Better to upgrade body or lens? (from 1000D)

Aug 7, 2010
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Bundang, South Korea
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I purchased a Canon Rebel XS/1000D about a year and a half ago, and have since taken some photography classes and gotten deeper into it as a hobby.

I'm ready to upgrade from my current 1000D + kit lens setup, but I've got a few options that would fit into my budget (roughly $1000~$1200) and I'm not sure which would be the better choice. Right now I'm thinking either:

-Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on my 1000D, or
-Get a 40D + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8

I'm looking to get into street photography here in the bustling streets of Seoul, so my priorities are image quality, low light effectiveness, and focusing speed. My primary concerns regarding these options are that (1)I have no idea how well the 1000D is capable of maximizing the potential of the 17-55mm, and (2)I've heard a solid mix of raves and not-so-good reviews for the Tamron. I would appreciate any advice, especially from people who have used all this gear firsthand.

Note: I'm considering the 40D because I can snag one for under $600, and I hear it's comparable to the 50D. Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong.

Edit: I should also add that I'm open to any lens/body suggestions that are $1200 or under
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If it were me I'd get the 40D and Tamron. Get the non-stabilized version of the Tamron, it's supposed to be a little sharper and about $150 cheaper. Maybe use the savings to put towards some other bit of gear you're needing like a tripod, an ef-50mm 1.8, more memory cards, books or whatever.
I say go for some nice quality glass. The glass will last a long time bodies come and go like underwear. Depending on the print size you might not even notice a difference between the XS and 40D.
I would rather own the 40D and the Tamron than the more-expensive Canon lens and a 1000D body. The 40D has long been one of the best values in the d-slr market, with good image quality, nice features, and very rugged build for a half-height camera. It was so successful that many Canon shooters are still using 40D's.
Put your money into glass for now. Camera bodies are constantly updated by the manufacturers, glass not so much. Get a nice collection of quality glass, use your XS to it's full potential, then upgrade it at some future point. With good glass, the XS will seem like a new camera.
I too would upgrade the glass first...

What lenses do you currently have?

A mediocre lens on a good body will still just produce mediocre results.

A good lens on an entry level body will produce good results.

Whenever you do upgrade the body, you'll already have good lenses to put on it.
I think you will see greater improvement by getting some good lenses...

If all you have is the kit lens, a new body probably won't even give you a noticeable bump in performance.

For $1200, you could get 2 or 3 fast primes. Good ones too. Not "L" lenses, but still respectable ones. Something like the 50mm 1.4, the 85mm 1.8, and some wide angle or telephoto lens - depending on your preference. Probably wide angle for street shooting.

The 50mm 1.4 is $360 at B&H right now.

The 85 is $380.

That leaves you about $460 for another lens, or a tripod or something.
Thanks for the feedback, folks. Looks like a pretty even split at this point so I'm hoping some more feedback will tip the scales

Josh, I also have the Canon 50mm f/1.4 II. The focus is slower/pickier than I would like for street shooting, but it is noticeably sharper with my camera than most of what I get out of the kit lens. I have to admit I'm pretty curious about what kind of pictures a $1000 lens on a sub-$500 body could produce
Josh, I also have the Canon 50mm f/1.4 II. The focus is slower/pickier than I would like for street shooting, but it is noticeably sharper with my camera than most of what I get out of the kit lens.

The 1.4, or the 1.8? Only reason I ask is that I've never seen the "II" on the 1.4, but it typically is on the 1.8...

If it is the 1.8, focusing is one of the biggest improvements on the 1.4. And the general build quality is much better.

Image quality will be about the same (the 1.4 will have smoother bokeh - due to it's having more aperture blades...).

I have to admit I'm pretty curious about what kind of pictures a $1000 lens on a sub-$500 body could produce

I think you'll like what that combo can do... ;)

Everything gets better with better lenses... They'll have higher resolution (these days, I'm not sure that the lens would be the limiting factor though, as far as resolving power goes), less CA (chromatic aberration), generally sharper, better color accuracy - you name it...

When you upgrade the body, all you're really getting is more MP, better high ISO performance, and better user-friendliness.

The 1000D is newer than the 40D, so it may actually have better high ISO performance. Not sure of the sensor size differences between them...

User-friendliness is nice though, but not necessarily a deal breaker.
The right buttons will be in the right place, and you won't have to go into the menus as much. Other than that, there won't be any life-changing

I'm just going off of memory here (because I'm too lazy to go look it up, lol) - but I think the 40D will have a bigger & brighter viewfinder than the 1000D. That would be a big difference. That alone might make the upgrade worth it...

But, again, you need good lenses to put on a good body...
Also something to note: every Rebel since the XSi (including your XS/1000D) uses SD memory cards, while every other DSLR in Canon's lineup uses Compact Flash (CF) cards. So if/when you make that jump, you'll need a new set of memory cards as well.

