As a Cambridge-based filmmaker, photographer and DSLR video-shooter myself, I was was asked recently on several occasions what camera to choose as an upgrade from i.e. 5D Mark II or 7D or wether to buy a newly released Canon 6D and not 5D Mark III. In this article there are direct comparisons between all these cameras and personally I think its all down to how much you are willing to invest, what you're after, your style, results you wish to achieve and obviously personal preference. I used to own full Nikon kit until few years ago when I had to move to Canon due to Nikon's lack of video capabilities.
Most recently I've had a Canon 5D Mark II and have decided to upgrade to Mk3 and boy, what a difference it made! Canon, like Nikon have had a busy year with regards to their full frame camera releases. They unveiled quite possibly the most anticipated release of 2012 in the 5D Mark 3 and most recent release their answer to the D600 is the 6D.
The 7D is the oldest camera in this article and the only one of the three with a crop sensor. There is the obvious extra reach advantage to this sensor, especially for sports and wildlife shooters but obviously this comes with the price of noise at higher ISO.
Both the 6D and 5D Mark III benefit from newer full frame CMOS chip, although it has to be noted that the 6D is not quite a full frame sensor (35.8x23.9mm vs. 36x24mm on the 5D3) being almost identical to that found on the original 5D.
The only way that the sensor will influence your decision to purchase is whether you want the extra reach offered by the 7D or the lower noise at higher ISO and shallow depth of field offered by both of the full frame options. The pixel count difference is negligible with all 3 cameras offering plenty of megapixels, although it has to be said they are still quite a way behind the megapixel monster that is the Nikon D800.
It will come as no surprise that the 7D is the worst performer here at high ISO. Noise is one of the major drawbacks of APS-C. That said, it does hold up well with other cameras in its class such as the D300. You can get away up to ISO 800 and will hold up above that, especially with a little extra post processing of the image.
Both the 5D Mark III and the 6D deliver amazing high quality images at higher ISO. They deliver a huge jump in noise for those coming from a crop sensor cameras.
High ISO from the 6D is very good. It is almost identical to that of its biggest competitor, the Nikon D600.The 5D Mark III delivers exceptional high ISO images. Almost a stop better than the 5D Mark II. Even going as far as ISO 6400 it will usable and above that is equal to the best in class. This means for those who shoot in low light situations like myself as a documentary filmmaker and someone who prefers to use natural light, it will deliver consistently outstanding results.
The 7D setup has a very good system. The 19 cross type focus points track well and it works good in lower light conditions. There are several options within the camera that, along with the maximum 8fps make the 7D a perfect choice for sport shooters on a budget, or those who are simply looking for a reliable backup to their 1D range camera.
The newly released 6D autofocus works well in incredibly low light conditions and therefore instantly makes it a step up for owners of the 5D Mark II. The 11 point system will work perfectly well for those who shoot portraits or tend to do studio work. The ability to focus well in low light conditions make it a good choice for wedding photographers. It still is slightly disappointing when compared to the D600, but it is a great camera as long as you are happy with the limitation it comes with.
Finally the Canon 5D Mark III autofocus system is simply outstanding. The autofocus system on my previous 5Dmk2 was really disappointing so it is great that Canon has finally decided to do something about it. When I owned Nikon kit, focusing system is something I was wowed by and then disappointed once I moved to Mk2. Thankfully, the 5D Mark III addresses all the issues from the Mark 2 and adds much, A LOT more.
The camera has a new autofocus system similar to the one found in the 1DX. It has 41 cross type focus points available when using lenses that are f4 or faster and if you have f2.8 glass then you also benefit from 5 double cross type sensors. The only small thing to criticise is that the cross type points can only be used with lenses f5.6 or brighter.
It also works amazingly well in low light conditions that the 5D Mark II would have not been able to cope with. This will come as a great relief to those who have had problems and were disappointed with the 5D Mark II autofocus system.
One thing worth to note is that 6D has only 97% viewfinder coverage which if you've used Canon Mk2 you will likely notice a difference or that it will affect your use of camera.
The 7D is the only model here with a built in flash as Canon prefer not to have a built in flash in their full frame models. The thing is, although a built in flash will rarely lead to an amazing image, sometimes can be helpful.
