Texas Chicks Lightroom Classes Online Lightroom and Elements - All You Need

The Difference Between the Canon 7D and 5D Mark II, in Plain English

by Erin Peloquin on February 10, 2012 · 48 comments

My Canon 7D has been an incredible friend for the past 2 years.  And I’m looking forward to the same type of relationship with my new 5D Mark II.  (Thanks again, Photovision.)

As I’ve been getting to know this new camera, I’ve paid special attention to what’s different about it compared to the 7D.

Since the 7D is a newer product, it takes advantage of newer technology and is actually better than the Mark II in several respects.  The final verdict?  Either one is a great machine.  I am thrilled to have the full-frame 5DII, but I would have been fine sticking with the 7D for a while longer too.

Here’s a summary of the differences I’ve noticed as I use the cameras.  And below the table, I’ll talk a little about the implications of some of them.

 
5D Mark II
7D
Crop Frame?No, full frameYes, cropped
Auto Focus Points9 (only center point is cross type)18 (all cross type)
Maximum ISO25,60012,800
On Camera FlashNo (does have a hotshoe for attaching an external flash)Yes
Wireless Flash ConnectionNoYes (line of sight only)
Megapixels21.118
Frames per Second3.98
VideoYesYes
Price$2,157.02$1,347.99

The biggest difference between the 5DII and the 7D is the size of the sensor.  The 7D’s cropped sensor makes it look as it you are 1.6 times closer to the subject.   That can be good (if you’re snapping pix at the royal wedding) or bad (in a little house like mine).  There are very few places in my home where I can use my 50mm lens on my 7D and get my entire family in the frame – I always need to back up more, and there’s always a wall in the way.    You can see this difference here:

This was taken with my 5DII with a 50mm lens on a tripod:

Without moving the tripod, I put my 7D on it and moved the 50mm to the 7D.  Exposure settings were exactly the same.  Look at the apparent zoom on this pic:

Related to this crop factor, as it’s called, is the amount of bokeh or background blur that you can shot.  Full size sensors can capture more due to their size.

Another benefit of a larger sensor is that noise from high ISO photos isn’t as severe. Because the sensor is larger, it is able to record more light, which reduces the noise.  This does nothing but increase the smoothness and overall quality of the image.

I have definitely noticed this smoothness to shots on my new camera, but didn’t have any to compare directly to the 7D.  I tried to take photos illustrating it, but think I need to try again more scientifically for another blog post, using someone’s skin as an example.

However, you can see a slight difference in clarity between the two.  Each was taken at 6400 ISO, and cropped way in.

5DII noise:

7D noise:


Let’s talk AutoFocus points- the 7D has more by a long shot.  The 7Ds focus points are also higher quality than the 5DII’s.  Each AF point on the 7D is a cross type – this means it looks for horizontal or vertical lines to focus on.  Only the center focus point works this way on the 5DII.  The other 8 points are either horizontal or vertical, but not both.  This is why you’ll find many shooters who focus in the center and recompose. 

Having said this, I don’t miss those 19 AF points.  In fact, I feel like I focus more quickly without them.  Also, the lack of cross-type points on the 5DII hasn’t given me problems, yet.

ISO:  The larger sensor on the 5DII allows it to reach a higher ISO.  While I won’t often shoot at 25,600 ISO, I will definitely take advantage of smoother shots at 3200 or 6400 ISO on the new camera.

On Camera Flash:  5DII cameras don’t have a built in flash, because, theoretically, all users of this camera are professionals who wouldn’t use on camera flash.  However, there is a hotshoe for attaching an external flash to the camera.

Wireless Flash Connection:  My advice is not to buy a 7D based on this feature only.  It is a line of site connection, meaning that the front of your camera has to be pointing at the front of your flash for it to work well.  My success was hit and miss for obvious reasons – I never wanted the flash in the photo, so I just couldn’t get the connection sometimes.  Also, bright sunlight might drown out this infrared connection, making it even harder to activate your flash.

Megapixels:  Yeah, the 5DII has more.  This isn’t a huge deal to me.  18 megapixels on the 7D is usually plenty.

Frames per Second:  This is another benefit of the 7D over the 5DII.  The 7D can capture twice as many photos per second.  Again, not a big deal to me.  Even at soccer games or with toddlers, I just don’t need 8 shots per second when shooting on Burst.  But this feature could be very important to a professional sports photographer.  Keep in mind that the published FPS rates are under IDEAL camera conditions with all the appropriate settings selected.

Video:  Both cameras record video.  There are some differences (and I hear the 7D wins here too), but I’m not enough of a videographer to know why these differences are significant.

Price:  Obviously, the 7D is much more desirable in this category too!

