Canon is stepping up its prosumer DSLR game with an all-new camera line, and it all starts with the 7D. Sporting HD video in 1080/24p, 720/60p, and the 18 megapixel stills are also impressive, but the most attractive aspect is the huge assortment of Canon EF and EF-S lenses. This allows for almost limitless creative opportunities and great professional-looking video without having to sacrifice shooting versatility or price for a camcorder adapted for the same job. Canon wants us to look no further for both our video, and picture needs.

First Impressions

The first thing we noticed about the 7D body is how comfortable it is to hold, and, even with larger lenses attached, it’s very well balanced. The magnesium alloy body feels solid as a rock. This helps to stabilize the camera during handheld shots. The 7D is slightly heavier than its older brother, the 5D Mark II, though the weight difference is minimal. The buttons and controls are conveniently located within easy reach of your thumbs and index fingers. Seasoned Canon users will immediately recognize the new dedicated video/live view switch and record button at the top right corner of the LCD screen. This is a welcome addition for quick access and remaining independent of any menu screens for ease of use. In addition, the power switch has been moved to the top left side of the camera instead of the awkward bottom center position on the 50D. Another improvement (on the still image side) is the larger 1:1 ratio eyepiece viewfinder, for an uncropped and less-cramped viewing experience. The only complaint we had with the quality was with the kit lens. The largely plastic construction of the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens didn’t seem to be on par with the quality of the metal frame camera body. The lens performed its job and has decent image stabilization built in, but the option for different lens combinations in different 7D kits, as well as the body-only option for Canon DSLR veterans, are most likely a better idea.

Hold Still

This wouldn’t be a proper look at a Canon DSLR without saying something about the still image quality and shooting experience. That is what this camera was built to do in the first place. The 18-megapixel stills are impressive in not only size and clarity, but in color quality and accuracy. This is due to a new CMOS image sensor and twin Digic IV image processors. The 7D shares an ISO range with the 50D, which is expandable from 100 to 12,800 for high sensitivity. The new 19-point cross-type autofocus sensor is super-fast, accurate and customizable. This is important when it is attached to a camera that shoots a machine gun-like 8 frames per second. Smaller features such as the on-screen level, wireless flash transmitter, and the LCD autofocus display are welcome additions. This camera excels in long exposure night shots, portraits, and capturing lightning fast sports action.

Setting Up the 7D for Video

One of the key features that makes Digital SLRs stand out against traditional camcorders is the wide range of lenses available, the dramatic depth of field that they produce, and the film-like quality they mimic so well. The 7D is no exception. It is able to utilize any lens with the Canon EF, or EF-S mount. In contrast, 35mm lens adapters for camcorders achieve similar film results, but at the cost of cutting the amount of light to work with. Low light performance on the 7D, on the other hand, is impressive. With an ISO range up to 12,800, night shooting is a reality. The lack of a strong video autofocus shouldn’t scare off anyone looking to get creative with this camera, but it is a small disappointment for fast videos of everyday life or quick motion. There is a new, brighter 3-inch LCD display on the back, and while not perfect in direct sunlight, it is quite usable, and a large improvement over previous Canon cameras. The 7D has several flavors of video to offer to us: 1920×1080 in 24, 25, and 30fps, and 1280×720 at 50 and 60fps. All of these shooting modes are captured in H.264 .mov files on a CompactFlash card. The video bit rate is improved over the 5D Mark II at 5.6MB/s. We tested it with a 4GB 30MB/s card, though an 8GB or larger UDMA card is advised. The 24p “Cinema Mode” has a wonderful, artistic motion blur for that professional film look, whereas 720p 60fps gives us super smooth action, or dramatic half speed slow motion. The colors captured are impressive and accurate, as is the sharpness. The on-camera microphone is decent, but picks up some noise of the camera. This can be remedied by utilizing the 3.5mm mic input jack on the side of the camera and an external microphone.

We enjoyed playing around with the video mode of the 7D outdoors for a few hours, but it became very clear to us that, while it performs admirably in taking quick, handheld, video clips of everyday things, it was truly made for making films. The inclusion of full manual control for video is a welcome feature for those with a cinematic vision, or someone who just wants to add a little depth of field to their project. Placed on a tripod, with a good microphone and an assortment of lenses is where the 7D comes to life. It becomes a movie-quality machine, capable of adding a professional touch to your video production.


In Conclusion

The 7D brings to the table some of the best video from a DSLR we have seen to date. It has the benefits of shooting video with 35mm lenses, without the lighting drawbacks of a 35mm adapter on a traditional camcorder. It has a good feel, and excellent functionality. Coupled with great manual control, impressive low-light performance, and a huge array of available lenses and accessories, the 7D is a smart option for your next still/video camera.

Tech Specs

Model: Canon 7D

Format: Compact Flash

Number of CMOS: 1 CMOS

Size of CMOS: APS-C 22.3 x 14.9 mm

Pixels on CMOS: 19 megapixel

Video Effective Pixels: 18 megapixel still, 1920×1080 video

Focus: Auto/ Manual

Shutter Speed: auto/manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 30 sec

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/8000 sec

Lens f Stop: f/4.5-5.6

Digital Zoom: none

Focal Length: 17-85mm

Image Stabilization: On lens

Manual White Balance: Yes

Viewfinder: Yes (for Stills)

LCD Monitor: 3 inch

Progressive Scan: HD Modes: 1920×1080/24/25/30fps – 1280×720/50/60fps – 640×480/60/50fps

Video In: No

Video Out:HDMI

Mono/Stereo Recording: Stereo

Microphone In: Yes

Manual Audio Level Controls: No

Headphone Jack: No

Speaker: Yes

Still Shot Media: Compact Flash

Memory Card Included: no

Flash: Yes

Wireless Remote: No

External Battery Charger Provided: Yes

Battery Type: Lithium Ion

Onboard Video Light: No

Accessory Shoe: Yes

Horizontal resolution: 1920

Strengths

  • Compatible with huge assortment of Canon EF and EF-S lenses
  • Good low-light performance
  • Great manual control

Weaknesses

  • Video autofocus is slow
  • Lack of on-camera audio control

Tom Cunningham is a video enthusiast and photographer working in the video and still camera retail industry.

Canon USA Inc.

One Canon Plz.

New Hyde Park, NY 11042

www.usa.canon.com

$1,699

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