Trading Up – Used Canon DSLR’s in 2016

Background

I like photography.  My father enjoyed it as a hobby and it always seemed like an interesting blend of technology and art. In college I had the opportunity in my senior year to take a digital photography class to fulfill an arts elective.

I learned how to shoot on a Canon 40D and excelled with the technical side of photography.  We were required to shoot 100% manually and I found the process very rewarding.  I improved my composition and became interested in photography with very short and very long exposures.

After graduation I wanted to continue with photography so I picked up an entry level Canon T1i.  I took some great photos with the camera but I was always frustrated with the tiny view finder – it was a world of difference from the 40D.  I found the view finder impossible to use manual focus, especially in low light.  Everything in the view finder appeared tiny and blurry.  Manually focusing through the view finder would just adjust the blurriness – it was impossible to tell where sharp focus was in the scene.

Poor focus through the T1i view finder made photography a frustrating hobby.  Manual focus seemed like a core reason to own an DSLR and I was disappointed the camera made it so difficult.

Trading Up

After living with the T1i for a few years I wanted to trade up for something nicer.  I started looking at used Canons and I was surprised that many great cameras were surprisingly affordable. I had a budget of about $500 and planned to buy a used body.

My primary requirement was to find a much larger view finder, presumably in a larger body camera.  I also wanted to maintain all of the features I had in the T1i, namely the ability to shoot video.

The switch to a full frame sensor was tempting. I didn’t have a large investment in glass so I was open to switching to all EF lenses but this would also have a large impact on my budget.  I was happy with the quality of my T1i shots but a switch to a better sensor would make sense.  I was never limited by the capability of the T1i but an improvement in low light shooting would have been welcome.

Evaluating the Used Canon Market

I was never familiar with Canon’s whole line of cameras.  I heard a lot about the 5D series over the years  but I didn’t know a whole lot about the interim series.  I learned on the 40D but I didn’t know how that fit into the product range.

Wikipedia has a great timeline and comparison of the EOS range.  This was a great starting point.  I boiled the comparison chart down to a few key features and I started added used market prices.

Camera Used Price Sensor Lens Max Iso Max Shutter Card 1080p FPS 720p FPS
t1i $200 APS-C EF-S 3200 1/4000 SD 20 30
5D $400 Full EF 1600 1/8000 CF NONE NONE
5D Mk ii $800 Full EF 6400 1/8000 CF 30 30
7D $500 APS-C EF-S 6400 1/8000 CF 30 60
50D $300 APS-C EF-S 3200 1/8000 CF NONE NONE
60D $400 APS-C EF-S 6400 1/8000 SD 30 60
70D $700 APS-C EF-S 12800 1/8000 SD 30 60

This was the basis for my comparison. If a camera isn’t in there it was deemed too expensive (such as the 6D).  I read reviews for each camera and developed some further thoughts.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5D and 5D Mark II

I was tempted to jump to a full frame sensor but buying new glass with a new body would blow my budget.  The 5D doesn’t shoot video, the Mark II is clunky with video and the body alone was over my budget.

7d_1

7D

The sensor wasn’t a huge improvement over the T1i but it had a much nicer body and good controls.  This hit the sweet spot for my budget.

50d

50D

The next camera after the 40D I learned on.  A cheap option but it doesn’t shoot video.

60d

60D

A slight upgrade from T1i in all the right places.  Shoots video and it came in slightly under my budget. Plus it takes SD cards!

70d

70D

A more dramatic upgrade from the T1i but slightly above my budget.  This camera was a substantial update of the 60D and introduced some new features.  Has some nifty autofocus and higher ISO range.

The Finalists – 7D vs 60D

The 7D and 60D were both within my budget and both seem like a great option.  Their lifespans overlapped in Canon’s product range and they share similar features.  Both offered an improvement over the T1i in body size, max shutter speed, and max ISO.

The 7D only takes CF cards which is annoying because I already had a stack of SD cards.

 

The Winner – 70D

70d

In a surprising upset the 70D is the winner.  I was dead set on the 7D but found a great price on a used 70D.  The body and build quality may not be as good at the 7D but they’re more than enough for me.  The camera has a great feature set and the video autofocus with the STM lenses are amazing.  I’m happy I chose to spend a little bit more and get something slightly better than the 60D.

Review coming soon!

 

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