5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy

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Ralph Arvesen
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5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
8 months ago

Has anyone used a 7D and 5D III, I would love to hear your experience about auto focus accuracy.

I use the 7D primarily for sports photography and I'm pretty happy with it, but it seems like it could have better auto focus accuracy. I'm considering the 5D III if it is a big improvement over the 7D in this area.

I have firmware 2.0.3, and I have sent the camera into Canon to make sure it's working correctly. The camera is really pretty good, it just seems like the auto focus accuracy could be better.

I have read that people would take several photos with the 7D to make sure one was in focus, and they only take one with the 5D III since they know it will be focused correctly. I'm interested if that experience is pretty common, or a lot of people find the 5D III a little more accurate, but there is not a big difference.

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TGM123
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

I have shot lots and lots of sports with both the 7D and 5D Mark III under a lot of different conditions and my observations are as follows:

1) For how I have them configured for shooting sports (AI servo, center point expansion, full speed burst mode), there is little difference to me in the AF systems. That is, my keeper rate does not seem to be affected by the camera body/AF system.

2) You have to shoot 1000's of shots with the 5D III with each of the AF settings to figure out what works best for you (Case 1, 2, 3...shutter priority or focus priority...tracking sensitivity...etc). The configuration options on the 5D are much, much more intense.

3) The biggest difference to me is high ISO performance, not AF differences.

For me the ISO difference was worth it as I shoot a lot of nighttime sports where I need to be at 6400 ISO and at that ISO there is no comparison. Your needs are likely to be different.

Tom

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Ralph Arvesen
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to TGM123, 8 months ago

This is so useful, thanks Tom. When shooting nighttime sports, how many more stops of ISO do you feel you get with the 5D Mark III over the 7D? I use the 7D at 6400 and the photos are usable but not ideal, what would you say is the equivalent ISO on the 5D Mark III to the 7D at ISO 3200?

If there is enough light, do you still use the 7D, or do you only use it for the 1.6x factor?

ralph

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Calliope
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

We have both cameras and like Tom do not see much difference in the keeper rate as far as AF goes. In low light the 5DIII does get cleaner shots. The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

I would not switch cameras just for AF accuracy if the crop is working for you. If you can keep the 7D, having both bodies is a joy. I often put my 70-300 on the 5D and my 400 on the 7D and that is a great combination for sports, birds and action photos.

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bhollis
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Calliope, 8 months ago

Calliope wrote:

We have both cameras and like Tom do not see much difference in the keeper rate as far as AF goes. In low light the 5DIII does get cleaner shots. The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

I would not switch cameras just for AF accuracy if the crop is working for you. If you can keep the 7D, having both bodies is a joy. I often put my 70-300 on the 5D and my 400 on the 7D and that is a great combination for sports, birds and action photos.

My experience was different.  I get noticeably more consistent and accurate AF with my 5D3 than I did with my 7D, particularly when shooting shallow dof with my 35 f/1.4L and Sigma 85 f/1.4.

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JackM
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different experience
In reply to TGM123, 8 months ago

I think either Tom has a really good 7D, or a bad 5D3, or I had a bad 7D. I did send my 7D in for AF calibration and Canon did find that it was out of spec and they adjusted it. It seemed better after that, but when I got my 5D3 I was literally laughing out loud and pumping my fist at how much better the performance was. And that was on day one using all default AF settings, and case 1. I think the overall impression I got was due to a combination of better AF and better IQ, but at any rate I would strongly recommend the 5D3 over the 7D for AF, if it's within your budget.

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qianp2k
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Calliope, 8 months ago

Calliope wrote:

The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

What CF card you use? With Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF card (only shoot in RAW in slot 1), I consistently can get around 22 RAW files in real usage (despite only around 15-raw buffer on spec) and I found 5D3 buffer writing speed is excellent. Compared to my old 1D3 that can shoot at 10fps with 30-raw but it only supports upto 266x CF card (unable to leverage UDMA card). So in a given time 6fps 5D3 seems doesn't take less photos than 10fps 1D3 because of much faster card writing speed and therefore buffer cleaning is also much faster.

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TGM123
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

Ralph Arvesen wrote:

This is so useful, thanks Tom. When shooting nighttime sports, how many more stops of ISO do you feel you get with the 5D Mark III over the 7D? I use the 7D at 6400 and the photos are usable but not ideal, what would you say is the equivalent ISO on the 5D Mark III to the 7D at ISO 3200?

If there is enough light, do you still use the 7D, or do you only use it for the 1.6x factor?

ralph

Ralph,

I am glad you found my comments useful.

