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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Your First Canon Camera

2022-02-18
31
27.42 k

You’ve decided to make a huge step in your photography journey—getting your first dedicated camera. With so many options, each with their own unique features, how do you choose the one that works best for you? Here, we share seven things to consider (other than budget) that will help you make a better decision.

 

In this article:

1. Do I want the possibility of using different lenses?

1. Do I want the possibility of using different lenses?

Compact camera or interchangeable lens camera?

Mirrorless and DSLR cameras are interchangeable lens cameras, and they are what you will want to get if one of your main reasons for getting a dedicated camera is the ability to play with a variety of lenses. (Learn more about the different things that different lenses can do in Lenses 101).

Shot on the RF100mm f/2.8L IS USM

A long macro lens like the RF100mm f/2.8L IS USM lets you capture close-ups of small, sensitive subjects like butterflies from a comfortable distance away.


The kit lens that comes with your DSLR/mirrorless camera kit is usually a standard zoom or superzoom lens that covers most everyday subjects. However, if you prefer less maintenance or simply like the idea of doing everything with just one unit, consider getting a compact camera. The ones in Canon’s PowerShot series have at least a 1-inch type image sensor, which is bigger than what you would find on most smartphone cameras. They also have features you would find on mirrorless and DSLR cameras such as:

- Fast autofocus and tracking
- High continuous shooting speed
- Manual and semi-automatic exposure modes
- High ISO performance
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

 

Canon’s flagship compact camera, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III, offers a 24-megapixel APS-C size image sensor—the same as that found on many DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It also has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), a built-in flash, and a hot shoe that can take a Speedlite if you want to try using an external flash.

The PowerShot SX70 HS, a superzoom compact camera, provides a 21-1365mm focal length range (in 35mm full-frame equivalent terms)—much more than what is possible with one lens on a mirrorless or DSLR. It has an EVF, a built-in flash, and a form factor that resembles a mini DSLR.

 

Know this: the tradeoffs involved

If the following matter to you, it might be better to choose a mirrorless or DSLR camera:

Image quality
Compact camera zoom lenses need to be small, which limits lens design. Good interchangeable lenses have special glass and other design features tailored to provide the best image quality.

Shallow depth of field and bokeh
The combination of lens design limitations and a smaller image sensor means that under the same settings and shooting conditions, the bokeh created by a compact camera will probably not look as creamy.

EOS M series camera + EF-M32mm f/1.4 STM
The unique foreground and background bokeh were achieved at f/1.4 using a mirrorless camera on a large aperture prime lens.


Room for growth
Learning how to use different kinds of lenses not only broadens expressive possibilities, it is also an enriching photography skill. You might not see the merits of them now, but what if you change your mind? With a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will always have the option to stick to the kit lenses now and get a newer, better lens when you are ready. But with the compact camera, you will have to make do with what you have.

If you are quite sure you want a compact camera, skip to point 4.

Learn more about PowerShot compact cameras in: 
5 Reasons to Get a Compact Camera
6 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with a Canon PowerShot

2. Do I want an APS-C camera or a full-frame camera?

2. Do I want an APS-C camera or a full-frame camera?

Budget, size, and shooting flexibility

If you have decided on an interchangeable lens camera, your next decision will probably be whether to go for an APS-C or full-frame image sensor.

Exploring this topic requires a whole article—you can read more about it in Full-Frame vs APS-C Camera: Which Should I Choose?. Generally, image sensor size affects the size of the camera and the cost of producing it, so if you need a smaller camera or are on a very tight budget, you will find more choices among APS-C camera models. But if you want to invest in a camera that offers the most possibilities in the long-term, consider a full-frame camera.

3. Which lens mount should I go for?

3. Which lens mount should I go for?

Important if you intend to eventually upgrade your gear

Closely related to your choice of APS-C or full-frame camera is your choice of camera series/lens mount. Canon currently has four different lens mount systems:
- RF mount for the EOS R mirrorless system
- EF mount for full-frame DSLRs
- EF-S mount for APS-C DSLRs
- EF-M mount for the EOS M APS-C mirrorless camera system

There are two types of RF mount lenses:
- RF lenses designed for full-frame EOS R cameras
- RF-S lenses designed for APS-C EOS R cameras

Both types can be directly attached to any EOS R camera, but the outcome may be different depending on the image sensor.

The chart below shows the cross-compatibility between the different types of lenses and camera bodies: 

Canon lens and lens mount compatibility table

1 Needs mount adapter
Field of view will be narrower than on a full-frame camera
3 Only part of the image sensor will be used to record the image

The lens mount affects the lens choices available to you, and it has implications especially if you plan to upgrade your gear or expand your arsenal in the future. For example, the EF mount lineup is mature with a wide range of existing lenses, but Canon is currently focusing on the new RF mount which has unlocked a lot of possibilities.

4. Is having a viewfinder important? If so, what kind?

4. Is having a viewfinder important? If so, what kind?

It’s a matter of preference and shooting style, but having one is helpful!

