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As I am working on my guide to the Nikon D600, Nikon D600 Experience, I realize that it may be very helpful to Nikon users to briefly explain the difference between Interval Timer Photography and Time-Lapse Photography. In the Nikon D600, these features are found in the Shooting Menu.

Interval Timer Shooting

This is used to take a continuous series of photographs at each specified time interval, for a set number of intervals, with the intervals to begin either immediately or at a set time (see Figure 1). It can be used to take these multiple series of shots over several minutes or hours. This is a bit different than the Time-Lapse Photography option (just below) in that Interval Timer Shooting can be used to capture not just one but rather a series of photos at each interval – for example, 4 photos in a row every 10 minutes, for 2 intervals. This will result in a total of 8 photos, as the camera will calculate and show you.

Nikon d600 interval timer vs time lapse photography shooting difference
Figure 1 – Interval Timer Shooting menu, showing 4 shots to be taken each interval, for 2 intervals, for a total of 8 shots. The intervals are to start immediately, with the time between intervals as 10 minutes. The current time is 22:50.

First choose to begin the Interval Timer Shooting immediately (Now), or at a set Start Time. Press left and right on the Multi Selector to navigate through these menus and up and down to set the desired times and numbers.

Next set the Interval, or time period between when each series of shots is taken. Then set the number of intervals (Select no. of times) and the number of shots to be taken at the start of each interval (no. of shots). Press right again when done with the settings, and select On to begin the Interval Timer shooting.

Ideally, set up your camera on a tripod for the duration of Interval Timer Shooting. Note that you cannot use Live View, and that each series of shots will be taken at the frames-per-second rate of the current Release Mode (or the Continuous Low rate if set for Single Frame), although this rate may be limited by a slower shutter speed setting. You can combine Bracketing with this function. Press the OK Button between intervals to pause or stop the process. The camera will need to focus before taking the shots, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.

Time-Lapse Photography

This differs from the above Interval Timer Shooting in that it is used to take a series of individual photos over an extended period of minutes or hours that are then combined into a time-lapse movie (see Figure 2). Thus only one photo is taken at each interval – for example, one photo every 10 seconds, for 8 hours. The resulting movie will use the frame rate setting from the Movie Settings (also in the Shooting Menu), and thus that setting (24fps, 30fps, etc.) will determine to total length of the movie. If 24fps was used in the above example, the resulting movie would be 2 minutes, as the camera will thankfully calculate for you in this menu.

Nikon d600 interval timer vs time lapse photography shooting difference
Figure 2 – Time-Lapse Photography menu – here the camera is set up to take an image every 5 seconds (the Interval), over a period of 25 minutes (the Shooting time). Since the movie frame rate is set at 24fps, the final movie will be 12.6 seconds long (Length recorded). The maximum possible length of a movie here is shown to be 38 minutes and 15 seconds based on the space left on the memory card as shown at the bottom, though note that the actual maximum length of any movie is 20 minutes.

To set up this function, access Time-Lapse Photography in the Shooting Menu.

Press right on the Multi Selector to access the settings, then press right or left to navigate to the various settings, and up and down to change the numbers and times. First set the Interval or time period between each shot. Then set the total Shooting time. You need to set short Intervals and a long Shooting Time to create a lengthy final time-lapse movie.

When done with the settings, press right on the Multi Selector and choose On. The time-lapse shooting will begin after 3 seconds. Again, be sure to set up the camera on a tripod for the duration of the shooting. When the shooting is complete, the resulting movie will be saved to the memory card selected in the Shooting Menu under Movie Settings in the Destination option.

If you wish to calculate the total length of a resulting time-lapse movie without entering the numbers into the camera, you can use the formula below, or use a time-lapse calculator available online or as an app.

Time-Lapse Formula:

trt = H * 3600 / I *FR

trt= Total Running Time in seconds.

H= Total Hours taken for time lapse in real time.

I= Interval in Seconds between photographs.

FR= Frame Rate in which pictures will be displayed (24, 25, 30, 60 etc.).

So for the settings in Figure 202:

trt = 7.5 * 3600 / 30 * 24

trt = 37.5 seconds (shown on the camera as 37.6”)

As you can see, it is easier to just get an app for this! Note that the total maximum length for a movie is limited to 20 minutes. Be sure to replace the Viewfinder eyecup with the Eyepiece Cap provided with your camera to block stray light from entering the camera during this process. Press the OK Button or turn the camera off to stop the time-lapse process. As with Interval Timer Photography, the camera will need to focus before taking each shot, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.

Both Interval Timer Photography and Time-Lapse Photography and their various settings and options are explained in more detail in the Interval and Time-Lapse Shooting section of the Nikon D600 Experience e-book user’s guide.

The latest in the Canon Powershot G series, the Powershot G1 X was recently announced, and should be available in February 2012. I wrote a bit about what new features it offers compared to the G12, namely a much larger CMOS sensor and a different lens to go with it. The G1 X is not a replacement to the G12, but rather is a new, even higher-end compact with manual controls, designed for dSLR users who want a very high quality point and shoot for various situations, as well as for dedicated enthusiasts who want the quality and manual control of a dSLR but don’t want the size, weight, and bulk of a dSLR body and lenses. The G1 X should prove to be a very popular camera for many demanding photographers for both everyday and travel use.

Canon g1 x g1x gx1 gx 1 compact asp-c large sensor high end g12
image courtesy of Canon USA

If you are trying to decide between the new G1 X and the older G12, the most important consideration (besides the price difference) is the sensor/ lens/ Digic V processor combo. While not quite as large as the ASP-C sensor of a dSLR like the T3i or 60D, the 18.7mm x 14mm, 14 megapixel sensor of the G1X is six times larger than that of the G12, and thus promises to offer not only higher image quality, but also much improved low light performance. Its f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide end coupled with the larger sensor will also allow a larger degree of background blurring for portraits, etc. While you shouldn’t expect the degree of out of focus areas (bokeh) as a dSLR due to the minimum aperture becoming f/5.8 at the telephoto end, it will be somewhat improved over what the G12 or other compacts can offer. The 4X zoom lens of the G1 X also does not have quite the reach of the 5X zoom lens of the G12.

Other possibly important differences between the two are the camera size and weight and the battery life. While the G1 X is larger and heavier than the G12, it uses a smaller batter with a shorter shot life (see below for details). The G1 X also offers a high speed burst of continuous shooting, 4.5 fps for up to 6 shots at full quality, or 1.9fps for unlimited continuous shots.

The controls of both cameras are very similar, with some minor tweaks made to the G1 X. The G series is prized by demanding photographers because it offers quick and easy access to many manual controls, similar to a dSLR, as well as a viewfinder. Both cameras have a mode dial to quickly change shooting modes, an exposure compensation dial for quick EC adjustments, and button access to autofocus modes, metering modes, flash, as well as exposure lock. The G1 X looses the ISO dial of the G12, but places it on the rear control dial for relatively easy access. The G1 X however adds a movie record button for rapid start of movie recording in any shooting mode. As a result of these changes, the AE-L button is moved lower, and the self-timer and manual focus functions no longer have dedicated buttons, but can be accessed in the menus.

Below is a further comparison of some of the key specs of each camera:

Canon G1 X

sensor: 14 MP, 18.7mm x 14mm sensor
lens: 28-112mm equivalent, 4X zoom lens
aperture: f/2.8-5.8 maximum aperture
rear LCD: 3″ articulating rear LCD with 920,000 dots
size: 116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm
weight: 534 g
processor: Digic V
RAW image file format: yes, 14 bit RAW
ISO: 100-12,800
exposure compensation: +/- 3 EV at 1/3 stops
continuous shooting: 4.5 fps for 6 shots
metering: Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
flash: internal pop-up plus hot-shoe for EX Speedlites
battery: NB 10L – 250 shots
video: up to 1920 x 1080 @ 24fps full HD
price: $799

Canon G12

sensor: 10 MP, 7.44 x 5.58mm sensor
lens: 28-140mm equivalent, 5X zoom lens
aperture: f/2.8-4.5 maximum aperture
rear LCD: 2.8″ articulating rear LCD with 460,000 dots
size: 112 x 76 x 48mm
weight: 351 g
processor: Digic IV
RAW image file format: yes
ISO: 80-3,200
exposure compensation: +/- 2 EV at 1/3 stops
continuous shooting: 2 fps
metering: Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
flash: internal plus hot-shoe for EX Speedlites
battery: NB 7L – 370 shots
video: up to 1280 x 720 @ 24fps HD
price: $395

So as you can see, the cameras are quite similar in many ways, with the exception of the sensor, lens, and processor, which is going to make a very large difference in terms of improved image quality, higher dynamic range, better low light performance, reduced noise at high ISO settings, longer flash reach, larger image size allowing for more aggressive cropping, and will allow the ability to achieve more dramatic depth of field. According to Canon:

The powerful DIGIC 5 processor in the PowerShot G1 X is able to process six times the amount of information compared to the DIGIC 4 processor used in the PowerShot G12 compact. With this vastly increased processing power advanced noise reduction is possible to provide even better image quality than the DIGIC 4-powered HS System.

