In a sea of minor updates, it's nice to see some fresh DSLR blood in the form of two high-resolution DSLRs. We compare the Canon EOS 7D vs Pentax K-7 to see which one comes out on top
Canon EOS 7D vs Pentax K-7 – Features
Although the Canon EOS 7D and Pentax K-7 sit at the top of their manufacturers’ APS-C-format DSLR range, neither replaced an existing model when it was introduced.
Instead, each debuts a new line of cameras. Both have a high pixel count, but with 18 million effective pixels at its disposal, the EOS 7D is arguably the more tempting for photographers interested in making large prints and capturing lots of detail.
With 14.6 million effective pixels, the K-7 has also proved itself to be no slouch in the detail resolution stakes, and it is interesting to note that at 23.4×15.6mm its sensor is a little bigger than the 22.3×14.9mm device used in the EOS 7D. This could have a significant bearing upon the level of noise in the images it produces.
The most innovative feature of the K-7 is its ability to rotate the sensor by up to 2° to automatically correct a sloping horizon. This is a clever additional use of its Shake Reduction system and links with the camera’s built-in electronic level.
Alternatively, the level indicators are marked in 1° to ±5° and can be displayed in both the viewfinder and LCD screen (in Live View mode) to guide the angle of the camera in portrait and landscape format. It is also possible to shift or rotate the sensor slightly to adjust the composition when an image is being composed on the LCD screen with the camera on a tripod. While the vertical and horizontal movements can make a noticeable difference, it is difficult to imagine that a tripod-using photographer will rely on using sensor adjustments to finalise the composition.
Although it doesn’t feature in-camera stabilisation (Canon uses its lens-based Image Stabilizer system), the EOS 7D has an electronic level that indicates how the camera needs to be rotated to make the horizon level. I will discuss the levels in more depth in the Features in use section.
Like the K-7, the Canon EOS 7D has wireless flash technology that enables compatible flashguns to be controlled by the camera. While this isn’t new for Pentax users, the EOS 7D is the first EOS DSLR to have an Integrated Speedlite Transmitter.
In the past, Canon users have had to invest in the ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter, which retails for around £169. Canon representatives had been adamant that wireless flash control was not necessary in-camera, but at last the company seems to have bowed to the peer pressure exerted by other manufacturers that have provided it for some time.
Pentax attracted some criticism for the limited functionality of the K20D’s Live View system, but this has been addressed in the K-7. Like the EOS 7D, the K-7 has contrast, phase and face-detection AF in Live View mode. The two cameras also feature 3in, 920,000-dot LCD screens and the ability to record high-definition video. This, plus viewfinders that provide an approximately 100% field of view, tops off an impressive feature set for both models.
Image: At ISO 6400 and with the in-camera noise reduction turned off, the Pentax JPEG file looks noticeably noisier than the equivalent file from the EOS 7D. The Pentax automatic white balance system also produced a cooler result, while the EOS 7D image is closer to reality
Features in use: Electronic levels
Image: When the cameras are held at an awkward angle, Pentax’s on-screen electronic level indicator is often easier to see than the more complex level display on the EOS 7D’s LCD screen
I have long since accepted that getting horizons level and trees upright in images is not my forte, so I was very keen to compare the electronic levels in the Canon EOS 7D and Pentax K-7. Both cameras allow the level to be displayed in either the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, and the levels operate whether the cameras are in the upright or the horizontal position. The K-7 can only show the level on its monitor when it is operating in Live View mode, while that of the EOS 7D can be shown on the screen as an alternative to the information display when the viewfinder is being used to compose the image.
When the option is selected using the EOS 7D’s Custom Function IV, pressing the Multi Function (M.Fn) button, located near the shutter-release button, uses the AF point displays to indicate whether the camera is level or not. Whichever the display method, the EOS 7D’s level can indicate the degree of tilt (up or down) as well as horizontal yaw (left or right) in 1° steps up to 6°. The Pentax camera only indicates the degree of yawing (in 1° steps up to 5°).
When the cameras are fixed on a tripod, the levels are extremely easy and convenient to use in most situations. However, when shooting from an exceptionally low or high angle it is a little harder to see the EOS 7D’s level properly as it uses a thin red line that turns green when the camera is level. The Pentax system uses a series of dashes along a line to indicate how much correction is required and this is often easier to see from an awkward angle.
I also found the Pentax level much more useful when using the viewfinder to compose my shots. This is because the Canon level uses the AF points and it disappears from the viewfinder as soon as the ‘AF-on’ or shutter-release buttons are pressed. As the K-7 uses the exposure-compensation scale, it works even when the shutter-release button is half pressed, making it easier to be sure that the camera is level when the shutter is fired.
One of the most impressive innovations during 2009 was the introduction of the Automatic Horizon Correction feature on the K-7. This allows users to set the camera to straighten horizons automatically by rotating the sensor by up to 2°. While it is very clever thinking, the level display gives users the reassurance that something is happening. Also, our tests have revealed that with slow shutter speeds, using Automatic Horizon Correction can lead to a slight reduction in detail resolution.
When the cameras are held at an awkward angle, Pentax’s on-screen electronic level indicator is often easier to see than the more complex level display on the EOS 7D’s LCD screen.