Blog — 23 February 2011

Canon dSLR: 5d, 7d, or T2i and Panasonic GF-2 or Canon s95

As a road trip blog, a documentary film, a photo book, etc., our cameras are among the most important pieces of equipment we’ll be using for the year long Odyssey. The three determining factors are: size, cost, quality.

I am a Canon guy, so Nikon is kinda out of the picture. I have never owned one, and cannot comment on their equipment other than to say, I’m sure they have a very similar equivalent to whatever Canon model I am mentioning, and I’m sure they are just as good. On that same note, I tend not to use Sony. I am not sure why, it just happens that way I guess.

My last camera was an Canon XTi, a plastic dSLR of the Canon Rebel family, which was great for photography, but unfortunately, it didn’t take video at all. So, as I am minimizing my gear, that single function is not enough to win it a slot in my camera bag. For now, I need a good dSLR that takes photos AND video. These are the dSLR cameras I looked at:

Canon 5d Mark II dSLR – $2500

The ideal camera; it takes great video, great photos, has a full frame sensor and a metal body. Aside from the price, the size and weight is the only other thing you can even question – it is a bit on the heavier side. Now, I know that many photographers will argue that is a good thing and helps keep the camera steady, but I am looking for portability and that is a small knock on it for me.

Canon 7d dSLR – $1550
A close second to the 5d, with the exception of the 1.6 crop factor. Basically, every video or photo will be cropped 1.6 times. However, if you haven’t actually shot with a full frame camera before, then you will never notice the difference, as the crop happens in the camera. Like the 5d, the 7d comes with a metal body, is weather-resistant, and looks like a heavy-duty professional camera. For $1000 cheaper than the 5d, the 7d is really a great option between the pro-level 5d, and the consumer grade T2i.

Canon T2i dSLR- $800
This is a part of the Rebel series, and looks and feels like a Rebel – which means its plastic and small; that can be a good thing or bad thing depending on what you want. The camera has similar video functions and quality to the 7d (and 5d for that matter), but it does lack some of the higher IQ functions when it comes to taking still photos. That being said, for just pure value, this is the best camera by far. The quality of images and video that the T2i produces are not far off from it’s big metal brothers, but the price is. At almost half the price of the 7d, and a third the price of the 5d, the T2i is all about value.

After looking at all the dSLR cameras (and lenses), I started to realize that I would be getting a great camera, but still needed a smaller, more portable camera. I then had to make a decision – should I keep looking at the dSLR’s and ALSO buy a small point and shoot that I can slip in my pocket at the right moment? Or, should I get a smaller micro four-thirds, and not have to worry about two separate cameras. Oh the decisions.

So, anyways, I started looking at these two cameras:

Panasonic GF-2 Micro four-thirds – $500
This is a more classic looking camera, that performs much like a dSLR. There are interchangeable lenses, full manual functions in a pretty small body. But, while it is small, it is not pocket-size, and the more accessories you get, the less portable it becomes. The low-light capabilities and video functions all seem to be top notch and nearly as good as the dSLR’s I was looking at. There are several Panasonic and Olympus cameras that are becoming quite popular, but the newest and baddest is the GF-2.

Canon s95 Point and Shoot – $400
The Canon s95 is marketed as a point and shoot for professionals, and that is a fair assessment, as the manual controls are user-friendly and there are tons of options to play with. This is one of the most expensive point and shoots out there, so if you don’t want or need manual controls, then this is probably not for you. It comes in a small size – easily pocketed, has no additional accessories, and can perform well in situations where a dSLR won’t be allowed or just isn’t needed. This would be a great second camera.

I really like the new micro four-thirds and this threw a loop into my decision process. I wanted the GF-2 badly and the 17mm pancake lens… oh, that could be fun. But, as that technology is just in it’s infancy, I already have Canon lenses and the GF-2 is not even out yet, I decided to go with two separate cameras, a dSLR and a point and shoot.

My decision for the dSLR came down to the 7d and the T2i basically because of cost, and the fact that although I’d like a full frame camera (5d) I just don’t really need it, and don’t see a good reason to pay over $1,000 more for it. The 7d and T2i seem to be so similar, that the only real difference is the body. I know there are other things that differ between the two as far as photos go, but as video is my main focus, there isn’t really much of a difference at all.

So….

I purchased the Canon T2i and the Canon s95. The T2i wins out because I figured if the plastic body somehow becomes a hindrance, if the weather gets to it, or whatever, it is still only half the price of the 7d, and is much easier to replace – not that I ever see a need for that. With the T2i I can catch stunning video and great photos and keep on using my Canon lenses (which I’ll review next). If I need portability, I can throw the s95 in my pocket, and not lose too much in terms of quality.

The GF-2 is still in my wishlist, and if a little money comes in, or I see the need to get a third camera, then this will be the next addition to my bag.

What is your ideal portable camera setup? I’d love to hear about it.

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About Author

Ken is a traveler, sports junkie, foodie, photographer, movie buff, and content creator for the site. His previous odysseys include a road trip from San Diego to Costa Rica, and a six month journey from Singapore to Moscow, all by land. Now, he is excited to tackle his own country.

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