 Now that you’ve decided which camera to buy, read this article about the best setting for improving focus on it!

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph Connor February 10, 2012 at 8:41 am

Thank you so much for this comparison!!! I just received the canon 7d for Christmas and live it do far. I am a bit confused by your findings on wireless flash. I planned on buying a speedlite to use as OCF when I am doing in-home sessions of newborns if there is not enough light. Are you saying for optimum pics, the flash would have tone facing my camera?

Reply

Erin February 10, 2012 at 8:56 am

Hi Steph, definitely give the 7D a shot. Inside, it might be fine more often than not. I ended up buying the Phottix Strato II. Cheaper than the Pocket Wizards and they do everything I need. And they work with my 5DII also. You’ll know that the IR flash transmitter on the 7D isn’t working because you have everything set up just right, but the flash isn’t firing. And then when you move the camera directly in front of the flash, it will fire.

Reply

Don March 27, 2014 at 8:41 pm

I’ve used the wireless flash with my 7d and a 430.. So long as the flash is slightly ahead of the camera there is no problem and is never in the photo.. I usually hand hold the flash and have gotten great results.. As far as image quality, I’ve gotten some tac sharp photos especially of birds in flight and then I’ve gotten some very noisy pics especially of blue sky’s on bright days with an L lens. It’s been a great camera and the only complaint I have is the failure to write to card error . Not often but enough to make me hesitate shooting wildlife with it. Not everyone gets this but those that do haven’t really had a solution..

Reply

Steph Connor February 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

Ugh— sorry I was typing on my phone! I meant “love it so far” and “to be facing my camera.”

Reply

Debbie Smith February 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

I love the top pictures showing the crop! I just got the 5dii and LOVE IT!!

Reply

Keri February 10, 2012 at 9:42 am

This was great and I am still torn! LOL

Reply

Erin February 10, 2012 at 10:46 am

You’ve got to love a decision where you can’t make a bad choice!

Reply

Michelle February 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

I love my 7D!!

Reply

Susan February 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I just got a new 7D last month. I’m having issues with my 50mm lens but also notice a lot of noise at 200 and 400 ISO. Is it possible that the lens is contributing to this in any way. I even had another photographer look at the photo and she noticed the noise also. May have to send the camera in already. Would love to know if you had any thoughts on this. Thanks.

Reply

Erin February 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Susan, do you have other lenses to experiment with? Maybe you could borrow one from a friend or stop into a local photography shop. That would tell you whether the problem is the lens or not. Also, try over exposing a touch to see if that helps.

Reply

Susan February 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I tried exposures at 1 stop over exposed to 1 stop underexposed at 200 ISO and there is still noise on all raw files regardless, although to a lesser degree on the over exposed. I never noticed noise on my raw files from my rebel especially at such low ISO numbers. Very disappointed in the 7D.

Reply

Tishy August 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Sorry to throw my 2 cents in after so many months have passed, but I’ve been ready that the 7D is known for low ISO noise. I’m currently on the hunt for comparisons between the 7d and the markii, so thank you for comparing them. I’ve tried $500 lenses vs $3000 lenses, over expose, etc and the grain is still there. Very disappointing. If you look up “canon 7d noise at low iso” you’ll find plenty to read about. Curious, have you switched? Thank you!

Reply

Erin August 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Hi Tishy. I thought the same thing about my 7D at first, but I think I was underexposing a bit. It definitely has more noise than the Mark II – that’s why it costs less. However,once I upped the exposure on my 7D, even if it meant increasing ISO, the appearance of noise diminished.

Tishy August 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I’ve read that if you turn off your auto lighting optimizer that may help. I’ll give it a try. Thanks again!

Jackie Davis February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I bought the Yongnuo rf-602 trigger at amazon fir 30.00 a set. I love them. I have had them for 8 months, haven’t failed me yet.

Reply

Erin February 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

I’m glad to hear that! It’s nice that we have options other than Pocket Wizards.

Reply

Tina February 11, 2012 at 12:05 am

Thank you for this article! I purchased the 7D a couple of months ago and was torn between the 7D and 5D II. Sounds like I did ok saving my extra money that I’ll put towards a new lens.

Reply

caren February 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I so appreciated this review. I’m thinking of upgrading from my EOS and the laymen explanation was so helpful. I’m with you on the 7D!

Thanks so much!!

