Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bargain Camera Review- Canon's EOS 7D

Bargain Camera Review- Canon EOS 7D
November 2018, Carl Garrard

This review series is all about finding very affordable, highly capable cameras that only exist in the discontinued camera market, and why I feel they represent an incredible value. Today's spotlight is on the Canon EOS 7D, a camera originally introduced in September of 2009, which made a huge shock wave in the DSLR realm. At the time, the EOS 7D was the front runner in crop sensor DSLRs that offered pro level features at an "affordable" price of $1,699.00. It's leading edge 19 point autofocus system, 1080p HD video capability,  weather sealing, large 1.00x and 100% accurate viewfinder, 8FPS shooting w/large buffer, 1/8000th min shutter speed, 1/250th flash sync speed, 14bit raw, 150k shutter life, and much more, made the 7D a real force to be reckoned with by other manufacturers. Today, you may be thinking those specifications sound very familiar to Canon's current DSLRs, and you'd pretty much be right. Practically speaking, the EOS 7D is still, nine years later, more than enough camera for the average photographer, and also a very decent option for beginner video enthusiasts. The camera for this review was purchased in "like new" condition for how much? $299.00, and, it came with the original box and all of the original items.
Canon EOS 7D Best Price Searched

There are many reasons why I picked the Canon EOS 7D for this review. The main two reasons though, are the price, and the capability. When looking for bargain cameras in a modern camera market, few offer the pro level capability of the aging 7D for the dollar. Besides it's impressive (to this day) spec sheet, the Canon EOS 7D offers full support of all of Canon's EF and EFS lenses, as well as a gigantic list of third party lenses and accessories. If you are looking to get into a system on a budget that has an almost endless 3rd party support in just about every category, then Canon is the right system to look at, and the EOS 7D may be the most capable DSLR for the dollar of any current Canon camera.

It should be of particular note that the Canon EOS 7D holds the record at Canon for longest production cycle of any Canon camera ever. Introduced in 2009, it remained in production for five years until it was finally succeeded by the EOS 7D Mark II in late 2014. It may be the record for the longest production cycle of any DSLR to date, if not, its got to be right there at the top. Its popularity was, in no doubt to my mind, well justified based on its final design and timing onto the market.

Build Quality and Design: Bargain Camera Review- Canon EOS 7D

Lets start with discussing the build quality of the EOS 7D. First of all, it's a camera equivalent of a tank. It's construction is almost 100% magnesium alloy, and feels indestructible and built to last a lifetime. Judging by the huge amount of available second hand 7D's on the market, it seems this is completely true. They are workhorse cameras built to last in every way. Strip the paint, rubber, and few plastic parts off, and what you have is a camera that looks more like the Terminator underneath than an actual DSLR.

In addition to the stellar build quality being reliable, the EOS 7D gives you a feeling in hand of solidity and quality that most cameras will not give you. I now have six Canon DSLRS- the 6D, 50D, T2i, SL1 (T100), and even the old 10D, and I can tell you that the 7D feels the best built of all of them- even moreso than the more expensive full frame EOS 6D. Canon's 6D was originally announced three years after in 2012 for $2,099 body only, some $500.00 more expensive than the 7D, and yet, of the two, the EOS 7D has a more rugged build if you are splitting hairs. My 6D has a high quality poly carb top plate (allowing wifi transmission), so of the two, the 7D is more heavy metal.

I'm not sure if one could buy a better built camera from any manufacturer for the dollar these days. $299.00 that I bought mine for is just obscene, and most bargain hunters won't have any trouble finding a like new model for $500.00 or less. Even if you peg a deal at $500 bucks, this is still a borderline obscene deal, if at the least an excellent steal considering what you are getting here.

In this diagram, the red areas are direct seals, and the green areas are reflective of tightly engineered and strengthened seams. 

As far as the elements are concerned, I'd say the 7D has most people covered in most circumstances. Sealing, as shown above, in terms of a tiered system from Canon is quite good. Overall, the 7D falls one tier short of Canon's best sealing that is reserved for pro level cameras above its class. With that said, the 7D raised the bar for weather sealing above and beyond what its predecessors had, and still has better sealing than the 70/80D cameras available today. While the 50D was a step above the 40D in terms of overall seam mating and weather sealing, the 7D is a couple steps above the 50D in tightness of tolerances and type of sealing. I'd rather rely on the 7D than my 6D in fact when the climate gets rough.

Compared to Olympus and Pentax cameras though, for the same price or less, Canon is one tier below these two companies. It didn't matter to Canon though, their attitude was pretty much that the 7D was "good enough" for most circumstances, and that turned out in effect to be very true based on the longevity of reliability this model has seen.

Design/Handling: Bargain Camera Review- Canon EOS 7D

Canon's 7D was designed as a jack of all trades DSLR. With the ability to shoot action, landscapes, video, and low light scenes with an equally high end, no-compromise capability, many people fell in love with it. Back in 2009, a camera that could do all that so well, was highly regarded as one of the best overall deals ever for digital photography. And thus, the EOS 7D  became an extremely popular camera for a wide variety of photographers for years on end.

One of the reasons why it succeed so well in nearly all types of photography was because of its well thought out, progressively "Canon" design. Canon's 7D, despite whatever you heard from Canon or the press, was the true successor to the 50D - it certainly wasn't the 60D which felt more like a Canon Rebel than the prestigious and progressively better 10D-50D lineup that cemented Canon as the market leader in DSLR's worldwide. For Canon to say that the 60D was the true successor to the 50D was an insult to its client's intelligence. Canon just wanted to create a third consumer line of cameras in the APS-C category, and they just didn't come up with anything better than that for an excuse.

