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.