Monday, December 18, 2023

Canon EOS 7D Review: 2023

Canon EOS 7D Review: 2023
December 2023, Carl Garrard

Every once in a while a camera will come along that transcends the normally inevitable barrier of aging. Those cameras, being either film or digital, are relatively far and few between. Yet most of these immortal-like cameras are easily identifiable. One only needs to seek out the loyal and dedicated following they have amongst photographers. One such camera I believe deserves this honor (as you've probably guessed), is the Canon EOS 7D. Of which personally I've owned several copies of over time, and I admire its design just as much as the rest of the loyal dedicated lot out there. Though reading back on my article I wrote in 2018 about this lovely camera was a painful experience. I just didn't hit the mark. Sometimes writing is just like that I guess. Needless to say then I suppose that I don't think that I did the EOS 7D any justice.


Unfortunately I think my previous article on the 7D is one of my more slovenly moments since I started this blog. One I recently felt the need to rectify. My hope is that this article gives it the proper homage and respect the EOS 7D well deserves. But let's start with Canon in 2023...

I've not really been impressed with the "new" Canon of late, particularly in the direction they are going with design and production. If you ask me, the prime moment of the company has long come and gone. In it's wake lies some of the companies best offerings. With this article, I'm attempting to highlight the good-ol-days just a bit, and perhaps remind Canon themselves of the greatness they once possessed.

So first, a little reminiscing: Oh my how the camera market has changed since 2009 when the 7D was announced. 

Camera makers back then had been struggling with relatively immature technology, having no choice but to implement it into new camera designs while simultaneously trying to feed an unprecedently hungry (and equally demanding) digital photography market. When Canon introduced the EOS 7D, it was a shining moment for "prosumers": Seems a camera maker had finally answered the siren song of the needy (and often dissatisfied) enthusiast and pro photographer market with a modern performance based camera body.

The 7D thus was an instant hit.

Of course the EOS 7D wasn't the first time Canon had a hit, but it did come at a time when the world was evermore in need (and almost desperate for) a fully developed well rounded crop sensor (aps-c) camera. Canon's EOS 7D in my mind, was the culmination of many of the newest technologies and camera making experience, of which both had finally matured to the point where performance was no longer unpredictable or incomplete for most photographer's needs. 

In essence, the timing of its design was spot on.

Everything about the 7D's design attempted to address and simultaneously satiate all of the demands and fusses of prior designs in the category. This included too not only Canon's cameras (especially the 50D), but also against other manufacturers' competitive models in the same basic category. 

So at the time, it was a leading edge design in nearly every way, bested only by the top tier, highly expensive, pro level DSLR's from Nikon and Canon alike. Nobody at the time had made a more well rounded and capable APS-C sensor DSLR than the 7D.

And so it sold, in HUGE numbers.


Compared to it's peers, well sure, there were some models that could match and even exceed some specific performance aspects or price points of the 7D, but none of them were as good of a well-rounded performer. This selling point alone is really what made the EOS 7D truly special at the time. A real jack of all trades that blew away the competition.

Moreover, there's the fact that the EOS 7D is still considered a highly well rounded and competently performing stills camera today. Even pit up against cameras that have a decade and a half of advancement and development ahead of it, remarkably it still continues to hold up well as a high performance stills-shooting camera body.  More on that point coming up.

I'll confess without any hesitation that I would use (and have used) the 7D for every kind of photography that I engage in today. I have not once felt like I was sacrificing much compared to any camera that has come to the market since it's debut, or, any camera I own or have owned since. 

It's just a solid beast that is both competent and pleasurable to use for nearly any photography task. If you want a jack-of-all-trades camera, the 7D should really be on your short list.

Shoot the moon, the 1.6x crop factor gets you 'closer'.

This of course is as long as you intend to use the 7D as a stills photography tool, if so, there should be little left to desire as far as necessities go. If you must have modern conveniences, well then perhaps the 7D would not be a good choice for you. There's no wifi included, no touch sensitive and/or swivel screen options at all, no built in GPS (optional only), and lastly no fancy dual pixel autofocus or even extensive video options either. 

