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Canon announces 17.92 million image pixel, 8fps EOS 7D
Monday, August 31, 2009 | by Rob Galbraith
Canon has announced the EOS 7D, a 17.92 million image pixel digital SLR that fires at up to 8fps, sports newly-developed 19-point AF and 63-zone metering systems, a dual-axis electronic level, wireless TTL control via the built-in flash and 1080p video in a body whose controls are more configurable than any EOS camera to date. The EOS 7D is Canon's most ambitious new digital SLR in some time, and is meant to attract professional photographers as well as compete directly with Nikon's D300 and D300s in both features and price.

Foggy Night: Canon EOS 7D beta + EF 85mm f/1.2L II, ISO 800. Click photo to enlarge. Click here to download full-resolution version (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Canon EOS 7D feature summary

The Canon EOS 7D contains more newly-created features and components than any Canon model since the EOS-1D Mark III in 2007. It sports a new image sensor, new AF system, new metering system, new electronic level, new viewfinder display technology, new wireless TTL controller functionality and new configuration and customization options not found in any Canon camera previously. In addition, the optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E5/E5a is the first from Canon to operate on 802.11a networks (in addition to 802.11b/g) and offers browser-based camera control and multi-camera triggering capabilities that are new to the world of Canon too.

The 7D represents Canon's most interesting attempt in awhile to provide working photographers with a camera that incorporates a useful complement of pro features at a midrange camera price. It's a trend they started with the EOS 20D back in 2004, but successors to the that camera, including the current 50D, have been easily eclipsed in the last two years by the Nikon D300 (and its refined, video-capable replacement, the D300s). The 7D is Canon's response.

Player: The Canon EOS 7D. Click either photo to enlarge (Photos courtesy Canon)

Here's a brief rundown of the 7D:
  • It produces 17.92 million pixel photos from a 22.3mm x 14.9mm self-cleaning CMOS sensor; the focal length cropping factor is 1.6x, relative to a full frame camera. The 7D accepts both EF and EF-S lenses

  • The body is similar in appearance to an EOS 50D, though at 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9in (148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm) it's slightly taller, wider and more comfortable in the hand. At 28.9oz (820g) for the body only, weight is almost identical to the 5D Mark II.

  • Viewfinder coverage is 100%; a transparent LCD overlay is used to display/hide AF points and grid lines

  • It shoots continuously at up to 8fps for a Canon-specified 126 Large Fine JPEG with a memory card that supports the faster UDMA data transfer protocol, or 94 when a slower card is used, as well as 15 RAW or 6 RAW+JPEG frames. (With a SanDisk Extreme IV 16GB card inserted, we were able to squeeze off 19-20 RAW frames in succession at ISO 100.) The camera can be set to shoot at 3fps also

  • The sensitivity range is ISO 100-6400 in 1/3 step increments, plus H (ISO 12,800). The Auto ISO range is 100-3200. It's not possible to choose a maximum aperture or minimum shutter speed in Auto ISO

  • Basic performance specifications include a 59ms shutter lag, 0.1 second camera startup and 100ms mirror blackout times (these figures are identical to the 50D)

  • An all-new AF system in the 7D that features 19 cross-type points (covering roughly the same frame area as the 50D's 9-point system), five distinct AF modes and clever AF configuration options

  • Ambient and TTL flash metering is handled by an all-new 63 zone meter that includes two colour layers. Exposure calculations incorporate data from the new metering sensor as well as all 19 AF points for promised more consistent and accurate exposures from frame to frame. The 7D has four metering modes: Evaluative, Center-weighted, 9.4% Partial and 2.3% Spot

  • Shutter life is rated at 150,000 cycles. The top shutter speed is 1/8000, while the standard top flash sync is 1/250. Canon High Speed Sync flash is supported

  • The 7D's built-in flash gives coverage to lenses as wide as 15mm, recycles in 3 seconds at full power, has a guide number of 12/39 (ISO 100, meters/feet), includes both automatic and manual output modes and can serve as a wireless TTL controller for remote Speedlites

  • Flash exposure compensation can be dialed in on the camera body. The compensation range is 3 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments

  • An electronic level in the camera detects both pitch and roll; with it, you can level the camera both left/right and up/down, using a display that appears in both the viewfinder (repurposing the AF point markings for this) and on the rear LCD
Pitch and Roll: The Canon EOS 7D with electronic level active. Click photo to view an enlarged version of the camera (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
  • Video capture is an evolution of the EOS 5D Mark II's video capabilities. The 7D offers up to 1920 x 1080 pixel (1080p) video capture with the option of connecting an external stereo mic, the same as the 5D Mark II, plus both manual and automatic exposure modes. The new model tweaks capture rates so that video can be more readily synchronized with separately-recorded audio, rolls in additional frame rate and resolution options (including 60fps at 1280 x 720 pixels), ups the audio sampling rate slightly and incorporates in-camera video trimming

  • The rear LCD is a three inch (diagonal), 920,000 dot TFT with a reinforced glass cover (all previous Canon digital SLRs have utilized clear resin covers) and an optically-clear filler that eliminates the air gap between the cover glass and LCD component. This helps both strengthen the cover and limit contrast loss in bright conditions

  • Live View is implemented in a manner similar to other recent Canon digital SLRs. It operates at 30fps for smooth live viewing, includes 5x and 10x zoom settings and three AF options, none of which provide continuous focus. The 7D incorporates a dedicated button for starting and stopping Live View operation. (The same button is also used to start and stop video recording, and a two-position switch just above the button toggles between video and still capture modes.)

