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I am looking to buy an Entry level DSLR, and had decided on Canon system due to lens availability with friends, and general popularity amongst my peer group here.

I am planning on general photography, landscapes, portraits, not much action/wildlife. Video - again, casual. This is a good to have feature.

However, I find "something" lacking in all models I shortlisted

  • EOS 1000D - No Video, Still specs not "that great" - AF system etc bit dated compared to 500D and 550D. 500D is around 200$ more here.

  • EOS 500D - This is at a sweet price point, but the video I heard is not that great. Esp when we have the 550 D at 200$ - 250$ more.

  • EOS 550D - Great, has Video but expensive. Not sure I want to spend that much, unless necessary and I have no option. This is probably most Value for money, but seems a big amount in "absolute" terms.

The pricing of the above three cameras don't help either - just enough increment between 1000D-500D-550D to bring it under consideration set, but the overall jump becomes one from 1000D to 550D.

Along comes the D3100, which seems to have good Still as well as Video performance. So I have couple of questions :

  • Is there a camera which I am missing in Canon's lineup, at D3100s price point and feature parity ? What would be the closest camera here ?
  • Does it make sense to switch from Canon to Nikon, just because of this body ? I'm guessing not, but then I don't have anything invested yet. Just that I won't be able to interchange lenses etc with friends (which happens occasionally)
  • If I need to choose between EOS1000D and 500D, which should I choose ? Is the 500D a good camera to buy, given that the 550D has better all around spec ?
  • Another option is to buy the 1000D now and upgrade to 500D later, but I fear that will have to happen pretty soon, and the resale value of 1000D will not be that great.

Thoughts ?

* Update : So right after putting up this post, I bumped into a comparison between 500D and Pentax k-x. Pentax does not even have a dealer in India, forget about Service :) There is a thriving userbase of old film cameras and lenses, and seems like lenses are available for a bargain.

Overall, I was almost in agreement with folks here and buying Canon 500D. However, doing some more research into whether I should consider the Pentax k-x instead, given its price points (a 500D-equivalent k-x is available at price of around the 1000D).

Of course, all answers for my original question here have been helpful, and if not for the k-x, I am still going with the Canon 500D as you folks have suggested !

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I think this question is more appropriate on the Canon and Nikon forums of DPReview. On those forums you will generate a spirited debate involving a great many people. Generating so much input will be more helpful to you than the anemic response you will get on this site. –  labnut Oct 15 '10 at 12:14
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@labnut : I am not looking for a spirited debate, am looking for some quality insights, which I think this forum delivers at a very high S/N ratio :) –  Abhinav Oct 15 '10 at 12:48
    
Good comment, I like it :) –  labnut Oct 15 '10 at 19:36
    
You say video would be a useful feature but how often do you think you would use it? I've owned a 550D for a year now and only used it once, and that was to test it worked! –  ChrisFletcher Jul 27 '11 at 21:25

5 Answers 5

If you're new to DSLRs, it's worth sticking with the brand your friends use; not just so you can borrow stuff, but for the free advice as well.

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you seem new here. Welcome! –  Reid Oct 14 '10 at 22:41
    
@Reid Priedhorsky: Thanks! –  Scott Carroll Oct 15 '10 at 14:35

There's always a better camera body just round the corner. I wouldn't recommend choosing a system based around one camera body as they come and go whereas lenses hang around for a long time.

Without turning this into a Canon vs. Nikon discussion, you have some good reasons to go Canon. It sounds like the 500D is the right camera for you. What about the video is a problem? It does HD video at 720p at 30fps and full HD at 20fps. Unless you're producing movies the lack of 24fps isn't a big deal. No DSLR does video properly (yet) if you just want to record things for your own memories it's more than adequate!

As for the prices, that's very intentional on behalf of the manufacturer to push you to the higher end model! I wouldn't buy the 1000D now as a stopgap if it's less than what you need, neither would I wait for a new model, you need a camera that does the job now so you can enjoy using it.

