should I go 7D or invest in 5D? I am an art director who also loves to shoot photos. I primarily shoot my two small children, occasional portraits for friends and family, and sometimes photos for work/projects when budgets are tight. i currently have an older rebel Xti and sorely need to upgrade. I've been saving away for the new 7D, but have to say that i'm a bit hesitant for a couple of reasons. One, it seems like the 7d may be overpriced in what you get, especially after reading posts on the new rebel vs. 7d. Secondly, I may regret not going for the full sensor and more professional capabilities of the 5d - especially at higher ISOs and enlarging images for print. So should I dive in and make an investment with the 5d, or is the 7d enough for what i need. Also, is sharpness an issue with the 7d's? Thanks so much!
asked by T. Umberg on March 30, 2010
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A
Hi,

I use both 5D Mark II and 7D (a pair). I assume you are thinking of the 5D2, not an older 5D "classic". I've not use the XTi you have, but have used 10D, 30D and 50D a lot in the past, among other models less frequently.

5D2 and 7D complement each other nicely, but they are quite different cameras that excel at different types of photography.

First of all, you have some other really good options, besides just these two cameras. For example, 50D can do maybe 95% or more of all the most important still camera functions of 7D, but at much lower cost that might be kinder to some people's budgets (and allow additional lenses or lens upgrades). One exception is video, which the 7D can do and the 50D cannot. There is little practical difference between 6.3fps and 8fps, 100% viewfinder and 97% VF, 15MP and 18MP, 9 AF points vs 19 AF points, or between a 100K rated shutter and a 150K rated shutter. There is also the new Rebel, which brings some of the 7D's features in a smaller, less expensive model.

I think a lot of people buy the 7D simply because it's the "latest and greatest", but it's not the ideal camera for everyone. It's a sports/action shooter camera. Think of it as a 1D MarkV "lite", instead of a direct upgrade to the 50D. The 7D fills a new niche for Canon, a pro-oriented 1.6X camera, and competes most directly with the D300/300s that's been so successful for Nikon.

In terms of low light performance, the 7D is the top APS-C camera. I'll use 3200 without much concern. The full frame 5D2 is good for about one more stop, 6400. For comparison, I'd use my 50Ds to 1600, but would only reluctantly shoot that high an ISO with 30D.

As to enlargements, well it depends on just how much enlargement we're talking about. Recently I was making an 11x14 print from an image that had tons of fine detail and thought I'd shot it with my 5D2. However, when I checked the metadata I was pleasantly surprised to see it had been shot with one of my 50D (with a Canon EF 20mm f2.8 lens, using a B+W Kaesemann C-Pol). But, as a rule, the 5D2 will deliver more fine detail than is possible with any of the crop sensor cameras. 7D is close, but there's still a little more detail available in the 21MP full frame image.

It might not be important, though... Unless you make really big enlargements (bigger than, say, 16x24") or if you crop a lot. I noticed a really big difference between my old 30D and 50D, for example. I'd only reluctantly do the amount of cropping necessary to convert an 8MP 30D image from horizontal to vertical (and vice versa), and would try to limit to 8x10/8x12 max print size after changing the image orientation. It's much easier to crop this much with the 15MP 50D images. I think it also is significant that the 50D is a 14bit camera, while the 8MP 30D is a 12bit camera.

By the way, I believe your Xti is a 10MP, 14bit camera... The same generation sensor technology as the 40D, which a lot of people never found necessary to upgrade from when the 50D came out. High ISO performance of 40D and 50D isn't all that different, for example. This is still kudos for Canon, that the 50D manages to equal 40D performance while having a much more crowded 15MP sensor.

Sharpness is not an issue with 7D, so long as you use quality lenses, avoid cheap "protection" filters, and do some post production sharpening. Higher resolution image files will always need more sharpening.

The next question is whether or not to go with full frame. Original poster's type of shooting, FF might be the most ideal. For portraiture, you get maximum control over depth of field. You also get the best possible low light performance, if most of your work is by available light.

5D2 is now around a two year old camera, and while it got a big bump up in resolution from the previous model, and some other very useful new features (sensor cleaning/dust delete, micro adjust), the AF system didn't see much change and the overall feel is "good old established technology". The 7D is more "bleeding edge" DSLR technology, at least for a Canon, while the 50D is more similar in feel to the 5D2 in use (ergonomics, weight, control layout and batteries of 7D & 5D2 are same or similar).

The 7D and 50D AF systems are both noticeably faster than the 5D2's. The 50D is the simplest and most straight-forward of the three to use. The 5D2 is slightly more sophisticated, using some hidden "AF Assist" points... but is not quick by any means. When I try to shoot action with 5D2, I know I will always get a whole lot more missed focus shots than with either 50D or 7D. The 5D2 is simply slower to lock on and doesn't follow moving subjects as well. It's not designed as an action camera, so this isn't really surprising, nor is it an issue so long as you have reasonable expectations.

7D comes with a steeper and taller learning curve, and might be a mistake for someone brand new to SLRs/DSLRs for this reason. Using them since November and with about 20,000 clicks so far, I feel I'm still learning 7D. It's a very feature rich camera. Maybe some day I'll master the AF system fully...Bbut right now I have to admit I get a slightly higher percentage of missed focus with 7D than with 50D. Both are quite good and percentages of missed focus shots overall is low, but if I try to quantify it, it's maybe 5% with 7D compared to 3.5% with 50D (mostly using a sports shooter technique on both cameras that separates AF from the shutter release button, AI Servo and a single AF point pre-selected).

