Rebel

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Canon T5i / 700D Experience, my latest Full Stop dSLR e-book and the first (and best!) available user’s guide to the T5i / 700D, goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the advanced and versatile Rebel T5i / 700D, plus most importantly how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, and controls in your photography.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon T5i / 700D Experience will help you learn to use your Canon T5i / 700D quickly and competently, to consistently make the types of images you desire. The e-book is available in PDF and EPUB formats for reading on your computer, e-reader, or tablet.

Learn more about it, preview it, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T5i_Experience.htm

As one Canon user has said about Doug’s previous Canon guide:

“The author skillfully unlocks all of the camera’s features and power, while offering clear guidance about how to use them to achieve the camera’s full potential. This is not just an explanation of each feature, but a road-map for their best use…in combination with good photographic technique.”

Canon T5i 700D Rebel EOS manual book dummies user guide how to setting tips tricks quick start

For beginner, intermediate and enthusiast photographers:  This Canon T5i / 700D guide is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Auto+ and Program modes and shoot in Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) modes. To get you set up, it begins with explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings, Custom Function options, and Movie Mode Menu settings of the T5i / 700D.  It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and making use of the built-in flash or an external Speedlite.

Canon T5i / 700D Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you up and running with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your T5i: Explanations of all the Menu options and Custom Function settings including Movie Mode menus, with descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use.
  • Camera Controls: Description of all of the camera’s controls plus when and how to use them, including how to take advantage of the Touch Screen and Quick Control settings screens.
  • Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) Modes: How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.  Plus using the multi-shot exposure modes.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes: How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects, for both viewfinder shooting and Live View.
  • Exposure Metering Modes: How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance: Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • The Image Taking Process: Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take still and action photos.
  • Introduction to Video Settings: Explanation of the settings and options to get you started shooting movies.
  • Flash: Using the built-in flash, external Speedlites, and wireless flash.
  • Lenses: Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Composition: Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • Photography Accessories: The most useful accessories for the T5i and for dSLR photography.

This illustrated digital guide to the Canon T5i / 700D goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the T5i / 700D to help you get the most from your camera.

Take control of your Rebel T5i / EOS 700D, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

Canon T5i 700D rebel EOS book guide manual dummies how to tips tricks tutorial
Example images from Canon T5i / 700D Experience

Learn more about Canon T5i / 700D Experience e book manual for the Rebel T5i / EOS 700D on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T5i_Experience.htm

Canon T4i / 650D Experience, my most recent Full Stop dSLR e-book and the first available user’s guide to the T4i / 650D, goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the advanced and versatile T4i / 650D, plus most importantly how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, and controls in your photography.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon T4i / 650D Experience will help you learn to use your Canon T4i / 650D quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. The e-book is available in PDF format for reading on your computer, e-reader, or tablet.

Learn more about it, preview it, and purchase it here:
http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T4i_Experience.htm

As one reader has said about the previous Canon T3i Experience e-book:A Must-Have Accessory – What a great addition to my bag. This is a well written, full body of work that explains, in plain English, how to get the most out of my new camera.  Doug provides the knowledge and experience to bring you to the next level.  I look forward to learning more every time I open the book.”

Take control of your Rebel T4i / EOS 650D, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

Canon Rebel T4i 650D book ebook manual guide tutorial instruction bible how to dummies field EOS

For beginner, intermediate and enthusiast photographers:  This Canon T4i / 650D e-book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Auto+ and Program modes and shoot in Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) modes. To get your camera set up, it begins with explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings, Custom Function options, and Movie Mode Menu settings of the T4i / 650D.  It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and making use of the camera’s new multi-shot exposure modes.

Canon T4i / 650D Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you up and running with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your Camera – All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings for the T4i / 650D, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of this dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Camera Controls – Description of all of the camera’s controls, plus when and why to use them, including how to take advantage of the new Touch Screen and Quick Control settings screens.
  • Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon T4i / 650D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take still and action photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to this camera, plus recommended photography books.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started.

This digital guide to the Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D is a 165 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the T4i / 650D to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Canon T4i / 650D Experience e book manual for the Rebel T4i / EOS 650D on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T4i_Experience.htm

 

Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D

I first introduced and discussed the new Canon Rebel T4i in this recent post, Introduction the the Canon Rebel T4i.  I encourage you to read that first to learn about all the features of the T4i. Then you may be wondering about how to choose between the T4i vs. the Canon EOS 60D, so I go into more detail about that here:

The predecessor to the T4i, the T3i, shared several important features with the 60D including the same 18 MP image sensor and the 63 zone exposure metering mode, both allowing you to get great, high-quality, well exposed images even in challenging lighting situations.  However, the T3i lacked a couple critical features that dedicated enthusiast photographers might eventually find that they would need, even if they weren’t ready or knowledgeable enough to use them right away.  They might have found that the less accurate autofocus system was eventually not up to their needs and that the slower continuous shooting speed limited the moments they could capture.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D unbox unboxing compare vs T3i 60D choose decide

As I discussed above, the new Canon Rebel T4i / 600D demonstrates a significant leap in the “trickle-down” trend by borrowing several additional important features from the 60D, including the more accurate all-cross-type 9 point autofocus system and 5 frames per second, faster continuous shooting speed.  The fact that both of these cameras, the T4i and 60D, now share numerous key features, it is obviously a challenge to decide between them.

There are still a few features, however, that may help you decide one way or the other. The T4i has added continuous autofocusing while shooting video and a couple new Movie autofocus modes to best make use of this.  If you intend to shoot lots of video with your camera, this could be an important deciding factor. The T4i also adds a Touch Screen, allowing you to change settings, navigate menus, and browse through images with iPhone-like multi-touch gestures.  This isn’t a vital feature for taking better images, but it may be a convenience issue that makes a difference.

But the 60D still holds some important advantages for those who intend to be serious and dedicated to their photography, and who wish to use their camera as a versatile tool to fit with how they shoot. The 60D still offers a bigger and brighter viewfinder, additional external buttons and controls which makes changing camera settings on the fly much quicker and easier.  For example it has the metering mode, autofocus mode, etc. buttons right on top for easy access, plus the large Quick Control Dial on the rear of the camera to quickly change exposure compensation or to help with changing settings and rapidly moving through menus, and the all-important AF-ON button allowing more control over autofocus operation.

The 60D also has a slightly more rugged build than the T4i and some amount of weatherproofing seals, where the T4i basically has none.  Even more importantly, the 60D boasts additional Custom Function options, which will allow you to customize the camera and its functions to operate  exactly how you want them to: Safety Shift, Bracketing Sequence, ISO increments at 1/2 or 1/3 rather than full stops, dial direction reversal.  While some of these options may not seem important to the casual user, the heavy-duty user will find them indispensable in increasing their efficiency and deceasing their aggravation. And due to some of the additional features/ controls and stronger build, the body of the 60D is larger, feels sturdier, and is better balanced with the larger heavier lenses that a more dedicated photographer will likely be using sooner or later.

Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D:

(After learning about the features of the new T4i here, see this other post for a comparison of the Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D)

Each year as Canon updates its high end Rebel (or xxxD) model, they borrow additional features from their more advanced (and more expensive) dSLR cameras, resulting in higher and higher quality consumer models that incorporate previous “pro” and “pro-sumer” features. The T2i then T3i added the improved 63 zone exposure metering system, 18 megapixel sensor, wireless controlled external flash, and full HD video of the pro-sumer models, plus threw in some additional menu items, custom function options, and in-camera processing features that were lacking in previous Rebels.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D features compare
The Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D (image by the author)

Trickle-Down Features: The new Canon Rebel T4i / 650D demonstrates a significant leap in this “trickle-down” trend by taking the all-cross-type 9 point autofocus system and faster continuous shooting speed from the 60D and introducing these to the Rebel line. Although these previous omissions were seemingly necessary to differentiate the Rebels from the mid-level 50D/ 60D line, they resulted in two of the few but important “shortcomings” of the Rebels: they always had a less precise autofocus system with only one cross-type AF point (the center one), and a slower frames-per-second maximum continuous shooting speed. (Learn more about why cross-type points are so great just below.) Now with these improved features, the differences between the T4i and the mid-level 60D have been significantly reduced. (The 60D still offers additional external buttons and controls, slightly more rugged build and weatherproofing, and additional Custom Function options.)

All New LCD and Movie Focus: In addition, the T4i adds a first for a Canon dSLR: a touch-screen LCD that can be used for settings selection, image review, menu navigation, and even autofocusing or shutter release in Live View. Plus it offers a totally revamped hybrid autofocus system for Live View and Movie shooting that makes use of phase detection and contrast detect, allowing for another Canon dSLR first: continuous autofocus during Live View and Movie shooting. The phase detection aspect of the new AF system allows the camera to determine both the out-of-focus distance and the direction in which to correct, finally eliminating the slow and awkward focus hunting of previous models. Add one of the new “step motor” STM lenses such as the 18-135mm kit lens or the 40mm “pancake” and the lens will now silently focus during movie shooting, thus eliminating the autofocus motor noise previously picked up by the camera’s microphone. (Did I mention the built-in mic is now a stereo mic! And there is a stereo mic input jack.) Plus the image stabilization of the 18-135mm EF-S IS STM lens is designed to counteract camera shake caused by walking while shooting video.

Canon T4i EOS 650D Rebel T3i autofocus viewfinder 9 point cross type
Simulated view of the Canon T3i/ T4i viewfinder with 9 autofocus (AF) points. (Image by author)

All Cross-Type AF Points:  Cross-type autofocus points are more accurate and more desired because they can grab focus on a wider range of subjects. If your non-cross-type point is oriented only in the vertical direction, and you aim it at a subject displaying a strong line also also in the vertical direction (such as the side of a door frame) it will not be able to detect the line or a change in contrast, and will not be able to focus. Aim it at the strong horizontal line of the top of the door, and it will lock right on. (learn more about autofocus concepts here.)

So the fact that the T4i uses cross-type AF sensors for all 9 AF points means that the autofocus system is significantly more accurate, and you can confidently use not just the center AF point but all the outer points as well to focus on or track a subject. Not to mention that the center AF point is now also an even more accurate diagonal cross-type sensor when using an f/2.8 lens.

Faster Frame Rate: The T4i now boasts a more rapid 5 frames per second maximum continuous shooting speed, and incorporates the speedy Digic 5 processor, narrowing another major difference with the mid-level 60D. These features will allow you to capture quicker shots in a burst thus giving you the greater possibility of capturing just the right moment of action or the best facial expression or pose.

As mentioned, the Canon T4i also finally brings us great quality touch-sensitive (not old-fashioned pressure-sensitive) touch-screen capabilities on a Canon dSLR (with smear-resistance!). You can select and change your settings on the Quick Control Screen (Q Screen) simply by touching your choice, or use it to tell the camera where to focus during Live View shooting. It can also be used to navigate the menus, and during image playback you can easily swipe and zoom with iPhone-like multi-touch motions and response. Early reports indicate that the screen responds incredibly well, and the graphic layout of icons and options make it easy to use. This 1 million pixel LCD screen is fully articulating, as with the T3i and 60D.

New Live View/ Movie AF Modes: So in addition to the upgraded AF system during stills shooting, Canon has modified the Live View and Movie Shooting autofocus system, which now offers Face Detection+Tracking, FlexiZone-Multi, and FlexiZone-Single AF modes rather than the previous Quick, Live, and Face AF Modes. Quick Mode AF is still also available for Live View shooting. (With Quick Mode you use the 9 auto focus points, similar to the viewfinder AF Points, as displayed on the LCD Monitor. But since the camera is using the autofocus sensor to focus, it momentarily interrupts the Live View on the LCD Monitor when it flips the mirror back down to access the AF sensor.)

All of these features contribute to the T4i / 650D being quite an amazing consumer level camera. In most ways it is a higher-quality, more capable camera that the pro-sumer 50D of just a few years ago, and it will definitely fulfill the needs and expectations of most any enthusiast shooter. The only reasons one would need to step up to the 60D would be if you need more direct access to controls, buttons, and settings on the body of the camera in order to change and adjust settings on the fly, if you needed a slightly more rugged and dust/water-proof body, and wanted greater ability to customize the controls and functions of the camera with its additional Custom Functions.

Borrowing from the 5D MkIII:  The specs also note that due to the faster Digic 5 processor, the T4i has Lens Aberration Correction and Chromatic Aberration Correction features as first seen on the 5D3, as well as a new Ambient Light Correction.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D mode dial
Note the additional Mode Dial options and Power Switch change (Movie Shooting Mode) to the Canon T4i (image courtesy of Canon USA)

Some Extras: And in addition to the standard Creative Zone shooting modes (Av, Tv, P, M) and the Basic Zone modes (Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night Portrait) the T4i eliminates the Automatic Depth of Field mode on the dial and adds Night shooting without a tripod and HDR backlight compensation. Movie Shooting mode is removed from the Shooting Mode dial and is added to the On-Off switch. The T4i includes the Auto+ Shooting Mode (Scene Intelligent Auto) introduced on the T3i and even used on the 5D Mark III, where the camera analyzes the specific scene in order to automatically determine the best and most appropriate exposure, white balance, Picture Style, focus, and other settings.

