So without further ado, in my opinion...
The 5 Best Canon Cameras Under $1,000
First things first. With this post I will assume that you either A) want to take great pictures of your kids, friends, and family or B) plan to start up a part-time portrait photography business. If you are looking for a true professional camera, well, take your $1,000 and multiple it by at least 2! I will also assume that C) You either do not have a camera right now or are looking to upgrade from a consumer-type camera that is at least 5 years old. So, onward we go...
The Reason Why: I know what you are thinking. I just named a camera that first came out in 2007! That's old! I also just named a camera that only has 10.1 MP! My cell phone has more than that (it really doesn't)! How could I possibly name the XTi as my 5th favorite?
Well, here's why. The Rebel XTi is the last Canon Rebel camera that uses Compact Flash Cards instead of SD/SDHC. This may not seem like a big deal right now but I can tell you that when comparing the durability and speed of a CF Card versus a SD/SDHC the CF will win each time. It's not a huge deal if you are just taking pictures of your kids playing at the park, but if you want to dabble in other things and think you may someday upgrade to that oh-so-elusive 5D Mark III you will be happy you won't have to invest in a new set of cards when that upgrade happens. But if all you want to do is take pictures of your kids playing at the park, this is not really the camera for you. If you are setting your sites a little lower to either a 60D or Canon's newly announced 6D, then ignore this completely. It's not the camera for you.
Unless your budget is under $250, because you can buy one of these used for that price or even lower. That would be my second reasoning for listing the Rebel XTi where I have. The price is fantastic. The camera, although old and not quite up to par with even the newer versions of the Rebel line of cameras, is still a great camera. It's the camera I used as a back-up for many, many years until it got stolen. And even now I miss that little guy as he is perfect for vacations and regular outings where I don't want to worry too much about my camera. If you think you might want to get into photography more and don't want to break the bank this is the best route to go. It's cheap and does what it's supposed to do: take pictures.
Warning: Not the greatest in low light situations (but, frankly, neither is any camera in the Rebel line), no video capabilities, and only really this affordable if bought used. Be sure you research the actual camera you are about to buy before purchasing a used camera!
#4: Canon EOS 40D
For now, however, I'm holding strong to the 40D with it's price tag of under $400 used and new it's still under $1,000. It also uses CF cards which are my strong preference over SD/SDHC. There is no video in the 40D (or the 50D) so if that's important for you, back away from the 40D!
The 40D also has something so magical about it. When I first started capturing weddings I bought a 40D as my second camera, the one I would slap a nice zoom on to get that extra reach that only a cropped sensor can give you. It took beautiful images when properly used. One of the greatest photographers I know, one who's work makes me drool whenever I visit his website, still shoots with a 40D as his primary camera. If you know how to use it right, and can produce amazing images with it, why upgrade? I, however, decided I wanted a 7D instead once I upgraded my main camera from a 5D to a 5DII to closer match image IQ between the two cameras. Then just 5 months after selling my 40D I started missing it so much I actually went out and bought another one. Since my XTi was stolen I now use my 40D as my walk-around-and-not-really-care camera. For the price, it's definitely a step up from the XTi and I'd even argue it's a step up from any other camera in the Rebel line. But that's just my 40D love biased at play.
Warning: No camera capabilities. ISO only goes up to 3200 and I'd personally only go as high as 1600. Still a great camera. You can track this camera down new in a few places still, but it's becoming increasingly difficult. Instead, do your research and find a great used copy.
It has 18MPs which will make the MP snobs happy, although 18MPs is something the average user will never need. It has a faster processor than the XTi and high ISO capabilities. And, of course, video capabilities. Personally I prefer to have a separate dedicated video camera for video needs, I do understand the appeal of having them both in the same piece of equipment, especially for those precious child-moments that happen in the blink of an eye and there is no time to fumble for a video camera to capture, so for those of you who absolutely need video, here it is. Yes, yes, I admit it. The Rebel T3i is worth the $350 increase over the cost of the XTi in most cases. That's why it's higher on the list.
Great for Moms and Dads, both the ones that want to just take pics of their kids and those who want to consider dabbling in photography professionally.