No, the EOS 7D was a true successor in every way to the beloved 50D, in just about every way the 50D needed to be upgraded. From its sensor, to its AF system, addition of video recording; with its improved weather sealing to its (relatively) huge new viewfinder, the EOS 7D was an entirely new camera and design. And yet, Canon still somehow kept the EOS 7D familiar to it's endeared predecessors despite the new arrangement of controls, improvements to the menu, and new feature additions.

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Handling wise, the EOS 7D was an upgrade to the 50D  as well. It's top plate was more organized than the 50D- by moving the illumination button closer to the hand, shifting one button forward and making it customizeable, there was less movement needed by the right shooting hand and thus, it could stay in one position much more often while simultaneously making adjustment changes on the fly. The shift of the on/off switch from the lower right bottom of the camera, to the left side of the top plate was also a more convenient location- and also a huge break in tradition for Canon.

Adding a row of buttons to the left side of the camera gave the left hand more to do, which kept the right hand where it ought to be: gripping the camera and making necessary exposure changes, before making a final exposure. The nearly complete redesign of the 7D compared to its predecessors took some adjusting for the Canon faithful, and yet, to this day the layout of the 7D pretty much grandfathered the handling formula for most of its DSLR's to come after. Which is why the 7D, at least on the outside doesn't appear to look dated at all despite it being almost a decade old.

Features: Bargain Camera Review- Canon EOS 7D

In this section I'm not going to list every feature the Canon EOS 7D has, rather I'm going to produce a list of capabilities that I find attractive for any photographer wanting a serious bargain in 2018. Considering its low used price, the EOS 7D offers an arguably incredible value for a wide variety of photographers which, is yet another contributing factor to my decision to highlight it here. I thoroughly enjoy being able to report on cameras that have special appeal, especially for those who don't have the time, patience, or money to waste.  Some of the features I'll go into detail about, and some will just be listed.

AF System/Frame Rate:  The 7D has a very sophisticated autofocus system. The 7D was a huge leap forward in "affordable" pro level autofocus performance. Don't get hung up on the amount of AF points a camera has. More important is how much of the frame they cover, how effective each point is, and how well you can control which points you use.  Here, the 7D excels in frame coverage, and a sophisticated set of options given for the combination of AF points.

To date, these autofocus options are the most logical and well implemented in any autofocusing camera I've used. It's AF system is just excellent for action. For subject tracking, its right up there with the best of DSLRS, and supported by a high 8fps max frame rate and good buffer (with the latest firmware) of about 25 raw images helps for action sequences especially.

Viewfinder: Sporting a 1.00x and 100% accurate pentaprism optical viewfinder, the 7D set the standard for APS-C DSLR's. It also for the first time, included a transmissive LCD layered in front of the pentaprism that brings more information through to the optical finder to the photographer (such as a digital level etc..) Although the view isn't as large as its full frame brothers, it's .63x equivalent in 35mm terms, which is very close to the 6D's .7x magnification. Using the optional 1.2x magnifying eyepiece, this brings the view to .76x in 35mm terms, which is as large as Canons top level flagship camera, the 1DX Mark II. I doubt you'd need the eyepiece though, because this is an ample viewfinder. The only trade-offs worth mentioning, are that the 7D requires battery power to see clearly through the finder, and you cannot change out the focusing screen like you can on many other DSLRs from Canon.

Image Quality: So long as you don't push shadows in the 7D too far, and get your exposure right, it's capable of some great quality images for the price. I'd say that this is the area where the 7D shows its age most of all, but that doesn't mean you can't make excellent images with it. I still make great photos with my Canon 50D in all types of circumstances, and its sensor is not as modern as the 7D's. Never mind DXOMark or other such mostly-nonsense testing, the proof is in making images in real life circumstances. As far as being able to push raw files in post processing goes, the 7D's files are bit tight, but reasonably malleable. It's not that far off from my 6D in that is has similar dynamic range (about a third stop less), and about a stop less of low light noise performance. Here are two ISO 3200 samples in low light, and ISO 200 landscape images.

Video: The only drawback of the 7D is that there's no autofocus for video, so that means any focusing is done manually. You can pre autofocus before you start the recording, but that's about all. So video will be somewhat limited too, but you can still make great  video with this camera and it does proper 1080p HD in three different frame rates.

Othere High End Specifications:
  • 1/8000th sec min shutter speed
  • 1/250th flash sync and wireless triggering built in
  • Dual Digic 4 processors (for speed)
  • Lens Correction Software (abberation/vignetting)
  • In camera raw development
  • 140jpeg/25 raw buffer at 8FPS
  • HD Video at 30p 24/25p w/audio levels adjustment
  • 19 point AF system all cross type w/advanced macro and face tracking modes (adv. RGB metering sensor for AF)
  • 63 zone light meter (80% frame coverage)
  • Shutter rated to 150,000 cycles
  • GPS compatible w/optional reciever
  • ISO 100-6400 standard, expandable to 12,800

So overall the Canon 7D offers a great entry into the semi pro camera world, and you can do so without emptying your wallet. In fact, I'd recommend anyone considering getting into photography to go the used camera route first (after doing some reading and homework) before spending a lot of money on a system. These days you just have too many excellent options to choose from, but if Canon is a system you are interested in, the EOS 7D is definitely worth a look.

Ending this article, I will say I have very fond memory of my days using the 7D in the past with my friend Keith Phillips, now departed, but always a diehard Canon shooter. He never owned the 7D but he joked about taking off with it when I wasn't looking. Keith, I hope you are taking pictures daily in the next realm buddy.

Stay Focused.

-Carl Garrard

Canon EOS 7D Best Price Searched

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