Archive for October, 2014


Taken with EOS-M and 1950s Canon 85mm 1.9 RF lens at 1.9 and 3200 ISO

I have used Canon’s 1.6x crop sensor bodies dating all the way back to the D30 with 3 megapixels. I graduated to the D60, 10D, 30D, 40D, 50D, and finally, the 7D. You might say I was “all in” on APS-C. I bought several lenses that were exclusive to crop sensor cameras. Tamron 11-18mm, Tokina ATX 11-16mm 2.8, Canon EF-S 10-22mm, Tokina ATX-50-135mm 2.8, Canon EF-S 17-55mm 2.8. I still had half a dozen full frame lenses in my bag from my 35mm film days including some “L” glass. My good friend, and camera store owner, Graham has been pushing me to go full frame for several years now. I have resisted. Until now.

Graham stumbled upon a 5D Mk II recently while I was down helping him at a photo trade show. He waved that body in my face tempting me with its voluptuous curves. The ultimate temptation was his bargain sale price he offered it to me for. So there I was offered a 5D Mk II for about 40% less than street value. How could I say no? This is a low shutter count body that looked new. Of course I am a Realtor® and I need a wide-angle. So I immediately picked up a Canon 17-40mm L lens.


7D with Canon 10-22mm at @ 11mm f8 ISO 3200

I now had the 7D and the 5D Mk II side by side for a comparison. I must start out by saying the 7D is a masterpiece camera. It is undeniably the best Canon crop sensor body I have ever handled. The 7D is technically a much more powerful camera than the 5D Mk II. It features dual DIGIC 4 processors rather than the 5D’s single DIGIC 4. The 7D runs circles around the 5D Mk II from a tech heavy perspective. It has adjustable LCD grid lines in the view finder that illuminate with focus confirmation (absent on the 5D), 3 stops plus or minus on exposure compensation vs. 2 for the 5D. 8 FPS continuous shooting vs 3.9 FPS on the 5D. The HD movie capability is so superior on the 7D that I can’t even imagine using the 5D for video. So why did I make this apparent ‘downgrade’?


7D 1:1


5D Mk II 1:1

Full frame vs. APS-C. The full frame sensor is 24 x 36mm vs. the APS-C which is 15 x 22mm. The 7D has 18 megapixels vs. the 5D’s 21 megapixels. It is not the megapixels but rather the lack of megapixels that makes the 5D so much better as a still photography camera. The 7D makes a trade to get high-resolution 18 MP on the smaller sensor in exchange for more digital noise and less continuous tone. To understand how this works you need to look at the number of pixels per millimeter. The 7D has 54173 pixels per square millimeter. The 5D Mk II has 24,537 pixels per square millimeter. This means that each pixel on the 5D is more than twice as large. This allows each pixel to gather more light. This advantage really shows up in low light, high ISO applications. It will also be very apparent when making dramatic processing changes in software such as Photoshop. Continuous tone is much better with the larger sensor as well and that is very obvious when taking sunsets with a gradation of color across a wide palette from yellows and reds to oranges and pinks to purples and deep blue. The living room photo above was taken with the 7D and the Canon 10-22mm lens at f8 and 3200 ISO. The focal length was approximately 11mm (full frame equiv 17mm). The same exact shot was taken with the 5D Mk II and the 17-40mm at 17mm at f8 and 3200 ISO. The 1:1 tells the tale. The 7D photo looks great until you look closely. The 5D shot has far less digital noise.


Canon 5D Mk II with 17-40mm at 40mm f 4 and 6400 ISO Slight soft effect applied; she’d kill me otherwise 😉

Canon has led the charge on less is more since dropping the pixel count on G series cameras back in 2009. They went from 14.4 MP on the G10 to 10 MP on the G11. Canon felt that the higher resolution was not an equitable trade against the digital noise and weak tonal range. Since then Canon has maintained the lower pixel count on many of their professional series cameras. The new Canon 5D Mk III has just 22 MP versus Nikon’s equivalent D800 that has 36 MP. Nikon has done a great job keeping digital noise under control but the color tone will suffer with the smaller, less sensitive pixels. This was a bold move for Canon to resist getting caught up in the megapixel wars and other manufacturers seem to be catching on. Sony announced recently a new version of the A7 called the A7s which drops the pixel count on the full frame sensor to 12.2 MP down from the A7r’s 36.4 MP. This allows expanded ISO to 409,000. Yes 409,000!

It is important to understand that resolution is great if you need it, but wasteful if you don’t. I have a 20×30 inch print hanging on my office wall that was cropped to 6 megapixels before printing. The print looks fabulous! Unless you are hanging gallery quality 24×36 inch prints the extra resolution is not worth the loss in tone and the heavier digital noise. In order for the 7D to have the same pixels per square inch as the 5D Mk II it would need to be an 8 MP camera. The public has not shown itself to understand that megapixels are not the end-all-be-all in digital photography. All of that said, one disadvantage to lower megapixels is the inability to crop images tight and still enlarge. The full frame 5D Mk II and its successor the Mk III offer enough megapixels and the benefit of great color tone and low digital noise.

I am most pleased with the performance of the 5D Mk II. Many people may prefer the Nikon D700 over this camera and that is a topic for another post. I like the way Canon EOS ‘pro-sumer’ and professional bodies handle. I am a huge fan of the ergonomics of the Canon bodies. Ultimately, I intend to get a newer full frame Canon body.

The 7D is superior in tech because it is a newer camera than the 5D Mk II and it seems that Canon likes to use the 7D as a tech launch platform. It’s almost like they test new technology on the 7D then port the successful tech over to future versions of the higher end cameras. The new 7D Mk II is following the pattern. It features dual DIGIC 6 processors and a host of amazing tech.

The bottom line is that it comes down to preference. The 7D is a more tech savvy camera that sacrifices a little image quality but offers a range of lenses that are more affordable. The lens advantage can’t be overstated here. I gave up F-2.8 speed with the Canon 17-55 USM IS lens for less money than the 24-105mm f 4.0 L IS lens on the full frame. The 5D Mk II is the better camera for image quality and I feel that I would rather give up some of the tech and lens speed, to get the image quality. Otherwise, I can have it all, I just have to step up and spend more money on the newer and more expensive full frame bodies from Canon. If you want to shoot video as well as stills then the 7D absolutely crushes the 5D Mk II. The 5D is almost useless in video mode. It simply doesn’t focus. The 7D tracks well during video and does a good job for a camera that is over 5 years of age. 5 years is like a dinosaur in today’s tech heavy, fast-moving world of photography.

The bottom line is get the 5D Mk II or step up to the 6D or 5D Mk III if you can swing it. The full frame is better. I have the best of both worlds since I can shoot video on my Canon EOS-M and it works as well as the 7D for video. I have to save my pennies for the 70-200mm 2.8 L Mk II to replace my aging 200mm 2.8 L prime lens.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: