Is a 60D a good choice for macro photography? Is it significantly better than older Canon bodies such as 50D and 40D? For this particular purpose, would I really miss any of the features the 7D offers?
But actually I'm reorganising my entire setup at the moment and everything depends on everything else, so I had better try your patience and explain in detail.
I am re-jigging my equipment at the moment, partly because it is time for an overhaul and update, partly because a few items were stolen a little while back and need to be replaced. I'll come to my exact question shortly, but first it might be useful to review the current state of play.
I spend a lot of time outdoors in dusty environments where lens-swapping is best avoided where possible, and I am very keen on having the key combinations available at all times - e.g., if I am working on a wide-angle landscape shot, I nevertheless always want the birding camera/lens pair ready for instant action if something special turns up. I love to try to capture a particular place in all its aspects (geography, flora, birdlife, the lot), and that often means that I'll want (say) macro and ultra-wide and super-telephoto in fairly rapid succession. To this end, it has long been my habit to run multiple bodies. I also go on long outback trips regularly and it is essential that I have fallbacks available. For example, on my recent Cooper Creek trip, the 24-105 lens went faulty but I was able to continue as planned with minimal disruption by using a couple of shortish macro lenses (35mm and 60mm) and a 50/1.8. Because I had spare bodies, I could put (e.g.) the 35 macro on the 40D and and the 50/1.8 on the 50D and still cover most focal length categories without too much swapping and messing about. I actually quite enjoyed using the primes for a change.
- For birding, 7D and 500/4.
- As a reserve birding setup (sometimes 500m is too much!) and for mammals, and especially for longish landscapes, I used to use my old 1D III and a 100-400. (Because of the 1.3 crop, the lens acts the way an 80-300 acts on a standard APS-C camera.)
- For general-purpose use, mostly landscapes, 50D and 24-105/4.
- For wide-angle work - 24mm on crop is way too long to be OK as a widest readily available angle - my wonderful old 20D and either a 10-22 or a 10-17 fish.
- Dual-purpose emergency spare and ready-use macro, my unloved old 40D and any of several lenses. I seldom used that wonky old camera, but it was nevertheless very useful indeed when I did want it.
- For birding, 7D and 500/4. (No change.)
- Both the 1D III and the 100-400 were stolen. I loved this combo and have already ordered like-for-like replacements - a 1D IV and another 100-400. (Effectively no change.)
- 5D II and 24-105. When the old faithful 20D died, I swapped the 50D over to wide-angle duties and replaced the 50D with a full-frame 5D II. I really like the 24-105 but didn't need the long end of it as that focal length range was already covered by the #2 rig (effectively an 80-300). But on full-frame, the 24-105 acts like a 15-65/4 on APS-C. I lost the long end I no longer needed, and gained a wonderfully useful wide end. (Yes, that was already covered by the #4 rig but it's nicer to have it available all in the one go, without swapping.) I am very pleased with this new setup.
- 50D? For wide-angle, the 50D is available and I still have both the ultra-wides. The question is - with an effective 15mm now available from the #3 rig, will I actually need or use the ultra-wides all that much anyway? I'm guessing that I'll need them less often, and be much more prepared to leave an ultra-wide behind on longer walks or where I have too much else to carry, but that I'll still want 10-12mm often enough to justify having a dedicated setup for it, particularly given that it is my oldest, cheapest and least-loved camera getting this hand-me-down role.
- 60D??? I know my habits well enough to be sure that I'll frequently fail to take advantage of good macro opportunities if I have to muck about lens-swapping too much. With the old setup, where the focal length range was inconveniently split right in the middle between 22 and 24mm, two bodies for landscape was essential. (I'd been happy enough using only one back in my 18-55 days.) So I could perhaps unite the wide-angle and macro roles into a single body. But then I would not have a spare, and I do like to have a spare body on long trips. Traveling with a spare has saved my bacon maybe four times over the years, about six of seven times if I go back a bit further to my Nikon days as well. Yes, I could get by with three, but by the time you exclude the two specialist birding rigs, that's only one, and a 60D isn't expensive.
SUMMARY SO FAR
I have more-or-less decided to replace my stolen 40D with a new camera. It needs to be a Canon (I'd love to own a Pentax and/or a Nikon - variety is the spice of life after all, and no-one ever said they were not excellent cameras - but then it becomes useless as a spare because it doesn't fit my lenses) and the 60D seems like the obvious choice.
- 550D: For: cheap. Against: clunky controls, lousy viewfinder, no tilt-swivel screen, various other things like plastic body, limited flash options, etc.
- 600D: For: cheap, tilt-swivel screen. Against: lousy viewfinder, clunky controls, same various other things.
- 60D: For fairly cheap, good controls, tilt-swivel screen. Against: plastic body, still some limitations compared to 50D or 7D
- 7D: For: good controls, excellent focus system, build quality, no limitations. Against: quite expensive for a spare (though in practice I'd use it and make the 50D the spare), don't need a fancy focus system for a non-birding camera, no tilt-swivel screen.
- 5D II. For: great picture quality, viewfinder, good controls. Against: very expensive in this context, I prefer the narrower angle of view provided by crop cameras for macro work (at least with the 100mm - maybe a 180mm would be different), no tilt-swivel screen.
How important is a tilt-swivel screen? I practically never use Live View now, but I often think back to my old Nikon Coolpix 4500s and remember how great they were for small, hard-to-get-at objects. Yes, I have an angle finder and occasionally use it, but wouldn't it be better just to hit Live View and do it the easy way? (I cannot imagine using it for anything except macro, by the way, but you never know.)
What are the limitations of the 60D? I know Canon downgraded the 60D from the old 20D/30D/40D/50D line to slot in below the new 7D, and I can live with the plastic body (it will seldom or never be used on the big, heavy lenses so this is not a big issue for me) but what are the other gotchas? Is there some unthought-of lack that will bring me undone?
Any thoughts on my lens changes? The Tokina 35mm macro and the Canon 50/1.8 were both stolen. I'm thinking that I'll spend the extra and replace the pair of them with a single Canon 35/1.4L, which would then be my one and only fast prime. I love that 35mm focal length on both APS-C and especially APS-H, haven't tried it on FX yet.