Help me spend some money! (new camera time, with a few tech questions)

Hi guys, after relocating from New Zealand to Europe, I had to sell my 550d (t2i) and lenses, moco gear etc. Now I've been commissioned to do a stopmotion spot for a production company in London and asked them to buy me a camera.

My budget limit is about 360 quid, or $600 usd.

Lenses are separate, so this is purely for the camera body, I already know what glass I want (a few of my AIS favorites).

Honestly, I'd considered just buying a used 550d again, and putting the rest toward this months rent, but this is a good opportunity for me to get some nice kit provided.

In this price range I've been looking at (all used, apart from newer models):

  • 550D - 650D
  • D5100 - D5300
  • 60D
  • D7000

But there are a few wild cards too. I'm an avid photographer too, so the more birds I can kill with one stone the better. 

How bad is the live view from Nikon compared to Canon? I know the resolution is worse, the exposure preview etc leaves a lot to be desired - but in day to day use, does anyone have experience with both?

Nikon certainly has the overall edge in image quality, I can mount my AIS lenses natively, and they are a much nicer camera for shooting stills with (if we're talking about a D7000 at least).

Additionally, I really like some of the mirrorless offerings out there, particularly by sony and panasonic (G6, GH2 etc). But from my understanding, mirrorless cameras only work in "folder watching mode" correct? That would be a deal breaker for me.

My priority is a camera for stopmotion use, but photography and high quality video (d5300 currently best dslr video quality) come in a close second and third.

Any advice Hugely appreciated!

For reference sake, here is what I did with a 550D and two AIS lenses, with a 4K output:


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From a stills perspective I'd be leaning toward the D7000, which although it has inferior image quality to the D5300 etc, has a much nicer body, has metering with AIS lenses etc.

But in terms of Dragonframe, I've heard Nikon cameras are really just nowhere near as usable.

Maybe try to bump up to a used 7D, or just be happy with a 550D or 600D.

When I animated with Nikons I had to partly unscrew my AIS lenses so they would stay stopped down - but that isn't a real problem in the studio. They were non live view models, and I changed over to Canon bodies for stop motion (40d and now 7d) but I always preferred the Nikons for taking out to shoot stills.
I didn't know there was a difference in live view resolution, that could be a deciding factor for me as I want the best possible image on the computer screen in SMP or Dragonframe. I don't care what the res on the acreen on the back of the camera is like, just how many pixels it puts out over the usb cable to the computer.
It was the tendency of Nikon models at the time (6 or 7 years ago) to switch off to prevent overheating when animating with live view that pushed me to the Canon 40d, and I don't know if that is still an issue with more recent models.
I've had the 7d for 6 months and haven't even used the HD video function yet, and my old D70 and D50 came out long before DSLRs had video, so I can't comment on the video quality of Canon vs Nikon.
I'd really like to hear from aomeone who animates with a recent Nikon.

Thanks Nick,

Unscrewing lenses, nowadays at least, is only for lenses with an electronic aperture. This would apply to both canon and nikon, but AIS lenses are 100% manual - so this isn't an issue.

The difference in live view resolution is as follows:

  • Canon  1056 x 704
  • Nikon   640 x 426

This strikes me as a significant difference, but that being said, I tend to check the actual frames captured in DSM fairly often, as it offers single button switch over for this function. Live view is purely just for timing and spacing for me.

One thing I did notice in the canon, which I'm not sure if the nikon does too, but when switching between the liveview proxy files and the actual HD images, there is an ever-so-slight offset. This means that you can't just leave it in HD image setting as it would mess with using the monitor for timing and spacing purposes, particularly for more delicate movements.

So yeah, as Nick aforementioned, it would be great to hear from someone using a D7000, or D5000 - D5300 for stopmotion. Particularly interested if you have also used a canon, to offer a point of reference, but either way...



Was just reviewing this:

So really the difference seems to be exposure simulation, and of course the live view resolution.

Still keen to hear anecdotal thoughts on this.

I'd say the 60D is a good option for stopmotion, I used one for one of my projects and thought it was great, don't know how it holds up for stills photography though.  I know a couple of people with the 650 and that also seems pretty good.  

I also like the idea of using the mirrorless cameras, but I couldn't get it work for me! I think one guys on here managed it with a Lumix G1(Strider), but probably safer to stick with what you know will work.

Nice film by the way.

Unscrewing lenses - I still had to do it on my old, fully manual AIS lenses, not to stop the camera setting the aperture but because there is a lever on the back to open up the aperture between shots. This gives you a nice bright image in the viewfinder, and is normal for still cameras.  When you press the shutter it stops down again, but there is a risk that it won't always stop down all the way, which can cause flicker.  With most of them it is minor, no problem for individual still photos, but with animation or timelapse you can see it. My 24mm lens is an extreme case - it has oil on the iris blades and is a bit sticky, so it takes about 15 seconds to stop down to where you have set it, making it useless for normal still photography. (Got it from eBay USA and didn't know.)  But because I have unscrewed the lens around just enough so the lever on the camera body can't reach the lever on the lens back, it settles down at the beginning and stays stopped down all the time I am shooting.  

