A while ago I got a question from a reader regarding my post titled Canon 5D Mark III vs 7D and have been meaning to write down further thoughts on the subject.
That post has been the subject of much debate, many questions and discussions. However I would like to keep this post focused on this question I received, because I think it is representative of the question on a lot of people’s minds when they approach the subject with me.
I was quite interested in your post about shooting the moon with a 7D versus a 5D mark 3. I hope that you don’t mind a question from an amateur about the two cameras.
I’m considering upgrading to the 5d from the 7d. I enjoy photography (mostly pictures of the family for the family). I’m strictly a hobbyist, but really enjoy it. It’s for fun, not for money.
On the various websites, so many people like the 5d compared to the 7d, but I wonder if there is an echo factor (as you allude to in your post). Given that you have the two cameras, do you prefer one or the other? For a semi-serious hobbyist, do you think that it’s worth the upgrade?
(Note that I’m not asking you to decide for me. I’m old enough to make my own decisions. However, I really enjoyed your post, like the way you think and am very interested in your opinion.)
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this. If you don’t have the time to answer, it’s absolutely not a problem.
Thanks Doug [and all who’ve asked similar questions].
After making the transition myself over the last year, the short version is: Stay with the 7D. Here are my thoughts in broad stroke.
The 5D Mark 3 does not provide enough of new features (that are critical to your shooting style) to justify the expense of an “upgrade”. Like the 7D, the 5D Mark 3 is even more so a purpose built imaging device (camera) that is better suited to performing highly specific shooting tasks, and it does what it’s designed to do exceedingly well – arguably better than any other SLR. The problem is the 5D Mark 3 is more specialized than the 7D in many respects that may make it less relevant to you and your shooting style. The 7D is more versatile than the 5D Mark 3 hands down. The built in flash, wireless E-TTL transmitter, high burst mode and trendsetting ergonomics make it still very relevant till this day.
One thing I very quickly learned from owning/shooting both bodies simultaneously is that both cameras are more complementary peers rather than vertically related. That is, the Canon pro bodies are designed to complement each other and not necessarily supersede each other. Gear heads and spec sheet readers all around will sing otherwise all day long, but the fact of the matter is they have no clue what they are talking about (other than a spec sheet) and more often than not, have never owned or used a 7D or 5D Mark 3, let alone simultaneously.
Here’s an interesting thought. After the highly successful 7D, the 5D Mark 3 really just looked a bit superfluous. I for one picked the 7D over the 5D Mark 2 when I was upgrading from my Rebel XT, because it just made more sense. Don’t get me wrong, the 5D Mark 3 does produce a superior image thanks to is newer sensor tech, but when we’re talking about these pro bodies, the delta in image quality really starts to shrink, especially in the hands of a photographer who knows what they are doing. The Canon 6D is even more proof that the 5D Mark 3 does not really offer very much new capability over the 7D other than it’s full frame sensor (which is only really relevant to certain shooting styles). As such the Canon 6D is basically the full frame companion for the 7D owners out there, because it really does not make sense to shell out close to $4000 for what the 5D Mark 3 offers over the 7D.
While in Paris, I recently used my 5D Mark 3 for what I would otherwise use my 7D for – general walk around photography. This only further hit home my point about the 7D being a more versatile and on-the-go camera system. Especially when coupled with the best lenses money can buy, which leads me to my next point.
If you don’t use the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lenses on your 7D, then chances are you don’t really need to “upgrade” your body. You have yet to maximize your 7D’s full potential. I say this because these are the only two lenses that I know can match the 7D in every aspect of what it was designed to accomplish. These two lenses cover all your important focal lengths, are extremely versatile and flexible when coupled with the 7D, can actually keep up with the 7D’s super fast AF system, have large constant apertures for low light photography coupled with 3-4stops of Image Stabilization respectively. The combo packs an undeniably powerful punch and leaves very little that a photographer cannot accomplish – and for a relatively affordable price.
But the most important feature of these two lenses is their extremely high resolution and optical performance. Nine out of ten lenses simply cannot render image details sharper than the high pixel densities of the 7D sensor. This became painfully evident after Canon released the 7D, as suddenly images seemed softer, even with L lenses. Remember the 7D was the first 18MP APS-C SLR to hit the market. Since then Canon has been steadily revising it’s top lenses to increase their resolution and optical performance. I suspect this is the reason we will not being seeing any super high megapixel cameras from Canon anytime soon – it doesn’t make sense to add megapixels when the lens won’t resolve enough detail to take advantage of the increased resolution. These two lenses I mentioned are the best all around lenses money can buy – that you will actually use. One is always mounted to my 7D and the other standing by very close. 🙂 A comparable combination for the 5D Mark 3 will be forbiddingly expensive and yield only marginal gains in overall performance.
If you move to a full frame 5D Mark 3 you will lose versatility, practicality and overall usability. Unless you are an avid and very active photographer, your new 5D Mark 3 will most likely end up sitting in it’s case, because it will feel like too much effort to grab it and go when hanging with family or taking a trip. There is more to an SLR than whether or not it has the latest sensor tech or higher resolution. I definitely recommend using the extra cash you will spend on a 5D Mark 3 and invest in the gear and accessories that will ad more dimension and do more to further your photography – I suggest a good solid Manfrotto tripod, 1 or 2 Canon 430ex speedlite flashes (your 7D can control them wirelessly), an interfit strobies kit, a shotgun mic for when you shoot video, a good high quality camera back pack (90% of the stuff out there is not worth it) and take a few of those trips you’ve been wanting to take for a while.
