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Thread: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

  1. #1
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Having been a member here for a longtime, I rarely post. Mainly because although I am an experienced photographer I am not a very good one.

    Here's the dilemma:

    We travel a great deal all over the world (my wife's passion, apart from me obviously). I got tired of lugging an SLR kit around and we have tried P&S, small cameras such as Leica X1/X2 (both about to be sold). Generally pictures are not brilliant on small cameras, even though I can get high IQ quite often. Things like wildlife really need zooms, maybe fast glass and certainly fast focus.

    My SLR kit has been depleted courtesy of my 16 year old son, who is very into photography. He is operating with a 7D (impressive) and has "borrowed" my 28-135 (I think) L zoom, my 60mm macro (no great loss). This leaves me with a DO long zoom, Canon 40D, and whatever the kit lens is that came with the 40D. Tripod is ancient and will be junked.

    I have decided it is time to replace the kit. As my son can use the 300mm DO lens, I don't feel constrained to stay with Canon: I can sell the 40D kit easily. I don't want to waste money but price is not a factor.

    So that sets the scene.

    Most of the photography I do is travel (street and landscape). I like doing indoor market shots. We do a fair few family snaps (some people might call these portraits). Some wildlife. I like boats so proximity to water can be a factor. We often go to high humidity places (just got back from Borneo for example). We live in England and Germany: so it always rains.

    The next big trip is to see the Northern Lights in northern Norway and Finland. In March 2013. It will be well below zero.

    I am looking at wholesale kit replacement. And I can't decide whether to go full frame or crop.

    The options that appeal are Nikon D800 with 28-300 Nikkor (as I recall)
    Or Canon 7D (preferably Canon 7D Mk II if it comes out in time, or I could just trade and swap). I would add L glass to this (24-105 IS L) and a Canon ultra wide angle as well for the night sky / long exposure work due to 1.6 crop factor
    Or the new Canon 6D with same L lens as a kit: being FF this is probably wide enough and will handle 30 second exposure fine on a tripod. I am a bit worried about this camera for wildlife though
    Or Canon 5D Mk III (which is really overkill for my ability, let's be frank, and quite a lot of cash). Again I would buy it with 24-105 L I expect (as there are good deals). Probably add a long tele later to replace the DO.

    Tripod: I was thinking 3 Legged Thing Eddie. Any views on that?

    I already have a 580EX speed light. On camera flash is actually quite handy when travelling though.

    There is a huge amount of expertise and experience on this board and I would appreciate some advice. I do understand photography (have read all the tutorials on here!) and you can assume that I am fine with setting up cameras in fully manual mode if I want. Whatever I buy will get kept for a few years I expect. I might well hang on to the 40D as a spare body.

    My highest priority is excellent IQ with good exposure. I am lazy about doing much PP in RAW, but will for special shots. My wife is strictly JPEG only. We use Macs (Pro, Air and iPad) for everything and hence run Aperture.

    I am still not a fan of lugging gear about but am willing to invest in going to the gym.

    Adrian

  2. #2

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    You mentioned not lugging gear about twice I think. While your choices are good, it will still be quite a bit of gear.

    I will throw one more into your mix for consideration : Sony NEX6 or NEX7. Lens are interchangeable and it will take almost any lens ever manufactured with an appropriate adapter.

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Adrian,

    You got answers to part of your question in response to your other post: you will get more reach with a crop sensor camera. If you are interested in wildlife and don't need low noise at high ISOs, a crop seems like one logical choice to me. I think the choice of brand is largely immaterial. At any one time, one has an advantage over the other on one dimension or another, but the fact is that they both make such good cameras that the bottleneck for many of us is, in Ansel Adam's phrase, the 12 inches behind the viewfinder, not the camera. If I were in your shoes, I would stick with Canon so that you and your son can share lenses and other equipment. And of course if you are saving the 40D as a spare body, that probably seals the deal for Canon.

    If I can be frank, I think your biggest issue is this:

    My highest priority is excellent IQ with good exposure. I am lazy about doing much PP in RAW, but will for special shots.
    The results you will get shooting jpeg and avoiding PP on the best camera available will often be inferior--often far inferior--to what you can get with a cheap slr and decent processing skills. Likewise, the improvement you will get moving from moderately good glass to L glass will in most cases be tiny compared to the variation from processing. To give one concrete example: I have the EF-S 60mm macro you mentioned. You did not find it a big loss, but I do a lot of macro, and I have found it to be a superb lens for that. I also have the EF 100mm L macro. I doubt you would be able to tell from prints which I used (I doubt I could), but you could differentiate at a glance those that I processed well from those I processed poorly.