It's not bare bones by modern standards, but it is certainly not leading edge tech either. No, Canon's 7D is considered a dedicated photographers tool, and from that perspective it is a supreme bargain for what you get for your money. 

(Run-on sentence alert)

For example, it has plenty of resolution (18mp) for most photographers, the speed and auto-focus tenacity for the most demanding photographers (8 frames per second, a good buffer, and a surprisingly capable auto focus system), weather sealing and a bombproof full magnesium build, excellent shutter life expectancy (150K cycles), an excellent optical viewfinder with 100% accuracy, awesome battery life, it's reasonably customizable, and has a comprehensive feature set that can provide a lifetime of service without ever really feeling dated.

Keep in mind too, that this all comes from a camera that was introduced in 2009

Mother and siblings. Been watching them for months.

My Time With The 7D

I remember my first time using the EOS 7D. Back then I had been using other brands of cameras extensively, enthusiast models such as the Pentax K7, Sony A700, Nikon D300, etc. You could say I was pretty much a loyal user of Sony and Pentax systems at the time, and wasn't ready for the shock and impact that the EOS 7D would have on me. 

When I first started using it, I had a hard time believing a camera body could be so capable and yet so complete as a design. Both its specifications/capability and the performance of using the camera were unlike anything I had used to that point. The feeling of having new creative capabilities and photographic options at my fingertips washed over me, almost immediately. 

In nearly every way the entirety of the 7D's design made it known that this was a next level camera body, something I had not yet experienced in this category. Almost everything that I had wished my other cameras could or would do, it did, and it did all of those things better than I could have hoped for.

Excellent control layout, ergonomics, and customization options. And that viewfinder has only been bested by the Pentax K3 Mark III in its class.

Tempering my excitement though, was that it was also an expensive beast then. At $1,700.00 it was much more expensive than it's competitors. But the camera market didn't care as a whole, since the 7D was worth the extra cost for anyone wanting next level performance they couldn't find anywhere else. 

Admittedly, it was actually more camera than I personally needed then, but the impression it left upon me was one that left my mind reconsidering my gear choices. I also hated it for the same reasons! I didn't own the 7D for very long, like I said it was a bigger investment that I had wanted to justify any expense for at the time. 

But with that said, in the end the 7D is blamed for my eventual switch to the Canon EF mount as my main camera system. The experience with it was really that impactful, and I was a tough sell then. 

And the thing is, I'm still feeling its impact today. I think the 7D is still one of Canon's better camera's they have ever made for still shooters, this despite all of the advances in technology that have either come in successive and/or higher end models, and that includes of course its full frame line up.

Every time I pick up the 7D, I still get near that same feeling I did many years ago. I am always left thinking what a rock solid, do it all, fun to use, well rounded, high performance stills camera this is! Even with the shortcomings it has compared to a full frame camera system, it doesn't leave you wanting much. But trust me, it does have a few relatively minor shortcomings. 

Despite that, it just feels like a remarkably excellent camera in a small club that I would recommend to photographers.

But Is The 7D Right For You? 

It should be liberating for the creative and adaptive photographer to know that just one camera body can competently do nearly any job they need it too. The 7D is really just that sort of camera. Importantly, it is also one that many have enjoyed using- I know I do. It has that special allure of making you want to pick up and use it at every opportunity. Generally when that happens I think it means that a camera is reliable, fuss free, responsive, comfortable, and executes the will of the photographer with little to no headache at all. 

As a camera designer, I think it must be a tough ask to design a camera that is supremely capable, but somehow ergonomic and pleasurable to use at the same time. Something I know photographers crave. If that is your own yardstick for good camera design then the 7D is in a pretty exclusive club. Not all capable cameras are fun to use, and some can be outright nightmares. Trust me, I've used enough to know better.

