Canon Entry-Level D-SLR Buying Guide

Canon just TODAY released a brand new Canon model; the Canon Rebel T3i. It is highly anticipated to become an extremely popular model among the beginner D-SLR (Digital Sngle Lens Reflex) cameras.

The first thing that I generally discuss with customers is what they’ll be taking photos of, but it seems to me like you’re wanting a really great camera, preferably fast (e.g. good to great at action photography), good durability and something that will last you a few years. In my opinion – and a biased one at at that – I highly recommend the Canon brand, because it is what I use now, and where I began in 2006. I’ve worked my way up through the models and have been really satisfied with the brand and their customer service over the years.

So currently there are a few models to consider. Lenses aside (for now), I will refer to the following candidate models as ‘bodies’, because they are absent the lens (which can be purchased separately from the camera body, and I will make recommendations on those, too).

Current available Canon D-SLR models include:

1) The Canon Rebel XS

2) The Canon Rebel T1i

3) The Canon Rebel T2i

4) The Canon Rebel T3

5) The Canon Rebel T3i

6) The Canon 60D

Some things to consider when purchasing a camera:

1) Frame Rate (often expressed FPS, or ‘Frames-per-second,’ this is how quickly the camera will take one photo after the next).

2) ISO (similar to film, ISO is a measurement of how sensitive to light your camera’s digital sensor is. The better sensitivity, the higher the number. For example: ISO 3200 is really great. In lower light, the higher ISO your camera can achieve, the faster your shutter can move, and as a result, the sharper your pictures will be – especially when a subject is in motion).

3) Megapixels. This should be the last consideration when choosing a camera. Every model I listed is 10 megapixels or beyond. An 8 megapixel camera can produce a 24×36 inch poster print (the same as a movie poster), and rarely if ever do people print images at this size. Essentially, the more resolution you have, the clearer your images should be (especially on a large scale). Because people do not often print images at such enormas sizes, one argument often attributed to high resolution cameras (for example, 14 megapixels and beyond), is the user’s ability to crop an image in post production to a more standard size, for example, an 8×10, and still retain the clarity of the image. So, if you were at a stadium with a 14 megapixel camera and photographed a subject at one end-zone while you were at the other, even if you weren’t entirely zoomed-in on that subject, you could – in post production – crop or ‘zoom’ in on that image, even potentially making that image become the entire photograph, with lots of clarity and resolution. Does that make sense?

4) Durability & Weather Sealing. With the exception of the 60D, I believe all of the rebel cameras are absent of the weather sealing feature. This will be useful if you are caught in inclement weather with your camera. In Canon’s manuals, the weather sealing feature is described as ‘moisture resistant’, not ‘water proof.’ The best thing you can do is keep your camera clear of water/dust/moisture, and if ever in those environments, enclose your camera in something like a pancho or baggie (that’s what I did when I was on the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls! And it worked great!). As far as durability… I’m pretty confident all of these models are completely plastic, so if you dropped one from waist level, odds are it’s going to break =/. In consideration of such a scenario, I’ve personally had really great experiences through  Best Buy’s accidental damage plan which vary by the cost of the product and duration of coverage with most options for either two or three years. They will cover accidental damage, liquid spills, dust, heat, humidity, etc.,; practically everything but theft – so in my opinion, they are worth it – and from what materials I’ve read, Best Buy service plans specifically on cameras are some of the best available. To purchase an ADH (accidental damage handeling) service plan on a best buy product, the product must have been purchased at best buy, and the ADH must be bought within 15 days of the original transaction. To be really honest with you, the consumer really does get the better deal on these service plans. In a brief example, let me explain:

If two years ago you bought a point and shoot camera that was 8 megapixels and 3 times optical zoom for $300. Today, we don’t sell any cameras below 12 megapixels. Additionally, most point and shoot cameras now have 720p HD movie modes, face detection and image stabilization, and are universally more affordable with better processors. So if in this hypothetical situation your point and shoot is working fine and you know that your ADH warranty that you purchased is about to expire, ‘maybe’ mister camera has an encounter with misses microwave and oops, “I don’t know what happened,” you say to customer service. “It just stopped working.” – Then you get a new camera. Pretty simple.

To be more clear about ADH; policy states: ‘Comparable technology not to exceed the original purchase price,’ which means that when fulfilling the ADH, you receive the model with the closest specs to what you paid for, which, 2-3 years after-the-fact, is always a better unit. So you really do win.

