I am gearing up for my first dSLR purchase. Until now I've only used P&S or cell phone cameras. I take fairly decent photos but my skill lies in editing them. I am confused with my first purchase primarily because of the volume of information out there and the number of suggestions I've received. I was looking at the EOS Rebel T5 and my friend suggested the 70D. However, the only difference he listed was the movable LCD display on the 70D (apart from minor extra features). Is that a big deal? The other issue is the big price difference. Is the T5 with all those lenses (3rd party) good enough? I'll be leaving on a road trip soon so I wanted to get one by the end of this week.
First off, you may want to read:
To get a sense of why your friend mentioned a prosumer model to you, over an base-line entry-level camera.
sidenote: Vari-angle LCDs:
Also, realize that the vari-angle LCD is not unique to the prosumer model, but can also be found on Canon's XXXD line of cameras. They can be more fragile than fixed LCDs. Vari-angle is useful if you need to a) take selfies, or b) compose above your head or low down to the ground, and c) protect the LCD when the camera is off (LCD can be flipped to face the camera). If you don't need to do these things, it's probably not a deal-breaker.
Canon's tiering of models
Canon's camera model numbers generally indicate the "tier" of the camera. The lowest-entry level cameras have four-digit XXXXD numbers, the upper entry-level cameras have three-digit XXXD numbers. Midgrade are XXDs. And prosumer are typically XD (with Mks for the generation, i.e., the 5DMkII), with the Pro models being designated with a 1D.
You can see a chart that lays out all the Canon dSLR models by generation and tier on Wikipedia. It's also color-coded to indicate the processor generation of the cameras. The higher up and to the right on the chart the model is, the more liable it is to cost a bomb.
If you are interested in the lowest-end cameras that Canon makes, all you really need to know is that they generally are last-generation's XXXD tech wrapped up with a newer sensor in a cheaper body. The XXXXDs always lag behind the XXXDs, but they always cost less.
Prosumer vs. Entry-Level
A prosumer model will generally have dual wheel controls, more sophisticated menus, a lot more buttons for direct access to settings, a top LCD so you can see/set settings without menu diving on the back, and a much more sophisticated AF system, better burst rate, custom settings, flash masters and PC ports, etc. In short, you get more controls and better handling. And possibly better build quality/durability. Maybe even weathersealing.
These are generally always going to be the differences between an XD or XXD and an XXXD or XXXXD. And it may be worth going back a processor/sensor tech generation for the usability features for some types of shooting (especially fast-action shooting).
Last Year's Prosumer Model, Used
However, for most experienced users who prefer having more control and for whom processor/sensor technology has reached sufficiency, the most bang for the buck is nearly always a midgrade/prosumer body one generation back, used. At the time of this writing, for a midrange crop model that would be a 60D, but when the 60D was new, it was a 50D, and so on and so forth. The 70D will occupy this space when an 80D arrives.
Right now a used 60D goes for $400-$500. It has the same sensor/processor tech in it that a new T5 has, and that vari-angle LCD.
Granted, the 60D is not as gee-nifty as a 70D, which has had a whopping upgrade on the AF system and video AF capabilities (not to mention wi-fi), and there are all the inherent pains and pitfalls of purchasing used, but as I said, bang for the buck, it's probably a better deal. And saving money on a camera body (which is the most disposable part of the system) leaves you more to spend on glass.
Whether a low entry-level camera and 3rd party lenses are "enough" is strictly a personal matter of how much disposable income you have, what you want to shoot, how you want to shoot it, how picky you are about image quality, and which 3rd party lenses we're talking about. For vacation snapshots, it's probably overkill. :)
Renting and Other Thoughts
I would also say that if you haven't yet actually figured out whether you want a prosumer or entry-level camera and you're giving yourself less than a week to decide, that maybe renting a camera for your trip is one way to go to see whether you'd like a dSLR at all or not. Many dSLR photographers these days are actually moving AWAY from lugging about dSLR gear bags to smaller/lighter mirrorless cameras and large-sensored fix-lens compacts--which are far more convenient and easy on the back when traveling.
A quick answer that should really help,I hope. "If" you really think you're going seriously take up photography remember you get what you pay for. That really is the case with photography equipment. However, also remember any entry level DSLR will do a fantastic job for you until you get to understand the equipment. The actual camera body is the cheapest part of your investment if you get serious. Lenses is where you'll spend money and there's no substitute for the top of the line Nikon lenses if you have the Nikon camera body. The glass inside those lenses makes a world of difference.
After all that remember this, a good photographer can take a better photo with a low end camera than an amateur can with top of the line equipment. Knowledge and experience is power with photography and understanding light is key.
My advice is get matching brand camera/lens at a price you can afford. Over time it's easy to sell what you have when the need arises to upgrade. Even buying the top of the line camera today there will be a better version of it next year.
Invest your time and money on knowledge and upgrade as needed.
I know it's not a direct answer but I think you will be happy in the long run if you consider my advice.
Is such and such a camera good enough? Depends on your goal. If you're shooting pro football in a stadium as the team photographer you'll need about 50 grand for your set up. If you're shooting landscapes, family friends, portraits you can easily get by with under 500.
By the time you learn enough to realize your camera does not do what you might want it to, the next model will be out so its a never ending upgrade process. I've used dozens of cameras and equipment from low to high end and for my personal use my 10 year old digital with a good mid zoom lense gives me everything I want.
Spend wisely money wise. If you don't know why you need the more expensive camera then you don't need it.
But DSLR is the way to go.