    Dan

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    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Thanks for the feedback. I have looked at the Sony kit and did not like the feel of it in my (quite large) hands.

    I agree that PP is an issue. I am perhaps not quite as bad as I make out. For example, my wife and I came back from a trip to Peru not so log ago. Huge mix of photos from Inca ruins to street scenes to flying Condors. Maybe 3,000 shots.

    All were downloaded into Aperture, graded and the weak shots ruthlessly binned. My wife and I ended up with about 200 shots that we felt recorded the highlights of our trip and most of these receive mild PP. Mild PP to me includes cropping, exposure compensation, sharpening, etc. All done on a 27" iMac at home. This stuff is pretty quick and takes an afternoon for the output of a big trip like this. I don't go in for significant editing, stitching, etc and I don't bother with Photoshop.

    The advantage that L lenses confer with me is weather sealing. I have learnt this the hard way in fairly extreme environments. High humidity ad big temperature swings (eg air con to outside) can be a nightmare for optics as condensation forms. In our recent Borneo trip the only usable binoculars in my group on one day were my Leica units. Cameras can be a right pain in this regard too.

    I ma in fact a very enthusiastic photographer and we take a lot of shots. It is not only the weight of the gear that concerns me sometimes, it is also the "look at me, please come and steal this" aspect. Unobtrusive is good. I liked the Leica X2 for this reason, as it is small, discreet and the red dot easy to cover with black tape. Completely useless for wildlife though, especially river bak stuff from a moving boat.

    I am pondering and still wondering if I should bite the bullet and go full frame. The 6D appears compromised in some key areas for me, so I think it may be between the 7D as a temporary choice for the next trip, and a 5DIII for the permanent option. I can't see me switching to Nikon really.

    Adrian

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Adrian: here is my two cents worth on the full frame versus smaller sensor. I went to the D700 about a year ago. This is a full frame 12.5 megapixel camera. My reason; dynamic range. I know I will get some argument about the ability of a larger sensor with a moderate number of pixels to capture more light than a higher megapixel sensor; and thus get more shadow detail and thus a wider dynamic range, but I am more than happy with the results. I am not sure what canon makes, but get the larger sensor. I personally would avoid the ludicrously high megapixel counts available in some cameras and go for the a full frame with a reasonable number of pixels.

    As for tripods. This is the next step up for me in terms of equipment improvement. Here is my read on it. I am 180 cm tall. To use a tripod at eye eye level I need to extend the centre post. I have a Manfrotto 190PROB aluminum and with the D700 and telephoto lens at 400 mm it is too wobbly. I have to use a cable release and mirror up setting to avoid movement on exposure with 1/30 sec or less. So; my feeling is go for a tall tripod with no centre post. The one I am looking at is Really Right Stuff carbon fibre. Expense; over $1000US.

    I cannot speak to the theft problem. Most of my shooting is in the wilderness or quite isolated so I feel no fear of being ostentatious in having gear hanging off my body. May be different in urban settings. The grizzlies and moose have so far not been interested in appropriating my stuff.

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Full frame is nice but is heavier and bulkier than a smaller format.

    And speaking of bulky, I was recently reading about an American photographer, Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916), in a book entitled "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski. I quote from the book:

    "On his early trips into Yosemite, a twelve-mule train was required to carry Watkins's equipment."

    Think about that next time you are carrying your 2 kilo-and-holds-more-than-1000-photos-per-card equipment.

  7. #7
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Adrian,

    I can fully understand your sentiments, having at one stage tried to do trips with a high quality compact. Unfortunately it doesn't work, as you have discovered for the sort of shots you are after.

    Whilst I have been a Nikon shooter for over 20 years, if your son is into photography there is a good reason for you to stick with the Canon. One day you may even be able to borrow his lenses..(!).

    Whilst I am careful about the camera, and recognise the risk, a D3 with 70-200 lens on the end is a formidable weapon in itself! So whilst when I first got it I was very wary of pulling it out of the bag, I now am a little less concerned, having been to the likes of Harlem and Brooklyn, and in this country Tottenham, Hackney and most other less desirable areas of London on a daily basis, although I am not blasé and usually carry the camera in something as un-camera like as a couple of plastic shopping bags, and dont hang around too long if the situation looks like it might deteriorate, such as at night. (Missed a few shots during the riots though!).

    I went to full frame about 4-5 years ago now and have not looked back at all. Granted there are situations where I could get greater reach or DoF close ups. The sheer quality of the shots finally made me sell my MF camera, purely as the digital 35mm format is so much more versatile.

