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Dynamic Range

Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from (the cameras) black to clipped white (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).

To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test we stop measuring values below middle gray as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.

Picture Style options

As we have seen on previous Canon DSLRs the various Picture Styles use either one of two tone curves, the first more contrasty curve for Standard, Portrait, Landscape and Monochrome Picture Styles and a slightly flatter curve for Neutral and Faithful Picture Styles. Neither curve delivers more dynamic range and they both clip highlights at the same point.

Image Highlight tone priority

The Highlight Tone Priority feature is designed to deliver more highlight range. It's available via C.Fn II-3 and, once enabled, the usable ISO range becomes ISO 200 - 6400 (ISO 100 and 12800 are no longer available). In this mode the camera must be applying slightly less gain than normal combined with a different tone curve to deliver approximately a stop more highlight range, though as our real world examples later in the review show, don't expect miracles.

ISO Sensitivity and Dynamic Range

Although noise cuts the shadow range at the very highest ISO settings the EOS 7D's JPEG dynamic range is pretty consistent up to ISO 3200. The range - around 8.3 EV - is fairly typical for a camera at this level.

Sensitivity Shadow range Highlight range Usable range
ISO 100 -5.0 EV 3.3 EV 8.3 EV
ISO 200 -4.9 EV 3.4 EV 8.3 EV
ISO 400 -5.1 EV 3.3 EV 8.2 EV
ISO 800 -4.9 EV 3.4 EV 8.3 EV
ISO 1600 -4.8 EV 3.4 EV 8.2 EV
ISO 3200 -4.3 EV 3.5 EV 7.8 EV
ISO 6400 -3.4 EV 3.5 EV 6.9 EV
ISO 12800 -3.0 EV 3.5 EV 6.5 EV

Dynamic Range compared

The EOS 7D's overall performance is pretty much in line with the competition in this test. Having said that at 3.3 EV the new Canon delivers slightly less highlight range than the EOS 50D (3.5 EV) and the Nikon D300S (3.8 EV). The Pentax K-7 measures the highest overall dynamic range but at 2.9 EV delivers almost half a stop less highlight range than the EOS 7D, with little rolloff and therefore harsh clipping.

Camera (base ISO)
Shadow range
Highlight range
Usable range
Canon EOS 7D -5.0 EV 3.3 EV 8.3 EV
Canon EOS 50D -4.8 EV 3.5 EV 8.3 EV
Nikon D300S -4.6 EV 3.8 EV 8.4 EV
Pentax K-7 -5.7 EV 2.9 EV 8.6 EV

The wedges below are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).





RAW headroom

Experience has told us that there is typically around 1 EV (one stop) of extra information available at the highlight end in RAW files and that a negative digital exposure compensation when converting such files can recover detail lost to over-exposure. As with previous reviews we settled on Adobe Camera RAW for conversion to retrieve the maximum dynamic range from our test shots.

As you can see the default Adobe Camera RAW conversion delivers less dynamic range than JPEG from the camera (a more contrasty tone curve). The best we could achieve was just under 10 stops (9.8 EV) of total dynamic range, more importantly just over a stop of that is in highlights. This is pretty much in line with other cameras in this class.

Settings Usable range
JPEG Default 8.3 EV
ACR Default 7.0 EV
ACR Auto 9.6 EV
ACR Manual 9.8 EV

Please note that our version of Adobe ACR (5.6 Beta) had not been fully optimized for the EOS 7D yet which leads to strong color cast when attempting to recover highlights. We have therefore decided to not include any real-life samples at this stage but will update this section once a final version of ACR 5.6 is available.

