When it comes down to it, Canon and Nikon are the big boys in the camera market.
Sure, Sony, Panasonic, FujiFilm, and many other manufacturers make some really stellar cameras.
But none match the market share that Canon and Nikon enjoy.
Both companies are constantly updating their cameras or coming out with completely new models.
That can make for some confusing shopping...
Additionally, with so many new functions and features coming out with every wave of new models, Canon and Nikon are tempting photographers from the other side to ditch their current systems and give their latest, greatest models a try.
No matter if you're a beginner looking for your first camera or an advanced photographer in need of a full frame camera, we've got the head-to-head battles between Canon and Nikon to help inform your purchasing decisions.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
Let me preface this by saying that there are two facets to the label of "beginner DSLR" that I've used to categorize the following cameras as such.
First, for these purposes, a beginner DSLR is one that can be purchased for less than $500-$600, complete with a kit lens.
Though there are certainly other options for beginners, I've opted to go with a lower price point.
Secondly, this list includes DSLRs that don't have the same functions and features as higher-end cameras.
Again, they are easy to use and have plenty of functionality, but not so much that a beginner would be totally overwhelmed.
Again, each of these cameras comes in at less than $500, making any of them an excellent buy.
The Canon EOS SL1 is a tiny thing, which might be a draw for younger photographers with smaller hands or for new photographers that don't want to carry a heavy camera around.
The EOS Rebel T6 has Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities to its credit, as well as an upgraded LCD with nearly 1 million dots of resolution.
Both of these Rebel models have an 18-megapixel sensor, which is fine, but when compared to the 24-megapixel sensor in the Nikon D3300 and D3400, the Canons lag behind.
Additionally, the Nikons have faster continuous shooting by a margin of 2fps, as well as a more refined autofocus system with 11 autofocus points (as compared to just 9 points for the Canons).
Granted, these are relatively minor differences that likely won't make a huge difference for many beginner photographers.
But down the road when you have more photography understanding and skills at your disposal, it might be worth investing in a camera that has more potential to grow along with you.
The Verdict: The Nikons offer more in the way of features, including a more sophisticated sensor. Since the D3400 is newer and really doesn't have much in the way of significant new features, the best bet here is likely the Nikon D3300.
Read more: The Best DSLRs for Beginners in 2017
Mid-level cameras fall squarely in between the beginner models discussed above and the more advanced models discussed below.
These cameras require a bit more of a budget but come with many more features than a standard entry-level camera.
As a result, if you have a bit of time under your belt as a photographer and find that your current camera just can't do everything you need it to do, consider a Canon EOS Rebel T6i, a Canon EOS Rebel T6s, a Nikon D5500, or a Nikon D5600.
The Canon models are very similar. In fact, the only major difference between the two is that the T6s has a top LCD panel and a rear thumbwheel that give it extra versatility.
What both Canons share is a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that sports Canon's DIGIC-6 processor.
That means both models are significantly faster than their junior counterparts discussed earlier. What's more, they produce much higher resolution images with this sensor than with the 18-megapixel sensor in the introductory Canon cameras.
With Wi-Fi, NFC, a tilting touch screen LCD, 5fps continuous shooting, and an ISO range to 25600, the Canons have plenty of features to satisfy your photography needs.
Don't count out the Nikons, however.
Like the Canons, the Nikon D5500 and D5600 are virtually identical.
Like the Canons, they also sport a 24.2-megapixel sensor, though the Nikons produce images with better detail. Both Nikons also sport a 39-point autofocus system that works well for mid-range action photography.
Both Nikons are also well built. That's not to say that the Canons aren't well built, but when holding the Nikons, they feel great in your hand and have a button and dial layout that makes sense.
The only major difference between the D5500 and D5600 is that the latter has Nikon's new SnapBridge technology, which allows you to connect your camera to a smart device via Bluetooth.
The Verdict: Though the Nikons produce more detailed images and feel better in your hand, the Canons have the Nikons beat in terms of features and pricing. It's a tough call, but the Canon EOS Rebel T6s is the best bet of the bunch for most advanced beginner photographers.