The DIGIC 5 processor uses approximately four times as much information as before to resolve one pixel, with the aforementioned six times faster processing speed. For the total performance of noise and image clarity this has an effect of two stops at high ISOs compared to the PowerShot G12 compact at ISO 3200, and three stops at lower ISO.

The 14 bit RAW allows for those who shoot in RAW file format for later post-processing to capture images with more dynamic range, better noise reduction, and more shadow detail.

Most of the other features such as the viewfinder, scene modes, autofocusing systems, creative filters, movie modes, and white balance options are nearly identical on both models. The G1 X also adds improved, 4-stop image stabilization, a built in 3-stop neutral density (ND) filter, and an intelligent face detection system which will give focus and exposure priority to faces it recognizes. It also offers multi-area white balance correction so that different light sources are equally neutralized or balanced – such as the flash lit subject with the fluorescent lit background.

So, how do you decide between the two? Who is the G1 X for vs. the G12? Well, if the price difference doesn’t make up your mind for you, the G12 is for those who want a very high quality point, rugged point and shoot with manual controls and great image quality. If you are going to be viewing and sharing your photos online or on a computer screen primarily, the images from the G12 should suffice. You can still do post-processing and make small or medium size prints for the special images. It is great for everyday use and for travel.

But if you need to take it to the next level – if you need or want near dSLR quality images for more invasive post-processing, larger prints, cropping, or even publication, you will want the G1 X. If you want the ability to more easily create background blurring, and the occasional high speed burst for action shots, you will want the new model. If you want to get as close to a dSLR without the size, weight, and lenses, the G1 X (or Sony NEX-7) is the answer.

Pre-order your G1 X from B and H Photo here! – $799 – expected Feb. 2012?

Pre-order your G1 X from Amazon – $799 – expected March 31, 2010

See the Powershot G12 on Amazon – $395

The official Canon press release for the G1 X can be read on their site here.

In a previous post I wrote an in-depth comparison of the dSLR cameras in the current Canon line-up, the Canon 7D vs 60D vs T3i / 600D.  To sum up that practical, subjective comparison, here is a brief and somewhat serious synopsis to help you make your camera decision based on your photography experience and needs:

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

Get a Canon 600D / Rebel T3i (or older 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 extensive use of it, for any specific additional features, there is no need to look beyond the T3i / 600D. See the T3i 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, faster shooting speed, more precise autofocus system, and more complex 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 megapixels (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 (the T3i has this too). If you typically shoot on Auto or Program mode, you probably do not need a 60D. If you do not manually select your own focus point and have never used exposure compensation you probably do not need a 60D. If you have never used the AE-Lock [*] button to lock exposure you most likely do not need a 60D. If you don’t understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO you may not really 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, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens. See the 60D on Amazon.

Get a Canon 7D if you have extensive experience with a Rebel like an XTi or T1i (also called the xxxD series like the 350D or 500D) 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 most likely really don’t need a 7D. If you have never used Av aperture priority mode or M manual mode, you should probably gain more dSLR experience before investing in 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 don’t need the sophisticated AF system of the 7D. If you have never used spot metering to determine a critical exposure level or experimented with back-button focusing you probably will do just fine with a camera less advanced and less expensive than the 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, consider saving the money or using 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 T3i/600D, T2i/550D, 60D and 7D all have most of these advanced features I just listed: manually selected focus points, exposure compensation, AE-Lock, auto-focus tracking, spot metering, and back-button focusing. All of these cameras are fully capable of advanced dSLR shooting techniques and are capable of shooting professional quality images. I’m just using the above features as a determination of your experience level and equipment 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 truly need a 5D MkII, you are most likely already in that phase where you are fully aware that you need it and you are merely saving up and/ or agonizing over when to go ahead and spend (or inform the spouse that you need to spend) that $2500.

If you don’t already know that you need a 5D Mk II and specifically why you need it, you probably don’t need a 5D. Plus, as is often the case, many of those who could really take full advantage of a 5D Mk II are those who can’t afford one. (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 T3i/600D. If you don’t already know how to use an advanced dSLR camera and why a photographer needs one, buying a 5D Mk II is sort of like buying a washing machine with the buttons, dials, and writing all in Swahili. You know what a washing machine can do and is supposed to do, and you can sort of figure out the Swahili one. But until you properly learn how to use it, if you start turning the dials and pressing some buttons you could really screw things up. And even though the Swahili buttons all look really cool and impress your friends and the other clothes-washers who see it, and the salesman told you it is a “better” washing machine and has a bigger drum, it probably won’t help you clean your clothes better, especially if you don’t know how to use it. Until you learn how, when, and why to use the controls, features, menus, and custom functions of a 5D Mk II or even a 7D, you may be taking worse pictures! At best you won’t be taking advantage of most of the features and capabilities you paid a lot more for. And besides, the 5D Mk II is becoming old technology. You should wait for the 5D Mark III :) Plus, the large, high resolution sensor of the 5D Mk II pretty much requires that you use Canon’s best L-series lenses, so be sure to take that into account. See the Canon 5D Mk II on Amazon.

Whichever Canon you choose, learn to take control of your camera and the images you create with one of my Full Stop e-book guides!

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

 

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As I recently noted in my post about the eventual release of the 7D Mk II, as an e-book camera guide author, I have to attempt to plan my life and writing schedule around the release of the latest dSLR cameras. And since major camera companies typically give little-to-no advance notice for the announcement then release of a new model, this involves lots of speculation and following of online rumors. And then I subject myself to a few weeks of intense, non-stop research and writing when it is finally announced.

The Canon 5D Mark III has been rumored for imminent release numerous times, including most recently Feb 2011, November 2011, first quarter of 2012, and “any minute now.”  This speculation occurs with every expected new model, so as you can see, there is no telling when it will suddenly be announced.  But based on Canon’s history of model releases, it is sometimes pretty easy to narrow the range down.  For example, the original 5D reigned for 3 years, and then was replaced by the 5D Mark II, which was announced on September 17, 2008.  Add three years to that, and you get an announcement of the Canon 5D Mk III expected in September 2011.  Not so difficult, really.  Except one has to take into account the disruptions to manufacturing and supply caused by the earthquake in Japan, so that could cause a delay of a month or three.  As equally fascinating is the speculation for what features the 5D Mark III will have. Most interestingly, some have wildly suggested that the line will be split in two with a stills version and a video version.  Not likely.  So what is there to improve on this amazing camera?  Well, several of its features can easily be improved, and hopefully there will be a few surprises added.

canon 6d canon 5d mk iii mkiii mk 3 mark 3 mark ii vs compare which one
The Canon 5D Mk II, patiently awaiting its successor, the Canon 5D Mk III – or is it the Canon 6D…

Currently the Canon 5D Mk II offers:

  • 21 MP Full Frame sensor
  • DIGIC 4 processor
  • Full HD video
  • 3.9 frames per second continuous shooting
  • ISO 100 to 6400 (expandable to 25,600)
  • 3” high resolution LCD screen – non-articulating
  • 9 point autofocus system, all cross-type plus 6 assist points
  • 35 zone exposure metering system
  • Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing

Much of this can easily be improved upon, and in fact the current 7D already boasts several upgrades to these features.  The 5D Mark III will obviously take the best of the 7D and improve upon it in some areas.

Canon EOS 5D Mk III predictions:

  • 26 to 28 MP Full Frame sensor
  • Single or Dual DIGIC 5 processors
  • Full HD video at all the frame rates – plus many additional video features and options that videographers have been waiting for or use 3rd party firmware to obtain, but that I don’t know much about since I have yet to enter the video world.  But I can assure you that the 5D Mk III is going to be a videographers dream, perhaps with RAW video.  Perhaps it will even be able to autofocus full time in video mode.
  • 7 frames per second high speed continuous shooting.  I’m not sure of the mechanics of it but it seems that the large mirror flipping up and down is an impediment to a super fast fps, but Canon has done it both on previous film cameras and in the 1D line.  So hopefully it will be significantly higher than the current 3.9fps.  It will definitely boast an improved maximum burst rate (more JPEG or RAW frames captured before the camera pauses to digest them).
  • Ability to customize Continuous Low and High settings so that you can choose your own rates. Please, please, please.
  • ISO 100 to 12,800 or more, and then expandable – while the ISO performance of the 5D MkII is already stellar, the new one will boast even more improved high ISO performance (less noise at high ISOs)
  • 3” very-high resolution LCD screen – Non-articulating?  Articulating?  Touch screen?  It seems that an articulating screen is the way to go for any camera now, but will Canon hold off with putting this on their higher end models?  Touch screen is definitely coming to dSLRs, but will it be on this one?  …maybe, probably not.
  • 19 point (or more) autofocus system, all cross-type, with numerous configurations and customization options, as taken from the 7D – this desperately needs to be improved in the 5D, and the technology is already there in the 7D.  Canon will definitely add the new Autofocus menu system of the new 1D X to make configuring and taking full advantage of the AF system much easier – as opposed to the autofocus menu and C.Fn options on the 7D which make it a bit complicated.
  • Improved 63 zone+ exposure metering system – it will definitely boast an upgraded exposure metering system, perhaps the current 63 zone system, but probably even a bit improved.
  • Magnesium allow body with weather sealing – already has this, not much improvement required.

