My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

My first efforts with the Canon 7D Mark II

The first thing that I noticed as I removed the new 7D from the box was that it felt lighter than the 60D bodies that I have been using. Even though it is slightly larger than the 60D, the 7D has a magnesium frame, rather than an aluminum and plastic frame as my 60Ds have. The ruggedness of the original 7D is almost legendary, there are Youtube videos of people purposely abusing them to see how much punishment they could take before they stopped functioning. (those videos always ticked me off, why destroy a perfectly good camera when so many people would love to have one?)

Anyway, it felt solidly built as I took it out of the box, not that the 60D feels cheap, but I could tell the difference right away. Opening the 7D up to insert the battery and memory card, I could see the weather sealing there around the openings for each compartment.

Next up, the viewfinder. It’s huge and bright, even when compared to my 60D, which was a huge improvement over my old Nikon D50 which was like looking through a long tunnel when looking through the viewfinder. There’s a lot more information displayed in the 7D viewfinder as well, but I didn’t pay too much attention to that yet, that will come as I learn more about the camera.

With a memory card and battery installed, it was time to go through the menu and get the camera set-up for my first attempts at shooting photos. The menu system is fairly well laid out, but there were a lot of settings to be changed, and I managed to miss a few as I went through them the first time. I also noticed that the buttons and other controls feel more solidly built than on my 60D. I’m not sure that I like the joystick, since I’m used to the multi-controller of my 60D, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough. It’s funny, Canon took a lot of heat from reviewers when the launched the 60D, every one hated the multi-controller, which had replaced a joystick on earlier models of the xxD line. Maybe because I started with the multi-controller, I found it quite easy to use.

Anyway, I managed to navigate around the menus system without having to consult the manual, so that was a victory, even if it was a small one. 😉 I’m certainly glad that this camera is an upgrade from another Canon camera, or the manual alone would have overwhelmed me. I’m not going to go through all the features of this new camera, as the list is quite long. Besides, you’re more interested in the photos it can produce.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate the first day with the 7D, it was cloudy, gloomy, with off and on rain when I set out for a walk. Because of the weather, I opted to use the 300 mm L series lens, since it is also weather-sealed, and better suited for miserable weather. Right outside of my apartment, I stumbled upon a pair of mallards, first, the male.

Male mallard, first outdoor shot with the 7D Mk II

Male mallard, first outdoor shot with the 7D Mk II

That’s just as the image came from the camera, here’s the second photo of the male after a few tweaks in Lightroom.

Male mallard

Male mallard

I’ve already posted this one of the female, but I’ll throw it in again, just for the record.

Female mallard

Female mallard

I’ve been getting better images from my 60D all the time, some are much better than those, but still, there’s something about these so far that tells me that the 7D is going to be even better than I thought that it would be.

I tried shooting a few close-ups to check the camera/lens combination on subjects at varying distances.

Maple flowers

Maple flowers

Daffodil with hiding spider

Daffodil with hiding spider

My first big surprise, the metering/exposure system of the 7D nailed the correct setting for the daffodil! I shot it with no exposure compensation just to see what it would look like, and to give me an idea how much to adjust, but I didn’t need to. In a recent post, I wrote about the problem of many cameras overexposing yellow flowers, not the 7D, within limits, as you will see later.

Even though it was dark and foggy, I couldn’t resist giving the new camera the torture test of trying to shoot red-winged blackbirds in the gloom, both stationary…

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

…and like a complete idiot, in flight.

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

The slow shutter speeds required in such low light meant that I didn’t have a chance of getting a good photo, my only reason for shooting those was to test the auto-focusing of the 7D to see if it could pick up the birds and track them, which it did quite well given the poor light. I know this because as one of the birds slowed down to land, the 7D had tracked it well enough for this photo.

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

I was shooting in high-speed burst mode, which was close to 10 frames per second, the 7D is like a machine gun with a hair-trigger! I also found out that the SD card that I’m using is too slow for the camera, I’m going to have to upgrade to a much faster CF card to take full advantage of the 7D’s rate of fire. 😉 The 7D can hold one of each type of memory cards, I’ll use a faster CF card for the main storage, and the SD card as a back-up.