In consideration of the ADH, however, you may factor in additional costs for the warranty. Just something to consider.

5) Movies. With the exception of the XS, all of the Canon DSLR models are 1080P HD movie capable, which is pretty awesome! The clarity is amazing, and the audio is great too. While not everyone wants a video camera in an SLR model, both Canon and Nikon don’t really give you a choice anymore; it’s more or less weather or not you choose to use this feature yourself, but it will be provided regardless. I have a video camera on my Canon, and hardly ever use it.

6) Imaging Processor. Canon calls their processors the ‘Digic’ with a number afterwards, indicating the current technology. (For example, the Digic 4 – the newest processor – will be better than the Digic 3). Without getting technical, the Digic processor is more or less the brains of the camera. It largely contributes to the cameras speed (turning on and off, the frame rate, etc), white balance, color balance, focusing accuracy, and a number of other things.

7) Rotating LCD. Only two of the Canon D-SLR’s have this; the Canon 60D, and the Rebel T3i. It’s a really cool feature, because it allows you to photograph from unique angles, such as rotating the LCD outwards and towards you to photograph yourself, or, rotate the LCD inwards towards the camera to protect it when it’s not in use. It’s a pretty nice feature.

8) Comfortability. Be sure that you examine these models yourself, if you can, before buying them. You should analyze the data of what the cameras have to offer, but ultimately it would be desirable to also hold the camera in your hands and feel the weight (preferably with the desired lens you intend to purchase), and make sure that you’re comfortable with the feel, weight, durability, etc. It is a camera that you’ll want to last you a few years, so you should be really happy with it.

I’ve put together this small list below to help weigh some of features and options of the camera bodies against each other:

**||** The Canon Rebel XS **||**

MSRP: $549 w/ 18-55mm kit lens (body not sold separately that I could locate)

BestBuy.com: $478.99 w/ 18-55mm kit lens (body is not sold separately that I could locate)

  • Megapixels: 10.1
  • Image Processor: Digic III
  • ISO Range: 100-1600 (ISO 1600 will experience moderate to excessive grain).
  • Frame Rate: 3 frames per second (fps)
  • HD Movies: No
  • Weather Sealing: No

**||** The Canon Rebel T1i **||**

MSRP: $799.99 (body only)

BestBuy.com: $595.99 (body only)

  • Megapixels: 15.1
  • Image Processor: Digic 4
  • ISO Range: 100-1600 effectively. Custom functions will allow you to expand the ISO further to H1 (6400) and H2 (12800). You should experience extreme grain at both of these ISO expansions, however.
  • Frame Rate: 3.4 frames per second (fps)
  • HD movies: Yes – 1080p & 720p
  • Weather Sealing: No

**||** The Canon Rebel T2i **||**

MSRP: $799.99 (body only – same as above. Stupid, but accurate).

BestBuy.com: $710.99 (body only)

  • Megapixels: 18.0
  • Image Processor: Digic 4
  • ISO Range: 100-6400 effectively. Custom functions will allow you to expand the ISO further to H1 (21800). You should experience moderate grain at this ISO expansion, however.
  • Frame Rate: 3.7 frames per second (fps)
  • HD movies: Yes – 1080p & 720p
  • Weather Sealing: No

**||** The Canon Rebel T3 **||**

MSRP: $599 with 18-55 kit lens (body is not sold separately that I could locate).

BestBuy.com: $599 with 18-55 kit lens (body is not sold separately that I could locate).

  • Megapixels: 12.2
  • Image Processor: Digic 4
  • ISO Range: 100-6400 effectively. No custom function expansion.
  • Frame Rate: 3.0 (fps)
  • HD movies: Yes, but ONLY in 720p (1080p is better).
  • Weather Sealing: No

**||** The Canon T3i **||**

MSRP: $799 (body only)

BestBuy.com: $899 with 18-55mm kit lens.

