Upgrading from the Canon Rebel: A Guide on Choosing Your Next Camera

One of the most popular dedicated cameras out there today has to be the Canon Rebel in all its iterations. They’re honestly fantastic cameras that are quite capable of producing professional level results. At a certain point in a photographer’s progression though, you’ll often find they’re a bit lacking and that you may want more. But at the same time, a photographer also has to make the decision on whether they want to stick with the same system or move to another.

To help you out, we’ve gone through our reviews index to figure out what’s best for you.

For the Enthusiast: 80D

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 80D product photos (5 of 15)ISO 1001-80 sec

There are a lot of great reasons why you’d want the Canon 80D: some of them include the weather sealing, great video output, incredibly fast live view autofocus algorithms, overall pretty good image quality up until ISO 1600, and ease of use.

According to our review:

The Canon 80D is a pretty great camera in the hands of a skilled photo editor. At the same time, it can be a great camera for the enthusiast that wants to shoot in JPEG with the Live View screen. On top of fantastic ergonomics, the camera also has a lot of features that help make it a great choice for the person looking to get into sports for example. But at the same time, what’s holding it back is how fast the image quality can break apart except when in the hands of a skilled editor.

I’m really torn with the Canon 80D. Is it a bad camera? Heck no. Is it a great camera? Yes, but there are better options out there for the price.

Think of the 80D as the creme de la creme of the Rebel lineup. It’s a great option for someone that still isn’t sure what type of stuff they want to shoot.

For the Serious Hobbyist: 7D Mk II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 7D MK II review product images (1 of 10)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 4.0

The Canon 7D Mk II is marketed at sports and birding photographers. Indeed, the camera is the company’s flagship model for APS-C DSLRs and is covered under the Canon Professional Services. With outstanding weather sealing, what you’ll want to realize most about the Canon 7D Mk II is that it’s a speed demon first and foremost. But quite honestly, there are better options out there.

In our review, we state:

The Canon 7D Mk II is a camera that should have been here years ago. While there isn’t anything majorly wrong with it, it just shows Canon’s need to be conservative and careful about any and all moves that they make. But at the same time, it isn’t at all a terrible camera. In fact, it’s a damned good one. The Canon 7D Mk II has the battery life to get you through a super long shooting period, the shooting capabilities to photograph that amazing catch at the football game, the focusing system to shoot at the very low light parties that you haunt at night, and the image quality to make both you and your clients happy. While the image quality at higher ISOs breaks up the moment you touch the file, you need to keep in mind that the year is 2014 and that many folks love flawed images.

Heck, an app was designed to showcase them.

Still though, the Canon 7D Mk II is a camera that is designed for current Canon customers. And we have to state that unless you have a current investment in Canon lenses, you may not want to spring for this one unless you’re getting into semi-serious sports or wildlife photography. Otherwise, there are many other options available–but nowhere as many with the lens offerings that Canon has.

The Canon 7D Mk II is great for someone that wants to stay in the Canon system. Otherwise, consider the Sony a6000 series of cameras that we list below.

For the Semi-Professional: 6D

Canon EOS 6D

The Canon 6D is surely starting to show its age at this point, but it’s also perhaps one of the best digital cameras that Canon ever made. A full frame DSLR with some of the best high ISO abilities of any current Canon DSLR, not terrible focusing, great build quality, and integrated Wifi to appeal to the Instagram generation.

In our review, we state:

“Autofocus is one of the most important areas on cameras today, especially DSLRs. If a camera can’t autofocus well, it’s not going to be of much use in the real world. The 6D comes equipped with 11 autofocus points which you can choose. Additionally, the upper and lower points are vertically sensitive, and the other points are horizontally sensitive, which means they should be fairly accurate in most situations. Another important stat is that the central point is sensitive enough to focus accurately in -3EV conditions (basically this means almost-total-darkness). One thing I was pleasantly surprised to discover was that the external focus-points were still fairly accurate in the majority of my tests. I have become rather accustomed to having to rely on only the central focus point of my 5D MKII bodies and using the focus-then-recompose method that so many of us photographers have mastered over the years.”

The Canon 6D is my personal choice, and I’ve use it for paid gigs a number of times.

For the Professional: 5D series

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 5Ds first impressions product photos (3 of 10)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

Canon has two options for you to go for at this point. The Canon 5D Mk IV was recently announced and we have yet to test it, but the Mk III isn’t such a bad camera, nor is the 5Ds. In fact, the Canon 5Ds not only gives you loads of resolution but also incredibly high ISO results.

In our Canon 5Ds review, we state:

The Canon 5Ds has a lot going for it. You’ve got tons of resolution, versatile files if you mind the highlights, lots of color depth, a beautiful viewfinder, pretty fast burst shooting rates, and a crop factor that is completely optional if you choose to get more reach from your lenses. On top of this, the camera’s autofocusing abilities are excellent.

But there is also a lot running against it too. For starters, the price. Second, it’s overkill. Not many people need a 50MP DSLR and most folks who say that they do are kidding themselves. If you truly need 50MP files, then you obviously know it by the type of work that you do. But most of those folks won’t need that much.

In all honesty, you’re better off sticking with the Canon 5D Mk III or the 6D if you’re most professionals. But if you really want to take on the equivalent of the medium format world, then you may need this. Even then we’d still recommend good old film or a medium format DSLR. Indeed, we’re not the only ones that think so as DXOMark does too.