Talking of flash, the sync speed on both the 5D3 and 6D are not good, especially the 1/160th on the 6D. This is a nightmare to strobist style shooters and enough to put many off. Why not move to the 1/250th offered by the 7D or at least keep up with those offered by the current equivalent Nikons?
Max fps are good for both the 5D3 and 7D which will keep sports photographers happy. The 6D has a maximum speed of 4.5fps, which is slightly faster than the 5D Mark II but still limiting for its use for things such as wildlife, still fast enough for almost all other situations though.
The 5D Mark III and the 6D also feature Canon’s silent shutter mode which offers quite, discreet shooting. Something that is very nice to have in certain situations.
As many of us know already, Canon has a good reputation for video. The 5D Mark II was the camera that launched a thousand film makers and they have heavily invested in the C300 for film makers. The 5D Mark III continues in the tradition of outstanding video quality from a DSLR. The main issue about the new 5D Mark III is that there is no clean HDMI output, which is really annoying. There are few changes to video, obviously the cleaner image at high ISO is welcomed and the inclusion of a headphone jack is nice. Basically though, it is made up of small improvements over the video on the 5D Mark II.
The 6D has identical video modes as the 5D Mark III and will be bought in large numbers by those who are purely using their DSLR for video. Important thing to take a note is that it does not have the headphone jack or audio input found on the 5D Mark III - the way around this is to record your sound separately using i.e. Zoom H4n.
The main advantage of both cameras comparing them to 7D is much much better video performance in low light.
For a camera that is aimed at sports and wildlife photographers it seems strange that the 7D does not feature weather sealing on the camera. Make sure that if you are planning to use it in less favourable conditions you use a camera cover.
(CORRECTION 8/12/2012 @ 21:43 - confirmed by a photographer Roger M Richards, 7D is weather sealed even more than the 5D MK 2. Canon redesigned the 5D MK 3 to the same specs as the 7D. The flash port on the 7D has gaskets to keep moisture and dust out - thanks Rog).
The lack of USB 3.0 in the newer models shown here is something of an oversight by Canon. Everything else is pretty much standard apart from on the 6D.
The 6D has the inclusion of WiFi and GPS built into the body. This is a first for Canon and a feature that will interest many, especially as with the addition of your smartphone you can have full remote control over the camera including live view.
When it comes to weight of all these cameras, 6D is the lightest edition on the market. This can be very beneficial if you are planning on rigging the camera, using i.e. 24-105 f4, same setup on 5Dmk3 will add 500g extra. For me, this is not an issue but for some it might, I'd rather have a camera that performs extremely well and handles great than worry about weight 🙂
Hopefully what you have read above and have seen some direct comparisons between all these cameras, the question now is really which camera to invest into?
Don't get me wrong, I think 7D is a great camera for wildlife or sports photographers on a budget and it offers a great image quality, as well as good autofocus system. It is a good upgrade from models lower down the Canon range. You will also benefit from the extra reach that the 1.6 crop offers as well as the benefit that it will take any EF-S lenses you may already have in your collection. The only downside to the 7D in this test is it cannot compete in terms of high ISO with the other two cameras on this comparison which of course I knew before putting this together but was good to see the differences I hope you'll agree.
The newly released Canon 6D is aimed at those who want to make the jump to full frame and at the same time save money. The image quality is very good and it competes in most respects with the Nikon D600 although the D600 does benefit from a slightly better autofocus system and a higher fps burst rate.
It would be simple to say that it is the 5D Mark II replacement. Well it is aiming for the market that was dominated by that camera and it does it well, even beating out the 5D Mark II in some respects. The addition of built in GPS and Wi-Fi is a first for Canon and the remote control via Smartphone feature is certainly a very nice addition. Also if weight is an issue then it is the lightest full frame DSLR currently available.
The 5D Mark III is a great camera. It outperforms the 5D Mark II in every area but unfortunately this also includes price. It is very much a worthwhile upgrade from the Mark 2 simply on the new autofocus system alone. Add to this higher fps and a stop advantage in high ISO images and it is a simple decision. To put it simply the 5D Mark III is a stunning camera. If you are a Canon shooter and can afford it, this is the camera you should buy.
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