Review Context & Intent
Bench-testing serves a purpose, the lab gives us some great data that takes a lot of the guesswork and subjectivity out of the process of comparing camera performance. Actually shooting with the equipment, however, gives a much different perspective on the comparisons.
This is the first installment of the Fashion/Portrait Shootout series, and we’re looking at the mid-range Canon DSLRs: The EOS 5D Mark II, the new EOS 7D, and the popular EOS 50D. We used three identical lenses – the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM for the shoot. We were trying to simulate a shoot for either a fashion or a portrait/wedding assignment, or some cross between the two and did some tight head shots and some figure shots with strobes at ISO 200, and some head shots with tungsten at ISO 800- both conditions a portrait or a fashion photographer would face. Keeping all the camera settings identical and the shooting conditions the same, it’s a really interesting real-world comparison of three cameras from a single manufacturer with a fairly broad price and specification range. On the theory that a photographer is looking within a brand, it’s a very practical way to see what you’re getting for the additional money.
We’re going to stay away from discussing handling issues in too much depth in this article, frankly because we felt it wasn’t particularly fair. We’re moving fast from one camera to another, from brand to brand, and the fact that it may be difficult to switch gears from one to another platform is not really the camera’s problem.
A bit about shooting for fashion and for portraits- they are very similar in process and result, the one notable difference being that often a fashion shoot has a significantly larger budget. The use of stylists, wardrobe and production isn’t something that is unheard of shooting portraits, but it’s a lot less likely in your average shoot. Most fashion shoots that will end up in publications certainly have that kind of money to spend, and often enough for an entire production crew as well as some pretty pricey camera gear. For that scale of production, you’re often seeing shots that will reproduce at poster, or even billboard dimensions, something that a typical portrait photographer just doesn’t need to do.
One of the things we’re really interested in seeing is the relative image quality when the files are sized for a standard 8x10 print. This, in our experience, has been a fascinating comparison- taking cameras with different file sizes and sizing them down to a common denominator. Very often images that seem just fine viewed individually start to have an almost indescribable quality of richness (or lack of richness) when compared to files from lesser sensors. It’s something you can only appreciate when you look at the shots side-by-side, and we’re looking forward to seeing that.
Finally, this shootout is about either making the choice between models within a brand for you first purchase, an upgrade purchase or a purchase involving duplicate camera models. Maybe you’ve decided you want Canon, but can’t decide which model would suit you best. Maybe you’ve got an older model, want to upgrade with a newer camera and hold on to your old camera as a backup- or the reverse- you’ve got a nice big new 5D MII and think it’s time for a 50D as a backup. Or, you simply like to buy two bodies at the same time so you have identical backup. This shootout is to help you see what these cameras will give you where it counts- on the shoot.
The Matchup: EOS 5D Mark II vs. EOS 7D vs. EOS 50D
This lineup starts at a very powerful, and very affordable price point- the 50D at an MSRP of $1200. It’s a respectable sensor, at 15mp, and has a great array of features. The 50D certainly could be considered a backup camera for almost any application, and even a primary camera for a majority of assignments.
The new Canon 7D hits the streets at $1700 for an 18mp sensor, killer features and very sophisticated autofocus and exposure systems. The 7D kicks into a higher level of shooting speed with an 8fps capability, compared to the 4 of the 5D MII and 6 of the 50D, and it has a burst rate to match, at 94.
The 5D MII in many ways set the bar for what we look for in a current DSLR. At a sensor size of 21mp and a full-frame 35mm, HD video and at a relatively cheap $2700, when it first hit the streets it made a lot of people second-guess their camera choices. It still stands out as a workhorse camera, with a huge, high-quality file, astounding high-ISO performance and sophisticated metering and autofocus systems.