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The Canon EOS 7D is Canon’s “state of the art” crop sensor DSLR. It’s not an EOS 50D upgrade, but rather a whole new level of DSLR positioned between the EOS 50D and the EOS 5D Mk II. In some ways you can think of it as a crop sensor version of the full frame EOS 5D Mk II at a price that’s $1000 less, although it has some features that even the 5D Mk II doesn’t have.
I was impressed by the EOS 7D. Clearly Canon has put some thought into this camera and made a number of changes that make the EOS 7D the closest thing to a “professional grade” APS-C body that I’ve seen to date. With the advanced autofocus and metering, very high speed continuous shooting rate, large image buffer, wireless flash control, extensive set of custom functions and broadcast quality HD video, the EOS 7D would be ideal for sports shooters and photojournalists, as well as advanced amateur photographers who want a “state of the art” crop sensor camera. The HD video features alone might make it a camera of choice for budding film makers too. The only downside of the camera might be that it’s so flexible and has so many customizable options that novices might be confused by all the choices it provides! There’s a good reason why the instruction manual runs to 275 pages.
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An 18MP CMOS sensor with a “gapless microlens” design for high efficiency
A 920,000 pixel, 3" high resolution LCD
An all new 19 zone AF system with dedicated AF processor
HD movies at 1080p and 720p
Continuous shooting at up to 8 frames/sec
Shutter rated for 150,000 cycles
Integrated wireless speedlite control
Improved weather sealing
Microfocus adjustment on a fixed or lens by lens basis
4 levels of high ISO noise reduction
4 levels of auto lighting optimization
5 stops of exposure compensation (only 3 stops shown in viewfinder)
A 100% view optical viewfinder
A dual axis electronic level
An ISO range from 100-6400 plus 12800(H)
Contrast detection AF in Live View mode
Face detection in Live View mode
In camera illumination (vignetting) correction for JPEGs
A “creative auto” mode
Dual Digic IV processors
UDMA Mode 6 CF card support
LP-E6 battery (same as EOS 5D Mk II)
Like other EOS DSLRs, the EOS 7D appears to turn on instantly, taking less than 100ms to be ready to shoot. All other operations are fast too, no doubt helped by the new dual Digic IV processors. When reviewing images, the time for the display to update with a new image is under 1/2 second.
In high speed continuous mode, the EOS 7D meets Canon’s specifications of 3 fps in slow mode and 8 fps in fast mode. I actually measured 7.99 fps, but that’s close enough to 8. One strange quirk is that even if the shutter is manually set to 1/1000 sec and the lens is in manual focus mode (which should give the fastest possible frame rate), with the lens cap on the maximum continuous frame rate was only 4.25 fps. The manual warns that the frame rate may drop is the light is low (even with a fast shutter speed) – and indeed it does!
With a mode 6 UDMA, 600x Sandisk card (pretty much the fastest card available right now), I got 20 RAW frames at 8 fps before the buffer filled (1/1000s, ISO 400) Then there was a pause of about 0.4 seconds followed by 2 rapid (8fps) frame, then another 0.4 second pause, then 2 more rapid frames and so on for about 5 seconds before the space between bursts increased to about 0.55 seconds. I didn’t measure the buffer capacity for JPEGs. since I gave up after 60 seconds of continuous shooting and 480 frames. Canon only claims 126 frames with a UDMA card, so the ultra speed mode 6 card may be showing it’s stuff here.
The use of high ISO noise reduction results in a significant reduction in the number of images which can be stored in the buffer, presumably due to the fact that the image processing power required for noise reduction slows down writing from the buffer to the memory card and so the buffer memory fills up faster.
The control layout of the EOS 7D is fairly similar to that of other EOS bodies such as the 50D and 5D Mk II, though there are a few new buttons and switches. The main control dial has a setting “CA” which stands for a “creative auto” mode. This is somewhat like a full auto mode, but allows you to save some custom settings. You can save flash mode, picture style, image brightness, single shot or continuous mode, image recoding quality and bias exposure toward smaller or larger apertures. Once saved, these settings will be remembered every time you select the “CA” mode. If you don’t change the settings from default, they will be exactly the same as the normal “full auto” exposure mode. There are also three custom modes which allow you to save almost any camera setting from metering mode to ISO setting, shooting mode (M, Av, Tv etc.) to AF mode.
The shooting modes available are C1 (custom), C2 (custom), C3 (custom), Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, and CA (creative Auto). There are no “scene” modes such as are found on the 40D/50D and Rebel series. In this respect the 7D is more similar to the full frame 5D Mk II and 1D series bodies than any of the crop sensor bodies. The 7D has no “A-DEP” mode.
As with all EOS DSLRs other than the Digital Rebel series, the EOS 7D has a rear thumb-wheel (“Quick Control Dial”), which defaults to adjustment of exposure compensation, but which is also used to scroll through menus and select items. On earlier crop sensor DSLRs, the lock for the QCD (which you can use to prevent accidental change of settings) was integrated into a 3 position switch which also served as the main power switch. On the 7D the main “on/off” power switch has now moved to the top left of the camera, next to the mode dial. The QCD has its own dedicated switch. The main exposure control dial (used to set shutter speed, aperture etc. depending on the shooting mode), is on the top right of the camera, just in front of the shutter release.
Like earlier xxD models, parameters such as shooting mode, white balance mode, ISO setting, shutter speed, aperture etc. can be displayed either on the top LCD or via use of the rear “Info” button on both the top and rear LCDs. The 7D also has a dedicated “Q” button which brings up current operating parameters on the rear LCD and allows each one to be changed using the 4-way control button and control dials. Though the top LCD can be illuminated, in dark conditions the operating parameters are much more easily read from the rear LCD.
The EOS 7D now has a dedicated switch for video/still shooting located to the immediate right of the viewfinder. Integrated with that button is a start/stop button for video shooting.
Also new on the 7D is a “RAW/JPEG” button, which is located to the immediate left of the viewfinder. If you are shooting in JPEG only mode, pressing the “RAW/JPEG” button allows the next shot to be recorded as both JPEG and RAW files. Similarly if you are shooting in RAW only, pressing the button allows the next frame to be recorded as both a RAW and JPEG file. If you are shooting in “RAW + JPEG” mode, the button has no effect.