Posted by: David Vernon | September 1, 2009

Camera buying revisited


Oy. As in vey.

So I got the question again the other day from a friend.

I honestly do not mind the question. I have certain knowledge and what good is it if you can’t share it. In fact I like to share it.

So what question? You know – you probably get it too. It’s the one that goes like this: “What camera should I buy?” Except this time it came with a slight twist. Said friend already has a nice DSLR – the Canon 20D. The cam is misbehaving and was sent in for service. Cost of the service is gonna run $200-$300. So what to do? Suck it up – fix the 20D – and keep shooting on a camera that was released in 2004? Or layout $800-$1200 for a new Canon T1i or 50D?

And unbelivably I’ve been dwelling on this all day (perhaps not so unbelievably). My first response was just to tell her to keep the 20D. It was and IS an outstanding camera and for less then $300 you’re back up shooting and you’ll continue to make excellent images with it.

But then I thought well the 50D has a few advantages over the 20D. 15MP vs. 8MP. Superior ISO and noise handling. Higher frame rate. Bigger and better LCD. Spot Meter built-in. DIGIC IV processor vs. DIGIC II.

To some people [insert subconscious reference to gearheads here] that’s good stuff – really good stuff. But to some people it’s meaningless and won’t make their images any better. They may take ’em a little faster, see them on the back of the camera a little clearer, and print them a little bigger, but the images will be just as good.

So in the end I stuck with the initial advice. Keep the 20D. It’s been working for her for awhile now and it’s a completely capable camera.

Keep the 20D – unless you want the 50D. (Darn – almost made it out of this entry unscathed)

Keep the older camera unless your photography and wallet can benefit from having those things (okay – your wallet probably won’t benefit). If it can really help you make better images – then upgrade. I spent years shooting with a camera that came out the same year as the Canon 20D – Nikon’s D70. A good number of images that appear on this blog were shot with that little 6MP over-achiever. I’d like to believe that there were numerous good images made with it but in the end I upgraded to a D300. But I had both business and technical reasons to do so and so I finally made the jump.

If you like to hide under rocks or you don’t read more then 30 or 40 photo blogs, you may not be aware that Canon just introduced a new camera – the 7D – yesterday. That camera will compete directly with the new Nikon D300s. At all levels of the product range – be it Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, or whomever – there are good cameras out there. And the manufacturers tend to update each step in the product range every 18-24 months. So there will ALWAYS be a new camera over the horizon too.

And so what? You can probably make great images with the camera you already have – because in the end it’s almost always the photographer and not the camera. And as Chase Jarvis says (and I paraphrase slightly), “The best camera is the one you [already] have with you.” So screw the new stuff until you NEED it. Just go make amazing images. And keep asking questions.

Oy vey.


  1. My problem is I borrowed a D700 a couple of times this summer …you can guess the rest. I am saving like mad to get one. I have your old camera, the D70, and I am ready for the extra ‘0’, yes sir.

    Think is, I didn’t have to ask. I knew. I think if someone has to ask, they should keep the one camera they have until they know it’s time to upgrade. Which may never come. Then I’d advice them to invest in better lenses. 🙂

  2. THAT is an excellent point – if they have to ask it isn’t time.

    You also raise another good point that I hadn’t thought of. The jump from an APS-sized sensor to full frame. It’s an important jump to make at some point but more often then not you may find yourself needing a whole slew of new lens too. I bought my D300 about a week before the D700 went on sale but I chose the D300 anyway (even after shooting the Canon 1Ds MkII for a couple years) because I owned all DX lenses and the expense would have been more severe to buy the proper 14-24, 24-70, and/or 70-200. Besides, I kinda like my DX-based 18-200…

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. What an interesting article! The young girl in the article is lucky to have such a knowledgeable friend to advise her. I’m sure she is grateful. I think that after receiving your advice, she probably went to her trusted, locally owned camera shop, to check out the T1i. The guy there told her to stick with the 20 D. He told her that the 20 D was better built and more durable than the T1i. He might have told her that it’s a superior camera, and since the 7 D just came out, she might save her pennies and buy a used one in a couple of weeks for about the same price she would pay for a T1i in their store. And it just so happens that this young girl thinks that it IS the photographer, and not the camera that takes a great image. I will tell her to book mark this site and refer to it often. She will probably learn a thing or two just by tryin’ to run with the big dogs. 🙂

  4. …clarification…she might be able to purchase a used 50 D because people will want to upgrade to the 70.

  5. Gagh…

    I know I need a new camera (and I too would 100% agree with Scott’s point that if you have to ask you probably don’t).

    My problem being a Canon guy I now have to decide to go 7D or 50D.

    Up till this week it was a 5d MK II vs 50D question and the answer was fairly easy… 50D based partly on price to features. Even though I still desired the 5D MK II.

    From the sounds of it the 7D will likely be in the $1600 range and the 50D in the $1000 range which makes the price to feature ratio oh so much more tantalizing to go with the 7D.

    Dang you Canon for making my choice that much harder (but probably more fun in the long run!)

  6. I was very tempted by the 50D, but, decided to wait for its successor…expecting a 60D. The 7D sounds great, though. And there is speculation that there will be a 60D announcement in the Spring but also speculation that the 7D *is* the replacement. I guess you just gotta buy when you’re ready and not worry about what’s next. I’m gonna wait until the 7D is actually out, and see what others think of the actual product (make sure there are no big issues), then decide what to do. I’m hoping the price will drop a little after the initial wave of orders, but, haven’t really kept track of that historically, so that may be a pipe-dream. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: