Canon 7D Review

 
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Canon EOS 7D Live View

Like many SLRs these days, the Canon 7D features a Live View mode for its rear-panel LCD monitor. The Live View mode lets you use the LCD monitor as a large viewfinder, and offers an exposure simulation option which displays the expected outcome of your chosen exposure settings. A dedicated Movie/Live View switch is used to select Live View mode on the EOS 7D, and the mode is activated or disabled by pressing the Start/Stop button in the center of the switch.

The Canon 7D's Live View mode feature set is comprehensive, and the display offers a lot of information such as current settings, exposure and composition aids (see illustration below, courtesy of Canon USA). The 7D's Live View mode also offers three autofocus modes: "Quick mode," which employs the normal phase-detection scheme used when using the optical viewfinder, contrast-detect autofocus called "Live mode," which uses image-sensor data, an a face detection option called "Live face detection mode," which also uses sensor data. Contrast and face detection is slower than phase-detection, but doesn't require mirror flips to use the phase-detection AF sensor, and can be more accurate as well. Manual focus is also supported, with image magnification to assist. In Live View mode, evaluative metering is always used to determine correct exposure, though exposure compensation is available.

Canon has included two optional modes to reduce shutter noise in Live View mode, first seen on the EOS 40D. Called "Silent Modes," the first leaves the first shutter curtain open while you shoot up to a maximum of seven frames per second. The imager has a feature that can emulate the first curtain electronically, so only the second mechanical curtain makes noise in this mode. The second mode is a single shot mode that spreads the sounds out, not re-opening the shutter until you release the shutter button. For more detail on Silent Modes, see the Exposure tab.

The EOS Utility software (included with the camera) allows you to shoot remotely via USB connection while viewing the Live View image on your computer. You can also display the Live View image on a TV via the provided A/V cable or on an HDTV with an optional HDMI cable. The Canon 7D comes equipped with a temperature sensor, and if the internal temperature exceeds an undisclosed threshold, Live View will be disabled to protect internal circuitry from overheating. A high temperature icon is displayed on the LCD monitor to warn the user that image degradation may be occurring, and that the camera may disable Live View until normal operating temperature is restored.

Like a larger version of the optical viewfinder display, the Live View display reports the exposure information along the bottom of the screen, with additional settings and info overlaid to the left and right, as well as the selected focus area(s). The amount of information displayed can be varied by pressing the INFO button.

 

Canon EOS 7D Live View options
The Canon 7D offers a comprehensive set of options for Live View mode, enough to warrant its own tab in the Record menu.
Varying amounts of information can be displayed in Live View mode. Pressing the INFO button adds information in stages, starting with no information, a display with minimal information across the bottom, and one with more info overlaid on the left and right sides.
Pressing the INFO button again displays a live luminance histogram. (The histogram is not translucent or movable, so it unfortunately obscures a good portion of the display.) Exposure Simulation must be enabled for the histogram to appear.
The Canon 7D's new electronic level, which shows camera roll (left/right tilt) and pitch (front/back tilt) can also be displayed in Live View mode. It's quite a bit smaller than the one that appears in normal capture mode.
A 2x2 grid can be overlaid to aid composition or alignment.
An alternate 5x3 grid overlay option (Grid 2) is also available.
Setting options are displayed or overlaid when adjusted via the buttons on the top deck, and resulting changes are shown when possible. (Here, the effect of changing white balance is shown.)
Here, the effect of changing exposure compensation is simulated when Exposure Simulation is enabled. (Note that info overlay has been disabled in this particular animation.)
When using contrast-detect ("Live") AF, the focus area is bounded by a white rectangle. It can be moved around the frame (except to extreme edges), to select the desired focus area. The focus area is highlighted in green when focused, just like a Canon digicam. If focus is not achieved, the box turns red. There is also a "Live face detection" mode, which can detect multiple faces. If the face selected by the camera (as indicated by a white frame) is not the face you intended, you can select another detected face by using the Multi-Controller to move the frame.
Pressing the zoom button magnifies what's in the magnifying frame by 5x. Pressing the zoom button again zooms in to 10x, great for checking critical focus, or for manually focusing. You can move the magnified area around in the box, using the legend at bottom right as a guide. If "Live face detection AF" mode is enabled, magnifying the image is not possible, though you can always check critical focus by magnifying the captured image.
When using phase-detect ("Quick") AF mode, an overlay of the available focus points normally seen in the optical viewfinder is shown when selecting an AF area. Pressing the AF button on the top deck allows you to switch among AF modes. The AF points that achieved focus are highlighted in red after a brief delay for focusing.
Quick AF mode lets you select the active AF point or zones, just as if you were using the optical viewfinder. Here, manual selection of AF zone is shown, with the selected cluster of AF points highlighted in blue.

 

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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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