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Tuesday, 19 July 2011


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You mean there's such a thing as a happy DSLR user?

The Nikon "Pro series" and "D series"? The Canon "Mark series" and "D series"? That tells me that the people writing the report have no idea what they're talking about and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Honestly, I expected something well...coherent at least...from JD Power.

"...variety of features (including zoom, image stabilization and low light settings)"

So I guess a 5D with a 17mm f/4 TS-E L would score pretty low in this category; it has no image stabilisation, a slow maximum aperture, and (gasp!) doesnt zoom.

Don't the folks at JD Power know how much hate mail they are going to get?

Could be that Canon buyers have higher standards and are therefore more likely to be disappointed? (Ducks)

Hereabouts the Police use Nikon to co-ordinate their colour scheme.

I suspect some scores (e.g., reliability, ease of operation, overall satisfaction) might be higher for folks who purchase from a reputable local dealer that can personally assist the buyer both pre-purchase and in the event of any issues. The camera would of course not change, but the perception might.

Ofcourse Nikon scores the highest - simply because of the superior build quality on top of satisfying pictures :)

I wonder what the number of "photos per month" rate would be if DSLRs used film? The 918 photos per month average for this study works out to nearly a roll of film per day! With that sort of sales volume, I'll bet Kodak would be as large a company as Microsoft, if not larger!

Could also be that Canon buyers are just to darn busy shooting work to answer lengthy questionnaires. (Also ducking!)

Seriously, though, who answers these things?

Is the D3s a "pro series" camera or a "D series" camera? LOL

As commenter James also observed, that sort of vague description does not do much to inspire confidence in the survey.

"Online buyers spend an average of $937 on their camera."

Considering how much top of the line pro models from Canon & Nikon cost these days, they might have had a relatively small sample of pros responding to their survey (either that, or a heck of a lot of D3100 and Rebel buyers that responded). ;-)

That again goes to the heart of the credibility issue.

"That again goes to the heart of the credibility issue."

No, what goes to the heart of the credibility is whether you shoot Canon or Nikon and how that relates to what J.D. Power said most recently. They lack credibility this time if you shoot Canon; but if they do another study next year and conclude that Canon is .05% better, then they will have suddenly become very credible.

Tongue firmly in cheek,


I wonder what questions were used for this survey. An average of 918 photos per month? Really? Does an average consumer use a camera that much? That's approximately 30 photographs per day for a month, or 230 on a weekend. Over 11,000 photos a year? For an average consumer? What are the survey results for, say, 1990? Did the average consumer use 25 rolls of film per month?

I just have to be skeptical about these numbers.

So, is any serious study really able to declare a "winner" from 914 vs 909 points ??
Without having delved into the exact figures, I'd definitely declare this a statistical draw.

People should go take some pictures instead of spending time on reading this stuff - and subsequently flaming each other. At least that's what I intend to do :-)

Having taken part in other such surveys, and seen how surveys can be used for academic research, I always think we need to consider the overall structure of the survey, the questioning methods, and so on before accepting such figures at face value.

For example, some things that come to mind are:

How are the questions structured? (One should think about how the structure of the questions and rating system used in the answers might influence the responses offered by respondents. While a different topic, TV rating surveys sometimes ask "How do you like program X on a scale of 1 to five." In this case you can provide only one answer, but in reality you might want to answer "I only watch it some times, and I like some of the time." At least in the survey's I have done, there is no "Not applicable" or "pass on question" option, so I was forced to just select a number that rather random. It was really worthless data, because it did not really match my experience. )

What is the relationship between dslr buyers, and people who bother to respond to such surveys?

What exactly were the questions, and how might the contents influence the overall response? (For example, if the questions focus a bit more on low-light performance, then this could tit the overall survey in favor if Nikon due to the general perception that Nikons have the best performance.

What is the relationship between people who respond to such surveys, and their personal "use-environment" ("camera-culture"?). (By that I mean a sense of satisfaction is often a product of a number of interacting factors, one of which is the opinions of others. If the respondent uses camera A, but most of his friends use camera B, that can influence the respondent's perception of personal satisfaction. Under different circumstances, the answer might be different.)

Related question, what is the relationship between people who respond to surveys, and whose who real on-line forums (these tend to channel perceptions)?

Statistics are very helpful tools for measuring concrete numbers (units sold, etc.) But when applied to the willing-nilly world of the human senses, I sense the assumption in the survey structure is the respondents are individuals whose opinions reflect autonomous reasoning. I am not expert in this field, but after thirty-years studying the humanities, people are fickle creatures with shifting opinions.

