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Review – Canon EOS 7D DSLR Camera

This week, I have invited Michael Cruz (www.michaelcruz.com) as a guest reviewer for the just released Canon EOS 7D digital SLR camera. All images are shot with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Mark II.

Please do not use the attached images and text without prior written consent by Mr. Cruz.

Canon EOS 7D Full Specifications

  • 18.0 Megapixel CMOS Sensor and Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors for high image quality and speed.
  • ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800) for shooting from bright to dim light.
  • 8.0 fps continuous shooting up to 126 Large/JPEGs with UDMA CF card and 15 RAW.
  • Advanced movie mode with manual exposure control and selectable frame rates: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 30p (29.97) / 24p (23.976) / 25p, 1280 x 720 (HD): 60p (59.94) / 50p, 640 x 480 (SD): 60p (59.94) / 50p.
  • Intelligent Viewfinder with 100% field of view, wide viewing angle of 29.4°, high magnification of 1.0, intelligent viewfinder with glass pentaprism and an overlaid LCD display in viewfinder supports various shooting styles.
  • New 19-point, all cross-type AF system equipped with dual diagonal cross-type sensors in center at f/2.8 and f/5.6 and AF area selection modes to match various shooting situations.
  • iFCL Metering with 63 zone dual-layer metering sensor that utilizes AF and color information for optimizing exposure and image quality.
  • Magnesium body with shutter durability up to 150,000 cycles and exclusive dust and weather resistance.

Introduction

I purchased the Canon 7D as an upgrade for my Canon Rebel XSi / 450D* (*for the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to Canon Digital Rebel XSi as Canon 450D).  The Canon 7D was launched here in Dubai on October 18, 2009 and since I was very excited to upgrade my camera, I rushed in to Canon store the next day.

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Let me remind you that this review is by no means scientific; I won’t be explaining extensively how the new features work nor will I list all the specifications of the camera.  This is just my personal opinion about this camera.  Treat this review coming from a regular photo hobbyist who just upgraded from a Canon 450D to a Canon EOS 7D.  There you go, just bear that in mind while reading the review.

What’s inside the box?

The one I have is a “Body Only” package.  It includes all your normal Canon EOS goodies:  2 discs for software and operating manuals, 1 battery, a charger, user manual, cables, the strap (yes, it says 7D on it!) and the Canon EOS 7D body. It is packed nicely and the camera is well protected with a soft cloth and a thick bubble wrap. I purchased the camera in Dubai Mall from the Canon store (an official Canon Distributor). Mine came with a free 4GB Lexar CF premium series card and 1 Canon backpack (which I haven’t opened till now).  Depending on your region or the store you are going to purchase from, you might get something else or if you’re unlucky, no freebies at all.

First Impressions & Build Quality

Coming from a Canon 450D I had high expectations about this new camera.  After using the 7D for more than a week now, I am not disappointed.  The camera has a magnesium alloy body which gives you a sense of durability.  The external buttons are well crafted and intuitive.  The texture on the hand grip is very soft and it feels very comfortable to hold.  The camera shows ruggedness and elegance at the same time.  It also gives you a different feeling of confidence.

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The materials used are of high quality, from the small bits of plastic to the soft rubber that has been incorporated in the camera.  The 7D not only provides a good ergonomic design, but well refined contours and a very reasonable button layout as well.  After shooting and playing with the camera for hours, the 7D remains comfortable in my hand.   I have no complaints.  It feels very sturdy and for an APS-C sensor (1.6x crop) camera, it won’t disappoint.  Indeed very far from my ‘plasticky’ 450D.

The camera is not light though, it is around 820 grams without battery or lens attached, however, I think it is very reasonable for a DSLR of this caliber.

The Buttons The 7D includes a plethora of external buttons.  And the best part is, most of these buttons, especially the ones at the back of the camera, can be customized to suit your personal preferences and shooting styles.

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Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • The JPG/RAW button; I guess this will depend on your shooting styles, if you are shooting mixed bags of events, portraits, stills and landscapes, this button will be very useful.  It basically gives you an option to shoot raw when you are shooting jpegs and vice versa.
  • The” Q” button or the Quick Menu; this lets you quickly access the essential settings such as focus drive, exposure compensation, metering, picture quality, focus points and so on.  This works in conjunction with the 8-way multi controller that is located above the large wheel at the back of the camera, which Canon refers to as Quick Control Dial.
  • The dedicated Live View and Movie mode button is definitely a good plus.
  • The placement of the power switch is just perfect for me.
  • The info button;  press it once it shows you the camera settings; pressing twice shows the Electronic level and pressing it three times displays the shooting functions.

Again, let me remind you that almost all of the buttons at the back of the camera are highly user configurable.  You can customize to better suit your personal shooting styles.

Features and Performance I am going to highlight some of the features of the 7D:

The new 19 AF system – It is quick, a lot faster and more flexible than my 450D.  It is very simple to configure and very customizable.  You can select different types of focusing; you can even enable and disable some of them also for quick usage, depending on your shooting style. Here are the AF selection types you can use: Single Point AF—lets you select one AF point to focus. Zone AF – it divides the 19 points into zones of five. Auto Select – it automatically selects any of the 19 points. There are two more AF selection types, which you need to enable from the Custom Functions menu: Spot AF – for pinpoint focusing. AF Point Expansion – to manually select an AF point and adjacent AF points to be used to focus. I won’t go further into the technicalities about this, since this new 19 AF system deserves a review on its own.