    Regards formats...many people have pushed me to go to DNG, but whilst I have a Nikon, I am unconcerned about formats and I would feel much the same if I was shooting with a Canon. The fact that DNG is still not universal, means I will stick with my NEF RAWs as my library and save one part of the workflow, at least for now!

  8. #8
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Probably too exotic, expensive and not what you're looking for, but....since budget wasn't mentioned, have you looked at the Sony RX-1? It's a full-frame compact.

    There are also rumors of Sony reworking the RX-1 into an interchangeable lens system next year. The RX-1 has a Zeiss 35/2 fixed lens, btw. Won't help with the wildlife, obviously, but for that your crop dSLR is probably a better tool, anyway. And a Zeiss 35/2 would be a sweet streetshooting/landscape/portrait tool.

    And the size/weight can't be beat.

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    Adrian: here is my two cents worth on the full frame versus smaller sensor. I went to the D700 about a year ago. This is a full frame 12.5 megapixel camera. My reason; dynamic range.
    A little tidbit could be added here. Dynamic range is not a strong point for any Canon camera, if you wish to utilise it for your image making. The main advantage of "full frame" against APS-C actually is in the realm of bokeh and shallow DOF, as well as very crisp detail where the image is sharp. Apart from DOF and bokeh, little actually is noticeable.

    However, if you do night photography, and even think of processing HDR, there are a few cameras also in smaller size that do better than the Canon FF cameras, mainly because their dynamic range is wider and they have less readout artifacts in the darkest areas (banding), particularly at high ISO or when you want to use the total DR possible. One example stands out, Pentax K-5, but also cheap instep models from Nikon do a very good job with great dynamic range. With the K-5 you'd seldom have to take another exposure to capture the dynamic range of a scene, and two will be sufficient for any range out there.

    Then of course there are a few cameras that perform even better in that respect, and those are larger, as D800 or Phase One.

    But considering other things, I would probably go for a Pentax K-5 if I were to go to those places where much humidity, rain and dirt is expected. Or dynamic range aside, I'd stick with my OM-D.

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Here is a link to an article on the dynamic range of the Canon EOS 7D as compared to other cameras.

    http://www.photozone.de/dslr_reviews...eos_7d?start=4

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Here is a link to an article on the dynamic range of the Canon EOS 7D as compared to other cameras.

    http://www.photozone.de/dslr_reviews...eos_7d?start=4
    Outdated information is sometimes worse than no information at all. Nobody suggested Pentax K-7. The EOS 7D is a reasonably good camera with many desirable features. High dynamic range compared to new models is not among them.

    In the link here below there is a comparison between the Pentax K-5, Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Canon EOS 7D. The EOS 7D does not even have an edge over the µ4/3 sensor of the OM-D. They are essentially on par. Pentax K-5 however has somewhat more than 2 f-stops more dynamic range than EOS 7D. i.e. more than four times as much. That is significant when you want to capture a high dynamic range, but there are also other factors that influence image quality, and where Canon doesn't measure up to the competence, and which you may experience in night shots, particularly if you wish to hand-hold with high ISO. The data read-out noise often is banded in Canon cameras, but more so in full frame than APS.
    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cam...rand3%29/Canon

    And it is really amazing that the small µ4/3 sensor scores higher for dynamic range than some full frame sensors.

    Compared to sensors of today, Canon does not have any model that measures up to the best competitors. The APS-sized EOS 7D rates slightly worse than the best µ4/3 cameras, and their FF cameras are not much better in this respect. Although the FF camera 5D Mk3 has a slight edge over Pentax K-5 at high ISO numbers, its dynamic range at base ISO is not any better than the 7D (or Olympus OM-D).
    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cam...rand3%29/Canon

    It is a sad fact that Canon has not kept up with the competition on sensors.

    For most photographers, these high dynamic range figures may be moot, but if you want to capture high dynamic ranges, they are significant. It also begs the question of what you pay for. Here under comparison of D800, EOS 5D Mk3 and Pentax K-5.
    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cam...and3%29/Pentax

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Trevor -
    This one might fit the bill.

    http://www.gitzo.ca/product/0/GT5562...tion,_overhead

    Max 227cm, min 11cm.

    Last edited by Bobobird; 28th December 2012 at 03:03 AM.

  13. #13
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    Trevor -
    This one might fit the bill.

    http://www.gitzo.ca/product/0/GT5562...tion,_overhead

    Max 227cm, min 11cm.

