Choosing Between the Canon 5D vs. 7D vs. 60D vs. 550D / T2i Part III

I continue to get a large number of visits from people who are comparing the current line of Canon digital SLR cameras – the 5D Mk. II vs. 7D vs. 50D vs. 550D / T2i. I go into detail about comparing the features of these cameras in this post, including the 60D and T3i, so that is probably the post you want to read first. However, it is a long, in-depth post. If you would like to read a summary of how to make this decision and find out which camera is right for you, here it is (however, I still encourage you to read that in-depth post which is a bit more educational than this post).

Before I start I want to mention:

I have written eBook tutorials for the Canon 60D and for the Canon T2i, which cover ALL the Menu settings and Custom Function settings, with recommended settings, plus in-depth descriptions of how and and why to use the cameras’ settings and features in everyday use – Canon 7D Experience, Your World 60D, Canon T3i Experience, and T2i Experience. Learn more about the eBooks by clicking on their titles.

Longfellow House
Longfellow House – Cambridge, MA

-New to digital SLR photography and want a really nice camera for casual home and travel use? Not really sure what all those buttons and symbols are and not really interested in knowing? Get a 550D/ T2i or a Rebel XSi.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to take really great, high quality photos, but don’t ever really plan to totally get into it? Don’t really want to spend months reading about f-stops and metering modes? Plan to use Auto or Program mode most of the time? Fall asleep 3 minutes into reading the manual? Get a 550D/ T2i or a Rebel XSi.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to learn the basics of exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO? Want to learn to take the camera off Auto or Program mode, and experiment with partial or spot metering and manually selected focus points? Eager to read and understand the often confusing explanations of the manual? Get a 550D/ T2i, or a 60D.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to learn everything noted above plus want to take pictures of fast moving action: kids at play, sports, dance? Consider a 60D because it can shoot 5.3 frames per second vs. 3.7 fps of the 550D. This doesn’t mean you can’t focus on and capture fast moving action with the 550D, but it means with the 60D you can fire off a faster rapid series of shots, and thus hope to capture the exact right moment.

-New to digital SLR photography but super ambitious and know you are going to be committed and dedicated enough to learn about exposure compensation and back-button focusing? Ready for Av mode now, and plan to really take your photography to the next level over the next year or two? Already read the manual online? Want to consider the possibility of professional photography in the future? Get a 60D or get a 7D if you are super-serious and if you can afford it.

-Experienced with digital SLR photography and have outgrown the limited speed and menu/ custom options of the entry level cameras? Annoyed with digital SLR users you see on the street whose cameras are nicer than yours but are left on Auto or P mode? Want to take it to the next level and maybe test the waters of professional photography? Get the 60D or get a 7D if you can afford it. Consider a 5D Mk II if you are really, really serious.

-Experienced with digital SLR photography and plan to be a top notch amateur/ semi-pro or work towards being a pro? Carry your camera everywhere and want a sturdy tool that serves you and the way you work? Already have been paid to shoot some photos, portraits, or events? Have stopped trying to read the model number of other people’s cameras because you know your photos are better than theirs even if they have a nicer camera? Get a 7D, or a 5D Mk II if you can afford it, or wait for the 5D Mk III.

-Highly experienced with digital SLR photography and are dedicating yourself to being a part-time or full time pro? Already know and understand 99.6% of what you read in this other post? Just looking for reassurance that spending $2,500 is the right decision? Get a 5D Mk II, wait for the 5D Mk III, or get a 7D if you really can’t afford the 5D yet.

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall – Cambridge, MA

You may have been convinced by forums, reviews, or online comments to question and compare image quality, auto-focus speed, high ISO performance and noise, dynamic range, etc., but those factors are all nearly completely irrelevant. All of these cameras have more than enough quality in each of those areas. Your choice should instead be based on your experience level and expected needs as a photographer, and on which camera best serves the way you work. Remember, you don’t need a top of the line camera to take professional quality photos. Instead you need mastery of the camera you have, combined with good knowledge of composition and lighting. I encourage you to have a look at some Flickr users’ photos taken with an “old,” 8MP Rebel XT to confirm this. When you are done selecting a digital SLR body, you canread some of my other posts to learn more about the Best Lenses for Travel Photography or Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens.

