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.