Action? No problem...

It's not a perfect camera though, and I have no intention to lead the reader to believe that. But let's be honest here, no camera is. Yet if we are actually being fair, a camera's significance or design success must be based on the sum total of its performance and capability combined. Not merely any one aspect, good or bad, but judged as a whole. So let me break it down more for you...

ISO 6,400. Not bad for 'old tech' right? In fact, it's quite impressive considering it's age and higher than normal resolution of the time. I mean, look at those pupils. That's low light.

For a start, it's sensor is very good, not the best of course, but much better than both cameras that it succeeded i.e. the 50D and even the 40D cameras. And in many respects (btw I'm not referring to just resolution here), if you know what settings to enable and use properly, and most importantly you have some skill with making a proper exposures, the 7D is capable to impress even. Like the shot above.

That said in order to get very high quality results you will need to spend some time working within the 7D's limitations, and managing some expectations is not bad advice either.

Landscapes? Well of course!

Overall I think it would be fair to say that there is just less room for error compared to newer sensor designs which are generally more forgiving and capable in terms of outright image quality. I've seen complaints about noise and a lack of dynamic range, but I think what little disadvantage there is can be overcome with some basic care given to exposure and proper settings. 

Given a photographer does that, the 7D can pull off some impressive shots on a consistent basis. And that really is what we are really wanting in a camera. Whether its performance, used price, or capability are good enough for your needs, well that is a personal decision I can't make. Hopefully this article will at least help you at little in making your own choice.

Mirrorless and DSLRs

I have a few legitimate counter points to make about mirrorless cameras that I think a DSLR like the 7D addresses. I won't need to get into a price comparison, because value is in the eye of the beholder there. To me price is no object when it comes to using a tool to get the job done right. Also, there's no need for a drawn out spec comparison either, either a tool does what you want, or it does not. 

As a hard working stills shooter, the ergonomics, build quality, weather sealing, and especially the overall comfort and balance of a camera body matter a whole hell of a lot. Fatigue, comfort, and battery life are all serious considerations and they are constant reminders of their importance during a day's use.

Smaller plastic bodies don't handle or balance well with any lenses larger than a mid sized prime or ultra small zoom lens. It's a total mismatch using a larger heavier lens on one. Hand fatigue/discomfort, and concerns about a plastic bodies durability are major concerns to a hard working photographer (whether they are getting paid or not). There are those of us that need that kind of peace of mind as much as possible when working with our equipment.

On top of that I think there is a consideration of mirrorless fatigue, whether it be mental and/or physical. I'll explain.

Generally, there is much less mental and eye fatigue looking through optical glass than there is watching a small tv screen. Both types of finders have advantages of course, but for a working photographer at events, or all day shooting, the optical finder (if it is a higher level one especially) still reigns supreme in the immediacy, fatigue, clutter, and energy demand categories. And every single one of those matter greatly.

More control points, custom settings (dial), and ergonomics on display, and information too.

I haven't even started on the complexity of menu systems in newer mirrorless cameras either- that alone can, and often is motivation enough to turn a camera into a paper weight. Sadly, that does happen quite more often than you will read about on the internet too. I know so many people who get frustrated with their equipment, put it down, and never pick it up again. This isn't just relegated to mirrorless cameras either, but also DSLR's too.

Added complexity of the newer camera systems doesn't fix that epidemic problem, I think it just makes it worse. It's hard enough to learn photography as a trade or art, let alone trying to read through encyclopedic sized user manuals or menu systems. 

Less is often much more, especially for new photographers. We want to encourage that spark, not stamp on it, right?

For me, the pro's of the eye level electronic screens are still not yet good enough to warrant use as a main camera throughout the day. For some needs sure, absolutely, but not as a main system- perhaps as an ideal alternate system. Thus I would not recommend a mirrorless camera to a beginner as their sole camera. 

