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The Canon Photographer’s Guide To Upgrading Your Equipment – Part II: Camera Bodies

by Travis Lawton on 12/16/2011

Upgrading Your Canon Camera Body

Upgrading Your Canon Camera Body

Hopefully by this point you’ve read part I of this series about upgrading your lenses first as well as some recommendations for which lenses to purchase for whichever type of photography you enjoy the most. If you haven’t read it yet or if you missed it, make sure to read through that one before reading on. You can check Part I out here.

Okay, now that we have that point of business out of the way, we can jump into Part II of the Canon Photographers Guide To Upgrading Your Equipment; the camera body. Now that you have some good glass in front of your camera (right?!), it’s time to look at upgrading the brain of the whole system. A new camera can come with much more excitement than a new lens. One of the main reasons for this is you’re generally going to have newer technology, capabilities, modes, options, accessories, all kinds of stuff.

So, no matter what camera you’re currently using, which Canon camera should you spring for?

As stated in part I of this series, I’ve been assuming you already have a Canon DSLR camera. Well maybe you don’t own one, or maybe you have a point and shoot right now, or maybe you don’t have a camera at all and you’re wondering which to buy. This post is here to help you make these decisions.

While there are plenty of amazing point-and-shoot cameras available (including newer Micro 4/3rds cameras), we are going to concentrate on DSLR’s for this series, therefore I won’t be talking about or recommending any others.

Camera Tiers

I consider Canon to offer 4 different levels of DSLRs. For the sake of this article, lets just call them consumer, hobbyist, prosumer, and professional. Don’t take these tiers literally though. There are plenty of professionals that use the entire range of Canon’s cameras.

Here’s the breakdown of these tiers as far as Canon’s current line of cameras:

  • Consumer – Rebel-series cameras (T3, T2i, T3i)
  • Hobbyist – xxD-series cameras (50D, 60D)
  • Prosumer – xD-series cameras (5D mark II, 7D)
  • Professional – 1D-series cameras (1D mark III, 1D mark IV, 1Ds mark III, and the brand spankin’ new, 1D X)
Lets break them down shall we.

Tier 1: Consumer

The Rebel-series Canon DSLR’s are by far the most popular. Nowadays, everyone thinks they need a DSLR if they want to take good pictures (obviously this isn’t true) and when they run to the store to purchase one, the Rebel’s are the cheapest ones. That’s not to say they won’t be able to produce great images, but you have to remember that it’s more the photographer that creates the image than the camera.

Even the lower end cameras now offer many of the features that were only available on the high-end camera just a few years ago. Many of them have very high-resolution, flip out lcd monitor screens, and shoot HD video. These camera are quite a bit smaller than what I would consider to be the average size of a DSLR. You might not enjoy holding one if you have larger hands.

All of the Rebel-series cameras have a cropped sensor. This means you will have to multiply all lens focal lengths by a factor of 1.6. So all of a sudden, that wide-angle lens isn’t so wide-angle.

These cameras are also much lighter as their bodies are made with plastic. This makes them slightly less durable than the other options.

Keep in mind as well that if you purchase a kit (camera and lens together), they tend to come with some of the lower end lenses that Canon offers so they can keep the price down. It would be best to purchase the camera body by itself and then find some lenses that would be better.

We have complete reviews here at The Phoblographer of the Canon Digital Rebel T2i, and T3i.

The recommended camera from this section would be the Canon EOS Rebel T3i.

Tier 2: Hobbyist

If you want to step up from the base models, you can jump into a 50D or 60D. These cameras are more of the size of a DSLR and offer some higher end features. Many of these features are unseen as they are generally better capabilities of the camera itself. Things such as higher maximum shooting speeds, faster flash sync speeds, wireless flash control, better focusing system, etc.

These cameras also use cropped sensors just like the Rebel cameras.

Unlike the Rebel cameras, this cameras’ bodies are made from a magnesium alloy. Makes them slightly heavier but they feel much more substantial in your hands.

We have several write-ups about the 60D here, here, and here.

The recommended camera from this section would be the Canon EOS 60D.

Special Note: Our most popular article of all time here on The Phoblographer was our posting comparing the T2i, T3i, 60D, and 7D and which one should you buy. Check it out here.

Tier 3: Prosumer

Right now, this category is made up of two very popular among working professionals (even though I know I’ve called this the prosumer group). These are the 5DmkII and the 7D.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II – This is my current camera and will always hold a special place for me as it has really been the camera to make me excited about photography. This camera kicks the resolution up to 21 megapixels, offers insane high ISO capabilities, and has a full frame sensor. Up to this point, all of the cameras sensors have been cropped (including the 7D) but not the 5DmkII. One of the downsides of these is that this camera will not work with any of Canon’s EF-S lenses which are specifically designed for their cameras with cropped sensors.

Canon EOS 7D – As stated in the previous paragraph, this camera does still have a cropped sensor but it has some amazing features that even the more expensive 5DmkII doesn’t have. One of the biggies is it contains two processing chips vs one in the 5DmkII. This allows this camera to really chew through data much faster and allows you to shoot much more frames per second in burst mode. An amazing feature if you’re photographing sports or anything with fast action. This camera also sports a brand new autofocus system.

We have several write-ups about these to magnificent cameras here as well. Check this guy out for a quick run-down between the two.

The recommended camera from this section would be: Both. You can’t go wrong with either.

Tier 4: Professional

These are the monsters of the camera world. These are the cameras that go into the rain forests, war zones, and extreme climates of the world. They are the cameras that you see slung over the shoulders of some of the most known photographers in the world and they’re so expensive, they usually don’t even own them, their company does.

These cameras can generally go to hell and back and keep working the whole time. Along with super fast burst for sports photography, dual card slots, built-in battery grips, unheard of high ISO’s, and tons of other nifty features.

The recommended camera from the section would have to be the brand new, soon to be released, Canon EOS-1Dx.

Conclusion

Although it should be the lens(es), the camera will be the most expensive part of your system for most people. Make sure to put enough thought into what camera you think is going to compliment what you plan on photographing. Also keep in mind that amazing images can still be produced by the lower end cameras. As you move up the chain of cameras though, you’ll beginning getting features and capabilities that allow you to do things you never could before and make other things much easier than they used to be.

Happy purchasing my friends.

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