Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution, as good as the best six megapixel digital SLR's
- Vibrant color response, fairly contrasty images (although not over the top)
- Low noise at higher sensitivities, although at the expense of detail and sharpness
- Unique Anti-Shake system built into camera
- All your lenses become 'Anti-Shake' at no extra cost
- Excellent manual control, usable and comprehensive external control layout
- Excellent build quality, feels very robust, quite 'hefty'
- Bright viewfinder with a larger-than-average (for a D-SLR) frame view
- Very large 2.5" LCD monitor, clever recording information display (battery drain?)
- Kelvin white balance option, all white balance presets fine tunable
- Wide range of image parameter adjustment (color, tone, sharpness)
- Selectable color space (sRGB / Adobe RGB)
- RAW mode provides the 'digital negative'
- Indication of setting adjustments on viewfinder display (ISO etc.)
- Wide range of custom functions provide good camera control
- Customizable 'MSET' button
- High pop-up flash (should help to avoid flash lens shading, red-eye)
- Powerful, lightweight Lithium-Ion battery
- Orientation sensor
- Smart implementation of mirror lock-up, automatic with two second self-timer
Conclusion - Cons
- Some color clipping with the sRGB Natural+ color mode
- Slower-than-the-competition startup time (2.6 sec before you can take a shot)
- No automatic rotation of images in play mode (despite recording of orientation)
- Long exposure NR limited to 30 seconds, some black pitting
- Tendency for metering system to under-expose, needs a little positive compensation
- Poor automatic white balance in artificial light
- Flash must be raised for AF assist
- Supplied DiMAGE Viewer produces below-par quality images from RAW (very soft)
- Price, competition
In use the 7D proved to be an excellent 'photographic tool', it feels good to hold, it's easy to change settings (thanks to the fact that almost all the major settings have external buttons / levers) and the camera feels responsive in use. The 7D is one of those cameras which I enjoyed using and encourages you to shoot more and experiment more (the availability and access to manual controls achieves this).
There's definitely been a lot of clever thinking implemented into this camera; the automatically orientating recording information display, the eye-piece sensor which blanks out the LCD, the design of the white balance lever, the locking of certain settings, the display of adjustments made in the viewfinder, the mirror lock-up implementation. It's satisfying sometimes to at least believe that the designers responsible for SLR's are also photographers.
The 7D's key feature, it's CCD Anti-Shake system appears to work, although I don't believe it's as good as lens based optical stabilization at longer focal lengths. Remember that because of the way it's implemented the 7D's Anti-Shake should give you a stop or two's advantage with any lens, without adding bulk, weight or cost. In our experience it worked better at shorter focal lengths.
Image quality was on the whole very good, it's as good as the best six megapixel digital SLR's and it's clear that Konica Minolta has worked hard on in-camera processing, detail levels are high at low sensitivities and noise is low higher up the ISO range (although images get softer). 7D images from the camera have a nice "look" which doesn't appear over processed or affected by artifacting or over-sharpening. We got the best results shooting RAW and converting with Adobe Camera RAW and were disappointed with the supplied DiMAGE Viewer and the optional DiMAGE Master.
So that brings us to the rating, and to be honest it wasn't an easy one to finalize. The 7D's two biggest problems are its price and the competition, at $1,599 it's $100 more than Canon's excellent eight megapixel EOS 20D and $600 more than the equally capable (if less 'Pro') Nikon D70. So if you're budget conscious there are other options, however that shouldn't detract from what is an excellent digital SLR which is an excellent 'photographic tool' and isn't just another 'me too' product, it offers a genuine alternative to the Canon / Nikon influence on the market. I'm sure it will please existing Minolta Dynax/Maxxum owners and new entrants to the D-SLR market equally.
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