The EOS 7D immediately identifies itself as part of the EOS family, but there are a number of distinct differences between it and either the 50D or 5D Mark II. The buttons are larger than on the preceding models (for use with gloves in cold conditions) but, more noticeably, there is now a switch for selecting between live view and movie record mode, and a start/stop button to engage them. This is another step forward in terms of integrating movie recording as a fundamental mode of operation for the camera, rather than a tacked-on additional feature.

Beyond these changes, the layout will be immediately familiar to existing Canon users. The only other significant change is the separation of the control dial lock and the power switch - recent models require you to push the power switch to a position just beyond 'on' in order to get the dial to function - removing one of the great areas of confusion for first-time Canon shooters. In this respect the 7D operates like the old D30, D60 and 10D cameras.

Construction and environmental seals

In keeping with its XD designation, the 7D shares the same extensively-sealed magnesium construction as the 5D Mark II. Canon again claims the same degree of moisture and dust resilience as the EOS-1N pro-level film SLR from the 1990s.

In your hand

The 7D is a substantial camera - weighing-in at 820g, without card, battery or lenses, making it a fraction heavier than the 5D Mark II. Its grip is well designed to make it easy to support this weight, though even with the lightest lens, it's unlikely to be a shoot-one-handed camera.

LCD monitor

Each new Canon DSLR seems to get an improved screen, with the EOS 7D using a 921,000 dot LCD featuring the latest gapless technology that reduces internal reflections to improve contrast.

LCD control panel

On top of the camera is a large LCD control panel which provides a wide range of information about camera settings and exposure. The main numeric section of the panel doubles up to provide other types of information such as the 'Busy' warning, AF point selection etc. Pressing the lamp button on the top of the camera illuminates the panel with an orange light for the metering timeout period. In line with the rest of the EOS range, ISO sensitivity is now permanently displayed.

A breakdown of information displayed on the LCD panel can be found on the diagram below.

1 White balance setting 10 Drive mode
2 JPEG image size/quality 11 Bracketing
3 Shutter speed 12 Highlight tone priority
4 RAW format 13 ISO speed
5 Metering mode 14 Monochrome shooting
6 Aperture 15 Flash exposure compensation
7 White balance fine tune 16 Battery indicator
8 Shots remaining / self-timer countdown 17 Exposure / Exposure comp. scale
9 AF drive mode