Canon 7D Review

 
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Canon EOS 7D Operation

Though the Canon EOS 7D is large when compared to past enthusiast and semi-pro models, that gives it plenty of room for the extra controls, while offering ample area for gripping the camera on both the right and left sides. The Canon 7D's controls -- if not their layout -- should be familiar to most Canon SLR users, with three major exceptions: The new power switch, the new Multi-Function button, and the Live View/Movie control. The good news is that they're all well placed and serve to enhance the experience.

Like the Canon 50D, the EOS 7D has an improved interface compared to older Canon SLRs, with both the traditional monochrome Status LCD and viewfinder LED display, and a rear Status display that can be brought up on the 3-inch LCD.

A semi-professional camera, the Canon 7D has dedicated controls or buttons for most commonly used functions. Many of the Canon 7D's buttons and dials can also be customized or tweaked to perform as the user prefers. A Custom Controls menu graphically displays each control that can be customized, along with the customization options available. Listing all the available options for each programmable control is beyond the scope of this review, but the animation at right should give you an idea of the control flexibility offered by the Canon 7D.

The control layout of the Canon 7D is different compared to the 40D and 50D in a few aspects, but still faithful to the basic EOS concepts. The power switch is in an entirely new place, jutting out toward the rear from under the Mode dial on the top of the camera instead of below the Quick Control dial on the back. The Status LCD illumination button is upper right of the LCD, instead of the upper left. And a new Multi-Function (M-Fn) button is just behind and left of the shutter release button. This button can be programmed to quickly adjust several camera parameters.

New on the back is the Quick Menu button, which brings up the shooting status display, allowing easy navigation and adjustment of the various controls. Where the Live View activation button currently exists on the 50D, a new RAW+JPEG toggle button has been added, an innovation first seen on Pentax digital SLRs. Whether you're in RAW or JPEG mode, pressing this button turns on RAW+JPEG for the next frame, then reverts to whichever mode you had active. Also new is the Live View/Movie mode switch and start button. When the surrounding switch is set to Live View, the Start/Stop button enters and exits Live View mode. When set to Movie mode, the Start/Stop button starts and stops recording.

Because Canon moved the power switch to the upper left under the Mode dial, a new Quick Control dial lock switch was necessary, appearing lower left of the dial. The row of buttons found below the 50D's LCD monitor are now arranged vertically to the left of the 7D's LCD, presumably to make room for the larger viewfinder.

See the Design tab for more details on control layout and descriptions.

 

Canon 7D Top-Panel LCD Display

Like most prosumer and professional DSLRs, the Canon 7D features a top-panel LCD display, which reports practically all of the camera's main exposure and menu settings. This smaller display reduces battery drain compared to the main LCD monitor, and is sometimes more convenient when changing settings while the camera is below eye-level (for example, mounted on a low tripod). The lamp button on the top right is used to illuminate the LCD with an orange backlight for the metering timeout period. The display is black and white, and only shows the settings that are applicable during use, though the illustration below shows the full range of settings that can appear. (Illustration courtesy Canon USA.)

The information presented on the status LCD is very similar to the 50D, though the position of some of the readouts and icons has changed. Also note that the Canon 7D's battery level has six levels, up from the four on the 50D, and the exposure level indicator covers a range of +/- 3 EV vs +/- 2 EV on the 50D.

 

Canon 7D Main LCD

The Canon 7D's main TFT color LCD monitor is used for status display, accessing menus, image review as well as image preview in Live View and movie modes. This gorgeous LCD is the high resolution type found on other high-end cameras recently, with approximately 921,600 dots (640x480 RGB pixels), and also features a wide viewing angle. Canon has eliminated the air gap between the LCD and cover glass by sandwiching a special optical elastic material between the LCD and the cover glass. This optical elastic material has the same high refractive index as the glass itself. The cover glass is also a reinforced glass instead of the acrylic used on the 50D, so they also eliminated the special anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings found on the other recent EOS cameras. The appearance of the LCD is reminiscent of instruments like a liquid-filled compass, with added contrast and less glare. Better yet, it doesn't give your images a blue cast that makes color harder to judge, especially when outdoors with the 50D. The LCD's brightness can be adjusted manually in seven steps, or automatically adjusted to one of three brightness levels to suit the current ambient lighting. (An ambient light sensor is located just to the right of the LCD). There is no support for adjusting the LCD's color response, nor are there selectable color schemes or font sizes for the displays and menus.

