To paraphrase a famous quote…
HOW many emails have I had asking me this? Oh and I will be referring to the 5dmkII as the 5d throughout this article as you all know what I am talking about!
I have had the 5d since late April/ Early May and I have had the pre-production model of the 7d for about 3 weeks now.
Which one do I prefer? That is one tough question.
First off…what is it the is the biggest frustration with the 5d, not taking into account form factor, sound, rolling shutter etc? For me it’s 30p. Why? Aesthetics? Partly…mainly for broadcast work in the UK I need 25p. Yes I prefer the look of 24p and 25p but 30p isn’t horrible. It certainly isn’t interlaced! Now THAT is horrible!
OK so let’s go through what I believe are the plusses and minuses of the two cameras (ignoring the number of plusses the 7d has in stills mode like more FPS, better weatherproofing and a handy built in flash etc). What you need to do is take a piece of paper write 5d on one side and 7d on the other, make a list of these points below and put it which is more important then tick 5d or 7d. You following?
Also do not forget this is based on a pre-production 7d.
Full Frame: 5d YES
7d NO (cropped APS-C sensor 1.6x)
Frame rates: 5d 30p (but dead on 30p not 29.97 which is not much use!)
7d 24p (23.98) , 25p, 30p (29.97), 720 50p and 60p
Cleaner image: 5d. The 7d is a bit noisier, not enormously but noticeably in all ISOs.
Low light 5d just, mainly because it has less noise
Shallow DOF: 5d has more shallow DOF due it’s full frame sensor
Slow Motion: 7d can give you perfect slow motion by recording in 50p or 60p and changing the metadata to 24, 25 or 30p in post.
LCD: 7d, it’s slightly less reflective and brighter
Monitor Output 7d as it doesn’t go all 480p squished on our a** when we hit record like the 5d does!
Rolling Shutter 7d seems marginally improved, what this is down to I have no idea, but it seems a bit improved although still VERY present
Both have full manual control, both operate in much the same way although the 7d has a dedicated record button now. Not a big deal but a nice touch.
I like the remapping ability of the 7d’s buttons, useful for Nikon heads like me to put the iris up front.
Now the 5d is unique in the video world. It can record video in full HD with a full frame still camera size 35mm sensor. Not a movie 35mm sensor. Much bigger. This is unique. No other video camera can do this. There is a Scarlet in the works that is full frame but that has yet to come out. This makes the 5d VERY desirable. It gives a unique image that is punchy, superb in low light and is capable of achieving, with the right lens, an insanely shallow DOF for you insanely shallow DOF lovers out there!!
It also means all those lovely full frame lenses you have can be used to their fullest. Not just the wonderful Canon L series lenses which I have been buying avidly but my Nikon collection, especially my Zeiss lenses which fit with a simple adaptor and are generally cheaper than the Canon glass. Now there is no autofocus with these for when you take stills which is a shame as it’s lovely in stills mode but there is no autofocus in video mode, nor should there be. Autofocus in video in not a professional tool. When shooting video, everything should be manual!
Now when you use these wonderful lenses on the 7d what happens? Well the sensor size is very different. Take a look at the diagram below to see the difference.
Now the sensor in the 7d is the APS-C sensor. Now first off, yes it is smaller than full frame BUT it is almost exactly the same (just a wee bit smaller) as the sensor in the RED one and Super 35mm movie cameras as you can see below.
What does this mean to you when buying lenses? Well if you have loads of L series and full frame lenses like me is to work out what you are effectively /equivalent getting in 35mm still terms times the focal length by 1.6x. Why? Because to make the size of the APS-C sensor the same as the full frame sensor you need to multiply it by 1.6. So when doing this to a lens like my 50mm f1.2 it becomes more like an 80mm. It still is a 50mm, that hasn’t changed but it’s focal length is effectively magnified by 1.6x due to the image projected onto the 7d sensor being much bigger than the sensor can handle hence only the central part of it is captured effectively make the focal length longer. Look at the first diagram above. The grey area of it is the APS-C sensor, the white bit is what you are losing when you stick on a full frame lens. Hopefully that makes sense! Of course this works both ways, suddenly you have longer lenses. I shot on a 400mm lens with 2x extender and it was crazy long on the 7d, although unusable as the rolling shutter issues ruined the image. But you can make your 50mm f1.2 almost an 85mf1.2 which costs an arm and a leg!
So all your lovely wide lenses are no longer that wide. So your awesome Canon L series EF 16-35mm f2.8 constant aperture becomes effectively a 25.6-56mm f2.8 instead. Still a nice range, but not really wide. So if you want wide for the 7d you really have to buy the Canon EF-S series of lenses which are optimised for the cropped sensor cameras like the 7d. Or you can buy third party lenses like I have. I bought a Sigma 10mm f2.8 fisheye, effectively a 16mm fisheye and I bought a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 constant aperture zoom lens. Effectively a 17.6-25.6mm lens, not a huge range but a very useful wide and very affordable. Mine cost me $600 and the quality is very good.
NOW, the problem is, if you start buying EF-S style lenses you are pretty much stuck with using them on a cropped sensor camera. Below is the Tokina 11-16mm on my 5d. The lens is set to 11mm.
You get this awful vignette so if you move to a full frame camera, it is next to useless. Now if you zoom into 16mm it fills the frame but then you are losing the wide end and are stuck with what is effectively a prime lens.
