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Canon 7D camera_First Impressions

If you’re a Canon user or looking to purchase your first DSLR then the Canon 7D should definitely be considered. This new camera is a direct competitor to the Nikon D-300, albeit with newer technology and features. Up until the release of the Canon 7D their was nothing in the Canon range to compare with the Nikon D-300.

CMOS Sensor

The 18 Megapixels APS-C sensor captures an amazing amount of information for a sensor of this size. The sensor produces an effective field of view of 1.6x the focal length. In other words a 100mm lens provides the same magnification as a 160mm (that’s 60% stronger) lens on a 35mm film-based or full frame sensor digital camera would. This 60% increase in effective focal length, with a corresponding loss in field of view, is common to most Canon DSLR cameras. Only the 5D and 1Ds models feature full frame sensors, which is the main reason they cost more. With most Nikon cameras the so called ‘Magnification Factor’ or ‘Cropping Factor’ is 1.5x or 50% that of a 35mm film-based or full frame sensor digital camera. Nikon’s full frame cameras include the D3, D3x and the D700.

Chip and Burst Capabilities

Dual DIGIC 4 chips provide fast processing speeds, ideal for the camera’s large file size and the up to 8 frames per second burst capabilities.

Buffer – 6 gun shooters beware!

The camera’s buffer can manage 94 JPEG or 15 RAW files in a single burst. That means you can photograph heaps of images, on continuous shooting mode, in a continuous burst. The buffer holds images until the camera is reader to process them. The more images you shoot in a single, continuous burst the more your camera’s buffer will fill. When the camera’s buffer is completely full, it may take a few seconds for the camera to right images to the card before there’s enough space in the buffer to allow you to continue shooting. As new cameras inevitably produce larger files the consequence is that larger buffers are also required.

Apparently you get up to 126 JPEGs per burst with the Canon 7D when employing a UDMA CompactFlash card.

Shutter

Rated to 150,000 cycles the camera’s shutter is the same design as that used in Canon’s 1D professional series

Exposure Compensation

The exposure that the camera determines is correct is referred to as Meter As Read (MAR). It’s often accurate, but not always. What’s more experienced RAW shooters often prefer to move away from MAR as the most desirable exposure.

The good news is that you don’t have to accept the exposure the camera judges to be right. You can employ manual exposure and set the camera to let either more or less light in than it deems appropriate. Alternatively, you can use some of the auto modes (e.g. AV or TV) to dial in an exposure compensation of + or –. Previous Canon digital cameras provided a +/- exposure compensation of just 2 stops. The new Canon 7D has expanded this to 5 stops above and below Meter as Read (MAR). I think this is an excellent improvement.

Sensitivity

ISO determines the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The higher the ISO the more sensitive the sensor and, as a consequence, the less light is required to make an exposure.

Setting a higher ISO will allow the camera to shoot at a higher shutter speed than it otherwise would under the same conditions (lighting, aperture). High ISO’s are often required to achieve faster shutter speeds, thereby reducing either subject or camera movement, under low light conditions. Alternatively high shutter speeds are an aid to freezing subject movement in action (sports, wildlife, surveillance) photography.

The 7D has an ISO range from 100 to 6400 and can be expanded up to 12,800, albeit it with a loss of image quality. At the higher ISO’s you can expect images that are flat (lacking contrast) and exhibit noise, particularly in shadows and areas of smooth tonality (skin, blue sky). It’s fine to shoot at high ISO’s where you may make images that wouldn’t have been possible with older technologies. Just be aware that there can be a quality compromise. So, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If its bright and sunny try to shoot at the camera’s default ISO. With a Canon that’s ISO 100. Increase the ISO when and if required (capturing fast moving action, or shooting under low light conditions) and don’t forget to change it back to the default (or thereabouts) when you’re done.

Built in Flash

The camera’s built in flash can spread light out wider than was the case with previous models. It’s said that the flash can cover an image made with a 15mm lens (such as the new EF-S 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens). This is an important improvement and should reduce vignetting (darkened corners) when the wide-angle end of your kit zoom lens is used.

The camera also includes built in wireless flash capability so that you can trigger an off-camera portable flashgun (strobe) remotely. On previous Canon models it was necessary to have another flashgun, or remote triggering device, attached to the hot shoe to fire the off-camera flash. Thank God Canon finally seem to have caught up with Nikon in this regard.

Viewfinder

A viewfinder with 100% coverage allowing you to see exactly what will be recorded in the final frame. A further aid to composition is the inclusion of

Gridlines which can easily be switched on and off, allowing for more accurately placed horizon lines, as well as verticals such as buildings and trees.

Autofocus

A new 19-point autofocus system may provide more accurate focusing.

Improvements to AI-Servo mode should produce more accurately focused results in both sports and macro photography.

LCD Display

An improved LCD screen providing better image viewing, with more contrast and less glare, particularly noticeable outdoors. The new hardened glass screen features VGA resolution with a viewing angle of 160 degrees.

Also related are a new programmable multi function button and a quick menu button for easier navigation on the LCD display

Live View Movie mode

Full manual exposure control, of both shutter speed and aperture, easily activated auto focus and variable frame rates of 30, 25 and 24 at full High Definition (HD) 1080p. 720p is achieved when shooting at either 60 or 50 frames per second.

Body Construction and Ergonomics

The 7D features a magnesium alloy body that is designed to withstand moisture and dust better than other Canon cameras in its class.

The feel of the camera is excellent. It fits the hand well and incorporates good design (for Canon and Nikon), both in its exterior buttons and interior menus.

