Upgrading from Rebel XS--what to get?


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Nov 29, 2015
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The time has come... my Canon Rebel XS has been great since 2010, and I'm still feeling guilty/unsure about upgrading it, but with my upcoming travels next year I really want something I can shoot video with instead of the iphone 4 I used last time (which is better than nothing, but it'd be really nice to have some usable video footage). I've had the XS for 5 years and love it, but it's gone all over with me including across many mountains and oceans and rivers and though it's doing fairly well, I am noticing some little issues with autofocus and different modes every now and then. My main reason, though, is still the video and something slightly more professional, since there have been so many camera upgrades since '10.

I have a budget of $400 ish... not looking to go much further than that, as traveling costs a lot too. I'm not looking for the latest-and-greatest, just something a little newer than the XS with video capability. I currently have a 50mm f/1.8 which is nice, so I'm thinking of sticking with Canon so I can keep using that, but it's a hard choice as Nikon has some super nice looking cameras as well. So, if you'd recommend one of those more highly, I'm open to it!

What I'm thinking is--a camera body such as the T3/4/5 (i? I've had a hard time researching the differences between, say, the t5 and the t5i, they seem fairly minor) or Nikon D3200/3300, and instead of getting it with the kit lens, just get a 18-135mm separately.
What would be a good choice for an inexpensive camera body?
And would it be wise to just get the 18-135mm since it has such a wide range? Is it worth the price?

As I said, I travel a lot so it'll go everywhere with me, lots of pictures of landscapes/architecture/nature, but I use it for everything even portraits and commercial shoots so keeping the 50mm I already have may be wise. I'm not quite a beginner, still an amateur, but I know all my camera settings and am comfortable doing everything myself on manual mode.
Any advice appreciated! :) Thank you!
Both the Canon EOS T3 and the T5 are newer cameras in the same series as your XS. I find Canon's European model names easier to understand: the XS is called 1000D in Europe, T3 = 1100D and T5 = 1200D. The i versions:
  • T3i = 600D
  • T4i = 650D
  • T5i = 700D
  • T6i = 750D
  • T6s = 760D
The two T6 models are the current ones, with the latest sensor (only ones to use the new 24MP sensor that Canon has), while the previous ones are still very good, and often make for a great bargain.

The T3i has benefited the least from recent technology. It doesn't have a touchscreen, and autofocus in Live View (the mode that lets you shoot video) is very slow. The T4i has a touchscreen and better autofocus in Live View, as well as a better autofocus system in normal viewfinder mode, that is superior for tracking a moving subject. But I think Canon released the T5i very soon after the T4i—I think there was some problem with the T4i, that warranted replacing it with a new model. I'm not entirely certain about that, though.

It seems to me that the T3i is better than the T5 (600D > 1200D). The T5's rear LCD is a fixed one, while the T3i's is fully articulated. The T5's pop-up flash is weaker, according to the specs. Oddly, the specs on DPReview.com show that the T5 doesn't have the spot metering mode, while the T3i does—you may not need it now, but it's a very useful tool that's good to have in a camera. The T3i is a little heavier and its battery life is a bit shorter, but other than that, I see no reason to get the T5 over it. Unless you find a killer deal, of course.

Stay with Canon DSLRs. You already have an additional lens you like, and I bet you're very familiar with the ergonomics, the menus, etc. through your 5-year experience with a Canon DSLR. That's something that will take time to replicate with a different brand's camera, or a different type of camera. Familiarity often trumps many things.

As for the lens, I suppose you already have the standard 18-55mm kit lens that came with your current camera. If you get a T4i or greater, there's good reason to buy an STM lens to replace it: the STM lenses can take advantage of the better autofocus in Live View that those cameras offer. The current kit lenses (both 18-55 and 18-135) are also better optically than those of 2010, so replacing your
400$ is not much, the the current T3i and T5i are offering old sensor technology which is almost 6 years old, still dragging same old sensor they had in the T2i.
If I would to buy a new crop sensor Canon I would only get the Canon T6i or T6s as they use new sensor and much better AF then what you have on your camera but these cameras are more then 400$
I dont think when talking about sensor technology you will really get big jump over your current camera if you will get the T3i, T5i, it will be more like a small improvement.
Thanks for all the good advice! And links!
@Ido , I appreciate you outlining all of that for me! It really helped.
I think it would be smart to keep the Canon brand, because of the lens that I have and the familiarity, but at the same time I am looking into the Nikon D3300 because the price is so good for what you get as compared to the Rebel line... I can't find anything quite comparable at that price point. But still, wanting to stick with Canon makes it a very hard decision.
My main reason, though, is still the video and something slightly more professional, since there have been so many camera upgrades since '10.

The best option in terms of video performance is easily the Canon EOS 70D -- but that's a mid-level body and would blow your budget a few times over.

The stay within budget, your best option is the Canon EOS Rebel SL1. The SL1 has a rather compact body for a DSLR (that was the intention of the design... to make a body large enough to house an APS-C sensor with the reflex mirror (this requires a lot of space and is the primary reason why DSLR cameras are large) but try to otherwise keep the body as small as possible. For this reason, some people find the body is a bit too small (especially people with large hands.)

But the advantage of the SL1 is that it does have Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF II technology which is an auto-focus technology built into the imaging sensor. The version built into the 70D is better, but the version built into the SL1 is still pretty good. The T4i and T5i have the original CMOS AF (version I)... the SL1 is actually just a little better.

You can get a new "body only" of the SL1 for $399 -- so it's in budget. But the version that includes a kit lens is $499 (and you mentioned focus is flakey on your current lens -- which might be an indicator of a failing motor, or loose wiring.) You might be able to get the refurbished Sl1 from the Canon online store with a new kit lens (and that's $279) but I see that's currently not in stock (likely stock was exhausted by holiday shoppers.)

Ideally, however, you'd get a new "STM" lens. These lenses have Canon's almost completely silent focus motor (designed to not be audible to the internal mic when focusing while recording video and audio). The STM lens also focuses smoother and faster than the focus motor on your current lens.

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