Canon:Nikon - 1:2
As the Olympics roll over the arenas of Beijing and the screens of the world, I have been following a lot of photographer's blogs. I have noticed two things that has made me a happier photographer:
1) An increasing number of professional photographers share their experiences and knowledge through blogs, picture galleries and articles in their respective media. This is a very positive development in the photographic community, where more and more see the value and importance of sharing and the positive effects of telling people what you know.
Check out Rod Mar's Seattle Times blog Best Seat in the House, Mike J. Rebilas' blog, Pshizzy's blog, Richard Mackson's Posts on Kodak's web page and many many more. Covering shoots, gear, packing, workflow and a lot of other aspects of professional photography.
2) My other observation, which has been reported so many times in some of the above blogs and a lot of others, is that Canon is loosing foothold in the professional community while Nikon is gaining a lot of ground.
The white vs. black ratio is shifting from almost pure white - the hallmark color of the long Canon telephoto lenses - to equal parts of white and black. Look at the image in the top of this post, published by German Stern and used with some artistic license, I admit (hope for forgiveness). At the last Olympics, this would have shown maybe one or two black Nikon lenses, but now the ratio is more like 1:2 in favor of Nikon.
The reason is simple: the D3. Its fantastic high-ISO-performance combined with good speed and autofocus has made the pros look at Nikon again. For many press photographers the ability to shoot at 2500, 3200 and even 6400 ISO without having to think too much about noise has been a major turnaround. They often shoot under bad lighting conditions, and the sports arenas of an Olympic game may be well lit for human eyes, but at 200 or 400 ISO, it may barely give you 1/125th of a second at f5.6 - way too low to freeze the motion of a swimmer, an athlete or a gymnast. Turn up the ISO to 3200 and you suddenly shoot at 1/1000th or faster.
So the D3 has no doubt raised the bar and the pros have again turned to Nikon as a viable alternative to Canon that has dominated the professional market for a long time.
Now, as a Nikonian I would be lying if I didn't say that I was happy with this situation, but first and foremost I'm happy because this situation increases the competition in the market - and not because Canon currently isn't doing as well as Nikon. I have a lot of respect for Canon. They haven't obtained their position because of chance or because Nikon has failed - but simply by doing exactly what Nikon is doing now: making a better product. Canon will come back. Don't worry (or worry, depending on your position).
In the end this competition will benefit us users. Both companies - and many of the smaller competitors - will make better and better gear and sell it at lower and lower prices and the situation may shift again.
But right now there must be a bunch of Nikon people sitting watching the Olympics with a smirk on their face. And it's not because of the performance of the competitors on the tracks and arenas.