The T4i shares the same battery (the LP-E8) and the same battery grip (the BG-E8) as the T3i and T2i. The fun filter (Creative Filters) effects introduced in the previous models (including Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Fish-eye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Miniature Effect) are all still available, plus a couple new ones such as Water Painting and Art Bold.

Order your T4i from Amazon or B and H Photo today:

(If you plan to purchase the T4i, or any photo equipment or books etc., I encourage you to do so through these referral links. While your price will be the same, they will give me a little something for the referral, which helps to support my blog and my work – thanks!  I appreciate your support!)

Canon T4i from Amazon – body only, 18-55mm kit, or new 18-135mm STM kit

Canon T4i from B&H Photo – body only, 18-55mm kit, or new 18-135mm STM kit



Remember to check out this other post for a comparison of the Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D.

For a full list of Rebel T4i / EOS 650D specifications and features, have a look here:

http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/slr_cameras/eos_rebel_t4i_18_135mm_is_stm_lens_kit#Specifications

 

This article mostly applies to the 9 point autofocus system of the Canon 60D and the Rebels including the T5i / 700D and T4i / EOS 650D (and their predecessors), as well as to the new Canon 6D and its 11 AF points.  The Canon EOS 7D also shares the same Autofocus Modes discussed below, but it adds Autofocus Area Modes to the mix as well as additional Custom Functions affecting the AF system, so I will have to address those additional capabilities in the future (or you can learn all about them now in my Canon 7D Experience e-book).  I have written a separate post that addresses the AF system of the Canon 5D Mark III.

You can learn much more about using these cameras with my Full Stop e-book camera guides for Canon dSLR cameras.

Using Auto Focus
One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to auto focus by choosing its own focus point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on, so you should select where the camera focuses using the Auto Focus Points.  This does not mean you have to manually focus the camera, it means you tell the camera exactly where to autofocus.  For example, you often want to focus on a subject’s eyes, but if you allow the camera to choose the autofocus point itself, it may select another part of the face, or somewhere else on the body, or even a raised hand that is nearer to the camera than the face to focus most sharply on.  If you are capturing an image of a bird in a tree, the camera has no idea you want the autofocus system to zero-in on the bird so that it is in sharp focus and not the branches or leaves near it, or the leaves closest to you.

Autofocus works by looking for contrast, so try to focus (place your AF Point) on a detail with a strong line or strong contrast between light and dark.  It may not be able to focus on a large area of consistent color – such as a white wall or blue sky or even an evenly colored and lit shirt – or on a subject that is too dark.  It can be disrupted by regular patterns or confused when looking through close objects to objects farther away, such as looking through a fence.  And it sometimes fails to work as well in dim light, though the AF-Assist Beam can assist in this situation.  When photographing people, always try to focus somewhere on the face, ideally on the eyes or eyebrows, then recompose the framing of your image if necessary.

Select an Auto Focus Point, or AF Point, using the Multi-Controller or using the AF Point Selection Button and the Cross Keys (depending on your camera).  If you have a model with the Multi-Controller (such as the 60D with the thumb-pad or the 7D or 5DII with the thumb-joystick), be sure to set the Custom Function setting for AF Point Selection Method so that you can directly change the AF Point without pressing the AF Button first.

Canon 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point select choose set setting
Figure 1 – The selected AF Point is located over the subject’s eye in order to ensure the camera autofocuses where desired.  (Canon 60D viewfinder shown, T3i/600D viewfinder similar)

To see how autofocus point selection works, make sure the switch on your lens it set to AF and your Autofocus Mode, as seen on the top LCD Panel or rear LCD screen, is set to One Shot, then:

•    Tap the Shutter Button with a half-press to wake up the camera.
•    Looking through the viewfinder, use the Multi-Controller or Cross Keys to select the focus point that is nearest to where you want to focus.
•    Place that point over your intended subject.
•    Press and hold the Shutter Button halfway down and see that point blink red.  The Focus Confirmation Light should light up in your viewfinder.  You have locked the focus.
•    Keeping the Shutter Button pressed halfway, recompose if necessary, and take the shot by fully pressing the Shutter Button.

There are reasons to use the outer focus points and not just the center one all the time.  First, if you are taking several shots of the same subject and framing, you will not have to re-focus with the center point and recompose between each shot.  And by controlling exactly where you focus, you then have greater, more precise control over the use of dramatic depth of field.  Also, if you use the center point and recompose, you have swept the camera in an arc to recompose, and are thus always focusing at a distance behind the subject (think of an arc that is your focus distance, and the tangent line off that arc that is the focus plane which now runs behind the subject after re-composing).  This may not be as noticeable when the subject is further away, but for a close subject – especially when using shallow depth of field – the difference is critical.

It may sound difficult to select the focus point each time, but it is actually very quickly done and should become instinctive.  You may even start to set your focus point as you approach a scene before even bringing your camera to your eye.

Focus Modes
The 60D and T3i (and 5D/ 5DII and 7D) have different focus modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving, or if you wish to track its movement.

One-Shot AF
Use this mode when your subject is still and not going to move, or if your subject is not going to move very much, or if the distance between you and the subject is not going to change between the time you lock focus, recompose, and take the shot.  Lock focus on the subject and recompose if necessary.  This mode can even be used for moving people or objects if you quickly take the shot after establishing or locking focus.

Focus on your subject by pressing the Shutter Button halfway.  The active or selected AF Point will be displayed or will illuminate, and the Focus Confirmation Light at the lower right in the Viewfinder will illuminate as well.  Continue to press the Shutter Button all the way to take the shot.  If you half-press the Shutter Button to lock focus on your subject, the camera will remain focused at that distance as long as you keep half-pressing the Shutter Button.  You can recompose the shot as you wish and then full press the Shutter Button to take the photo.

As just noted, if the Focus Confirmation Light does not light up and the camera does not take the photo, the camera may not be finding enough contrast to focus on, you may be too close to your subject for the lens to focus, or the lighting may be too dim for the AF system to work properly.

However, if you are photographing a subject that is approaching or receding from view at a relatively constant rate, or photographing fast or erratic or unpredictably moving subjects, or photographing sports, action, or wildlife you will usually want to use AI Servo Focus Mode.

Canon 7D 5D mark II 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point choose select set setting
Figure 2 – Use One-Shot AF mode and select your desired AF Point to capture still or moderately moving subjects.  (Canon T3i viewfinder shown – 60D similar)

AI Servo
AI Servo mode is used for tracking and focusing on moving subjects, and is ideal for capturing sports and wildlife including birds.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance as long as the subject remains under the focus point that was originally active and the Shutter Button is kept half-pressed, and if the subject is moving from side to side or throughout the frame the camera will track it as it passes from one AF Point or Zone to the other ones (if you started tracking with the center AF point on the 60D and T3i or any selected AF point with the 7D).

If the subject is going to be moving across your field of view, set the camera to automatically select the focus point using all the AF points (this is one of the few times you will not be manually selecting the auto focus point), focus on the moving subject with the center focus point, and then as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject to the other focus points if it moves to them.  Thus when the image is taken, the subject is in focus.  This will even work in conjunction with continuous shooting.  If you keep the Shutter Button fully pressed and continue to take photos, the camera will keep focusing on the moving subject.  As you can imagine, this is ideal for tracking a player running across a field, a dog running toward you, or a bird moving across the fame.  Note that when shooting with Continuous Shooting Drive Mode not every shot may be in sharp focus as the camera sometimes can’t keep up and accurately predict the subject’s speed or location.  But you should be able to capture many sharp images with this technique.  The more sophisticated Canon 7D will allow you to start tracking moving subjects with any selected AF Point and not just the center AF Point.  These are the types of advanced capabilities you are paying for (and should take advantage of!) with a more expensive dSLR.

As you will see, when using AI Servo mode your compositions will be partially dictated by the positions of the autofocus points in your Viewfinder.  The subject needs to be at one of these AF Points in order for the camera to maintain focus on it.  This is why in some situations becoming skilled at quickly using One-Shot AF – even for action scenes – will give you much more ability to control your compositions.

AI Focus
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in One-Shot AF mode then changes to AI Servo mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, it is typically not the best of both worlds.  If you are focusing and then recomposing, as you may often be doing, your movement of the camera may fool it into thinking that the subject is moving and then activate subject tracking AI Servo Mode, and your resulting focus may not be where you intend it to be or may not be as accurate as it could have been with One-Shot AF.  And in AI Focus Mode it may not be as quick to respond to a moving subject as it would in AI Servo Mode.  Typically you know if your subject is still or moving so it is better to select one of the other two AF Modes.  Plus that way you always know which AF Mode you are working in and can either lock focus where you want it or begin tracking a subject without wondering what mode the camera is in and if it will suddenly change.  But there may be situations that call for this combination mode such as a still bird or animal that may start moving unexpectedly, so keep it in mind.

How do you remember which mode is which since the terms “AI Servo” and “AI Focus” tell you nothing that makes sense?  Although I listed them in a different order above to explain them more easily, on your camera they are listed:

ONE SHOT
AI FOCUS
AI SERVO

Remember that One-Shot AF just focuses once and doesn’t change once you lock it in, and AI Servo AF is the other extreme – continuous focus used for moving objects. And AI Focus AF is listed in the middle, between the two, because it is the hybrid, combination of the two.

Checking Focus
You can review your images on the rear LCD Monitor of your camera to try to determine if they are in focus, especially by zooming in as close as possible.  But be aware that this screen has only about one million dots or pixels, while your actual image has about 18 million pixels.  That means that many images will appear to be in proper focus on your LCD screen, but you might discover that the actual images are not really so sharply in focus.

Before continuing, I want to mention that much of this text is excerpted from my dSLR guides for the Canon EOS 6D, Canon 70D, Rebel T5i / EOS 700D, Rebel T4i / EOS 650D, and the Canon EOS 7D. If you would like to learn more about the autofocus systems as well as all the other features of your camera including metering modes, Aperture and Shutter priority modes (Av and Tv), all the menus and Custom Function settings, and more, have a look at my Full Stop e-book camera guides. In addition to explaining the features and settings, the guides clearly explain when and why to use them in order to capture the images you desire.

Take control of your camera and the images you create!

Learn more about the e-books by clicking on the banner below:

full stop dslr photo photography camera manual guide for dummies canon nikon

 

To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, and why the two example photos above actually weren’t my final compositions, see the next post:

Don’t Let the Locations of the AF Points Dictate Your Composition

What do you do when, with your desired framing, your subject is not located exactly under or near an AF point?  Even with the 19 or 39 points of an advanced Canon 7D or Nikon D7000, this will often be an issue.  For example in Figure 2 above, I actually wish to capture the entire window and more space around it within the image frame, but moving the camera and framing for that composition leaves me with no AF Point at the woman where I wish to focus.  Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Focus and Depth of Field

Many functions of dSLR cameras are related to some degree or another, and Focus and Depth of Field are two of these.  The depth of field, based on your aperture setting (and thus related to exposure…) expands forward and back from your point of focus.  Thus, one important aspect of controlling your depth of field begins with focusing exactly where you want to.  To begin learning more about depth of field, have a look at my post Depth of Field Simplified.

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The latest addition to the Nikon dSLR line-up is the versatile Nikon D5100, which replaces the D5000. It sits just above the D3100 in the Nikon consumer offerings, and a bit below the D90 and D7000 – both sturdier and more sophisticated cameras. The D5100 boasts a 16 megapixel sensor (like the D7000), and a swivel screen more like the one on the Canon T3i and 60D, attached at the left side, rather than the less convenient bottom swivel of the previous D5000. (see my post comparing several of the latest Canon dSLR cameras here, and one comparing the Nikons here.)

Nikon D5100 book manual how to instruction download vs Canon T3i
Nikon D5100 – photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

The D5100 shoots 4 frames per second, faster than the 3 fps of the D3100, and of course has 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options. The D5100 now has in-camera processing filters like those of the 60D and T3i (including miniature, high or low key, and selective color in the Nikon). And it has the 11 point AF system, with one cross type sensor, like the D3100.

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

First, a Comparison of the Nikon D5100 vs. the Canon Rebel T3i specs, to see how they stack up “on paper”:

Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D

  • 18 megapixels
  • Articulating rear LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options
  • 9 point autofocus system with 1 cross-type sensor
  • 3.7 frames per second continuous shooting for a maximum 34 JPEG burst
  • 63 zone dual layer exposure metering system – the same as the one in the 60D and 7D
  • In-camera image processing filters plus RAW to JPEG, cropping, and other options
  • Some scene modes
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 95% viewfinder with .85 magnification
  • 1.26 lbs with battery
  • Accepts optional battery pack / vertical grip – the Canon BG-E8
  • Wireless flash control of external Speedlites with built-in flash
  • Compatible with and autofocuses with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses
  • Depth of Field preview button
  • Full manual video exposure control
  • Exposure Simulation of approximate image exposure and histogram in all Live View shooting modes

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

Nikon D5100

  • 16 megapixels
  • Articulating rear LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options
  • 11 point autofocus system with 1 cross-type sensor
  • 4 frames per second continuous shooting for a maximum 100 JPEG burst
  • 420 pixel RGB metering sensor like the one in the D3100, not the 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor found in the D7000.
  • In-camera image processing filters
  • A lot of scene modes
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 95% viewfinder with .78 magnification
  • 1.2 lbs with battery
  • Does not offer an official Nikon optional battery pack-vertical grip (3rd party grip now available)
  • No wireless flash control of external Speedlights with the built-in flash
  • No autofocus motor in body, and will not autofocus with non-AF-S lenses, such as the 50mm f/1.8
  • No Depth of Field preview button
  • Also an auto HDR feature where the camera combines 2 images to create an image with extended tonal range.
  • NO full manual video exposure control
  • Exposure Simulation of approximate exposure in P, A, S Live View shooting modes.  NO Exposure Simulation in M mode.  NO histogram in any Live View mode.

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

As you can see, both cameras are incredibly similar as far as specifications, and it looks as if the price may even be nearly the same.  The wireless flash capability, better exposure metering system, and ability to autofocus with all compatible lenses are all definite advantages for the Canon T3i.  But the D5100 offers in-camera Auto Distortion Correction (such as when using a wide-angle lens) and a faster rate and higher number of continuous shots in a single burst.  (But with any camera, consider if you ever really need to take a 100 shot burst, much less a 34 shot burst.  If you shoot like that, you should probably be looking at a Canon 7D or Nikon D7000!)  Another deciding factor may be which camera feels more comfortable in your hands as you are using it and accessing the typical buttons and controls (not simply holding it and and checking its weight and general “feel”), which controls and menus seem better placed and easier to navigate for you (though either are equally easy to learn and to become used to using), and which system you want to invest in for the long term (lenses, flashes, etc.).  The Canon T3i is a slightly larger camera, plus allows for the optional battery grip.  The D5100 is not compatible with an optional Nikon vertical grip (edit:  a 3rd party has now made an optional battery grip for the D5100).  A look at the image quality here seems to show that the Canon’s JPEG images straight out of the camera are sharper, have more clarity, and more color “punch,” but these types of settings are widely adjustable with the Picture Settings or Picture Controls.

Also, while the specs look similar on paper, there are numerous small differences that are encountered in actual use, which begin to add up and become significant if they affect the features and controls you will be using.  For example, one important one is how the settings are changed using the “i” or “Q” buttons and the rear LCD screen. If you change your settings often, you will see on the D5100 Information Display Screen how you have to navigate down the line through each setting to get to the one you want then enter a second menu to change it.  On the T3i Quick Control screen, you can jump quickly to the setting you want then simply turn the Main Dial to quickly change it without opening up a second menu.  So that is a speed and convenience issue that would be noticeable if you are one to change your settings often, on the fly.  And while the rear LCD screens appear nearly similar, the 3:2 aspect ration of the screen on the T3i matches its sensor ratio, so images viewed during playback are seen larger on the Canon screen than on the Nikon Screen, possibly allowing you to inspect the focus and details slightly better.

There are other small but potentially important differences between the two cameras that are worth considering if you have specific needs (especially full manual control of exposure in video mode – see below).  For example, while in Live View, both cameras have Exposure Simulation so that as you change your exposure or exposure compensation settings, you will see the approximate resulting exposure on the image on your rear LCD screen.  However, with the D5100, Exposure Simulation does not function while in Manual M shooting mode.  This could be a deal-breaker if you use and need that feature.  Using the T3i in Live View you can optionally view the histogram to help determine proper exposure, however the histogram is not available on the D5100 when using Live View in any shooting mode.

Also, do you make use of Spot Metering mode?  You may prefer the viewfinder of the T3i, as it indicates the Spot Metering area with a circle, while the D5100 does not.  But, there is a very good reason the D5100 doesn’t have the center spot, and that is because in the Nikon, Spot Metering is linked to the selected AF point, and so not necessarily to the center AF point and center of the frame.  This is obviously a very useful feature and maybe you’d prefer that your camera’s Spot Metering works that way.


Canon Rebel T3i viewfinder with 9 autofocus points and Spot Metering area indicated in center


Nikon D5100 viewfinder with 11 autofocus points but Spot Metering area not visually indicated because it is linked to the active AF point

As mentioned, it is not possible to see actual exposure simulation with the Nikon D5100 in Live View while in Manual M shooting mode. However, in the P, A, or S shooting modes, the live view image will lighten or darken to simulate the exposure settings or the exp. compensation that you set. And to add insult to injury, there is no exposure meter displayed on the Live View screen, so to check your exposure you will need to temporarily leave Live View and switch to the control panel view by pressing the [i] Button.  The Canon 60D and Canon Rebel T3i both have Exposure Simulation in all modes during Live View. On the 60D you can turn this feature off and on. On the T3i it is on automatically while in Live View.

Manual Control of Exposure in Video Mode: It was quickly discovered by D5100 users that the camera does not offer full manual control of exposure in video mode.  The T3i offers this ability.  This is pretty important if you are serious about shooting video.  However, there is a “work-around” for this deficiency.  To manually set your shutter speed, you must set the camera on Shutter-Priority Auto Mode (S) and set your desired shutter speed before going into Live View mode, use exposure compensation to obtain the aperture setting you want, and use the AE-L/AF-L Button to lock that exposure (set Custom Setting f2 for AE-Lock Hold).  If you wish to first set the aperture setting, you must set the camera on Aperture-Priority Auto Mode (A) and set your desired aperture before going into Live View mode, use exposure compensation to obtain the shutter speed setting you want, and use the AE-L/AF-L Button to lock that exposure (set Custom Setting f2 for AE-Lock Hold).

The Canon T3i comes with a much more comprehensive and user friendly user’s manual than the small brochure size user’s manual of the Nikon D5100, although the more detailed D5100 Reference Manual is available as a file on the included Reference CD.

To gain further understanding of what the specs, features, controls, and functions of these cameras mean in relation to real life shooting and camera use, have a look at the articles that compare the various current Canon dSLR models and Nikon dSLR models.

If you decide on the Canon T3i, please be sure to check out my ebook, Canon T3i Experience, and if you choose the Nikon D5100, have a look at my ebook Nikon D5100 Experience.  Each of these guides will help you to take control of your camera in order to consistently capture better images!

See and purchase the Canon T3i with 18-55mm lens on Amazon

See and purchase the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm lens on Amazon

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I have updated this post for the Canon Rebel T5i / EOS 700D and the Rebel T4i / EOS 650D, which you can now view on this blog here:

Top Ten Accessories for the Canon T5i / EOS 700D

All of the accessories still apply to the T3i and the T2i (EOS 600D, 550D).

 

Since several of the current Canon dSLR cameras – such as the T4i/650D (and T3i/600D), 60D, and 7D – share similar features and an 18 megapixel sensor, it can make it difficult and confusing to decide which one is best for you.  But each one is designed for different levels of photographers with specific needs, and there are significant differences that may or may not be important to how and what you photograph.

Obviously as you pay more, you get more, and this article will explain what that “more” is and help you decide if you need it.  If you are new to dSLR cameras, know that things like 9 cross-type AF points and dual Digic IV processors aren’t feature-bloated “bells and whistles” or marketing hype, but are important features for how advanced photographers work and they provide the capabilities that some demand from their equipment.  If your needs don’t demand them, don’t be swayed to invest more in a camera that provides far more than you require.  It won’t help you take better photos, and in fact may cause you to take worse photos until you figure out how to properly take control of a more advanced camera!

This comparison post has grown organically as new models have been released, so please be sure to look through the entire post to find the section that best applies to you, such as T2i vs T3i, or 60D vs 50D, the Canon 5D Mk II, or the overall Canon EOS 7D vs. 60D vs. 600D / Rebel T3i comparison which is the main point of this post.  Don’t miss the Which Canon dSLR is Right for You summary at the end of this article!

Rather than add the T4i into this post, I have written a new post to introduce and explain the features of the latest Rebel, the T4i – Introduction to the Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D. The additional features of the T4i make the decision between the T4i vs. 60D more challenging than ever, and so I wrote more about that in Canon Rebel T4i vs EOS 60D.

I know there is a lot to read, but you are preparing to spend a lot of money, and this post will thoroughly explain the differences of these cameras and help you decide which one if right for you! Even if some of these models become outdated, the majority of the information and comparison factors remain similar, and it is still worthwhile to read this article before heading over to the T4i articles.

If you haven’t yet committed to Canon and are interested in comparing the Canon 60D vs. Nikon D7000 , or the Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100, or the entire Nikon line-up, have a look at those posts next.

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction
The new Canon Rebel T3i / 600D (all photos by the author, some equipment courtesy of Newtonville Camera)

Review / Comparison of Canon EOS 7D vs. 60D vs. 600D / Rebel T3i:

Sensor and Image Quality: As I said above, all three cameras share a very similar sensor with 18 megapixels, and so their image quality and low light performance will be virtually the same. All are capable of taking professional quality images.

Exposure Metering: The threecameras all share the latest 63-zone, dual-layer exposure metering system and 4 metering modes. That means they will all determine the exposure virtually identically and enable you to take properly exposed photos in most every situation, including difficult back-lit scenes. The size of the areas metered for Partial and Spot metering vary slightly between the cameras, but that isn’t anything critical.

Autofocus: The 60D shares a similar autofocus system to the T3i and the previous 50D, with 9 focus points and three auto focusing modes. However the 9 AF points of the 60D are more sensitive/ accurate than those of the T3i: all are cross-type in the 60D, only the center is cross-type in the T3i. This means that the outer focus points of the 60D will do a better job, in difficult focusing situations, of quickly and accurately focusing on the subject.  This may include, for example, lower light situations or tracking moving subjects.  The T3i does a stellar job of focusing, but if you are highly demanding or are going to be primarily shooting action and motion, this is an important difference to consider.

The 60D autofocus system in turn is much less complex than the sophisticated AF system of the 7D with its 19 AF point system and its additional Zone, Spot, and Expansion area modes.  If you shoot serious sports, action, birds, wildlife, etc., then you are going to want to consider the highly capable autofocus system of the 7D.  With its additional AF points and the ability to group them in various ways (Autofocus Area Modes), as well as the multiple Custom Functions that allow you to customize exactly how the AF system works, it is ideal for sports and action.  These Custom Functions can dictate how it tracks subjects, how it deals with objects that come between you and your initial subject, how quickly it responds to these changes of possible subjects that are at different distances from you, etc.   The entire AF system of the 7D is a bit complex, and will take some studying and experimentation if you wish to fully understand and take advantage of it.  However, if you are not an avid sports photographer, a wildlife shooter, or someone who understands, needs, and will use the elaborate features of the 7D AF system, then this shouldn’t dissuade you from the 60D.

I have written an additional post about Taking Control of Your Canon Autofocus System.

Canon EOS 7D compare 60D T3i
Detail of the Canon 7D

Construction: As you can probably figure out from the prices, each camera is not built the same. The 60D has relatively strong construction of an aluminum frame and polycarbonate body. It is better built than the stainless steel frame with polycarbonate body of the T3i/ 600D but not as strong as the 7D’s magnesium alloy construction. The 60D also has some amount of weather sealing – more than the 600D/T3i, less than the 7D. But for most users, including even those using the camera daily or in travel situations, the construction of any of these cameras is far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.  But if you are going to be working extensively in dusty or moisture-heavy areas or situations, you will want to seriously consider the extensive weather sealing of the 7D.  While the strong magnesium construction of the 7D is impressive, that is not really needed by many people other than pros who intensively use their cameras in photo-journalist or constant-travel type situations.

ISO: Since they all share a very similar sensor, the ISO sensitivity and performance at high ISO settings is virtually the same for these three cameras. But don’t take my word for it, don’t be swayed by pixel peepers on forums, instead check out the camera sensor tests at dxomark to verify this. As you can see, they all share the exact same overall score, and show very similar performance.