What might be more interesting is data on the number of units vs. the number of units returned for a refund for each model.

(Disclaimer: I shoot only Nikon, so I suppose that I should be cheered by J.D. Power's affirmation of my system choice, but reasons mentioned above, I am suspicious of these kinds of surveys.)

The preceding posts seem united against the survey of 4500 DSLR users. Could it be that Canon enthusiasts are poor losers given that DxO sensor ratings give an edge to Nikon top line models, too? Just be happy you have a good camera to enjoy.

Looking at what they do with cars, how many bazillion categories of camera awards does J.D. Powers have?

If a DSLR owner is "least satisfied with the shutter speed..." then I would recommend either a wider aperture or higher ISO (or both!). That's one factor which they've paid good money for the ability to control themselves.

How odd.

"Online buyers report taking an average of 918 photos per month using their DSLR camera."

That sounds like a heck of a lot of pictures. I wish i had a life worthy of that many moments what need preservin'.

Do any current DSLRs have any noticable lag?

I'm with James and wonder about the quality of the survey.

...without knowing the cross section of responders, this is virtually useless...I might trust a pros opinion far more than a prosumer, or amateur user, I see lots of weekend warriors walking around with big-time equipment (a lot of times more expensive than the pros I know), but I wouldn't value their opinion on what I need to complete a pro job.

Even a photo-journalist that needs a certain feature set is going to have a far different opinion than I will, generally, with me shooting under 'lit' situations and much slower, and always using the rock-bottom asa...

As for my two cents, I've always though the Canon stuff to be mechanically superior starting way back with film and auto-focus, when they stuffed the old lens mount, but bought a Nikon digital because after testing them both, there's just something about those Nikon digital files...more film-like? I dunno, just something...

From a marketing perspective, this is a triumph and clearly indicates that JD Power know how to survive into the next business year with a repeat order for a similar survey. Such fuzzy figures are useful on both sides of the debate.

I'm not an American, but if you would all forgive me appropriating an Americanism, "whoud'a thunk it?"

The online DSLR buyer take 918 photos per month? almost 12,000 per year? Really? can you imagine how much that would have cost you back in the film days? (Not that I am a film user mind you,

I doubt that purchasers of a pro series body (Nikon Dx or Canon 1D) would seriously benefit from the assistance of their local store. Sure, there is the preferential treatment that a high-end customer receives, possibly also freebie loaners, but "assistance" in the common meaning of the word is probably not high on the list.

"Online buyers report taking an average of 918 photos per month"

The new "my fish was this big"!

Statistics presented without Standard Deviation bars are no statistics at all. And if the Standard Deviation bars were added then no significance of this statistic what so ever (5 points difference on close to a 1000 points) would show up. This is not statistics this is journalism. A and I shot Nikon F Series untill I bought a Pana micro4/3 but I have not taken a Canon picture my whole life. It is just that I have been thought statistics as a Biologist (ad Radboud University Nijmegen) and that sort of sticks.

Greetings, Ed

I wonder how the guy carrying a D3 with big lens around his neck I met at local car show would have responded? A local camera store saw him (and his $) coming and loaded him up. He saw my Nikon and asked me for help -he just wanted to take pictures and could not remember anything about operating the camera! He also complained about the weight. Wonder if JD Powers asked about that?

yeah, there are lots of things to complain about in the survey, but the mayor point seems to be a difference in build quality - and that is quite credible. Nikon's build quality in semi-pros and up is superior.

What a statistical load of exceedingly old cobblers-and they get paid for it? Ye gods

You need to know the details of J.D. Powers' survey methodology to understand the validity (or lack thereof) of this. And as far as I can tell, it's quite unscientific. The company sends out survey forms by the hundreds of thousands to folks who've purchased the type of item they're reviewing. The vast majority of forms end up in the circular file. A tiny minority are returned, disproportionately repesenting folks who love to respond to surveys. This skews the results in unpredictable ways.

Historically J.D. Powers have bestowed absurdly positive ratings on (for example) cars that were absolute dogs, like full size Buicks from 10 years ago. That's likely because the septuagenarian owners had been buying Buicks for decades and didn't know any better, while owners of much better cars were a lot more discriminating.

Nothing against Nikon owners, but this kind of survey is basically useless for deciding what D-SLR to purchase.

