a personal preference. At the end of a day it’s a heart over head decision and you need to go with what feels right. Users of particular brands will be fiercely loyal and completely bias towards their own system. You will eventually join them!
If you already own an old Nikon or Canon camera, you are probably best upgrading to the same brand, especially of you have a collection of lenses and other accessories.
So, go with Nikon or Canon, and you can’t really go wrong. If you want another brand, that’s also fine, there are no duds, and remember that the most important part of any camera is the 12 inches behind it.