After the EOS 5D Mark II and the EOS 500D, the EOS 7D is now the third Canon DSLR to come with a video recording feature. Unlike the 500D though, the EOS 7D offers full manual control over shutter speed and aperture (the 5D Mark II did not offer manual control over video initially, but the feature was later implemented via a firmware update).

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Despite the manual controls current DSLR video modes can in many areas not quite keep up with dedicated camcorders. On the other hand though, the ability to shoot movies with a large sensor (and the shallow depth of field that this brings with it) and interchangeable lenses will appeal to a large number of budding videographers.

Video specification

The 7D offers HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080P) at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second or 1280 x 720 pixels (720P) at 60 or 50 frames per second (and gives you therefore more options than the EOD 5D Mark II). The built-in internal microphone captures monaural audio. There is a socket for a 3.5mm external microphone that allows recording of stereo sound. There is also an option to cut the beginning and end of a movie in one second increments in the camera.

Sizes 1920x1080: 30/24 fps (NTSC), 25/24 fps (PAL)
1280x720 (HD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
640x480 (SD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
Audio 44.1kHz Mono (Internal Mic), Linear PCM
Format .MOV MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
File size 5.5 MB/sec (1080P), 5.5 MB/sec (720P), 2.8 MB/sec (VGA)
Max file size per clip 4GB, max duration 29min 59sec,
Running time 12 min for 1080P, 12 min for 720P, 24 min for VGA

Using Movie Mode

For easier operation the EOS 7D features a dedicated switch to change from other shooting modes to movie mode. Then press the Start button to start/stop video recording. Still images can be taken at any time by pressing the shutter button. A half-press of the shutter button or a press of the AF-ON button will trigger the AF. AE lock is possible as well.

When the shooting mode is set to M you can adjust shutter speed and aperture via the control dials and also set the sensitivity manually. In all other modes exposure is controlled automatically.

On previous Canon DSLRs the movie mode sometimes left the impression of being a bit of a last-minute bolt-on. With the 7D and its dedicated movie switch/button Canon has got one step closer to a more seamless integration of the mode. Once you're used to the system it is now very quick and easy to switch between movies and stills.

Movie mode displays

Movie setting menu You can choose between three output sizes. The frame rate options in this screen capture are for the NTSC setting.
Once recording has started, the red recording dot is displayed on the top right corner of the LCD. By half-pressing the shutter button during video recording you can display exposure information and ISO sensitivity. Additional information can be displayed by pressing the Info button.

Video quality comments

We had no particular complaints about the 7D's video output. Like the 500D and 5D Mark II it produces very good high HD quality footage with fairly smooth motion even at the 1080p resolution. Just make sure your computer is powerful enough to play the large files, otherwise you can end up with a shaky playback experience at full screen. The EOS 7D uses an APS-C size sensor and therefore you can't quite create the same DOF effects as on the full-frame EOS 5D Mark II but you still get a much shallower, more cinematic depth of field than with any digital compact camera. Unlike the 5D Mark II when it was first released the 7D offers manual controls which allows you to better gear your settings towards the type of scene/motion that you are capturing (manual controls were later added to the 5D Mark II via a firmware update).

When recording video in low light and using higher sensitivities the image gets noisier. This is of course what you would expect, but the EOS 7D does quite well in this respect, and due to the smaller image sizes in video mode compared to stills the noise never becomes really intrusive. When capturing video in the lower resolution 720p mode we also noticed some jagged lines on diagonal edges which are probably caused by the video engine's downsizing algorithms. It's not a massive problem but if you plan on using the 7D's 50/60 fps 720p option you should be aware of it. The effect is not noticeable at the full 1080p resolution.

Like pretty much all other video-DSLRs the 7D can suffer from distortion caused by its rolling shutter. The readout of the sensor means horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go. The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals. On the 7D this effect is, compared to some of the competition and presumably thanks to the Dual Digic 4 processing, pretty subtle. Transition from bright to dark scenes works pretty smoothly and quickly as well. There are no obvious exposure 'jumps' as the camera adjusts the gain and/or aperture.

Sample video 1

This video was shot in 1920x1080/25fps mode and shows a high-contrast scene. It records a screen-filling high quality image with smooth motion. Make sure your video card is powerful enough for watching these large video files. On slower machines the motion can appear jerky.

1920x1080, 25 fps .MOV file. 7 sec. 37.7 MB

Sample video 2

This video was also shot at 1920x1080/25fps.

1920x1080, 25 fps .MOV file. 6 sec. 37.6 MB

Sample video 3

This video was shot in 1920x1080/25fps and shows the video performance in lower, artificial light.

1920x1080, 25 fps .MOV file. 7 sec. 44.1 MB

Sample video 4

This video was shot in 1280x720/50fps. The higher frame rate creates smooth motion but if you look closely you'll find some jagged lines on diagonal edges which are probably caused by the downsizing of the captured image.

1280x720, 50 fps .MOV file. 7 sec. 22.5 MB

Sample video 5

This sample video shows the transition from a darker scene in the shade to one that is illuminated by bright sunlight.

1920x1080, 25 fps .MOV file. 8 sec. 44.4 MB