    Thanks Bobo. Size does matter. Need to impress the neighbours. Practicality be damned.

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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    But you do not have neighbours! Only old barns.... hehe

    That particular one is used by many wildlife photographers (pro mostly) because of it height when submerged in water/streams and very low minimum so that they can be lying on the ground. 6 legs is good too when you do not want to go too high and not have to splay the legs out too far.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Hi Adrian - It sounds like you have come to the same conclusions regarding travel photography as we have, and end up in some of the same destinations; Borneo was stunning. I can look like a bit of a pack horse hauling high end still and video gear into some pretty remote parts of the world, and my wife is there with her gear, right beside me. I’ve taken film, point & shoot, superzoom, crop sensor and full frame still cameras as well as semi-pro video gear on much of my travel. The smaller stuff had too many issues, including lack of robustness and lack of quality in the end product for our liking.

    First of all, I have not found anything that comes close to meeting my needs other than a DSLR. I did look at the mirrorless designs when I first switched to a DSLR from film about 4 years ago and at the time the technology was not mature enough to be considered as a replacement for a DSLR and I am not convinced that I would go that route even today. For the variety of shooting that we do DSLRs seem to be the best bet, as well as a dedicated high end video camera.

    After 3+ years of shooting crop-frame, I switched to full frame earlier this year and in my case, it was certainly the right decision. The overall image quality and low light performance are far better than on my crop frame camera. The larger viewfinder, control layout and the fast “pro” lenses all are much improved on the full-frame camera versus the crop frame.

    Some thoughts on your thoughts:

    1. Waterproof – while some cameras and lenses are well sealed against dust and water (and I do own some of this equipment), I still use rain covers when shooting in wet environments. I’d hate to ruin a camera body or lens if a seal fails. I look at these features as the final layer of defence against water, not the primary one.

    I am especially careful when near salt water. Salt crystallizes on drying and is quite abrasive and could penetrate a seal over time. I protect my gear from water, especially salt water.

    2. Humidity – no camera or lens that I am aware of is completely sealed to prevent humid air from entering it. All lenses have moving internal elements that are used when you focus or zoom. Air (and moisture laden air) is pushed around inside the lens and into the camera via the mirror chamber while shooting. I own three “pro” lenses and all show some degree of “blow back”, so I know that they are not totally sealed.

    In high humidity even high end pro gear is susceptible to fogging. Related issues occur when heading from a warm environment into extreme cold. There are some tricks (involving plastic bags and silica gel) that can help here. Leaving them wrapped up in a dry environment until they hit ambient temperatures helps a lot.

    3. Tripod – I have a couple of Benro / Induro carbon fibre tripods with ball heads. These are mid-range price wise and seem to be holding up well to our abuse. Light is important when traveling, and carbon fibre is not going to get damaged by salt water. Look for something that is easy to disassemble and clean up.

    4. For wildlife photography, I find that the minimum focal length that works is a 400mm equivalent lens. Faster is obviously better, but only to a point as shallow depth of field can become a bit of a problem. I tend to shoot a 80-400mm lens and my wife has a 150-500mm lens. I low light I will go to my f/2.8 70-200mm lens.

    5. Safety - I've been to over 40 countries, including many third world ones with lots of expensive camera gear (my film cameras are Leicas). I think the only thing I've ever lost is a lens cap. I'm very careful and try to avoid being a target for theft. My gear is insured should this ever happen.

    Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    This is me about a year ago after spending about 7 hours walking out in the Kalahari with these Bushmen and my wife on a hunt. Nikon D90 with f/2.8 24-70mm lens hanging from my waist and more lenses in my backpack. I have a pro Panasonic AF100 video camera strapped to my chest.
    Last edited by Manfred M; 28th December 2012 at 11:33 AM.

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    DanK's Avatar
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    Manfred,

    What kind of harness were you using to hold one camera to your chest? I had one years ago for my FTb, but it isn't suitable for my dslr.

    Thanks

    Dan

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Quote Originally Posted by DanK View Post
    Manfred,

    What kind of harness were you using to hold one camera to your chest? I had one years ago for my FTb, but it isn't suitable for my dslr.

    Thanks

    Dan
    Dan - I'm using a Cotton Carrier vest. http://www.cottoncarrier.com/

    The nice thing about their design is that they have three different camera mounts. One for normal sized DSLRs, one for larger "pro" cameras and one that is a combination mount and quick release tripod mount (so that I can carry the camera and quickly attach it to my tripod).

