Conclusion - Pros
- Class-leading detail and resolution at base ISO, good per-pixel sharpness
- Very good low-light performance, low noise levels and good retention of detail
- 8 frames per second continuous shooting speed
- Thanks to Dual Digic 4 processors very quick and responsive performance
- Excellent build quality with magnesium body and environmental sealing
- Good ergonomics, well shaped and comfortable hand grip
- Improved button and control layout over 50D/5D Mark II
- Highly customizable user interface
- On-screen Q-Menu offers good alternative for access to shooting settings
- Large and bright viewfinder with 1.0x magnification and 100% coverage
- Highly flexible new AF system with 19 cross-type sensors
- (Relatively) quick contrast detect AF in live view
- Good quality 1080/720p video output with a range of frame rates
- Easy switch between stills mode, movie mode and live view
- External microphone socket
- Useful highlight tone priority mode
- Reliable flash exposures
- Wireless flash control
- Optional wireless and battery grips
- Dual axis electronic level
- Good battery life
- Comprehensive software bundle
Conclusion - Cons
- Unreliable white balance under artificial lighting
- Slight tendency to overexpose in contrasty conditions
- Occasional jagged lines in 720p video
- No built-in AF illuminator
If you are looking at the pros and cons list above you could be forgiven for getting the impression that we somehow struggled to populate the cons list with a number of bullet points that comes at least close to what you can see in the pros department. You are not mistaken. The EOS 7D is an excellent addition to Canon's range of APS-C DSLRs that is, in terms of build quality, speed of operation, ergonomics and image quality, a cut above Canon's previous APS-C flagship, the EOS 50D.
In some respects the 7D is even a better camera than the EOS 5D Mark II and a viable alternative for all those who do not want or need a camera with a full-frame sensor. Its eight frames per second continuous shooting speed and highly flexible AF system might even make it a consideration for credit-crunch battered sports photographers on a budget.
The EOS 7D's specification and current pricing make it also look very good next to its most direct competitor in the enthusiast bracket of the market, the Nikon D300S. It offers a higher nominal resolution and maximum sensitivity, better movie mode specification and slightly faster continuous shooting speed than its Nikon rival; but having said that, in many ways the two cameras are not too dissimilar, and it will be down to personal taste and probably your lens collection if you prefer one over the other.
The EOS 7D delivers impressive image quality across the sensitivity range. At base ISO its output comes with excellent per-pixel sharpness which, in combination with the 18 MP nominal resolution, results in exceptional image detail in this class of camera. In most situations the lens, rather than the camera, is likely to be the limiting factor. In terms of default tone curve and color response the 7D delivers the usual Canon look which is good news if you are thinking about upgrading from another model.
Despite the highest nominal resolution of all APS-C DSLRs and therefore a very small pixel-pitch the EOS 7D performs very well in low light situations and manages to maintain a good balance between image detail and noise reduction up to very high sensitivities. It's visibly better than the EOS 50D and as good as it gets in the APS-C class (if you prefer the 7D or Nikon D300S in this respect is probably a matter of taste). If you require significantly better high ISO performance than the EOS 7D can provide, your only option is to move into the full-frame segment.
There are only a couple of comparatively minor quibbles in the image quality department. The 7D is another camera in a long list of Canon DSLRs that don't do white balance under artificial light. Use custom white balance or shoot RAW if you need your whites to be white. Shooting RAW is also a good counter-measure against the camera's occasional tendency to slightly overexpose contrasty scenes. If you could not be bothered to dial in some negative exposure compensation the 1.0 EV RAW headroom is a safety cushion to fall back on.
The 7D looks and feels like a quality product. It's solidly built, comes with a weather-sealed magnesium body and has a very pleasant quality feel to it when you hold it in your hands. The chunky grip is well-shaped and comes with a rubberized surface.
On the new model Canon has made a few subtle changes to the user interface that nevertheless have made operation more straightforward and logical. It is now very easy to switch between stills and movie modes and live view almost instantly. This is clearly a step forward in terms of integrating movie recording as a viable feature rather than a last-minute bolt-on. The dedicated Q-button and -menu offer a good alternative to changing settings via the new, bigger hard buttons which, despite of being optimized for usage with gloves, are comfortable and easy to use in any condition.
Another advantage of the 7D is its customizability. The function of almost every button can be changed which should satisfy even the most eccentric and specialist photographic requirements. The same is true for the new AF system which offers an abundance of AF point selection and focusing options.
All in all the Canon EOS 7D is a camera that is joy to shoot with. The user interface has been noticeably improved over previous Canon DSLRs and is highly customizable. The Dual Digic 4 processors ensure speedy operation and you'll hardly ever find yourself waiting for the camera.
The final word
The Canon EOS 7D is a camera that can convince in all areas, and at its current pricing is going to be a very serious competitor for Nikon's flagship APS-C DSLR, the D300S. It offers excellent image quality in all shooting situations and an impressive speed of operation, combined with very good build quality and ergonomics. Both its specification and the results of our testing make it a very easy recommendation.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Pretty much anything from landscapes to sport & HD movies
Not so good for
Inexperienced users and those on a tight budget
If you can justify the price tag it's hard to fault Canon's new APS-C flagship. With class-leading image quality, fast operation and excellent handling the EOS 7D is everything a semi-pro model should be, and the excellent movie mode will be a welcome bonus to those that like their pictures to move. Arguably the best APS-C SLR on the market today.
Original Rating (November 2009): Highly Recommended
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