Liam, I'v owned both the bindings below:-
The CRB is a good solid driveable binding. The 7TM I think was a mistake, and only really good if you are going to do touring, or are not wanting to ski super hard.
I sort of know the situation you are in - I'm from the Australia, so I spend my time tele on hardpack and artifical snow - if we are lucky we get a day or two of pow.
My advice, don't wimp out on the skis or boots, thinking you need to need to go soft boots or anything like that. Go out and buy yourself some good heavy tele boots (T1's, EnerG's or CXR's) - get footbeds and get them fitted and everything. I wouldn't drop below a T2 for hardpack - and I bought something at that level, and upgraded after only a year - so that was cash thrown out the window! Leave your binding and ski choice until you have settled on your boots.
Then have a look for some cheap skis in the bargain bins from last year - go for a good mid range all mountain ski, with no base. No need to go for a telemark specific ski - they tend to be built a little lighter for a bit of touring. I personally find them to be floppy and useless on hardpark. In reality, the progression in tele will be the same as with Alpine. My quiver of skis is some Public Enemies with T3's (which badly need replacing), Fischer RC4 WC's with Hammerheads, and K2 GS skis also with Hammerheads. Race skis are awesomely fun on tele bindings. Would I go early rise? Hell yeah, it will make transitions much easier. Would I go reverse camber? The jury is out on that one.
Okay, the bindings:
7TMs - release well, not active (does not help flex the boot), prone to ice up, a bit fiddly to get back into if you come out.
Voile CRBs - release well, not active, look ugly, work really really well.
Rottefella Corbras - not active, clean and simple and lightweight (you can get a release plate for these)
T3 - non releaseable - not active, are clean, simple and lightweight, do the job
O2's - non releasebale - kind of active
NTN's - haven't been on them, I have heard from other people that are the stuff - but you need to get boots to match.
Hammerheads - non releaseable - easily the best bindings I have been on.
Releaseable vs non releaseable:
I have come out of the 7TMs and CRBs when I was learning. Realistically, they are to stop those slow twisting falls - but a lot of the falls you have that do the real twisting just get the boots to flex. Most of the time you will fall and end up with a weird position with skis and poles and stuff all still attached, but set in a way that makes you look like some kind of deranged snow-octopus.
The high speed stacks will cause even non releaseable stuff to release. Last year I ran over a slalom gate with my SL's+Hammerheads with race spings and the boot came out. The cable is spring loaded and normally with enough spring to come out.
Hope that all makes sense and is helpful.
Happy gear hunting!