More often then not they will get stuck using it like their cell phone. Then there's simply no encouragement to grow beyond that habit. And then the opportunity to learn a real craft just goes right out the window.

If the task calls for the need to look at a screen in live view, there is one on the back of a dslr to use for more specific tasks. On top of that, there is still much room for improvement with EVF's too, generally speaking. Improvements are needed that can make them more desirable for all day work. They just aren't there yet for me, not sure if they ever will be. Limited use for certain circumstances is fine, but not all day. 

Thus, all points considered, why would I (or even better), why should I recommend mirrorless cameras to others?

7D Lens Matching and Configuration

Finding the right lens for the job is hard enough, let alone trying to find the ideal lens for each type of photography you enjoy. Having run the gamut (owned and/or have used extensively) on nearly every available lens for the EF/EF-S mount, I have some first hand experience with a wide variety of lens choices on the market.  Given that I wanted to carve out a section of this review with something a little different.

I have narrowed down my choice of lenses I'd recommend for the 7D to just a few stellar performers. My recommendations do not come lightly, I own them all myself and have relied heavily on all of them.

I feel this short list represents the best balance, features, general performance, and optical quality that your hard earned money can buy. Just as every camera comes with compromises, so too do lenses.  Yet I think the aim of the photographer outfitting themselves with photo gear should be to minimize the compromises as much as possible while at the same time maximizing the performance for the money.  So with that, I took the time to make some recommendations as follows:

For action work in good to excellent light, I think there is only one of two choices: Sigma's 100-400 DG OS HS C f/4.5-6.3, or Tamron's 100-400 Di USD VC f/4.5-6.3. You're not going to get a better performing lens with as wide of a list of features that also performs as well optically than either of these lenses. I have owned both, and despite relatively minor differences in features and performance, I'd use either lens on the 7D any given day, rain or shine, and know I'm going to get stellar images. They are the perfect combination of weight, ergonomics/balance, and price. Effective focal length: 160-640mm!

For close up work, only one choice, the Canon 24-70mm f/4 L. Yep, forget all about the macro lenses. With the crop factor this lens will give you greater than 1:1 macro (1.12x), and you get weather sealing, a nice versatile zoom range, image stabilization, and general versatility for any other kind of work in the zoom range (portrait comes to mind, for example) that you do not get with a dedicated macro prime. It's used price is completely accessible to many and you won't get a better performing lens optically for the price in this range that is as versatile. 

Lightweight all in one lens: Tamron 18-200mm II VC Di. It's cheap, weather resistant, light, versatile, quick to focus, close focusing, and built very decently for it's price. Of course optics aren't that great, but no "super zoom" lens can be compared to higher end optics anyways. Yet as a lightweight traveler, it's hard to beat and has exceeded my expectations. Throw away your 18-55 kit lens, and thank me for getting this one instead because this one is quite affordable.

Prime Lens Recommendations: 

Either the "hockey puck (40mm STM f/2.8) or the 50mm f/1.8 STM. I use the 40 more often because of its wider effective focal length (64mm vs 75mm) but either are a great general purpose lightweight prime. Both are extremely affordable, close focusing, lightweight, optically sound, and proven, only not weather sealed.


Sunrise to sunset yields the same amount of light on earth every day. Over the years digital cameras have been designed to better capture that light in any given 24hour period, 365 days a year.  The amount of light that the earth gets from the sun is constant, yet the light we see standing on earth changes dramatically through that constant all day long. It just all depends on where you are at any given time. 

A good camera needs to be competent in all that changing light, but there are limits to just how good the technology really needs to be to capture it. My yardstick of measurement is that a good camera should be competent through the entire range of light we see in a day. In order to do that, a camera needs to have a wide enough ISO range to give the photographer the versatility they need in all that light, and most importantly, the images should be still be useable within the ISO range.

Of course everyone's opinion as to what constitutes 'useable' will vary slightly, but as long as a majority are in agreement that a camera performs well over time, then odds are it's a good design. 

