The Canon 7D vs Nikon D300s In Shooting Concerts

Those of you that have read this blog for a while know that I’m a fan of Chiptunes and that shooting these concerts is often a joy due to the challenges presented. If you haven’t been to a chiptunes concert, most artists usually just stand in the middle of the stage with little to no movement just DJing via their gameboy, macbook or keyboard. Because of this, it is essential to capture emotions and interactions that happen and as I learned, never review your images while shooting because you will miss some of the best moments. I’ve shot a chiptunes concert with the Nikon D300sbefore and now that I’ve finally been able to do one with the 7D, the two can be compared toe to toe. This is a specific add-on to the 7D vs D300s battle that I previously wrote about.

7D Concert Gallery

The photos I published with the Nikon D300s while at PAX East and shooting a concert can be found here.

Why Not The 60D?

Readers may be asking themselves why I’m not comparing the D300s to the new 60D. The Canon EOS 60Disn’t meant to take on the D300s, it’s meant to take on the D7000. From what I’ve tested so far with both cameras, the Nikon D7000will best the Canon EOS 60Din almost every aspect of still photo shooting.

For more info you can check out my comparison of the three in the Canon lineup and Gevon’s hands-on with the D7000.

Gear Used

Nikon D300s with 70-200mm ED VR II

Canon 7D with 35mm F/1.4 L and 85mm F/1.8 USM


Canon 7D

First off, kudos to Canon for revamping their autofocus system. It is leaps and bounds better than the Canon EOS 5D Mark IIin concert shooting (but the 5D MK II still delivers better images at the high ISOs I used, I was at 6400 almost all night.) The problem is that it can still be a bit slow. However, the system is almost always very accurate with me only having one or two problems throughout the night of shooting. In this case, flipping the camera in manual focus mode and Live view as well as choosing the exact area where I wanted to focus worked very well. What helped even more is the easy way to digitally zoom into an area to ensure correct focusing.

Manually focusing through the viewfinder would perhaps have been a nightmare because of just how dark the venue was. In fact, when I did have autofocusing issues, the subject I wanted to capture actually looked very clearly in-focus in the viewfinder. Needless to say, the Canon 7Dstill did perform very well.

What really came in handy during shooting was the back AF-On button. Using that to focus while having my aperture preset and adjusting my shutter speed really helped in nailing the shot. Every now and then I would re-adjust the aperture, but in most situations even F/2.8 was too dark.

As a feature for Canon to work on, I’d love to be able to have my focusing point highlighted in red and stay that way for easier viewing in the dark. Currently, the point only blinks red when you switch it and then switched back immediately to black.

Additionally, I really wish that Av mode would have a cut-off setting of not using a shutter speed less than the focal length of your lens. This is where the reciprocal rule of shooting kicks in. Because of this, I had to use manual mode, though Av would have probably been easier at some points.

Nikon D300s

In terms of autofocus, the Nikon D300sreally does beat the 7D. It is quick, accurate and even though it only goes up to ISO 3200 it can still shoot in near darkness at F/2.8. The AF points are clearly visible in the dark as well. Though I spent most of my time at PAX East shooting with the Nikon D3s the Nikon D300ssure was able to hold its own many times throughout shooting.

Nikon’s autofocus is also much more reliable and simpler to use. Additionally, it is also smarter in that it will always focus on the subject that you want it to based on the composition of your photo. Instead of the system focusing on the gameboy in the image above, it knew that I wanted to focus on the subject’s face. It’s nice to have one less thing to worry about when shooting.

High ISO Abilities

Admittedly, this isn’t an entirely fair test. Why’s that? The Nikon D300swas shot in JPEG mode when reviewing it because the vast amount of news that came out during that time didn’t allow for much editing when you need to shoot photos, edit, write a story, and then make time for a meeting right afterwards with another vendor.

The Nikon D300s only goes up to ISO 3200 and the Canon 7Dgoes up to 6400. Both cameras are capable of delivering very clean images even though the D300s just beats out the 7D due to the 12MP sensor. As of recently, Nikon has been raising the resolution output of their sensors despite saying that all we need is 12MP.

We’ll see how this fairs, but in my tests with pre-production units it is still quite impressive.

So Which One?

If I really had to choose a system for concert photography, it would be Nikon. The AF system just works so well and I feel that Canon still has some catching up to do. Granted, I do feel that they are working on it and that good progress has been seen and made.

On the other hand, I feel that Nikon cameras are still mostly specialized tools for photographers. If I had wanted to shoot HD video at one point during the shows, I would’ve went with the Canon 7Ddue to more video options as well as better overall quality of video.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.