Monday, June 11, 2012

The New Camera

I now have a few days in with my new Canon EOS 7D, so it's a good time to write up my first impressions. As you'll see in my previous post, it was truly a spur of the moment decision resulting from the most expensive possible failure of my well worn EOS 40D (a truly marvellous camera itself, which I'll probably get fixed once my finances recover). I've spent more time reading the manual, navigating the cameras setup menus, and reading various Professional Reviews than I have actually shooting, but this has to be all part of the process, right?

The EOS 7D is not exactly a "new" camera, being first introduced in 2009, but this itself speaks well of it I think. It shows that it is a high end product, not subject to yearly changes and frequent upgrades, because they got it right the first time. In fact, three years later, I'm not sure that Canon really needs to add anything yet to keep the EOS 7D competitive.

This is one camera purchase that for me is full of pleasant surprises that I can really use. Here's what I like the most:

  • The largest, clearest optical viewfinder on any DSLR of this type. A camera's optical viewfinder is by far the most important feature to me, and so by all accounts, I've gotten the best in class by far
  • In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that I'd like to have a rotating LCD display like the EOS 60D, but in the store, found this was the 60D's only redeeming feature. But since I got the 7D home, I found that the 7D's display is truly special in itself, being made from hardened glass, and sealed into the body with a special optical gel, it's amazingly tough, with the best visibility I've ever seen in bright light, and viewable from extreme off-angles. 
  • Grid patterns can be switched on or off electronically on both the Viewfinder and the rear LCD - very innovative! Also, there are selectable guidelines for different aspect ratios to assist in composition using Square Camera, 4:3, 3:5, 6:7, etc. This is one of my favourite features, as I'm a real nut for aspect ratios! (Note to beginners - aspect ratios is the same as choosing the dimensions of a canvas on which you're going to paint a picture - it's great to have guidelines in your viewfinder that assist in composing your picture this way without having to guess at it)
  • The built in pop up flash also has the capability to control remote flashes without wires
  • As I like using older manual focus lenses, I found the focus-assist "beep" and visual indicator to be much more sensitive in low light, or when using the lens's aperture stopped down (compared to doing this with the 40D)
  • More Megapixels than you'll ever need (18 MP) means that setting the camera to shoot "Medium" (8 MP) or "small" (4.5 MP) will result in superior picture quality, as the camera will do less "Bayer Interpolation" at the lower settings (Note to beginners - this is the way a camera gives a "best guess" at what a colour value is supposed to be at each Pixel Point; at maximum resolution, it has to guess a lot, at medium, much less and at low, there's no guessing at all. It's counter-intuitive I know, but always remember that more Megapixels merely results in the ability to make bigger and bigger prints, and that 4.0 MP will still give a great 8X10 print, and so you'll get more accurate colour shooting at the lower resolution settings, sacrificing only the print size)
  • Professional grade water and dust resistance
  • Camera itself is very light, in spite of it's size, and professional boatload of features
  • Zone Autofocus works with both Auto Focus and Manual Focus "assist" lenses - PERFECT for the way I take pictures!
Here are a few disappointments:
  • The low light focus assist "beam" is still done with very annoying bursts from the camera's flash - why -oh -why Canon can't you do this like every other camera? Oh well, the Auto Focus of this camera is so sensitive in low light, you'd rarely need the "beam" anyway
  • I think my first pictures taken with my Sigma 17-70 lens are slightly out of focus. Probably if I was using a Canon lens, it would be perfect. However, this camera, like other pro-grade cameras from Canon, allows for focus micro-adjustment which will "remember" up to 20 lenses. I'll have to investigate this in the future - nice to know this can be calibrated if needed
  • Almost too many setup choices and options - too many ways of doing the same thing it seems
  • No provision for time-lapse photography (although a time-lapse remote control is available)
  • No built in HDR or other "trick photography" like, say, Pentax is now offering
Finally, here are a few features that I don't care about yet, but it's nice to know they're there:
  • Fastest burst rate in it's class - 8 frames per second  - I don't shoot sporting events
  • Full HD Video shooting - you never know, now that I've got a camera with Video, I might start using it
  • 19 Point Auto-Focus - I love the "Zone Focus" mode, but the rest is rather confusing and gets in the way in my opinion. Pro Reviewers love this however, so if I ever become a Pro, I might like it too.
There is so much more to this camera, but these are the things that are important to me. The most important things are the most simple - I finally got a Digital Camera with a viewfinder that's almost as good as film cameras use to have, and this alone is worth the price. Everything else is a bonus for me. It's rather strange how I find this to be so important, as most new Digital Cameras don't have Optical Viewfinders at all, like they're supposed to be a thing of the past. Call me old school, but I still find that looking through real glass is the best way to use a camera to make a picture,

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