Controls: As with construction, the buttons and controls vary significantly with these cameras. Unlike the T3i, the more advanced 60D and 7D have nearly every control an advanced photographer needs on the exterior of the camera and they also have the top LCD panel and rear Quick Control Dial that are not on the 600D/T3i. Do you find yourself constantly changing the ISO, the metering mode, or the autofocus mode to adapt to changing situations?  Then you will want direct access to these controls and the ability to more easily monitor them on the top LCD panel.  Or do you generally work in one of the more automatic modes and not need to deal with these settings?  With all the cameras, any controls can also be easily accessed with the Q button and Q menu or in the other menus on the rear LCD monitor. The top buttons of the 60D set only one setting each, so this is less complicated (but thus less versatile) than the multiple-setting buttons of the 7D. Canon has removed the white balance (WB) button on the 60D that the 7D and 50D have, but that isn’t a big deal – use the Q Menu. Another change on the 60D is that the Multi-controller has been moved from the thumb joystick like the 7D and 50D and placed in the middle of the rear Quick-control dial. This doesn’t change how it functions, and should just be a matter of getting used to the difference. (Unfortunately, I still really do prefer the old design and location, though I find it is easier to quickly and accurately click on the diagonal directions with the new 60D Multi-controller design).  If you plan on using your camera on Auto or Program most of the time, then the controls of the T3i are more than sufficient for your needs. If you work in Av, Tv, or M modes and need quicker and more direct access to your controls and the additional top LCD screen to view and change your current settings, then you need to look at the 60D or 7D over the T3i.

Brief commercial interruption:  I want to mention that I have written e-book user’s guides for the Canon 7D, Canon 60D, Canon Rebel T3i, and Rebel T2i. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put all that knowledge into e-book form! Each of these user’s guides cover all the features, settings, and controls – but more importantly when and why to use them in your photography.  This includes metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes (Av and Tv), advanced autofocus use, and more.  They also describe all the Menu settings and Custom Function settings – with recommended settings.  Take control of your camera and the images you create!  Canon 7D Experience, Canon T3i Experience, Your World 60D and T2i Experience. Learn more about the e-books by clicking on their titles or on the covers below.

canon eos 7d book ebook firmware 2 2.0 how to manual dummies field guide instruction Canon T3i book Canon 600D book Canon T3i Experience book guide manual tutorial how to instruction by Douglas Klostermann

Canon 60D book Your World 60D by Douglas Klostermann Canon T2i book Canon 550D book T2i Experience by Douglas Klostermann

Menus and Custom Functions: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. The 60D has many more Menu and Custom Function options than the 600D/T3i and nearly as many as the 7D. These settings enable you to customize the operation, function, and controls to work how you want them to, including things like exposure increments, peripheral illuminations correction for lenses (fixes dark corners), tweaking how the autofocus system operates, setting more precise white balance settings, and customizing which button does what. These settings are very important to advanced users who wish to customize their camera to work exactly how they need it too, but aren’t nearly as critical to others who don’t have such intensive demands.  (Since many of the Menu and Custom Function settings can be complicated and confusing, my e-books on the 60D, the 7D, and on the T3i/600D cover all of these options along with my recommended settings to get you up and running quickly!)

Wireless Flash: Like the 7D, the 60D and the T3i both incorporate wireless flash triggering. It allows you to trigger multiple off camera flashes at different output levels. The  older 550D/T2i does not have this feature.

Articulating LCD Screen: The big new feature that the 60D and T3i have that the 7D and T2i do not is the articulating rear LCD screen. This may prove useful for videographers, as well as for setting up compositions while the camera is on a tripod, for macro use, or for using it from unusually low or high vantage points. Some users will be able to avoid buying an expensive angle finder because of this feature. There is also an electronic level in the 7D and 60D, visible in the viewfinder, rear LCD, or top LCD.

Viewfinder: The 60D has a large, bright pentaprism viewfinder with 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, better than the pentamirror and 95% coverage of the 600D/T3i, but not quite as nice as the nearly 100% view of the 7D pentaprism.

Processor:
The 60D shares the same Digic 4 processor as the 600D/T3i. The 7D has dual Digic 4 processors. However, if you don’t need to shoot dozens of continuous images, you probably won’t notice any processing speed issues.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The 7D can shoot a blazing 8 frames per second, in which the photos barely change from frame to frame. The 60D can shoot a respectable 5.3 fps which is actually a more useful rate, and is a higher rate than the 600D/T3i rate of 3.7 fps. If you need the extremely high fps for sports, wildlife, or other action shooting, consider the 7D. If not, don’t be swayed by this excessive feature that is designed for people like pro sports or dedicated wildlife shooters.  However, if you are shooting any type of sports, action, birds, dance, etc., the 5.3 fps of the 60D is much more useful than the slower T3i.

Canon EOS 7D compare vs 60D T3i
Detail of the Canon 7D

Memory Card: The 60D uses the SD memory card like the 600D/T3i, not the CF card of the 7D and 50D.  This doesn’t really mean too much other than the CF cards are larger and more rugged, yet prone to bending the camera’s internal connection pins.  Handle either of them with care and it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Battery: The 60D uses the LP-E6 battery like the 7D and 5D, which is a nice feature as this battery can often last through a full day of shooting. The T3i and T2i use the smaller LP-E8 battery with less capacity.  In any case you should have an extra battery or two.

Size and Weight:
The T3i is smaller and lighter (18.2 oz/515 g) than the 60D (23.8 oz/675 g), which in turn is smaller and lighter than the 7D (28.9 oz/820 g). Go to the store and hold them to get a better feel for their size and weight. HOWEVER, please know that the size and weight of these bodies is a result of their build, features, and capabilities.  Those are the criteria that should be compared first, not the resulting size and weight.  (Also be sure to read this post of Why How it “Feels” is not a valid Criterion for Choosing an dSLR.)  But, I do realize that size and weight is important to some, perhaps many, due to physical limitations or just simple comfort and enjoyment.  So take my dramatic proclamation with a grain of salt!  The 60D and 7D “feel” like the more substantial cameras that they are. A nice improvement of the T3i is that its hand grip area has been modified, and has a different feel than that of the T2i – the area where the thumb rests is contoured differently and has a nice channel for the thumb, which allows for a much more secure one-hand-grip of the camera.

AF Microadjustment: The 7D has this feature, the 60D and T3i and T2i do not. Many are disappointed that the 60D does not include the ability to micro-adjust the focus so that each of your lenses focuses extremely accurately. However, if you have a major focus issue, send your camera and/ or lenses to Canon while under warranty and ask them to calibrate them. Bad bodies and lenses are rare, but they do exist.  Doing AF microadjustment yourself is often a maddening undertaking. You may make a good calibration under controlled conditions, but this really doesn’t replicate real life shooting.  And due to manufacturing tolerances of both cameras and lenses, there is a relatively wide range of what is considered acceptable.  If you need your camera and lens to be perfectly sharp, you are going to need to buy a $6000 pro body and a $1500 lens.  See this article This Lens is Soft and Other Myths, its follow up article, and the follow up controlled tests to learn more about this.

Locking Mode Dial: This is a new feature for a Canon dSLR, only on the 60D, that keeps the Mode dial from accidentally rotating. A nice touch, and not at all difficult to change quickly with one hand, as some people have claimed: just push the center button with your left index finger, rotate dial with thumb and middle finger.  I actually wish my 50D had this. If you wish to retrofit your 7D or 5D Mk II with this feature, Canon will do it for $100.

Full HD video: Of course they all offer this capability. Note that this is not video for your kids’ parties and soccer games. It does not have continuous autofocus while shooting, as a camcorder does. It is not designed for that kind of use, but rather for serious videographers who typically manually focus. You can adjust autofocus while shooting by pressing the shutter button or the AF button, but it may have a less than desired looking result and unless you are using an external microphone, the autofocusing sound will be picked up. The T3i has the digital zoom feature in video, which allows for nice smooth zooms while filming.

Flash Sync: A Note to Strobists -the 60D and T3i do not have a PC sync flash socket to plug in PC sync cords. The 7D has this.

Ease of operation: While beginners may find all the buttons, controls, and menus of any dSLR difficult and confusing at first, the additional controls and menus of the 7D and 60D are all quite intelligently designed, intuitive, and straightforward for the more advanced user. The menus and controls of the T3i and T2i are also pretty basic and simple to learn.  There is certainly a “price of admission” to learning and getting the most from any dSLR, and you will need to invest time and effort into both reading and using/ experimenting with your camera.  Start with the manual, then perhaps have a look at my e-book camera guides, then practice, practice, practice!

Remember that all of these comparisons and features are relative. Of course the fact that the 7D can take 126 consecutive photos at the rate of 8 frames per second makes it “better” than the other models.  Advanced features like that differentiate it from the other cameras and are also why it costs more. But is it actually “better” for you and how you plan to photograph?  Do you ever need to take 15.75 seconds of continuous photos? Ever? (Look at your watch for 15.75 seconds right now and act like you are taking continuous photos. Now what are you going to do with all those nearly identical 126 imaginary photos?!)

Purchasing:  If you plan to purchase any of these cameras, please see the Purchasing section below.

*****

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction
Mode dial of the Canon Rebel T3i

T3i vs T2i

Review / Comparison of Canon Rebel T3i vs T2i (600D vs 550D):  If you are trying to decide between the Canon T2i or T3i, the previous model, the T2i, already shared many important features with the 60D (and even features of the semi-pro 7D) including the 18 MP sensor, 63-zone exposure metering system, high ISO performance, HD movie capabilities, and Digic 4 image processor. Now with the addition of the vari-angle articulating rear LCD screen (aka rotating screen), remote flash capabilities, creative filters, additional movie options, and in-camera image processing features, the new Canon T3i is even closer in specifications to the 60D, which may make your choice harder. But there are some important differences, and this post will hopefully help you decide which features are important to you and the way you photograph, which ones may be unnecessary, and thus which model fits you best. As I’ve said before, you need to choose which camera is best for you based on your needs and experience as a photographer and based on how the advanced features, controls, and customization options fit those needs and serve the way you work – not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them.

The Rebel T3i is replacing the T2i at the entry level end of the Canon line-up. (There is also the T3 in the most basic, entry level position.)  The differences are minor but possibly significant depending on your needs. Since both cameras share the same 18 megapixel sensor and Digic 4 processor, both the T2i and T3i will create images with exactly the same image quality, produce the same low light-high ISO performance, shoot at 3.7 frames per second, and have nearly the same size and build quality. They are both offered with the same 18-55mm kit lens (with some minor cosmetic differences on the new T3i kit lens). The T3i is very slightly larger and heavier due to the addition of the rotating rear LCD monitor. And that is one of the biggest differences between the two cameras: do you want and need a vari-angle rear screen or not? The other major difference is the ability of the T3i to remotely control multiple off-camera flashes. Like the 60D and 7D, you can use the built-in flash of the T3i to trigger other Canon Speedlites. This could be an important reason for choosing the T3i. However, if you don’t use or plan to use one or more off-camera flashes, this shouldn’t be important to you.

Some other minor additions to the T3i include the Scene Intelligent Auto Mode, which is a feature borrowed from point and shoot cameras. When in Auto mode, the T3i will make a determination of what type of scene you are shooting – close-up, portrait, landscape, etc. – and automatically configure the camera settings accordingly. However, if you want to use a powerful and costly digital SLR as a point and shoot, you should probably save the money and just buy a nice, high quality point and shoot like the Canon S95. Other additional but not very important upgrades include the in-camera processing Creative Filters like Grainy Black and White or Fisheye, and the ability to choose different image size ratios and to rate your images. However, this type of processing is best done on your computer with software like Photoshop or even Photoshop Elements. There is also a marginally helpful Feature Guide which gives brief descriptions of various settings and some additional video features like digital video zoom (for nice smooth zooms) and Video Snapshot, which you can use to shoot short video clips that are automatically joined together into a video, with music. Again, this is pretty easily done on your computer, and with much more control, with basic video editing software.

So if you need any of these new features, get the Canon Rebel T3i / 600D. If not, buy whichever one if offered at a cheaper price. However, if you still wish to compare the Rebel T3i to the 60D and 7D, see below. If you wish to compare the Canon T3i to the Nikon D5100, check out this post Nikon D5100 vs. Canon T3i.

see the Canon EOS Rebel T3i (Body Only) on Amazon
see the Canon EOS Rebel T3i with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

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Review of Canon EOS 60D vs. 50D: Since the Canon EOS 60D basically replaces the Canon 50D (well, replacement isn’t exactly the right word because the 60D doesn’t really follow the 20D to 50D progression of improvements…), the 60D or 50D decision is an easy one. The 50D shouldn’t really be considered anymore. While the Canon 50D does hold a couple interesting advantages over the 60D (faster frame per second (fps) burst rate in continuous mode, stronger construction, more comprehensive buttons and controls, complete lack of fun filters like “grainy black and white”), the sensor and exposure metering system have been greatly improved in all the newer cameras (such as the 7D or 60D or 600D/ T3i or 500D/ T2i) and I feel these features, along with the increase in megapixels, outweigh any other 50D advantages. I would definitely choose a 60D instead of a 50D. This is coming from experience, as I use a 50D professionally and on a weekly basis. Or choose a 7D instead of a 50D if your needs require it and budget allows it. (Find out below if your needs require it!) If you still wish to learn more about the differences of these two models, I write in more detail about the 50D vs. 60D comparison here from a camera features and operation point of view.

