Making a Difficult Decision: Canon EOS 450D vs. 40D

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For a long time now, the top spot on my wishlist has been occupied by various models of dSLRs. Lucky for me, most of the times, whenever I’ve needed or wanted to use a dSLR, I was able to get a friend’s. But I don’t really need to say that if you’re serious, you simply cannot survive without your own SLR. And when you’re still dependent on your folks, who don’t really approve of the levels of seriousness with which you take your photography, things aren’t all that easy. And so, you have to do it all on your own. And after a long time of working my behind off doing little part time assignments that I hated, and a lucky job that I love and am still doing, I’ve finally saved about enough for my own dSLR.

So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a whole lot of research on which model to purchase, and had narrowed down on the 450D (Rebel XSi) and the 40D. The problem was deciding which one. I’ve spent countless hours reading and going through forums everywhere, but there were votes for both parties, and the final decision was to be my own. The 450D is better primarily in terms of resolution, but the extra 2 megapixels aren’t a deciding factor. 10 megapixels are more than enough for making A3 prints, which are probably the biggest I’ll be making as of now. And you know, when purchasing a camera, you need to think Beyond Megapixels :D . It is smaller and more compact though – again not a major factor for me. The image quality is more or less the same in both cameras. The 40D has the advantages of 6.5 fps burst compared to 3.5 on the Rebel, a longer battery life as well (1100 vs. 600), a brighter viewfinder, which is an important factor for me, and better performance at higher ISO, which is a major factor since I often shoot in low light. There are a few minor technical differences which someone very rightly termed as ‘geek things’ saying that photographic skill is more important, to which I absolutely agree. The other major factor that was pushing me towards the 40D was the build and ergonomics – magnesium alloy body, larger and more comfortable to hold and operate compared to the Rebel (although I haven’t personally verified this one), and two adjustment wheels which apparently make changing settings a breeze.

All in all, there were two main reasons which were making it difficult for me to decide against the 40D – the 6.5 fps, and the low light performance. In fact, even while writing this, the low light performance seems too tempting to resist. BUT… and this is a major But… there is a $250+ price difference between the two cameras (this is talking body only… the kit price difference is almost $400). SO, if I have to purchase the 40D, I’ll have to wait for atleast 2-3 months to save up enough cash. Plus, as they say, a camera is as good as the glass in front of it, so I’ll need quite a bit of dough for some good glass. I want a good set of lenses, and I don’t want to buy an alright-this’ll-do-for-now kind of lens (which is why I ruled out the 55-250mm which comes as an optional 2nd kit lens with the 450). I don’t mind waiting a little longer, but if I invest in the 40D now, that will mean that I would have to wait a lot more than if I buy the 450. Which brings me to yet another point – the shutter life. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how significant this is, but it is for a fact that the shutter life of any body is limited, and it depreciates year by year. So I don’t want that by the time I get my hands on the lenses I desire, my (more expensive) camera body is due for a change.

So, after a lot of thinking, and a lot of time spent hanging between the two, I’ve decided that for now, I will buy a 450D kit, with a 50mm f/1.8 prime to go with it. And I think I’ll probably use the prime more because of its superb optical performance, and its versatility (about which  I will be making a post very soon). In fact, I plan to use a prime for a long time. Inexpensive zooms somehow just don’t do what a prime does. As for not getting the 40D’s advantages, the frame rate difference is acceptable, and the ergonomics I’ll get used to. I agree it is difficult if you don’t have the dual adjustment wheels IF you’re used to them. But if you aren’t used to them only, then there isn’t much to lose. And you know, I think the ISO will not bother me as much as I think it will. Yes, I’m pretty sure I’ll love the Rebel, and when I start feeling limited by that (which will take a long time due to the camera’s versatility and capability, and the unending world of experience), I’ll probably be able to afford a full-frame :)

And seriously, people often spend way too much time discussing gear than making photographs, and I certainly want to spend my time doing the latter.

But I still haven’t purchased the camera yet, so your views and suggestions will be most appreciated :)

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  • Igor

    This message is written much later than the time when the original one was posted. Hence, the consequences and decisions may be different, but the general idea is still valid.

    I recently bought the 50D having been a photographer of a film SLR camera for many years. I gave up taking pictures for a while due to the amount of money I needed to learn more things, and came back to photography after testing digital photography with the wonderful Canon Powershot G9.

    I recently purchased the 50D a short time before the 7D was released: the 50D is now much cheaper than what it was when you wrote your post. As a general advice for newcomers, I would say that most of the dSLR stuff you can buy is good enough. However, the latest technology is usually much more expensive than what IMHO is worth. People are prone to buy the latest gear because we all are partly geeks, and because we all like to show off how smart we were to buy the latest. I keep cool and buy the almost-latest version of the same product, that is usually much cheaper than its latest version whereas it does not differ much from the latest one.

    The question now -April 2010- may be whether buying the 7D or the 50D, or the 500D or the 550D: go for the 50D or the 500D!!! Forget about the latest, and spend the saved budget on lens, which was one of your ideas.

    I have just read most of the post and I miss some comments about other good lenses on non-Canon items. Other brands like Sigma or Tamron offer professional quality lenses at a much better price. In addition, other cheap lenses -Canon or other brands- yield pretty good results two apertures down from the maximum.