Thanks for reading All and I hope this helped.
I am a 7D owner. Love it to death and overall have been very happy with it over the past 16 months I have owned it. I am exploring the 6D vs. MIII primarily for its low light capabilities. iso over 1600 in the 7D is too noisy for my taste. Great post. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.
I must admit that the higher ISO capabilities of the 5D3 enables me to grab some solid low light shots in a pinch, especially handheld HDR brackets while running and gunning. This was especially helpful while exploring Paris at night. The 5D3 is designed to be the most “perfect and complete” SLR, the only problem being a 7D owner is that the 7D already comes pretty close to perfection in design. The 6D would be a more ideal companion to the 7D. The truth is I rarely shoot over ISO-1600 even with the 5D3 and almost always shoot ISO-800 or below. And most of my noise issues are fixed with Canon DPP, so I really do not factor high ISO noise in my assessments.
You might want to take a look at the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom for APS-C. This lens could be a real winner and get 7D owners even more mileage out of their 7D in low light shooting. These types of innovative lens designs are why I plan on keeping an APS-C body like the 7D on hand.
Thanks for writing.
Great writeup Bryan. About three years ago I was debating between the 5D Mark II and the 7D. For my type of shooting (mostly landscapes) the higher amounts of noise in the 7D at low ISO is what pushed me towards the 5D Mark II. The full frame sensor just gives a cleaner output at any ISO. Hopefully with technological advancements, Canon will be able to clean up their images from crop sensors in the rumored 7D Mark II.
Mark! I just thought about your comment the other day, after seeing Canon’s latest announcement of the EOS 70D. If it is any indication of things to come, I’d say the 7D Mark II should live up to the expectations set by it’s predecessor.
Thanks for the feedback Buddy.
Great review buddy..really helped me confirm what I already thought. Really looking forward to seeing what the 7D Mark II has to offer..
Thanks buddy. I’m happy to know my experiences provide better insight to some folks. Like the 7D, the 7D Mark II should definitely be a game changer. However I wouldn’t hold my breath, especially since Canon just released the 70D. It will be a while before they release their new flagship APS-C body. Either way, these are great times to be a photographer. 🙂
After 3 years of 7D use I was quite disappointed when tried the 5D Mark iii in the field settings: (1) poor light sensitivity for autofocusing: in the settings where the 7D gets the focus immediately (at night with a flashlight), the 5D3 hunts forever; (2) slow autofocus on moving subjects (eg sport or wildlife); (3) at least my specific exemplar of 5D3 always tended to under-expose, both in the ambient light and with a flash; (4) with a flash, the 5D3 did 50% of under- and other 50% of over-exposures. So much unpleasant experience! Am looking for 7D Mark ii now, never 5D for my purposes.
Ivan. Your observations are very interesting. I too have experienced the same phenomena with my 5D3. I had already long established the AF system on the 7D is far better, effective and far more useful than that of the 5D3. The only explanation I can think of is that it does not have a dedicated AF processor and has to share resources with metering, accessories, system runtime, etc and the 7D has fewer AF points to process. Honestly the 61 AF points on the 5D3 are completely unnecessary and I think. I would take 19 cross-type AF points that deliver reliably every time any day. I have a serious hunting AF problem myself in low light situations with fast lenses where the 7D has never had a problem. I also had a photo shoot early last week and experienced yet again the under exposure issue you talked about. I had to bump my exposure by 1/2 to a full stop just to make the photos usable. Fortunately the 5d3 sensor has a high enough dynamic range that in the end it did not affect image quality at first glance. I will add these issues to my list to write a post about. I really hope the 7D Mark II carries on the legacy with dual DIGIC5 processors, an even more sensitive 19-21 cross type AF system, improved noise performance, higher/longer burst mode. I would hate to see marketing gimmicks like a 61 point AF system, GPS, and WiFi in the 7D2. This will have to be another post by itself…lol
Hi Bryan, great post. I own a 5D2 and have been using that for my wedding and portraiture but was considering getting the 7d or the 5d3 for action work. I have to admit I was biased towards the 5D3 based on everything I read so I rented the 7D to try it myself with a 200mm 2.8 prime and it was terribly sharp and accurate with the football game I shot. I do prefer the shallower and slightly more pleasing depth of field I get from full frame cameras though.
Im wondering what your feelings are on the Nikon D800 and the D600 and their 36 and 24 megapixel offerings as well as the crop factor that those cameras offer in DX mode. I am a Canon shooter but have considered purchasing a Nikon D800 for those features.
Hi Zamani. I just posted a response to your questions. Check the home page. Here’s the link:
You do great photography by the way.
Thanks for writing.
Hope you are well brother!…. Following on from my comment above and our brief yet insightful discussion on the merits of making the step up to the 5D3…I was hoping to pick your brains again if I may?
In your response to my first comment you alluded to the fact that you didn’t think they would release a new flagship APS-C SLR any time soon the 7D2 is now here…
My questions are:
1) Have you managed to use one as yet?
2) What are your thoughts?
3) Is it a significant step up from the 7D?
4) is it worth the upgrade?
My wife has given me a variety of options for a 30th birthday present and I am stuck yet again so I thought I would drop in for some insight and wisdom 🙂
Just posted a response to your comment here:
Hope you’re doing well. 🙂