- Interior Design
- Limited Editions
- Recent posts
Canon EOS 7D Field Guide
With the new EOS 7D, Canon introduced a camera with APS-C sensor and positioned it above its previous top APS-C lineup, the XXD series. With this strategic move, Canon has once more the best available APS-C camera on the market. The 7D outshines all other crop factor cameras and even manages to score points against its more expensive full frame rivals. Canon manages the tightrope walk of combining some of the best features of APS-C cameras, such as more reach and a super fast shutter, with the superior image quality and resolution of full frame cameras through its advanced new CMOS sensor.
The stunning 18MP resolution combined with high ISO performance is currently unchallenged in this segment. Combined with the fast 8 frames per second shooting action that the two Digic IV processors enable, the camera is the perfect all-round talent. The Canon 7D is ideal for the sports shooters among you who take advantage of the crop factor, giving you the same reach with smaller, lighter and cheaper lenses; and also for you landscape photographers who are resolution fanatics to create large-scale prints.
The 7D is also the first EOS camera that offers full HD (1080p) video shooting with all three common frame rates (24-movie, 25-pal, 30-ntsc) as well as faster frame rates at reduced resolution for high speed fanatics. Combined with the Canon lens lineup of the EF and EF-S series that fit this camera, you have a video system that kicks the pants off some high-end professional video cameras.
The 7D thus has to live up to very high expectations. In this field guide, I will document my experience with the camera and keep you updated on new developments. My Canon 450D field guide has developed into an interesting discussion forum. I would like to encourage you to ask any questions you may have about the 7D and I promise to do my best to find an answer, check my camera for you or perform a test to find a solution.
The heavy and very sturdy feeling of the 7D is no surprise. The camera’s magnesium alloy body and excellent dust and weather seals are supposedly on par with the famous EOS-1N film camera series. This means you can work with this camera even in harsher environments. The camera just feels good, with all the buttons at the right place. If you are familiar with other Canon cameras, especially with the XXD series, you will immediately feel comfortable with the 7D.
Viewfinder / Live view / Electronic Level
One of the most celebrated new features is the huge viewfinder (1x magnification). As you can see from the pictures, it really dominates the back of the camera. Put this baby to your eyes and you will immediately realize the size and brightness of the viewfinder.
The 7D is one of the few cameras that have 100% viewfinder coverage. This means that you see exactly the same area as what you see in the final image. By comparison, the Canon 50D has 95% viewfinder coverage. This means that the final image will have slightly more information on the corners of the image. Personally, I feel that this feature is not very important. In the worst-case scenario, you will have to crop a little bit from the edges with those cameras that have less than 100% coverage.
Like all recent DSLRs, the 7D also supports live view, but like no other, it has an electronic level. The electronic level looks like an instrument in an airplane, which indicates roll and pitch. You can enable it in live view mode and clearly see the horizontal and vertical tilt. With this information, you can adjust your composition to get straight images. I enabled the level before I took the image at the top of this article. Align red line and the (hardly visible) green line for a straight shot. From the vertical row of lines, you can also see that I have tilted the camera down. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated, it is not. You will get the hang of it very quickly.
Canon has achieved the impossible. With a resolution of about 18 megapixels, each pixel comes from a smaller sensor site. This should result in noisier pictures, yet the 7D produces very clean, high-resolution images, even at higher ISO sensitivities.
High ISO performance
One of the Canon 7Ds features I am most excited about is the capability to record images at very high ISO sensitivities of up to ISO 12800. The camera also has an auto ISO function that can automatically adjust the sensitivity between ISO100 – ISO3200 depending on available light. With a maximum ISO of 12800, the 7D is 8 times more sensitive than other cameras that have a maximum ISO of 1600.
My cat Tina was kind enough to pose for some shots. The light conditions were very bad, so I had to rely on the image stabilization feature of the kit lens (28-135mm IS) and on the high ISO performance of the camera. The two red fields indicated where I took the two 100% crops shown below.
