How to decide on a DSLR camera and what I recently chose.

Prior to five years ago, I wasn’t conscientious about every large purchase we made. We just would fly by the seat of our pants, figure out the monthly bills, and make it work. We had no emergency fund, little savings, and lots of loans (luckily, never credit card debt). So much has changed.

Now, when I make a purchase of more than $100, I research the heck out of it and talk it over with Chris. I take a month to decide. Anything over $100 is an investment. The time we take makes a huge difference in how we’ve saved enough recently to pay someone to buy our house in a bad neighborhood.

Back in February, I was on the fence about a new camera and desperately wanted a new hugely expensive zoom lens. I booked a few fall weddings recently, but I sat on my hands and thought about what would work best for my business, personal projects, family, and budget.

So, how to decide which DSLR to buy?

Step 1: define what you NEED

What my current 5D Mark II + setup lacks:
– a backup for weddings
– superior auto-focus
– better low-light ISO
– compatible with accessories I own (remote, flash, batteries, cards, etc)

Step 2: define what you WANT

What would enhance my photography options:
– wi-fi capabilities
– several cross-type AF points
– nothing less than the 5DMII (full-frame)
– released within the past six months
– light-weight
– silent shutter

Step 3: define your BUDGET

My budget is always one of my biggest concerns. My business funds are separate from my personal finances. One thing I did from day one was to never mix the two; in that I never used personal money to fund my business (except for the first year investment which I paid myself back within six months).

Before looking at the market, I decided my budget was less than $1,200.

The options on the market that fit my needs looked like this:
$3,300+ 5D Mark III released March 2012
$1,800+ 6D released November 2012
$1,100+ 70D released September 2013 (crop sensor)

I kept in mind what the focus of this camera was supposed to be: a realistic back-up for professional work and to create more personal projects. 

The full-frame sensor has been absolutely gorgeous on my 5DMII, but some of the most amazing photos in my portfolio were shot on a crop sensor 40D (which I sold). To me, it’s the photographer not the camera – so a crop sensor wasn’t going to be a huge deciding factor.

For weeks, I watched YouTube videos comparing the 70D to the 6D. I wanted to make absolutely sure I would not regret this purchase. I followed prices on Canon Price Watch and learned the pricing market. I missed the sweet spot of Jan/Feb sales, but April is the last dip until November holiday promotions.

In the end, I purchased the 70D.

For $1,250 it included extras like a back-up battery and SD card (which I would have needed to purchase anyway) and a silent AF zoom kit lens. I usually avoid kit lenses, but I’ll explain why I added it another time.

Two months ago, if I bought on a whim with credit, I would have spent:

$1,800 Canon 6D
$300 extras
$2,400 24-70 2.8/L II (not sure I’d ever buy from my experience)
$200 Pocket Wizards
$300 2nd Flash                            
$5,000 total

That means I would have had to book 4 weddings OR 16 portrait sessions just to break even. That’s a lot of hours of work without profit, if you ask me. Taking the time to research, review videos, price watch, write down my needs vs. wants – I saved myself a mistake of spending an extra $3,750 just for wants.

Do I care that other people might think I’m less of a “PRO” going backwards on the prosumer line? Nope, not anymore. This is a 2nd camera. Oh, and you can shoot with any camera and stay true to your style.

Why the 70D?
The 70D’s auto-focus is phenomenal.
The 70D is better for speed (i.e. children!).
The 70D works with all my current gear: RC-6 remote, 5DMII batteries, Rode Video Mic, etc.
The 70D will fire my 600EX-RT flash with it’s pop-up flash (no need for PW or 2nd flash).
The 70D gives me wee-fee 🙂 that’ll be fun.
The 70D’s flip screen will help with self portraits and my own family portraits.
The 70D’s crop sensor makes my L lenses dual sizes: 35=57, 50=81, 70-200=114-324
The 18-55 lens covers my basic walk-around zoom needs (29-85mm)
The 18-55 lens is silent for video shooting.
The 18-55 lens is enough for macro.

Yes, you’ll see this camera being used often.

A final thought…

You might be able to afford it, but do you want to? I could afford the highest end camera available if I put all my resources into it, but did I want to? Nope. I’d rather have that money set aside for our other family goals, like buying a house. A quality back-up camera was important, but I didn’t have to go over the top just because I could.

I will be selling my 5D Mark II to upgrade my main body to the 6D, but for a back-up the 70D does every little thing I need and more. For the price of the 5DMIII – I get two camera bodies that offer a wide range of options for what we like to do and what my business needs are.

Just taking a simple step to write down your needs, wants, and budget can save you a lot of money. Give yourself 30 days to make any major purchase decision and you won’t regret it.

– kn –

If you’re interested, here’s how I sell old equipment.