I received the Canon EOS 7d Mark II 24 hours before I was to start photographing at this year's Westminster Dog Show. For folks who are not familiar with me, I have had the opportunity for the last five years to be the photographer for the Westminster Dog Show's Green Room, located at the Penn Hotel, across the street from Madison Square Garden. With the press release of the new 5d Mark III S and R models that had just been released, I was really dreaming about getting the opportunity to get an advance copy of one of those. I mean, outside of a super fast frame rate what could this cropped-frame camera offer me that I did not already have? It turns out quite a lot and I am glad that I said 'yes' to reviewing this camera as it has come with me many places over the last month.
Canon EOS 7d Mark II Front View:
- 20MP APS-C CMOS Sensor Resolution: 5472 x 3648
- 10 fps continuous shooting
- 65 all cross-type autofocus sensor
- ISO 100-16000 (expandable to ISO 50 and ISO 25,600)
- 150,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
- Environmental sealing
- Built-in GPS
- Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th second
- Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles
- Dimensions: 5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1"
- Weight: Almost Exactly 2 Pounds With Battery
- View Finder 100% coverage with 1.0x magnification
- Buffer Depth - 31 Raw or 1090 .jpg files
- Flash Synch 1/250th of a Second
- USB 3.0 Dual
- Digic 6 processors
- Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
- LCD Display - 3.0" Inches
- Magnesium Alloy Body
Canon EOS 7d Mark II Rear View:
Physically, there is little to dislike in the 7d Mark II. First, with its magnesium alloy body, it is built like a tank. At two pounds in weight, it is just slightly smaller than my Canon EOS 5d Mark III. It feels great in my hands - even without having an additional portrait grip. The 7d Mark II is heavily sealed for protection from the elements. The website, Petapixel, has a great article on the weather sealing of the 7d Mark II (and its predecessor) and shows off the new weather sealing elements of the 7d2.
Looking through the viewfinder, the display is big and bright. The viewfinder shows 100% of the composition and has a 1x magnification viewfinder. That makes the display slightly smaller than my 5d Mark III, but I did not notice the difference when switching between cameras.
The 7d Mark II, like the 5d Mark III, contains two card slots...one for a CF card and one for a SD Card. I have always hated this feature as I prefer CF cards to SD cards and as a result, the SD card slot typically is empty in my camera. I will say that having the additional SD slot saved my bacon the first day of the dog show. I brought all of my electronics - but of course not my CF card reader. None of the stores around the Penn had CF readers. Fortunately, my laptop has a SD card slot built into it and I was able to photograph, and display images (necessary when you want sales), on the first day of the show. I am now a believer.
Canon EOS 7d Mark II Side View:
Functionally, the 7d Mark II behaves very much like my 5d Mark III. The folder menu system is virtually identical. Also, the control set is also identical. It made going back and forth between the 5d Mark III and the 7d Mark II completely seamless. During the show, I switched back and forth between the 5d3 and 7d2 frequently. I generally used the 7d Mark II for the smaller dogs because I was photographing in a tighter space than I am used to and the cropped frame sensor meant that my 28-70 was now functioning as a 44 to 112mm lens. That is great on the long end, but not so great at the wide end.
Photographing dark dogs is an area where the 7d Mark II really showed that it has legs. First, the autofocus is faster and more accurate than the 5d3. I expected that since the 5d3 borrows the AF system from its bigger brother, the 1dx, that the 5d3 would yield the better experience. It did not. The 7d2 is even better. The 7d Mark II is able to autofocus at EV-3 where the 5d Mark III is only able to autofocus at EV-2 (still really dark). Focus with the 7d2 was near instantaneous - even when photographing in poor light on dark dogs (with dark backgrounds). The 5d3 hunted for a bit and sometimes took upwards of over a second to focus. When photographing dogs and other critters, seconds count.
Maksim - French Bull Dog
Mr. Jones - Shiba Inu
Rico - Staffordshire Bull Terrier
I also found the AI Servo on the 7d Mark II to be superior to my 5d Mark III. The 7d Mark II has 65 autofocus points, and they are all cross type (assuming you are using a lens that is at least f5.6). If you are using a f2.8 lens or faster, the center point because a dual-cross type (as opposed to a double cross, I guess). Given that the sensor array spreads across the entire viewfinder (as opposed to being center weighted in the 5d3), there are no places where there are not a dense pattern of autofocus points. It made focus tracking to be incredibly easy. For example, I took the following photographs at the NY Wolf Conservation Center
, in South Salem, NY. I nailed every shot of this wolf leaving its den with its duck (courtesy of Whole Foods, I am told). I was very pleased.
