Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – Upgrade or not

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is probably the best overall Canon DSLR after factoring value for money. However, there will be those who may argue that this crown should go to the Canon EOS 7D. There is much to say about this and so considering those who are already owners of a Canon EOS 7D, we consider whether it’s worth upgrading to the new Canon 5D Mark III. Let’s start off with looking at the specs…

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – Specifications Comparison

Canon EOS 5D Mark IIICanon EOS 7D
Sensor TypeFull Frame CMOS sensorAPS-C CMOS sensor
Sensor Size36 x 24mm22.3 x 14.9mm
Sensor Resolution22.3 megapixels18.0 megapixels
ProcessorDIGIC5+Dual “Digic 4”
LCD3.2-inch Clear View II TFT with 1040k dots3-inch (920k dots) Clear View II LCD
Live View
Viewfinder TypePentaprismPentaprism
Viewfinder CoverageApprox. 100%Approx. 100%
Viewfinder MagnificationApprox. 0.71xApprox. 1.0x
HD Movie1920×1080 (30, 25, 24fps), 1280×720 (60, 50fps)1920×1080 (30, 25, 24fps), 1280×720 (60, 50fps)
Movie Mode AFXX
Max. Continuous Burst Speed6fps (upto 16270 JPEG / 18 RAW)8fps (126JPEG / 15RAW)
AF System61 Point / 41 f/4 cross-type AF points incl 5 dual cross type at f/2.819-point cross type AF System
Built-in Image StabilisationXX
Image Sensitivity (ISO)100 – 25600 (Expanded 50 to 102400)AUTO(100-3200), 100-6400 (Expandable to 12800)
Shutter Speed Range30-1/8000 sec (1/3 stop increments), Bulb30-1/8000 sec, Bulb
Built-in FlashX
Memory Card Slot(s)1x CF Card (UDMA compatible), 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC card1x CF Card (Microdrive/UDMA compatible)
Weight (Body only, incl. battery & memory card)Approx. 950gApprox. 820g
Dimensions (W x H x D)152 x 116.4 x 76.4 mm148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm

The first thing that differentiates the two cameras is their sensor size. With the Canon EOS 7D having an APS-C sized sensor while the 5D Mark III offering full frame shooting, we set off with a fundamental difference. However, we’ll cover more about this later. Other big differences of course include the new 61-point AF system of the Canon 5D III against the 19-point AF system of the 7D. Image sensitivity is almost incomparable with the 5D3 a full 3-stop higher at extended settings. Of course, the Canon EOS 7D is not all bad with a faster continuous burst speed of 8fps, but that’s to be expected with an APS-C sized body. They are both similar at least on paper for movie capture with both offering Full HD recording. However, it’s obvious that comparing stats are not really doing the Canon 7D any favors but is it enough of a reason to upgrade?

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – Full Frame requires EF lenses…

The first question that you have to ask yourself if you are considering upgrading to a Canon EOS 5D is whether you need full frame. While full frame sensors should give you better image quality against a smaller APS-C sensor as well as better bokeh and shallow depth of field, there are other things to consider beyond the price of the upgrade. Going full frame has more bearings than just the difference in your camera body but also that of the lenses you currently own. If your lenses are all EF-S lenses than you can look forward to selling the lot in exchange for some EF lenses because EF-S lenses just won’t work with full frame bodies.

Of course, you may already have some EF lenses which is compatible with both types of bodies… however, do keep in mind that full frame lenses are likely more expensive than digital lenses, especially the better quality ones. Let’s face it, lenses are more important than body in most cases so if you are upgrading the camera body but not getting equal or better lenses than it’s not worth it to upgrade. Also important to remember that the APS-C sensor gives you a longer reach thanks to the crop factor. So if you are into serious telephoto shooting, sticking with the 7D may not be a bad idea.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – A Question of Speed?

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the question of speed for the sports photographer. Ok, the Canon EOS 7D is faster by 2fps and that will mean a lot in good lighting conditions such as outdoor sports on a sunny day. However, take away the good weather or start shooting indoors and you may find that you may want better image sensitivity and noise control. These factors are both there the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are much, much better. So it’s definitely worth the upgrade if you need to do much indoor sports photography or any photography that requires good low light handling.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – Handling and Performance

The key point to whether a camera is great also heavily rest with its handling. Good image quality from an awkward camera is not likely to give you many keepers. Both the 7D and the 5D3 are similar in size with the 5D Mark III heavier by about 130g. While this will not impact the handling too much, it’s worth noting. There is also the built-in flash only available for the 7D but I doubt this would be a major issue for anyone seriously contemplating an upgrade. Most of you would much prefer the use of an external flash to control and bounce light for better results.

Most significant though is likely to be the amazing AF system found in the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. That 61-point AF system really rocks and the better exposure metering also tells in both responsiveness and final image quality. Both have the transmissive LCD that you can make use of equally but again the viewfinder of the EOS 5D Mark III trumps that of the EOS 7D by being more easy on the eye with a better magnification. The 5D Mk. III also offers dual memory card slots for both CF and SD type cards which is something which I personally deem a must for my shooting. It’s great to see this on the Canon 5D Mark III but with only a single slot for the Canon 7D, those sticking with it may even envy the Nikon D7000 users…

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 7D – My Conclusion

Is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III something you should upgrade to? I have to say if you look at the improvements that it will give. However, I have to temper that with whether you have the right lens collection for this move. If not, be prepared for a significant investment. Of course, if you are not feeling any economic squeeze, just keep the 7D and buy the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. They complement each other well and allow you to keep the best of both worlds.

You should upgrade from the Canon EOS 7D to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III if :

You are looking for a more responsive camera with better image quality

Better noise handling and low light shooting (especially indoor sports)

You already have some decent full frame lenses that you can use with the 5D Mark III

You don’t mind losing the extra reach that the APS-C crop factor gives you

You can afford the upgrade (sorry boss!)