Having trouble choosing among Canon's dSLRs? This guide will help you get started.
Even once you've narrowed a choice down to a specific manufacturer, the decision as to which model to buy can still be complicated and overwhelming. In fact, I'd say it's probably harder to pick the right camera from a particular lineup than it is to decide which manufacturer's wares you like best. Here's my take on Canon's current dSLR offerings and when and whether I think it's worth the extra bucks (or quids) to buy higher up the line.
On a general note, if your budget is tight, and unless there's a specific feature or performance level you need from a particular model, it's usually a good idea to save money on the body and spend it on a better lens.
In addition, the prices given here, especially for older models, tend to be in the middle of a wide range.
Still to come: The EOS Rebel T6s/760D, EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R.
Editors' note: This story was originally published in a different form in May 2012 and is updated regularly.
Now that the T3 is really difficult to find -- and even if you do its now-higher price makes it a terrible deal -- you can still get it in the form of the T5/1200D, which is repackaged older technology. But if you need the least expensive model possible, the T5, with a kit price of $400, £270 or AU$475 makes sense.
The next cheapest is now the SL1/100D ($500 £315 AU$700), at least in the US and the UK , and if you can squeeze a little more out of your budget for that it really is worth the upsell. In Australia, at least at the moment, the T3i/600D kit is less expensive than that at $580, but it's also slowly disappearing from the market.
This model is essentially for people looking for something a mite smaller than the standard dSLR, and really only stands out as the best Canon dSLR for people with small hands. At $500, £315 or AU$700 for the kit, it's slightly less than you'd pay for the T3i/600D kit (which is slowly disappearing from the market). It has fewer features than the real next step up, the T5i/700D however ($650, £400, AU$800) -- you lose the articulated display, and it has slower continuous-shooting performance and a poorer battery.
For most hobbyists, vacation shooters and non-pro business users in the US and Australia: the Rebel T3i/600D ($590, £400, AU$580). It has better features than the T5/1200D -- including excellent video capture, and an articulated LCD. It is several generations old, however, listed as discontinued on both Amazon US and UK and disappearing from sight. However, in the UK the better 700D kit is about the same price more widely available, so I'd opt for that instead.
Compared the to more expensive but notably improved T6i/750D ($750, £540, AU$1,000), the last-generation T5i/700D ($650, £400, AU$800) doesn't look quite as shiny a recommendation as it did before. But at 15 to 25 percent more, the former might push your finances just a little too far. It's up to you whether improved performance, the addition of Wi-Fi and a few other new features are worth it.
Best general purpose value: Rebel T6i/750D (and T6s/760D)
The T6i/750D delivers solid photo and video quality with performance that should be able to handle most of what you'll throw at it in everyday use ($750 £540 AU$1,000). The T6s/760 ($850, £570, AU$1,050) is roughly the same camera, but with a different body design and a couple of extra features; it looks like whichever might be the best deal may vary from day to day given how close their prices are. My suggestion is to go for whichever you find for less. However, just to complicate things, the slowly disappearing 7D's prices come extremely close to the T6s' in the US and UK ($870, £580) -- it doesn't seem to be available anymore in Australia -- and it has a better build quality and probably better performance, so consider that instead of the T6s. The old 60D (£470) is also cheaper and still widely available in the UK, but at this point I'm not sure whether it's comparable or better than the other two.
For better build quality and viewfinder than the any of the Rebels (the triple- and quadruple-D models outside the US), the 60D still exists. However its prices are starting to rise on the formerly attractive 18-135mm kit which is disappearing from view; the body is still somewhat available in the US and widely found in the UK ($850, £470). While it lacks some of the refinements of the Rebel models, the EOS bodies really do feel sturdier than the Rebels, and at about 85 percent of the price of the 70D, it still stands up as a good buy. This may not be an option in Australia, however.
EOS 70D: For prosumer action- and video-shooters on a budget
If you need fast performance and advanced autofocus, the 70D delivers for about $1,000, £730 or AU$1300. It's better all around than the older 60D and offers some advantages over the older, less expensive 7D, including better overall performance, an articulated touchscreen and SD-card support. However, the body-only version is harder to find in the UK, and for the more commonly available 18-135mm kit at $1,300, £900 or AU$1700 it doesn't feel quite so budget.
If you want the least expensive full-frame model, the decision is much easier than it used to be since the body-only version of the older 5D Mark II is practically gone. Currently $1,400, £1,040 and AU$2000, it's a fine camera, but has a more consumer-oriented design and feature set than the 5DM3. (But it's also somewhat scarce and much more expensive in the UK than it was the last time I checked.) It has an inferior viewfinder, less durable shutter and single SD card slot. In exchange, however, you gain Wi-Fi and GPS, somewhat better high ISO image quality, and a lighter body in the 6D. It's also disappointingly slow compared to the slightly more expensive 7DM2 ($1,500, £780 or AU$2200) -- much cheaper in the UK, though -- and overdue for an update.
Canon's fastest APS-C model has an updated autofocus system that makes it the best choice for nonprofessional sports shooters. At $1,500, £780 or AU$2,200 for the body, it's frustrating that you have to choose between the now-cheaper in the US and Australia full-frame 6D ($1,400, £1,040 or AU$2000) and the 7DM2. That said, the 6D is over two years old, so you might want to wait to see if Canon replaces it with something faster soon.
It's also annoying that you have to buy a cheaper camera if you want a flip-out display or Wi-Fi.
EOS 5D Mark III: The best general-purpose full-frame option
For the best general-purpose professional full-frame camera in Canon's line, the 5D Mark III at $2,500, £1,815 or AU$3500 is probably your pick. It adds a significant boost to its autofocus and continuous-shooting performance over the Mark II and the 6D -- enough that some people who otherwise might have opted for the 1D X needn't. Plus there are sufficient features and changes in the design that it feels like a better model than its predecessor for shooting both stills and video. Firmware updates over the years have added important capabilities too, such as clean HDMI-out, and it remains the least-expensive full-frame in Canon's line that's got a feature set for pro videographers.
When all that matters is resolution: EOS 5DS and 5DS R
The Canon 5DS and 5DS R boast a full-frame 50.6-megapixel CMOS sensor. Rather than replacing the 5D Mark III, they sit above it in the Canon range, and are far less optimized for video than that model. The only difference between the two versions is the "R" model internally cancels the effect of the optical low-pass filter on the sensor, whose job it is to eliminate artifacts like moire, but at the expense of sharpness.
These models are a lot more expensive than the Mark III, though: $3,400, £2,690 or AU$5,000 for the 5DS and $3,600, £2,800 or AU$5,300 for the 5DS R. These are wildcards -- the high resolution means very little if the overall image quality isn't as good as or better than the 5DM3, though they do incorporate a more advanced autofocus system.
Though I haven't tested it -- and it's over 3 years old, so I probably won't -- the 1D X, costing $4,600, £4,400, or AU$7,000, is likely your best bet for the fastest full-frame continuous-shooting possible for a Canon. With a rated speed of 12fps and support for dual UDMA 7 CompactFlash cards, this is Canon's pro sports shooter.