Warning: SD/SDHC cards only. You know how I feel about those already. It's also still not a camera you'd want to use as a full time professional. Stick the full frame big boys if that's your long-term goal.
#2: Canon EOS 5D
I know it came out in 2005 and in the technology world that makes it older than dirt. I don't care! This camera was amazing in 2005 and it's still amazing now. I used a Canon 5Dc as my primary camera for my photography business from 2007 to 2010 when I upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark II. Even that I only did because I got an amazing deal on the Mark II and my 5Dc was well over 100,000 actuation and getting tired. I kept my 5Dc around as a back-up to my back-up. In wedding photography you really can't have too many back-ups. He's mostly stayed in my back-up bag for the past two years but I do take him out from time to time for nostalgia purposes.
Listen, it really doesn't matter what camera you are using, it is how you are using it. However, full frame does come with quite a few advantages over a cropped sensor. So for that reason I do rate this camera higher than even Canon's latest xxD series and Rebel series cameras. He may be old, but the 5Dc is a work horse.
Warning: No video capabilities, again. ISO range isn't the greatest but I have shot as high as 3200 with mine with good results. 1600 is definitely do-able. Also, 5Dc has a well known mirror defect. This is both a warning and some good news. Canon will fix the problem, for free, no questions asked. They will also give you a free cleaning. So be sure to ask if it has had the mirror fix, but if it hasn't it's not the end of the world. Just a two-three weeks is all you will need to sacrifice with your camera in order to have a full replaced mirror and a free cleaning.
#1: Canon EOS 7D
Now, I am personally not a fan of the AF system as my copy seems to be horrible not-accurate. That's an issue for me because all of my cameras that use the old 9 point systems are great and I've never had a problem with. I could consider the fact that each camera is different and mine just might be a "bad" copy, but since others have complained about this as well I think it's more a matter of preference. For many (most, probably) the more AF points the better. For me, well, call me old fashion but I have no problem with my 9 points.
I do love the IQ on the 7D as well as it's processor. It uses CF cards and the same batteries as the 5D Mark II camera so you can invest in one set of cards and one set of batteries and someday have a great working duo that is worthy of fast-paced wedding photography. And the longer you wait to buy it, the cheaper it will become.
Warning: Don't get too excited about that AF system. Try it out and see what you think. I might just be crazy, but I'm not a fan. Also finding this camera used for under $1,000 will take some hunting and please do your research when buying a used camera. Though in my research I found about a dozen under $1,000 that I'd consider buying were I in the market for another 7D.
Want To Splurge?: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
The best news? There are rumors swirling that with the recent announcement of the Canon 6D that the price of the 5D Mark II may drop even lower. Canon EOS 6D, which is set to be released this December, is priced within $100 as the 5D Mark II brand new. While the two cameras are drastically different, and many may argue that the 5D Mark II is a superior camera, we all know how much tech nerds love having the newest products (which is why none of them have read this far into my post... they clicked off the moment they saw the Rebel XTi on here). I personally would love to get my hands on a Canon 6D and compare the two side by side. We shall see. :) Until then, I can definitely recommend the Canon 5D Mark II and say it is worth stretching the budget a bit if you can. It has been my primary wedding camera since 2010 and will probably continue to be until the next 5D is introduced and the price of the 5D Mark III drops to where I want to afford it.
Warning: Be prepared to spend closer to $1,400-1,500 to get a good used copy. Although if you are patient many believe it will drop dramatically in 6 months time.
So there is my list. Again, this is my personal opinion on the matter. I know many will tell you that it's worth it to get the Canon Rebel T4i over any other Rebel camera, and I openly admit that I've only ever played with it in the Best Buy photo display. But still, I can read and I know a bit about how cameras work to know what you really need in order to take great pictures and what is just put in a camera to get you to pay more for the latest and greatest. I also realize that some people really want all that latest and greatest (like video) which is understandable. Which is why I again point out that this is in my opinion only.
Up next? I'll be working on a Best Canon Lenses Under $500 post for a few weeks from now (hopefully). Stay tuned for that.