I recently got a question from a reader regarding my post titled Canon 5D Mark III vs 7D. Rather than let these conversations get buried in the comments section I will do my best to reply as a new post.
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.
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.
Thanks Zamani [and all who’ve asked similar questions].
The sort version of this post is, for any kind of action, I would pick the 7D over the 5D3 any day, all day. Believe it or not 6fps on the 5D3 is a deal breaker. Compared to the 8fps on the 7D, that extra 2fps translates into more than twice the usable shots and a 100+% success rate over the 5D3. In practice, the AF on the 7D is faster and much better suited for action. The 7D’s Dual processor architecture with one processor dedicated to AF guarantees your shot every time. The 5D Mark III is hit-or-miss as soon as your subject as much as starts dancing around – there go half your shots. Your 5D3 shots may be at lower ISO, they may have less noise than the 7D shots, they may have higher dynamic range, but what good are they if they are out of focus or simply missed that split second magical moment you wanted to capture? The only camera system that does it better than the 7D is the 1Dx. So unless you have $7000 to drop on a 1Dx, your best bet is the 7D which is amazingly still a bargain till this day. Buy a refurbished or used one for under $1000. They are built like a tank and are virtually indestructible. Here’s a fun video by DigitalRev that illustrates this:
- Canon 5D Mark III Sensor: 23,400,000P/864mmsq = 27083.33 Pixels / mm squared
- Canon 7D Sensor: 19,000,000P/333.27mmsq = 57010.8 Pixels / mm squared
- Nikon D800: 36,000,000/864mmsq = 41666.7 Pixels / mm squared (approximations)
- Nikon D600: 24,000,000/864mmsq = 27777.7 Pixels / mm squared (approximations)
So the D800 sensor has a pixel density somewhere between the 5D3 and the 7D. The D600 has a pixel density almost identical to the 5D3. I would expect the D600 will yield an image with quality more comparable to the 5D3 and the D800 will yield slightly better than that from a 7D assuming they all used the same optics. However I have always said, in practice the sensor almost doesn’t matter anymore these days because the technology is just that good regardless of the manufacturer. The D800 will suffer a bit from some of the challenges 7D owners faced when it was released – the higher pixel densities will easily reveal more of the optical flaws in every lens from chromatic aberration to distortion to focus inconsistencies. I recall a lot of 7D owners complaining about having to adjust their focus when in fact this probably had to do with the flaws in the optics of their lenses.
Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. I really appreciate that insight. I’m definitely going to purchase the 7D. I shot a game recently with it and the shots were great. No issue with sharpness, focusing or detail whatsoever. Considering your comments about using the optimal lenses I have a couple questions for you. I will be using the Canon 200mm 2.8 and the 135mm f2 lenses. Both are Canon L lenses and the latest version. I will mainly be shooting sports with them on the 7D. Do you think these lenses will allow me to maximize on the resolving power of the 7D?
Also I own the T2i and during the time that people were complaining about the “softness” issues on the 7D they were comparing what appeared to be sharper resolution images on the T2i. Since they essentially utilize the same sensor how do you explain that phenomenon. Just curious.
P.S. Thanks for the compliments on my work. I love your site and the reviews. I hope to see more 🙂
You’re welcome Zamani.
The 135/2.8L is one of Canon’s sharpest lenses. I haven’t used the 200/2.8L but if it is cut from the same glass as the 70-200/2.8L II then I bet it is just as sharp. I believe any L lens revisions within the past 5 years should be of high enough resolution. From my experience here are the lenses I feel can keep up with the 7D in all aspects especially optically: EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L, EF 135mm f/2L. I own and use the first two a lot.
As for the T2i vs 7D sharpness issue, the only reason I can think of is that the T2i (or any rebel) being more of a consumer-friendly body, applies more sharpening out of the box as well as other in camera filtering/processing. The 7D is a highly customizable tool. Out the box it will not apply any sharpening/filtering/processing. You will have to tell it what exactly you want it to do. I always recommend folks READ the manual…LOL. What I’ve observed is that most issues folks have with the 7D is not due to the camera but the way they set it up. Simply put, they don’t know how to use it. The 7D will definitely make you a better photographer. It did me for sure and still pushes me today.
The 7D was just a winning design. Every Canon body since has basically inherited it’s ergonomics, usability, layout and general design philosophy.
Thanks Bryan, again, I appreciate your insight a lot. Do you have any special process you use in terms of dealing with the raw files from the 7D in Photoshop or Lightroom? Or for getting the optimal usage in terms of the focusing system for fast action shooting?
You’re welcome buddy. I suppose I should put together another post about my workflow and optimal use of the 7D’s AF system. In the meantime I’ll try to keep it brief.
I process all my RAW files with Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP). In my opinion, no other application is better suited for this. The best part is it is FREE and comes with your camera! I did the whole “Photoshop thing” until a fellow photographer walked me through DPP. I never went back to “Photoshop” unless I needed to make some specific edits or apply some basic filters. Most people ignore DPP because it’s “FREE” and fail to realize they’re passing up on the best professional grade tool they have.
I put “Photoshop” in quotes because I do not use any of the Adobe products. They are hugely cumbersome, inefficient, poorly designed, memory hogs, buggy, unreliable and most of all expensive. For image editing, I use GNU Image Manipulation Program, also known as GIMP (http://www.gimp.org). It does everything the Adobe product does and more, without the hassles. It is very extensible. There is a huge community out there with tons of free tools, modules and tools. Best of all, it’s free! – So now I can free up my funds for new lenses and photography travel. It took some dedication to move off “Photoshop” and learn a new tool, but after a few months I was fully integrated with GIMP.
As for 7D AF, I will start by recommending you read the user manual that comes with the camera. Read the section on AF. It will breakdown each AF feature and setting and explain how it works and when to apply it. If you have any more specific questions as you go along, I will be more than happy to help for sure.
All the best.