So be aware of this. My advice? Buy EF lenses for the most part and maybe just one EF-S style lens unless you are CERTAIN you will NEVER move to a full frame DSLR!!
The great thing about the APS-C sensor though is as it is close to 35mm movie sensor size, with some mods to the camera you can use cinema lenses. A HUGE bonus if you are a filmmaker. Check out 24 DP Rod Charter’s 7d with a f*** off Panavision Primo Zoom on it!
Ok, so let’s go through these plusses and minuses again.
30p…Can you live with it? Is it so bad? Well this commercial below I shot for Greenpeace is all 30p. See what you think…
Low light, yes it’s noisier on the 7d but compared to video cameras it’s cleaner than a new pair of knickers from the store still all shrink wrapped! 24p and 25p native? VERY important to many, me too, especially for my broadcast work. Can you convert 30p to 24p . Yes but it doesn’t look as good. Below are two films. One shot on the 5d at night at 30p and converted to 24p in post and the other shot native on the 7d in 24p.
Music is performed by Stacey Kent: You can’t take that away from me.
Converted to 24p JES De-Interlacer
Music is by Thin Lizzy: Whiskey in the Jar
Now a big plus for me is the 7d’s 50p/60p mode. I hate the look of it natively, almost like interlaced but I love what happens when you change the metadata in something like cinema tools to make it play at 24 or 25p. This effectively gives you in camera slow motion. A MAJOR PLUS and something I have missed a lot on my 5d.
Filmed on a prototype Canon 7d in 720p 50p mode then converted to 25p using cinema tools to get overcrank.
Music is by Chris Montez
Shot with 50mm f1.2. and 24mm f1.4
So there are some examples of stuff shot with both cameras. What do I prefer you ask?
Easy. I prefer the image from the 5d, I prefer the stills from the 5d, I prefer the full frame of the 5d but I prefer the frame rates, 24, 25p and the “slow motion” of 50p and 60p. I also prefer the marginal less noise of the 5d.
Rolling shutter issues have been improved over the 5d but are still very present as you will see on the comparison video at the bottom. Also in this video shot on the 7d when I whip between people you can see it. Easy solution to that. Don’t whip pan!
I own two 5ds and I have a 7d on order with The Flash Centre in London and should get it any day now. What will I use on paid jobs? Mostly the 7d due to the frame rates. Native 24p and 25p looks so much better than converted 24 and 25p from the 5d. But the image is nicer from the 5d! Confusing isn’t it.
OK, so you need the frame rates. Do you sell your 5d? Up to you! But what happens if Canon bring out firmware for the 5d that brings these frame rates to the 5d? Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not! I haven’t a clue. I hope so. I know it has been BETA tested and have heard all sorts of rumours, but they are just that. Rumours.
So should you wait? Do you need to earn money now? Do you need to shoot now? If the answer is yes then buy the one that has more ticks in the box (you did remember to do that didn’t you?)
Yes there will always be something better coming out in the future. The 1dmkIV is rumoured to have all the features of the 7d and more with a full frame sensor albeit with less megapixels. Nikon are way overdue with bringing their killer DSLR to the market. It certainly wasn’t the D300s, will it be the D700s/x? No idea. It could be! But we won’t know until it comes out. Then there is the Scarlet when that comes out but that will be more expensive. What about the GH1? I love my GH1 but i HATE the weak codec. Please bring it up to 24 mbps Panasonic! Then it will be a contender!!
Until then, it’s up to you what you want to buy. I cannot recommend one over the other. Only you can decide what is more important for you!
Will I be selling my 5ds? No way. Am I excited about getting my 7d! You betcha!! Is that helpful? Probably not! If I had to choose…if i REALLY had to chose? Right now…with the firmware as it is, with most of work needing to be 24 or 25p then I would have to say the 7d. But I am holding out hope for my 5ds as I bloody adore that image and 30p is still very usable for me.
There are a couple more options to consider. First off the price difference. In the US it is $1000 less to get a 7d, in the UK the difference is quite small. Just £200!!
Also the excellent Magic Lantern hack that gives huge number of extra features like making sound recording on the 5d possible is only working on the 5d…for now!!
UPDATE 1st October 2009
My opinion has changed. I prefer the 7d for one very simple reason. I HATE the 30p of the 5d. Not the look but the actual frame rate. It is TRUE and EXACTLY 30p. Not 29.97 like every other video camera that shoots 30p. I am trying to edit together a massive training DVD on the 7d shot using 2 5dmkII and one EX1. All the audio is on the ex1 and neither PLURALEYES or FCP Multicam is having any of it. My only option is to either convert ALL the EX1 footage to exactly 30p using compressor or ALL the 5dmkII stuff to exactly 29.97. I tried to do this and it has been going for a day and it has barely scratched the surface. So for this reason I say 7d because the 7d has proper 30p, that is 29.97. Not the 30p that is compatible with nothing but the 5dmkII! Canon obviously realised this and gave the 7d the right frame rate(s)
Of course if you never plan to intercut 5d with anything else then don’t worry. The 5d still has a better image!!
This is a heavily compressed version so the noise won’t show up but the rolling shutter shows clearly. But click on view on Exposure room and click on download original to see noise comparison. Again this is just a prototype 7d