Additional features:

It will certainly have a several new menu and custom function settings, hopefully including some additional control over Spot, Center-weighted, and Partial metering, like the ability to change the size of the area metered and the ability to link it to the active AF point.  Plus the new Autofocus menu system similar to the 1D X.

Oh yes, and the HDR fans would appreciate more latitude in auto exposure bracketing, such as perhaps 5 exposures over 5 to 9 stops. And maybe some more fluorescent white balance options like Nikon offers.

It will likely and hopefully retain the CF card and the LP-E6 battery.

Built-in GPS or wi-fi?  This will eventually be in all cameras, and maybe this one will have these features.

So, there are my best guesses. Be sure to follow the rumors at Canon Rumors to find out when the 5D Mk III may come out, particularly the 5D Mk III category. And learn about my Canon 7D Mk II predictions in this previous post.

As an e-book camera guide author, I have to attempt to plan my life and writing schedule around the release of the latest dSLR cameras.  And since major camera companies typically give little-to-no advance notice for the announcement then release of a new model, this involves lots of speculation and following of online rumors.   And then a few weeks of intense, non-stop research and writing when it is finally announced.

The Canon 7D Mark II has been rumored for imminent release numerous times including Feb 2011, May 2011, November 2011, early 2012, etc.  So as you can see, there is no telling when it will suddenly appear.  The camera was originally announced September 2009, so Sept. 2011 is my best current guess.  Except one has to take into account the disruptions to manufacturing and supply caused by the earthquake in Japan, so that could cause a delay of a month or three.  As equally annoying but fascinating is the speculation for what features the 7D Mark II will have.  Most amusingly, some have wildly suggested that it will be a full frame camera (not likely…but then again, full frame is bound to creep down into the the pro-sumer line at some point, so why not now, why not with the 7D Mk II?).  So what is there to improve on this amazing camera?  (Why is it so amazing?  See my previous post of Why the Canon 7D is a Super Awesome Camera.)

canon 7d mk ii mkii mk 2 mark 2 mark ii vs compare which one
The Canon 7D, patiently awaiting its replacement the EOS 7D Mark II

Currently the Canon 7D offers:

  • 18 MP APS-C sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 4 processors
  • Full HD video at all the frame rates
  • 8 frames per second and 3fps continuous shooting
  • ISO 100 to 6400 (plus 12,800)
  • 3” high resolution LCD screen – non-articulating
  • 19 point autofocus system, all cross-type, with numerous configurations and customization options
  • 63 zone exposure metering system
  • Built in remote flash triggering
  • Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing

While little of this actually needs improvement, Canon is not going to release an new model without some significant improvements (though they have done that before…).  I predict many of the above features will have a small to significant upgrade.

Canon EOS 7D Mk II predictions:

  • 21 to 24 MP APS-C sensor – I’m not sure if Canon can affordably bring together 8fps and a full frame sensor at the same time yet, and if they did, wouldn’t that be the 5D Mk III?
  • Dual DIGIC 5 processors – or perhaps a single powerful processor
  • Full HD video at all the frame rates – plus many additional video features, menus, and options like those currently offered in the 60D, plus some other stuff that videographers like but I don’t know much about since I haven’t entered the video world yet.  Perhaps it will even be able to competently autofocus full time in video mode.
  • 8 frames per second and 3 fps continuous shooting with slightly improved maximum burst rate (more JPEG or RAW frames captured before the camera pauses to digest them) – the high speed of 8fps really doesn’t need to be improved, but the problem is 8fps is often overkill and 3 fps is too slow.  What is needed is a 5 fps option, or better yet, the ability to customize Continuous Low and High settings so that you can choose your own rates.  Please, please, please.
  • ISO 100 to 12,800 or more, and then some – and improved high ISO performance (less noise at high ISOs)
  • 3” high resolution LCD screen – non-articulating – touch screen? While many might want an articulating screen, it would really mess up the great button layout on the rear of the camera.  Maybe they will come up with a new type of articulation that maintains the basic button layout.  Touch screen is definitely coming to dSLRs, but will it be on this one…maybe, but Canon barely uses touch screens with its point and shoots yet so they may hold off for a bit and introduce it in their T3i successor.
  • 19 point autofocus system, all cross-type, with numerous configurations and customization options – this doesn’t really need to be improved, though they could always add a few more AF points and perhaps some additional manners of customizing their use.
  • Improved exposure metering system – it will likely boast an upgraded exposure metering system from the current 63 zone system
  • Built in remote flash triggering – already pretty full-featured
  • Magnesium allow body with weather sealing – already about the best it could be

Additional features:

It will certainly have a couple new menu and custom function settings, hopefully including some additional control over Spot, Center-weighted, and Partial metering, like the ability to change the size of the area metered and the ability to link it to the active AF point.

Oh yes, and the HDR fans would appreciate more latitude in auto exposure bracketing, such as perhaps 5 exposures over 5 to 7 stops.  And maybe some more fluorescent white balance options like Nikon offers.

It will likely and hopefully retain the CF card and the LP-E6 battery.

So, there are my best guesses.  Have a look at the Canon 7D on Amazon here.

As mentioned above, I have written an e-book user’s guide to the 7D called Canon 7D Experience.  It will help you take control of this powerful and customizable camera and the images you create!  You can learn much more about it here.
Canon 7D EOS book e book ebook guide manual tutorial how to instruction for dummies 7d mark i mk i

Be sure to follow the rumors at Canon Rumors to find out when the 7D Mk II may come out, particularly the 7D Mk II and 5D Mk III categories (where some of the 7D MkII news is hidden).  And learn about my Canon 5D Mk III predictions in this post.

Choosing between the Nikon D5100, D7000, D90, and D3100:

A few months ago I wrote a post comparing the Nikon D90 vs D7000 vs D300s. Now that the D5100 is available, I am updating the comparison and include this new model, the highly competent successor to the Nikon D5000.

Nikon D5100 vs d7000 vs d3100 manual book compare choose
Detail of the Nikon D5100 – photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

In the Nikon lineup, the D5100 sits just above the D3100, a bit below the aging D90, and a few steps below the highly capable and immensely popular Nikon D7000. You may see some comparison charts that make the cameras appear somewhat (or very) similar at first, but those charts don’t tell the whole story.  They can even be deceptive.  You really need to take a closer look at not just the specifications, but the features and how they are used in real life, and determine which camera is the right tool for your photography.

The D5100 boasts a 16 megapixel image sensor just like the D7000, shoots 4 frames per second in continuous mode, has HD video capability at 24, 25, and 30 fps, and includes a fully adjustable side-mounted rotating screen more similar to the Canon T3i and 60D than to the bottom mounted limited angle screen on the D5000. It is closer in specifications and price to the Canon T3i than the entry level D3100 and should prove to be an excellent option for new dSLR users plus those experienced enthusiasts wishing to upgrade their D50, D60, or even their D3000 to gain additional megapixels, video, and an improved rear LCD screen.

side by side review compare Nikon D5100 vs D7000 vs D3100 vs D90
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Below I will spell out some of the differences in specifications and features, as well as what these differences mean and why they may or may not be important to you and your photography. Generally as the cameras increase in price and capability from the entry level model to the enthusiast pro-sumer model they gain more sophisticated autofocus and exposure metering systems, shoot faster (more frames per second) in continuous shooting mode, have more controls on the camera body for changing settings, have sturdier construction, and offer more menu and custom function options. As I always like to point out, 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. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, and the more expensive, higher-end models will offer more features and options than the lower-end models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those additional features and functions then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive model.

Sensor and Image Quality: The sensors of the D7000 and D5100 are greatly improved over the older D90 in a couple of ways (it is the same sensor in both cameras). The D7000 and D5100 have 16.2 megapixel sensors, where the D90 has 12.3 megapixels. The relatively new D3100 has a 14.2 MP sensor. This increase in resolution allows for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allows for larger prints. In addition, the improved sensor results in better performance at high ISO settings and in low light, better dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity. Have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right some of the graphs, such as Dynamic Range, to see how these differences affect images.

