Live View displays and operation

The EOS 7D now has separate live view and movie modes, selected using a switch next to the viewfinder. The live view mode is much like that seen on the 5D Mark II, offering a variety of views and AF methods. You can opt to use either the conventional phase-detection AF sensor (AF Quick) or the slower contrast detection method that uses the main imaging sensor. This second, 'AF Live' method is potentially more accurate and flexible (not being constrained to the 19 points of the AF sensor).

No overlay Shooting settings
Full information Exposure information + histogram
A choice of two grids can also be overlaid on the live view image. These are selected using a menu option in the live view/movie tab of the record menu. The three AF modes (face detect, AF Live and AF Quick) show focus areas in different ways. AF Live shows which region it will focus on while AF Quick shows the active focus point or zone (in gray) and a white rectangle representing the area that can be magnified. These can be selected and moved independently.
Pressing the 'Q' button allows you to change the Auto Lighting Optimizer setting and the image size/quality. All other settings can still be changed via direct-access buttons with full settings screens being overlaid on the live view image.

Live View magnification

Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by pressing the enlarge button (or back out again with reduce), to reach 5 or 10x magnification. While magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the live image. Unfortunately as on the 50D you cannot magnify right out to the extreme corners.

During magnification Returned to full frame view

Digital Level Gauge

The 7D has two accelerometers to offer a level gauge that shows pitch (up/down tilt) as well as roll (left/right tilt). This can be overlaid onto live view and can even be represented in the viewfinder, using the AF point indicators.

A bit of a novelty, but one that can be a life saver in some situations, is the digital level gauge, which shows the amount of tilt in two axis on the live view screen when activated. It also appears in the viewfinder, with the AF points indicating the amount of pitch and roll.

Overall handling and operation comments

With its magnesium body and environmental sealing, the EOS 7D feels solid and pleasantly chunky but does not come with the bulk of a 'pro' body à la 1D series which many enthusiasts might find a little impractical. The metal and rubberized surfaces leave an impression of quality and the hand grip is very comfortably sized and shaped.

At first sight the 7D looks a lot like the EOS 50D and is unmistakably a member of the EOS family. However, a closer look reveals that on the new model Canon has made a few seemingly subtle changes that nevertheless make a difference in terms of handling and operation. The buttons are larger than on preceding models. The intention is to improve operability when wearing gloves in the cold, but the bigger buttons are very comfortable to use in any condition. There is now also 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 and makes switching between stills and movie recording less cumbersome than on previous models.

The new dedicated 'Q' button makes access to the on-screen quick menu very straightforward and the separation of the control dial lock and the power switch (which has moved under the mode dial) makes things a little less confusing for first-time Canon shooters.

These changes to the control layout, alongside the custom control menu, gives you more than enough options to fairly easily tweak the interface for even the most specialist requirements and applications. 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 its customizability makes sure a variety of users can feel at home on the 7D.