Upgraded Camera Equipment

My new Canon T5i and new image stabilized lenses

One reason I’ve put down my photography over the past few months, in addition to dealing with the general upheaval in our lives, was my frustration in not being able to shoot “up close and personal” in a reliable manner.  As we all discover our own photographic styles, I’ve known this one has been missing for me.  I’ve worked around it at times with my cheaper zoom lens and tripod, but shooting with a tripod typically doesn’t fit our lifestyle when traveling.  When you know you really can’t capture many of the shots you want, it’s hard to even pick up the camera, or at least that’s how I’ve felt.

The frustration of poor equipment. Another great shot missed due to blur while on vacation.

I’ve opted to share a fairly lengthy post today about my equipment upgrades for anyone that might be considering such an upgrade themselves, especially hobby photographers like me.  Writing about some of the finer details has also helped me to come to know my new equipment in more detail, a good learning tool.  While I opted for the Canon T5i, it is worth noting that the new T6s and T6i are now out and worthy of consideration.  My decision between the T6s and the T5i was primarily “bang for the buck.”  I also was not interested in switching brands from my previous camera.  I considered finally upgrading to a professional model camera and would be willing to spend the money for one right now.  However, the sheer size of carrying a larger camera would be problematic for me on many occasions, especially while traveling by airplane.  Again, as only a hobby photographer, it is hard to justify making that move right now.

I went to our specialty camera store and shared my desire to upgrade my telephoto lens and possibly make some other upgrades, and we looked at several options, including a fabulous Canon lens, the EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM.  However, at a price of $650, it would be the only real upgrade I could do at this time.  As we continued to look at other lenses, the salesman made a suggestion that I look at purchasing a camera package that would upgrade my camera, my kit lens and also get me a good telephoto lens for just slightly more money than the other telephoto lens by itself.  He brought up the fact that I probably struggled in low-light situations with my present equipment, which was absolutely correct.  Canon has a $300 rebate on this particular camera package, and the store could file the rebate for me, saving me that money upfront and leaving the price to me at only $799 plus tax.  I suspect this deal is to help Canon move their existing stock of T5i cameras to now focus on the newer T6 models.  He also explained that the higher ISO capability, paired with the better performing IS lenses, would result in significant improvement in lower light situations, something that was most definitely an issue for me with my XTi with the highest ISO of 1600 and no image stabilization available.  I would also gain a good quality telephoto lens in the package, even though it is not the original lens I looked at.  This slightly smaller lens will significantly improve my telephoto capability and will take less room to pack in a suitcase when traveling by plane.  I can’t use a lens on vacation if I don’t have room to carry it.  My wide-angle lens already takes a lot of room, too.

I left the store and looked at a few more options elsewhere that were no better than this one, so I returned and purchased the camera package.  It is a pleasure to trade with this locally owned store for my equipment purchases because they typically are no more expensive and offer more personal service, which is always important to a hobby photographer like me.  I can always use help and good advice when it is offered, and I will have the opportunity to take a free two-day class with them at some point, as they offer them every other month for people who purchase cameras in their store.

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My new Canon 700D (X5i) with the 50-250mm f/4-5.6 IS-STM lens attached.

The package included a Canon 700D (T5i) and two IS-STM lenses.  This offer was pretty much the same no matter where I looked, either in stores or online.  Not only did I get a good telephoto lens, I also got a greatly upgraded camera and an IS-STM kit lens, too.  I already own a Tokina AT-X Pro SD 12-24mm wide-angle lens, which cost about $800 when Hubby bought it for me a few years ago, so wide-angle shots have been no problem with that great lens.  My weakest link has always been my ability to shoot decent telephoto shots and decent low-light shots, and after several years of frustration, I am quite happy to have upgraded capability in these areas.

Digital Photography Review of Canon 700D (T5i) and STM Lenses

The kit lens is a EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, and the telephoto lens is a EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM.  STM stands for “(Smooth Transitions for Motion) Stepping Motor design for quieter Autofocus, with improvements in Aperture Design, Lens Coatings, Minimum Focus Distance, Build Quality and more,” according to a recent news release about another STM lens release this month.  I am definitely no expert on these particular details, but the STM lenses seem to be good options, even though using Live View can apparently inhibit their performance somewhat.  The detailed review above tells about both the camera and the lenses in this package, and it is a multi-page review.  Just look toward the bottom and navigate through the pages.

