As a rule, I don't spend a lot of money. Now, I'm sure you could look at my record collection or the odd assortment of Milwaukee Road (and even IC now) trinkets I've been collecting and say I'm lying, but if you actually could see my bank statement - well, one, I'd be curious how you got to see that, but two and more importantly, you'd see I currently don't really spend that much compared to what I bring in (which, also really isn't much, frankly). I probably spend more money on gas for chasing trains than I do, well... anything else, really.
Except this time! I was chatting with a friend about camera equipment recently and he commented he had gotten a good deal on some used pieces, stuff he would be set practically for life with. It got me thinking about my camera for a bit and I had to wonder if it was time to consider upgrading from my current one.
Since about, well, 2016 I suppose, I've been using a Canon EOS Rebel T6. It was a Christmas present that year and is definitely one of the best gifts I've ever received. The T6 was new that year, and even though it's been 5 years since the T6 was released, it's still an excellent camera. I took that thing everywhere - it went to Wyoming and Montana, Pennsylvania, practically all over the entire state of Illinois, Wisconsin, and then some. All of my favourite photos have come from that camera.
The T6 is part of the sort of "intermediate-amateur" range, I think. It's simple enough that really anyone can operate it with little explanation, but an experienced photographer can use the tools with it to nail an excellent shot. I'm by no means a professional, but I think I know a little more than just the absolute basics. Especially after having used the T6 for the better part of four years now, I became familiar with some of its limitations. It can do a lot, but there are things that it could do better.
I did some research over the weekend after that conversation with my friend, did some comparisons, and weighed my options. After some careful consideration and lots of hemming and hawing, I decided to move up to a Canon 80D!
The 80D is another 2016 camera, as it happens. It's part of the same "generation" as the T6. It has some significant upgrades and features over the T6 that make it very worthwhile for me: larger images (24MPvs18MP), 45 focus points (T6 has only 9), 7fps continuous shooting (!!), UHS write support, and more than anything else: a bigger BUFFER.
I take a lot of photos. That's just how I am. These fill up the cameras internal buffer quickly, especially the large RAW image files, which can present an issue sometimes. Essentially, the camera has its own internal storage, but it's only temporary - just enough storage to hold a few photos until the camera can write the photos onto the SD card inside. The buffer for the T6 is only big enough to hold 6 RAW photos. While it writes them continuously, it's slow to do for RAW, so by the time you've shot all six at 3fps (the max speed), you've probably only "recharged" one or two photos at max, which you quickly fill up, and by this point you're shooting faster than the camera can take even a single photo.
The 80D has a buffer for 20 photos. 20 RAW photos. It also writes them to the SD card faster. All told, the 80D is way better for popping lots of shots - my kind of shooting!
The 80D also has some other nice features to it the T6 lacks. A swivel-out, rotating touch screen replaces the fixed screen, higher ISO values (and better performing ISO/low light shooting), a weather sealed body, better battery life, among other things. Honestly, the only "downside" is it's twice the weight, especially with the bigger lens applied to it.
I upgraded from my 18-55mm lens shortly after the Wyoming & Montana trip to an 18-135mm lens, though its always clashed with my T6 to an extent. Headlight flares have ruined photos, the lens is heavier than the camera itself, and sometimes the two just never meshed right. The two worked well, but it wasn't... perfect. The 80D and the 18-135, meanwhile, have meshed together much better already. The weights complement one another and feel balanced, the headlight flares are way, way down, and it overall feels better.
If you've seen the Photos page or my Flickr/IG recently, you've seen the first photos from the 80D and the last photos from the T6. I ordered the camera on a Saturday night and it was shipped Monday, arrived Tuesday. On Monday after work, I happened across a BCOL barn in the yard and decided to make the chase happen - one last chase with my trusty T6.
With temperatures on the rise, we're well underway with escaping from winters cold clutches and into the warmth of spring. Light lasts longer in the day thanks to DST as well, meaning shooting southbounds is going to be a cakewalk for the next few months. CN 5675 and BCOL 4608 made my T6s last chase a good one, with late afternoon/early evening light coating the sides of the train and making shooting a breeze. While the leader isn't anything amazing, getting a BC Rail unit in this sharp light sure did feel good. It was a worthy last chase for the T6.
The 80D arrived the next day and I was anxious to use it, but I wanted its first shots to be of something interesting. Frankly, I didn't want to shoot a CN GEVO as its first shot. I got luckier though, as CN1501 made a return to Champaign over the weekend!
Not just that, but an IC Blue Devil was lurking around the yard, much to my excitement. With only seven left, the Blue Devils are some of the rarest catches now - I didn't pass up a chance to shoot it.
There are more shots of 2456 to follow, as well. While editing up some of these shots, I took a more in depth look at Photoshop camera RAW editing, and I've learned I can dramatically improve my editing with a few simple steps that help clean up photos and reduce clutter. I honestly don't need to use regular Photoshop anymore, just the RAW editor. I had never gotten accustomed to its cropping tools or healing tools, but I've made it a point to use those and use my camera profile to correct some other things. I think future photos will turn out even better now that I've learned a bit more in this area.
The next day, I went out to see if I could make a chase happen. I spotted 1501 again and noted that in the time since I'd last seen it (hardly 18 hours before), someone had tagged her. Really? Stay classy, Champaign.
My scanner had been picking up traffic from IC1020, but I couldn't spot the train until I suddenly discovered it rolling in through Leverett junction while doing a lap around the yard. It stopped to do some switching with its partner 1033, but seemed to be struggling especially hard. A little while later, it came out of the yard and up to Bradley with a BNSF SD75I, #296, in tow. A few minutes after that, it left. I decided to catch it with the 1958 RDC.
From there, I followed it all the way down into Mattoon. It was the first chase with the new camera, and it was a great success. I learned a fair bit about operating this camera and how it performs under the environments I experience, and so far, I'm impressed.
A408, my chase of the day, was led by IC1020/IC1033/BNSF296. Between Tuscola and Arcola, I picked up a radio conversation that explained the BNSF engine was added on because 1033 was refusing to load and was not providing any horsepower, explaining the struggling back near Leverett Junction. It was only IC1020 powering the whole train there, about 0.55-0.6hpt if I remember the full conversation correctly.
While I certainly could have gotten these photos on the T6, the 80D made them feel easier to get, especially with the improved buffer and focus points. The bigger image size also makes a huge difference. The whole camera feels good to shoot, very solid, and I've been loving it so far. I'm excited to see what I can get out of it in the future - and a camera like this? I don't think I'll need to upgrade for a long time, now!
That's about all I have to mention here now, but I do have another thing to mention. Pending the pandemic situation (I get my second vaccine shot tomorrow!), scheduling, etc...
I am traveling to the UK in August. First time going international. 2021 is shaping up to be quite the year already...
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