Exposure Metering: The D5100, while sharing a similar sensor to the D7000, does not have the same advanced metering system. It shares the less sophisticated 420 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D3100 and offers matrix metering, non-adjustable center-weighted, and spot metering modes. This system may be more than sufficient for many users, especially those not intending to adjust their exposure settings and dig into their menus in reaction to complex lighting situations. But if your shooting demands require more precise exposure metering and control over the size of the areas being metered, you need to consider the D90 or D7000. The 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D7000 is also improved compared to the D90, and will result in more accurate metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes and situations. Both these cameras offer matrix metering, center-weighted, and spot metering modes. With center-weighted metering on the D90, you can select the size of the center-weighted area to be a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle, and the D7000 adds a 13mm circle option to those.  (If you don’t understand what this means or why you may need it, you probably don’t need it!)

Autofocus: The autofocus systems of the D3100, D5100, and D90 all have 11 autofocus (AF) points with the center one being a more accurate cross-type. These AF systems may be more than sufficient for most users, and they can successfully track moving objects in the frame such as athletes, performers, or animals. However, if you specialize in sports, action, wildlife, or bird photography, you are going to want to consider the much more sophisticated, accurate, and customizable AF system of the D7000. The D7000 boasts a significantly improved AF system of 39 AF points with 9 of them (in the center) being cross type. The AF system of the D7000 allows for you to use these points in various ways including automatic AF point selection, single point AF, and dynamic area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-tracking. With the D7000 you can also use a custom function to limit the AF system to 11 points, which may be more manageable for someone who wishes to manually select their AF points.  (Have a look at this article for an in-depth explanation of the D7000 AF system and its capabilities)

review compare Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D7000 vs D90 side by side
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D5100 is just slightly larger and a tiny bit heavier than the D3100, both weighing just over one pound. Both have plastic bodies and more limited buttons and controls that the higher end models. The D90 and D7000 appear very similar at first glance, but the plastic body of the D90 has been upgraded to the partially magnesium alloy body (top and rear) of the D7000. This adds slightly to the weight: 1.5 lbs for the D90 vs. 1.7 lbs for the D7000. The sturdier construction of the D7000 versus the D90 – including its nicer rubber gripping surfaces – creates the impression and feel of a more professional body. The D7000 also has weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.

The higher end D7000 includes not only the 3″ rear LCD screen but also a top LCD panel for viewing and changing your settings. This is essential for photographers who are constantly changing their settings to deal with various shooting situations. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details. For most users, including even those using the camera daily or in rugged travel situations, the non-magnesium construction of the D5100 should be far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.

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.)

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor and Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D7000 is greatly improved over the D90. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story, along with the fact that the native ISO range of the D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600. The D5100 shares these specifications, and should offer similar results. The D3100 has a native ISO range of 100-3200 expandable to 12800, and the range of the D90 is 200-3200. This means that with the D7000 and D5100 you can use higher ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have as much difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images.

Controls: As with construction, the buttons and controls vary with these cameras. The D3100 and D5100 offer limited, basic controls on the exterior of the camera. However you can use the rear LCD screen to quickly change many settings, or else go into the menus. The D7000 offers an extensive array of controls on the camera body, allowing one to quickly change a large number of settings as they work, including focus mode and focus area settings, shooting mode, and exposure mode. The controls of the D7000 are similar to the D90 with some changes including the addition of the shooting mode ring under the mode dial (to change from single shot to high speed continuous to self timer, etc.), and the live-view switch with movie record button inside it. The top AF button of the D90 is incorporated into the AF switch and button at the base of the lens on the D7000. The D7000 also offers more white balance options than the other cameras, plus 2 customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial, and you can assign functions of your choice to buttons such as the Fn Button.

Menus and Custom Settings: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. The D5100 has less Menu and Custom Settings options than the D90 and the highly customizable D7000, and more than the D3100 (which offers no custom settings). These settings enable you to customize the operation, function, and controls to work how you want them to, including things like exposure increments, Live View options, tweaking how the autofocus system operates, setting more precise white balance settings, and customizing which button does what. There are ebooks such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience which walk you through all of the Menu settings and Custom Settings so that you can set up your camera to work best for how you photograph, and also begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

 

Brief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D7000, and one for the Nikon D5100. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put some that knowledge into eBook form! The guides covers all the Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings and every Custom Function setting – 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, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos.

Click HERE to learn more about Nikon D7000 Experience – and to view a preview, or purchase it!

And see HERE to learn about, preview, and purchase my ebook guide Nikon D5100 Experience.

Wireless Flash: The D7000 includes the feature of advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a commander for off-camera Nikon Speedlights. However, the D5100 and D3100 do not have this capability. With the D7000, you can set up one or more Speedlights in remote mode, then trigger them wirelessly with the built in flash of the camera.

Viewfinder: The D5100 has a pentamirror viewfinder with approximately 95% coverage of the actual resulting image, just like the D3100. The higher quality pentaprism viewfinder of the D90 gives 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, while the D7000 has a larger, brighter pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage. While in-and-of-itself, a 95% viewfinder works just fine, when you compare it side-by-side with the large, clear view of the D7000, you can see and understand the advantages of a clearer view of your entire scene with a 100% view, pentaprism viewfinder.

Processor: The Nikon D5100 and D3100 use the fast Expeed 2 image processor just like the D7000. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at 24fps, overall faster processing of stills and video files, and the ability to maintain fast continuous speed shooting for numerous frames. The D90 has the older Nikon Expeed processor, which is also fast enough to handle its processing needs.

review compare D7000 vs Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D90 size
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Continuous Shooting Speed: As you work your way up the Nikon dSLR line-up the cameras’ continuous shooting speed and maximum shots at that rate increases. The D3100 shoots 3 frames per second (fps) in continuous shooting mode, the D5100 shoots 4 fps, and the D7000 shoots 6 fps for up to 100 shots. The D90 can shoot 4.5 fps up to 100 images. If you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, such as for sports, action, or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D7000 over the other cameras. Paired with its advanced autofocus system, this fast frame rate can sharply capture moving objects is all types of situations. A nice feature of the D7000 is that you can adjust the low speed continuous mode to shoot anywhere from 1 to 5 fps, using the custom settings.

Memory Card: The D5100, D3100, and D90 all use a single SD memory card. The D7000 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow when the first card fills up, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The second card can come in handy as well if one is shooting video files, and one card can be designated for stills and the other video.

Battery and Battery Grip: The D5100 and D3100 both use the EN-EL14 battery, and the D7000 uses the new, higher capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots. The D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip which is constructed of magnesium alloy. The D90 uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80. The D5100 and D3100 don’t accept a battery grip. The battery pack /grip is handy for providing the ability to use a second battery and thus prolonging shooting time, and also creates a larger camera body which some users find more comfortable, especially when shooting in portrait orientation.

Full HD video: The D5100 shoots 1080p and 720p video at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D3100 shoots 1080p at 24 fps and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D7000 also shoots 1080p at 24 fps only and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps, up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. The D90 offers 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time.

Ease of Operation: While beginners may find all the buttons, controls, and menus of any dSLR difficult and confusing at first, the menus and controls of the D5100 and D3100 are pretty basic and simple to learn for a dedicated user. The additional controls and menus of the D7000 and D90 are all quite intelligently designed and will become intuitive and straightforward for the more advanced user once they are learned and understood. Again, have a look at helpful guides such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience to begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

If you are interested in comparing the D5100 or D7000 to the comparable Canon models, have a look at these articles:

Nikon D5100 vs. Canon T3i

Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 60D (and 7D)

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or Amazon.com UK, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks! In the USA, use the links throughout this post or use this referral link to Amazon. And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. Thank you for supporting my efforts!

See the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon $899

See the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon $799

See the Nikon D7000 – Body Only on Amazon $1199

See the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm Lens on Amazon $1499

See the Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

See the D90 on Amazon $739 body only or $1049 with 18-105mm lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here. If you wish to purchase from B&H Photo, Adorama, or direct from Canon, please click on their logos on the left side of this page or on the Gear page. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out these links, dSLR Photography Gear, Accessories, and Books, which discusses essential gear plus accessories specific to Nikon cameras; Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography.