If you’ve read this, consider the fact that the 5D series is really for professionals. If you’re not going pro, you don’t at all need this camera.

The Sony A7 series: From the Canon Rebel, But Same Lenses

There are a number of adapters out there that will let you use your Canon EF mount (or Sigma, or Tamron or Tokina or Zeiss) lenses with the Sony a7 series of cameras. You’ll need an adapter for sure, but it’s well worth needing to switch your whole lens system if you’re comfortable with what you’ve got.

Sony a7 II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony a7 Mk II product photos (1 of 8)ISO 1001-50 sec at f - 5.0

In our review, we state:

“While current Sony A7 owners may be groaning because of the quick refresh to their brand new camera, they can rest assured that the A7 Mk II is really nothing more than a further attempt to snatch up the professional market. This is evident in the small changes. As a current A7 owner though, I won’t be upgrading. I don’t really need image stabilization because I’m a very steady shooter and the autofocus performance of the A7 hasn’t made me scream when shooting–that’s a prize that is awarded to the A7r.

We applaud Sony for their innovation, but we believe that they should time their releases a bit better.”

One of the biggest reasons why you purchase it has to do with the five-axis stabilization.

Sony a7r II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7r Mk II product images review (2 of 3)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“The image quality from the Sony A7r Mk II is incredible. I expected it to perform worse at the high ISOs, but better in the dynamic range. Unfortunately, my dream of getting more information out of the highlights isn’t as close as I’d like it to be. It’s good–and you can still get lots from the highlights, but more would be better.

As far as color depth goes, there is lots of wiggle room. The image above of Bec is a shot from a specific session we did and in that photo we pretty much got the exposure correct the first time. As you’ll see there, much more can be done and for what it’s worth, the sensor output performs best with the Zeiss Batis lenses.

Then there is the high ISO output–and it’s significantly better than I anticipated.”

The pinnacle of the Sony a7 system is indeed this camera. High resolution and great high ISO output is perfect.

Sony a7s II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7s Mk II extra product images (2 of 4)ISO 8001-160 sec at f - 11

In our review, we state:

“As I was writing this blog post, I thought about not giving this camera the Editor’s Choice award. Afterall, the Sony A7r Mk II has it too; but that’s for its ability to capture incredibly high detail and to deliver very clean high ISO results while having so many megapixels on a full frame sensor. The Sony A7s Mk II is getting it for really great autofocusing, excellent high ISO results but most of all for what the dynamic range is capable of retaining. It’s really, really crazy and I’m not even sure that I would expect that with film.

With all that said, I really am wondering what Sony would have been able to do if this camera were given the new processor in the A7r MK II. The high ISO results would have been better and the dynamic range would have possibly been even crazier.

We really, really like the Sony A7s Mk II; and in the hands of the creative that needs these capabilities, it’s bound to produce incredible images.”

Yes, you get great high ISO output compared to everything else, but it also becomes pretty muddy at a certain point.

The Sony a6000 series

The Sony a6xxx series of cameras are the company’s high end APS-C mirrorless options. They’re fantastic and some pros even use them as backups.

Sony a6300

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony a6300 product images first impressions (2 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“In many ways the Sony a6300 is an excellent camera. Great image quality, very versatile RAW files, a small size, great autofocus, and more. What more could you possibly ask for?

My qualms with it have to do with the fact that the high ISO output is starting to fall behind the competitor and that I genuinely feel like the ergonomics need to take a step up at this point. Otherwise, it’s a very solid camera.”

Where the a6300 really falls behind is in high ISO image quality. But otherwise it’s very solid.

Sony a6000

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A6000 product images (4 of 9)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.2

In our review, we state:

“The Sony A6000 hands down has what could arguably be called the best autofocusing system out there. While it isn’t the fastest, it by far is the smartest and the most responsive–putting some DSLRs to shame in our tests for sure. Granted, Sony did this with an APS-C sensor and have yet to do this with a full frame sensor. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’ll have an autofocusing beast in the palm of your hand.

For the old school folks who like to use the center focusing point and recompose, you’ll totally fall in love with this camera.

Beyond this, it retains many of the great ergonomics of the NEX 6 while giving a bump in the megapixels. At the lower ISOs, you’ll get some absolutely beautiful images with excellent resolution. Even at the higher ISOs you won’t be getting such bad results–but a very good argument can also be made that Sony put too many megapixels on the sensor or the processor just isn’t powerful enough to deal with the extra noise from an APS-C 24MP sensor.

Those megapixels and the design of the sensor give you tons  of dynamic range and loads of color latitude. So you won’t ever have a problem with those.

To take the most advantage of this camera, we recommend pairing it with one of the best APS-C E mount lenses. Anything less would be a total waste of your money.

As an owner of the NEX 6 though, I personally find myself tempted to upgrade. But the NEX 6 is just such a damned good camera and with 16MP and better high ISO output, I’m quite content with what I have.

In the end, the Sony A6000 receives the site’s Editor’s Choice rating and a 5/5 star achievement.

The Sony A6000 typically goes for $799 at Amazon.”

The same image quality issues that plague the Sony a6300 are the same here.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.