Please allow me this one digression! For people who find wolves to be beautiful creatures but have not had the opportunity to see them up close and to learn about them, NY Wolf Conservation Center
(and many other wolf preserves) offer photographer sessions in addition to normal visiting hours. It gives you an opportunity to photograph the wolves in the best possible light. At the last session I attended, there were people from all over the North East. One gentleman stated that he had been to 'all of them' and that NY Wolf Conservation Center had the 'best set-up.' Please tell them that you saw the images here.
Photographing the wolves, I was really happy to have that 10fps shutter. With that, the 7d Mark II holds a ravenous buffer. It just does not seem to stop accepting images. I think I rattled off 37 images - taken at ISO 1600 - with my Lexar 1000x UDMA CF card before I hit the buffer wall. A short pause on the shooting and it was ready to go again. Amazing.
For the sake of brevity, I am including the first and last in the series of images. I think this first composition is important for several reasons. The first is that it is obviously sharp as a tack. The second is that the dynamic range of the image seems to be really - really - good. There is a whole lot going on here between shadow areas and highlights. Also, the image was taken at ISO 1600, and my experience has been that images taken at ISO 1600 do not have the same dynamic range as those taken at base ISOs. The images came out just as they needed to without any real post processing (outside of raw conversion and a tweak or two in PS).
First of 9 Series of Atka the Wolf running from his den with a piece of duck:
Last of 9 Series of Atka the Wolf running from his den with a piece of duck (duck courtesy of Whole Foods)
Image quality on the 7d is excellent. Honestly, I cannot tell the difference between a 7d Mark II print and 5d Mark III print. Given its ultra dense CMOS Sensor, I was really impressed with how detailed and sharp the ISO 1600 and 3200 images were. I would have no hesitation photographing at these ISOs when shooting wildlife, or in other scenarios where shooting at a more civilized ISO is not an option. Given that the upcoming 5d3 s/r models will be using a chip with similar pixel density, I am definitely optimistic that they will be great.
Wolf: ISO 1600 Half Turning
100% Crop of Eye:
Wolf: ISO 3200 Under Tree - Shutter Speed 1/2500 at F13
100% Crop ISO 3200 No Noise Reduction
100% Crop ISO 3200 with Noise Reduction and USM
I used Capture One 8.1 to work with the noise in the ISO 1600 and 3200 images - at default levels. I did not bother to do any noise reduction in the ISO 1600 image with the wolf's eye. It did not need it.
I feel that the ISO 3200 images clean up really - really - nicely with even just a little bit of noise reduction. Please note that the two ISO 3200 images of the snow and back paws of the wolves were saved at a 12 jpg (the highest quality).
The one area where I continuously noticed a significant difference between the crop framed 7d Mark II and my full frame 5d Mark III has to do with the field of view. As you know, images on a cropped frame camera look bigger than they do on a full frame camera because the sensor is only using the center of the glass. Generally, it was not a problem - just something to get used to. There was one morning when Chanthee and I were photographing sunrise from Brooklyn where I wanted to grab my 16-35 out only to realize that the 16-35 was not wide enough because of the cropped frame sensor. However, Canon has lenses (such as the APS-C 10-22mm) to deal with this differential...unfortunately, mine was at home. Honestly, it is not a big problem. You just need to 're-learn' your lenses to account for the difference in field of view.
Statue of Liberty with Full Moon Set - ISO 800
Battery life on the 7d Mark II is pretty good, rated at about 670 frames. Based upon my experience, this seems about accurate.
For folks who want to know about the video modes, I am sorry to say that I did not use the video features. There are tons of other gear head sites that will have more on the 7d2's video features.
Conclusion: I have had the 7d Mark II now for about a full month and I am getting ready to give it back. I have been so very pleased with the camera. Pound for pound (and dollar for dollar), I see this camera as a real winner. It is amazing - and given the price point, I think a great value.Did you like the review and are interested in purchasing a 7d Mark II? Please consider purchasing the camera through Hunts Photo and Video. This review would not have been possible without their support. Hunts is offering a specially priced bundle for members of the NWP community. Hunts is adding an additional 16GB SD card and an extra battery. This special offer expires 9/7/2015. Please click here for the Hunts Photo and Video Canon EOS 7d Mark II Promo/Coupon Code.
New York City Pano at Sunrise - 9 Frames.