At last, it appears Canon has raised its game, in response to Nikon, and introducing a new breed of camera, the EOS 7D. We put it to the test...
The EOS 7D is a digital single-lens reflex camera and it sits at the very top of strong>Canon’s APS-C-format range, a position previously occupied by the EOS 50D. While the EOS 7D’s 18-million-effective-pixel count is impressive, it also sets off alarm bells because of the possibility that the 22.3×14.9mm CMOS sensor might be overcrowded and, as a result, the images very noisy. This problem has dogged the Canon EOS 50D, but Canon claims it has found a solution with the new sensor, which has less circuitry to enable the photodiodes to be larger to boost the high sensitivity and dynamic range performance.
Canon has also used a new design for the diodes, which is claimed to allow more light to be converted into an electrical charge for a higher signal-to-noise ratio. Like the EOS 50D, the EOS 7D has gapless micro lenses over the photodiodes, but the distance between the photodiodes has been decreased (as in the EOS 5D Mark II) to enable more of the light to reach the photo receptors.
Despite the very high pixel count, but thanks to the EOS 7D’s two Digic 4 processors and eight-channel readout, Canon has managed to achieve a sports-photographer-friendly maximum continuous shooting rate of 8fps. That’s without the need for an additional battery pack, so if you head out for a spot of landscape photography and come across a field of deer or a cross-country race, you won’t be cursing the fact that you’ve left the power booster behind. Notably, it is 1fps higher than the maximum shooting rate that the Nikon D300s can achieve unaided.
I will discuss the viewfinder in more detail later, but it is worth pointing out here that the EOS 7D is the first EOS model to have a 100% field of view with 1x magnification (with a 50mm lens focused at infinity). Hence, the view looks very similar to the final image.
The viewfinder complements the 100% field of view offered by the LCD screen when Live View is activated. Even with grid displays and so on, it can be very difficult to get the horizon straight (especially when using a wideangle lens that creates barrelling) and built-in electronic levels are becoming increasingly common.
The EOS 7D is the first Canon DSLR to feature an electronic level, and as well as appearing on the LCD screen (with or without Live View mode being active), it can be set to appear in the viewfinder. When the option is selected in Custom Function (C.Fn) IV, pressing the new-to-EOS-cameras Multi Function (M.Fn) button near the shutter release button uses the AF point displays to indicate whether the camera is level or not.
The level works when the camera is in landscape or upright orientation, and the degree of tilt (up or down) is shown in addition to the horizontal yaw (left or right). Unfortunately, the level disappears from the viewfinder once the shutter release or AF-on buttons are depressed to activate the AF system, so it can’t be used ‘live’ during handheld shooting.
As I mentioned earlier, the EOS 7D is the first EOS DSLR to have an Integrated Speedlite Transmitter, which allows the camera to trigger an external flashgun wirelessly. This transmitter works in the same way as the Speedlite 580 EX II and can control up to three groups of EX-series Speedlite (or compatible) slave flashes. When acting as a controller, the EOS 7D’s flash fires a pre-flash even when it is not being used to supply illumination during the exposure.
Provided the detail resolution is high enough, the extra reach provided by the 1.6x focal length magnification factor combined with the impressive continuous shooting rate, new AF system and extensive feature set makes the EOS 7D very appealing to the budget-conscious pro sports or wildlife photographer who doesn’t need an APS-H or full-frame camera.
Plus, with a street price of around £1,700, it could persuade a few enthusiasts who have been saving for an EOS 5D Mark II to opt for a smaller camera.