I have seen in several locations the statement that the Canon 7d is the true successor to the 50d despite the different places that they occupy in the lineup. Is this an accurate statement, and why? What is it that makes the 7d more like the 50d than the 60d is?
There is no official successor anywhere, people deduce it based on model numbers.
For the 50D, the 60D is the numeric successor and it does supersede it in most features. A few were lost which is why some people say that 60D is not the right successor. This does happen from time-to-time.
The 7D is a much higher-end camera and is really for a different-level. The 7D has a 100% coverage viewfinder and weather-sealed body which neither 50D or 60D has.
DPreview has a list of differences between the 60D and 50 but the ones where the 50D is better seem rather minor except for the build-quality.
It probably makes a bit more sense to think about Canon's product line as branching and merging over time, rather than maintaining a static relationship from top to bottom.
The x0D line used to sit neatly between Canon's consumer-oriented Rebel (in the US) line and their 1D line for pros. Just as the Rebels branched into lesser Rebels and greater Rebels (starting with the T3 / T3i), the introduction of the 7D could sort of be seen as a split of the 50D into the 7D on the high end and the 60D on the low end, though this was never articulated as an actual intent from Canon.
Canon's done the same sort of thing on the high end of their lineup, as well, starting with the introduction of the 5D, and most recently, the 6D. Finally, although Canon is best-known for forking product lines, its 1D X managed to unify the 1D and 1Ds lines, so it's not out of the question that they might bring a touch more sanity back to the middle of their lineup as well.
In my opinion, the APS-C 7D created a space between the APS-C x0D series (through the 50D) and the APS-H 1D series. In the same way, the 60D created a space between the xoD series (through the 50D) and the Rebel/x00D series. As such, the 50D had no true successor.
For me the biggest differences are:
- The 50D and the 7D have Auto Focus Micro Adjustment (AFMA) and the 60D does not.
- The 7D has a 19-point AF system closer to the 1D series in terms of adaptability, but closer to the xOD series in terms of accuracy and consistency. The 60D has the same basic auto focus system as the other x0D bodies (with the exception of the 50D in terms of AFMA).
- The 50D has a maximum burst rate of 6.3 fps, the 7D bursts at 8 fps. The 60D only bursts at 5.3 fps, which is slower than the 6.3 fps 40D and barely faster than the 5.0 fps of the 30D.
- The 7D, like the 50D, has a magnesium alloy body that is is more durable and weather/dust resistant than the composite bodies of the 60D and the Rebel series.
- The previous xOD cameras, as well as the 7D, use CF cards. The 60D, as well as the most recent Rebels use SD cards. Although the speed of SD cards has improved significantly over time (as have UDMA 7 compatible CF cards), they are still less adaptable to harsh temperature and atmospheric extremes than current CF cards.
- When I bought my 50D the retail price was about $1,300USD. Three years later the price of my 7D was about $1,700USD. At the same time the 60D was selling for about $1,100USD.