Canon also has information on their STM lenses.

Here are the top features of the 700D (X5i) camera for me.

– Shoots 18mp photos as compared to 10mp with my previous camera.  While that size is truly getting on up there, it will provide better results when needing to crop an image.  I can always downsize photos when needed, too.  FYI – the new T6 models are now up to 24mp.

– Shoots 1080p video.  I do not anticipate using this feature often, but I have come to appreciate the value of shooting an occasional video when in a situation that cannot be fully experienced with only a photograph.  A sunset experience in Old Lahaina Town in Maui recently is a great example.  While the photo is lovely, the little video I took of the waves crashing and a fiddle player nearby “playing the sunset away” just preserved the experience beautifully.  Videos will be more for personal enjoyment and memories, and the fact that the camera has a built-in stereo microphone is especially nice.

– Maximum ISO of 12800, and 25600 expanded, which is going to be a nice feature when attempting shots in lower light, for sure, especially when combined with the IS lens capability.  This is a huge upgrade over my previous equipment.

– Ability to select different aspect ratios (3:2, 4:3, 16:9 or 1:1).  There are times that will come in handy, even though with 18mp, there is plenty of room to crop, too.

– Uses SD cards instead of compact flash cards.  I purchased a San Disk 32G Extreme Pro SD Card for only $35 that will hold over 1000 raw images or over 3500 highest-quality JPEG images.

– HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability by setting to HDR mode via “SCN” on the dial, then selecting the HDR option as a default.  The camera physically shoots three rapid photos, then merges them into one.  I know the limitations of shooting in HDR, especially the possibility of ghosting, but there are times it can be a great tool.  I use it often on my phone with pretty amazing results at times.  We’ll see how well it works on the T5i.  Unlike my phone’s HDR mode, I can hear and feel the camera snapping the three photos.

– The dial also rotates 360 degrees with no hard stop now.  It’s just the little things like this that are nice to have for a change.

– Rear LCD display screen can be rotated inside when not in use and can also rotate out and at different angles when being used.  I like that the screen can fold inside to keep it from getting scratched, and the ability to position the display in other spots may help with glare a bit.  It can also help when holding the camera higher or lower, especially if shooting in Live View.

– The LCD screen can optionally be enabled as a touchscreen in the menu settings.  A button on the back of the camera must first be pressed to enable the use as a touchscreen or the equivalent function in the lower corner must be touched, minimizing the risk of inadvertently pressing a function on the touchscreen and changing a setting unknowingly.  This seems much more user-friendly than navigating through the buttons, and I’m already putting this feature to good use.

– Textured finish on the camera body is a really nice change from my XTi with a smooth finish.  I am surprised how much difference this makes when holding the camera, too.

– Live View falls in the “I may or may not like and/or use this feature” category.  It’s too early to tell, but in this mode, a “curtain” falls over the viewfinder and the camera can be used in a manner more similar to a smart phone –  touch focus, etc.  I think I will likely stay with my traditional viewfinder, as it seems to be a more stable shooting mode.  I can envision times, however, when this might be a good feature to use, probably in video mode and when using the Creative Filters that are now available, since Live View is the only way to see them in-camera.  Again, it just won’t be a feature that I use all that often, I think.

– The IS-STM lenses use a slightly different size lens hood, which is a better petal style lens hood.  My previous lens hood for my smaller lenses was a non-petal style that only helped on a few occasions.  The petal style is similar to the hood that I use on my wide-angle lens.  I purchased this lens hood separately for $29, along with two good Hoya UV filters for the new lenses.

I shared my first photos from the new camera on my previous Wordless Wednesday post.  I did no editing other than to crop them just a bit, and I am thrilled at the results of these handheld shots.


 The only thing I’ve discovered that is problematic for now is that my Photoshop Elements 9 will not work with the raw files from this camera.  It does not have an available plug-in for the newer raw files.  Apparently the only option is to upgrade to Elements 13 that has the plug-in for the files from this camera.  I’m going to look at all available options for editing software, but I suspect I will just go ahead and upgrade to Elements 13 for now.  I own Lightroom 1 but seldom use it these days.  I’ve used Photoshop Elements since it first came out, though, and I love some features in it, too.  More than anything, I just want to edit photos less and spend more time with the camera shooting, hopefully improving my skills in this area.

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Wordless Wednesday – New Camera and Lenses

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