Yesterday’s Topic: Choosing A Lens
Posts on the internet about purchasing cameras often list multiple examples in a ‘buyer’s guide’ fashion. But that’s not the question I get asked often. It’s never, “Can you list some options, rank them by price and a number of features I don’t understand and then make ambiguous suggestions with an even balance of brands so as to not annoy your sponsors?” which is what is seems some websites think people are asking. For me it’s straight and to the point, “What’s a good camera for me to get?” “I’m thinking of buying a DSLR for my wife/husband/vet/bunny wrangler. What’s a good, simple camera that’s not too expensive?” “You cut your hair?”
These are the types of questions I get. Few people want options, so I try to ask probing questions pertaining to funds available and intent. If you have the money, I’ll suggest some spendy equipment and be glad to help show you how to use it. If you have a small budget, there are ways to squeeze a few more drops out of the turnip if you wish.
With that in mind, here’s my own DSLR Buyer’s Guide:
Buy a Canon.
No, really. It’s all I know well. Canon pays me nothing to say it, but say it I do, over and over again. I started on Minolta film cameras and made the switch to Canon when I went digital 9.6734 years ago. I don’t hate Nikon or Sony or Pentax or anyone. I just know Canon. I’m not going to suggest another brand because I don’t know them. I’m sure they are fine cameras as many professionals use them. I’m going to tell you about what I know best and I’m sure there are equivalent models in your favorite brand.
To make it clear; I love photography. I don’t care much about which camera I use.
I have preferences, sure. But when it comes down to it, I’ll use whatever is put in my hands. This often makes me less of the aficionado that most people assume me to be. I have a camera I am very happy with and I am getting shots I am very happy with and when I’m very happy, I don’t look around at other camera options.
With that in mind, my suggestions will all be for Canon equipment. As mentioned, except for the affiliate payout from the Amazon links that will follow, Canon pays me squat. I don’t lust after them, I just like them bunches. Enough explaining!!
Low End Suggestion – Canon Rebel T2i (550D) – $660
At one time I owned two of the predecessors to this camera and they are fun, light and give decent video. It is an entry level camera for sure, but the image quality is good with a decent lens (more on lenses in another post). It has the fancy Canon DIGIC 4 processor, their latest, and it has ISO up to 12,800 which means you can shoot in some pretty low light situations (just remember the problems with using very high ISO). This camera has some automatic modes for those wishing to not think much and which you will not need after this month’s worth of blog posts. The manual modes all allow for the same creative use of ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed as available in the higher end cameras. The camera is light because it has a partial magnesium body which makes it not as super strong as its bigger brothers. I tend to suggest this camera to those who care about weight or have small hands. It fits both of those categories well and has a decent 3.7 frames per second speed to keep up with some forms of action (think kids’ soccer games). Grab this camera if you want something simple, easy to learn with and nice to take on a vacation without breaking the bank.
Middle Of The Road – Canon 60D – $900
The next step up in Canon’s line is the 60D. This started out as the D30, then D60, then 10D, 20D, 30D, etc… I haven’t used this line since the 60D back before they invented light. I know it fits a price point, has faster frame rate then the T2i and the body is beefier. It also has better flash sync speed (1/250). One of the coolest features is the flip out screen which can be used for self shot videos (making sure you are in the shot without walking back and forth to the camera) and it’s a blast for kids to use as my daughter would spend a half hour just making goofy faces and seeing herself on the screen of our old G1. It’s also handy for hard shots like holding the camera over your head or down low to the ground.
Higher – Canon 7D – $1500
This is the camera I currently own. I love it and hug it and pet it and named it George. No really, I like this camera a lot and it works wonders. It is beefier still, compared to the 60D, has a bad ass 8 frames per second for all your action shooting joy. The movie mode, while only shooting in mono (it has a stereo in mic jack and you can easily find a simple stereo microphone which mounts in the flash hotshoe), can shoot at 1080 for High Definition action. I love the feel of this camera, especially with the optional power grip which adds a shutter release for portraiture shooting as well as some other buttons. The camera has a standard port for hooking up to studio lights if you want to go that route, HDMI output, an infrared remote control port and a standard corded remote control (great for long exposures and other timed shots). It has the smaller sized sensor, the one with a 1.6X crop factor, which gives a boost to zoom lens use, but makes wide angle a bit more difficult as Canon does not have a lot of the higher grade wide angle lenses for this camera. But still, I use a nice Canon EF 10-22mm and like it. I have had this camera for a year and it has been a joy traveling and shooting weddings. I’m not going to get too tech geeky on you, that’s what sites like DPReview.com are for. George is my friend.
Biggerest – Canon 1Ds Mark III – $9000 with 70-200mm L lens
If you’re going to blow the wad, go with the top of the line. Super big, super beefy, this camera will make you feel like a pro, whether or not you have the skills yet. It’s highest quality everything and it shows. Environmental seals means it can take weather and dust abuse. Only 5 frames per second (as compared to the 1D Mark IV which is up to 10fps) but it’s 21MP in a full frame sensor. If you have the money, grab one (and use the link below :) ).
Something Lighter With Good Zoom – Canon SX210IS – $300
Taking a few steps back, I bought the predecessor to this camera (the SX200IS) for my daughter last year for a trip to Africa. I was really happy with the purchase as it allowed her to zoom in on distant animals and have lots of fun with video. The SX210IS boosted zoom to 14X optical, which is really nice. And the IS, or image stabilization, is needed at that length. 720P video, too. And it has the fun face detection technology where it will wait until you are in the scene, while using self timer, before it shoots (while using the same face detection technology to make sure your smiling face it expose properly). I almost puked at seeing they added a “miniature” effect to simulate tilt-shift. I think this gimmick is annoying and ugly and pray for the day it is no longer a fad. Get the pretty camera (comes in gold and purple and gray) but just don’t use that mode, please?
FOLLOW-UP TO COMMENTS
Some people have asked here, in email and on Twitter why I didn’t include the Canon 5D Mark II and went with the 7D. I previously owned a 5D Mark I (if there is such a Mark) and loved it except the constant need to clean the sensor. I’m sure the 5D Mark II is a great camera as well but when I was trying to decide which camera to upgrade to, I listened to some advice from fellow photographer Ron Dubin and came to these conclusions of why I wanted the 7D and not the 5D MII. These are only my personal reason, you might be happier with the 5DMII instead of the 7D.
- Better autofocus (19 points vs. 9)
- Cheaper – $1700 at the time vs $2500
- Video mode was better
- 8fps vs 3.9
- Buffer was larger, meaning longer high speed shooting
- More metering spots hopefully means more accurate light metering
- Popup flash. This was a big one as it works well traveling as a quick fill and it also controls multiple off camera strobes remotely.
- Exposure compensation range was larger (10 stops compared to 4)
Those were the main items. It wasn’t easy as I had a nice 16-35mm L lens that I would have to trade in for a different wide angle with the 1.6x crop sensor. I’m sure the 5DMII has other merits, it just wasn’t the camera for me, but it might work for you. I don’t know enough about it to really recommend it.
That’s it for what I know about which cameras I would get if I was looking. EDIT: I just realized there is now a Canon Rebel T3i (600D) to replace the T2i. I’m sure it’s even more mass cool (and cost more money).
Do you have a particular camera you have been looking to buy? Even if it’s not Canon, drop a note in the comments section and let me know how you plan to use it. I’ll be happy to give it a look over and offer my opinion.
And if you’re looking for camera lens suggestions, take a look at this post yesterday.
31+ Days To Better Photography is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.