Canon 5D vs. 550D / T2i – I get an unusually high number of hits from people searching for a comparison of the 5D Mk II vs. 550D / T2i. As you can see above, there isn’t a scenario where those two cameras are together as options, as they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It is a strange comparison between an entry level dSLR and a full frame professional dSLR that, quite frankly, confuses me. If the 5D fits your expanding needs as a photographer, you would already pretty much know that you needed a 5D after your extensive time using a Rebel or a 20D, 40D, etc. Otherwise, getting a 5D means most likely you’d be investing in far more camera than you will actually need or use. Read more about why I say that here and in the Other Important Custom Functions section here (this post is about the 7D, but it will give you a feel for how a 5D / 7D differs from a 550D in terms of features that you may need but probably don’t).

AF Microadjustment 550D / T2i, 60D – A lot of people also search for AF Micro-adjustment or focus calibration for the Canon 550D / T2i for back focus or front focus issues. Due to quality control issues, acceptable tolerances, or more rarely but not unheard of bad cameras, your camera and/or lens may focus a few notches in front of or behind the subject you focused on. If your camera happens to be 2 notches on the plus side and your lens 2 notches on the minus side, well, you are going to have some issues. While the AF Microadjustment feature is not built into the menus of the Canon 550D or new Canon 60D, here is how you micro adjust for front or back focus: send the camera and/ or lens to Canon while it is under warranty, with instructions to calibrate them. You have to pay for one way shipping and insurance (+/- $30 for one item depending on weight and coverage). Ask them to include a detailed report of what the issue was and what service they actually performed (otherwise they just repeat what you wrote and say “lens was front focusing – electrical adjustment of AF mechanism” and you don’t know if it was the camera, the lens, or your mind that was off). Then send a letter to Canon asking them why a brand new expensive Canon camera paired with a brand new expensive Canon lens that you just bought does not focus properly, and why you have to pay $30 to send it immediately back to them to fix it. This process also applies to the AF Microadjustment of the 7D, 5D, and 50D and soon the 60D. It is best to first determine if the camera or the lens is the culprit, by testing the lens on another body or the body with another lens, but it may well be a combination of both since each lens and camera is uniquely faulty. See this great post, “This Lens is Soft and Other Myths” on LensRentals.com for more info on this.

If you are pretty new to digital SLR photography and you decided on the 7D, check out this really great book I recently came across while browsing the photo section at a bookstore: Canon 7D: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole Young. I think you’ll learn more from it than most other how-to photo books and expanded manual type books. Even if you have another Canon and not a 7D, you’ll still find it helpful for learning how to really use a digital SLR to take better photos. She is currently working on a version of the book for the 60D, Canon 60D: From Snapshots to Great Shots.
canon 60D great shots

And I, myself, have written eBook user guides for the Canon 7D, Canon 60D and for the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D. You can learn all about them here:  Canon 7D Experience, Your World 60D, plus the mini-guide to the 60D Menus and Custom Functions (excerpted from the full version of Your World 60D), and T2i Experience.

Need a lens to go with your new camera? Read about choosing a lens other than the kit lens in this post Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens, and learn about the Best Lenses for Travel Photography here.

Please leave a comment, ask a question. Let me know what has been helpful, and what you’d like to read more about.

If you plan to purchase any of this equipment or books, I encourage you to do so through the site I’ve set up with Amazon, Doug’s Picturing Change Digital Photography Equipment and Books or through this direct link to Amazon.com. Purchasing through any of these links to Amazon.com, or the ones below, will help support my blog and my work. Thanks! And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. If you are in another country, click on one of my Amazon links, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon.
See the T2i on Amazon.
See the 60D on Amazon.
See the 7D on Amazon.
See the Canon 5D MkII on Amazon.

