Are you are trying to decide how much DSLR you want to buy?
DSLRs aren’t cheap and if you are moving up from a point-and-shoot you probably have a price range in mind that’s higher than you’ve spent on a camera before. Or you have a DSLR and are thinking of upgrading, I’d like to offer my feelings on the three Canon DSLRs I have owned. From the 12.1 Megapixel (MP) XSI to the 18 MP 60D, and finally the 22.3 MP 5D mk III. I feel I’ve owned a decently wide range of quality of DSLRs. And since I sold the 60D to pay for 1/3rd of the 5D mk III I can’t really do a comparison video.
You have to decide how much feature you want to pay for. If you don’t want video, the XSI or T1i are just fine, with the latter being the newer, slightly better camera. My wife uses my XSI. It’s just enough camera for her and it can take all the lenses in my growing collection. See the two videos I made about the XSI here and here. Neither the XSI or Ti1 shoot video unless tethered to a computer.
If you do want video without an articulated screen the 18MP T2i is for you. The 18MP T3i gets you video plus the great articulated screen, you can rotate around to shoot yourself. Or use in high-up or low-down angles for shooting stills or video. Then the 18MP T4i lets you touch control that screen and also auto focus in Video.
The 18MP 60D is not a Rebel, and has the articulated screen plus more options in photography for pro-sumers. I really enjoyed this camera for about a year and a half before I decided to upgrade. It feels more pro than any of the Rebels below it. It shoots good video and the articulated screen was a first at the time it came out. I really miss this feature on my 5Dmk3 but they couldn’t weather seal the 5Dmk3 with a flip-out screen on its back. Too bad, it makes shooting images or video down low or up high a real convenience. The 60D has a good size and weight to it and has a built-in flash just in case. None of the more expensive Canons have this, so that again is something I do miss. Even though you quickly learn the built in flash is not so great for good photography, it sometimes comes in handy.
Then you have the 18MP 7D. The 21.1MP 5D mk II. The new 20.2MP 70D. The 20.2MP 6D, The 5D mk II and finally the 22.3MP 5D mk III all in order of price. Sure there are even greater cameras than the 5D mk III but let’s keep this discussion under $3,000 shall we?
More megapixels isn’t what you should go by.
One thing you may have noticed in the paragraph above is that many Canon DSLRs are 18MP. And many, from the T2i up to the 60D, shoot the same quality of video. I have shot some wonderful images with an 8 megapixel Canon, however. Having more megapixels isn’t something to worry about unless you know you plan to print at poster size or larger. It’s more about how much camera processor you need, how important is the material the camera is made out of, whether you want video or not, and finally what extra photography features will you use. And even if you’re reading this and say you don’t want video, you never know. You might get a spark of creativity and really love it. But just so you know, only the Canon T4i has auto-focus in video. And it’s not perfect. A camcorder is still the best option to blindly aim at your kids birthday party and capture high-movement action with everything in focus.
DSLR video for every Canon except the T4i is a story of racking focus back and forth to nail what looks good on that 3 inch screen, which is not at all easy. If you want to run and gun you should think about a loupe to attach to the back of the camera to magnify the screen and I’ll tell you straight up the only good one for people with less-than-perfect vision is the Zacuto Z-Finder coming in a $375. I have not yet played with the T4i so I can’t tell how well it does with a toddler or pet running at and away from you, but it supposedly has pretty good face tracking. From what I’ve read only the Sony NEX DSLRs excel at auto-focus but then they fall short of Canon and Nikon in taking stills.
And the other major difference in shooting with a DSLR vs a camcorder is the audio. The audio on pretty much all DSLRs is okay at best. You’ll want to attach some kind of microphone that has a +20 decibal booster like the Rode Videomic Pro. The boost compensates nicely for the DSLRs weak internal pre-amps. That is a mono shotgun mic which is great for capturing sound straight ahead. Rode also makes the Stereo Videomic Pro which captures a wider arc of sound, and in stereo. Both mics are small and fit atop a DSLR or even camcorder well.
The XSI body only used is $150-$200 used. The 60D body only new is $699. And the 5Dmk3 body new is currently $3,149. (Prices from Amazon 3/21/13)
The prices are of course reflected in the size of each camera and how heavy they are. Put a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 on an XSI and you have a light camera that’s easy to carry around. But place a 600 ex-rt flash on top of your 5Dmk3 and you will seriously have a big, bulky, and heavy camera that will work your arms using it. But at that mega price, the 5Dmk3 is weather resistant and all metal – you will feel the quality in your hands. So perhaps those things factors into your purchase decisions. Which is right for you? How much can you afford? And do you want video or just stills photography. Even if you don’t want video the articulated screen of the T3i, T4i, and 60D is a nice feature for photography. And you can rotate the screen and close it with the screen facing the camera. This is a great way to protect your screen from scratches.
Using and shooting with a $3,000 5Dmk3 is truly a great experience. As with anything, the more money you spend on a DSLR the more features you’ll get and the better pictures it will take. Currently in the $1,600 to $3,000 price range there are only three full-frame Canon DSLRs to choose from the 5Dmk3 (which is 5 years old now) the 6D and the 5Dmk3. Nikon has the D600, D7000, and the D800. I’m sure you can find plenty on Nikon here. I’m a Canon shooter and will probably always be. Then there’s everyone else that used to be big names but got crushed by Canon and Nikon. Now you may well know by now that DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. There is a new bread of cameras (and some say the future of photography) called Micro 4/3rds. These cameras do not have mirrors but record the image directly to the sensor. Sony Alpha and Panasonic’s Lumix are the most prominent brands at the moment.
Ok back to my 5Dmk3. Shooting on full-frame is just a great experience. And if you’re like me, you’ll want to upgrade from a crop-sensor DSLR as soon as possible. Why? They just gather light better. In low light photography and video my 5Dmk3 produces less grain. Plus my 50mm f/1.4 is really a 50mm, not multiplied in millimeters by a 1.6X factor for Canon and a 1.5 for Nikon. So on my 60D my 50mm was really an 80mm. Plus you get to see more of the image in the viewfinder. 100% of it in my 5dmk3. Crop-sensor cameras only show you “most” of your image in the viewfinder.
So perhaps it’s obvious that more money gets you more camera, and many things factor into what DSLR is right for you. Make a list of what you will be shooting then do your research. That goes for lenses too. What you shoot most determines what you should “shoot” for. Sorry. For instance, the Canon 7D’s 8 frames per second shutter make it great for sports or bird photography. If you can, get a little more than you can afford. It will be worth it. Don’t be afraid to start with a used camera. Craigslist, E-Bay, and Amazon have great deals. Just make sure you see a lot of pictures and ask the seller if he knows the shutter count. If its under 30,000 you should be fine. These cameras are good till 80,000-100,000 actualization or shutter clicks. And even then a nice service trip back to Canon will make them good-to-go again.
If you want, leave a comment with questions and I’ll try to help you out. Good luck!