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D vs Canon 60D
Canon Rebel T3i / 600D and the Canon 60D

 

Purchasing: If you plan to purchase cameras, photo equipment, books, or anything else from the retailers below I encourage you to do so through these referral links. While your price will be the same, they will give me a little something for the referral, which helps to support my blog and my work – thanks!  I appreciate your support!

Amazon

If you are in the UK, please click here for the UK Amazon referral link.

And if you are in Canada, please click here to use my Canada Amazon.ca referral link.

For those interested in purchasing through B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon, I have set up affiliate links with them as well. Just click on the logos below to start shopping:
BandH Photo   

These are all retailers that I have purchased equipment from (excluding Amazon UK/Canada), and I recommend them based on my good experiences, their extensive selection, competitive prices, great customer service and responsiveness, and fair return policies.

or use one of these direct links to Amazon:

See and buy the Canon EOS Rebel T3i (Body Only) on Amazon
See and buy the Canon EOS Rebel T3i with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

See and buy the T2i on Amazon.

See and buy the 60D on Amazon.
See and buy the 7D on Amazon.
See and buy the Canon 5D MkII on Amazon

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D vs 60D vs 7D vs T2i
Canon Rebel T2i, T3i, 60D, and 7D – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

 

Which Canon dSLR is Right for You?

This section of the article, which can help you decide on a camera based on your photography experience and needs (and also includes the discussion of the Canon 5D Mk II),  has been moved to its own post here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2011/10/14/which-canon-dslr-is-right-for-you/

 

*****

Related Posts:

Comparing and Choosing Canon Lenses
Equipment for Digital Photography
Essential Books for Digital Photography

As I said above, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around. Here is a post I wrote which discusses this, titled

How to Choose a New dSLR Camera

 

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Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon and B&H Photo logos on the left side of this page to go to those sites and make your purchases.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

Go beyond the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D manual with my new book, now available!

T3i Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation – an eBook user’s guide and tutorial for the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D.

Learn to use your Rebel T3i / EOS 600D, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. The T3i / 600D is an advanced tool, and this guide explains how to use it to its full potential. Take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book manual download for dummies Canon T3i Experience Douglas Klostermann book guide tutorial how to instruction

This instant download Canon T3i / 600D book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Full Auto and Program modes and shoot in Av mode and Tv mode. To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings, Movie Mode Menu settings, and Custom Function settings of the T3i/600D. It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and utilizing dramatic depth of field for professional looking photographs.

You can preview T3i Experience at the following link. The preview shows the Table of Contents and Introduction, a sample T3i/600D Menu Settings page, a sample Custom Functions Settings page, and a sample text page.

http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/Canon_T3i_Experience-Preview.pdf

Canon T3i Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of this digital SLR, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. And it describes every T3i / 600D Menu setting and Custom Function setting, with recommended settings to get you started quickly, including Movie Mode menu settings. Note that it focuses on still-photography and not video except for a brief introduction to video menus and settings to get you up and running. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your Camera – All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings for the T3i / 600D, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of this dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (Av) and Shutter Priority Mode (Tv) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon T3i / 600D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to this camera, plus recommended photography books.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started.

This digital field guide to the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D is a 60 page, illustrated PDF document that builds upon the information found in the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D manual, and will help one begin to master their dSLR and learn to use it to its full capabilities!

Author: Douglas Klostermann
Format:
PDF – Instant Download – can be read on your computer, printed on your printer, transferred to your iPad, Android or other tablet, Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader (see here for iPad/ iPhone transfer instructions).
Page Count:
60 pages, illustrated
Price: $9.99 Available Now!
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy Now with PayPal! or Buy Now

 

Other versions of Canon T3i Experience e-book available for purchase:

The Kindle version is available on Amazon.com
The Nook version is available at BarnesandNoble.com
The iPad and iPhone version is available through Apple’s iTunes or through the iBooks App.

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s Previous Guide, T2i Experience:

Best Guide to using a T2i – I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the T2i has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera. I’m very happy that I found this guide.
-Nathan K.

Essential Travel Companion – Alas, a comprehensive and concise guide for hobbyists who desire to enhance their photography experiences. I highly recommend this guide to anyone who wants to ease out of auto mode and learn how to take high-quality photos. It brilliantly explains how to apply advanced techniques and tips, walks you through the daunting task of menu settings, and smoothly guides you through the image-taking process. The instructions and brief explanations are easy to follow and well organized. The guide is a portable class on digital photography! A must-have if you want to learn how to use your camera to its fullest advantage.
-Elizabeth J.

A Fantastic Book For Beginning T2i Users – This book has exactly the no frills condensed practical advice on camera settings that I was looking for. The author has a gift for separating the wheat from the chaff. I didn’t have a clue how to operate a digital camera, let alone know the definition of the technical terms. After reading this book, I now understand all the critical functions of the Canon T2i and how to take advantage of them. This is a book I plan to keep handy for years to come.
-TP

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s other dSLR User’s Guides:

This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering all the potential of this camera.
-Max M.

It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.
-Peter S.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get a quick start to using their camera. Manuals are nice, but this eBook highlights the important information and gives a quick easy to understand explanation of most all of the functions and controls.
-Ray M.

I found the (camera’s) manual good for understanding how to set things up but not much on the why – this book really focuses on the “why.” Prior to reading the book I was setting up my metering on Spot Metering thinking it was much better than Matrix (Evaluative) – the guide helped me understand why to use specific settings for specific needs. The Custom Settings sections helps to make firm decisions on how to apply settings by understanding the usage of each in addition to knowing how to set them up. I would like to thank you for saving me time – now I’m confident that my camera is well tuned!
-Benoit A.

This manual is a clearly written, concise and useful explanation of the rationale for the seemingly infinite and often confusing settings options. Used in conjunction with the (camera’s) manual I feel a bit more confident in understanding how to at last proceed in getting better photographs.
WLS

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction

Canon just announced the replacement for the T2i called, as expected, the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D.  It has a few upgrades from the T2i, borrowed from the 60D, including the high resolution swivel rear LCD screen, remote flash capabilities, some additional menu options, and built in Creative Filters.  Canon also introduced a new 18-55mm image stabilized kit lens to pair with it.  Read more about it here at DPReview, and I will fill in more details about it soon.  As Canon’s own press release dramatically states, Canon Empowers The Masses To Take Better Photographs And Video With The New EOS Rebel T3i And EOS Rebel T3 Digital SLR Cameras.  Wow!

I’ve completed a Canon Rebel T3i e-book user’s guide, following in the footsteps of my popular e-books Your World 60D and T2i Experience, titled Canon T3i Experience.  See here for more info.

Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D

image from Canonusa.com

Order your Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D) from Amazon now:

Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)

Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens

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Canon T2i vs T3i (Canon 550D  vs 600D):  If you are trying to decide between these two cameras, or deciding between the T3i vs 60D vs 7D, please see the post I wrote that reviews and  compares the current cameras in the Canon dSLR consumer line-up:  Canon T3i vs T2i vs 60D vs 7D, etc.

My second eBook and Canon dSLR camera user’s guide is now available! In addition to Your World 60D, the eBook guide for the Canon 60D, I have also written a Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D book:

T2i Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation With the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D

Canon Rebel T2i EOS 550D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction T2i Experience

Looking for a Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D book to help you learn and begin to master your new dSLR? T2i Experience will help you learn how to use your digital SLR, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. This camera is an advanced tool, and the guide explains how to use it to its full potential. Begin to take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

This instant download eBook guide is for those who wish to get more out of their T2i / 550D, and go beyond Auto or Program mode and shoot in Av mode and Tv mode. While it explains basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, it concentrates on teaching more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and utilizing dramatic depth of field for professional looking photographs. Learning to get the most out of a dSLR can involve a steep learning curve, and I believe my book can help you speed up that process.

You can preview it at the following link. The preview shows:
-the Table of Contents
the Introduction
-a sample Menu Settings page
-a sample Custom Functions Settings page
-and a sample text page.

Preview: http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/T2i_Experience-Preview.pdf

See below for where to purchase.

Purchase T2i Experience through PayPal here! (or click the PayPal or Credit card check-out button below)
This version is in PDF format, text-only, 8.5″x11″, which can be read on your computer screen, printed on your printer, taken with you on your laptop, and can also be read on the iPad.

Format: PDF – Instant Download
Page Count:
48
Price:
$9.99 now on Sale: $7.99
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy now from PayPal! or Buy Now

__________

The Kindle Edition of T2i Experience is also available, at Amazon.com and the Nook Edition is available at BarnesandNoble.com.

__________

T2i Experience is a PDF guide that builds upon the information offered by the camera’s manual. In addition to covering the various settings, functions and controls of the Canon T2i / 550D, its lessons explain when and why to use them. It also describes every Menu setting and Custom Function setting, with recommended settings, including Movie Mode menus. Note that it focuses on still photography and not video except for a brief introduction to menus and important video settings to get you started.

Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your T2i All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of the T2i to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (Av) and Shutter Priority Mode (Tv) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started

This digital field guide to the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D is a 48 page, PDF format text-only document, full of helpful information.

It can also be purchased through PayPal on my website bookstore, Full Stop – good writing for better photography.

Master your Canon T2i and learn to use it to its full capabilities! And if you have a Canon 60D, be sure to check out Your World 60D – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Canon EOS 60D.

This post has been revised and updated to include the new Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D. Please proceed over to this post to read the most current information:

Canon T3i/600D vs T2i/550D vs. 60D vs. 7D, etc.

Like many others out there, you are asking yourself, “should I buy the Canon 7D or 60D or 50D or 550D / T2i?” It’s a difficult question because at this point the three dSLRs in the current Canon consumer line-up (EOS 60D, EOS 7D, Rebel T2i/ EOS 550D) all share a number of specifications and features, a similar exposure metering system, as well as an image sensor that is nearly the same, and all with 18 megapixels. So how do you choose between the Canon 60D, the T2i (550D) or the 7D? This decision has become infinitely more difficult (or perhaps infinitely simpler?) because the image quality and ISO performance of these three cameras will be nearly identical, and all are capable of taking high quality images. So as I like to profess, you need to choose which camera is best for you based on your needs and experience as a photographer and based on how the advanced features, controls, and customization options fit those needs and serve the way you work.

Canon T2i vs 60D vs 7D
photo by author

When you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. I will discuss how to go about this in more detail below.

Review of Canon EOS 60D vs. 50D: Since the Canon EOS 60D basically replaces the Canon 50D (well, replacement isn’t exactly the right word because the 60D doesn’t really follow the 20D to 50D progression of improvements…), the 60D or 50D decision is an easy one. The 50D shouldn’t really be considered anymore. While the Canon 50D does hold a couple interesting advantages over the 60D (faster frame per second (fps) burst rate in continuous mode, stronger construction, more comprehensive buttons and controls, complete lack of fun filters like “grainy black and white”), the sensor and exposure metering system have been greatly improved in all the newer cameras (7D or 60D or 500D/ T2i) and I feel these features, along with the increase in mega pixels, outweigh any other 50D advantages. I would definitely choose a 60D instead of a 50D. This is coming from experience, as I use a 50D professionally and on a daily basis. Or choose a 7D instead of a 50D if your needs require it and budget allows it. (Find out below if your needs require it!) Digital cameras are somewhat disposable. Yes, even $1000 digital cameras. Within 5 years, your new camera will have become old, outdated equipment. The 50D is already two year old technology, so if you start with one now, in 4 more years it will be absolutely archaic! (Actually, since the 50D was just the 40D with a couple more megapixels, it is even older technology than that.) With digital SLRs, I advise buying a recent model, at whatever price range you can currently afford. Of course as with everything in digital photography, this is relative. The 50D is still an excellent camera. And camera companies have to keep coming out with new models every 12-18 months because that is what they do. The trouble comes in 2-3 years when your 50D is still perfectly good and still pretty new to you, but it can no longer compete with the latest offerings in terms of megapixels, ISO performance, and autofocus systems. If this hasn’t convinced you and you still want to consider the 50D for cost or other reasons, I write in more detail about the 50D vs. 60D comparison here from a camera features and operation point of view.

Before I get more into it, I want to mention that I have written eBook user’s guides for the Canon Rebel T3i/ EOS 600D, the Canon Rebel T2i/EOS 550D, and the Canon EOS 60D. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put all that knowledge into eBook form! Each of these user’s guides cover all the Menu settings, Movie Mode menus, and Custom Function settings – with recommended settings – plus discussions of how, when, and why to use the cameras’ settings and features, (metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes, advanced autofocus use, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos – Your World 60D, Canon T3i Experience, and T2i Experience. Learn more about the eBooks by clicking on their titles.

