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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!

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