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.
Still to come: The EOS Rebel T6i/750D, 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.
If you're on a really tight budget, you don't have many choices. The T3 kit, aka the 1100D, is still widely available in the US for about $300 with a lens. Note that in the UK it's less visible and its successor the T5 (aka the 1200D) is roughly the same price there. In Australia it's simply overpriced at AU$650, and there the 1200D is your cheapest option.
Technically, Canon doesn't consider it part of the current product line, so it should be fading from sight soon.
If you have just a little more money to spend, I suggest you skip it and get the T3i (600D), which is a better overall camera.
The T5/1200D is still repackaged older technology, but if you can't stomach the thought of buying last year's model (or can't find it) and want the least expensive model possible, the T5, with a kit price of $400, £280 or AU$500 makes sense.
However, if you can squeeze a little more out of your budget, the T3i/600D kit is really worth the upgrade.
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 or £360 or AU$700 for the kit, it's slightly less than you'd pay for the T4i/650D kit (which is still only widely available in the US). It has fewer features, however -- 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: buy the Rebel T3i (kit roughly $450 or £350, AU$650). It delivers significantly better performance and photo quality than the T3/1100D and has better features than the T5/1200D -- including excellent video capture, and an articulated LCD. It is several generations old, however.
The last-generation T5i/700D is the least expensive general-purpose consumer model, replacing the
T4i in Canon's product line. They're nearly identical cameras, and if
you can get the T4i for less than the T5i, which is currently going for $850, £400, AU$750, then go for
it. It's a much better deal in the UK and Australia than the more recent T6i/750D because there's a far larger price differential in those areas -- almost £200 and AU$400 -- than in the US.
The main thing that significantly differentiates the T4i/T5i from
the cheaper T3i is that autofocus system and a very nice touchscreen
system great for shooting video. If you're planning to use
high-quality lenses and manual focus, think about saving a little money
with the T3i.
As for the new T6i/750D, it has an updated autofocus system and Wi-Fi, among a few other new features, if you think they're worth the extra cost.
For better build quality and viewfinder than the any of the Rebels (the triple- and quadruple-D models outside the US), the 60D still looks like an attractive option given that the price of the 18-135mm kit has dropped as low as $900, £630 or so. While it lacks some of the refinements of the Rebel models, the EOS bodies really do feel sturdier than the Rebels, and at about 70 percent of the price of the 70D, it still stands up as a good buy. This may not be an option in Australia, however.
In 2015, Canon announced two new Rebels for moderately advanced photographers -- a step up from the dSLR newbies or those who want better video capabilities than the lower end models supply. The T6i (750D everywhere but the US) and T6s (760D) share the same 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, but the slightly more expensive T6s/760D has a few more features and a design more like the higher-end models.
Prices for these models run $900, £690 and AU$1,150 for the T6i/750D kit and $1200, £690 for the T6s/760D kit; the body-only version costs about AU$1,050.
They do offer some significant updates over their predecessors which will possibly deliver better photo quality and possibly better autofocus performance, so unless the T5i/700D price drops significantly, these will likely be better Canon values.
EOS 70D: For prosumer action- and video-shooters on a budget
If you need fast performance and advanced autofocus, the 70D delivers for about $950, £700 or AU$1,300. 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.
If you want the least expensive full-frame model, the decision is much easier than it used to be since the older 5D Mark II has gradually faded from sight. Currently $1,400, £870 and AU$2,000, it's a fine camera, but has a more consumer-oriented design and feature set than the 5DM3. 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 less expensive 7DM2, 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 $1,700, £1,000 or AU$2,200 for the body, it's frustrating that you have to choose between the now-cheaper full-frame 6D and the 7DM2. That said, the 6D is over two years old, so if 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, £1,800 r AU$3,500 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.
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: $3,700, £3,000 and AU$5,000 for the 5DS and $3,900, £3200 and 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 $5,300, £4,500 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.