Canon 7D impressions

Some more “first impressions” after I have been using my Canon 7D for a few days. This is more a list of impressions, not a full review – but they are practical impressions. Here it is (and click for larger):


And the back:


As a teacher of photography and cameras, I am well familiar with all Canon cameras, so the first thing I look for is differences. And I see those in droves. Both compared to my 1D and 1Ds, and compared to other small-frame cameras and the 5D.

  • It feels great. Not only is it small and light (at least compared to my 1Ds MkIII and 1D MkIII), but it is also very nice to handle.
  • The layout has been changed a bit. the power switch, for instance, is now on the left.
  • The 7D has video. Very nice video: high-def, including 24 and 29.97 fps.
  • The all-new focus system is very good. Many more focus points (19 in all). Canon has added new focus modes: “Spot focus” (a smaller single focus spot), “zone focus” (where the camera chooses, but in one zone only) and “adjacent points” like on the 1D/1dDs, except it is always all points around the chosen point).
  • Weather sealing has been added.
  • The large display is very good. This not-unimportant innovation means you no longer worry unnecessarily about soft focus.
  • White balance in low light and Tungsten light is better than on previous Canon cameras.
  • A new “M.Fn” button has been added. This is needed to switch focus modes and it is used for various other functions.
  • A new “Q” button has been added: a “Quick settings” back of the LCD menu, á la Nikon’s. This can be quite convenient.
  • Many more ways to assign functions to the various buttons (including the “direct print” button which has never been used by anyone, ever, and which is now a “quickly add a RAW or JPG” button). This is pretty huge.
  • A new separate button for Live View and Video – convenient.
  • Exposure compensation goes farther (+/1 three stops are displayed; you can go farther).
  • Canon also added an electronic level; useful for landscape .JPG photographers (assuming they exist). You can choose to activate it with the “info” button, or you can see it in the viewfinder – using the focus points.
  • The viewfinder is 100% and very bright for a crop viewfinder. It has an all-new built-in transmissive LCD that shows focus points and grids (but inexplicably, does not have an option for a “rule of thirds” grid in viewfinder mode: an obvious mode I would have thought).
  • Peripheral illumination correction has been added, like in the 5D MkII.
  • Focus can be displayed in AI servo.
  • Batteries can be registered, so you remember when you bought which one.
  • The most important innovation: the pop-up flash can now be used to drive other (580 and 430) speedlites. No longer do you need a separate 580EX flash on the camera to do this. Lighten and you save$500. And more ways have been added to set rations: not just A:B and flash compensation – but now you also have the option to set built-in vs external ratio and separate flash compensation settings for popup and external. This is fantastic innovation and makes this camera an option for a pro like me.

The list of innovations is enormous. And yet the camera feels immediately familiar, only in a better way. Well done, Canon. Great news.

So is it perfect?

  • The 7D is more noisy than the 1Ds – it has a smaller sensor, after all – but not by much (see an earlier post on this blog). In practical applications this will not be noticed much.
  • It is a crop camera. That is no doubt why it is cheap. (if $2,000 can be called “cheap”).
  • Live View is more useful than before – but “live” focus is painfully slow.
  • Video is better than before too, but is it really practical? The need to use manual focus and manual exposure (which is at least possible) limit the utility. Still – I will definitely use it.
  • The camera has hung up a few times on me – locked up totally, something my 1D, 1Ds, 5D and others never did. It has only happened a few times.. but shows less than perfect software QA.
  • The auto lighting optimizer and highlight priority modes conflict; you have to use one or the other. And when you add “safety shift” and auto ISO, things get very complicated. Engineering degree, anyone?
  • Settings are missing for marketing reasons. Why not give me the ability to limit auto ISO? Nikon does it even on cheapish cameras. When reviewing, why not zoom in to the selected focus point? Why not give me the ability to store and retrieve standard settings (not using the “custom setting” modes)? Come on, Canon: you think I don’t know what you are doing? Instead of crippling cheaper cameras, how about enhancing the costlier ones?
  • Canon DPP is great, but incredibly, still lacks a function to rotate an arbitrary mount, and a “resize then sharpen” option. This makes it important that it should be supported in Adobe Lightroom – and it isn’t. Yet. Until Adobe gets around to it. Shame on Canon for not ensuring this happens right away, if they aim at pros!
  • Focus is better. Still, especially in low light the camera occasionally misses focus badly – the Canon problem of the last few years. I can live with it, but would love to see even more improvements.

Here’s another high ISO hand-held happy snap:


For now, this camera is meeting my requirements as a working pro very well; when I carry two cameras, from now on that will not be the 1Ds MkIII and the 1D MkIII, but rather one of those (the 1Ds3, most likely, since it is full-frame) and the 7D. I am very happy so far.

More news from the field soon!

0 thoughts on “Canon 7D impressions

  1. Could you add the 5D (Mark 2?) to your comparisons? I bet many photographers will be looking at both.

    The “Direct Print” button is very funny. I can imagine the meetings in Canon where some exec told the camera teams they had to work more closely with the printer teams. Main reason being the printer divisions make big profits on the ink. We had the same pressures in HP.

    Once I tried connecting my 30D to my Canon printer and pressed the button. The printer would have nothing to do with the pictures on the camera as they were CR2 raw. You;d think the cooperation would have gone both ways.

    I wonder if later Canon printers understand raw?

  2. I bet they do… I could find out (I own a 9500 pixma for for 13″x19″ prints) – but then, who’d be printing out of the camera without first going through Lightroom?

    And yes re the comparisons – will do. More to come!

  3. For sure no one with a DSLR wil print straight out of the camera. It’s one of those “if you say so, Boss” features. I wonder if Canon even demos it with a straight face.

    On more weighty matters:

    – I never understood why Canon combined the power switch with the lock for the control wheel. It don’t even know why it needs a lock. Good they separated them.
    – I don’t understand video. Is there a meaningful quality difference between 24 and 29.97 fps? And why not 30 fps? Strange number.
    – You say the electronic level is “useful for landscape .JPG photographers”. Does that mean it does not work if you shoot RAW? I think I am missing the point / joke.
    – I think DPP is an illustration of why hardware companies shouldn’t write software! Canon should integrate properly with Lightroom (e.g. support Adobe in their efforts to implement picture styles) and then bundle it. If it’s good enough for Leica …

    Which reminds me – have you ever defined your own picture styles in Canon’s editor and downloaded them to a camera? Indeed, what do you think of picture styles in general? Are they of use to you in your work?

    I have not used them much myself. I use Lightroom develop presets to achieve the “look” I seek. But I may well be missing something important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *