Considerations for buying a canon dSLR

Canon's impressive lineup of lenses offers great quality for everyone from the amateur to the professional. This image shows just a fraction of the many lenses Canon offers.

My photography students often ask me which camera they should buy. The truth is that no one can tell you what camera to buy, but if you understand the commonalities and differences among Canon’s dSLRs, then you can make informed decisions when it’s time to buy a new camera, upgrade your existing camera, buy a backup camera body, or add another camera to your existing system.

Regardless of which camera you are thinking about, many considerations go into selecting a camera:

  • Image quality. What size and quality of images do you need to produce? Do you need a full-frame camera, or are other attributes more critical? Will a slightly lower-priced dSLR suffice so that you can spend more money on professional lenses?
  • Lens quality and selection. What mix of lenses are necessary, versus ones that you can put on your “wish list”? Do you need a “fast,” wide-aperture lens that will hold its aperture at any zoom level? Do you need to shoot close-up images with a dedicated macro lens, or distant images? Will you benefit from a very wide aperture, exceptionally narrow-depth-of-field portrait lens?
  • Exposure. What camera features are necessary/important to your work? You may want to consider an external flash (or two) if you do lots of indoor, low-light shooting so as to expand your capabilities. Do you need the ability to shoot low-light, nonflash images that would require low-noise, high ISO capabilities and very wide aperture lenses?
  • Speed. If you’re shooting sports or anything high-speed, you’ll want to consider a fast camera and lens combination, such as the EOS-ID Mark III with its fast frame-per-second ability along with an f/2.8 lens.
  • Burst rate/buffer. If you shoot multiple images without stopping, your camera has a limit; that limit is the “burst” rate. Images are held in a “buffer” as they are downloaded to the storage media in the camera. A camera such as the 1D Mark III has a burst rate of 30 RAW or 110 JPEG images—far greater than that of most dSLRs—so if you need to shoot lots of images in a short amount of time, this is an important consideration.
  • Overall camera handling. What body style and lens(es) feel good to you? Do you need a lighter, but professional-quality, camera such as the 5D, or is your arm strong enough to handle an EOS-1D camera (which is much heavier)? Does the “chording” system of changing settings in the EOS-1D series work better for you, or do you prefer the rotating wheel for operating a camera such as the 40D?
  • Budget. Obviously, money is a consideration for your gear lineup. The question is where do you spend it — on camera body, lenses, flashes, studio equipment, or digital darkroom gear? You must consider what you need to operate with right now and how your needs might change and expand as your skill and interests change. Additionally, you should be aware of new product releases that pertain to your specific needs and interests and understand how these new items can impact your spending and budget.

I am frequently asked what the single most important factor in selecting a camera is. For me, there are two primary considerations in selecting a camera — both based on my professional shooting needs, priorities, and preferences. These are image resolution of the camera and the quality of the lens and optics. Resolution is important because my images must meet the minimum resolutions standards required by stock agencies, which is 11 X 14 inches. For my gallery clients, I want to be able to offer prints at 11 X 14 inches or larger. I have also sold prints as large as 3 X 5 feet, so for me high resolution is a must! On the other hand, some labs are able to print larger prints from smaller-resolution images using sophisticated technologies.

Historically, lens quality was the foundation professional photographers used when choosing among camera manufacturers. Photographers have debated for years whether Canon or Nikon offer the best lens quality. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself, but if you’re reading this book, you’ve probably already chosen or at least are seriously considering Canon. From my experience, which includes using a variety of different lenses and cameras from different companies, Canon lenses provide consistently superb optical quality, and the selection of lenses, such as those shown in 2-1, gives me complete creative freedom as a photographer.

Category: Photography System

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