Shutter Lag?
Are they serious?
Must be that they asked people who don't meter and focus before they release the shutter. In other words, those who don't know how to use their camera.


If a DSLR owner is "least satisfied with the shutter speed..." then I would recommend either a wider aperture or higher ISO (or both!).


didn't they mean shutter lag?

if so they weren't very clear.

Like me, many other responders are surprised at the high number of shots per month that was quoted. Maybe they're counting the individual frames taken by the 1/3 who use the DSLRs to shoot video. :)

JD Power's headline is actually pretty misleading (although I'm sure it accomplished its goal of stirring the pot). There's no meaningful difference between the Nikon and Canon scores -- customers of both are obviously pretty happy with their cameras. It's six of one, half dozen the other.

How did film manage to get involved in a war between Nikon and Canon? :)

What in the world is a "Pro series" or a "Mark series"?? And how would they differ from a supposed "D series"??

Am I alone in remarking that I have no idea what cameras they're talking about?


They don't seem to mean by "shutter speed" what we usually call shutter speed - i.e. the length of time the shutter is open. They are referring to what I usually call shutter lag as "shutter speed/shutter lag," probably because a lot of people complained about "shutter speed" without knowing the distinction. I probably don't have to say it but just in case, I will say that when I refer to "shutter lag" or just "lag" I mean the time between me pressing the shutter release and the camera taking the picture. On my original D300 (Digital Rebel) this was pretty noticeable in many exposure situations but it has gotten a lot better as the cameras have improved and more importantly as I have learned to avoid the things that make it worse.

I have found that if you show people with digital cameras two simple techniques for reducing autofocus/autoexposure lag, they stop complaining about "lag" almost entirely. The really simple one is the half-press to exposure lock, and the slightly less simple one is decoupling focus from exposure in automodes. I can't remember the last time I really felt that lag had prevented me from getting a shot I wanted, and I use consumer-grade dSLR's and fairly high end consumer grade lenses (my usual lens is the Canon 17-85mm, aka the "high end kit lens.") Just those two things, never mind L glass or expensive 1 series bodies, vastly improved my ability to get the shot I want even in a time-sensitive exposure situation. (We won't even go into things that could cause what people might lump into "shutter speed," like not knowing how to select an ISO-equivalent or aperture. I have encountered a lot of people with relatively expensive dSLR setups who didn't really understand them very well, though, and that's all part of it.)

As long as there is a mechanical element in the system, you are going to get some lag. I have no idea how much of lag is due to fully electronic autoexposure calculation as opposed to electromechanical autofocus, but in my subjective experience it's the focus that slows you down. Given that P&S digicams have various mechanical advantages that allow them to respond faster (and that camera phones don't have mechanical systems at all) anybody who transitions to a dSLR is going to feel like things got slower - and they'll be right in a sense. If they won't learn how to minimize the issues, it will not get any better, either. I know that doesn't help the marketing people, but sometimes the world is just complicated. If you want more power and more options there is a cost. Deal.

Bottom line, I think the cameras are a lot better than the marketing and the user communication. If people understood their cameras' capabilities better, I really believe that most of these complaints would go away.

The difference between 914 (Nikon) and 909 (Canon) on a scale that maxes out at 1000 is 0.5%. That's much ado about nothing in my book.

This is the kind of reporting (and research) that I, as a survey researcher, have problems with. To make much of a five point difference on a 1,000 point scale (914 vs. 909) just seems silly. Even if the difference was statistically significant--which I doubt, given the likely distribution of the 4,500 respondents over the makes and models--I don't think one can make the case that it is substantively meaningful.

The 918 figure may not be that far from the truth. Have you checked some of the image counts on Flikr?

A quick check of my photo folders, shows that I was like a kid in the candy store in 2009. In 2010 I slipped and spent too much time on line, but this year I am well on my way to joining a 12 step group.

Hi. My name is Grant, and I shoot above the JD Power average.

Most of the internet chatter sbout photography concerns the "quality" of ones choices as a consumer, as if putting together the perfect kit will somehow make a person a great photographer. To my mind photography is about form...light...gesture...expression. I'm done with shopping trivia.

I'm with CK Dexter Haven: what DO you do with 918 pictures a month? Lots of walls to cover with very tiny images? I think not -- just more stuff filling hard drives and cds that won't be readable two generations hence...