  • Megapixels: 18.0
  • Image Processor: Digic 4
  • ISO Range: 100-6400 effectively. Custom functions will allow you to expand the ISO further to H1 (21800). H1 grain should appear minimal; this camera should do a really fantastic job at handling grain at higher ISO’s.
  • Frame Rate: 3.7 (fps)
  • HD movies: Yes – 1080p and 720p.
  • Weather Sealing: No
  • Rotating LCD: Yes

**||** The Canon 60D **||**

MSRP: $1,099 (body only)

Bestbuy.com: $985.99

  • Megapixels: 18.0
  • Image Processor: Digic 4
  • ISO Range: 100-6400 effectively. Custom functions will allow you to expand the ISO further to H1 (21800). H1 grain should appear minimal; this camera should do a really fantastic job at handling grain at higher ISO’s.
  • Frame Rate: 5.3 (fps) <– Exceptionally fast.
  • HD movies: Yes – 1080p and 720p.
  • Weather Sealing: Yes (some, but not much).
  • Rotating LCD: Yes

****LASTLY****

A few things to consider…

1) Don’t forget, whether its an MSRP price or BestBuy.com price, etc.; if it’s a BODY ONLY, there will be NO lens that comes with the camera, so you may want to budget to purchase a lens. I listed the body only prices (when I could find them), because the 18-55mm kit lenses (‘kit lens’ meaning its packaged with the expense of the camera body) are not very good lenses, and do not zoom very far.

2) In Best Buy stores, we only sell the camera AND the kit lens together; we don’t have just the body available for sale in the store, that’s why you have to purchase it from bestbuy.com – but we CAN process this transaction in-store, and you are eligible for the warranty regardless of whether it’s purchased in a best buy store or on the best buy website.

3) Consider the benefits/disadvantages of the protection plan; they can be expensive and also require budgeting for, so be sure to consider this. However, I do believe they are worth having, especially on big purchases.

4) No D-SLR camera comes with a memory card. You’re going to need one to hold your photos. There are two things to consider when buying a memory card. One is the capacity of the card; e.g. 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, etc.; the second is the Read/Write Speed of the card; something people often forget about or just simply don’t know about. This is really important, because when you’re shooting at 3.4 – 5.6 frames per second, you want your camera to write that data (the photographs) to the memory card as fast as possible. A camera using a memory card with 200x write speed will process photos MUCH faster than a card with 60x write speed. Imagine taking 30 photos just holding down the shutter button of the camera. At the end of those 30 photos, with a 200x write speed card, there would be hardly any wait time for the camera to finish processing photos (if any wait time at all). In the same scenario, a 60x write speed card could have you waiting for minutes before you’re able to take photos again – so there’s a big advantage to having a faster memory card. Additionally, you will be required to have a faster memory card if you plan to do any HD movie recording, so usually it’s in the photographers best interest just to grab one from the get-go. I would budget approximately $60 for a good memory card, and I can point out a few places to get a good one online; I wouldn’t recommend shopping Best Buy for this accessory.

5) Consider Tax; this can add up quick!

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Lens Recommendation:

The BEST lens recommendation I can make right now for a consumer grade lens would be the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. It will cost about $349.95 from a website I highly recommend (B&Hphotovideo.com). It will do a fantastic job at wide-angle and telephoto photos, all in one lens. So instead of spending more money on a body and kit lens (which, when a body is packaged with a kit lens, costs about $100 more, on average), save that $100 and apply towards a lens like this. It is much more versatile and will save you from spending an additional $300 on a telephoto lens later (should you decide to go with a body and kit lens package).

Camera Body Recommendation:

All things considered, the Canon Rebel T2i (body only) for $710.99 seems to me like the best bang for your dollar. You get the newest Digic processor, 3.7 frame rate, the ability to to do 1080p and 720p HD movies and a great ISO range. This camera, in combination with the above lens recommendation, should fit in pretty closely to a $1,000.00 budget. The only advantage to going to the T3i body is the rotating LCD for a different of $89 (keep in mind, though, that’s a difference in cost for the MSRP of the T3i body only – if you want to buy the t3i from Best Buy for the warranty or for any other reason, you’ll pay a difference of $189.00, but get the orating LCD and the 18-55 kit lens).

***|||*** FINAL VERDICT ***|||***

If bought from Best Buy Online:

Canon Rebel T2i body with Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (from B&H Photo).

If service plan, local/convenient return address is not desired:

Same combination as above; Canon T2i body selling on B&H for $687.28.

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Sources:

MSRP & Specifications: DPreview.com

Pricing: B&Hphotovideo.com & BestBuy.com

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Created on February 08, 2011 by Stephen Masker.

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