Conclusion and a few words of Caution

Price is a key consideration in the purchase of any camera and, to my mind, the new Canon 7D offers great value for the features it offers and the quality it promises. I’m sure I’II end up recommending it to many folks I meet at the range of classes and workshops with which I’m involved. But only after I determine, after discussion with each individual, whether it’s actually the most appropriate camera for the individual in question.

I currently use a Canon 5D Mark II. It’s just over 1 year old and while the 7D is, in many ways, an improvement on the 5D Mark II it is not a full frame camera. The 5D Mark II sensor is significantly larger and, as a consequence, does produce somewhat larger files. The difference is less than one might expect due to technological improvements with the 7D. However, one key difference remains, because the 5D Mark II is a full frame camera it is not subject to any magnification factor.

To my mind the argument as to which of the two camera sensors is better is irrelevant. What’s important is which of the two sensors is most appropriate to the kind of photography you are most likely to do. If the majority of your images will be made with long telephoto lenses, as is the case with sports, wildlife or surveillance photography, then the extra magnification produced by the 7D makes it a camera well worth considering. You could potentially save thousands of dollars by utilizing smaller, lighter and less expensive (but nevertheless high quality) lenses on the 7D than would be the case if you were trying to achieve the same magnification with a full frame sensor camera. The smaller sensor camera is simply better suited to large lens photography.

However if, like me, you do a lot of wide-angle work (e.g. landscape), a full frame camera, though more expensive to purchase, is the best way to go. It’s nice to know that when you place a 20mm lens on your camera, with the intention of achieving a wide-angle of view appropriate to a 20mm lens, the angle of view remains what it would have been with the same lens on a film-based camera. If that same lens were used on a common Nikon camera the 1.5x magnification factor would produce an image with a significantly reduced angle of view. The subject would appear 50% closer, but you’d only be able to include 50% of that same landscape in the frame compared to what would have been the case if you were standing in the same spot and using the same lens on a film-based or full frame camera (e.g. Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D700). And that’s frankly a disaster for the average landscape photographer.

Folks often counter this by saying that they have a 20-100mm lens (this lens doesn’t exist, I’m using it as an example to make the numbers easier to understand) and 20mm is a very wide angle indeed. “Yep!” (pause to spit in the dirt), I might say. “But not on your camera, it ain’t.” If it’s a common Nikon the 20mm will effectively become 30mm, which is only a mild-wide angle. On most Canon cameras the 1.6x magnification factor would result in the 20mm lens having an effective focal length of 32mm.

This probably explains the release of the new Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens mentioned earlier in this article. While the improved sharpness from the Image Stabilisation (IS) and the speed and quiet focusing of the Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) are great features, the variable aperture of f3.5-5.6 marks this as a lens targeted at the average enthusiast (I understand that may not mean you!). It’s a good lens, but made for a particular price point. The fact is that slow, variable aperture lenses just don’t cut it in the professional world where the ability to produce very shallow Depth of Field (DOF) and to be able to shoot, hand-held under low light conditions, at a moderate ISO is essential.

So without getting too your main consideration should be what sort of photography are you most commonly going to be doing. The decision as to what camera to buy is then made much more easily. That is, assuming a potential wide-angle shooter is not put off by the cost of a full-frame camera. That’s understandable and photography is a game of trade-offs. Just be aware of what trades off you’re potentially making.

I hope you found the above article to be informative. You may like to check out other related articles I’ve written. Simply travel up to the Posts section on the top left of this sites home page, click on Select Categories and scroll down and select the Equipment section. You’ll find a few articles there worth a look.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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5 Responses

  1. Nice Review! I have recently purchased the 7D as an upgrade to the 40D and I’ve also noticed that its has a faster and more accurate focusing system.

    I also agree with your recommendation of the 7D for wildlife/sports shooters and the 5D Mark II for landscape/studio/wedding photography.

  2. Hey Gary,

    Thanks for the positive feedback. I’m sure you’ll be happy with the Canon 7D – it looks like a beauty. I think Nikon and Sony had really shown Canon the cold, blue steel over the last 18 months and the Canon 5D Mark II and now the 7D are strong signs of Canon’s fight back. And all of this is great for consumers. The price on the 7D is also great news for would be purchases. Good luck with yours.

    All the best,

    Glenn

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for such a concise and clear article on this camera. I’ve been undecided re the 7D/50D or the as yet unreleased 60D. My main interest is in sports photography (horse racing) but due to the 360 degree view of where I live rurally, also enjoy landscape. As such I couldn’t make up my mind re camera or lenses. Your article has put it in such a way that I think 7D with a 70-200 F4 USM IS will do me for starters with maybe a 17-85 USM for general and landscapes. The only thing I cannot really get any info on with the 7D is due to size and weight together with a lense, how does it really feel when you are holding it for a reasonable length of time?

    regards,

    Diane

  4. Hi Diane,

    Sorry for the late reply. I’ve changed my business name as part of a re-branding process. I now operate under the name Travel Photography Guru and, as a consequence, haven’t been over to my old wordpress site for some time. Although the new site is still under construction its functioning and you can access it at http://www.travelphotographyguru.com/

    I think you’d find the Canon 70-200 f4 IS lens to be OK to work with, although the 70-200 f4 (non IS) version is considerably lighter. Next time you’re going into the city I’d ring several of the city camera stores to determine which ones have one or both of these lenses in stock. That would give you the opportunity to attach one or more of these lenses onto the 7D and test the weight and handling out for yourself. Good luck!

    All the best,

    Glenn

  5. wedding photography is sometimes very difficult to master because of the high contrast of the wedding gown ~,,

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