A great camera for the price.
Great camera for the price. Great video capability.
Perfect for still camera. For video, still isn't ready for prime time.
The Bottom Line:
Great camera. Would recommend it to anyone and will probably not lose price in the secondhand market cause people will continue buying and loving it for years to come.
For those wanting the bottom line first - This is a great digital slr camera in it's price range. It's also a decent video camera with HD potential in it.I'm a professional videographer and I too was following the digital video HDSLR revolution and wanted to jump on the bandwagon. I tested both the Canon 5d Mark 2 and the Canon 7D. The current two top dogs of the HD video DSLR world. They are similar in many ways and very different in others. At the end of this review I'll talk more about the differences between them. Each one of them will be better of for different purposes.
This review will be broken into 2 parts. One the 7D as a still camera and the second is the 7D as a video camera as many of it's buyers are videographers rather than photographers.
7D AS A STILL PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERA:
CASING: Totally weather proof. I read that some photographers tried leaving it in the rain for their timelapses and it continued working like the workhorse it is. The 5D is better built but isn't total weatherproof or waterproof.
DESIGN: It's the classic Canon design which some love and some hate. Sony and Apple are much better at creating devices that are more intuitive with almost no learning curve. This camera needs to be learnt. The buttons aren't placed in the best places and even changing some of the functions to make it easier for the user don't solve the problem that this camera needs learning time before one can take it to the field to work.
EASE OF USE: This camera isn't a point and shoot. It's not a camera that can just be taken out of the box and start shooting images with. But after one afternoon of playing around with it, one can get the hang of it and create pretty good images. This is not a "press auto" consumer product. That said it's a product that will appeal to prosumers and professionals. Prosumers can get very professional shots after a very short time learning the camera.
The major advantage it has over the 5D is that the video has it's own designated REC button.
FOCUSING: For still photographers this is perhaps one of the most important elements and Canon has truly shined with this new camera. It has a brand new system with 19 cross-type AF points. Each and every point including those located farthest from the center, is a standard-precision cross-type sensor. Even Canon admits that the focusing system on the 7D surpasses those on the top two Canon cameras the 1D and the 5D.
MEMORY CARDS: The CF cards are readily available and aren't too pricey. They are pretty much a standard and are reliable and can be used again and again. That said, for video they force a high level of compression and that affects image quality.
BATTERY: Battery life is decent for still photography and awful for video where the battery life lasts for about 45 minutes. For video - a minimum of 4 batteries is recommended.
LCD SCREEN: LCD screen is decent as a recommendation but not more as the resolution of the screen isn't great ( the new Canon 60D has a much better screen ). For still photography one can rely on the autofocus for focusing but for video mode - the autofocus is useless and so is left without many options. There are many third party vendors that have created an eyepiece that magnifies that screen two to three times the image size of the LCD screen to help with focusing. But since the resolution of the screen isn't as good as the final resolution of either the video or the stills - focusing can be tricky and challenging in low light.
VIEWFINDER: Complicated to use. Not intuitive. Not enough details appear in it. After using it for a very short while I went back to using the screen with an external third party eye piece attached to the LCD screen.
SENSOR: 18 MP with an APC-S 35 mm CMOS dual digic sensor. While smaller than the sensor on the 5D. This is still a large sensor that allows wonderful capabilities in low light, wonderfully shallow depth of field shots. But because the sensor is smaller than the 5D- focusing is so much easier. The depth of field isn't as shallow as on the Canon 5D so the focusing isn't only easier it's also faster and that makes this camera ideal for sports photography. Also the APS-C is the most popular sensor size and so the majority of cheap lens are built for this size sensor. (Unlike the 5D which needs much more expensive lens for it's larger sensor). Zoom lens are particularly a great deal for this sensor size and are about 70% cheaper than full frame sensor cameras.That said, for video, the dual sensor heats up a lot and expect to need time to shut of the camera and let it cool of on long shoot days. Canon needs to find a solution for this issue as it's a biggie!!!
MEGAPIXELS: The 7D has 18 megapixels while the 7D has 21 megapixels. Personally I don't think there's a big difference for most users between the 18 megapixels of the 7D to the 21 megapixels of the 5D. Unless one needs to shoot very large images - say billboards - the difference for most users won't be that noticeable.
FLASH: Flash is extremely difficult to master on the 5D as it's not intuitive and hard to remember what each button does and how to make it work automatically. The flashes seems to have been built only for professionals and not for prosumers. So if you don't have the budget for a higher end Canon flash ( 580, 430...) avoid the flash on this camera. Because of it's amazing low light capabilities most shots can be shot in almost darkness.
SPEED: If speed is an issue go with the 7D as it's a fastest camera Canon has and will be better suited for sports than it's competitors. Currently for sports, this is one of the best cameras out there. Canon doesn't really have a better camera for this price range.
VIDEO: While the 7D can't get the rich colors and shallow depth of field as the 5D it has many elements which make it more ideal. It's easier to focus this camera, it has a designated video record button and it has a warning light when the sensor heats up- a common problem when shooting video for too long on this still caemera. That said, there's no manual control of the sound and no way to shut of the sound's automatic gain ( AGC) which forces the filmmaker to use an external system for recording sound and later sync it in post making this a very cumbersome process for videographers and taking some of the steam of using this camera as a video camera for many situations.Also, the camera can only record about 12 minutes of video at a time which means it can't be just turned on and left to shoot many documentary events that need longer time without supervision.
