Entering the dslr market after an "oops"


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Nov 28, 2009
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After deciding to take my hand-me-down p&s to a football game in the rain (which it did not survive) I am in the market for a new camera and would like to move into the dslr market.

If I had to choose one type of photography it would, without a doubt, be macro photography. So, with that in mind, I am heavily leaning towards a Canon system as their MP-E 65 5x macro lens will definitely be something that I will want down the road. Other wise, I have tried both companies bodies in both the consumer and prosumer level and find them to be very comperable in ergonomics, so that is not much of a concern; although I should mention that I find the prosumer bodies much more comfortable than the entry level ones.

Obviously, I will be doing other types of photography other than macro, one of which will be ski photography, mostly at night under the lights. Quality of these shots is not critical, but I would like them to be in focus and have halfway decent noise levels. They will mostly be used for training purposes so the higher fps the better. They will never be printed. I will also be doing some portraits and a little bit of everything else.

Looking at the Canon line and my bank account I have gotten down to three models, the 40D ($600 used), 50D ($850 refurb), and 500D (T1i) ($600). I can not find any real complaint about the image quality of any of them given their price point which is basically the same. I am trying to find some opinions on the cost/benefits of the other features.

I am the type of person who likes big artwork: big paintings, big scuptures, big installations, etc, so the ability to print large is high on my list of priorities. From what I have read the 50D and 500D both use the same 15mp sensor while the 40D uses an older, albiet still capable, 10mp sensor. I have also read that ISO noise is fairly comperable, maybe a slight edge to the 40D due to its lower density, but overall nothing drastic.

If I could choose any camera it would probably be the 7D for its ability to take HD video with manual exposure control in addition to its incredible stills. It also has the build that I prefer. But unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and as a college student not majoring in photography, I cannot justify a $1700 body, so I am going to have to make choices. While I am not an avid videographer, the feature would be nice (particuarly if it has manual controls). However, neither the 40D or 50D record video and the 500D's video is fully automatic and recording at 1080x1920 is limited to 20fps. Obviously not an ideal solution but it certainly would not hurt to have it.

Basically it comes down to this
40D pro: low price, high burst speed, prosumer body con: lower mp, older tech, no video
50D pro: prosumer body, high burst speed, high mp, new tech con: high price, no video
500D pro: low price, video, high mp con: entry level body, slower autofocus, low burst speed

Has anyone made this, or a similar decision? Any regrets? Any suggestions? Any opinions?

While the body often gets the most attention, I am well aware of the substantial contribution the lens makes to the system.

As I said earlier, I am most interested in macro photography, so I think it would be a good place to start. I am considering both the Canon 100mm f2.8($500 used) and the Sigma 180mm f3.5 ($600 used). I have used the 100mm before and while it has a reasonable working distance I did find myself wishing I had a bit more sometimes. Both lenses get great reviews and the Sigma is often compared favorably to the Canon 180mm macro lens. While not super long the sigma could also serve as my starting telephoto lens since there is no way that I can afford to get anything in that length with an aperature in that range in addition to a macro lens. I will probably eventuall get both, but I am leaning toward the Sigma to start mainly for the length and working distance.

Any thoughts?

This is where I am really starting to get confused mainly because I have less direction. This is the "some portraits and a little bit of everything else" lens. I have been throwing around the idea of the Canon 18-200mm ($490 used) mainly due to its convienience. It seems like it would be a great walk around lens for days when I dont want to drag arounda bag full of lenses. I have also considered just going with the 50mm f1.4 ($350). It recieves rave reviews in terms of image quality, build quality, and, obviously, has a large aperature, but that would limit me to a 50 (80 equiv) and a 180 (288 equiv). Those two numbers are great for portraits, macro, and distant things, but that leaves me nothing in the wide range. Then again, I think the only way I can get anything wide with the crop sensor is to get one of the lower end ef-s lenses such as the kit lenses, the 10-22mm which does not fit into my current budget, or the really expensive wide primes which are almost my entire budget by themselves.

Maybe I should just get the 500D with whatever medium telephoto lens it comes with, I think its the 18-55mm IS ($650 refurb) and the 50 1.4.

Again, any thoughts, opinions, suggestions?

A flash would also be nice if I can fit it in the budget. Canon 430 EXII $250

Cost summary:
50D: $850 refurb
40D: $600 used
500D body: $600
500D + 18-55IS: $650 refurb
sigma 180 macro: $600 used
canon 100 macro: $500 used
canon 50 1.4: $350
canon 18-200: $480 used
canon 18-55IS: $90

The combinations I am leaning towards:
50D, sigma 180, canon 50 1.4, flash $2050, price a little high, limited focal lengths, no video
500D, sigma 180, canon 50 1.4, canon 18-55IS, flash, $1850 reasonable price, body deficits, video*
40D sigma 180, canon 50 1.4, canon 18-55IS, flash, $1900, reasonable price, old sensor/body, no video

Budget $2000, but less is always better.

* I think this is currently seeming like the best investment at this point, but would like some other opinions.

Sorry for the lengthy post and thank you in advance for your help.
One of the things that I hate about the rebel series is that the viewfinder is sort of small and dimmer. This can be crucial for macro photography, as with the shallow dof you will want to make sure your focus is very accurate. Manual focusing is the way to go.

Though I'm in a different situation, as I don't care at all for the video, my vote will go to the 40d, as I don't think the 50d's benefits justify the extra price.
MP-E 65 5x macro lens
Er... no, you're looking for an EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro or EF 100mm f/2.8 (L IS, optionally).

Forget about the 50mm f/2.8 macro and the MP-E 65 macro above all.