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

Get a Nikon D3100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a camera because you might only be using it on Auto mode, or if you don’t plan to really “get into” photography beyond taking better photos than you are able to with your compact point-and-shoot and having the ability to use various lenses.  The D3100 is a camera one could outgrow in time if they work at their photography and advance. See the Nikon D3100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D5100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and think you will want to experiment beyond Auto mode, or want to upgrade from an older entry level model 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 basic dSLR camera and have not discovered the need, in your use of it, for any specific additional advanced features, there may be no need to look beyond the D5100.  The D5100 is a camera one can grow with, but it is also one a user could outgrow if they are dedicated to their photography and start to require more advanced capabilities. See the Nikon D5100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D90 if you have outgrown the capabilities of an older Nikon like a D3000 or D40 through D60 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 D70 or D80 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 4.5 frames per second continuous rate to shoot sports or action. If you typically shoot on Auto or Program mode, you may not need a D90. If you do not manually select your own focus point and have never used exposure compensation you may not need a D90. If you have never used the AE-Lock [AE-L] button to lock exposure you may not need a D90. If you don’t understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and don’t intend to learn more about it, you may not need a D90. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this more advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens.  The D90 is a camera one would not outgrow as it has advanced features and capabilities, but its drawback is that it is now outdated. See the Nikon D90 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D7000 if you have extensive experience with a D3000, D40 through 60, or D70 through D90 camera, and you know and understand most of the D7000’s advanced features and customization options, and you specifically need some of them for your demanding shooting needs. If you haven’t passed the above “criteria” for a D90, you probably don’t need a D7000. If you have never used A aperture priority mode or M manual mode, you probably don’t need a D7000. 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 might not need a D7000. If you have never used spot metering to determine a critical exposure level you may not need a D7000. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this very advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens. However, if you often need to take 100 consecutive photos at the rate of 6 frames per second, you do need the D7000. Immediately. Even if you just sometimes need that. Totally worth it. That’s 16.67 seconds of continuous shooting. Who doesn’t need that? You’d make Eadweard Muybridge proud.  The D7000 is not a camera one would outgrow for a long time, and in fact will meet many of the demands of a professional.  See the Nikon D7000 on Amazon.

(Please note, the D3100, D5100, D90, and D7000 all have these features and capabilities I just listed: manually selected focus points, exposure compensation, AE-Lock, auto-focus tracking, and spot metering. I’m just using them as a determination of your experience level and needs.)

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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

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks! 

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 purchase from their sites, or click on the links throughout this post to view and purchase those products on Amazon.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

Comparing the Nikon D300s vs. D7000 vs. D90:

Since the Nikon D5100 was recently announced, I have updated this post to include all the current Nikon dSLR offerings. Read the updated post Nikon D5100 vs D7000 vs D90 vs D3100 here.

Just as Canon has made the decision between its consumer and pro-sumer dSLR cameras difficult due to the fact that they all share so many features, now so has Nikon with the release of the extremely admired new Nikon D7000. Although the D7000 sits above the Nikon D5100 and between the Nikon D90 and the Nikon D300s in price and features, its impressive new sensor, increase in megapixels and resolution, improved autofocus (AF) system, and construction and controls have made it a viable upgrade not only to the D90, but it some aspects it even challenges the more expensive, semi-professional D300s. Have its impressive specs created a lame duck of the D300s?

Nikon D7000 vs D300s vs D90 macro lens
photo by the author

As I always like to point out, 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. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those upgrades then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive or earlier model.

Sensor and Image Quality: The sensor of the D7000 is greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s in a couple of ways. The D7000 has 16.2 megapixels, where the D90 and D300s each have 12.3 megapixels. This increase in resolution allows for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allows for larger prints. In addition, the improved sensor, manufactured by Sony, results in better performance at high ISO settings and in low light, better dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity. Have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right of the graphs to see how these differences affect images.

Exposure Metering: The 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D7000 is also improved compared to the D90 and D300s, and will result in better TTL metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes and situations. All three cameras offer matrix metering, center-weighted, and spot metering. With center-weighted metering, the D90 can make use of your choice of a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle for its weighting, while the D7000 and D300s add a 13mm circle option to that.

Autofocus: The autofocus system of the D90 has 11 autofocus (AF) points with the center one being the more accurate cross type. The D7000 boasts a significantly improved AF system of 39 AF points with 9 of them being cross type. The D300s offers 51 AF points with 15 being cross type. The AF systems of the D7000 and D300s allow for you to use these points in various ways including automatic AF point selection, single point AF, and dynamic area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-tracking. With the D7000 you can also use a custom function to limit the AF system to 11 points, which may be more manageable for someone who wishes to manually select their AF points.

Nikon D7000 vs D300s vs D90 macro lens
photo by the author

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D90 and D7000 appear very similar at first glance, but the plastic body of the D90 has been upgraded to the partially magnesium alloy body (top and rear) of the D7000. This adds slightly to the weight: 1.5 lbs for the D90 vs. 1.7 lbs for the D7000. The D300s is slightly larger than the other 2 bodies, and weighs in at 2.2 lbs, with full magnesium construction. The sturdier construction of the D7000 vs. the D90, including its nicer rubber gripping surfaces, creates the impression and feel of a more professional body. The D7000 and D300s have weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors. All 3 cameras have a 3″ rear LCD screen as well as a top LCD panel. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount, which plays an important role in supporting a heavy lens, is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details.

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor/IQ section above, the high ISO performance of the D7000 is greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story, along with the fact that the native ISO range of the D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600. The other two cameras have a native ISO range of 200-3200 expandable to 6400. This means that with the D7000 you can use higher ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have as much difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images. Early reports indicate that the high ISO performance is excellent.

Controls: The controls of the D7000 are similar to the D90 with some changes including the addition of the shooting mode ring under the mode dial (to change from single shot to high speed continuous to self timer, etc.), and the live-view switch with movie record button inside it. The top AF button of the D90 is incorporated into the AF switch and button at the base of the lens on the D7000. The D300s has entirely different switches, dials, and buttons than the other two cameras, however this allows for quicker and easier access to more features on the D300s since the D300s has more controls and settings directly available on the body. The D7000 also offers more white balance options than the other two cameras, plus 2 customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial, and you can assign functions of your choice to buttons such as the Fn Button.

Wireless Flash: All three cameras allow for advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash with Nikon Speedlights.

Brief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D7000. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing the camera, I decided to put some that knowledge into eBook form! The guide covers all the Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings and Custom Setting options – 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, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos. Click HERE to learn more about it – Nikon D7000 Experience – and to view a preview, or purchase it!

Viewfinder: The D90 has a viewfinder with 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, while the D7000 and D300s have improved large, bright 100% viewfinder coverage.

Nikon D7000 vs. D90 vs. D300s macro lens
photo by the author

Processor: The D90 and D300s have the Nikon Expeed Processor, while the D7000 has the improved Expeed II processor. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at 24fps, and overall faster processing of stills and video files.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The D90 can shoot 4.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images, the D7000 shoots 6 fps up to 100 shots, and the D300s shoots 7 fps – or 8fps with the battery grip. If you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, such as for sports or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D300s over the D7000. Otherwise, 7 or 8 fps is often complete overkill in typical real-life use.

Memory Card: The D90 uses a single SD memory card. The D7000 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The D300s uses 1 CF card and 1 SD card, which also can be configured in a variety of ways. The second card can come in handy as well if one is shooting a lot of video files.

Battery: The D7000 uses the new, higher capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots, and accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip which is constructed of magnesium alloy. The D300s uses the EN-EL3e battery and the optional MB-D10 battery pack/ vertical grip. The D90 also uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80.

Full HD video: The D90 and D300s offer 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time. The D7000 improves this tremendously with full 1080p HD video at 24 fps for up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. Plus it offers 720p at 30, 24, and 25 fps.

Price: See below

Shooting Experience: The D7000 feels and performs great. After spending some time with the D7000, and getting over all its quirky differences vs. Canons – as far as menus, custom functions, and buttons/ controls – I’m really beginning to become attached to it. I actually prefer some of the controls it provides vs. the Canons plus some of the options it provides, such as the optional grid in the viewfinder, the ability to limit the AF points to 11 including the 9 cross type points – for quicker manual selection, the ability to change the continuous low shooting speed between 1 to 5 shots (I complained over a year ago that the 7D should have had that feature as its 8 fps is usually overkill for me), and the versatility to change the size of the central spot size for center weighted metering. Also, thank goodness the D7000 includes the ability to reverse the + and – directions of exposure compensation, because the Nikon default is just plain wrong!

So as you can see, the D7000 truly is an improvement over the D90 in every way, and an improvement over the D300s in many ways. Unless you have a couple very specific needs that only the D300s can accommodate – such as faster continuous shooting speeds, direct access to certain controls and settings, and a full magnesium alloy body – then it may be difficult to justify the older D300s over the new D7000.

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or Amazon.com UK, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks! In the USA, use the links throughout this post or use this referral link to Amazon. 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. Thank you for supporting my efforts!

See and buy the Nikon D7000 – Body Only on Amazon $1199

See and buy the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm Lens on Amazon $1499

See and buy the D90 on Amazon $739 body only or $1049 with 18-105mm lens

See and buy the D300s on Amazon $1449 body only

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here. If you are in another country, click on an Amazon link, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon. If you wish to purchase from B+H Photo please click the link below. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out these links, dSLR Photography Gear, Accessories, and Books, which discusses essential gear plus accessories specific to Nikon cameras; Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography.

DPReview has excellent, very thorough reviews of all of these cameras, including one just published for the D7000.

