Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

The EOS 7D delivers pretty much the same color response across the various Picture Styles as other more recent Canon DSLRs. This is useful for anyone moving from one model to another. As we've seen in other reviews the standard hues are also very similar to most other SLRs in this class, with minor saturation and brightness differences but essentially the same color response.

Canon EOS 7D Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardPortraitLandscapeNeutral
FaithfulMonoAdobe RGB

Artificial light White Balance

The EOS 7D is yet another Canon DSLR that isn't doing a great job at white balance under artificial lighting. If you want white whites and you're indoors or in any mixed light situation, you will almost definitely need to use the custom white balance or Kelvin temperature options.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 10.3%, Blue: -13.8%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 9.7%, Blue: -14.5%, Poor
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 6.5%, Blue: -9.8%, Average
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: 5.2%, Blue: -6.9%, Average

Flash

The EOS 7D's built-in flash performs well in almost any situation. Color and exposure are excellent, and in the fully automatic modes ambient light and flash exposures are usually perfectly balanced (auto fill flash works well too).

Highlight tone priority

The 'Highlight tone priority' (HTP) function expands dynamic range in the highlights and can be activated via C.Fn II-3. With HTP turned on the minimum ISO setting increases to 200. We've looked at this feature in previous reviews and in the dynamic range section of this review, but the example below gives an impression of what it does in a real-life scenario.

We've used ACR's highlight clipping warning to show how HTP can hang on to a little of the detail on the white wall of the building and the sky, though as you can see the effect is far from dramatic.

Ultimately in situations such as those shown below it's worth turning HTP on, but it's fair to say that the difference it makes in most shots isn't huge. Although it can save a shot that's been inadvertently over exposed, you're still best off shooting raw and pulling back the exposure later.

Highlight tone priority OFF Highlight tone priority ON
ISO 100, 1/80 sec, F8 (+0.67 EV AE-C) ISO 200, 1/200 sec, F8 (+0.67 EV AE-C)
Clipping Clipping
100% crop 100% crop
100% crop 100% crop

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

You won't find any nasty surprises when looking closely at the EOS 7D's image output, the quality is in most situations quite impressive. The EOS 7D is the most 'pixel dense' APS-C sensor camera on the market, and we were slightly concerned that this could prove to be problematic in certain shooting situations but fortunately our fears in this respect were unfounded; the new sensor and Dual DIGIC 4 processor actually manage to improve on the EOS 50D's output across all ISO settings.

Thanks to its rather efficient combination of a very high pixel count with excellent per-pixel sharpness at base ISO the 7D delivers impressive image detail and resolution. However, you have to keep in mind that the camera demands the very best lenses to really show what it can do. Having looked at the image results from Canon's 15-85mm and 18-135mm kit lens options it becomes obvious that the lenses are the limiting factors here, not the camera. In terms of default tone curve and color response the 7D is very similar to other current Canon DSLRs, which makes things easier if you have two or more different Canons in your bag.

At higher ISOs the 7D does, especially considering its high nominal resolution, a very decent job and manages to maintain a good balance between image detail and noise reduction up to very high sensitivities. Low light results are unsurprisingly not quite as good as the full-frame EOS 5D Mark II but the 7D delivers visibly better image detail than the 15.1 MP EOS 50D while maintaining lower noise levels. This is due to both an improved sensor design and image processing.

Dynamic range is pretty much in line with the competition. There is also approximately an extra stop of highlight detail in the RAW headroom. This can on occasions be a useful safety cushion as the 7D tends to over expose very contrasty scenes, resulting in clipping of highlights (not helped by the rather contrasty and vivid default Picture Style). Of course you can avoid this by applying a third of a stop or so of negative exposure compensation.

There are a couple of other good reasons to always shoot RAW+JPEG on the EOS 7D. As usual it gives you much more control over your image processing parameters including noise reduction but more crucially, like most other recent Canon DSLRs, the camera's white balance performance under artificial light is pretty marginal. If you need neutral colors you'll find color correction during RAW conversion certainly useful.

We should also mention some very occasional focus issues including one or two 'false positives' (where the camera insists it's in focus and obviously isn't). However, out of 1500 or so test shots this occurred in only a handful, so can't be considered to be a major problem.