Reply

Joyce February 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Erin,
Thanks so much for this post. I have a 7D and love it but I keep hearing about people wanting to get the 5dmii and I found the same differences you did. The color depth on the 5dmii is supposed to be better than the 7D which I thought was one of it’s main outstanding points. I think I will keep my 7D and get the 25-105mm f/4L lens I’ve been drooling over :)

Reply

Deb February 28, 2012 at 9:44 am

Hi Erin, wasn’t sure where to ask this but figured you could help me. I bought a new “used” Canon 7D after using the Rebel T2i for a couple of years. I can’t believe how loud the shutter is especially compared to my Rebel. More mechanical sounding if that makes sense. Do you find this? Is it something you get used to? How do I know if mine is louder than normal. We don’t have a camera store where I live so I can’t do a comparison. Is this something you’ve heard? Thanks so much for any help or advice you can offer. (perhaps it’s normal and I’m just used to the relative quietness of the rebel shutter click)

Reply

Erin February 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Hi Deb, no, this isn’t something I’ve experienced. Maybe next time you travel to a city with a camera store, you can take it in for a quick comparison.

Reply

Susan February 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Deb, I went from the rebel to the 7D in December. The shutter click in comparison to the rebel is different and louder than my rebel. It has a completely different sound. I think it is something to get used to.

Reply

Deb February 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

thanks so much for letting me know that Susan! It makes me feel better and I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It definitely is different sounding. thanks again, Deb

Reply

Deb February 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I will definitely do that, Erin. Thanks for the quick response! Deb

Reply

Dawn Lenz March 23, 2012 at 6:06 am

Has anyone compared these to the new Nikon D800. I have a Nikon D5000, and fell in love with photos from the Canon EOS 5d ll. I have a friend that uses the Canon 7d. I have yet to visit with him to check it out.

Reply

Ogunsanya adeyemi June 25, 2012 at 2:06 am

I hav been using my 7d i luv it so much

Reply

Jessi August 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

Thanks for this post I was looking into the Mark 5dii now that they are 2,000 and wanted to know at what ISO I would be getting noise. This helped a ton. Thanks!

Reply

Erin August 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

You are welcome, Jessi!

Reply

Pam August 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

So glad I found this article!! I have been researching, talking with the local camera store, etc…trying to figure out which would be best to take fast action, barrel racing/rodeo pics. Of course the store says 5DmII or III, we all know why, $$$ ! But I am thinking the 7D may work better (coming from a T1i) and I have a nice Tamron AF70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Any thoughts would be awesome!!! Thanks again!

Reply

Erin August 26, 2012 at 10:35 am

Hi Pam, I don’t know what the frame per second rate for the 5Dmiii is. That would probably be the primary consideration. After that, it’s going to be ISO capability, since you’ll be in lowish light situations. If fps between the two is about the same, I don’t think the 7D would be a bad choice at all, plus the crop factor will be nice in rodeos. But the ISO capability on the miii might be handy as well.

Reply

Kelly September 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

I have been torn between the 7D and the 5D Mkii, or even a used Mk iii. If I were a single man without a family, which I’m not, then I would wait and find a good deal on the mk iii, or the mk ii. If you are shooting fast action Rodeo shots, then the 7D will be better because it’s super fast auto focusing, and some of the ergonomics of the buttons are better…i.e some people have had issues with accidentally turning the camera off when they bring it up for a shot. But as far as noise and ISO is concerned, I mostly shoot in naturally light outdoors, and if you are doing studio shots then you ought to be shooting with a very low ISO anyways and properly light your area, so noise should not be an issue. Night shots on the other hand, or every day use, a higher iso is going to be needed, in which case those are probably photos that you aren’t going to be show casing to a lot of people and the level of noise isn’t going to be noticeable for web use etc. However…if you are new to the camera world then starting with a crop frame sensor is probably going to be ideal for you. It really is less about the equipment, and more about whose behind that lens that makes truly great photographs. Everything I have read and seen about the 7D is an improvement over the mk ii, minus image quality. The laws of physics simply don’t allow us to have it all! If you’ve got the extra 500 bucks to spend on a full frame then I believe that you will learn to use it, and use it well, and the auto focusing system etc. etc. is something that you will just get used to and learn to use to make great photos. But don’t be fooled, cameras are tools, and just because a tool is more expensive and powerful doesn’t mean it’s right for the job…be honest with yourself about what you are going to be using the camera most for, and then get the camera that’s going to do well in those situations. In all honesty this is advice that I am struggling to take myself :)

Reply

Bianca September 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hi Everyone,

I am so glad I found this. I am so focused on getting the 5D Mark II, currently shooting with a Rebel T2i, I am also building my portfolio and trying to upgrade to a better camera very soon, as I am hoping since it’s not so easy as a stay-at-home mom financially right now.

So, now I am a bit torn after reading this… picture quality wise I really prefer the 5D Mark II and being better for low light circumstances. What external flash would you recommend to get in an affordable price range since it has no inbuilt flash?

Thanks in advance,

Bianca

Reply

Erin September 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Bianca, I like the Canon speedlites. But it depends on what you need out of your flash.

