Gadget Review: EOS Canon 7D

Posted by matt on November 11, 2009

canon-eos-7d-small.jpgAfter spending a few weeks with the Canon 7D, I decided to put together my mini-review of the camera.  I was able to take it to a few events, and also on a 5-day vacation to Athens, Greece where it got quite a workout.  For perspective of this review, prior to using the 7D I’ve shot 4 different versions of the Canon Rebel series, (original, XT, XTi and XSi).  My Pro’s / Con’s are mostly related to moving from the Canon Rebel XSi.

Canon 7D Pros:

  1. Focusing system – Compared to the Rebel series, this thing is amazing.  With a 9-month old, using focusing groups with AI servo yields a ton more usable shots. Complements my higher quality lenses which I wasn’t getting full benefit from with the Rebel Series.
  2. Quality high-ISO images – I never shot 1600 ISO on the Rebel series, as I was never happy with the quality, even after noise reduction.  Though I don’t have a lot of examples yet, the Canon 7D does an admirable job at 1600 ISO and even 3200 ISO.  Still, if shooting stock images, I likely won’t submit many over 800 ISO (as they’ll likely get rejected for noise) so I likely won’t change that habit.  I do end up getting usable non-stock images all the way up to 3200 ISO, so paired with a F1.4 lens, you can shoot in most any situation.
  3. Frames per second – this thing is like a machine gun!  Bracketing is a dream with 8 frames per second.  I’m looking forward to trying more wildlife and action shots with the 7D.
  4. HD Video capabilities – I never thought I’d want my DSLR to have video, but with a little one around this house and the ability to use all my lenses, it’s really a plus.  Nothing like shooting video in low-light with a F1.4 lens–depth-of-field is professional looking and the quality is excellent!  Check below for a quick video I shot at the 10/17/09 UW Badger game vs. Iowa (Badgers lost unfortunately).  This was shot w/ my 70-200L f/2.8 from across the field.
  5. Bigger size, better feel – coming from the Rebel, this camera feels ‘more appropriate’ in your hands.  I can’t believe how small the Rebel grips after you use the 7D.
  6. The jog wheel – 30/40/50D users are accustomed to this, so I was already looking forward to this handy input.  It is intuitive and I was quick to acclimate myself to it.
  7. Off-camera flash firing – The manual documentation on this was sketchy, but I was able to get this to work.  Pretty slick.

Canon 7D Cons:

Though a great camera, it does have a few cons for me:

  1. CompactFlash – I just weened myself off of CF (the XSi Uses SDHC) and they go and put CF on this… I imagine 8 frames per second is the culprit, and if that’s the case, it’s worth it. But if SDHC was fast enough, it is a better choice.  I opted for a 32GB RiDATA that does a nice job even with RAW+JPG.
  2. LCD screen doesn’t shut off  – Though it has the “Q” quickscreen, there is no sensor to have it shut off when you put the camera to your eye.  Not a deal breaker, but a step backwards from functionality in the entry level camera from 2 years ago.
  3. No usable auto-focus in video mode – With as advanced a focusing system this camera has for still pictures, the video auto-focusing is awful to the point that you wouldn’t use it while recording.  This may help your composition, but why doesn’t AI servo ‘just work’ like it does when focusing for stills?
  4. Still no AF illuminator other than firing flashes like crazy – I nice red light would do the trick–though not sure where they would put it.  Granted my external flashes use this, having it built in would help low-light focusing without blinding people.

These cons are quite minor.  The camera is well designed, fast and powerful.  And it’s a blast to shoot too.

Still Samples:

There are many test shots at other websites, but here are a few ‘real world’ pictures shot with the camera, from my recent vacation to Greece.  The below images are re-sized with some minor adjustments, but pretty much right of the camera.  The full size, unprocessed JPGs also available for you to check out below each picture (note size!)

My travel photo methodology: in a sight-seeing situation, if bright enough, I usually shoot aperture priority (usually at f/8 as it is a sweet spot of of the 24-105L), take a light reading, see if I can get away with ISO 100, and still end up bracketing.  Greece is far from my house, so I can sort out bracketed images when I get back (and have HDR opportunities).  These were the best chosen images of a 3-shot bracket (except for the 20 second exposure, where that one was a one-shot deal).

Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Acropolis, Greece, 2009. Shot with Canon 7D, 24-105L f/4 IS USM
Specs: 1/200 second, f/8, ISO 100, Focal length 97mm, hand-held
Full size, out-of-camera JPG: 5184 x 3456, 7.56MB

Athens Gate Hotel, Greece, 2009. Shot with Canon 7D, 24-105L f/4 IS USM
Specs: 20 seconds, f/8, ISO 100, Focal length 65mm, tripod
Full size, out-of-camera JPG: 5184 x 3456, 4.82MB

Delphi, Greece, 2009. Shot with Canon 7D, 24-105L f/4 IS USM
Specs: 1/50 second, f/8, ISO 100, EC -1, Focal length 35mm, hand-held
Full size, out-of-camera JPG: 5184 x 3456, 8.58MB

Video Sample:

Here is a sample video shot at the October 17, 2009 UW Badger game.  A bit shaky, but shows what you can do.  This was shot with my 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM:

Jump up, jump up and get down! That’s it.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up (the Canon 7D that is).  Ferris would approve.

Posted under reviews, tech gadgets
  1. Tenny Said,

    Nice review and those samples are fantastic. I have to admit that even though I expected it to be high quality, the video looks more fantastic then I thought it would!! I also love how much detail is involved in the Greece photos. I could zoom all the way in and almost see the expression on peoples faces in the Acropolis photo. Crazy cool!