With the recent introduction of the 18 megapixel Canon EOS 7D, the EOS DSLR family boasts a fairly linear progression of resolutions in a product lineup that formerly had a gap between the 15.1 and 16.1 megapixel offerings and the 21.1 megapixel models. Now Canon DSLRs can be had with 10.1, 12.2, 15.1, 16.1, 18 and 21.1 megapixel sensors. Nobody else comes close to offering such a range. And while the 7D bears some family resemblance to the 50D in terms of size and the 5D Mark II in weight, don't get the idea it's just another model with different resolution. New is the operative word for the 7D - as in a number of new features never before seen on any Canon EOS DSLR.
There's a new 19 point autofocus system with all cross-points; a new iFCL (intelligent focus, color and luminance) metering system with 63 zones; a new intelligent viewfinder and a continuous shooting rate of up to 8 frames per second (fps). There's a new electronic level and the new sensor retains the Canon APS-C sizing of 22.3x14.9mm, resulting in a 1.6X crop factor. Dual Digic 4 image processors help handle the large files and continuous shooting rate. The camera is the third EOS to shoot full HD (1080p) video and accepts type I and II CF cards and UDMA-compliant CF card media.
Available as a body-only, the camera will also be offered in a kit with Canon's EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens per a Canon U.S.A. press release. Canon includes an eyecup, neck strap, stereo AV and USB interface cables, a battery pack and charger, CD-ROM software and printed instruction manual with each camera.
That same press release calls the 7D "... the most functional and innovative DSLR Canon has released to-date." Sounds good on paper - let's see how it does in the field.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The 7D features a magnesium alloy body with dust and moisture resistance, as well as a shutter tested to 150,000 actuations. Build quality of even entry level DSLRs has always been good in the units from various manufacturers I've tested, and the 7D looks to be well constructed and robust. The materials, particularly the rubber-like patches applied to gripping surfaces seem to be a cut above the entry level units, as befits a body carrying a $1700 price tag.
While the camera will be largely familiar to Canon DSLR users, there are some differences in control placement from other current models in the Canon lineup. I suspect folks moving into a 7D from another Canon body will be coming mostly from the 50D/40D/entry level user's group, rather than the 5D/5DII or 1D crowd, so we'll discuss the differences relative to the 50D in the next section.
Ergonomics and Controls
The 7D has a deeply sculpted handgrip and prominent thumb rest on the right front and rear of the camera body, respectively. There is ample room for finger clearance from the lens mount/lens barrel in the front, and the shooting finger falls naturally across the shutter button. The thumb rest at the rear supports the thumb nicely as well. While I don't shoot Canon DSLRs, I have held and played with most of the current lineup in camera stores - not the most intensive study to be sure - and I like the feel of the 7D in my hand the best. This a purely subjective judgment and might well be influenced by having the 7D to use for about a month, but the other Canon bodies just didn't feel quite as good.
Camera back control layout differs from the 50D in both number of controls and location in some cases. The AF-ON, AE Lock and AF point selection/magnify buttons occupy similar locations on both cameras, as do the quick control dial and multi-controller. The 7D adds a live view shooting/movie shooting switch and start/stop button above the multi controller, and moves the erase, playback, info, and picture style selection buttons from the horizontal configuration below the monitor to a vertical alignment below the menu button to the left of the monitor.
The electronic level (pitch and roll) can be displayed on the LCD monitor or in the viewfinder. Here's the level on the monitor - you can display it with the camera set for normal shooting (Level photo) and also with the camera set to shoot in Live View (Level 2 photo) - in the viewfinder focus points illuminated in red indicate the camera attitude.
The 7D also adds a quick control button (the first EOS to do so) above the menu button and morphs the live view shooting/print share button into a RAW-JPEG/direct print button. Pushing this button brings up a screen allowing access to a number of camera shooting settings without having to resort to internal menus.
The RAW/JPEG button provides a quick transition to the simultaneous RAW/ JPEG shooting mode from whatever image quality setting was previously selected: it will capture a RAW file in addition to a JPEG setting or a large JPEG file in addition to a RAW setting.
The function button of the 50D is gone from the 7D, and the power switch moves from adjacent to the quick control dial to beneath the mode dial on the top left of the body - making turning the camera on a two-handed proposition. The former power switch of the 50D becomes a quick control dial lock on the 7D.
The 7D also adds a multi-function button near the main dial on upper right of the camera body; the rest of the control buttons atop the body remain largely unchanged as to location.
Menus and Modes
Canon must be trying to cast a wide net in attracting potential customers to the 7D - in addition to the usual DSLR manual and semi-automatic shooting modes, the 7D tosses in a couple of fully automatic modes that offer few user inputs - the kind of modes typically found on point and shoots and entry level DSLRs.
The 3.0 inch LCD monitor is of approximately 920,000 dot composition and adjustable for seven levels of brightness. The monitor is usable for image composition and capture in all but the harshest conditions of bright outdoor light, though there are times when it becomes inadequate for the task; coverage is 100%.
The eye-level pentaprism viewfinder features a diopter adjustment to accommodate varying degrees of eyesight and offers 100% coverage.
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