Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why I Bought a Canon 40D

Decision Made

So, I went out and bought a Canon 40D. For those who haven't studied all the numbers, this is Canon's current "Prosumer" digital SLR; better than the Entry-Level 400D, not as good as the Semi-Pro 5D or the Pro-Only 1Dxspt Mark VI MDXR-9 (or whatever it's called now).

As I already own a couple of Canon lenses and have never won the lottery, it was really only a choice between the 40D and the 400D (or Rebel XTi as the yanks call it). A few people have asked me why I chose the 40D, especially considering the price difference (the 40D is about twice the price here in Australia), so I'm writing it down for the benefit of everyone considering buying a digital SLR.

You may find my decision factors somewhat whimsical, but I think they're important features that can be easily overlooked if you were to only concentrate on the technical specifications.

Reason 1: Metal Body

The body of the 40D is made of metal - magnesium alloy to be precise. The body of the 400D is made of plastic. Why is this my #1 reason? Simply put, if I'm going to spend around a thousand dollars on a piece of technology that's intended to be carried around, I'd like one that doesn't smash into pieces too easily.

I don't mind if my TV is only made of plastic because I only move it once every five years. But if I'm going to carry this thing around in a backpack, take it on holidays, picnics, bushwalks, citywalks and romantic walks along the beach, a plastic shell just isn't going to last the distance. It's obvious when you think about it.

Reason 2: Taller Grip

My hands are massive. It runs in the family. My pinkie (smallest finger - is this a universal term?) is thicker than most girls' thumbs. This creates all kinds of problems when it comes to things that need to fit on or around my hands, and a camera is one of those.

Many reviews have criticised the 400D's hand grip for being too small. Of course, Canon isn't about to change it (much) because the model's small form factor is one of its selling points. But, for me, it would be unbearable. I held the camera in a shop and it was already getting annoying. My third finger only just makes it onto the 400D grip and my pinkie was left hanging like I was sipping a cup of Twinings. But with the 40D, everything fits, although still only just, but it feels right. I can grip the grip rather than pinching it perilously. That's why it's so important to go into a store and have a play with any camera you intend to buy (before getting it on the internet for half the price).

Reason 3: Room to Grow

Though I've been taking photos for about ten years now, I'm still very much at the start of my photography journey (God willing). The 40D is more camera than I need right now. I'm still working on finding interesting things to shoot and selecting interesting compositions. But I've no doubt that, had I bought a 400D, pretty soon I would begin to feel limited by it and would want to upgrade to something more "serious".

Rather than go with the cheaper option and have to go through this whole buying process again in a couple of years, I figured it would be a better investment to buy the camera with all the features I don't need yet and grow into it as my experience broadens. I'm the kind of person who, when they buy something expensive, expects to keep it around for a decade or two, and I'm hoping my 40D will last that kind of distance.

Late-Discovered Reason: Buttons and Dials and Joysticks, Oh My!

This is something I only discovered about the 40D after getting it out of its box, but it would probably be the biggest difference that someone upgrading from a 400D would notice.

The top of the 40D is lined with buttons so that you can access almost all your exposure settings without ever seeing a menu. Add to that the quick command dial on the back which lets you spin through settings rather than employing your long-lost StreetFighter button-mashing skills. Then add to THAT the Multi-controller (= joystick + button in one) that lets you select the top-left AF point just by pressing up and to the left and makes panning through a zoomed photo almost as fun as playing Zelda!

Using this camera is FUN.

Copyright (c) 2008 Graham Lea. All rights reserved.

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