Should I trade up to get a D SLR with more megapixels?

January 3, 2011 at 6:00 am  •  Posted in Q&A by  •  2 Comments

“I’ve been shooting with an EOS Rebel T1i and I’m happy with it but like any photo hobbyist, I am constantly trying to get better pictures. Would it make sense for me to  upgrade to an EOS T2i for better quality?” —Rob Brennan

I know it’s tempting for photo enthusiasts to constantly yearn for the very latest camera Rob, regardless of the brand they own. And it does make sense for anyone to upgrade if the current camera is more than a generation old, or if a newer D SLR provides valuable new features or a substantially improved sensor/processor. However, your EOS T1i is a relatively recent 15.1-megapixel model that produces excellent image quality. Upgrading to the slightly newer but similar 18-megapixel model won’t provide a benefit except in prints of 13 x 19 inches or larger. And the difference in quality will be minimal unless you routinely make (or order) 16 x 24-inch prints.

The T1i is a high-tech camera with a superb CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 processor. This combination can produce excellent image quality when used with the best accessories and the most serious shooting techniques.

The EOS T2i does offer some advantages. These include improved evaluative light metering, superior movie mode functionality and a slightly faster drive mode. If those aspects are important, then you should consider the newer model. But the cost of an upgrade cannot be justified simply for the gain of a few million extra pixels.

Any D SLR owner can get obviously better image quality by trading up from the kit lenses to high grade lenses. Regardless of the brand, the 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm (or similar) lenses were primarily designed for affordability. They’re fine for families but they will not get the maximum quality that a serious enthusiast demands from a high-resolution D SLR. In fact, anyone using a lens of this type with a 12+ megapixel D SLR will probably get no image quality benefit by switching to a camera with higher resolution.

Any camera will live up to its maximum quality potential when used with a pro-calibre lens and a rigid tripod. Owners of recent model cameras will get more bang for the buck by upgrading to a superior lens instead of a D SLR with a few million more pixels.

While the cost of a top-rated lens such as the EF 70-200 mm f/4L IS USM or the EF-S 15-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM is substantial, a lens like either would be a wise investment. And regardless of the lens, use Raw capture mode, an aperture of f/8, a low ISO and, whenever possible, a very rigid tripod instead of relying on an image stabilizer. Trip the shutter with a remote control device to avoid creating vibration. Also develop some skills with the Noise Reduction settings and the other features in the Raw converter software to optimize your photos. Follow this advice and your EOS T1i will provide stunning image quality; I doubt that you’ll regret sticking with your current camera.



  1. john / January 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm / Reply

    Good response! This merits fuller coverage in an article.

  2. Paul L / January 4, 2011 at 7:52 am / Reply

    This sounds like very good advice. I am thinking of upgrading from a Cannon SX10IS to a D SLR and trying to decide if I should buy an entry level camera or a mid-range one. This article raises a question. Should I save monet on the body and spend it on lenses?

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