Back to the Comparison:

Review of Canon EOS 7D vs. 60D vs. 550D / Rebel T2i: So the decision now comes down to the Canon 7D or 60D or 550D / Rebel T2i. (What about the 5D Mk II? Just wait, I’m getting to that! And if you haven’t yet committed to Canon and are interested in comparing the Canon 60D vs. Nikon D7000, have a look at this post.) Below are comparisons of some of the similarities and differences of these three cameras. Remember that all of these comparisons and features are relative. Of course the fact that the 7D can take 126 consecutive photos at the rate of 8 frames per second makes it “better.” Advanced features like that differentiate it from the other models and are also why it costs more. But do you ever need to take 15.75 seconds of continuous photos? Ever? (Look at your watch for 15.75 seconds right now and act like you are taking continuous photos. Now what are you going to do with all those imaginary photos?!)

Sensor and Image Quality: As I said above, all three cameras share a very similar sensor and 18 megapixels, and so their image quality will be virtually the same. All are capable of taking professional quality images.

Exposure Metering: The three cameras all share the latest 63-zone exposure metering system and 4 metering modes. That means they will all determine the exposure virtually identically and enable you to take properly exposed photos in most every situation, including difficult back-lit scenes. The size of the areas metered for Partial and Spot metering vary slightly between the cameras, but that isn’t anything critical.

Autofocus: The 60D shares a similar autofocus system to the T2i and the previous 50D, with 9 focus points and three auto focusing modes. However the 9 AF points of the 60D are more sensitive than those of the T2i: all are cross-type in the 60D, only the center is cross-type in the T2i. The 60D autofocus system is much less complex than the sophisticated AF system of the 7D with its 19 AF point system and its additional Zone, Spot, and Expansion focus modes. These various modes address how you want to deal with and group these numerous AF points. Plus the custom settings of the 7D allow one to customize how the AF system works – how it tracks subjects, how it deals with objects that come between you and your initial subject, how quickly it responds to these changes of possible subjects that are at different distances from you, etc. However, if you are not an avid sports photographer, a wildlife shooter, or someone who understands, needs, and will use the elaborate features of the 7D AF system, then this shouldn’t dissuade you from the 60D.

Construction: As you can probably figure out from the prices, each camera is not built the same. The 60D has relatively strong construction of aluminum and polycarbonate. It is better built than the 550D but not as strong as the 7D’s magnesium alloy frame. The 60D also has some amount of weather sealing – more than the 550D/T2i, less than the 7D. But for most users, including even those using the camera daily or in travel situations, the construction of any of these cameras is far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.

ISO: Since they all share a very similar sensor, the ISO sensitivity and performance at high ISO settings is virtually the same for these three cameras. But don’t take my word for it, don’t be swayed by pixel peepers on forums, instead check out the camera sensor tests at dxomark to verify this. As you can see, they all share the exact same overall score, and show very similar performance.

Controls:
As with construction, the buttons and controls vary with these cameras. Unlike the T2i, the 60D and 7D have nearly every control an advanced photographer needs on the exterior of the camera and they also have the top LCD panel and rear Quick Control Dial that are not on the 550D/T2i. With all the cameras, any controls can also be easily accessed with the Q button and menu or in the other menus on the rear LCD monitor. The top buttons of the 60D set only one setting each, so this is less complicated than the multiple-setting buttons of the 7D. Canon has removed the white balance (WB) button on the 60D that the 7D and 50D have, but that isn’t a big deal – use the Q Menu. Another change on the 60D is that the Multi-controller has been moved from the thumb joystick like the 7D and 50D and placed in the middle of the rear Quick-control dial. This doesn’t change how it functions, and should just be a matter of getting used to the difference. (Unfortunately, I still really do prefer the old design and location.) If you plan on using your camera on Auto or Program most of the time, then the controls of the T2i are more than sufficient for your needs.

Menus and Custom Functions: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. The 60D has many more Menu and Custom Function settings than the 550D/T2i and nearly as many as the 7D. These settings enable you to customize the operation, function, and controls to work how you want them to, including things like exposure increments, peripheral illuminations correction for lenses (fixes dark corners) and customizing which button does what. Since many of the Menu and Custom Function settings can be complicated and confusing, my eBooks on the 60D and on the T2i/550D cover all of these options along with my recommended settings to get you up and running quickly!

Wireless Flash: Like the 7D, the 60D incorporates wireless flash triggering. It allows you to trigger multiple off camera flashes at different output levels. The 550D/T2i does not have this feature.

Articulating LCD Screen: The big new feature that the 60D has that the other two cameras do not is the articulating rear LCD screen. This may prove useful for videographers, as well as for setting up compositions while the camera is on a tripod, for macro use, or for using it from unusually low or high vantage points. Some users will be able to avoid buying an expensive angle finder because of this feature. There is also an electronic level in the 7D and 60D, visible in the viewfinder, rear LCD, or top LCD.

Viewfinder: The 60D has a large, bright viewfinder with 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, a tiny bit better than the 95% of the 550D/T2i but not quite as nice as the nearly 100% view of the 7D.

Processor:
The 60D shares the same Digic 4 processor as the 550D/T2i. The 7D has dual Digic 4 processors. However, if you don’t need to shoot dozens of continuous images, you probably won’t notice any processing speed issues.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The 7D can shoot a blazing 8 frames per second, in which the photos barely change from frame to frame. The 60D can shoot a respectable 5.3 fps which is actually a more useful rate, and is a higher rate than the 550D/T2i rate of 3.7 fps. If you need the extremely high fps for sports, wildlife, or other action shooting, get the 7D. If not, don’t be swayed by this excessive feature.

Memory Card: The 60D uses the SD memory card like the 550D/T2i, not the CF card of the 7D and 50D.

Battery: The 60D uses the LP-E6 battery like the 7D and 5D, which is a nice feature as this battery can often last through a full day of shooting. The T2i uses a smaller battery with less capacity.

Size and Weight:
The 60D is larger and heavier than the 550D/T2i, smaller and lighter than the 7D. Go to the store and hold them to get a better feel for their size, weight, and feel.

AF Microadjustment:
The 7D has this feature, the 60D and T2i do not. Many are disappointed that the 60D does not include the ability to micro-adjust the focus so that each lens is completely accurate. However, if you have a focus issue, send your camera and/ or lenses to Canon while under warranty and ask them to calibrate them. Doing AF microadjustment yourself is often a maddening, never ending undertaking. You may make a good calibration under controlled conditions, but this really doesn’t replicate real life shooting.

Locking Mode Dial: This is a new feature for a Canon dSLR, only on the 60D, that keeps the Mode dial from accidentally rotating. A nice touch, and not at all difficult to change quickly with one hand, as some people have claimed: just push the center button with your left index finger, rotate dial with thumb and middle finger.

Full HD video: Of course they all offer this capability. Note that this is not video for your kids’ parties and soccer games. It does not have continuous autofocus while shooting, as a camcorder does. It is not designed for that kind of use, but rather for serious videographers who typically manually focus. You can adjust autofocus while shooting by pressing the shutter button or the AF button, but it may have a less than desired looking result.

Flash Sync: A Note to Strobists -the 60D and T2i do not have a PC sync flash socket to plug in PC sync cords. The 7D has this.

Ease of operation: While beginners may find all the buttons, controls, and menus of any dSLR difficult and confusing at first, the additional controls and menus of the 7D and 60D are all quite intelligently designed, intuitive, and straightforward for the more advanced user.

*****

Purchasing: If you plan to buy any of these cameras through Amazon.com, (or just wish to purchase anything from Amazon) I would appreciate it if you use this referral link to Amazon or one of the camera links just below. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support this blog. Thanks!  And due to popular request, if you are in the UK, here is my new 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. And for those wishing to purchase from B+H Photo, just click here for my referral link to B+H. Thanks for supporting my blog!

See and buy the T2i on Amazon.
See and buy the 60D on Amazon.
See and buy the 7D on Amazon.
See and buy the Canon 5D MkII on Amazon.

I wrote a previous post that also goes in-depth into comparing and choosing between these cameras, but was written before the introduction of the EOS 60D. It does however have some additional info that may prove useful: Canon 7D vs. 5D vs. 50D (Plus 550D/T2i) Part II

Lenses, Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into lenses, photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out this link, Best Lenses for Travel Photography, which also applies to general photography, Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography. This post lists and describes Essential Books for Digital Photography, including the best user’s guides for each of these cameras.

And to sum it all up, here is a brief, mostly serious synopsis to help you make the camera decision:

Get a Canon 550D / Rebel T2i if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography, or want to upgrade from an older Rebel because you want higher image quality and more mega-pixels (or HD video). If you have been happy with the features and controls of your previous dSLR camera and have not discovered the need, in your use of it, for any specific additional features, there is no need to look beyond the 550D. See the T2i on Amazon.

Get a Canon 60D if you have outgrown the capabilities of an older Rebel like an XTi or T1i due to your greater experience and more demanding shooting needs which require more direct or sophisticated controls and customization options. Or you have been pretty pleased with your 20D or 40D and its features but wish to upgrade for the increased image quality and mega pixels (or HD video). And/ or you need a more rugged camera for your frequent and demanding shooting and off-the-beaten-path traveling needs. Or if you need the increased 5.3 frames per second continuous rate to shoot sports or action. Or you really like swiveling LCD screens. If you typically shoot on Auto or Program mode, you do not need a 60D. If you do not manually select your own focus point and have never used exposure compensation you do not need a 60D. If you have never used the AE-Lock [*] button to lock exposure you do not need a 60D. If you don’t understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO you don’t need a 60D. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this more advanced camera, please save the money or use it towards a better lens. See the 60D on Amazon.

Get a Canon 7D if you have extensive experience with a Rebel (xxxD series like 350D, 400D) or with an older xxD series (20D, 40D) camera, and you know and understand most of the 7D’s controls and advanced custom features, and you specifically need some of them for your demanding shooting needs. If you haven’t passed the above “criteria” for a 60D, you definitely don’t need a 7D. If you have never used Av aperture priority mode or M manual mode, you do not need a 7D. If you have never used autofocus tracking settings to track a moving subject across your frame and worried how an interfering object would affect your focus you do not need a 7D. If you have never used spot metering to determine a critical exposure level or experimented with back-button focusing you do not need a 7D. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this very advanced camera, please save the money or use it towards a better lens. However, if you often need to take 126 consecutive photos at the rate of 8 frames per second, you do need the 7D. Immediately. Even if you just sometimes need that. Totally worth it. That’s 15.75 seconds of continuous shooting. Who doesn’t need that? You’d make Eadweard Muybridge proud. See the 7D on Amazon.

(Please note, the T2i/550D, 60D and 7D all have these features I just listed: manually selected focus points, exposure compensation, AE-Lock, auto-focus tracking, spot metering, and back-button focusing. I’m just using them as a determination of your experience level and needs)

The Canon 5D Mark II is in a separate league than the other cameras, being a full frame professional camera, and thus I’m not going to compare it to the others in this context. As I said in a previous post,

If the 5D Mk II fits your expanding and demanding 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.

If you don’t already know that you need a 5D, you probably don’t need a 5D. Plus, as is often the case, those who could really take full advantage of a 5D are those who can’t afford a 5D. (I’m thinking about the talented photographers I come across on Flickr, etc. who are making amazing images with entry-level Rebels.) Feel free to spend $2,500 on a 5D Mk II if you want, but unless you have extensive experience with photography and with a digital SLR, using a 5D is completely unnecessary and is unlikely to help you take “better” pictures than you will be able to with a 550D. In fact, until you figure out the controls, features, menus, and custom functions of a 5D or 7D, you may be taking worse pictures! And besides, the 5D MkII becoming old technology. You should wait for the 5D Mark III :) See the Canon 5D MkII on Amazon.

*****
Lenses: Lenses for Travel Photography
Accessories and Equipment: Equipment for Digital Photography
Books: Essential Books for Digital Photography

As I said above, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around. Here is a post I wrote which discusses this, titled How to Choose a New dSLR Camera.

Lots of rebates going on over at Canon, including on the 7D, 5D Mark II, some of the Rebels, and several lenses.


Plum Island – Newburyport, MA

NOTE: Some of the information in this post has been updated to include the current Canon dSLR models, the 60D and the Rebel T3i / 600D. Please check out my blog post at the following link to read the most current information:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2011/02/20/canon-t3i-600d-vs-t2i-550d-vs-60d-vs-7d-etc/

Original Post: I’ve had a lot of visits to my previous post comparing these cameras – the Canon 7D, Canon 5D Mark II, and the Canon 50D – and since that really wasn’t much of a comparison post, but rather just a link to an impartial, technically based testing site, I’ll try to give a little more insight into helping you make this decision. Please note, this is aimed towards still photographers and not videographers. I know that videographers have different priorities when making this selection, and I am not knowledgeable enough to address them. I have written some updated comparison posts which also address the Canon 60D here and here.