Have to admit that I take the opinions of generalists such as Power very generally indeed. The same goes for product tests in consumer magazines (even though I am a consumer protection professional).

Having owned several mid to top-of-the-range Canons and Nikons over more than 30 years, my conclusion is not the same as Crabby's. Nikon bodies are invariably better built and the three cameras that have failed on me have all been Canons: a five-months old A1, a mint secondhand F1 after one month and a 5D II after two months (although, looking back, it was sick out of the box).

Of course, your mileage (and shooting totals!) may differ.

Dear James and anon,

No, I'm not having any problems with the language. I think all the Nikon DSLR's are Dxxx, right? (or nearly all) But only *SOME* of those would be considered "professional" cameras. So, from the market-and-sales perspective, which is what THEY care about (even if you don't), I can plausibly guess they're looking separately at overall customer satisfaction with Nikon DSLRs and the satisfaction of the group that buys into the prof end of the line.

And they probably looked at a whole bunch of other breakdowns they didn't think were worth writing about.

If you really want to claim they don't know what they're talking about, go dig up the primary survey, find out how they're categorizing different cameras and decide whether you think those categories make sense.

Then you've got an argument. At this stage, your objections are tantamount to saying "I don't know what their words mean, but I don't like'em so they must not know what they're talking about."

Not the most compelling argument.

pax / Ctein

I am not surprised by the average number of photos. The median would be a much more useful number since a few pros would bias the sample very high. Almost all my pictures are taken underwater, but in a 3 week trip, I easily take 6000 photos and on a typical three dive day here in Los Angeles, I will take 300 pics so 900 per month seems perfectly reasonable. In 2010 (according to lightroom) I logged about 16,000 pics and I don't consider myself a high volume shooter.

Too few of us Sony Pro shooters. I guess that means more Zeiss AF lenses for me.

tee hee

You sure know how to stir the pot. Are you getting a little bit bored sitting inside with 95 degree weather outside ;-)
As scientist, I have to wonder not only about the significance (what was "n", what was the error) but also the relevance of the difference between scores of 909 and 914; whether it's peanuts vs. pretzels or Nikons vs Canons.

Dear Chris,

The number is kinda terrifying to me, too, but I'm a pretty conservative photographer that way.

Still, back in the film heyday, the majority of those photographers would have been getting their film and processing through discount chains; it would have worked out to something like $30-$40/week. Spendy, but not unimaginable.

What was unimaginable was the high end of the amateur scale. Back at Camera & Darkroom magazine, a late-80's marketing survey we had done investigated the spending habits of our professional and amateur readers (to entice advertisers). We were astonished to find out that some significant number of our amateur readers (5-10%) were spending more each year on film and processing than any of us earned!

Some amateurs are *very* enthusiastic.

pax / Ctein

I completely discounted the "shutter lag" when reading about shutter speed. I have, as was suggested, decoupled autoexposure from my shutter button and almost always mauually focus so I never really experience shutter lag. I did on my pocket camera when I had one, and the concept seems foreign to me when considering a DSLR.

It still does even though I now get what the study is referring to. Street and sports photographers are the only types I see who would want a quick-draw sort of experience (ok, wildlife, too) but I would expect them to pre-focus and preconfigure exposure and therefore to not suffer lag.

Is that really an issue for anyone?

I read JD Power surveys for cars because, if you read them sensibly, they are quite useful.

For instance, you can comfortably ignore the overall score because nearly everyone prioritises some features over others.

However, when looking at the breakdown, the reason some humdrum cars always did well became obvious. People liked the price, reliability and dealers.

For many people, a car is a necessary tool of everyday life which spends most of its time in traffic. Issues like price, depreciation and reliability score very highly with many people, and thanks to JD Power a lot of dealers had to get their act together in a big way.

Talking to many in the industry, they agreed that the reliability statistics from users were pretty close to the actual breakdown statistics recorded by the industry itself. In other words, Mercedes really did have a major quality issue at one point and Jaguar really did sort theirs out.

Now I would like to see the overall survey because it may just contain some useful information that manufacturers may just take a bit of notice of. You never know!

Ctein, this is definitely an argument over semantics, but it is NOT a trifling one. JD present their report as somehow important, but not only do they misuse basic terminology like "shutter speed" they can't even get the damned line names right. In fact, they go beyond getting the line names right, and invent meaningless line names that are broad to the point of uselessness.