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10 comments

  1. I want a 7D. Actually, my husband got me one last Christmas but I decided that it was too much camera [and my jaw hit the floor when I learned how much it cost] so I returned it (the store was incredibly understanding and I didn’t have to pay the restocking fee).
    I’m still rockin’ out on my Rebel XT. But it’s starting to wear out – I think it needs to visit the camera doctor for a check up. Part of me wishes I hung on to the 7D but I think I made the right decision at the time. I don’t shoot professionally but the Rebel is really starting to limit me. Boo for things costing too much money.

    1. Yes, I can understand the cost issue. And the Rebel XT is still a good and capable camera. The cost of the 7D has gone down a little, and will hopefully continue to go down. Or maybe the 50D replacement that is expected soon will perfectly fit your needs and budget!

    2. You have got to be kidding me? As if you would take back a gift to the shop. That is so ungrateful and ahh Hello?! 7D! For Free!

    3. Canon t2i, also called 550D, takes excellent photos and 1080P HD video. Highly recommended.
      Pros:

      18MP CMOS sensor
      1080P 30fps HD video HDMI ouput
      Compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses
      3.7 fps photo shooting speed

      However, It is lens that really matters. Here are some recommendations:

      If you want good lens for everyday usage, with budget under $500, consider these lenses:

      Canon 18-55mm IS lens
      Canon 55-250mm IS lens
      Canon 50mm F1.8 II lens

      If you are between amateur and semi-pro, with budget above $1000, consider these lenses:

      Canon 17-40mm F4 L lens
      Canon 70-200mm F4 L lens
      Canon 50mm F1.4 lens

      If you are semi-pro, with budget above $3000, consider these lenses:

      Canon 16-35mm F2.8 L lens
      Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L lens
      Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro len

      If you are a pro, with budget above $5000, you probably will get the Canon 5D Mark II 21MP, so consider these lenses:

      Canon 24-70mm F2.8 L lens
      Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS L lens
      Canon 24mm F1.4 L lens
      Canon 50mm F1.2 L lens
      Canon 100mm F2.8 IS Macro L lens
      Canon 200mm F2 IS L lens
      Canon 400mm F5.6 L lens

    4. In regards to 5D MkII and 550D, the reason why I’m looking for a comparison is how much better the 550D is in high ISO scenarios, like night- or astrophotography, in terms of noise and such.

      Personally, I like playing with DOF, and a full frame camera’s obviously better suited for this. The 550D is suited well enough for me, theoretically. I almost always operate in manual mode, mostly using manual focus, too. DOF alone however isn’t a reason to go full frame, if the same time my tiny EOS performs as well or better during night. It’s already sad enough that the newer triple digit EOSes have better autofocus and metering than the 5D MkII.

    5. Actually, I meant to write how much better the 5D is in high ISO. Fives all over the place.

    6. I am planning to take basic photography course.
      Could you help me to choose between 60d or 600d ($200 the price difference) lens choice EFS 15-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 is usm. this would be my first dslr camera. I use use compact camera before and mostly shoot family occasion and travel.
      should I get the 600d and understand basic photography or jump right away to 60d.
      other recommendations are welcomed.

      1. Thanks for reading! I’m not sure what I can add to the post to help you decide… Oh, be sure to see this post too for an updated comparison that includes the 600D:
        http://blog.dojoklo.com/2011/02/20/canon-t3i-600d-vs-t2i-550d-vs-60d-vs-7d-etc/

        I guess you have to determine what your level of dedication and learning is going to be once you get started in dSLR photography. If you think you will get into it, then the 60D will be the better choice because you might eventually “outgrow” the limitations of the 600D. But that is relative, because the 600D doesn’t have too many limitations compared to the 60D other than the 60D having more controls on the body and some more menu items and Custom Functions for customizing the camera to your needs, as well as the improved autofocus system (but that is a difference you would not necessarily notice until you gain more experience and do some intense shooting). The image quality of either will be the same, both excellent.

      2. Thanks for the fast reply. I will get 600d and save the $ to take the course because I think the man behind the camera is the most important.

        1. If you are buying online, please consider using my affiliate links to Amazon, B and H, or Adorama to make your purchase! (They can be found in the blog post or on the left of the page.) Thanks!

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