As others pointed out, there are other potential advantages of the 5D III over the 7D but your question was around AF impact.

To your questions:

"When shooting nighttime sports, how many more stops of ISO do you feel you get with the 5D Mark III over the 7D?"

The opinions on the web are all over about this and it seems the consensus is that around three stops is what you will get in noise reduction. I don't feel comfortible saying three stops (others very well might) but I am very comfortable saying 2 stops.

"If there is enough light, do you still use the 7D, or do you only use it for the 1.6x factor?"

The crop factor was a big for me based on what/how I shoot. Now I find myself spending a lot of time zooming with my feet when shooting sports with the 5D III as I lose the crop factor advantage. A wise person on this forum once told me (forget who is was) on this forum, once you go from the 7D to the 5D III you will immediately start lusting after lenses like the 300/2.8 II and 200-400/4 because you will want the extra reach back. I can attest that this is true.

If I knew that I could shoot and keep the ISO below 800 I would preferentially grab the 7D. You are likely to get many other opinions.

Best,

Tom

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TGM123
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to qianp2k, 8 months ago

qianp2k wrote:

Calliope wrote:

The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

What CF card you use? With Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF card (only shoot in RAW in slot 1), I consistently can get around 22 RAW files in real usage (despite only around 15-raw buffer on spec) and I found 5D3 buffer writing speed is excellent. Compared to my old 1D3 that can shoot at 10fps with 30-raw but it only supports upto 266x CF card (unable to leverage UDMA card). So in a given time 6fps 5D3 seems doesn't take less photos than 10fps 1D3 because of much faster card writing speed and therefore buffer cleaning is also much faster.

I agree.

I also shoot with the Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF and just last night I shot (5D III) in high burst mode and I actually noticed that my card was never the limiting factor. The red buffer light was on between bursts but it never kept me from shooting.  I seem to remember counting this once and I remember being at 18+ shots without an issue. YMMV

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Keith Z Leonard
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

I find the af on the 5d3 to be significantly better when shooting with my prime lenses, above f2.8.  I didn't have many misses with the 7d f4-f8.  I did send mine in to get calibrated, but I have read a lot from both sides of the argument.  I suspect some 7d runs were not the best out of the factory.  The lower pixel density of the 5d3 should also be more forgiving.  I would say overall the 5d is better, it is head and shoulders better with my primes wide open.

I would say the 5d is 1.5-2 stops better at high iso as well.  I do miss the 8 fps though, the 7d is a burst monster!

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Trevor Sowers
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to TGM123, 8 months ago

TGM123 wrote:

qianp2k wrote:

Calliope wrote:

The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

What CF card you use? With Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF card (only shoot in RAW in slot 1), I consistently can get around 22 RAW files in real usage (despite only around 15-raw buffer on spec) and I found 5D3 buffer writing speed is excellent. Compared to my old 1D3 that can shoot at 10fps with 30-raw but it only supports upto 266x CF card (unable to leverage UDMA card). So in a given time 6fps 5D3 seems doesn't take less photos than 10fps 1D3 because of much faster card writing speed and therefore buffer cleaning is also much faster.

I agree.

I also shoot with the Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF and just last night I shot (5D III) in high burst mode and I actually noticed that my card was never the limiting factor. The red buffer light was on between bursts but it never kept me from shooting. I seem to remember counting this once and I remember being at 18+ shots without an issue. YMMV

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I bet that 5D MKIII has an SD card in it which will create a huge bottleneck.  With just a fast CF card the 5D MKIII clears the buffer very fast.  Dual CF slots is the one thing I wish the MKIII had, otherwise this is damn near the perfect camera for many applications.

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Kevin G.
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My Experience...
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

Ralph,

I've had my 7d almost 4 years and my 5d III for 2 months.  I shoot primarily BIF.  My initial impression is that with the 5d III I ha a greater percentage of in-focus shots for me.

I've gotten excellent shots with the 7d, but I sometimes feel I struggle with it at times.  Some days I go out and can do no wrong, other days I get a very low % of keepers (same light, lens, etc.)

I've decided to keep the 7d for now cause of the burst rate and reach.  But I find I'm almost exclusively using the 5d III - I feel it tracks better, is more consistent, and I can shoot ISO800 or higher without a worry.

Regards,

Kevin

These shots don't show that one is better than the other - both cameras are great, but I feel the 5D III's focus is more consistent.

Shot with the 7D...

Shot with the 5D III...

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KatManDEW
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to bhollis, 8 months ago

bhollis wrote:

Calliope wrote:

We have both cameras and like Tom do not see much difference in the keeper rate as far as AF goes. In low light the 5DIII does get cleaner shots. The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

I would not switch cameras just for AF accuracy if the crop is working for you. If you can keep the 7D, having both bodies is a joy. I often put my 70-300 on the 5D and my 400 on the 7D and that is a great combination for sports, birds and action photos.