As you explore your options, you might wonder if you will regret choosing a mirrorless or compact camera that doesn’t have a viewfinder. It boils down to individual preference, but here are the benefits.

Canon PowerShot SX740 HS compact camera

Some mirrorless cameras as well as many compact cameras like the PowerShot SX740 HS don’t have a built-in viewfinder.


When it helps to have a viewfinder
- For shooting outdoors in bright daylight, when it becomes hard to see the rear LCD screen
- To concentrate better on subjects
- For holding the camera in a more stable stance
- When shooting in low light, so that light from the LCD screen doesn’t distract other people nearby

 

How is an EVF different from a DSLR viewfinder?

The optical viewfinder (OVF) on DSLRs shows the image direct from the lens reflected in the mirror. Meanwhile, the display on an EVF has gone through the image processor just like the Live View display on the LCD screen. This makes it possible to display more information and preview the effects of your exposure, white balance, or colour settings. 

EVF display

Having problems seeing the rear LCD display due to glare from the sun? Viewfinder to the rescue! The information overlay on an EVF is basically the same as the one on the rear LCD screen, which makes it easy to see the effects of different settings. If you enable Touch & Drag AF on your mirrorless camera, you would also be able to control the AF point intuitively without taking your eye off the viewfinder by tapping or dragging your finger across the LCD touchscreen.

Benefits of an EVF
- Can preview exposure and colour settings
- Information display
- Viewfinder gain can help you see better in the dark
- Functions such as zooming in on image to check focus
- Doesn’t need a mirror; helps to keep camera small

Benefits of an OVF
- Direct, lag-free view of the scene
- Clearest image
- Consumes much less battery than an EVF

Also see:
Can A Fast Lens Really Make It Easier To See Through The Viewfinder?

5. Does it have the interfaces and controls that I need?

5. Does it have the interfaces and controls that I need?

Check for things like a built-in flash, hot shoe, etc.

Different cameras are designed with different users in mind, so not every camera may have the features you need. Here are some examples of some of them:


Hot shoe

A camera with a hot shoe allows you to attach certain external accessories such as Speedlites, which are good to learn how to use if you want to improve your portraiture skills or grow as a photographer. However, some entry-level cameras may not have one.


Built-in flash

A built-in flash is convenient for situations where you need extra lighting. However, higher-end cameras often don’t have one as the advanced photographers they are designed for usually prefer using Speedlites. Having a built-in flash also makes it harder to achieve the level of dust- and drip-resistant weather sealing required for professional use.

Also see:
In Focus: Built-in Flash Techniques


Simplicity or more direct controls?

All recent camera models feature a touchscreen, which makes navigating menus and controlling things like autofocus more convenient than before. But you may also want the convenience and tactile feel of having more dials and buttons that can change settings directly.

The EOS M200 is built for simplicity, great for users who don’t like too many dials and buttons. However, achieving finer control over some settings will require more navigation through the menus.

 

The many dials and buttons on more advanced cameras like the EOS 90D shown here may seem intimidating at first, but when you get used to them, they can help you react more quickly to dynamic scenes.


Some other features to look out for
Their priority depends on your habits, preferences, and purpose for buying the camera.
- Advanced video functions
- Livestreaming
- Creative filters
- Manual focus peaking/Focus Guide
- Vari-angle LCD monitor

6. What do I plan to shoot?

6. What do I plan to shoot?

Certain features are designed to cater to certain scenarios

The features that are important for action photography would be different from those for landscape photography. Here are some common photography genres and the features that would matter most.


Wildlife, action, and unpredictable subjects

Shot by @neo_ng_ig on the EOS R5 + EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

If you are buying a camera to photograph unpredictable subjects like birds in flight, pets, or sports, it helps to have a camera that responds and focuses quickly and accurately. Good autofocusing (AF) AF capabilities are especially helpful when you are using long, telephoto lenses since these intrinsically have a shallower depth of field that can make focus challenging. A fast continuous shooting speed is a bonus.


Did you know: A mirrorless camera generally has better AF coverage than a DSLR

DSLR

*Image is for illustration only
The image above shows 45 AF points, typical of a mid-range DSLR. Entry-level DSLRs have fewer points while higher-end DSLRs have more.

Mirrorless camera

*Image is for illustration only
The image above shows an AF area covering approximately 88% x 100% of the image area with 143 AF frame zones (“points”), typical of beginner and mid-range mirrorless cameras. Advanced cameras like the EOS R5 and EOS R6 can have 1053 zones or more.

On DSLR cameras during viewfinder shooting, AF is conducted by a dedicated AF sensor. Meanwhile, on a Canon mirrorless camera, AF is conducted using the pixels on the image sensor under the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. The latter achieves denser, wider AF coverage, which contributes to faster, more precise AF.

Also see:
Is Composition Easier on a Mirrorless Camera?
What is the Difference Between a Line Sensor and Cross-type Sensor?


Other features to consider:
- Animal Detection AF: Detects and tracks the eyes, head, and body of cats, dogs, and birds
- Fast continuous shooting speed: The more frames (consecutive shots) the camera can take per second, the higher your chances of getting a picture perfect moment. Make sure that subject tracking during continuous shooting is supported.
- Direct controls and customisable functions: Helps you to change settings quickly.