A) Every Nikon model begins with a "D", making it a "D" series camera by at least one definition
B) Nikon does not define a "pro" series
C) JD Power does not define a "pro" series
D) Ten different photographers would give ten different definitions if asked what a "pro" series camera should be.

And lastly, Nikon themselves seem to define their high end bodies with single or triple digits (i.e. D3, D300), but JD Power seem blissfully unaware of that.

The situation for Canon is pretty much identical, except JD Power are using the "Mark #" model designation as a stand-in pro cameras...which wouldn't actually be much of a problem except for the 7D, which is still in its un-"Marked" form...

Reading JD Power's press release is like reading an abstract for a wildlife inventory that calls turtles amphibians and then classifies everything with wings as a bird and everything in the water as a fish. It's not just about the terminology--it's a clear indication that they don't know what they're talking about and makes their conclusions suspect.

I have never trusted this survey which always seems to show up on TV ads for the worst selling car makers in America. Having said that, as a Sony Alpha user and follower, this makes no sense at all. Most of the Alpha 900, 850, and if the A700 is included, really like the camera a lot. (of course, the small number of haters will now proceed to tell me I am wrong). But, I follow this line and, people are almost never negative about the gear (except overly obsessed Nikon and Canon users who have never shot Sony).
BTW: I've used Nikon for many years too. I also have some Canon gear. I am not brand loyal at all. But Sony Alpha has been rock solid for most who use it as pros. Example: Here is a pro using Sony pro gear in the worst imaginable places and conditions. No problems. http://goo.gl/4IV98
OK, I admit it, not in combat. But an RPG or IED will blow up a Nikon, Canon, or Sony with equal destructiveness.

Just use what you've got. None of us are good enough to fully use the capabilities of any camera made today or yesterday. Twenty years ago I shot with Leicas and Canons. For the life of me, I can't look at a print and tell if it was made with a 35mm Summicron or a 35mm Canon. Just do your work.

My satisfaction with my DSLR is vastly higher than my satisfaction with J.D. Power surveys.

The difference between Canon & Nikon is no difference. Unfortunately, J.D.Power didn't report anything about the variability, so it isn't possible to define a confidence interval for either camera, and the difference between each company average and the top of the line may also fail to reach statistical significance - meaning that even the observed difference may be attributed to chance. I use a 5D MKII- could I be as happy with a similarly priced Nikon? I'm sure I could. Mike, You covered the %D, the Nikon and the Sony (A900?) well. I have the canon because I have canon lenses.

My frustration is that we will now hear that Nikon users are happier than Canon users and that is hogwash, the is simply no difference according to this study

I prefer Nikons but what a useless survey.

To those dubious of the "shutter lag" comments. Well, I don't know exactly what they asked but I'll take it at face value. I'm a Nikon user, have a D3, D3X, D700, has shot with all the cameras from the D3000 on up. I shoot about 250,000 frames a year.
Yeah, I'm happier with the "shutter lag" on the D3 and the D3X than I am on the D700. I think it's actually blackout time that is the difference, but the effect is the same, pretty much. The high-end pro cameras are just quicker. That's why I prefer to shoot with the D3 over the D700, even if I don't like the extra weight. So on that one at least, I think they got it right.
As for overall satisfaction, I'm not entirely sure what that means but it probably means SOMETHING and Canon should pay just a little attention. (Not a huge amount of attention and Nikon should, too, for that matter.) The difference wasn't huge and you can poke holes all day long, but in the end it's not wise to ignore these kinds of input.
Finally, I think it would be foolish to deny that five years ago the tables might very well have been turned. Nikon has made huge strides during that time. But they made those strides because somebody at Nikon recognized that they had to get with the program.

"Nikon pro camera owners 0.5% happier with their equipment than Canon equivalents"

Lies, damn lies and statistics. Nikon and Canon are as close as close can be.

I'm amused at the number of people who take issue with the average of "918 photos" a month. Yes, people ARE taking more photos now with digital (how many photos a month do you think a teenager takes with his/her cellphone?), and people who buy "better cameras" (DSLRS) are just plain going to use them more. Many amateurs buy them because they have a kid involved in sports and want to photograph them, and usually the other kids on the team. So it's really very easy to shoot off 1000 photos a month.

I could believe 918 photos per month. The consumers I know and meet love their dslr's (and they are selling like hotcakes as the cellphone is slowly killing the p&S camera) And with the flickr accounts everybody thinks they are a photographer (kinda sad really).

I fall into the pro category however with an average of 3000-5000 shots a week

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