Don't use 'times' when talking about zoom in lenses, refer to the focal lengths which itself refers to the field of view (focal length: eg, 18mm; therefore a zoom might have 18-55mm).
The MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro is a specialized macro lens that only focuses (manually) at extremely close range, allowing the image on the sensor to be between 1.0 and 5.0 times the size of the actual object being photographed.

Other true macro lenses (like the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM) can (automatically or manually) focus as close as 1.0 magnification and infinitely far away. The MP-E 65's furthest focus range is the closest that these lenses can focus. Some lenses on the market labeled as "Macro" can only focus close enough to provide 0.3 magnification.
It reads to me that you have almost made the choice yourself in this matter - certainly you have some some research and have some understanding of what your after in both long and short term, which is a great!
I'm also pleased that your not gunning for the MPE65mm as a starting point, it is a fantastic lens and about one of the best out there in current times, for greater than 1:1 macro, but it is a very challenging lens to learn to use for certain. If your interested there are other methods you can use to boost the magification of your basic macro lens (like the sigma 150mm or 180mm) including the use of items such as:
Teleconverters - 1.4TC is something that I strongly recomend when working in macro and going after smaller bugs, it gives a noticable boost to magnification, whilst not harshly affecting lighting and its effect on overall image quality is very minor
Diopters (also call macro filters) - come in 2 forms - cheap and not so cheap - the very cheap sorts are best avoided, whilst the others are a worthy and cheap consideration for some more magification - Raynox make avery good line of them (the DCR250 is a popular choice) as do canon (500D - yah confusing to call a filter and a camera by the same name)

On the macro front I have this to say - the 180mm sigma is certainly a fantastic lens, though most (not all) of the users I see with this lens tend to do their macro work from a tripod based setup as opposed to working handheld. Typically the longest handholdable popular lens is the sigma 150mm macro and I would consider that lens also, since reading your post I get the impression that working handheld is what your aiming for.

As and additional point to that if your going to do macro work handheld you are going to need that speedlite flash beacuse working at macro distances your lens will block out some light and when you start going for more depth of field (area of a shot in focus) in macro you need to start using smaller apertures (f8-f13) so that means less light will be getting into the camera - so for a good shutter speed you need the flash (high ISOs are an option, but are not ideal since you lose image quality unless your using very highend camera bodies). I would also add a lumiquest softbox to your kit list since a good difffuser like that makes a lot of difference to the quality of light the flash gives you.

I would also say that going for the kit lenses is a very good move, a 50mm f1.4 is a good lens but not ideal for all situations. Also you might consider a 50mm f1.8, its far cheaper and its build quality is more plasticy, but its image quality is pretty much the same as the f1.4. The bonus is that as a first prime its not too expensive and you might find that 50mm is not the prime distance that you the focal length idealy suited to your working style.

Camera body wise I am less sure on things, but I would say go for the 40/50D over the 500D. I know that video is something that would be nice to have and that might be pushing you toward the 500D - but I would say forget the video feature - if your keen on it then a 7D would be a better investment and moving up to a 7D is something that you can certainly do at a later date (or you could be really bold and jump for the 5dM2).

Forget about the 50mm f/2.8 macro and the MP-E 65 macro above all.

Could you elaborate a little more as to why he should avoid those two lenses?
At the moment I am starting to lean towards the 50D. While the video would be nice, since it does not have manual controls, it will really only be used for documentation which is often done nearly as well with a photograph.

Any opinions on swapping out the 50 1.4 for the 1.8 in order to go with the 50D? From what I am reading the main difference is build quality and resale value is not horrible, so if later down the road I want the better build, I should be able to get it for not much loss, especially if I can find the 50 1.8 used.

Yes, hand held is where I will be mainly working from, especially at this point as I dont have a tripod. I have been doing some research on the 150 2.8 and it seems like a toss up with the 180 being the better macro lens (extra 3" of working distance, aperture does not matter) while the 150 is the better all around lens (lighter, faster, difference between 150 and 180 when photographing a person is a step and that wont cause the person to run off, well, at least I hope).
if you plan on taking it out to more football games and rain, you need to invest in somthing with good weather sealing!
Opionion on swapping the 50/1.4 for the 50/1.89 is that you are switching away from a professional-grade lens with nice bokeh to a very sub-par 50mm 1.8 with plastic construction, horrible build, and poor bokeh. The Canon 50/1.8 EF-II is one of the weakest 50mm lenses of modern times, from any manufacturer, while the 50/1.4 EF lens is actually *quite* a good 50mm lens, bettering Nikon's 50.1.4 AF-D. The 50/1.8's 5-sided diaphragm is decidedly 12950's in techn ology,and the lens is prone to ghosting and flares when shot toward the sun in bright conditions,and the lens has a poor track record of simply falling apart in what is known as "barrel separation".

But this brings up the question--is a 50mm prime lens really something you want or need? I can see the use of a 50mm 1.4 lens for nighttime photography, like the ski photos at night; that distance would make a 50mm lens probably reasonably useful. The 50/1.4 EF focuses pretty well actually, whereas the 1.8 model has less sure focusing,and offers no manual override while in AF mode.

The Sigma 180mm f/3.4 EX APO Macro from Sigma....I own the lens....I shoot it hand-held almost all of the time. It looks big, but it feels pretty light to me in use. It makes for a useful length,and allows you to shoot flash at reasonable distances on butterflies and insects.

Your dilemma is one many people experience. IMHO, if you go with the 50D, SKIP the 18-55 kit lens--it is simply not good enough for that sensor. Buy something with better optics if you have a 15MP sensor. Good luck assembling the kit.
Do you have any suggestions for something in the medium zoom range around $400? Maybe the Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX or Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II LD?

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