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I am new to DSLRs (but have used Canon S3 IS in manual mode extensively). Hence, I'm not even sure how much of serious video I will shoot. So your comment on 500D being good enough makes sense. Also, very true regarding the pricing of various models by firms :) –  Abhinav Oct 14 '10 at 18:34

First off, I can't really recommend switching brands over a single entry-level camera. I guess I could understand if you were planning to get something uber-stellar in the high-end Nikon range, and were willing to completely switch. (I know you don't have anything yet, but the argument generally stands.) Switching for an entry-level body can't be worth it, especially if you are able to borrow friends Canon lenses and the like. Same things go for the Pentax argument. Given that, first recommendation is to stick with Canon, especially if you can borrow lenses from friends...great way to get rolling without spending a ton of money.

As for which Canon body to choose, there are plenty of good answers here. Some things that are less obvious should be noted, however. I would skip the 1000D if you intend this to be more than a passing fancy with DSLR photography. The choice is only between the 500D and 550D if you are serious to any degree.

There is one key difference between the 500D and the 550D that may be an important factor: sensor photosite size and density. The smaller and more dense photsites get, the more the sensor demands of your lenses. With larger photosites, a sensor is able to capture clean images without any effects from diffraction at tighter apertures. As photosites shrink, a sensor becomes diffraction limited at wider and wider apertures. The 500D is diffraction limited (the point where diffraction starts to affect image quality) at f/7.6, while the 550D is diffraction limited at f/6.8. Not a huge difference, about 1/3rd of a stop, but enough to think about.

Additionally, the fundamental resolution of a lens becomes a more critical factor with higher and higher density sensors. Using a cheap lens on the 500D may be ok, but using one on the 550D may bring out the flaws and lack of resolution in such a lens much more readily. Canon's L-series (red band) lenses are pretty fantastic these days, and are built to serve the amazingly high resolution sensors of current and upcoming cameras ranging from 18-32mp and beyond. Canon's Gold band (midrange) and Silver band (low end) lenses, while considerably cheaper, lack many of the optical aberration correction features available in the L-series. You pay a premium for an L-series lens, as they are all at least $1000, if not several thousand.

The endless march towards higher and higher sensor density has obscured many of the benefits of lower density sensors with larger photosites. Just something to think of when making your decision. I think the 500D is a great entry-level camera, and for its price, is hard to beat.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation regarding diffractions. Have been reading for around a month now, but never came across this aspect. –  Abhinav Oct 16 '10 at 15:03
    
I doubt that I will be spending anything more than 300-400$ max on any lens, so the L series is out of my reach. In parallel, I started looking at the Pentax k-x and related ecosystem. I like the price (for 100$ less than 550D, I get a 500D equiv body with IS + 2 lenses !). However the ecosystem and community is not available here in India/Asia, so it is a big risk which I'm debating, whether to take or not :) So 500D v/s Pentax k-x it is, as of now. Will decide by next couple of days and close this. –  Abhinav Oct 16 '10 at 15:09

The D3100 looks like an awesome camera - I'm afraid Canon doesn't have a great answer for it at the moment (at that price point). I think you've picked up on the fact that you've really got to think about the whole system, though, including lenses and accessories.

I wouldn't rule out the idea of buying low and upgrading, especially if you can plan the upgrade and purchase lenses and accessories that fit into an upgrade plan. A used body might give you a good place to start accumulating lenses and all the stuff that goes with a DSLR outfit.

You'll be able to keep all of the lenses you buy (unless you switch to full-frame, in which case you'll keep only your EF lenses). In addition, you'll be able to keep some of that other stuff when you upgrade:

  • Tripod (universal)
  • Bag(s) (universal)
  • Flash(es) and other lighting equipment (universal for all Canon)
  • Memory cards (maybe; some are SD and some are CF)
  • Batteries (some bodies share the same battery - ex: some of the Canon x0D series)
  • Other accessories (remote shutter, etc. - again, this will vary by body, but there's a decent chance that accessories are compatible within a series)

If I were looking at picking either Canon or Nikon and I thought I might be able to borrow lenses from my buddies, I'd be pretty strongly-inclined to get any Canon at all with the thought of upgrading later to the 550D, 60D, 7D or whatever Canon comes out with next year to answer the D3100. Then, plan your accessory purchases so that as many of them as possible will be compatible for the body you hope to upgrade to later.

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The 500D video is not terrible - is the difference of 1080p over 720p critical for you?

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Probably not, in the short-mid term. I will have my hands full with the stills themselves ! –  Abhinav Oct 14 '10 at 18:36

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