Reply

Tracy September 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I have been researching and researching which camera to upgrade to …. Just googled again “7d vs 5d” and when I saw your link come up I literally thought “whoo hoo, a source I trust!!!”

But, still not sure which to buy and was wondering, if after shooting with both, you could tell me which way to go … I am building my portfolio for a photography business photographing newborns, children and families mostly. Would also love to add seniors to my repertoire. I will also use the camera though for my kids sporting events. There’s pros and cons to each. I was excited about the 19 focus points as I think I’ve gotten sharper focus by toggling focus points vs focusing and recomposing. So, the fact that people voice issues over the 5dii’s focusing is a big concern . . . But then I’ve read that full frame is just outstanding.

I’ve over thought this and over researched it and now I’m more confused. Anyway, have loved your blog and would totally trust your opinion. Thanks!!!

Reply

Erin September 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Tracy, it’s a tough call. Luckily, whichever decision you make will be right – you have two very good choices. I can’t say anything about the markiii’s focusing. Maybe the markII would be the way to go?

Reply

Kimberly September 22, 2012 at 3:28 am

I love how you show the comparison of the two images using the 50 mm lens. Now I understand the differences in full frame vs non full frame. I want a good camera equivalent to my 35mm camera but I always keep my cameras on AUTO.

I guess that with the Mark ii I would not need a wide angle lens???

Reply

Erin September 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

With the MarkII, you would need as wide a lens. It would be whatever it says it is. On a crop, the lens is less wide that it says it is.

Reply

Roy November 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Hi Erin,

I’ve been following your blog for a while.

I am in the process of buying my first DSLR. I am between the Canon 5D Mark ii and the 7D.

I’ve been postponing this for a while waiting for Canon to upgrade the 7D. I’m afraid I will buy it and shortly after Canon will come out with the upgrade (Rumors flying around about Feb 2013).

I love the idea of working with a FF body, but it seems the 5D Mark ii tech stack might not be worth the extra money at this juncture, while the price for the 5D Mark III seams set rather capriciously.

I don’t do sports photography, and mostly work with landscape, portrait and documentary film, therefore video recording is important as well.

I’ll be going to work abroad for 2 months and need to pick my gear in the next two weeks.

Could you please share your thoughts? I will certainly appreciate any advice you’d like to share.

Thanks!

Roy

Reply

Acy November 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm

A big noise problem could be that your ISO is not set to “native” settings. A native ISO is 160 or anything that is a multiple of it; 160, 320, 640, etc. This is the case for video at least, not sure about stills.
Your camera can change the ISO increments to 1/3 if you can’t find your native ISO settings.

Example of this would be if you shot something at 400 ISO. In theory, you would see MORE noise than shooting in 3200.

Reply

Miguel November 30, 2012 at 12:20 am

I just sold my 7d with17-55 f2.8 and 10-20 and got the 5d mk2 with 24-105 f4L and 70-200 2.8L II. I can tell you guys, of you are worried about IQ, go for the senior 5D mk2 or even the old 5d mk1. Much better colors, noise, etc… For me the FPS and AF has not been a problem at so far. Even I took some shoots in a air show at the camera did it great. However I must admit there is something that makes me still miss the 7d I think is the ergonomics or the newer buttons…

Reply

Eric December 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Hey, is the 5D Mark II just as quick to focus as the 7D, with both using the center square for focusing? I’ve got a 7D and am considering the 5D Mark II or even the new 6D. Focus quickness and accuracy are my main concerns switching. What do you think? Thanks.

Reply

Erin December 27, 2012 at 11:05 am

Eric, if you use the center focal point, it will be as much about the lens as the camera.

Reply

Peter September 22, 2013 at 7:13 pm

As far as sound is concerned – I heard that one of them contains a mic input option. Is this true? What types of external mics can be accepted if so? Is there an XLR adapter, etc?

Reply

Erin Peloquin September 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Peter, your best source of info on this is going to be Canon. Their website should have all this info. I’m not into video so I wouldn’t be able to give you a thorough answer.

Reply

Jun October 26, 2013 at 10:11 pm

The information provided here is very helpful. I am still using Rebel xti now. I am thinking to upgrade camera and being torn between 5Dii and 7D. Thank you Erin and all others.

Reply

Jun October 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I don’t like heavy weight camera, especially for travel. Is any one knows the weight difference between 5Dii or iii and 7D?

Reply

Kelly October 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm

If you don’t like heavy cameras then opt for a mirror less. Sony a7 is a good choice, or the fujifilm xe2.

Reply

Erin August 30, 2012 at 10:13 am

I think that Auto Lighting Optimizer is just an ISO boost anyway. But that would certainly create more noise than you expected if you thought the ISO was less.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: