Canon 7D and the Classic 5D: Part One

I’ve recently added a classic Canon 5D to my camera bag. I wanted to experience a full frame camera but didn’t want to invest much money. The 5D seemed like a great fit.

For this quick test I used a tripod, but no shutter release. I used a Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens for each image. I set each camera to aperture priority, 160 ISO and evaluative metering. I focused on the center flower for each shot. I cropped each of the 5D shots to end up with the same scene in each shot. I did the cropping in Aperture and exported out to 2500px wide. I didn’t adjust the images any further in Aperture. From there I opened each image in Photoshop CS5 and adjusted the canvas down to 1000px x 250px, my final image size here. I saved each image for web at the Very High setting. Obviously this quick test is not perfect. One glaring error was not adjusting for the height of the battery grip on the 5D. I also wasn’t sure what the “fair” way to deal with the image sensor size difference. At any rate, here are my results. All the images seem to lean toward better, sharper images from the 7D. That is with the exception of the wide open first shot. I’m not sure if I had a focus problem, or just bumped the tripod on the 7D shot. I’ve posted my thoughts below the images.

Wide open – f/1.4

7D f/1.4
Canon 7D f/1.4
5D f/1.4
Canon 5D f/1.4


7D f/2.8
Canon 7D f/2.8
5D f/2.8
Canon 5D f/2.8


7D f/5.6
Canon 7D f/5.6
5D f/5.6
Canon 5D f/5.6


7D f/11
Canon 7D f/11
5D f/11
Canon 5D f/11

My observations and thoughts

So what does this all mean? First off, I’m excited to be using a full frame camera. Somehow it just feels right, even if I’m sacrificing a little quality compared to the 7D. The 50mm f/1.4 USM and 28mm f/1.8 USM just seem more effective on a full frame camera. This is obviously completely subjective. I’m expecting to feel the opposite way when using my 70-200mm f4 L IS where I’ll lose considerable reach, not to mention focus speed and frames per second.

As far as the test images here go, I do like the sharpness, and what appears to be greater depth of field from the 7D. At the same time I think the 5D has reproduced the colours more accurately. I’ve included a side by side view from Aperture. The 5D is on the left and the 7D on the right. The 7D has so much more data available and it looks a lot better. Given enough light I have to say that this first test has made me feel pretty good about my Canon 7D purchase nearly 2 years ago. My second test will be some sort of higher ISO / grain / noise test. From what I’ve seen and read, this could be where the old 5D gives the 7D a bit of a scare.

zoomed in aperture

[UPDATE] In hindsight I think I should have composed the cameras to the same view to compensate for the different sensor sizes, rather than cropping afterwords. I think this would have been better for depth of field comparisons since the distance from the subject and the background is an important factor. Also, for those that care, the zoomed in comparison above was between shots taken at f/11.


  1. johnny says:

    …Nice test… Whats your opinion should I get better image quality with a 5dClassic then with my 550D? If so then I go sell my 550D camera and buy a used 5D full frame!!

    Hope to hear from you.

    Kind regards Johnny

    • Chris says:

      Hi Jonny,
      This is still a tough one for me to call. I believe that you have a similar sensor in your 550D as I would have in the 7D so the 550D would probably produce a better image in most cases, especially where lack of light is not an issue. What I’m really enjoying about the 5D is how the full frame sensor handles the noise. For lack of a better word, it just looks creamy, compared to my 7D. I also like getting the most of my wide angle lenses. Unless I need the added zoom, or it’s really dark, I’m defaulting to the 5D now. I’ve decided that I like the full frame so much that I’ll probably sell both cameras and end up with the 5D Mark II or III.

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