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Canon’s EOS 7D is a radical departure for the company’s popular EOS family of cameras. It slots in between the prosumer 50D and the full-frame, pro-level 5D Mark II--but a lot of tantalizing functionality lurks within its magnesium-alloy bodywork. Just don’t make the assumption that the 7D is a low-cost alternative to the 5D Mark II--it’s really an entirely different kind of camera. One caveat is that the APS-C–sized sensor is smaller (like in the 50D), so there’s a 1.6x field-of-view adjustment needed for any focal length you use, unlike the full-frame 5D Mark II. But it’s the 7D’s advanced features and affordable price that make it a compelling shooter.
The 7D’s headline feature is its autofocus (AF) system, which sports its own processor and nine cross-type sensors. It’s blisteringly fast, particularly when tracking quickly moving subjects across the frame. Even when shooting at eight frames per second, the AF had no problem with fast-moving action. You can even fully customize the AF setup--specifying different focus points or tweaking AF for specific lenses.
Canon's latest DSLR is well made, intuitive to use, high-performing, and capable of stunning results, even at high ISO settings. It's a clever concoction of pro specs at semi-pro pricing.
Photo by Samantha Berg
The 7D is also the first EOS offering a 100 percent viewfinder at 1.0x magnification. It’s the best we’ve seen on a non-full-frame DSLR. An LCD below the focusing screen provides a heads-up display for shot framing and AF-point selection, and it also provides comprehensive data. The pop-up flash comes in handy for lifting a backlit shot (and it’s a feature that’s missing from higher-end models). The 7D also boasts another Canon first: an integral Speedlite transmitter, enabling remote control of flashguns--an impressive pro-level feature for the price. Over on the LCD, the air gap between the protective cover and liquid crystal has been stripped away to improve contrast and reduce glare, although reflections can still be an issue in bright conditions. One slight disappointment with the camera’s otherwise superb 3-inch, 920K-pixel LCD is its inability to twist or turn.
Some new controls add sharp functionality. You can still control exposure compensation via the large Quick Control dial, but now you get a useful +/- five stops to play with. Other cool new controls include a dedicated button to quickly change to RAW+JPEG shots and a button that activates an interactive display of your options on the screen. There’s a dedicated switch for Live View and movie shooting with a start/stop button for recording, and the camera’s Movie mode finally feels like an integral part of the default operations at last.
We tested the EOS 7D using the new EF-S 18-135mm IS zoom. We also made use of a Canon 300mm f/4, a mammoth Sigma 50-500mm superzoom, and a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro. Metering and exposure control are faultless: a new metering system takes account of color, focus, and luminance across 63 zones, while switching between the four metering modes provides differing interpretations of the exposure. With its excellent detail and color, the Center-Weighted Average option gave the best overall exposure balance for our liking. Shooting RAW+JPEG gave superb results, although the Auto White Balance setting left images looking a tad warm to our eye.
One of the most impressive aspects of the 7D is the low noise at higher ISOs. Shooting between ISO100 and ISO2000 was a delight. Noise is nonexistent at the lower end and almost invisible higher up. Above 6400, the detail started getting stripped away. Those dual DIGIC 4 chips really strut their stuff in the 7D, but arguably overdo it at ISOs between 5000 and 12800. Like many of the camera’s settings, however, noise processing can be adjusted to your preference.