Why the Canon 7D is a Super Awesome Camera

(For more information on the Canon 7D Mk II, see these posts HERE!)

The Canon EOS 7D became available around September/ October 2009, and was quite well received at the time. Its sophisticated autofocus system, improved exposure metering system, blazing fast continuous shooting speed, and great low-light-performing 18 megapixel sensor placed it in a new class of pro-sumer Canon dSLRs, between the then-current 50D and below the professional 5D Mk II. Despite the fact that the 7D has been around for about one and a half years, it has stood the test of time well, and is still an amazing, high quality camera that can serve the various demands a number of different types of photographers incredibly well.  And it is rumored that the 7D will not be replaced by the 7D Mk II until late 2012, so it still has a lot of life left in it.

Canon 7D compare vs 60D T3i
Detail of the Canon EOS 7D (photos by author)

I wrote a popular post which compares the current consumer line-up of Canon dSLR cameras, Canon T3i vs 60D vs T2i vs 7D, etc. which includes extensive discussion of the 7D and information to help you decide if it is the right camera for you, as well as a field test user review of the 7D after I first got it and took it on assignment to Guatemala. But I’d like to spotlight it again today.

What makes the Canon 7D so great? What type of photographer may want or even need it? And why might you even choose on over the professional, full-frame 5D Mk II?

8 frames per second continuous shooting speed – This is a blazingly fast shooting speed. Not quite as fast as the 10 fps of the high end 1D cameras, but more than enough for most shooters’ needs. This fast frame rate is ideal for sports shooters, those shooting wildlife and birds, and even those shooting models or portraits where facial expressions and body positions change in a split second. It should not be used for “spray and pray,” where one takes a bunch of photos and then hopes one comes out great. The reason is that the files from the 7D are huge, and in just a few seconds with the shutter button held down one can take dozens of images – images that one has to transfer, go through, decide between, discard, archive, etc. It is an incredible investment of time and storage space to deal with an unnecessary overload of images from the 7D. This fast continuous shooting is a distinct advantage of the 7D over the 5D Mk II, which shoots 3.9 fps. The 7D also offers a lower 3 fps rate.

63 zone exposure metering system – The exposure metering system of the 7D was a significant improvement over that of the 50D and 5D Mk II. This better metering system can determine the proper exposure far more precisely and in more challenging situations that the older cameras. Of course now even the 60D and T3i boast this 63 zone system. What this improvement means is that one no longer necessarily has to turn to Spot metering or Partial metering for difficult lighting situations or critical exposures. While that makes it easier to use the camera and removes a bit of photographic skill necessary, I can’t knock it because it is so much more convenient and eliminates potential errors of leaving the camera on the wrong setting when moving on to a different situation. One may still wish to switch over to the more precise metering modes in a back-lit or high-contrast situation, but you may discover that many times you won’t need to.

Brief Commercial Interruption! I have completed an e-book user’s guide to the 7D called Canon 7D Experience.  This guide covers all the features, settings, and controls – but more importantly when and why to use them in your photography.  This includes metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes (Av and Tv), advanced autofocus use, and more.  They also describe all the Menu settings and Custom Function settings – with recommended settings.  Take control of your camera and the images you create!  Learn more about Canon 7D Experience here or by clicking on the cover below:

Canon 7D EOS book e book ebook guide manual tutorial how to instruction for dummies 7d mark i mk i

19 point autofocus system – The 7D introduced a new, more sophisticated 19 point AF system than that of the 50D and 5D Mk II, and most photographers can’t wait until it is incorporated into the highly anticipated 5D Mk III. All 19 points of the AF system are the precise cross-type sensors, unlike the Nikon D7000 with only 9 cross-type sensors. One thing this means to a shooter is less need for locking focus and recomposing. One can manually select an AF point exactly where you want to focus, then shoot off a couple photos without having to lock focus (back-button focus) or recompose between shots. (You should be manually selecting your AF point, area, or zone so that the camera autofocuses where you want, you know, of course?! Don’t let the camera decide where it wants to autofocus except in extreme action situations.) In action situations, this highly sophisticated and customizable AF system can be used to track objects moving across the field of view, and/ or at increasing or decreasing distances from the camera. This is ideal for sports and action shooters plus wildlife and bird photographers. If you are using this AF system, please study it and learn it carefully in order to take full advantage of it. You will need to go into the Custom Functions menus and decide how you want the camera to deal with moving subjects and respond to objects that come between you and your subject, plus how quickly you want the camera to respond to these “interfering” objects. You will also want to activate and learn the additional focus modes including Zone, Expansion, and Spot, which dictate how many AF points are active. I go into a bit more detail about the AF system and its options in the 7D field test post. This is another area where the 7D outshines the 5D Mk II. The AF system in the 5D is older, less sophisticated, and struggles in low light. However, the 21 MP full-frame sensor of the 5D Mk II still exceeds the capabilities of the 7D, especially in low light.

Canon 7D EOS set up custom function settings how to
Detail of the Canon EOS 7D

body, design, and layout – The body of the 7D is similar to the older 50D and the 5D Mk II. It is large, study, and well designed. It feels great with a large lens attached, and has its buttons and controls in all the right places. It provides the exposure lock and focus lock buttons for the right thumb, has the large rear wheel for quickly scrolling through settings or images, has a large brightness-controllable rear LCD screen (auto brightness works great), includes the top LCD panel for shooting setting information, and has a large, bright, nearly 100% view penta-prism viewfinder which is a pleasure to use. It also adds a button for setting the AF modes and a Live View/ Video button. The LP-E6 rechargeable battery – the same one as in the 5D Mk II – lasts though a full day of shooting and more. The full magnesium body of the Canon 7D – shown here on the right – is rugged enough for most any situation. The body is also weather sealed against dust and moisture at its buttons and compartment doors. All of these specifications mean that the 7D is a joy to use in the field. It feels great in one hands, its controls are placed for quick, intuitive adjustments, and it can sustain heavy use and abuse in all kinds of conditions.

other features – The 7D was the first Canon dSLR to incorporate wireless remote flash triggering capabilities. It also includes AF microadjustment to adjust for optimal sharpness with each of your individual lenses. And of course, it has full HD video with all the frame rate options. Professional videographers are using and loving this camera for its video capabilities.

So what’s not to love with this camera? If you feel that your photography requires the advanced capabilities of the Canon 7D, be sure to have a closer look at it. To view some images, all of my photos in the Guatemala gallery on my website here were shot with the Canon 7D.

View and purchase the 7D on Amazon

Pair it up with:
the high quality Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
the higher quality Canon 24-105mm f/4L lens
or the highest quality Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens.

Look more into the Canon 5D Mk II

Note that there is a recent firmware update for the 7D version 1.2.5, available for download here: