paul skidmore andparabolos

cinematic storytelling, strategy, and advice

Canon 5D vs. 7D for filmmakers: what is full-frame, really?

i hadn’t done the math, but my buddy David Briggs has. he explains why the 7D is actually better than the 5D mkII for filmmakers looking to recreate the motion picture film experience.

“If you believe the image sensor in the 5d mark ii is similar in size to a frame of film from a 35mm motion picture camera like a Panavison or Arricam, you are wrong! Since Canon and Nikon are primarily coming from the still photography world, their understanding of “full frame” and “1.6x cropped” need to be understood in motion picture terms.

There is some translation involved in order to understand sensor size as it relates to motion pictures. From this point forward when we use the phrase “full frame” it will be understood in still photography terms.”

be sure and check out the Abel Cine links at the bottom of his post. and if you need to rent car mounts for your shoot, check out David’s rental company — ProRigs.


skidmore | administrator

believer. follower. filmmaker.

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  • Kristen Beeler Hooper | 11.02.18

    Got the 5d mark ii for christmas. Great for low light

  • skidmore | 11.02.17

    5D is a great still camera, and i’ve shot several films on the 5D, and they turned out great. but a filmmaker should opt for the 7D when attempting to match a filmic look.

    i have a XTi and have been happy with it as a still camera.

  • David | 11.02.20

    My intention was not to say one camera is specifically better than the other for the cinema experience. I believe their both valuable tools if you can afford both. But in regards to sensor size, I wanted to clarify a fundamental misunderstanding of terms and reassure 7d owners that their cameras sensor is not like shooting on a 2/3″ sensor camera or smaller. It is not an HVX.

    I am perturbed by the complete dismissal of the 7d by the 5d mii crowd because it is “cropped” which in fact is not the case when approached from a filmmaker’s perspective. There may be other reasons why someone chooses the 5d over the 7d, but to make the reason primarily based on the “full frame” vs “1.6x cropped” debate is flat out wrong and ill informed. Regarding sensor size (not resolution), The 5d is VistaVision and the 7d is your motion picture camera equivalent.

    So with a PL mount mod, the reason why the 5d CANNOT take cine lenses lower than about 65mm is due to the massive size of the sensor (zeiss cp.2’s are an exception, they are built with an image cone that matches VistaVision or still “full frame”). You get extreme vignetting in the wider mm lenses because the lenses are designed for a smaller (motion picture) frame size or to put it another way the projection cone is narrower. The 7d can accept most cine style lenses because of it’s truer to motion picture frame size. The cine lenses that the 7d cannot use have more to do with the actual distance between the mount and the back of the lens and the lack of space in the camera body to accommodate that distance.

    @Kristen, agreed 5d is great for low light, that giant sensor helps. Even with the motion picture sized sensor, the 7d isn’t too shabby either. You can still do a lot at iso1250.

    @Paul, you are right, to get the similar depth of field characteristics on the 5d you would need more light (stop down, deeper depth of field). If your goal is super shallow depth of field then the 5d will get you there faster.

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