My experience was different.  I get noticeably more consistent and accurate AF with my 5D3 than I did with my 7D, particularly when shooting shallow dof with my 35 f/1.4L and Sigma 85 f/1.4.

Same here. Noticeably more consistent and accurate AF with my 5D3 than I get with my 7D. I shoot a very large percentage of sports/action photos, and I notice a difference with both them and static shots as well.

The SD slot in the 5D3 is worthless for burst mode shooting. The 5D3 needs a fast card in the CF slot. I can get away with a slower card in my 7D because it has a bigger buffer. With a fast CF card in the 5D3 it's not too bad.

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cpkuntz
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

I'd say the cross-type points are similar in both cameras.  I never had much trouble per se with the 7D, but I did miss focus more than I do with the 5D Mark III, but that could just be due to the fact that the 5D Mark III has more cross-type points.  Both are nice AF systems, but I guess the 5D Mark III is better.  Having not shot much with the 7D since I got the 5D Mark III, maybe I just take the accurate focusing for granted now, but I was pretty happy with the AF of the 7D.  As I said, now that I think about it, my keeper rate has gone up.

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Calliope
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Trevor Sowers, 8 months ago

Trevor Sowers wrote:

TGM123 wrote:

qianp2k wrote:

Calliope wrote:

The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

What CF card you use? With Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF card (only shoot in RAW in slot 1), I consistently can get around 22 RAW files in real usage (despite only around 15-raw buffer on spec) and I found 5D3 buffer writing speed is excellent. Compared to my old 1D3 that can shoot at 10fps with 30-raw but it only supports upto 266x CF card (unable to leverage UDMA card). So in a given time 6fps 5D3 seems doesn't take less photos than 10fps 1D3 because of much faster card writing speed and therefore buffer cleaning is also much faster.

I agree.

I also shoot with the Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF and just last night I shot (5D III) in high burst mode and I actually noticed that my card was never the limiting factor. The red buffer light was on between bursts but it never kept me from shooting. I seem to remember counting this once and I remember being at 18+ shots without an issue. YMMV

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I bet that 5D MKIII has an SD card in it which will create a huge bottleneck. With just a fast CF card the 5D MKIII clears the buffer very fast. Dual CF slots is the one thing I wish the MKIII had, otherwise this is damn near the perfect camera for many applications.

No SD card. Using a Lexar Extreme Pro.

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wazu
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to TGM123, 8 months ago

TGM123 wrote:

I have shot lots and lots of sports with both the 7D and 5D Mark III under a lot of different conditions and my observations are as follows:

1) For how I have them configured for shooting sports (AI servo, center point expansion, full speed burst mode), there is little difference to me in the AF systems. That is, my keeper rate does not seem to be affected by the camera body/AF system.

2) You have to shoot 1000's of shots with the 5D III with each of the AF settings to figure out what works best for you (Case 1, 2, 3...shutter priority or focus priority...tracking sensitivity...etc). The configuration options on the 5D are much, much more intense.

3) The biggest difference to me is high ISO performance, not AF differences.

For me the ISO difference was worth it as I shoot a lot of nighttime sports where I need to be at 6400 ISO and at that ISO there is no comparison. Your needs are likely to be different.

Tom

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While I strongly agree with point no. 3 my experience indicates the AF accuracy is better with the 5DIII.

This is especially so in poor light.

The 7D does have a definate advantage with it's bigger buffer and burst rate as well as 1.6x reach so I keep em both and shoot the 7D in daylight only now, usually,with the longest lens I am carrying.

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Surb
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to TGM123, 8 months ago

+1

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Gearóid Ó Laoi, Garry Lee
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to cpkuntz, 8 months ago

I have neither camera but have 1Div and 1Dsiii.

I use numerous lenses and I think that what you mean by autofocus accuracy is crucial..

Yesterday I was trying out a brand-new lens for me, the 70-200 L ii.

This is supposed to be the business AF-wise. I was using it on the 1DSiii. I tested the lens first on static subjects and it's pin sharp and plainly needs no MA at all.

However, I shot a few series on runners and while they all looked fine at normal size, like this one..

not a single one of all of them (about 20 of this chap) was pixel sharp.

In my experience in such circumstances, to get such a shot pixel-sharp is a rarity, though you will get many quite close to it. It's different when you're shooting subjects moving across the FOV. These are often pixel sharp.