I know a lot of readers are interested in a review comparing the Canon 60D vs. 50D. The EOS 60D was recently released, and has caused a lot of discussion as to how it fits into the Canon xxD lineup and progression. I wrote a bit about this comparison in a previous post comparing several of the dSLR cameras in the current Canon line-up (Canon 5D vs 7D vs 60D vs 600D/ T3i and 550D / T2i), but I will go into a bit more detail about how to choose specifically between the 60D and the 50D.

As I always like to point out, 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.

Canon 60D vs Canon 50D

Canon EOS 60D vs. 50D: The Canon 60D sort of replaces the 50D, so I suppose people are trying to determine if they should get the latest camera (60D), or if they can save a little bit of money and go with the older model (50D), and then maybe use the leftover savings to invest in nice lenses. The 50D is no longer being manufactured, and new stock of them will only be around until they sell out. Don’t expect the price of the 50D to suddenly drop – typically, Canon doesn’t need to lower the price of the older model because they control their manufacturing and the timing of the replacement process very well.

Unfortunately with digital cameras, they are all somewhat disposable. Yes, even $1000 cameras. Within 5 years or less, your new camera will have become “old,” outdated equipment. So the problem with the 2 year old 50D is that it is already approaching that point now. (Actually, in many ways it is 3.5 year old technology, since it shares most every feature of the 40D, including the autofocus system, but with a slightly higher megapixel count.) If you start with one now, in 4 more years its technology will be absolutely archaic! 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. The 40D is still an excellent camera. And I just recently went out with a 5 year old 5D Mk I and was thoroughly wowed at how awesome it still is. But 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. Maybe you will be fine with that and perhaps the 50D will still be serving your needs. But maybe you will have advanced as a photographer and start feeling left behind, wishing you had a more current model. You are going to have to consider that now.

As far as my experience with these cameras, I use a 50D weekly, and on professional assignments. It has the megapixel count and the features I need and which make it a powerful, practical, and useful camera. I just spent several weeks writing an eBook user’s guide for the 60D, Your World 60D, so I also know that camera inside and out. I said in a previous post,

Since the Canon 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 FPS 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.

I realize this may not be a convincing argument for some, and that they are still interested in possibly choosing the 50D. So here is a more in depth, side by side comparison:

Sensor and Image Quality: The 50D has 15 megapixels and the 60D has 18 MP. At the time that the 50D came out, a lot of people were disappointed with the image quality and claimed that they crammed too many megapixels on the 50D sensor and that its image quality and sharpness suffered, especially compared to the 40D. This may be most noticeable in a head to head comparison of images, but I haven’t had an issue with this. You need to look at a site like dxomark.com to see actual lab comparisons. It looks like they are incredibly similar, with the 60D having slightly better high ISO performance. Both cameras are capable of taking professional quality images.

Exposure Metering: This is where the big advantage of the 60D lies. The 50D has a 35-zone system and the 60D has the latest, more precise 63-zone exposure metering system. They both have 4 metering modes: evaluative, partial, spot, and center weighted. I have found that the 50D overexposes by about 1/3 stop with evaluative metering, so I always had the exposure compensation on -1/3. However, I switched to center weighted metering, and the exposures have generally been fine. From extensive experience with the 7D, which shares the same metering system as the 60D, I feel the new 63-zone system is noticeably superior and determines proper exposure 99% of the time, even in difficult and dramatic lighting situations like back-lit scenes. The 50D does not perform quite that well, and requires occasional use of exposure compensation and switching of metering modes for better exposures.

Autofocus: The 50D and the 60D share the same autofocus system, with 9 focus points and three auto focusing modes. The 9 AF points of the are all accurate cross-type. This 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 (not the same as spot metering mode) – plus the custom settings of the 7D which will allow one to customize how the AF system works. If you are an avid action, sports, or wildlife shooter, or someone who understands, needs, and will use the elaborate features of the 7D AF system, you should consider the 7D. The next, future camera in the 60D price range will inevitably incorporate a better autofocus system, as this 9 point AF system has become dated.

Construction: The 60D is slightly smaller and lighter than the 50D, in part because its construction is aluminum and polycarbonate rather than the magnesium alloy of the 50D. They both have some amount of weather sealing, for example in the battery and memory card doors. For most users, including even those using the camera daily or in travel situations, the construction of either of these cameras is far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.

ISO: The 60D looks to have slightly better performance with high ISO settings. Again, have a look at dxomark.com to see actual lab comparisons.

Controls:
As with construction, the buttons and controls vary slightly with these cameras. The 50D has the thumb joystick, called the Multi-controller, used to select focus points and other things. With the 60D this control has been moved to the center of the Quick Control Dial on the back. Since I am so used to the joystick of the 50D and the 7D, I find the new 60D control a bit more cumbersome, and raised slightly too high in relation to the surrounding dial. However, it is easier to select the diagonals (corner AF points) with the 60D controller than with the 50D controller, and I have missed many shots with the 50D due to this difficulty. It may be just fine once one gets accustomed to it. The 60D also assigns only one setting to each of the top buttons and I wish they had retained the 2 settings of the 50D. However, the Q Button and Menu of the 60D make it easy to choose any setting. The 60D also has the locking Mode Dial, which prevents it from moving inadvertently. I think this is a great addition. However, it requires 2 handed operation or careful one hand coordination to change it, which has frustrated some.

Menus and Custom Functions: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. These settings on the 50D and 60D are almost the same except that the 60D also has the additional Movie Mode menu settings. Plus the 60D has the in-camera filters (grainy b+w, toy camera, etc) and processing features (RAW to JPEG, resizing, etc). However, these are all a bit gimmicky and these types of operations can be more easily done in Photoshop and in batches rather than one image at a time in the camera. Since many of the Menu and Custom Function settings can be complicated and confusing, especially to a new dSLR user, my eBook on the 60D, Your World 60D covers 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, which the 50D does not have. It allows you to trigger multiple off camera flashes at different output levels.

Articulating LCD Screen: The big new feature of the 60D that no other current Canon dSLR has 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 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 50D.

Processor:
The 60D shares the same Digic 4 processor as the 50D.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The 50D can shoot 6.3 consecutive frames per second (fps) and the 60D shoots a slightly slower 5.3 fps in high speed continuous mode. They both also offer 3 fps continuous shooting mode. Again, if you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, you are going to have to consider the 50D or the 7D, with its blazing 8 fps, which is actually overkill in typical real-life use.

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 or longer. The 50D uses a slightly smaller battery with less capacity. There is also a battery grip available for the 60D, the BG-E9 which holds your choice of either 2 LP-E6 batteries or 6 AA batteries, to lengthen your shooting time and give you an easier to handle camera if you often switch between shooting horizontal and vertical shots..

Size and Weight:
The 50D is slightly larger and heavier than the 60D. Both are a comfortable size and weight, but you should check them out in person to see which feels better for you.

AF Microadjustment:
The 50D has this feature, the 60D does 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.

Full HD video: Of course the 60D offers this capability, while the 50D does not.

Flash Sync: A Note to Strobists -the 60D does not have a PC sync flash socket to plug in PC sync cords. The 50D has this.

In conclusion, I would like to mention again that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Canon EOS 60D (and one for the Canon Rebel T2i and Rebel T3i). After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put some 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, T2i Experience, and Canon T3i Experience. Learn more about the eBooks by clicking on their titles. As a Winter special, both books are on sale!

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Purchasing the 60D: If you plan to buy the Canon 60D or any of these cameras through Amazon.com, I would appreciate it if you use this referral link to Amazon or 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 my blog. Thanks!  If you are purchasing from Amazon UK or wish to purchase from B+H Photo, please see just below for that info.

See the 50D on Amazon.
See the 60D on Amazon.
See the 7D on Amazon.

Thanks, I appreciate your support!

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

For those interested in purchasing from B&H Photo, Adorama, or direct from Canon, please click on their logos on the Gear page. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out this link, 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.

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DPReview has an excellent, very thorough review of the 60D. They concluded that “for the Rebel upgrader it’s a better option than a second-hand 40D or 50D in almost every respect.” They indicate that for the 30D, 40D or 50D “upgrader,” the Canon 7D is the way to go.

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.

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks!

(Sorry for the wrong link to the Essential Digital Photo Books – you can find that list HERE:
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2010/10/06/essential-digital-photography-books/)

Just when you thought it was difficult to choose between the latest offerings from Canon – the 7D vs 60D vs. T3i / 600D – Nikon comes out with the D7000! The Nikon D7000 is a competitor to both the Canon 60D and some say to the 7D, and I guess it is up to the forums and early users to really figure out where it stands. (See the comparison of the Canon dSLR line-up – 7D, 60D, T2i here and the comparison of the Nikon dSLR line-up – D7000, D90, D300s – in this post.)

