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What to buy: Canon 60D, 7D or 5d mark ii?

Update 12/12/12: We bought a 5d and equipment in July of 2011. We love it and have been shooting exclusively with it for a year and a half. Occasionally we’ll bring along a 7D or the XHA1. Check out our portfolio to see what the camera can do.

The purpose of this guide is TO TELL YOU WHAT TO BUY.  Most comparisons take a hands off approach letting the user decide.  Not us, we tell you how it is.  Here’s a quick chart in case you don’t know what to buy:

60D7D5dmarkii
Cost*$999.99/$1299.99$1849.99/$1899.99$2499.99/$3299.99
On a BudgetX
No BudgetX
Best ImageX
On a Budget
but willing to stretch
X
On a Budget
but just want a body+lens in a kit
XX

* Prices are based on lowest online retailer with good feedback on google products

Background

We started working on video productions with the equipment we already owned, cameras as well as computers.  We had decent computing power and cameras for the scale of our productions but the company itself didn’t own any of it.  In January of 2011 when we remodeled our office we purchased two beastly computers with quad core i7 cpu’s and 12gb of ram each.  Up until now, however, we’ve been using John’s Canon XH-A1 camera for all our shoots.  The camera was great for our first HD endeavors but with the way HD is changing, we wanted to up our game.

Recently we’ve been renting a Canon 5d mark II configuration from Full Compass in Madison and have been loving it. Even TV shows like House and 24 have shot entire episodes on a 5D.  The camera can capture truly stunning video. Another great feature with DSLR’s is that they’re extremely portable. Weighing less than 2 pounds means you can hold it and all it’s accessories for longer. We haven’t shot with a 60D or 7D (We have since shot with the 7D and like it as a second camera to the 5d) but there are enough reviews/comparisons out there to give you an idea of the differences.

We also only wanted to buy EF lenses so we could use them on future/better cameras. Film and larger sensor cameras (5d, 1d, 1ds) take only EF lenses. This means any EF-S lenses we would have would only be usable with smaller sensor canon cameras. The EF-S lens that comes with the 60D also feels chinsy and doesn’t have very big nubs for a focus ring. The EF lenses that come in the 7D and 5Dmarkii kits are full frame and feel much nicer.

The 5Dmarkii kit that we rent comes with the EF 28-135mm canon lens that comes with the 7D kit. It’s a phenominal lens that works great for running around shooting documentary style. This lens runs for about $470 on Amazon right now. The chart below shows the various configurations that we are considering and their cost:

Body OnlyBody + kit lensBody + EF 28-135mm
60D$999.99$1299.99$1469.98
7D$1849.99$1899.99$1899.99*
5D Mark II$2499.99$3299.99$2969.98

* The 7D kit comes with the EF 28-135mm lense

The green above is what we consider to be viable options. There have been lots of complaints of the 7D overheating quickly during video use. The 60D seems to be able to last longer before overheating. This is crucial since we intend to use it exclusively for video. Other reviews have talked about the difference in the body design of the 60D for 7D, but for our money the 60D, which produces the same image as the 7D, is a surer buy.

Conclusion

So, what to buy? On a tight budget? Get the 60D and the EF lens for a total of $1469.98. It’s a great investment, you’ll be happy. In a year or two you should be successful enough to get the 5dmarkii or whatever is the current full frame flavor at canon, 6D anyone? If you can go that extra bit, then getting the full frame 5d mark ii with the EF 28-135mm for $2969.98 is the way to go. Honestly, the full frame sensor on the 5d mark ii is really good. The APS-C sensor of the 7D is nice, but there is a noticeable improvement on the 5dmarkii.

What are we buying? Don’t know yet =) We’re looking at getting a bunch of support equipment so it depends on what all our sales reps can put together for us. I’m thinking the 5dmarkii is looking great right now!