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Comments

Total comments: 11
Phil Hol
By Phil Hol (1 month ago)

If you have a filter fitted to protect the lens try shooting without. After buying my 100-400 lens I returned to the shop after finding my images soft using a 7D. They tested my lens with a second one they had in the shop and agreed the first lens was faulty. When I got the second lens home I found it as poor as the first until I realized the second lens tested had not had a filter fitted when tested in the shop and I had transfered my filter to the second lens when I got home.
Conclusion: I only use filters for effects and I have remove all my "protective filters" from my L lenses. Why spend hundreds of pounds on lenses just to add a piece of cheap glass on the front.

0 upvotes
Girish Madpuwar
By Girish Madpuwar (2 months ago)

I am 7D user and have noticed that my images are considerably soft. I mostly use canon 100-400L lens. Initially I thought that its problem with the way I use camera. I tried all possible things. Searched lot and found many discussion about AF problem with 7D. Can someone share their experience?
It seems 7D AF is not consistent although manual focus gives considerably crisp and sharp image.

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Patcheye
By Patcheye (4 months ago)

I'm a wheelchair user and have gone for the 7D because of the increase in range when using a shorter lens over full frame which means though I often cannot get close I often achieve a useable image.

Live on the coast so to avoid problems re dust on the sensor from the beach I purchased a second one a few months back which says, I think, just how pleased I am with the product. Re low iso and noise, possibly because of high light levels from sea reflection and living in a flat open area I personally find no problems but using 2.8 lenses helps. Not professional but have had people use my stuff on their websites - so for my needs the 7D works well - Oh, and if like me you have poor dexterity you'll find the raised buttons really helpful even when wearing gloves.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Ajaykdelhi
By Ajaykdelhi (4 months ago)

I have a 70D, am getting a used 7D at $ 800 next week, will provide a comprehensive review after that

0 upvotes
TahoeJohn
By TahoeJohn (4 months ago)

My Review of the Canon 7d as the owner of one for 1yr is this.I shoot Professionally and have used the 7d for just about 1yr.It is a bit bigger,heavier than my other EOS Canon's.Picture quality is top of the line.Video quality is top of the line.The Grain Factor when using the ISO at a higher number is compensated by a setting in the Menu so no problem.At 8fps continuous it stands above the others.Weather proof as well (Body only).Recently my Canon 7d was knocked over while mounted atop a 6ft tripod landing on solid asphalt.A little scratch on the body was all the damage it received.Though bigger and heavier the construction,function,image quality of this Camera is incredible.I shoot Landscape,Portrait,sports(MMA Fights) and everything in between.Canon went above and beyond with this model.A+ is the grade I give for this one.

0 upvotes
Shashank90
By Shashank90 (5 months ago)

Which one is a better model 70d or 7d , I have read numerous reviews and seen plenty of videos, even though 70d is a much newer version I would like to know from some one who has used them side by side.

0 upvotes
Jostian
By Jostian (4 months ago)

I think both are great, depends on your needs, the 7D is like a tank, the build quality is incredible, its AF is phenomenal (a cut above the 70D in terms of customization options), the 70D has slight advantage 2/3 of a stop at higher iso's, has wifi and touchscreen, the 7D has bigger and better OVF, and the 70D have awesome video capabilities. I played with both and went for the 7D (easy choice), the 70D felt like a toy and I didnt like the plasticky feel (compared to the 7D). Bit both are great, you'll enjoy either depending on your needs.

0 upvotes
EhXsan
By EhXsan (6 months ago)

what is max usable ISO on canon 7d?

1 upvote
PhotobyCarlos
By PhotobyCarlos (9 months ago)

www.photobycarlos.com all my pictures with 7d

2 upvotes
DreamRunnerPhotography
By DreamRunnerPhotography (5 months ago)

Checked your photos at photobycarlos.com. Really it was awesome :) Finally I decided to go for 7D after saw your website. Tnx !!!
please suggest me some good lenses which are more better for portrait & landscape shooting

0 upvotes
gjpuk
By gjpuk (3 months ago)

For potraits i use 5omm prime canon 1.8mm
for landscapes a sigma 10-20mm

0 upvotes
Total comments: 11