I spent a couple months writing eBook user’s guides to both the Canon 60D (Your World 60D) and the Nikon D7000 (Nikon D7000 Experience), so I’ve spent considerable time with each of these cameras and know their features and controls inside and out. Check out these ebook guides to learn more about using and photographing with these cameras including all of their Menu settings 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, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos.

Canon 60D vs Nikon D7000
Image of a Canon 60D taken with a Nikon D7000 and Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 – by the author

Comparing their features on paper, the Canon 60D and the Nikon D7000 are incredibly similar. One model is slightly better in one area, and the other model wins out in another area. With both models, it appears that you pretty much get what you pay for. Pay a couple hundred dollars more for the D7000, and you get a camera that rewards you for that extra cost.

Here is how the Canon 60D and the Nikon D7000 compare:

Canon 60D: (see it on Amazon)
18 megapixels
ISO 100-6400 expanded to 12800
HD Video with more fps options
3″ Articulating rear LCD screen
9 point autofocus system – all cross type
5.3 frames per second maximum burst rate
construction: aluminum chassis with polycarbonate body
single SD card
wireless flash triggering
96% viewfinder
size – slightly bigger but lighter
$1099

Nikon D7000: (see it on Amazon)
16.2 megapixels
ISO 100-6400 expanded to 25600
HD Video with full time autofocus
3″ fixed rear LCD screen
39 point autofocus system – with 9 cross type
6 frames per second maximum burst rate
construction: magnesium chassis with partial magnesium alloy body
dual SD cards
wireless flash triggering
100% viewfinder
size – slightly smaller but heavier
$1199

Here is a more in-depth exploration of these features:

Megapixels: Canon’s 18MP is more than the Nikon’s 16MP, which gives you slightly more cropping and enlarging ability with the 60D. To see how this affects images quality, you are going to have to look at the tests at dxomark.com. ISO performance is very similar, with the D7000 having a slight edge. And as far as color sensitivity, dynamic range, and tonal range, the sensor of the D7000 performs noticeable better. But, be aware that dxomark tests the sensors, but not in conjunction with the camera’s processor, so it is not a complete indication on the final image. A camera processes the images captured by the sensor, even when shooting in RAW, to produce optimal image quality – such as applying a bit of noise reduction, maybe tweeking the color. So it is likely that any “shortcomings” of a particular model’s sensor are addressed by that camera’s processor.

Nikon D7000 vs Canon 60D
Image of a Nikon D7000 taken with a Canon 60D and EF 100m f/2.8 Macro lens – by the author

ISO: You typically shouldn’t be shooting over 1600, maybe 3200 if absolutely necessary, so this is no big deal to most users. But since the megapixel race is over, ISO has become the current benchmark for comparison. It gives the pixel peepers and forum folks something to argue about. Again, check out the tests at dxomark.com to see that they show pretty similar ISO performance, with the D7000 slightly better. DPReview says the D7000 is arguably the best performing sensor for high ISO/ low noise in the consumer class (along with the Sony A55 since they have the same sensor. Did you know that little nugget? Sony manufactures sensors used by numerous other camera ).

HD Video: Canon offers 60fps which I understand is very important to videographers, and Nikon doesn’t shoot 30fps or 25fps at 1080p as Canon does. Nikon offers full time autofocus which may be slow and cumbersome and thus isn’t a big deal to videographers. We will have to see how well that works – early reports say not so great.

LCD screen: the articulating screen of the 60D could come in handy for several types of shooters. There are many times I could have benefited from a rotating screen such as when I was on my belly in wet grass trying to crane my neck to see through my viewfinder and capture a subject and her active dogs from grass level.

Auto focus system: This is a difficult comparison. The 39 AF point system of the Nikon offers both many more AF points plus customization capabilities for how it operates and tracks moving objects that rival the 7D (see Custom Functions/Custom Settings section below). However, only 9 of those points are the more accurate cross type, while all 9 points of the 60D are cross type. The 39 point system of the Nikon might be better for situations where you let the camera choose the AF points to track motion, such as sports, action, and wildlife. But you should often otherwise be choosing the AF point yourself. So with the Nikon, you may want to limit selection to 11 points (Custom Setting a6). If you want a Canon body with a more advanced AF system than the 9 points and basic tracking of the 60D, and overall more accurate than the D7000, have a look at the incredibly advanced and customizable AF system of the 7D with 19 AF points, all cross type.

Maximum burst rate: Close, but Nikon wins this one by a hair. Either rate should be fast enough for most photographer’s needs. The Nikon has the nice feature of being able to change the low speed continuous rate from between 1 to 5 fps. I had previously complained that the 7D should have had this feature since its 8 fps is often overkill. The 5.3 fps of the 60D is great, so it doesn’t really require the ability to change the fps beyond the available 3 or 5.3. Also note that the Canon will allow a continuous burst rate of 58 continuous photos in highest quality JPEG and 16 in highest quality RAW, while the Nikon is limited to a much lower 31 JPEG and 10 RAW before its buffer fills.

Construction: Nikon wins this one, but Canon saves weight with its construction. And I assure you both are more than strong enough for everyday, even abusive use. That being said, the partial metal body (magnesium allow on top and rear) and rubber grip material of the Nikon has a nicer feel and is a great detail that the 60D should have had. I think it is one of the main reasons for the increased price of the D7000 over the 60D. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount, which plays quite an important role in supporting a large, heavy lens, is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details. Kind of an ugly sight for those trying to compare the D7000 to the 7D. Important details like this demonstrate why, in the end, the D7000 just ain’t no 7D competitor. Sorry, the name of this post will just have to remain Canon 60D vs. Nikon D7000!

SD Memory cards: I’m not sure the appeal of 2 memory cards in the Nikon, and why that might be better than just using one larger capacity card? Is it really useful or just a bell/ whistle? You can use the two cards of the D7000 in four ways: overflow, JPEG / RAW, backup, or stills / movies, so maybe that is kind of cool, but I actually prefer to be dealing with just one card at a time at this point.

Wireless, remote flash triggering: A super-cool feature available on both cameras using the built in flash to trigger off camera flashes.

Viewfinder: Nikon wins this one with slightly bigger size, though I don’t know how the actual brightness and view compares. It is a shame the 60D viewfinder view is not 99% or 100% of the actual resulting image like the Nikon. In reality, you won’t notice any shortcomings with either the 60D or the D7000 viewfinder once you start using it. The D7000 includes the option of displaying the grid in the viewfinder, which the 7D also has, and I wish the 60D did as well.

Size and Weight: Not a major difference, you will have to see how they feel in your hands.

Metering: They each have different metering systems, so it is difficult to compare. I’m sure they will both perform quite well. In addition to Evaluative/Matrix and Spot in both of them, the Canon has Center-Weighted and Partial, while the Nikon doesn’t have Partial but has the ability to change the size of the center area in Center-Weighted mode, which sounds pretty cool but may be more of a “set it once to your preference and forget it” thing. Depends on how quick and easy it is to access it in the menus, on the fly.

Processor: This is a pretty important component in the comparison and can really help resolve if the D7000 sits closer to the 7D or the 60D. I don’t yet know enough about the performance of Canon’s Digic IV vs. Nikon’s Expeed II to comment on this. The larger maximum burst buffer of the 60D may point to a more powerful processor. However the dual Digic IV processors of the 7D are able to handle much longer bursts of many more images than the single processor of the D7000 (and the 60D) – again, another very important reason the D7000 is not actually head to head with the 7D.

Custom Functions/ Custom Settings: Despite what I say below in the Controls and Menu section, the Custom Settings of the D7000 are far more sophisticated than those of the 60D, and in that respect make it much more of a contender with the Canon 7D. With the D7000, you can change the size of the center area metered in Center Weighted Metering Mode (not possible on 60D or 7D), you can change the frame rate of Continuous Low Speed between 1 and 5 frames per second (not possible on 60D or 7D), you can give buttons a “hold” feature or not, where you press and release instead of having to hold it down when turning another dial to dial-in a setting (“hold” means the camera does the holding, not you). With the D7000 you can set the autofocus tracking to be nearly as sophisticated as the 7D in terms of how to react to objects that come between you and your intended subject, and also in setting focus priority or release priority (take the picture only when focus is attained or take it immediately even without necessarily attaining focus). You can limit the number of AF points to 11 if you don’t wish to deal will all 39, you can fine-tune focus adjustment for different lenses like the 7D AF microadjustment (not possible on the 60D), plus you can fine-tune exposure adjustment for each individual exposure mode (to set a baseline compensation behind the scenes and not have to use exposure compensation every time, if you feel one of those modes is consistently over- or under-exposing). You can fine-tune the white balance for many more standard fluorescent options without having to have a Kelvin cheat sheet, as you might need to set the same temperature settings on a Canon. All very impressive, and all features that the 60D and certainly the 7D should have but don’t. Also, while I like the two rear thumb buttons of the 60D 7D for exposure and focus lock, you can set the AE-L/AF-L and Fn buttons (and preview button) of the D7000 to take on similar operations.