I just looked at the video feed folder on a test shot I did with DF and this Mac (which is normally not in the studio) and the image size is 1024 x 680 from a Canon 40d.  I need to check the feed from the 7d on the studio computer...   Yep, 1056 x 704 like you said.  It's a whole lot better than 640 x 426, so on that basis I would not go back to a Nikon until they provide a bigger video feed.  When I'm starting or ending a move, I sometimes want very small moves, and they can be impossible to even see if the resolution isn't fine enough.  Exposure Simulation is better than constantly changing video light levels too.  I'm kind of sad to see this, I like Nikon cameras much better in the hand, but they aren't looking as good for stop motion.

That page on Canon and Nikon at the Dragonframe site is really helpful!

The 60d a friend brought in for a 2-camera shoot with my 40d worked great, and had a nicer looking image than my 40d, so I think it would be an excellent choice.

Yes, I find the actual HD image and the video preview look too different to be able to judge really small moves by clicking between the last frame shot and the live view.  So I always shoot with it on liveview video, and only look at the HD to check lighting or focus now and then.  With the tiniest moves, even the difference between the live grain bouncing around, and the static grain of the frame already taken, can be distracting.

The exposure simulation problem with Nikons would be a deal breaker for me. It's an option that you can turn on or off in Canons, and I can't animate anything with it turned to "auto". Every time you stick your hands and arms into the frame, it re-adjusts the exposure, and often doesn't go back to the same exposure as the frame before- making it hard to tell what's moving in the frame because the whole frame is popping.

My animation camera is a 450D. It was the first Canon to offer live-view  (bought it in 2008), and it's worked for me on everything that I've done. 

The Canon 6D is their cheapest full-frame camera, so if you wanted the wider angles, this might be a good one to look at. It gets very good reviews from people using it as a stills camera too.

The 600D seems to have the same sensor as the other cameras, so for stopmo what would be the point of spending more? It has HD video too.

Ok, I've come to a decision. And for future readers I'll explain why, as well as a few pros and cons.

I'm going to get either another 550d or a 600D (t2i or t3i, for those of you in the USA).

I have no interest in full frame. I don't think full frame really has much of a home in filmmaking. Almost all films (live-action) have been shot on s35 film or digital equivalent sensors. So when everyone is worrying about crop factors, it's actually irrelevant - it's something that effects photographers - but has nothing to do with filmmaking. If Scorsese says he likes to shoot on a 28mm, then that's roughly the same as a 28mm on a APS-c sensor, because APSC is roughly the same as s35 (as in, 35mm film or Alexa).

Additionally, in relation to stopmotion, as much as I enjoy how a Nikon feels in the hand for photography, the canon is just simply much better for a stopmotion workflow I think.

So why not a 60D? Honestly, I really don't feel like it offers much over the 550d or 600d. A 7D is a much more robust & ergonomic professional photography camera, but I feel as though the 60D is sort of in limbo - not sure whether is wants to be a consumer camera or a pro camera. They all produce the same images anyway.

Lastly, a word on HD video, I think the newer Nikon cameras (particularly the d5300) have much better video than the canons. The D5300 has almost no moire or aliasing, great high ISO performance, color reproduction, etc etc. But then, for me at least, I only have to use my stills camera for video once in a blue moon. I generally rent professional cinema cameras (RED, Sony, Arri) when it comes to the slightly higher end live action work I do. So the loss in video image quality from the Canons is something I can live with, because I know I won't be shooting anything critical on it anyway.

Lastly, for stopmotion, the images from the 550D have treated me very well. I recently saw my film projected from a 4K DCP at Mill Valley film festival. The overall image quality was actually better than any of the other films (all shot on RED), because we have the luxury of shooting at any aperture, shutter speed, iso, and all in a 14 bit RAW format with either adobeRGB or sRGB colorspace. Which is pretty amazing.

Ok, rant over.... for now.

Thanks again everyone, hope this helps someone else out on the same path too :)


Yes, the reviews seem to back you up. The 60D doesn't offer more than the 600D. That's what I bought in the end.

Good information about the focal length comparison with cine . Didn't know that. Thanks.

BTW, having an interesting time constructing my moco rig, having been inspired by your posts. Only blown up 2 BEDs so far!

Haha, I never blew up a single driver. Mind you, my set up might have been slightly different, as I was using a custom shield with stepstick drivers (like the polulu A4988 drivers).

Need any help?

Glad you mentioned the sensor size issue. It's something I find myself explaining a lot.

To take the idea further (I'm writing this for anyone reading- Hendrikus, you're probably already thinking this...) when working with miniatures it's actually a benefit to have a smaller sensor, as it's essentially a "scaled down" camera. Using a smaller sensor forces you to use wider lenses, which help to put the viewer inside of the scene. It's the feeling of being in the room with the character instead of watching it perform on a stage. If there were a micro 4/3 camera with live-view that worked with Dragonframe I'd be curious to shoot with it and some very wide lenses, because it might even better capture the cinema feeling at small scales.

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