Canon 5D Mark IV vs 7D Mark II with EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens and 1.4x III extender review with sample images
Canon 5D Mark IV has the awesome image quality, good high ISO performance, but only 7 fps and, for the same pixels, your subject is further away. 7D Mark II is 2 times cheaper, not as good image quality, but 10 fps. Which one should you choose? Here are some sample images for Canon 5D Mark IV and 7D Mark II to help you make up your mind.
I started my hobby with a Canon 80D and, for a rookie, this was a really great camera to start with. As I took more and more pictures I wanted to buy a better camera and after reading several reviews I was in a dilemma. Should I buy the crop sensor 7D Mark II, which apparently was one of the best cameras for wildlife (1DX is excluded from this conversation since it's already at another level) or should I buy the full frame 5D Mark IV with awesome image quality and good high ISO performance and double the price? At the time I decided to go with Canon 5D Mark IV, since I had already one crop sensor camera so I really wanted to try the full frame. After a few months I switched my Canon 80D and a few lenses I wasn't using and I purchased a 7D Mark II. Now I can make a proper comparison between the two and use real images to compare.
I hope you find this useful, because when I was searching, I couldn't find a real comparison that would provide images as well. In a sunny evening I decided to take some pictures of seagulls and see what kind of results I get with both cameras, with and without extender.
I will skip all the technical details, since you can find those anywhere and I am guessing if you read this blog, you probably know already (from a technical point of view) what is the difference between the two cameras.
From my experience so far, without a doubt, with high ISO, Canon 5D Mark IV is awesome. I took some pictures in really bad light with 12800 and after a bit of editing the images are perfectly usable! With my 80D I couldn't even dream of going over 2000 and, even then, the image quality was terrible. Of course, full frame Canon 5D Mark IV image quality is also superior compared to 7D, but I would like to compare the two cameras in normal photographing conditions with normal ISO. Canon 7D Mark II has 10 fps and a really snappy auto-focus system and I am really happy with it as well.
You can immediately see the difference between the crop sensor and the full frame and, mainly as a wildlife photographer, you get a bit disappointed when you see how far your subject is for the full frame camera . With the crop sensor you get more of your subject in the picture, but the image quality has to suffer. I am perfectly aware of this, but the question is how much do they really suffer? The images rendered by Canon 7D Mark II are 5472 x 3648 pixels in size and the images rendered by Canon 5D Mark IV are 6720 x 4480 pixels.
1. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II without extender
The images above were taken with the same lens mounted on a tripod in the same spot in my yard. Both images have the same settings and were focused on the same spot. To check if 7D Mark II really has more "reach" I cropped the 5D Mark IV image to the same field of view and then I enlarged the image to same size as the original 7D Mark II. The images don't differ much, but 5D Mark IV loses a bit of focus because of the enlargement and the noise looks just slightly more annoying on a 4K monitor. The conclusion I got out of this is that 7D Mark II HAS more "reach", even though it's not even close to 1.6x more as you might tend to think. Simply click on the images below to see the original images.
I also went to take a few pictures of birds in order to make a better comparison. The seagulls came really close to me, so here are some sample images for both cameras with 100% cropped images.
Below are samples of same ISO, so you can judge for yourself. 7D Mark II gets grainier at high ISO, that is just what you get with crop sensor, but as you can see from the second picture of the 7D Mark II, at ISO 200, 7D Mark II renders a pretty good picture!
Pictures were shot in RAW and just transformed into jpg in Adobe Photoshop, without any post processing (unless written otherwise). To view the original size of the image simply click on the image.
2. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II with Canon 1.4X III extender
Just recently I found out from one random comment on the internet that the way to put extender on is to mount it FIRST on the lens and then to the camera. Before reading this comment I didn't really care that much in which order I add the extender and I was wondering quite a lot why sometimes I get really terrible images, but other times quite good images. I went and test it out and it seems that it does matter. Here are some samples for both cameras with extender mounted. It's worth mentioning that at f/8 7D Mark II has auto-focus only for the center part (center cross-type AF point, or center surround), but 5D Mark IV has all 61 focus points available.
I think these are really great results for both cameras. Please note that ISO is 1600 and the images are still perfectly usable. For f/8 I think you will usually have to go to this kind of ISO, even in a sunny afternoon. After some post processing here is what you get:
The cameras are quite difficult to compare, since each of them has its own advantage. Canon 5D Mark IV has the awesome image quality, good high ISO performance, but only 7 fps and for the same pixels your subject is further away. 7D Mark II is 2 times cheaper, not as good image quality (in my opinion it's much better than 80D and still has good image quality), but at 10 fps it's very good for birds in flight and other action shots , provided the light is good.
I am trying my best to avoid extenders, since the quality of the image reduces anyway. If I need to choose between Canon 5D Mark IV with extender and Canon 7D Mark II without extender, then I would definitely go for the 7D. Sometimes you just have to use the extender and these cases just remember to not mount the extender on the camera directly, but first to the lens and then to the camera. Maybe someone with more technical knowledge can explain why does it have such a dramatic effect if you do it otherwise.
For subjects that are far away I use 7D Mark II and for subjects that are closer I use 5D Mark IV. Also if it's after sunset or before sunrise I use 5D Mark IV because the images will just be much better at that high ISO. Maybe when my budget allows I will buy a 1DX Mark II and a Canon 600 mm lens, but until then, these 2 cameras serve my purpose very well and it's a light combination, so I can travel with them as well. If you are a wildlife photographer only and don't care much about the landscape photography and depth of field I think 7D Mark II brings more value for the money. I got very good results with this camera for action photography, 10 fps are highly valuable and, honestly, after a burst of images there seem to be higher number of unfocused images with the 5D Mark IV. The extra noise can be edited away and you save over a 1500 euros if you buy 7D Mark II.
If budget allows and you need 2 cameras anyway (one for landscape and one for wildlife in the same time), then I would highly recommend the combination of these two. Canon 5D Mark IV is probably the best landscape camera that Canon has to offer and if you don't want to miss your chance on a bird during your landscape photography then it's good to be prepared with a Canon 7D Mark II.