  • A revised button layout on the back, a new M-FN button on top and unparalleled customization of many button functions make the 7D a breeze to personalize to your shooting style

  • Image- and video-related settings in the camera include Canon's full complement of Picture Styles, sRGB and AdobeRGB colour modes plus High ISO Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone Priority, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Peripheral Illumination Correction
  • Connection ports include USB 2.0, an N3-type remote socket, PC sync, 3.5mm stereo miniphone mic jack, Type C HDMI (up to 1080i resolution is supported), NTSC/PAL video out plus an extension terminal on the base of the camera for a wireless transmitter

  • The 7D accepts CompactFlash Type I/II memory cards and includes support for UDMA up to Mode 6

  • Power is courtesy of the 1800mAh Lithium Ion Battery Pack LP-E6, which is charged with the included Battery Charger LC-E6. This battery and charger are identical to those supplied with the 5D Mark II

  • Optional accessories include Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E5/E5A and Battery Grip BG-E7
Feature highlights

This section delves deeper into some of the 7D's features, based on briefings with Canon USA staff as well as use of a beta 7D body earlier this month.

Sensor and image quality At the heart of the 7D is a 17.92 million image pixel, 22.3 x 14.9mm CMOS sensor designed and manufactured by Canon. The sensor has a pixel pitch of 4.3m square. Like the 50D, its microlens array is gapless, which means each light-amplifying microlens covers a greater percentage of each pixel's surface area than Canon digital SLR sensors from a generation ago.

Also, the distance between the microlens and photodiode within each pixel has been shortened, the photodiode construction has been altered and a new sensor manufacturing process developed, all of which is meant to give the 7D's sensor a wider dynamic range and lower noise characteristics than one would normally associate with such tiny, tiny digital SLR pixels.

Still Water: Canon EOS 7D beta + EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, ISO 100. Click photo to enlarge. Click here to download full-resolution version (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Sensor data is read out across eight channels, and once converted from analog to digital (14-bit) the data is processed through twin DIGIC 4 processors, all to make possible the camera's 8fps top shooting rate. Like all previous entry level and midrange Canon digital SLRs, the focal length cropping factor, relative to a full-frame digital SLR or 35mm film camera, is 1.6X (Canon calls this sensor size APS-C). File dimensions at full resolution are 5184 x 3456 pixels.

That's the tech-speak. What the pictures look like is perhaps easier to digest. So far, the photos we've taken with a beta 7D look a lot like they've come from a 50D, except with 2.9 million additional pixels of resolution. Canon appears to have done a masterful job of wringing out every ounce of quality from the 7D's little pixels (smaller than any Canon before), resulting in photos that are fairly crisp, reasonably clean and usable up to about ISO 1600.

Noise, when it appears, has a natural graininess to it, up until about ISO 1600 as well. At ISO 3200 and beyond you'll run into increasingly unmanageable amounts of digital dandruff (white pixels spread throughout darker areas) and plugged shadows. At all ISO increments, other than the very lowest ones, pictures can take on a somewhat harsh, chunky appearance not present in larger-pixel cameras in Canon's lineup, such as the EOS-1D Mark III. Or Nikon's D3 and D700.

Correcting for digital dandruff requires image detail to be softened, sometimes considerably, while the slight harshness is simply a trait to be lived with.

This means that overall, 7D image quality is shaping up to be decent, though not groundbreaking. If you're coming from a 50D or Rebel T1i, you're likely to be right at home with the picture quality from this camera. If you're coming from a camera like the 5D Mark II, the 7D's pictures will almost certainly seem inferior, in some instances by a fair margin.

Put in charge of the 7D's development, we'd have chosen something like a 12MP sensor with better high ISO performance and more pleasing low ISO files.

Reggae: Canon EOS 7D beta + EF 85mm f/1.2L II, ISO 3200. Click photo to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

The links below are to ISO 1600, 3200, 6400 and 12,800 full-resolution files shot with a beta 7D during the same performance as the photo above. For comparison purposes, you can also download ISO 3200, 6400 and 12,800 photos taken with a 5D Mark II. This was tough light, and the files from both cameras show that. The 7D's performance is staggering, given its sensor's 4.3m pixel pitch. But the 5D Mark II and its 6.4m pixels are able to extract just a bit more quality out of each ISO increment.

All files originated as RAW CR2s. They were converted in the upcoming Digital Photo Professional 3.7 and then sharpened using Smart Sharpen in Photoshop before being saved for download as low-compression JPEGs.

Additional full-resolution photos shot with the 7D are below. Click on a thumbnail to download.

Profile: ISO 3200
Garden: ISO 200
Soccer: ISO 400
Harbour: ISO 100
Thunder: ISO 400
Bridge: ISO 100
Pond: ISO 800
Lighthouse: ISO 100
Bird: ISO 400

In addition to Picture Styles, the 7D offers the following image adjustment settings, all of which are applied to video capture as well:
  • Highlight Tone Priority

  • Three increments of High ISO Noise Reduction: Low, Standard, Strong (plus Disable)

  • Three increments of Auto Lighting Optimizer: Low, Standard, Strong (plus Disable)

  • A vignette control (Canon calls this Peripheral Illumination Correction) that adjusts the amount of edge and corner brightening it applies to in-camera JPEGs based on the Canon lens attached. If the camera is set to CR2, lens vignette correction is not applied to the RAW data, but the lens vignette info is noted in the file, enabling Canon's Digital Photo Professional software to optionally apply the correction during conversion.
Continued on the next page....

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