I’ve used the 50D and the 7D pretty extensively, so I can speak with a bit of confidence about them. I’m very familiar with the features of the 5D Mk II and how they compare to the other cameras, so I will discuss them too. I’ll address the 550D (Rebel T2i) at the end of this post. Also, all the precise specifications of these cameras can be researched online and compared, so I will discuss them on a user-experience level, but I encourage you to decide which factors are most important to you for further research. I know it is a long post with a lot to read, but if you are investing several hundred or thousands of dollars in a dSLR and lenses, you should be thorough! On a final note before I begin, you may have been convinced by forums, reviews, or online comments to question and compare image quality, auto-focus speed, ISO and noise, etc., but those factors are all nearly completely irrelevant. Each of these cameras has more than enough quality in all of those areas. Your choice should instead be based on your level and needs as a photographer, and on which camera best serves the way you work. If you wish to see this complicated choice summarized in an easy to read format, view this post (it is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but mostly accurate). And when you are done selecting a camera body, you can learn more about lenses here.

While I have your attention, I want to mention that 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 – Your World 60D and T2i Experience. Learn more about the eBooks by clicking on their titles.

Also, please let me know about broken links in my posts, as they seem to mysteriously happen from time to time.


Hudson River – Cold Spring, NY (this image is entirely in color – look at the plants!)

Sensor Size: If you are, or plan to be a professional photographer, and you’ve limited your selection down to two or three of these cameras, you are going to want to seriously consider the 5D MkII. This is due primarily to the fact that it has a full frame sensor (a sensor approximately the size of a frame of 35mm film), which is pretty much expected for you to have as a professional. (Note that whenever I say 5D in this post, I am referring to the 5D Mark II).  The 7D and the 50D have smaller sensors, with a 1.6 crop factor. This means that their sensors are a bit smaller than a frame of traditional 35mm film. A wide angle lens will not produce as wide of a field of view on a cropped sensor as on the 5D: a 16mm will give the field of view of a 16 x 1.6 = 25mm lens, but a telephoto on a cropped sensor will appear to zoom closer, thus making a 200mm lens appear to be a 200 x 1.6 = 320mm lens. You can begin down the professional path with a 50D or 7D, but you are eventually going to experience the limitations of the smaller sensors and start to understand the need for full frame. BUT…there are a few problems with this choice…

Price and Obsolescence: First, you probably haven’t run out to get a 5D MkII because of its cost. As of 5/2010, the price is $2,500. AND, the 5D MkII dates from 9/2008, and is due for an upgrade, likely in 2012, maybe as soon as later in 2011. In some respects, the 7D – being newer – has better features than the 5D, such as the advanced auto focus and metering systems and faster frame rate. Not to mention the fact that if you wait around long enough, a 7D type camera WITH a full frame sensor but a lower price than the 5D is bound to come out! But you need a camera now, so let’s continue. The 7D is $1,600 or $1,700 depending on current promotions, and the 50D is about $1,000. The 50D however, is also the closest one to being replaced (by the 60D or whatever it may be called). This doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a very capable and feasible camera – people are still happily using 20D and 30D cameras, just that it is reaching the end of its production life. So as far as the newest model, that is the 7D (and the 550d/ T2i).

Megapixels / Image Quality: Regarding megapixels, it really isn’t much of an issue unless you plan on printing out billboard size prints. All of these cameras have more than enough megapixels and image quality for most photographers’ needs. The 7D is at 18mp, the 5D Mk II at 21mp, and the 50D at 15mp. I have found that more megapixels give you more lee-way to push and pull the image around in Photoshop before it starts to fall apart and look over manipulated. In this respect there is a significant difference between 8 megapixels of a Rebel XT and 15 or 18 mp. The 8mp barely allow you to do a regular amount of exposure, contrast, and color correction before it starts to really show, but there is little to be concerned about between the 15mp of the 50D and 18mp of the 7D (unless you are a hard-core pixel peeper, in which case you will be deeply offended by these kinds of statements). Be aware that sensors with more megapixels more readily show the shortcomings of cheaper lenses, and thus demand higher quality lenses, like the Canon L series, for the sharpest, most detailed image across the entire frame. From experience, I can tell you there is a huge improvement in clarity, color, and overall image quality when using an L lens with a 50D or 7D.


Marquee – Tarrytown, NY

HD Video: If you are concerned about HD video, then you choice is narrowed down to the 7D and the 5D Mk II. With firmware updates and 3rd party Magic Lantern firmware, they are about on par as far as frame rates etc., so cost and sensor size is again the differing factor here. If you are not going to need or use video, it is definitely worth considering the 50D, which will give you 85-90% of the still photography features and performance of the 7D at a much lower price.

ISO, Frame Rate, File Size: For ISO performance, you can look at the testing site mentioned above to see that they are incredibly similar. Being a professional camera, the 5D has a broader ISO range on both ends, lower noise at higher ISOs, and a better dynamic/ tonal range. This is a large factor in why you pay $2400 for this camera. But for the non-pro, in general you hardly ever want to go above ISO 1,600, so unless you have a specific reason for needing really high ISO and photos with the lowest possible noise at high ISOs (for example shooting lots of indoor or dark events like concerts, weddings and receptions), then this isn’t much of a deciding factor. And if you are concerned about dynamic range, well, don’t be. Anyone who actually needs to be concerned about dynamic range is a commercial photographer who is not reading this post because they are busy choosing between a $7,000 camera and a $10,000 camera. The frame rate performance, however, may be an important factor depending on how you work and what you take photos of. The 7D has a continuous rate of 3fps and a high speed continuous rate of 8fps. Personally, I’m unhappy with this choice of rates. The 3fps is too slow for action situation, and the 8fps is ridiculously high, giving me far too many unwanted photos that quickly fill up the memory card. I wish for a rate closer to 5 or 6 fps. The 5D has one rate of 3.9fps, which again seems a bit too slow for action situations, and limits its use for capturing sports action. The 50D offers 3fps and 6.3fps, which I find ideal. Oh, also, the file size of the 7D images are much larger than the files of the 50D and somewhat larger than the files of the 5D. While this indicates that the files contain more information and detail, this affects size and number of memory cards you will need, plus size and expense of storage on your hard drive and external hard drives, PLUS the time it takes to download, transfer, copy, open, save, and upload files. It is a significant hidden cost in storage dollars and time of the 7D that should not be ignored. (Is this apparent difference of the 7D and 50D images visible to the naked eye of anyone other than pixel peepers and people making jumbo prints? Not necessarily. The image quality you need is available from any of these cameras, so it is more productive as a photographer to focus on image content!)


St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Brooklyn, NY

Features, Customization: Being the newest camera, the 7D has the most advanced features. As I mentioned above, it has an advanced auto focus system, providing more focus points, more focus modes (single point, spot, zone, expansion, etc.) and numerous options for how the focus points perform and select and track a subject. I’ve written a bit more about these features here, along with links to additional resources. There are advanced custom functions for auto focusing and tracking, flash control (the 7D is the only one which offers remote flash capabilities, which will save you a couple hundred dollars on Pocket Wizards if you are going to use this), and customization of buttons and displays. Again, I’ve explained a lot of these features in this post. Read through them. Do you understand them? Are you going to learn them? Are you going to need and use them? Probably not. They are nice to have, make you feel like you have a really powerful camera you are in control of if you learn how to choose, set and use them, but in everyday shooting I rarely, if ever, make use of them. The live view (which the 50D has as well) and the built in level are cool, but will you ever use them? I don’t. (The built in level will be most useful to landscape photographers). Of all the features and customizations of the 7D that are not on the older 50D, the only ones I miss are the remote flash capability, the grid overlay in the viewfinder, the larger more inclusive viewfinder, the spring loaded doors of the 7D, and the ability to switch functions of the top dial and back dial in Manual mode. (It is such a nice feature on the 7D – since I use Av mode most of the time, the top dial controls aperture. But when I switch to M mode, the top dial now controls shutter speed. So with the 50D I have to overcome muscle memory and use the back dial for aperture. But with the 7D, one can switch the dials’ functions.) Unless you are an intense sports or animal shooter who needs to customize how the camera selects and auto focuses on a moving object, how it addresses an object that moves in front of your subject, and how fast it responds to this new object before it addresses or ignores it, then you don’t need these features. And when you compare the features of the 7D to the 5D or 50D, you find that the older cameras are not outdated dinosaurs as forums will lead you to believe – but rather they also have many of these features and customizations as well. As far as all the new auto focus features of the 7D, it turns out they barely mattered to me because I manually select my auto focus point 99% of the time. I don’t want the camera necessarily focusing on the closest object, and it certainly does not know what I wish to focus on, so I don’t leave it up to chance, and I select the point myself. Therefore I rarely use any of these advanced auto-focus modes. In addition, it is much easier and quicker to manually select an auto focus point on the 5D and the 50D when you are selecting from 9 focus points rather than the 19 focus points of the 7D! However, if you photograph fast moving objects that you would prefer the camera to locate, track, and properly focus on, most of the time, all by itself, then the 7D is the camera for you. Also, note that due to the fact that the 5D is a professional body and not a consumer level camera, it does not have a built in pop-up flash. If you plan to use a flash with it, you will need to buy the Canon 580EX II flash (which you should do with any of these camera anyway).


San Miguel Dueñas, Guatemala

It is expected that the 5D Mk III and possibly the 60D (or whatever it may be called) will also incorporate this new 7D type focusing system when they come out. The 5D, 7D, and 50D all have AF microadjustment capability, which means that you can adjust the auto-focusing of each lens individually, in the camera, if they happen to front- or back-focus a little bit. The problem is that it is a maddening procedure, and you can never get it quite right because the focusing typically varies slightly for each focus point, as well as for different distances and apertures. (You may get it exactly sharp for the center focus point at 15 feet at f/4, yet find that it is still off for the upper left focus point when you shoot under real life conditions that vary from those settings.) I feel that if you need an excessive amount of AF microadjustment, you should probably send the camera or lens back for repair, calibration, or replacement. Personally, if I were using a non-L-series lens, I wouldn’t worry about a few mm of front- or back-focusing. And if I were using an L-series lens that didn’t focus dead on, I would send it back to Canon for recalibration – which in fact is something I have done. (I don’t understand people’s celebration of AF microadjustment – isn’t it a built in admission of poor manufacturing quality control, especially when pairing a Canon lens with a Canon body?) Finally, be aware that the mode dials of the 7D and 5D do not have most of the “basic zone” mode settings such as sports, portrait, and landscape. As the user of such an advanced camera, you are expected to know how to change the camera’s settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.) yourself for these types of situations. If you don’t, and/ or if you plan on keeping your camera set on Auto (so called “green box mode”) or Program (P) mode, you probably shouldn’t be considering a 5D, 7D or 50D anyway, because you’ll be paying for far more camera than you will be using! Start with the 550D or one of the other Rebels for now and upgrade later if you feel you have outgrown its capabilities. If you are concerned about the best image quality, your image quality difference between a 7D on Auto and a 550D on Auto will be negligible. (Note that these cameras also have a Creative Auto mode, which is a weird “transitional” mode between Auto and actually learning how to make use of aperture settings and exposure compensation in Av, Tv or M mode. Since using aperture settings to dictate desired depth of field is essential to photographic composition, it is best you actually learn it directly.)

Metering: The 7D has an advanced metering system compared to the 5D Mk II and the 50D, and this is actually one very important advantage. The 7D has a more precise 63 zone metering system vs. the 35 zone system of the 5D and 50D. With the 7D, I can confidently leave it on evaluative metering 97% of the time, and it meters the subject exceptionally well 98% of those times. Canon claims that it will meter properly for a wide variety of subjects, including back lit and extreme contrast subjects. I have found this to be true. Compared to the 50D, this is significant. I have found that the 50D regularly overexposes by about 1/3 or 1/2 a stop, and I have exposure compensation on -1/3 all the time to avoid blown out highlights (except in dark situations, where it tends to under-expose). Also, the 50D just does not always correctly expose in unusual or difficult lighting situations. And for dramatic and powerful photos, you want unusual or difficult lighting situations, so I have found that I am using exposure compensation, or having to change to center weighted, partial, or spot metering often. While this is sharpening my metering eye and skills, it is a pain and it leads to the risk of lost shots. I would prefer that it just got the exposure right the majority of the time, as the 7D does. (I have subsequently found that using center-weighted averaging mode on the 50D all the time results in more consistent exposures than evaluative metering mode). You can learn more about the various metering modes, and when to use them, in this post.


Vinnie – Brooklyn, NY

550D / Rebel T2i: The Canon 550D or Rebel T2i has some impressive specs, and shares many features of the 50D and the 7D, and it is actually the newest model of all of them. It has 18mp and HD video like the 7D, but only 3.7fps continuous shooting mode frame rate. And it has 9 AF points and less complex auto focus options, like the 50D. It is fully capable of taking photos that are virtually the same quality as the 7D and the 50D, and if you don’t have intensive shooting and ego demands (ie, wanting the biggest, most expensive body whether or not you actually understand, need, or use its advanced features), it is worth seriously considering. But the 550D can’t have every feature and custom function of the higher level cameras, otherwise it would just be a 7D! If you are concerned about comparing image quality, ISO performance, auto-focusing speed, etc, all of these cameras have more than enough of what you need. You should instead be comparing the features and advanced options of the cameras which are most important to how you work. The top of the line camera won’t help you take better photos. But mastery of the tool that best fits your need just might (when combined with good knowledge of composition and lighting). I encourage you look at Flickr users’ photos taken with an “old,” 8MP Rebel XT to confirm this. Also, don’t rule out the Canon Rebel XSi if you are just starting out with digital SLRs.

