Sunday, June 3, 2007

Canon Camera Body Comparison

[This image has nothing to do with this post. My posted have been a bit naked without any related images lately, so I figured I'd thrown up a shot from when I was screwing around with ice dropped into a glass. My lesson learned: the splash radius is about 3 feet. Luckily the 70-200 kept me from getting my camera wet and gave me some astonishingly sharp shots.]

In a way, I jinxed myself. In the past month my compact flash error problem ('Err CF') on my 350D seemed to go away, and so I had the thought last week that I was in the clear and no longer had to worry about the camera. Yeah, I wasn't enough of an idiot to actually say it out loud, but I thought I was in the clear. And purchasing the 70-200 F/4 seemed like a pretty good idea after all (instead of spending the money on a new camera body).

Yet this weekend, that changed.

On the positive side, my wife got into a training program she's been working for years to get into. The negative of this new program is our finances will be stressed again (we just paid off our only loan and got debt free!) and both of us are going to be a lot busier. Not a great time to start a little photography business that will suck up my time and require some start-up cash, huh.

Then, yesterday after our yard sale, I was shooting a Pack 'N Play (anyone want one?) to list it on Craigslist and my Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT) crapped out. Reinserting the CF card and removing the battery didn't immediately get it to work, and it took me about 5 minutes to finish the shots. If that happened on shoot for paying customers, that would be catastrophic, especially if I couldn't get it going again.

This just as I was discussing a plan with my wife to do a few more TFCD shoots these next few weeks before looking for paying customers. And discussing how we could cut back spending to have a little savings before the fall (and her classes) hits.

So, now, I'm looking at the following options:

  1. Ignore the problem and hope it doesn't die at a bad time.
  2. Fix the Rebel XT myself and hope the down-time is only a few days. I'll want to wait until after the current DPL season is over so I don't leave my teammates in the lurch. AND that's assuming I can fix it. If I can't, I'll be without a camera for a few weeks or more and have to spend the $125+ to fix it.
  3. Acquire a back-up camera (actually a new primary camera) before attempting the repairs. This is what this post relates too -- what I can afford, what would the advantages of upgrading be?
  4. Send the camera out to be fixed now. I'd rather not, given the cost involved, and the decent chance I'll be able to fix it myself. Plus I don't want to be without a camera for any length of time.
Obviously, I tried #1, but I'm starting to get nervous about it. #4 doesn't seem to be cost effective since I can probably fix it, and #2 I'm considering but it could leave me screwed if I can't fix it and can't get it fixed or get a replacement quickly. I like #3 the most as far as logistics (never being without a camera) and long-term benefits (two working cameras, and the old 350D, once it is fixed, will be my wife's camera). The problem is the cash -- we don't have a heck of a lot floating in our checking account right now, I won't be working much SAT prep this summer, and getting paying portrait jobs this summer and fall to recoup the cost is not guaranteed.

Oh, and don't forget, I love gadgets, so a new camera looks really exciting to me... I've been trying to separate that from my decision making process, but it keeps rearing it's ugly head and telling me to buy a 5D...

So, the point of this post is to summarize my camera options and help me think through what I would get, if I were to purchase another camera body. Along with the body, of course, I'd also need to pick up another lens (maybe just the kit lens) so my wife could use the backup when I was using my camera elsewhere. Aside from a kit lens, my other option would be the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 which would be perfect for portrait shoots and goes for about $250 on the used market (it is a full-frame cousin of the 17-50mm F/2.8 and just as highly regarded). But that is less important for right now. Right now, I'm only concerned about the camera body.

So, I'm looking at the full low end of the Canon range: 10D, 20D, 30D, 300D (original Digital Rebel), 350D (XT), 400D (XTi). As usual, I'll use a color coded list of pros and cons, from my perspective (a 350D) and my needs. Lets start at oldest and cheapest and then go up:

Canon 300D (Digital Rebel):
  • DPReview Review (vs 10D)
  • Goes for about $275 used on eBay
  • Small form factor, limited controls.
  • Slow Digic I system, 2 second power on, etc.
  • Lacks basics like mirror lock-up!
  • 1.8" LCD Display
  • Probably not worth considering. A Rebel XT is only slightly more expensive and there are a lot of drawbacks to the 300D (see comparison). As a back-up, it might be ok, but I think I'd be better off buying a 350D if I want to go cheap and small.
Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT):
  • Reviews: Bob Atkins DPReview
  • Goes for about $400 used/refurbished, $500+ new (for just the body).
  • I'm intimately familiar with it.
  • I can swap existing parts from my current camera (batteries, etc).
  • Small form factor, limited controls.
  • 1.8" LCD Display
  • Good, responsive Digic II performance.
  • A sideways move in camera bodies -- I'd rather upgrade in one sense or another.
Canon 400D (Digital Rebel XTi):
  • Reviews: Bob Atkins Cameralabs DPReview
  • $650+ new, $550 used (body only)
  • 2.5" LCD Display
  • Small form factor, limited controls.
  • 10 Megapixel, antidust shake (I don't really care)
  • Better autofocus (20D's autofocus)
  • I didn't realize the 400D has better autofocus -- that helps it in my eyes, and for only $150 more, it might be worth going for the 400D instead of the 350D.
Canon 10D:
  • Reviews: DPReview Bob Atkins
  • $375+ used (body only)
  • Larger form factor, better ergonomics
  • 1.8" LCD Display
  • Digic I processor, takes 2 seconds to start up (this could be annoying)
  • Doesn't take EF-S lenses!
  • 6.3 Megapixel (doesn't matter to me much)
  • Worse low-light performance (than 350D)
  • Better viewfinder
Canon 20D:
  • Reviews: DPReview Bob Atkins
  • $750 new, $575 used (body only)
  • Larger form factor, better ergonomics
  • 1.8" LCD Display
  • Digic-II, instant power on, faster response
  • Good low-light performance
  • Better auto-focus performance (than 10D)
  • 1/250s sync, 1/8000 max shutter
  • More reliable shutter, less blackout time
  • Better viewfinder (better than 10D, but not by a lot)
Canon 30D:

Yikes. That got my head spinning.

I'm going to think on this stuff for a while (possibly updating these details if I remember something) and post again in a few days when I've decided what to do, even if it is deciding not to decide until later.

Tentatively, I'm leaning towards a 10D or 20D. I'd really like to upgrade the ergonomics of the 350D. Yeah, a bigger LCD would be nice, but I spend most of my time looking through the viewfinder, and the autofocus improvements would be helpful. Plus, a 1/250s sync speed would help me overpower sunlight.

I don't really see the point of another 350D or a 400D. The 400D is nice and I'd like the bigger LCD and better autofocus, but I could get a used 20D for about the same price. A 10D would be a stop-gap measure until I got more cash, but many things (2 second power-on?) would bug the heck out of me. I'd keep a 20D for a while though, and with the 30D out, they've gone way down in price.

Update: I've chosen the 20D.

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