I will vote along with keeping the body and getting better lenses. Differences in bodies normally boil down to high ISO performance, MP, AutoFocus, and burst rate speed. If none of these things are a big concern to you, then you will yield some excellent results with a good lens on that body. IMO, you only really need to buy a new body when you feel you are somehow limited by your current body.

Also with that said, the Canon 17-55 is an excellent lens. Its the one that spends most of its time on my camera and gets some very nice images. The mix of f/2.8, Image Stablization, and focal range make it pretty much THE ideal lens for Canon crop cameras. Street photography is probably a lot of on-the-go shooting, so switching prime lens (fixed focal length) may not be ideal. The versatility of a zoom lens like the 17-55 may come in handy more often than not.

To throw another wrench in there, if you're trying to capture big street scenes at a close distance, a super wide angle may be most benificial. I use the Canon EF-S 10-22, and it gives a huge wide angle view. You can definately get some creative and interesting shots with it. But if you still have your 18-55 kit lens, the 10-22 will only compliment it; not replace it. Something else to keep in mind.
The Canon EOS 7D Review Darwin Wiggett

Rebel XSi perhaps? Seems like a good option in terms of image quality, from the above review. The Tamron 17-50mm is said by this reviewer to have a noticeably wider angle of view than the Canon 17-55 IS Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF Lens Review

Excerpt: "The Canon and Tamron are similarly sharp in the center at all focal lengths. At mid zoom range, the Canon begins showing better edge performance - becoming much better at 50mm. Keep in mind that the Canon did not perform well on the ISO 12233 chart test - It doesn't seem to like closer focus distances."

"The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II Lens shows less vignetting than the Canon. The Tamron is more flare-resistant. This Tamron lens' 17mm is wider than this Canon lens' 17mm. Of course, the Canon has 5mm over the Tamron on the long end. " -end excerpt from The Digital Picture review site

The Tamron is 7.6 ounces or 215 grams lighter than the Canon. The above review was written by a reviewer who describes the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS as his, "my at-the-time-of-this-writing always-mounted lens",so he is intimately familiar with the strengths of the 17-55 IS lens. I dunno...I like the way the 40D handles,and if you can snag one for $600, that seems like a fair price,and then you can get the Tamron 17-50mm lens and have a lightweight lens....yet still, not sure if the 40D is really that much of an update from the 1000D body--they share basically the same autofocusing system,and like Josh said, the 1000D is newer than the 40D.

Not sure what the real priority is for you...the safest,easiest bet would be to buy a new lens,first, and see how the lens actually suits you, on a body you know. The lens forms the images, and it controls how photos are actually made. I hate to see people direct money toward stuff they do not really need, or which will not really advance their situation.
Do you realize, that strategy is no more effective than just flipping a coin? :confused:

Because apparently, flipping a coin is the best way to get advice on how to spend $1200

Ack, I did mean to say f/1.8. The f/1.4 sounds like an incredible lens, but I'm thinking that all-in-all, I can make good use of the f/1.8 for portraits for awhile
I actually have the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and I love it.

though to be honest I would go for the Canon 40D + Tamron 2.8
If it was a new body ONLY vs. new lens... then go for the lens.

The stock lens that comes with the Canon XS isn't that great.. so I would at least recommend getting a new lens. though I've heard 50mm 1.8 m2 is really great...

A lot of people argue for a better lens over a better body, but there are times when a better body really is needed. I've never actually used an XS before.. but I have used similar-sized DSLR. I actually use a Canon 10D. And IMHO, I'd use the 10D over an XS any day. (10D is 40D's predecessor)

Bottom line, I'd recommend 40D + tamron

On a side note, there's not a lot of opportunities to actually use the lens at f/1.4 because the DOF is wayyy too shallow. But the overall build quality and lens glass is really great!

Sorry if this post didn't make much sense. I'll be happy to clarify if you have any questions :)
... but there are times when a better body really is needed.

I agree, but I believe that the time is after you already have a solid collection of lenses.

If you keep thinking that a newer body will give you better pictures, you'll keep upgrading until there's nothing to upgrade to - and you'll still have the same mediocre lenses you started out with...

Ultimately, it's your money and it's your decision how to spend it. I'd just hate to see you spend it on something that you think you need, when really - you need something else...

I think it takes much longer to truly outgrow a body than it seems like most people here think...
I mean, I doubt that you've even found the limitations of you current body at this point...
I think it takes much longer to truly outgrow a body than it seems like most people here think...
I mean, I doubt that you've even found the limitations of you current body at this point...

Mm. true that. I think i've most certainly outgrown my 10D :D seeing that it's half broken :p

but that's beside the point..
I think it's really based on your own experience. You have to decide for yourself! (But the 40D is a very good upgrade should you choose to do so)

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