If you are comparing a 5D Mk II vs. 550D (5D vs. T2i) you are looking at a professional full frame camera vs. a consumer, entry level dSLR, and skipping 2 pro-sumer cameras in between. So while the features of the 550D are nearly on par with the 7D in many ways, the 550D vs. 5D MkII is an odd comparison that quite frankly confuses me. Are you new to digital SLRs? Get a 550D (or a 50D/ 60D if you wish to spend more money or need the higher frame rate for sports or photojournalism). Have you outgrown all the features, capabilities, or limitations after extensive use of a 20D, 40D or 50D? Get a 5D MkII.  (Note that whenever I say 5D, I am referring to the 5D Mark II, the current model at this time).  Are the images you’ve been taking with your Rebel or 40D no longer living up to your professional level needs in terms of dynamic range and noise at high ISOs? Get a 5D. Want to spend $2,400 on a camera body? Get a 5D. Want to spend $800 and still have a tool that is fully capable of taking professional quality images? Get the 550D.

There are a few reasons why you would need a 7D or a 50D over a 550D / T2i. A major one is the advanced controls over camera settings. The more expensive models have additional buttons, controls, and displays on the exterior of the camera to enable quicker changes of important settings and easier viewing of what the current settings are. The 550D is capable of changing all these settings too, it is just done in a different way. For example, the 7D and 50D have the big dial on the back for quickly scrolling through menus, images, and for quick exposure compensation changes and changes of other settings. They also have the little toggle joystick on the back, primarily for quickly changing focus points. These 2 cameras also have the additional display screen and buttons on the top to easily view and change a number of settings such as ISO, drive mode, white balance, and metering mode – among others. These cameras are designed for a professional or advanced user who makes use of all these settings and needs to quickly change them while working. However, with a little practice, these settings can also be quickly changed using the buttons and big screen on the back of the 550D. The 7D and 50D also have advanced menus which give the user more customization options, like those discussed above (27 custom functions on the 7D vs. 12 on the 550D), and additional features desired by advanced users or pros, such as 1/3 ISO increments where the 550D has full increments (100-200-400 etc.).

What you are also paying for with the 7D and the 50D are stronger, better constructed metal bodies to handle daily use and abuse as well as some weatherproofing of the buttons and doors. (However, Canon cameras have fallen from elephants and airplanes and have survived, so they are all generally pretty rugged. At pitcher of water was thrown on the back of my Rebel XT and it was fine.) All these features give the 7D and 50D a bigger and heavier body than the smaller, lighter 550D, which may be an important consideration for some users. Also, the 7D, and 50D have AF microadjustment capability, but the 550D does not. AF Microadjustment means that you can adjust the auto-focusing for each lens, in the camera menu, if they happen to front- or back-focus a little bit. I don’t think this is a very important feature, as I discuss above in Features. (The problem is that it is a maddening procedure, and you may get the focus exactly sharp for the center focus point at 15 feet at f/4, yet find that it is still off for the upper left focus point when you shoot under real life conditions that vary from those settings.) As I said above, if you need an excessive amount of AF microadjustment, you should probably send the camera or lens back for repair, calibration, or replacement. Or if you are that obsessed about pixels, you should be looking at a pro-sumer or pro camera and L series lenses. Finally, the 550D also uses SD type memory cards, while the other cameras all use CF, and the smaller battery of the 550D will not last for as many shots as the other cameras.

Also, as I discussed above, be aware that the mode dials of the 7D and 5D MkII do not have most of the “basic zone” mode settings such as sports, portrait, and landscape. If you are starting to learn dSLR photography, these modes are helpful for seeing the results from different camera settings, and are good shortcuts until you have learned more about apertures and shutter speeds. Or if you never intend to use or learn more about the advance settings, the basic modes are good for helping you get better looking results than Auto or Program modes. So if you plan on keeping your camera set on Auto, Program, or the basic modes (sports, landscape, etc.), start with the 550D or one of the other Rebels for now and upgrade later if you feel you have outgrown its capabilities. Your image quality difference between a 7D on Auto and a 550D on Auto will be negligible.

So there you have it. You can read great, in depth reviews of each of these cameras on DPreview.com. There are probably numerous features and points that I forgot to mention, but hopefully this will give you a starting point in determining which features are important to you, and what warrants further research to help you in making your decision. The important thing is to choose one that fits your needs and budget, then stop comparing and get out and shoot! As I said above, your camera choice should be based on your level and needs as a photographer, and on which camera best serves the way you work. Whichever one you choose, I highly encourage you to get the the applicable Canon Guide to Digital SLR Photography from David Busch, or a similar book like the Magic Lantern Guides. They are much more user friendly versions of the camera’s manual, and will get you up and running quickly and assist you in fully understanding the settings, controls, and functions of your dSLR.

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. Purchasing through this site or one of the direct-to-Amazon.com links 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.
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It is one thing to know that your cool new Canon or Nikon digital SLR provides you with 3 or 4 different metering modes. It’s another thing to know how and when to actually use them in the field or in different real life situations. The Canon 5D, 7D, 60D, 50D and T3i all offer four different metering modes – Evaluative, Center-Weighted, Partial, and Spot – as I’m sure you have thoroughly read about in your manual, right? Nikons, like the D7000, D51000, and D3100 generally have three different modes: Matrix, Center-Weighted, and Spot. I’ll try to cut to the chase and simplify the explanations and their uses.  Note that there are some important differences between how they work for Canon and Nikon cameras, particularly the Spot mode.

Canon T3i T2i 60D metering mode partial spot viewfinder
The viewfinder of the Canon T3i (T2i and 60D similar) showing the areas evaluated for Partial Metering (superimposed grey area) and Spot Metering (black circle in center).

Evaluative (Canon) or Matrix (Nikon): This is the default mode for your camera, and it can be used for almost every situation you shoot. Yes, maybe 90% of the time, maybe more. The camera evaluates the entire scene, as divided into several zones, and chooses the best exposure based on its knowledge of thousands of potential image situations. The current metering systems are so good, they can even be relied on for backlit or other challenging lighting situations. An important feature of this mode is that advanced cameras such as the Canon 7D, Canon 60D or Nikon D7000, D5100 take into account the selected focus point in its determination of exposure settings. It is assuming your focus point is on your most important subject, so under challenging and critical situations, it is wise to confirm that the camera has chosen the focus point you want (well, this is always wise). Even better, you should typically manually choose the focus point or cluster of focus points, as the camera has no idea what your intended image is. So in special situations, such as dramatically back-lit scenes or a situation with bright light plus deep shadows, make sure you are not using the center point to focus and meter, and then recomposing to take the shot – because some of the zones that the camera evaluated are now no longer in your shot after recomposing, and other new areas are, so the camera has set exposure for an image other than the one you are taking.


San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala

Partial (Canon only): This mode meters a smaller area, about 9.4%, in the center of the scene on the 7D and 6.5% with the 60D. Nikons do not have this mode, though some Nikons such as the D7000 offer the ability to change the size of the Center-Weighted Metering circle (see Center-Weighted Metering below), so it makes up for this.  The area is approximately a circle that reaches to the top and bottom focus points, and the metering system ignores the rest of the frame. This mode is useful where there is a dramatic difference in lighting between the foreground or subject and the background. For example, when your subject is backlit – maybe standing in front of a bright window or the sun – and consequently their face is in shadow. I know I said evaluative mode can often handle this type of situation, but if you want the face or subject to be properly exposed and not risk blowing the shot, it is worth it to quickly switch to Partial metering mode. Again, another time to use this is when there is a wide range of light in your scene, from bright sunlight to deep shadows. Remember, this mode is not linked to your focus point. The partial area that is metered is always in the center, so meter on the part of the scene that is most critical and that you want properly exposed, using the central area of the viewfinder, lock in that exposure, then recompose and take the shot.


Campo Nuevo, Guatemala

Important Note about Locking In the Metered Exposure: The metered exposure setting is sometimes locked in by pressing the shutter button half-way down or sometimes not “locked” until the image is taken (depending on your camera, or current shooting mode, or how you set it up – read your manual!).  The shutter button also typically locks focus (unless you have changed that setting).  If you wish to lock in focus and exposure separately, which you often will need to do, on a Canon use the AF-Lock (for focus) button and/ or the AE-Lock (for exposure) button – which looks like this: * – to lock in one of them before locking in the other with the half-press or full press of the shutter button. On the Nikons, you have to set one of your buttons to be the exposure lock button, either the AE-L/AF-L Button or the Fn Button on some cameras like the D7000. I suggest first metering on the subject and locking in that exposure by pressing the appropriate button, then recomposing and locking in focus right before or as you take the photo. Or else learning the advanced methods of back button focusing. Get in the habit of knowing how to do this instinctively, and if you need to hold or just press the particular button, so that it comes naturally during critical situations. On the 7D and D7000 and other cameras you can also customize how these buttons perform or set other buttons to do these tasks. You can see in the viewfinder that you have locked focus when the focus dot is lit. You can see that exposure is locked with the AE-L indication in the Nikon viewfinder or the * symbol in the Canon viewfinder.

Locking exposure and focus, independently, each in the brief seconds before you take a shot? Confusing? A little, but not impossible to figure out with some experimentation and practice. Remember, this is why you bought the fancy dSLR, so that you could make use of all these advanced features and take your photos to another level!

Center-Weighted Average: This metering mode is sort of a cross between Evaluative and Partial metering. It acknowledges that the subject is in the center and requires special metering attention, but it also takes into account all the other zones. Again, this is not linked to the focus point, but always to the center, so if your subject is off center – which it typically should be for a more dynamic image – you need to lock in exposure on your subject and then recompose. I have found that with the Canon 50D, this mode is actually more consistent than Evaluative metering, which often over exposes by 1/3 or 1/2 a stop.  Note that you can use the Custom Settings of the D7000 to change the size of the center area being weighted.

This mode can be used when you want to ensure that the subject is properly exposed, but you also want the camera to consider the background. However, if the background is much darker or lighter than the subject, and you want the camera to expose only for the subject and ignore the background, use Spot Metering…


San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala

Spot: This mode meters a small center area, 2.3% of the frame with the 7D, 2.8% with the 60D, and 2.5% with the D5100 and D7000. This area is indicated by the small circle in the center of the viewfinder of the 7D and 60D. There is no center circle in the Nikon viewfinder and you will soon find out why.  So when do you want to use Spot metering? This, again, is useful for scenes with great variation in light and shadow, or in very critical situations. One of the most common ways to use it is when metering for proper exposure on a dramatically lit face or subject, but the exposure of the rest of the scene is unimportant. Or perhaps your subject is set against a plain but consistent background, like a bird against a large blue sky. It is also used to determine proper exposure of a subject before switching the camera to manual for a controlled studio shot, or a critical shot or series of shots where the lighting is not going to change. If your background is completely dark or extremely bright, and you don’t want the exposure system to consider it at all when determining the exposure of you subject, use Spot rather than Center-Weighted or Partial. With Canon cameras, the Spot that is used to evaluate the exposure is in the center of the frame, and is often indicated by a small circle. However, with Nikon cameras like the D5100 and D7000, the Spot surrounds the active focus point and is not necessarily in the center of the frame unless you are using the center AF point. So it is wise to become familiar with how your camera operates.

A fifth metering mode is Manual metering, which isn’t actually a mode in your camera, but is a method of metering. This is where you use a light meter or use your camera as a light meter (such as described at the end in the Spot section above) and then manually set your exposure based on the meter readings. This is used when you want ultimate control of the metering and exposure.

You can learn much more about the Exposure modes of specific cameras, including the 60D, T3i, D7000 and D5100, in my e-book users guide. See my e-book website, Full Stop to learn more about them or click the banner below! The guides also go into much more detail about setting up the related metering mode Custom Functions/Custom Settings and camera controls.

full stop dslr photo photography camera manual guide for dummies canon nikon

I recently ran across an interesting article which takes this discussion to another level by addressing the use of different metering modes in the very specific situation of a wedding. Since one of the main subjects in typically all in white, and the other in black, the metering mode you select and where you meter can make a dramatic difference in the exposure. While that article is specific to weddings, it is useful and helpful to read to further understand how the different modes work, and how special situations might call for some extra thought.

Canon has just announced a new model in their Rebel lineup of digital SLRs, the T2i or 550D.  I encourage anyone who is just entering into digital SLR photography to have a look at my previous post Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens before you simply buy the T2i kit without considering another lens that may be a better choice for you and your photography.  Also, have a look at my post comparing several of the Canon dSLR cameras, including information about the 550D / T2i.


Antigua, Guatemala                             photo by dojoklo