Plus, it's got those delicious Canon Colors...

 Windmill- Ronald G. Casper's Regional Park, Canon EOS 7D (ISO 250)

Canon's 7D has both the necessary ISO range and the performance within the entire range to capture a competent image in any lighting circumstance. Of course some cameras perform better, but it was one of the very first I used that had such a wide ISO range and, one that had equally useable images within that range. It was a very popular camera and the vast consensus of its performance is similar to my own opinion. 

The same still holds true today, and why would it not? The light befalling earth hasn't changed, and neither has the 7D. So the point is, technology has marched on yes, but, the 7D is still as capable as it ever was which was already good enough back in 2009.

For a stills shooter, there very few cameras that offer this much capability and performance in one robust body. Never mind the insanely low prices you can get them for these days, or the vast range of affordable lenses available for the mount- both are unrivaled by any mirrorless system. 

There is simply no comparison there if price and system robustness matter to you, and if there is a takeaway from this article, it should be both of these points.

There are however a few modern features that weren't included with the 7D that I miss sometimes, and at other times not at all. Wifi, touch screen, dual pixel AF,  and multi-exposure modes were omitted, all of which I wouldn't mind having in the 7D at times. Only half of those were addressed in the successor 7D Mark II, but even with that, I still prefer the original 7D for most tasks most of the time. Not because it's a better camera either. Had the 7D II included wifi and touch screen, that could possibly have persuaded me to use it more often, maybe

Canon's 7D is a simpler camera than its successor and it's one that really doesn't lag too far behind in most circumstances. The 7D Mark II is a great all rounder, and generally more competent as an action camera or video camera than the 7D, yet this comes at two to three times the expense on the used market. Therefore, since I rarely use video, and the 7D is already a very capable action camera,  I end up using my 7D's most of the time.  The simplicity and familiarity of it always keep me coming back.

Compared to full frame systems, the 7D has both advantages and disadvantages, but neither are to any extremes. In good light the 7D is nearly every bit as good as a full frame DSLR, at least for most work. In some ways it's better, too. In lower light, considerations have to be made though. Faster lenses mean lower ISOs can be chosen, or, f stops should be backed off. 

For example, I may shoot ISO 6,400 at F/8 on my 1DX at a concert, but if I bring my 7D I'd set it to ISO 1,600 and f/4 to get the same shutter speed and nearly identical image quality (fun fact, they are both 18mp too). 

That's not a major difference really, at least practically speaking. And when you must get more depth of field, the advantage of full frame diminishes a bit because you must stop down the lens more in order to achieve the same depth of field that you would get on an APS-C camera set at a similar aperture. 

Pro's and con's, always. But so long as you have a lens that can shoot at wider/more open aperture values, the 7D can hang with just about anything in the full frame category, a little better than you might think. So that point should weigh into your lens selections for lower light work. 

Now the 7D certainly isn't a 1DX (that camera is legend), but for someone on a budget who is being smart about exposure and lens choices, you can do a great many things with the 7D. And you can do them with professional quality results that you will never regret having used it for. 

And all that for a hundred to two hundred bucks on the used market in really good condition. I'm all ears for an argument against it. 

Stay focused.


Link to Canon 7D Manual:

Link to Canon 7D Specifications:


  1. Thank you for this review. I own both the 40d and the 7d, The lens I use most of the times with the 7d is the 15-85 which is a nice lens. One thing still puzzles me and that is the metering. I use one point focus all of the time which works great with the 40d. On the 7d I get conflicting metering in the evaluative mode. Almost like you use spot metering. When I use center weighted reading things improve but I often find myself using manual expose. Why has the 7d more trouble in getting consistent light measuement?

  2. Hi Jon, thank you! :) Yeah, not sure why you are having issues with the metering. Do you have spot metering linked to the AF point by chance? Might want to reset all the settings and start fresh with what you prefer. I've never had any issues with the evaluative metering. Sounds like a setting is off somewhere perhaps.