There is a limit to the accuracy of autofocus in moving subjects. You can overcome it by stopping down a bit.

While I'm at it, there's a lot of guff about such and such a lens having lightning AF. The usual cause for people saying that is that they've spent a load on it. Well can I tell you, I've compared the AF of my Sigma 300 F2.8 with that of a Canon 300 L ii and I could see NO difference, nor do I find the AF of this 70-200 ll to be any faster than other lenses I have.

This is a pixel-sharp picture of a swan I shot yesterday. 100% crop.

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Adam2
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Ralph Arvesen, 8 months ago

I had two 7d's and was never satisfied with them for the following reasons, AF inconsistency, AWB inconsistency, and low ISO noise.  With respect to AF inconsistency I found the 7d varied too much with static subjects in single shots (try this experiment - shoot a subject, defocus the lens, shoot again) and in servo mode bursts tracking erratically moving subjects such as sports ( it seemed better on linear consistent subjects such as BIF).  Comparatively, I found the 5dmkiii a significant improvement in AF, AWB, and noise. Though the slower FPS is a potential issue.  Perhaps a 1dmkIV or 1Dx would be the ticket?

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riknash
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Re: 5D III and 7D auto focus accuracy
In reply to Calliope, 8 months ago

Calliope wrote:

Trevor Sowers wrote:

TGM123 wrote:

qianp2k wrote:

Calliope wrote:

The main frustration I have with the 5DIII is the buffer clearing speed. I'm not a spray and pray shooter but if there are a lot of birds flying in or several surfers on the waves the 7D allows me to change subjects and keep on shooting. The write speed on the 5DIII is slower and gives a busy signal.

What CF card you use? With Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF card (only shoot in RAW in slot 1), I consistently can get around 22 RAW files in real usage (despite only around 15-raw buffer on spec) and I found 5D3 buffer writing speed is excellent. Compared to my old 1D3 that can shoot at 10fps with 30-raw but it only supports upto 266x CF card (unable to leverage UDMA card). So in a given time 6fps 5D3 seems doesn't take less photos than 10fps 1D3 because of much faster card writing speed and therefore buffer cleaning is also much faster.

I agree.

I also shoot with the Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF and just last night I shot (5D III) in high burst mode and I actually noticed that my card was never the limiting factor. The red buffer light was on between bursts but it never kept me from shooting. I seem to remember counting this once and I remember being at 18+ shots without an issue. YMMV

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I bet that 5D MKIII has an SD card in it which will create a huge bottleneck. With just a fast CF card the 5D MKIII clears the buffer very fast. Dual CF slots is the one thing I wish the MKIII had, otherwise this is damn near the perfect camera for many applications.

No SD card. Using a Lexar Extreme Pro

Check the card type. As far as I can determine, there is no such thing as a Lexar Extreme Pro.  "Extreme Pro" belongs to the Sandisk which is a 600x speed CF card whereas the Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF is obviously 1000x speed. Using the Lexar 1000x makes a big difference for both the 7D and 5D Mk III.  If shopping for them, watch B&H when they have a decent discount on these cards. There are reports that a much cheaper Transcend card will deliver identical performance but I haven't tried it.   Be sure you are not shooting any RAW + JPEG but only RAW.

When using the Lexar 1000x, shooting only RAW in high speed burst mode and holding down the shutter, one is easily able to get about 18 frames before it becomes apparent that the buffer has been filled which at that time the frame rate drops to about 2 to 3 fps constantly. It never stalls out.  Once the shutter button has been released, the buffer empties quickly and is ready within a few seconds (I haven't timed it). It's not the speed demon that the 1DX is but in a side by side shooting situation with an associate using the Nikon D800 (card unknown),  there was an embarrassing difference in frame rate.  The 5D Mk III captured the three second action sequence whereas the D800 was sucking wind.

Regarding 7D vs 5D Mk III AF accuracy in AI Servo mode, high fps;

For myself, the 5D Mk III has been more accurate, resulting in more keepers. Its important to understand the various case settings and choose one appropriate for the shooting situation. I have never been happy with the AF performance from the 7D in AI-Servo (what I use 99.9% of the time). Some folks have great AF success with the 7D. They might have better aligned 7D's.  They may just simply be better at tracking moving subjects.  Not mentioned much, auto focus isn't simply the machine but also the person working the machine and how they influence the accuracy of the AF. The ability to accurately track the moving subject and identify when the AF has slipped marginally and subsequently force it to relearn the focus track, makes a huge difference with percent keepers. The AF in the 5D Mk III allows the photographer to be less involved with keeping the AF tracking the subject. Just keep the AF point on the desired part of the subject and it will do the rest.

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