I am a bit of a gear nerd, so just know ahead of time that today’s post is going to be pretty technical and nerdy. But hang with me, and hopefully it’ll give you a little bit of a better understanding of the differences between the three camera bodies that we’ve used over the past 6 years.
We started out with the Canon Rebel XTi. A 10 MP crop sensor DSLR, this was a great camera to start out with and learn on. It did everything that we needed it to…we could control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO fairly easily, and it used a CF card (which generally have faster read/write speeds compared to SD cards).
We’ve come a long way from where we started, and we’ve upgraded our camera bodies along the way. We wanted to upgrade from the crop sensor XTi to a full-frame camera for a long time, but waited until we could afford it. We didn’t want to build our business on credit card debt, but make smart business decisions and pay for upgrades as we had money in the bank set aside to do so.
Upgrading from the XTi to the 5D Mark II was a huge step up in image quality. The improvements that made the biggest difference to us were the sensor size, ISO performance, the quality of the color rendering, auto white balance, and autofocus. The 5D Mark II has a full frame (24mm x 36mm) sensor, which affects a number of things, including expanding the dynamic range and improving ISO performance. With the XTi, I didn’t really like to use an ISO setting higher than 800, and even at 800, there was a good bit of noticeable noise. The 5D Mark II dealt with noise at higher ISO’s so much better that I don’t mind using it at 1600. 3200 gets a little bit noisy though, so I try not to go that high unless I have to, and 6400 is definitely too noisy for me. The image color quality in the 5D Mark II is also much better (with more vibrant and true to life colors), and the auto white balance has proven to be an improvement as well. We don’t use auto white balance in every situation, but when we do use it, it’s good to know that it will at least get us close to where we want to be. Although the 5D Mark II still only has one cross-type focus point (the center point), it does a good job of focusing. You do have to be careful when focusing with that center point and recomposing though, especially when shooting with a wide apertures, because it can shift the focal plane and cause your image to be out of focus. Overall, the upgrade to the 5D Mark II was an incredibly large improvement over the XTi, and was an important step in improving the quality of our images.
A few of the things that the Mark II left us still wanting though, were a more expansive autofocus system, dual card slots, and a toggle button on the battery grip. The most important of these being the autofocus system. Before the 5D Mark II was announced, I had hoped that it would at least have the improved autofocus system of the 7D, because having multiple accurate, cross-type focus points would make it so that we wouldn’t have to focus and recompose as much. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. With the 5D Mark III however, Canon upgraded the autofocus from the 9-point system (with 1 cross-type point) of the Mark II, to a new 61-point system with 41 cross-type autofocus points! So not only do the autofocus points cover more area now, but they are also more accurate. Now we can confidently select a point that is over, or at least near, the spot that we want to focus on, instead of using the center point and then recomposing. This is a huge improvement! We also love the fact that we can now have the camera write to two cards simultaneously, so that if one of our cards ever ends up being corrupted, we’ll have the second card as a backup. Also, the addition of a toggle button on the back of the battery grip for the 5D Mark III, which we can use to select a focus point while shooting vertically, is a nice little feature as well, putting the icing on an already fantastic cake. If you have a photography question, whether gear related or otherwise, feel free to leave it in the comments section and we’d love to answer it!