Which DSLR camera brand is the best?

J.D. Power and Associates, a company best known for their car satisfaction surveys, have recently published a buyer satisfaction comparison for the major DSLR manufacturers. In the car world we know that Japanese cars tend to be the most reliable/satisfying, but in the camera world we deal almost exclusively with Japanese brands – so who is going to win?

Since bars speak louder than words, I'll skip to the results:*Note that the term "DSLR" excludes mirrorless and compact cameras. 
Olympus and Panasonic are leaders in mirrorless system cameras, 
at the expense of their DSLR product lines.

While not saying which camera will be be best for you, it does show how satisfied people were after their purchase. Personally I was surprised at Pentax’s high and Panasonic’s low scores.

It is interesting to compare the results to current market share. Up-to-date figures are hard to find, but it goes something like this:

*Note that the term "DSLR" excludes mirrorless and compact cameras. 
Olympus and Panasonic are leaders in mirrorless system cameras, 
at the expense of their DSLR product lines.

What we see is that the cameras with the largest market share are not the ones to leave customers the most satisfied. Then again, this doesn’t prove anything in itself. I doubt whether an unsatisfied owner of a Canon or Nikon will suddenly become satisfied if you swap his camera for a Pentax. Maybe people who buy Pentaxes are just easier to please. Or maybe Pentax cameras are indeed a lot better than their brand image.

In the end the continued and consistent success of Canon and Nikon probably depends not on customer satisfaction alone, but because they combine all of these attributes:

  • They build very good cameras,
  • they have deep product lines,
  • they excel at marketing,
  • they play it safe and
  • they have strong brand reputations.