Canon 7D Record Mode Displays

When the Quick Menu button is pressed, the 7D's rear panel LCD monitor offers a status display, similar to ones found on models without a top status LCD. Most settings shown can be adjusted directly from this display using the Multi-controller joystick, and the Quick Control dial or Main dial.

The image below shows callouts for all the information shown in this shooting display. (Illustration courtesy Canon USA.) Settings denoted with an asterisk cannot be changed from this menu.


Canon EOS 7D Record Displays
First summary display that comes up when you press the INFO button in Record mode.
Pressing the INFO button again displays the current shooting status. It's very similar to the Quick Menu, but also shows status info such battery life, maximum burst and shots remaining along the bottom.
Pressing the Quick Menu button turns the shooting status into the Quick Menu, where the displayed settings can be selected with the Multi-controller, and adjusted directly with the Quick Control or Main dial.
Pressing the SET button with an item highlighted displays the dedicated menu for a function.
You can choose to display the Canon 7D's new electronic level, which shows not only camera roll (left/right tilt) but pitch (front/back tilt) as well.
If you have the Info display active, when you press one of the top deck adjustment buttons you can see the same two options that you'll see on the Status LCD, adjusted by the same two dials: the Main dial and Quick Control dial. In this shot, the ISO/Flash EV compensation button was pressed.

Additionally, the EOS 7D's LCD monitor can be used as a viewfinder, via the camera's Live View mode (see the Live View tab).

 

Canon 7D Playback Mode Displays

The display mode used in Record Review is the same as was last used in Playback mode, or you can hit the INFO button to cycle to a different mode. Likewise, in Playback mode, you can cycle between the available display options by pressing the INFO button repeatedly. You can also select between the normal luminance-based histogram and an RGB histogram option via a Playback-mode menu item.

 

Canon EOS 7D Playback Displays
Normal playback mode display, showing shutter time, aperture, exposure compensation (if any), file number, and active memory card.
Pressing the INFO button overlays image recording quality/movie recording size and playback number/total images recorded in the bottom left. When Highlight Alert is Enabled, overexposed areas will blink as shown above. There is also an option to display the AF point(s) which achieved focus in red.
Pressing the INFO button again displays a screen with more detailed shooting info, as well as a luminance histogram. A menu option switches between showing the Brightness and RGB histograms on this screen.
A third press of the INFO button brings up another display with both RGB and luminance histograms.
You can zoom out to thumbnail views, the standard single-image display moving through screens with a 4-image index and a 9-image index display.
There's the usual ability to zoom in on an image, up to 10x magnification in 15 steps, with the location of the current zoomed view within the full frame shown in the little navigator window in the lower right. You can freely scroll around the image as well.
We like that you can step between images while maintaining the zoomed display. This makes it easy to compare focus or other fine details from one shot to the next. The animation above shows the 10 image "jump mode" screen. You can select to jump by 1, 10 or 100 images, by Date, Folder, Movies or Stills.
You can also choose to manually rotate your images (or have the camera do it automatically), but that's the only "editing" of images you can do in-camera, unless you're printing them directly from the camera. You can also erase and protect files.
The Canon 7D is PictBridge compatible, offering a full range of DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) options in the Playback menu. Additional options are available when connected to a supported Canon printer.
There is also a Slide Show function, useful viewing images and movies on a TV. Files can be selected by folder, date, type (movies or stills), or all files can be shown. You can set the display interval between 1 and 5 seconds, and set the slideshow to repeat.

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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