Controls and Menus: As a Canon user, I find the controls and menus of the Canons to be incredibly practical and intuitive. As a photography instructor, I try to be open-minded about the Nikon controls, notations, and menus, but continue to find them incredibly irritating, nonsensical, and not nearly as intuitive and user-friendly as Canons. I also think that the consistency of the controls and menus across the Canon line, from the 550D to the 5D MkII points to intelligent and thoughtful design. You can pick up any model and go to work, then quickly and intuitively change the ISO setting or metering mode. On the Canons, the controls are not scatted about in seemingly random places that change dramatically from model to model. Please don’t think I’m just a Canon guy on a rant here. Have a look at the controls on the top, back, and front of the D300s vs. the D7000 – essential controls are completely different. Why is that? Functions that are switches at the rear of one are a button at the top of the other, or marked dial switches on the rear become an unlabeled button on the front. The standard dSLR mode dial completely disappears and becomes a trio of buttons on one Nikon but not the other? I challenge you to pick up a D7000 and change the AF area mode to single point AF. The first time I picked it up I searched the camera’s buttons, switches, and menus for 15 minutes and never found it.  I handed it to my camera store co-worker and he failed as well! (Spoiler alert! It is done with the unmarked button located inside the Auto/ Manual focus switch near the lens mount in conjunction with a command dial.) Wait, so a switch that is C/S/M (continuous/ single/ manual) on one Nikon becomes AF/M (autofocus/ manual) on the other? So the same switch now partially controls a different function? Where are AF-C and AF-S (auto-focus continuous/ single modes) found now? Oh, who knows! (Actually, the same place as above, with the unmarked button and the other command dial.) As you can see, this is maddening to a photography instructor or salesperson who must deal with a number of different models and who is attempting to quickly demonstrate these very functions. I’m not even going to start on my feeling for Nikon menus!

Keep in mind, this all doesn’t really matter if you buy and use one of these cameras- you get that one and learn its controls. But I feel it does point to an intelligent consistency on Canon’s part, and as an architect in an earlier life, I highly appreciate good design and intuitive wayfinding. And also many photographers work with two bodies which are often different models of the same brand, and the ability to switch between a Canon 50D and a 5D Mk II without skipping a beat is how it should be. You can actually forget which one you have in your hands and it doesn’t matter. But once you do learn all the controls on the body of the D7000, you have an incredible amount of control at your fingertips.

edit:  After much more experience with various Nikon cameras, I no longer have any issues with their menus – once you get used to the Canon or the Nikon menu system it really is no big deal.  I still do think that the ability to seamlessly go from a 60D or 7D to a 5D Mk II with all the controls being the much the same is awesome (with the exception of the thumb multi-controller now becoming a pad on the 60D) and many photographers working with two bodies do this often – as opposed to going from a D90 or D7000 to a D300s, where there are some dramatic differences (which I do understand make sense in relation to the capability of the bodies, yet must aggravate those photographers working with two of these different bodies…).

Price: The Nikon is $100 to $200 more than the 60D (depending on current specials), and people are saying it is a cheaper competitor to the 7D. But if you study them closely, you can see that it does actually sit between the two. While the D7000 has an advanced AF system and tremendous customizing capabilities, details like the partial vs. full magnesium body construction and the single vs. dual processors of the D7000 vs 7D demonstrate why they are not exactly head to head competitors. The D7000 definitely offers at least $200 of improvements over the 60D, if not more, and is being very well received among photo enthusiasts just as the Canon 7D was last year – you pay a bit more and you get more features. Oddly, DPReview has suggested that the pro-sumer D7000 is a viable upgrade to the Nikon D300s, a higher end, more expensive semi-pro camera. So this makes the decision a bit more complicated for the Nikon D7000 vs. D300s comparison.

Quality Control: There have been numerous reports on the Internet of faulty D7000 bodies. The issues are mainly the bad pixel problem and the front/ back focusing issue. While this type of reaction seems to occur every time any new camera model comes out, there seems to be legitimacy to these complaints. My local camera store (where I worked for a time) reports that they continue to experience these issues with their customers. For the pixel peepers who insist on a clean sensor, nearly every D7000 body tested was found to have bad pixels out of the box. The firmware upgrade fixed some of cameras with bad pixels but not all of them. (What is the fix exactly? Pixel mapping?). Several pixel peeping customers also had front or back focus issues, and went through 2 or 3 bodies to find one they could accept. (see This Lens is Soft and Other Myths for an article about front/ back focus and quality control.)  Also, some of the official Nikon EN-EL15 batteries are larger than others – yes physically larger – and do not properly fit or get stuck in the D7000 body. As far as Canon 60D QC issues or exchanges: none. Zero. (But perhaps Canon customers aren’t so picky…!  Who knows.)  And for their report on repairs and customer service for Canon and Nikon in general: Repairs with Nikon cameras is a daily, ongoing issue. They see Nikons come back, both new and older models, and it sometimes takes sending the camera / lens / flash 3 or 4 times to Nikon to resolve the problem or the customer gives up by then. A few Canon models come in for repair, typically 4-6 year old heavily used Rebels that stop functioning properly. Canon repair is reported as excellent, customer service incredibly helpful, and turnaround is quick. Pile of brand new, defective Nikons returned over two month period: 15. Number of defective Canons: 0. Please note, this is the store’s report, not my opinion or bias, but I think it is worth taking this into account when choosing a dSLR system.

edit 2011-09-29: When any new camera comes out, there is an outcry of “this problem” and “that problem.” Some are exaggerated because you only read about the few bad ones and not the tens of thousands of good ones. Some are possibly over-reactions by people not fully understanding the new or advanced features or nuances of the latest model.  But I wanted to speak from personal experience while working at a camera store and comment on the issues that were being discussed in forums which proved to be real. The scope of the issues in the overall picture (of tens or hundreds of thousands of bodies made), however, should be taken into account, as well as the fact that the returns and exchanges may have been prompted in whole or in part by the internet reports, thus creating a circular chain of whatnot (I’m sure there is a term for this!).

Just keep in perspective, while your camera is a precious object to you, there are literally hundreds of thousands of the same body manufactured. It is a consumer electronics item, just a (precision) hunk of metal, plastic, and 100’s of tiny screws. It is a tool to be used towards an end goal of great photos, not an end unto itself.  (If you wish to learn to take control of your camera and capture great photos, please have a look at my dSLR camera guides such as Nikon D7000 Experience.)

Know that C and N are reputable companies and will make right any genuine issue you may encounter (within your warranty period!).  And while it is frustrating if you encounter a bad pixel, I think it is a marvel of technology that any sensor can be manufactured with 16 million pixels that all work!

Conclusion: Hey look! They are incredibly similar! (other than quality control issues) Both are capable of taking high quality digital images. They are both leaps and bounds better – and cheaper – than the same level dSLRs of just a few years ago. I do like the specifications of the expanded autofocus system, the slightly better sensor performance, the larger viewfinder, the custom setting options, and the partial magnesium alloy body construction of the D7000. Yet the 60D has the additional HD video frame rates, 9 out of 9 cross type AF points, and the articulating screen. You pay a few hundred dollars more for the Nikon, and you get a camera with body construction and features that are a bit better than the 60D. However, if you don’t actually need, understand, or wish to learn how to use all these additional features of the D7000, there is no point in paying for them. (If you are going to leave the camera in Auto or Program mode and let the camera choose the autofocus points, you definitely don’t need a D7000!) In the end, it totally comes down to which one you are more comfortable with – which one feels better, which one’s buttons and controls work best for the way you work, which one’s menus make better sense to you, which one’s custom functions allow you to make the customizations you want to make, and how much money you want to spend. Or which system you want to invest in for the long-term, as far as all the lenses, flash, and accessories you are going to accumulate. Or which camera brand your friends use so that you can go to them for help. Just choose one, learn to use it well, and get out and take photos! That’s what digital SLRs are all about.

Canon didn’t drop the ball with the xxD line, as some have said. It’s just that they reconfigured their price points and naming conventions. The 7D replaced the 50D months ago, and it was widely agreed to be a dramatic, spectacular, and successful improvement. That was very much like the Nikon D90 to D7000 improvement we see now. Canon definitely took the 50D to the next level with the 7D. But then they needed a high-end consumer model to offer between the entry level Rebel line and the semi-pro 7D. Hence the highly capable 60D. So who wins? The consumer. The digital photographer. Cheesy, but true.

If you wish to compare the Nikon D7000 vs the Nikon D90 vs the D300s, have a look at this post.

Purchasing? If you are planning to buy either of these cameras from Amazon.com (or other equipment, accessories, or simply anything else), please use the links below and I will get a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks!

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

Before I start I want to mention:

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

Longfellow House
Longfellow House – Cambridge, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall – Cambridge, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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