Thursday, June 7, 2007

My Next Camera: an EOS 20D

It has been said that it is not the camera that takes the pictures.

And I very much believe that is true. But I'm still going to get a new camera body, and that camera will be the Canon 20D.

Luckily, my 350D has recovered somewhat and is only acting up occasionally, so I feel safe waiting for mid-July when I'll have a little extra cash in the checking account (related to the release of some money used in my other hobby, poker). I'm also going to sell everything around the house that isn't absolutely necessary (do I really need two kids, or could I get away with just one?). If I'm going to take a shot at this photography business, it has to happen now.

But, back to my choice of camera. I've given it some more thought, and I really want to upgrade from the Digital Rebel line to a mid-range Canon body. A big reason is ergonomics and durability improvements. The 20D also has a few features the 350D doesn't, which are nice, but not essential. But the biggest reason is probably explained with a story:

Near the end of my second TFCD shoot (as seen in Quick Tip #7), I was packing up my gear and chatting with D. D. was telling me that she used to be interested in photography and took some classes in school, but didn't really have any time for it anymore (she is employed full time and mother of 1.5, to be 2.0 in a couple months). I suggested that low-end DSLRs (like my 350D) are getting relatively inexpensive and give a low cost of entry to the hobby. She replied, "Oh, yeah, I already have a Rebel XT."

My next thought: Then why do you need me?
Well, obviously, it is really hard to take a family picture when you are part of the family! And, ideally I'd bring some expertise they are lacking with me (although sometimes I wonder).

Digital SLRs are so accessible now, and since most people think the camera matters more than the photographer, using an obvious (silver!) entry-level camera, even if it is a really nice camera, doesn't look... professional enough. So if I'm going to upgrade, and a new XTi is only slightly less than the 20D, the credibility I get from a pro camera is worth it. And who knows, maybe it will make me feel more professional; confidence is never a bad thing.

So, that's how I ruled out the 300D, 350D, and 400D. So, how to choose between the 10D, 20D, and 30D?

Well, the 30D is obviously my top choice since it is the best. But, at $500 more than the 20D for minor improvements outside of the larger LCD and spot-meter, I'm better off putting that $500 to better use (like another lens, or food for my kids). That leaves the 10D and 20D.

I really tried to like the 10D, I really did. A $200 savings on a used camera is really nice. But there are a few deal-breakers for the 10D, at least for me. The biggest is that the 10D was designed before the EF-S lens mount was invented, so my beautiful Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 won't mount on it, and it'll be a cold day in hell before I try to mod that lens to fit a 10D. My plan was to buy a Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 ($250 used) along with the 10D, and then I could use the 28-75 as a portrait lens on the 10D for about the same price as a 20D. Even with a 28-75, I don't like the idea that one of my best lenses will not mount on primary body.

A few other things swayed me towards the 20D:
  • First, the 20D is only $200 more than the 10D. Not a huge difference, and it gets me a body I can stick with for a while.
  • A big draw is the 8 Mp sensor which has less noise at high ISOs (how much is debatable, but it is definitely better). I've found that shooting at sunset often requires ISO 800 or more and high ISOs are a great help. The increased resolution is nice, too.
  • A better autofocus system with on-the-fly choice of focus points. I'll often just leave the 350D restricted to the center focus point, but this new system might help me. Plus, the 20D center autofocus point is a more-sensitive cross-type.
  • The improved shutter is a big deal. A top speed of 1/8000 second isn't that important for me, but the increased sync speed (1/250 vs 1/200 sec) is. It makes overpowering ambient just that much easier, and if I want to use flash on a regular basis, that's important.
  • Instant start-up. This is one of those things that I use all the time on the 350D (pop it on and shoot), and I know it would annoy me to no end on the 10D. Yes, I could adjust my shooting strategy, but I guarantee you I'd miss some shots initially because it didn't turn on fast enough.
So, the end result is I will purchase a used (or reconditioned) 20D in July. Possibly a new one, if I can find a good price, but there aren't many new ones left anymore. Eventually I'd like a Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 to go with it, but I'll probably just get a used kit lens to stick on the Digital Rebel XT when I need the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8. Once I get the 20D, I'll fix the 350D if it hasn't miraculously recovered, and then the 350D will serve as a nice backup to the 20D. Also, two bodies will allow me to carry both a wide and telephoto at the same time, which could be useful if I shoot sports or events.

[The image at the top of the entry was borrowed from Canon's 20D page. I don't think they'll mind.]

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