EOS R10 + RF-S18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM @ 70mm (112mm equivalent), f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400

Canon's recent cameras like the EOS R7 and EOS R10 have advanced deep learning-based subject detection and tracking capabilities which enable swifter, more reliable focusing, even on subjects that move quickly in unpredictable directions.


Low light/night photography

EOS RP + RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM @ f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 40000

If you’re planning to shoot a lot in low light, you’ll want a camera that allows more flexibility even at night. Look for:
- High ISO speed performance: How high can you set the ISO speed before the image gets grainy from image noise?
- A lower low light AF limit: For easier focusing even under darker conditions
- In-Body Image Stabilization (In-Body IS): For enhanced image stabilisation when shooting handheld.

Generally, a full-frame camera with fewer image pixels enables cleaner images at high ISO speeds because the individual pixels and therefore, the light gathering area will be larger. But other technologies such as image sensor structure and noise reduction algorithms can also help.


Know this: How much “unacceptable” is also depends on preference

For example, a photographer who shoots fast action may prioritise capturing the moment, and so have a higher threshold for grain compared to a portrait photographer who needs the subject’s skin to look pristine. If it really matters to you, look for sample images from the camera shot at a high ISO speed.

For an example of how technological advancements can improve high ISO speed performance, see:
[Hands-on Review] EOS R6 in Dance Concert Photography


Landscapes

Shot by @edwinmartinez (Twitter: @EdwinMartinezPh) on the EOS R + RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM

High ISO performance and fast AF performance don’t matter as much for landscape photography. Instead, landscape photographers usually look for:
- More dynamic range: To capture a greater range of tones in high contrast scenes such as sunrise and sunset.
- More megapixels: Helps to capture more detail, and if you want to make large prints.
- Good weather sealing: If you frequently shoot outdoors, a camera that is built to prevent dust and water droplets from entering can endure the elements better. Note that such cameras are usually higher-end cameras.

Other features to consider:
- In-Body IS and a Vari-angle LCD monitor: Helps with handheld shooting from unique angles.
- Focus bracketing: Easier focus stacking to achieve images of deep scenes that are in focus from the front to back. Some cameras like the EOS R7 and EOS R10 have in-camera Depth Compositing, which automatically stacks the focus bracketed images so that you can see the results on the spot. 
- Support for HDR PQ HEIF recording: For greater dynamic range even without post-processing.

Also see:
Getting Started in Landscape Photography: 5 Things to Know
Why the EOS R5 is My Ideal Camera for Landscape Photography


Portraiture

EOS R5 + RF50mm f/1.8 STM

Getting the eyes in focus is critical for portrait photography. Most recent cameras offer Eye Detection AF, which detects the portrait subject’s eyes and ensures that it’s in focus. To ensure the best shots even for subjects who move a lot, such as children, check that the camera supports Eye Detection AF even in Servo AF mode (some older cameras might not). A fast continuous shooting speed would also help.


Tip: Vari-angle LCD screen + Eye Detection AF = powerful portrait photography combination

It can be harder to build a connection with your portrait subjects if your face is hidden by the camera. A tilting/ Vari-angle LCD monitor, Eye Detection AF and excellent subject tracking make it easier to get great in-focus shots even as you interact with your subject!


Other genres:

- Macro photography often requires high precision focusing, so you will probably want to make fine adjustments manually. Look out for features that aid manual focusing, such as MF peaking and the Focus Guide.
- For street photography, besides the speed and responsiveness to capture moments, it helps to have something inconspicuous. Look for a small camera with an electronic shutter mode that allows you to shoot silently while controlling exposure settings. A rear LCD screen that tilts up makes it easier to check images even when shooting from the hip.

A daily life photographer who is particular about the camera she picks shares why the EOS RP works for her in:
Why I’m Glad I Bought the EOS RP

7. Do the size and ergonomics work for me?

7. Do the size and ergonomics work for me?

How you like the camera to feel in your hands depends on you

Besides considering the size and weight of the camera, you also want to feel good holding and operating the camera, especially if you are going to be shooting handheld for long periods.

The EOS 90D and EOS M6 Mark II pictured above have similar key features and aren’t too different in price, but they would feel very different to someone with bigger hands compared to someone with smaller hands. Some photographers also like having a camera that feels more substantial as it adds to the experience of shooting with a camera. Personal preference plays a part, too, so it’s good to go to a store and get a feel of the camera before deciding.


Getting a good grip

Also pay attention to the grip—the protruding part on the right side of the camera where your fingers rest. If you have larger hands, you might find that deeper grip allows a more secure hold on the camera, Pictured above are the grips on (from left to right) PowerShot G5 X Mark II, EOS M50 Mark II, EOS RP.


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As you can see, cameras come in a variety of form factors with different features. There is no one “best camera” that caters to everyone. We hope that the above will help you narrow down the features that are the most important to your needs and shooting style, and make it easier to find something that works best for you. All the best for your photography journey!

 


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