November 4, 2010 | Photography
I recently decided that it was time to upgrade old faithful (A Canon EOS 20D) to some new hotness (a Canon EOS 7D). The differences are amazing. Even the feel of the CF Card door opening and closing feels sturdier and smoother. This is gonna seem like a lot of ragging on the 20D, but its not. Its just simply that the 7D offers so much more than the 20D that it really makes the 20D feel old in its technology.
One of the first things that I noticed (aside from the size of the LCD Screen) was the size and brightness of the viewfinder. The 20D has a 96% coverage viewfinder which means that there’s more than you see that is recorded with every shot. With the 7D you see 100% of the scene and the viewfinder is large, too.
On top of that the new electronic “overlay” screen is simply amazing. No longer are the focus points hard etched in the glass. The viewfinder changes based on the autofocus mode that you’re in and nicely highlights the point that it selects when you’re in one of the Zone AF modes.
My favorite addition to the viewfinder is easily the grid lines. Yep. Grid lines. Like others I suffer from a deficiency that prevents me from getting a photo that is level. The grid lines will help tremendously with lining up the shot so that I don’t have to straighten it as much in post processing.
Though the difference between the size of the 20D and 7D is measured in millimeters the difference FEELS substantial. While the 20D feels robust and sturdy the 7D feels even more so on both counts. The 7D is heavier but overall I don’t think that I’ll notice the difference. We’ll have to see how I feel after long stints of shooting.
Everything about the 7D is fast except for switching autofocus modes and autofocus points. Changing autofocus mode is unfortunately buried behind a few button clicks but the added capabilities and options of the autofocus system are worth it. The Zone AF and Focus Point Expansion are gonna be a huge help in tracking fast moving objects.
The extra autofocus points are very welcome but by default rotating through them is done either by using the directional joystick or by using a combination of dials to go up or sideways. I think that I can change this with a custom function setting but I’ll need to go looking for that to be sure.
Frames per Second and the card write speed are amazing. The camera sounds so nice I could just keep laying on the shutter to listen to the high speed drive in action. And sequential shots that would lock up the 20D while it writes to the card are not an issue with the 7D. I don’t lay on the shutter to the tune of 8FPS while I’m working but I do need rapid fire capabilities and the 7D can easily handle consistent 1 shot per second continuous shooting without having to worry about the buffer at all.
Just with a subjective test I think that the 7D at 12800 is better than the 20D at 3200. And the 20D was no slouch at 3200. This is part of why I upgraded was to get the higher ISO capability so that I don’t have to struggle the next time I’m shooting in a dungeon.
Here’s a quick sample of the performance at 12800 with the Plastic Fantastic (50mm f/1.8). Full image:
And a 100% crop of the above (with High ISO Smoothing turned OFF):
Quite impressive, indeed! I know others don’t like it but I think that the ISO expansion of 12800 is gonna be just fine for a lot of situations. Just remember to turn off the High ISO Smoothing custom function. The auto smoothing makes the image look blurry.
Live View is gonna help a lot for studio work and for when its just plain awkward to get the shot I’m after. It’ll suck battery power, yeah, but that’s why I also got the battery grip and an extra battery. I don’t think I’ll use it much, but for what I can think of that I will use for I’ll be very thankful to have it.
And the screen. Oh how that screen is wonderful. It has to be 3 times the size of the screen on the 20D and has a good pixel density. It can actually be used to check focus!
I haven’t played with the video too much yet, but plan to probably keep it to just that, playing. I don’t have any grand aspirations of doing wild things with video but you never know. I’ll just have to try it out and see. I was able to mess with shifting focus while shooting and it leaves a lot to be desired. The manual actually warns against it. And for good reason. The exposure shifts while focus is adjusted and in my testing focus while shooting suffered some kind of accuracy loss as every shift in focus required long adjustments to finally lock in. For what it is it is fantastic, but its not a casual recording device. You have to have a plan.
I’m gonna need a bigger boat.