We've already posted a buyer's guide to picking a mid-range Canon DSLR, including the much admired 550D, but what if you're ready to step up to one of Canon's big guns?
Canon has three highly-acclaimed cameras at the top of its EOS SLR range: the 7D, 5D mark II and the 1D mark IV. For most, the large differences in price will make deciding easy, but if you're spending this much on a camera, you'd better buy the right one.
Is it worth it?
Canon's cheaper cameras are well-featured and capable of great quality. But these top-end cameras all focus faster, operate faster, have a rugged build quality, very-high resolution and complete feature sets.
The right system - EF or EF-S
If you're buying at this level then you're serious about photography and so you'll end up buying additional lenses. And they won't be the cheap super-zooms either: they'll be the super-sharp ‘prime' lenses (non-zooming fixed focal-length) and the larger pro-spec zooms which all get very expensive. Buying only a few will dwarf the price of your camera so know what you're getting yourself in to.
The EOS 7D has a sensor the same size as all lesser Canon cameras (at 22.3 x 14.9mm) and, as such, it uses EF-S lenses. Conversely, the 5D and 1D have (larger) sensors that are the same size as 35mm film. Consequently, these two cameras use the EF lenses that also fit onto Canon's old ‘film SLR' cameras.
Canon EOS 7D
Our review of the 7D showed we were impressed with the 18-megapixel, $2100 7D but had mixed feelings about buying it. Dual image processors make it very fast and it can shoot at a whopping 8fps.
It's solidly built and offers excellent 1080p video performance. It's very good in its own right but very much a "tween" camera - sitting between the glorious 5D mark II and the 50D/550D. Consider it like the Porsche Boxter to the 5D mark II's Porsche 911 - the Boxter is a great car, but you really want a 911 and can't afford it. Still, if you've a collection of good EF-S lenses, it's the obvious choice.
Canon EOS 5D mark II vs 7D
The $3400 21.1-megapixel 5D mark II is hugely popular with enthusiasts, offering superb image quality, great handling, fast operation, and excellent 1080p image recording (a recent firmware update brings it in line with the 7D).
The superior, full-size image sensor and top-level EF lens range are why enthusiasts want it over the 7D. But its faster, younger, cheaper sibling leaves it for dead in the speed stakes, rating 8fps to the 5D's 3.9fps: an important consideration for some.
At the expensive end: Canon's EOS 1D mark IV
The 16.1 megapixel 1D mark IV's massive body costs a whopping $6400 and has "professional" written all over it.
Paparazzi who can't afford to miss out on a quarter-second glimpse of Paris Hilton in a bikini from 2km away, who need instant operation, celeb-tantrum-proof casing, long battery life and 10fps shooting will love it. Its high ISO performance also makes it better in low light.
The 7D is a superb camera, but it fundamentally can't match its siblings' full-size image sensor for top-end quality. The 1D really is for professionals and there's little point plumping for it when the 5D mark II offers identical quality for less bulk and less money.
||Canon EOS 7D
||Canon EOS 5D mark II
||Canon EOS 1D mark IV
|Approx. Price (body only)
||2 x Digic 4
||1 x Digic 4
||2 x Digic 4
|Picture file size (JPG/RAW)
||100-6400 (50 - 25,600)
||100 - 12,800 (50 - 102,400)
||CF and SD
|Body weight (not battery)
Correction: The Canon EOS 1D mark IV was originally incorrectly marked 21.1MP in the table. This has been corrected.