  18. #18
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    Thanks everyone. Manfred, I think we see things in a similar way. I have had a serious think about Leica current and prospective rangefinders, but the size benefits are outweighed for us by the fact that my wife wants the ability to have foolproof settings when she wishes. Very fast autofocus is a big plus for her.

    I think we are decided on a Canon 5D III with kit 24-105 L lens, I will dig out my Canon 17-40L for wide angle in Finland, and the newish 70-300 L to replace the 300 DO zoom that my son has his eye on. Tripod for Finland Northern Lights trip ill be a 3 legged thing "Eddie: with a simple radio release for the shutter.

    I like being able to use the 6D wireless feature for viewing on an iPhone 5 (or Samsung Galaxy sIII), but in the end the AF compromises and lack of twin card slots have put me off: the Ł500 saving is not really significant over the 5DIII that we will keep for a while.

    I like the idea of the Nikon, but it seems almost perverse to make a brand switch having this year kitted my son out with Canon. The investment in lenses is quite persuasive. I can afford to go with whatever I like, but it seems stupid to change for the sake of it really, and I struggle to see a reason to switch to any other brand right now.

    My wife is German and I simply love the Leica engineering and the lens quality is almost pornographic! However, I lack the skill for a rangefinder set up. Both Canon and Nikon are far more user friendly for wannabe's like me. I see a shot and I need the camera to do the work instantly: otherwise I miss the shot.

    Thanks everyone for your input. I just need to pay for the gym subscription for my wife now, so that she can carry all this weighty gear about! Oddly enough I am excited by the video capabilities, which I see as having significant usefulness in y business.


    Kind regards

    Adrian

  19. #19
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    I got the impression that we look at things in a similar way and rather suspected you would end up deciding on the 5D Mk III. You have enough invested in the Canon system to stay with it; the glass and the flash you already own.

    Your concern with carrying around the gear, especially when you head out to some out of the way place is a valid one. The best solution I have found is a camera backpack (mine is a Kata). It provides a balanced way of carrying a lot of weight without too much bother, it fits in airline overhead bins and leaves my hands free to photography. It has a place to strap a tripod to as well. The only downside is that one has to be careful in tight spaces as you can knock into things when turning. I also wear a harness so that my camera is accessible to shoot. Yes, one does stand out a bit if one is walking around, but unlike a camera hanging from a strap or an over the shoulder camera back, these devices are not susceptible to "grab and dash" thieves or thieves that cut the camera or camera bad straps.

  20. #20
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    Re: Equipment Dilemma : night work, Canon and Nikon

    I just got my 6D a few days before Christmas.

    I would have to say go for the 6D. Having a FF camera is very useful. Very, very interesting compared to just a newer crop.

    I avoided shooting ISO 400 on my T3i, and I would never shoot above 800 ISO. I have seen people showing off select images from 7D that they have modified significantly in post that look good shot at 1600 or 3200, or even a few from 6400, BUT, a.) not all of one's images would lend themselves to such treatment, and 2.) who wants to do that degree of intensive PP NR on every image?

    I have been shooting the 6D at 3200 and it looks fantastic. It looks great at 5000, and even good at 6400 untouched in PP. With some PP, I could make it look better, but I have not even been messing with it that much. (LR3 needed upgrading to LR 4 for the new camera). I got LR4 yesterday, and it really is better than LR3, contrary to my initial thinking.

    That dramatically better ISO ability is huge, it means so many shooting situations where I can avoid flash altogether, or use it only for fill. I LOVE it.

    The inherently shallower DOF is great too. Not so much because I want to use primes wide open for heavy artsy effects, but because it makes F/4 look like f/2.5 did on a crop body.

    I may someday pick up the 7D2 (whenever that might appear), but I can wait until a year after its release, after the prices go down. My T3i still works great when I want "reach" from a crop body.

    As for the 6D's AF, it may not be the 61-point system of the 5D3, but it also lacks some of the complications that go along with all that complexity. I don't generally shoot super-fast things, or at least not in super-serious situations where my first try is deadly critical, and would not be just as good as the next try.

    I love the one big, bright center AF point in the 6D, which catches AF instantly in low light (-3 EV, whatever that means to you ). Supposedly the 5D3 may struggle with lags on dim light focus. The 6D also has big obvious RED AF points you can see in the dark too.

    In any event, bodies are constantly depreciating, and new ones that are 2x better are always beig released every few years. Lenses, on the other hand, hold their value. I can happily live with the "entry level full frame", and sit out a generation on the super bodies. By saving $1,000 on 6D vs. 5D3, I was able to buy an extra prime lens, and still pocket some cash.

    Good luck!

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