The 7D also has a built-in flash, so I tested that in this photo.

Emerging leaves

Emerging leaves

Nothing special, other than the fact that I didn’t have to adjust the flash output at all for that photo, it’s straight out the camera with no adjustments. That’s another big improvement over the 60D I’ve been using, I usually went down almost two full stops when using the flash to prevent overexposing subjects.

My next big surprise came next. The 300 mm lens on the 60D has never been good at focusing in on small birds in the brush. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the light is, that lens can’t find birds when used on the 60D. On the 7D, different story!

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

I had been all set to help the lens out by manually over-riding the auto-focus, but I didn’t have to, and I didn’t even need to go down to the single auto-focusing point to get those photos.

It may have been a blessing in disguise that the weather was so poor for photography on my first time out with the new camera, while the photos are nothing special, normally I’d have discarded them, they do show me just how much better the focusing system of the 7D is over that of the 60D! Even in the poor light, the 7D was focusing in quickly on the birds, just as it should, with no help from me for a change.

I shot this one at ISO 16000, the highest “native” ISO setting for the 7D, just to see what it would look like.

American robin

American robin

Not great, I didn’t expect it to be, but in a pinch, I can go that high with the ISO and get a usable photo. That’s always good to know.

It’s also good to know that the 7D does well on squirrels, for all the squirrel fans out there, and I think you know who you are. 😉

Fox squirrel in the rain

Fox squirrel in the rain

Day Two:

The next day, the weather was much improved, so I mounted the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) on the 7D, and tested it out, starting with mallards again.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Then, I tested the new camera out on blue and green.

Blue and green

Blue and green

Then on the yellow daffodils again.

Daffodil

Daffodil

Daffodils

Daffodils

Okay, the Beast has never been good for close-ups, but that seems to be different when using it on the 7D, as these are quite good. Also, no exposure compensation was required, the 7D nailed it again!

However, that changes if yellow isn’t the dominating color in the frame, as this shot shows.

Daffodils

Daffodils

There, the daffodils are slightly overexposed, I could have fixed that if the photo was worth anything other than a test. Of all the reviews of the 7D Mk II that I read, I don’t recall any of them mentioning how much of an improvement has been made to the metering system, at least not that I recall. The reviews all go on and on about the auto-focusing, and the fact that the camera can shoot 10 frames per second, and leave it at that.

It’s also much better on black birds against a blue sky!

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

One of the local hawks made a few flybys for me, but even the 7D can’t make the Beast a great lens for birds in flight.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Still, I was impressed by the way that the 7D tracked the hawk against a busy background!

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The willows have begun to bloom, and once again the Beast on the 7D surprised me with this.

Willow flowers

Willow flowers

Then, it was time to put the 7D with the Beast to the birding test!

Female mallard

Female mallard

 

Male mallard

Male mallard

Yellow bellied sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker

MZ1A0161

American robin

American robin

Common grackle

Common grackle

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Even the Beast on the 7D needed a little help to get the grackle so deep in the brush, but otherwise, no problems finding and focusing in on birds! Still, the most amazing display of the 7D’s ability to track a moving subject was still to come! One of the local hawks came flying towards me, but on the other side of a line of trees. I tried getting a focus on the hawk through the tree branches, and not only was the 7D able to, it continued to track the hawk as I was shooting.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

To take full advantage of the 7D’s auto-focusing capabilities, you really need a f/2.8 or faster lens. The only lens that I have with a f/2.8 maximum aperture is the Tokina macro lens, but that has the old style screw-drive type of drive for the focus. I was thinking about that, and it hit me, I had no idea if the 7D had the capability of driving the focusing of that lens, many newer cameras don’t. No need for me to worry though, the 7D will drive the Tokina lens, and very well!