Here are the stats for this picture:
At 1/15s and 50mm (80mm equivalent for the 1.6 crop factor), I am already pushing the Image stabilization past 2 stops into the grey zone.
From these two 100% crops you can see that there is still very good detail in the image. You can also see some of the noise filtering (smudges) in the right image. I used Canon’s very own RAW converter “Digital Photography Professional” (DPP) for this test, due to some problems with my other Adobe converters.
I took the camera for a test drive shooting christmas lights in San Francisco tonight. Usually I would take my tripod, but I deliberately left it in the trunk of my car. I was able to get some amazing shots without even having to use the tripod. Some of the photographs, like those I took inside Macy's overlooking Union Square would not have been possible with a tripod. Once more, the high ISO capability really comes in handy. Here are some quick picks (all photographs were hand held in complete darkness):
On my way back to the car I passed by Chinatown. I couldn't resist the tempation:
At the Embarcadero Center looking towards the Ferry Building (I used the builtin flash with flash compensation of -2.5 to brighten up the arch):
Embarcadero Four, at the front door:
While I was reviewing some a 4 second exposure today, I noticed what looked like banding artifacts (horizontal lines) in a 4s exposure:
This is a crop from a section of the night sky. Increase the brightness of your monitor to see it.
I retested, taking a 30 second exposure at ISO 200 and f/5 in my backyard. This time I put the viewfinder cover on (the rubber strap that on the neck band). I took one long exposure with noise cancellation on Auto and one with noise cancellation enabled, but I could not reproduce this. The contrast was lower though, as the entire sky was fairly bright on this overcast day in the city. Maybe the banding was due to the neglect of using the viewfinder cover, but I am inclined to believe it is a sensor artifact, maybe caused by the dual signal processors. Maybe each works on one half picture, similar to the television. I will keep an eye on this and report new developments. At this level I am not concerned.
The file size depends on the ISO setting. The values in the table below are estimates my camera shows when I insert an empty 16GB flash card.
The camera also supports smaller file sizes, but there is no reason to shoot at reduced resolution with today's storage systems and flash memory prices.
The 7D is brand new, so I am not surprised that my version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 does not support the RAW files. However, I was surprised to find out that even the Lightroom Beta 3 didn’t seem to have full support yet. The white balance was whacky, giving my cat a very unnatural yellow tint. I manually adjusted it and I still need to see how Lightroom performs with 7D files shot under natural outdoor lighting. I also should check if Adobe has some updates available.
Meanwhile I used DPP to convert my RAW files. Compared to Lightroom, the standard noise filtering settings in DPP depend on the ISO range you used for your shot. At the highest ISO setting, DPP performs heavy filtering. You can always adjust the sliders and trade cleanliness for detail.
While I was editing the file on my laptop, I noticed that DPP displays colors different from Photoshop. You can see this in the screenshot above. I adjusted the RAW file in DPP (right) and then exported it to Photoshop. I was surprised to discover that it looked completely different in Photoshop, leading me to believe that DPP has some issues with color management. I am sure I will have an answer in a couple of days.
Here is an example video I shot in San Francisco at the Ice Rink at Union Square. The video resolution is 1920x1080 with 24 frames per second. You need to switch to full screen and to HD (make sure you select 1080p). You also need to have a fast computer and a very high resolution large monitor to judge the quality. The original file size was 376MB for 1:05 minutes of video.
Follow the youtube link if you have trouble.
Here are some original sample files straight from the camera. I used the kit lens at aperture f/8 and shot handheld (Image Stabilization off) at about 50mm. You can get the full stats from the EXIF data of the JPG files.
ISO 6400 RAW (will upload later)
ISO 6400 JPG (will upload later)
Some galleries of images shot with the 7D:
Currently you can get $50 cashback from Canon. Here is the rebate form.
Also check out my Canon Rebel XSi Field Guide