I got my hands on the new 7D. It is a brand new design for Canon and looks to be quite a nice unit for the money.
Since I am currently happy with my noiseless Nikon D3 as a still-shooting camera, my first impressions review of the new 7D will strictly be from the point of view of a video shooter. While many of the things I talk about in this post will also impact still shooters, I am only giving my opinion on the video side of the camera. I should also note that I’ve only had the camera for less than two days, so this will be strictly preliminary.
As to the camera – It sports a new 100% viewfinder, dual axis electronic level, autofocus and metering capability. It also has been redesigned to be more video friendly. It has additional new features including a new LCD screen that is designed to give a clearer image.
The new autofocus is important because Canon took a pretty strong blow over it’s autofocus problems in the 1DMK III. Canon has started fresh with 19 cross-hair autofocus points. In my limited testing so far, these work very well. I wish they were spread out across the entire frame instead of concentrated in the middle of the frame, but in practical use, it’s been very easy for me to use the autofocus – even when shooting video.
Those who have turned the 5D MK II into an indie film-making took will delight in finding out that the 7D solves several problems encountered when shooting video on the 5D MK II. There is now built-in support for true 24FPS mode. The 7D offers HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080P) at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second or 1280 x 720 pixels (720P) at 60 or 50 frames per second. (Note that the 30FPS is actually 29.97FPS which is a good thing since that is the true standard in the industry.)
The built-in internal microphone captures mono audio, but there is also a socket for a 3.5mm external microphone which permits stereo sound recording. In my test with the built-in mic, I was surprised to find out it’s quite usable in a pinch.
You have complete manual control while in movie mode on the 7D, but you can also take advantage of autofocus. Unfortunately autofocus does not work while recording. You have to stop, refocus and then start again to change focus. But speaking of starting and stopping, that’s much easier now thanks to a dedicated start/stop movie mode switch on the back of the camera.
There is no live histogram (like there is on the Panasonic GH1 in video mode) but you get .MOV files that do not have to be converted before use in most editing programs.
All the video accessories we’ve seen for the 5D MK II seem to work on the 7D. It’s a lighter camera and some people think the video output has slightly more noise than the 5D MK II. I don’t think I agree with that opinion. One thing I’ve noticed is that the 7D files seem to have a higher bit rate than the 5D MK II files and accordingly, show more detail. Perhaps this additional detail is perceived as noise by some. I showed video from both cameras to 10 tech-savvy folks. None of them were video experts or familiar with these sorts of hybrid cameras, but all spend some significant time watching video, both online and on cable or satellite TV. Comparing footage from the 5D MK II and the 7D, none of them was able to say that they liked either one better, and most had trouble distinguishing between the two.
The pixel peepers and video experts out there can probably see a true difference. I can’t and I won’t miss any sleep worrying about the 7D being “noisier.”
At $1699 body only, the 7D seems to be a pretty stunning camera. The video seems very nice at first blush. I’ve yet to put the camera through a real test. I already miss a few features available on the GH1 such as the articulating LCD, the ability to change focus DURING a shot and the aforementioned live histogram. But the 7D immediately offers advantages of its own like the new electronic level, the ability to work with more (and faster) lenses, broader third party support and ability to generate true HD monitor output.
Unless something unusual shows up, I am pretty sure Canon has a hit on its hands.
This post brought to you by HONL Photo