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

Dandelion

Dandelion

Unidentified purple flowers

Unidentified purple flowers

Unidentified purple flowers

Unidentified purple flowers

Unfortunately, because of my work schedule this week, I didn’t have a lot of time to play with the new camera. Even worse, I didn’t get many hours in either, so I’m going to work tomorrow, Saturday, to earn some extra money.

None of the photos that I’ve shot with the 7D so far are anything spectacular, I have better photos from my 60D, with a few more to post yet. But, I can see the possibilities of the 7D. The much improved auto-focusing will help me to get the shots I missed with the 60D. The better metering system will help to improve the quality of my images. That’s been a very pleasant surprise so far. I am also very impressed by the improvement in the image quality overall, for both sharpness and color rendition also.

I think that I’ll see more improvements in the quality of the images as I learn to use the camera to its full potential, I’ve just scratched the surface so far. Now, it’s time for me to get some sleep before I go back to work again. 😦

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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28 responses

  1. Beautiful photos, Jerry. Thanks for sharing your experiment!

    April 17, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    • Thank you Lavinia!

      April 18, 2015 at 4:26 am

  2. You’ve got a new toy but don’t have much time to play with it! How frustrating. 🙂 Day 1 and 2 photos look great. Once again I can’t pretend I understand the technical side of things. I still have my combined money gift from family from Christmas for a new camera but lately I’ve been having a bit more fun with my old one again so I am holding off until the end of financial year sales.I hope you get some lovely weather for your days off in which to experiment. I particularly like the close ups of unidentified purple flowers. You are lucky to have some mallards out near your apartment! Thanks for sharing your new camera with us. 🙂

    April 17, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    • Thank you Jane! Yeah, that’s the way it goes for new toys and the weather. When I purchased the first 60D, we had the rainiest April ever, and it looks as if the weather will be about the same as then as I get started with the 7D.

      I hope that you’re able to upgrade your camera soon, not that your photos show any need for it, but it’s always fun to play with a new toy.

      April 18, 2015 at 4:43 am

  3. Interesting.

    But, you should read user’s manual, after all. Even if it’s boring, even if it’s too much, even if you don’t have time and even if you want more to take photos than read.

    Unidentified purple flowers are Lamium purpureum / red deadnettle; unidentified white flowers might be Alyssum Flowers but I am not sure.

    I like very much your mallards’ photos. Yesterday I took a few photos of some mallards but now, after seeing your photos, I don’t think I will post them soon. 😀

    April 18, 2015 at 2:38 am

    • Thank you very much Cornel!

      I have read the manual, I downloaded it from Canon’s website several months ago when I knew for sure that I was going to buy the camera. I have also reread parts of it since I now have the camera, but for the first day, I didn’t have the time.

      I think that you’re right about the dead nettle, but in my excitement over the photos, I forgot.

      You should never let the photos that some one else posts in their blog determine what you post on yours. If we all did that, only one photographer in the world would be posting photos, and it wouldn’t be me. 😉

      April 18, 2015 at 4:25 am

  4. The new camera sounds very exciting. You posted lots of lovely bird pictures, my favourite the hermit thrush.

    April 18, 2015 at 4:22 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      April 18, 2015 at 4:29 am

  5. Great post. Glad to hear that you are happy with the 7dMII, I upgraded from the old 7d and love it.

    April 18, 2015 at 6:58 am

    • Thank you very much! I almost purchased a 7D two years ago, but there were already rumors of what the Mk II would be like, and that it would hit the market sooner than it did. I’m happy that I waited, I learned enough using the 60D to make the 7D Mk II worthwhile for me.

      April 18, 2015 at 12:28 pm

  6. I’m glad that the 300mm lens works so well with the new body Jerry. I know you were disappointed when it didn’t do so well before. If those maple flowers were shot with it, I’d say it’s a keeper!
    I like the fact that the metering is so accurate. If I had the money I might buy it for that feature alone. It certainly reads yellow well. Red will be another big test.
    It’s great that it works so well with the 500mm too. I’d say you’ve got all the bases covered, especially if I had to go by the bird in the bush shots.
    As usual my favorites are the smiling mallards and inquisitive squirrel.
    I hope you get some decent weather on your next day off!