The Viewfinder – it is superb, with 1.0X magnification and 100% coverage.  The viewfinder fits perfectly with my eye, and I don’t feel that I am looking on a “peep hole” like my 450D.  I was really impressed how large the viewing angle is and the amount of information that fits in it; the viewfinder never felt crowded.  Canon referred to a technology called “Intelligent Viewfinder”; this is a transparent LCD inside the viewfinder which displays shooting information.  Unlike my 450D in which the AF points are always displayed, with the 7D you can hide and adjust the AF points and the metering areas very easily.  This provides you a clearer view to better compose your shots.

You also have an option to enable grid display and the electronic level (with the use of the AF points) right inside the viewfinder.

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Another cool thing is, when you are shooting in the dark, the grid display and the focus points light up during focusing enabling you to see clearly. It doesn’t light up when you are shooting in bright areas.

Dual DIGIC IV and 8 FPS – I was blown away on how fast the camera shoots.   And the shutter sounds very different from my 450D, it sounds a hundred times better.  I tested the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) and the 3 shots were executed very fast, when I opened them in my computer and processed them as HDR, the 3 images had hardly ghosting in them and it was almost perfectly aligned, not to mention that there are a lot of moving elements on the picture such as people, thanks to the fast shooting speed.  Obviously this is not the main use of this feature but you get the point.

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The LCD Monitor – My initial impression was that it looks small, but looking at my 450D’s LCD I found out why.  Unlike the other EOS cameras, the LCD doesn’t have any borders around it, which makes the other model’s LCD look bigger, but in reality it has the same size as other 3” LCDs found on most of the Canon EOS cameras.

Going back to the LCD, it is very crisp and bright, when I went to shoot outside at around 2-3pm; the LCD display is still very visible.  The LCD is really impressive compared to my 450D, the difference is quantum leap.

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The Electronic Level – Man, it is way harder than I thought when leveling the camera hand-held, though with a tripod, especially the ones using ball heads, it comes very handy.  Not to mention how much fun I had playing with it.  I think this feature will be best utilized for T&S lenses.   The electronic level can be displayed by pressing the INFO button twice; it can also be displayed during Live View and in movie mode. In movie mode, once you start recording, the electronic level automatically disappears. Live view can also be enabled on viewfinder.  However in the viewfinder it will use the AF points to indicate the levels. I think this will take some time to get used to, so displaying the electronic level in the LCD is much better.

Movie Mode – The dedicated button makes it more accessible compared to the 500D/T1i or the 5D MII. I really cannot comment on this very well, since I am neither a videographer nor do I have any videography skills at the moment.  What I can confirm is that it supports 24p/25p natively, which is great.

Exposure Compensation & Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) – The top panel LCD lets you adjust the flash exposure compensation up to -3/+3 stops.  On the LCD monitor at the back of the camera, you can set your exposure compensation up to +/- 5 stops.  The AEB gives you +/- 3 additional stops making a total of 8 stops.   HDR shooters can fully take advantage of this feature.

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Built-in Wireless Flash Transmitter – At long last! Finally we Canon users can control our speedlites wirelessly without the use of any RF triggers.  With the strobist community growing rapidly, this feature is a great addition.  I have tried it with 580EXII and 430EXII and it works pretty well.

The menu is similar when you are using your 580EXII as a commander.  Setting it up is straight forward; I configured mine in less than 3 minutes.   It is that easy.  I haven’t extensively used this feature; however at a distance of 5-8 meters I never had any miss fires.

ISO Performance – I’m quite impressed with the ISO performance, with noise reduction set to standard,  it still manages to preserve the details. The pictures taken up to ISO 1600 are still very acceptable and images taken with ISO 3200 are still usable for small prints or for web use.  At ISO 6400 image will still be usable after some post processing.

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Right Click >> Save As for Large Size Download

Conclusion: Coming from a cropped sensor (APS-C) camera, my initial intent was to upgrade to a full frame camera, so after Canon officially announced that the 7D is not full framed, I was one of those who felt dismayed, however, after looking at the features and the price, I quickly reconsidered.  As per my own decision (and financial status), spending $1,000 more for a full frame sensor camera is a bit too much. I don’t have any negative things to say about the 7D.  The only thing I can think of would be the size of the raw files, which are quite big; but that’s if I’m nitpicking.  Other than that I have nothing to complain about.

If you are an existing Canon EOS camera user, you won’t have any problem operating the new Canon EOS 7D.  One thing I always like about Canon is that their menu structure is very easy to use and to navigate, the 7D is no exception. The Canon EOS 7D is all about technological innovation, it is packed with features that have never been seen before in any EOS cameras.

This is probably one of best prosumer-class DSLR camera available in the market right now. In short, if you own a Canon Rebel xxxD or xxD camera and planning to upgrade to another APS-C camera, get the 7D. You won’t regret it.

Here are some sample images.

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No images in this review are allowed to be used, distributed, copy, altered, or sold without the written consent of Michael Cruz.