Other considerations include the sheer size of image files. Both 7D and 5D2 fill up memory cards darned fast (50D too, just not quite as fast). These cameras need fast memory, too, in order to clear the buffer as quickly as possible, and are UDMA capable. Probably 300X at least. I currently use fourteen 8GB CF cards, some of which is 300X while others are 400X. I don't see any difference between these in the camera. Older 133X does work more slowly. You'll also fill computer hard drives amazingly quickly. I've now got 8TB of networked storage, and 1.5TB in one desktop, 4.5TB in another. Anyone coming from earlier, 12bit cameras to later 14bit models (XTi/40D and later) might need to upgrade softwares, too, at additional expense. For example, Adobe Camera RAW for CS3 and earlier will not work with these later cameras' files.

If you instead choose a 5D2, you might want to add a lens or two since your current lenses will perform differently. For example, your 50/1.4 serves well as a short tele/portrait lens now. With the FF camera you'll want an 85/1.8 to be able to do the same. (The 135/2 is a fabulous lens on FF, by the way. But it's a longer portrait length than you've been using.)

A camera body is an investment if you use it professionally. Otherwise, if photography is a hobby for you, it's a luxury purchase.

And, lens choices will always make more difference in images, anyway.
Alan Myers answered on April 5, 2010
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Haven't seen anyone ask the KEY question so far - - so I'll pose it: TU: What Kind Of Lenses Do You Currently Have ??.
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If you've megabux invested in EF-S lenses that will NOT WORK on full-frame cameras - then you might be best off with the 7D - - or maybe even the 60D ? Please be aware that the 7D WEATHER seals with "L" lenses and has a titanium shell - where the 60D is plastic. Also, the 60D has a DIFFERENT connector for the shutter release than the 7D and 10 - 50D.
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5D-Mk2 is about $1K more than the 7D. I do own the 7D - having moved up from the 40D. I was sold on the 7D for the DUAL DIGIC processors and the 8FPS high-speed capture rate. Also, except for the 70-200 f/4L, all my lenses are EF-S. As a hobbyist photographer, the shots I get with the 7D are exceptional, and I can't really justify the extra $1K plus the thrash of swapping out all my EF-S lenses.
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OK - - I just got the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro. So, now I have 2 lenses that would work with FF - still don't think I need to go to FF.
Merlin answered on November 24, 2011
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First off no camera body is an investment. Have you up graded the lenses you are using with your XTi? Before you spend another penny on a camera, you should be using the best lenses on your XTi. While the XTi is just a camera, not a super high frame rate, mega focus point, HD video camcorder. It is in fact very good at being 'just a camera'.

So, if you are using very good lenses with your XTi, with good external lighting, and are still disappointed with your pictures, then it is probably time to upgrade.

And, if you've got very good lenses, good external lighting, and you are disappointed with the image quality of XTi, then I doubt you will be happy with the 7D. If you all you are looking for is all the modern bells and whistles then go with the 7D.
Tom Martin answered on March 31, 2010
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I'm not sure what you mean when you say the crop factor comes into play when you use the XTi's images at work. But, yes, the XTi's high ISO performance is behind the times. I still use an XTi for a small, light carry-around camera, however, even though I also own a 7D. I'm wondering why you aren't also considering the 50D though.

What the 7D brings to the table is a great professional level build, remote ETTL control of 430EX and 580EX flashes (saves you the cost of a $225 Canon STE2 Speedlite Transmitter), FAST burst rates and a brand new high performance focusing system not to mention a great viewfinder. I'm extremely happy with its performance at ISO 3200 for low light work (even better than the XTi at ISO 800). I believe its only overpriced in the respect that its still relatively new and extremely popular -- I expect Canon to drop the price a bit in time. I certainly think it will meet your needs but I can't say whether you wouldn't be more happy with the full frame 5D or just as happy with the APS-C 50D for that matter.
Technology Guy answered on April 3, 2010
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Alan,

Thanks for a great post!

I shoot sports with a 50D. Thanks for affirming my impressions of the 50D and how it compares to the 7D and 5D MkII.

Though the center 9 grouped auto focus points of the 7D are certainly tempting. Have you tried any sports shooting in that configuration? Like you I normally shoot with the center auto focus point only, as all 9 on the 50D are too spread out, either grabbing an unwanted close player, or worse being sucked to the chain link fence in the background. It seemed to me that being able to choose the center group on the 7D would avoid that, but, allow a little more latitude in aiming at the desired action. I'd be really interested in hearing your feedback on that.

I also appreciate your ruling out the 5D MkII as a possible sports camera as I had been toying with the thought of purchasing one for the increased ISO performance. Though I have had pretty good result with my 50D at even as high as ISO 3200 using noise reduction during post processing.
Tom Martin answered on April 5, 2010
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I currently shoot with a EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (my fav.) and 50mm f/1.4. I mainly shoot in natural light situations but occasionally use my speedlite 580EX on auto (although i do need to sit down and learn the flash). I just feel like the noise level on the higher ISOs are much greater on this older 8MP camera than the same ISO on the other models. Also, while the print size is adequate most of the time, when i do use these images in my work, the crop factor can come into play. While the HD video is nice to have, I use my lumix lx3, which is super compact and has nice HD video. So bottom line is I do want to upgrade, but I'm wondering if the 5d is overboard for what I am using it for. Sounds like it may be...
T. Umberg answered on April 1, 2010
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It's a great camera but if you don't need the speed and autofocus (and weather sealing), nothing wrong with saving $400 and getting a 60D.
Edward V. Hawk answered on February 16, 2013
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