The next step up in our sequence is enthusiast cameras, models that offer even more in the way of features, but which also have much higher price tags than many of those found in the entry-level and mid-range segments.
Enthusiast cameras come in many shapes and sizes from both Canon and Nikon. And though there are plenty of choices, for me, the best of this group are the Canon EOS 80D, the Nikon D7200, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, and the Nikon D500.
Let's examine the 80D and D7200 first.
Both of these cameras pack plenty of punch from a technical standpoint.
The 80D has an articulating touch screen LCD that makes taking photos in Live View a great experience. It also features an advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system that offers outstanding focus for both still photos and videos. Helping that cause is a 45-point autofocus system in which all 45 AF points are of the cross-type variety.
Add to that 7fps continuous shooting, a top LCD panel, and an upgraded shutter mechanism that reduces vibrations, and you've got a recipe for a solid enthusiast camera.
The question is, how does it stack up to the competition, the Nikon D7200?
With a 24.2-megapixel DX-format sensor, the D7200 has the same resolution as the 80D, though test images are consistently more detailed due to the absence of an anti-aliasing filter.
The D7200 has plenty of features too, including Wi-Fi, an excellent buffer, improved battery life over its predecessors, and a robust 51-point autofocus system that gives you better low-light shooting capabilities than comparable models.
The new EXPEED-4 processor is worth mentioning as well because it gives the D7200 faster performance that an enthusiast-level photographer will appreciate.
The Verdict: This one's a draw. Both the Canon EOS 80D and the Nikon D7200 have excellent features for the money. If you're a Canon shooter, stick with Canon. Likewise, if you're a Nikon shooter stick with Nikon.
Read More: Nikon D7100 vs. Nikon D7200 vs. Nikon D7300
Like other head-to-head matchups between Canon and Nikon, we have two well-matched cameras in the 7D Mark II and the Nikon D500.
Both offer advanced features like 10fps continuous shooting, lightning-fast processors, and expanded ISO ranges that give them improved low-light shooting performance, even over the enthusiast models outlined earlier.
Both of these cameras have similar sensors as well, with the Canon's 20.2-megapixel sensor slightly underperforming the Nikon's 20.9-megapixel sensor.
And while the Canon has a 65-point autofocus system with all cross-type AF points, the Nikon's has 153-points, 99 of which are cross-type.
What's more, where the Canon offers 31 frames of RAW at 10fps, the Nikon promises an astounding 200 RAW frames.
Throw in better resolution, a tilting touch screen, and 4K video, and the Nikon becomes something that offers many more features than the Canon.
The Verdict: Again, this has to be a draw. The Canon represents a much better value at this point, but the Nikon offers more robust features that make it a camera that is more likely to handle future growth.
If money is no object (wouldn't that be nice?!), a full frame camera is the way to go.
Like the other tiers of cameras, full frame models run the gamut from "entry-level" to full on pro-spec models.
Though these cameras are priced very closely to one another, the D610 sports a better sensor (24.3-megapixel versus 20.2-megapixel).
The Nikon has a better autofocus system as well, with 39-autofocus points compared to just 11 points on the EOS 6D.
The EOS 6D has nice add-ons like GPS and Wi-Fi and has better low-light performance than the Nikon due to its slightly wider range of ISO.
The Verdict: Another tie. Given that these cameras are priced so closely together, and their features match up very well, this one is simply a matter of taste for Canon or Nikon.
Check out a head-to-head comparison of the EOS 6D, the D610, and several other cameras from this list in the video below by Jared Polin:
When it comes down to it, no matter which camera you choose from this list, these Canon and Nikon models offer excellent features for all experience levels. Better yet, you can find any of these cameras for an excellent price when you shop used.
If you're looking to get your first camera or need an upgrade, why not get something that someone else enjoyed while saving yourself some money at the same time? It's the best of both worlds if you ask me!