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Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Feb 7, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,475.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Gobs of detail, full-frame is way more fun, and it's very good in low light if you're sticking to center-point AF
Missing a decent auto-ISO, blue channel noise even at low ISO, Rebel-class AF system with inaccurate and inconsistent outer points, feels sluggish relative to any of the non-Rebel crop bodies

If this camera had a decent AF system, nobody would have upgraded to the 5D III. I like most everything about it. It is, like the 50D, an excellent refinement of the Canon form.

It has more noise than I expected. In another review, I cautioned not to expect 'magical darkness performance'. Pulling the shadows up even at low ISO (200ish) reveals a surprising amount of noise. Leagues ahead of the crop bodies though.

Movie support is an afterthought. There aren't any software focusing aids and the files lack detail relative to, say, a Panasonic GH2.

The key problem with this body is that shooting with wide aperture lenses requires a lot of focus-recomposing and refocused safety shots, which can cause backfocus. The outer points lie, work slowly, and occasionally don't work at all. Not a big deal in good light or where no one's paying you. Much more important when you're trying to get that 70-200 to track the bride walking down the aisle.

Plenty of professionals rely on this camera and its (equally AF-deficient) predecessor. I'm sure you can make it work too, but in 2013, too many other bodies can do better. If you're planning to drop money on a serious kit, I would save for a refurb or sale 5D III instead of buying this body.

Canon EOS 50D

Review Date: Feb 7, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $550.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Basically a perfect evolution of the Canon form. Great to shoot with.
Noise is bad (down at least a half-stop or more relative to the 60D, 7D and not really usable above ISO 1600 unless exposure is dead-on), the raw files are less tolerant of manipulation, and highlights blow easily. Very lot DR.

I think this camera is a bargain. I also think I'd buy a 40D instead. I had both. The 50D added AF micro-adjustment and a prettier screen, neither of which mattered for my work. The 40D had noticeably better noise and DR. The 50D's extra megapixels have a slight advantage at ISO 100 and 200 and none at ISO 400 and above.

This is the last semi-pro XXD camera. The 60D moved to a weaker body construction and dumped the AF-select joystick (incredibly useful if you've bound your AF away from the shutter). It's cheap primarily because it doesn't do movies or have other irrelevant geejaws.

So, yeah. A fine body if you're a still photographer and you're not beating on the low-light capability too much.

Canon EOS 40D

Review Date: Jul 12, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Speed, UI, image quality, dynamic range, reliability
Auto ISO, no MFA, not a 1D, doesn't make omelettes

For most folks, professionals included, this could be your one and only camera forever. It's missing nothing important. It's fast enough to get out of your way. It has enough resolution for giant prints. And you can get it now, in 2012, for $300. Incredible.

I bought this camera in 2007 and replaced it with a 50D this year. That was dumb. The 50D had a better LCD and worse image quality. The 30D before it was missing the AF-on button and had the antiquated pre-tab interface. This 40D is totally the sweet spot of used DSLRs right now.

9 stops of dynamic range. Clean files up to ISO 1600. Very forgiving in ACR, even in tungsten lighting that's giving me blue shadows with my 5D II at high ISO.

Speed, speed, speed. 6.3 FPS is enough for any amateur. Everyone I hand it to takes two or three shots by accident. Super-short shutter lag and mirror blackout. AF capable of tracking stuff, and unlike the 5D/5D II, the outer points actually work. Huge raw buffer and nearly instant image review.

It's just an extremely polished product. In actual use, the 50D, 60D, and 7D aren't any better, except for the AI Servo on the last. It's a steal. If you need a backup body or you're just getting into photography and don't want to spend a mint, buy one.

Canon EOS Rebel (300D)

Review Date: Jul 10, 2012 Recommend? no | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 2 

Pros: Image quality at base ISO, decent center-point AF, grip
Slow, crap LCD, slow, crap above ISO 800, terrible UI, slow shutter response, poor AF tracking, poor flash exposure

If it's 2012 and you're reading this review, buy something else. It's possible to work around many of this camera's limitations, but there's no point. It's a nice raw-file-only project camera if you're digitizing something with a fixed exposure. Otherwise, compared to even dirt-cheap 30D and 40Ds, it's a giant piece of crap.

Oh, the grip is great. Excellent size and proportion.