DIGITAL NOISE: Alliasing and Moiring are the biggest problems of both the 5D and the 7D when shooting video. These are very annoying digital noises that sometimes appear on the shot images. Go to youtube and I'm sure you'll find a lot of tests and examples that will illustrate the problem in hudreds of scenarios. There is not much that can be done against it and that is what makes it so frustrating. The camera has no video filter and that is why there is so much noise in the video image. The camera wasn't intended for videographers. The video was added almost as an afterthought. AS time goes bye, videographers will learn what elements make more digital noise and try to compensate for it in other ways.
VALUE: For the price, it's the best still and high end video camera on the market today. It costs nearly half of the 5D and the lens are so much cheaper as well so for most situations this might be the perfect fit.
VIDEO INTEGRATION AND USER HANDS ON EXPERIENCE:
My thoughts after using the 7D for almost a year:
I'm a professional videographer and was looking for a camera that will create stunning images but for my documentary work needed also something that was small and didn't look intimidating so that I could get intimate with my subjects. I shot with both the 5d and the 7d and I think they're both great cameras good for different things.
The 5d is better for low light breathtaking work that has mind boggling colors. The 7D is better for work that needs speed cause using the camera is so much easier and the smaller sensor allows easier focusing, less shallow depth of field and less of a general hassle cause it's easier to get cheap lens for it.
The 7D is one of the top cameras currently out in the market. Especially for sports. I've seen that many professional sport journalists and newspaper sports photographers have purchased this camera and are using it daily. It's the ideal workhorse. Excellent quality and a price that is within reach. It's also a very rugged camera and will not be damaged easily moving around and Canon claims that it's weather and water proof and many people online claim to have tested it and that it indeed will survive the rain.
For the price - it's perhaps the best still camera currently out there. I've tried the Canon 7D also with manual Nikon lenses - and while the lenses are harder to operate - their image is just as great and sometimes even greater than the Canons for various video work.
There are a lot of relatively cheap full frame lenses one can attach from older 35mm film cameras from other manufacturers with cheap adapters that are readily available on Ebay. They will not have any auto capabilities but they will still allow creating different looks and getting more frame sizes to enhance you photography pallette. Canon has a wide range of lens for this camera- Zoom lenses are particularly cheap for this camera. One of the greatest things about this camera is that it shoots raw images meaning you have the ability to play with the images afterwards and change latitude, colors, saturation, contract at levels that aren't possible in semi prosumer cameras.
Now for the video factor.The video image looks like nothing any videographer has seen before in cameras that cost under $50,000. I read a lot about it - but when I actually shot I was blown away by the quality of this camera's images. It has a very unique look that almost doesn't look like video but like 16mm film. But this quality comes at a price.The camera has a lot of digital noise - aliasing and moiring are a nightmare. You don't know when they'll creep up in the image and because this camera doesn't have a video filter that filters these noises like most video camera have - it can ruin the shot.
Also, the CMOS sensor creates a rolling shutter effect - meaning that when the camera tilts or pans sometimes it creates an annoying strobing or jello like effect. Sound is also a nightmare and can't be controlled manually while shooting which makes it very hard for shooting professional videos. The camera has no headphone jack so you can't even hear what the camera records. It doesn't have an XLR input for professional audio either and no manual control like the 5D or 60D.
The camera is very hard to focus and because of the shallow depth of field if you're not careful and your subject moves even a tiny bit the image will not be sharp. Because it's a still camera and not a video camera - the sensor tends to heat up and will eventually burn if you shoot video for too long.
Even thought the 7D has a warning light that warns in advance when the camera is too hot the sensor is easily damaged and most videographers have complained that their 7D's sensor died in the first year and had to be taken to a Canon service center to be fixed. When I went to the Canon facility to have my 5D's sensor repaired there was a very long line of 5D and 7D users all with the same problem. Canon is aware of it and all they will tell you is that it's a stills camera not intended to shoot video. I asked them why then did they add the video capability and they didn't have an answer. Although the camera isn't that expensive - adding all the additional items needed for shooting ( eyepiece for focusing, external sound system for video recording like the Zoom H4N, Beachtek or Juicedlinked systems), and all the other small items, and memory cards needed to create a full video able camera will add a few thousand dollars. Focusing will still be extremely hard and a $600 -$1000 monitor will be needed to be purchased eventually.Also, a shoulder rig to allow handheld will be needed which will run you another $1000. Bottom line - this camera will eventually reach $10,000 to become a true video camera with all the needed accessories.
To conclude. I've shot a documentary with this camera and worked it hard for several months. I love this camera but I also hate it.When it doesn't betray me - the images are stunning and everyone looking at the images are blown away.But while it's much easier than the 5D to operate, it's still very very hard to operate. It's a nightmare most of the times. I suggest for anyone wanting it for it's video capabilities to rent it for a weekend and after shooting for a few days make up your own mind if this camera is for you.It's not for the faint of heart as you will lose many of your shots but those that will come out might be worth the gamble. There's nothing like it in it's price range or even for three times that price. Then again, I got to remember that it's truly not a video camera but a still camera and as that - it's the top dog right now. I've shot a few large press conferences with national and international press from around the world and what amazed me is that All the reporters/photographers either had the 5D or the 7D. There was not even one Nikon dslr camera in the room. I remember ten years ago shooting press conferences and there was about an equal amount of Nikons and Canons.
I suggest if you're into a more professional DSLR that you do your homework and read more about the differences between the 5D and the 7D and decide for yourself which one works better for your needs.
The 7D will satisfy most prosumers and sport photographers.