    April 18, 2015 at 9:22 am

    • Thank you Allen! Yes, I’ve been disappointed in the 300 mm lens, but on the plus side, it did teach me how to get sharper photos from all my lenses.

      The metering of the 7D isn’t perfect, but it’s way better than anything I’ve used before. I do need to try it on red soon to see how it does with that color.

      I only worked half a day today, so I’ll be headed out for the last good day for some time according to the forecast.

      April 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm

  7. All in all some very nice shots for your first time out with the 7D. Looking forward to your future posts.

    April 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    • Thanks Bob! I still have a lot of 60D photos to use up, but they will be good ones. 😉

      April 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

  8. Your new camera did well to pick out the sapsucker from the background.

    April 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I think that I got a good one this time.

      April 18, 2015 at 6:31 pm

  9. Your new camera seems to be a hit! I loved all the photographs you have taken so far with it. Like Susan I really like your shots of the Hermit Thrush. How big were the unidentified white flowers, can you remember? They look as though they ought to be a member of the cabbage family (a bitter-cress maybe) – a cardamine or arabis? I don’t know what you have growing in Michigan but the flowers with four petals and what looks like a long thin seed pod in the background make me think it’s one of the above.

    April 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    • Thank you Clare! The new camera does do well so far. The white flowers were about the same diameter as a pencil, with the clue from you, I believe that they are hairy bitter cress.

      April 18, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      • That would seem right. Glad to be of help.

        April 19, 2015 at 9:02 am

      • Thanks again!

        April 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

  10. What fun it must be learning all the ins and outs of your new equipment! You have the aptitude, intelligence, skill, patience, and time to really nail all the details. And the rest of us get to enjoy the results!

    I know I’m probably really weird, but my favorite photo was the dandelion! I also really liked the daffodil with the spider hiding, which I saw right away, before I read the caption! 🙂

    I hope you have nice weather tomorrow (Sunday) to experiment some more with the new camera. It’s supposed to be fairly lousy weather here, with high winds and rain, so I guess we won’t be going out duck “hunting” tomorrow. 😦

    April 18, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    • Thank you Amy! Yes, it’s fun learning to use the new camera, that will keep me busy for a while.

      Dandelions are like mallards, they get no respect. If it was difficult to get them to grow, they’d be a prized flower, but since they’re a weed, people overlook the beauty of the flowers.

      it’s forecast to rain here too. Rain is good weather to find ducks, but terrible weather to photograph them. 😦

      April 18, 2015 at 10:12 pm

  11. I’m so glad the new camera has lived up to your expectations! Anxiously awaiting to see just how much better your images could possibly get!

    April 18, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! As you may expect, I am waiting to see the same thing. 😉

      April 19, 2015 at 6:05 am

  12. Hi, Jerry. Love the way you approach your new gear – little tests. You will get the most out of your equipment, because it you will truly understand it.

    I was struck by the camouflage of the sapsucker. Seems like he/she would have been very hard to pick out with the naked eye. And, as always, the sassy mallards seem to be your photo pals.

    Hope the weather comes around. We spent the last two gorgeous days at John’s folks’ estate sale. What a huge amount of work! So glad they have just one estate. More work this week, cleaning up the house and yard there, and then we’ll be heading off to TN for a few weeks. Hope we can go for a walk after that – home for a long time after late May. Time really got away from me these last two weeks.

    Looking forward to seeing all you discover with your new camera.

    April 19, 2015 at 8:20 am

    • Thank you Judy! Small tests are the only way that I can make sense of what’s going on. 😉

      The sapsuckers are well camouflaged, but I saw it move, which gave it away. I think that I could do a mallard only blog, they’re always up to something, and often, it’s humorous.

      I forgot, today was the 19th, well, I went for a walk without you, sorry. If I ever make it through sorting and editing the photos, then getting a post done, you’ll see what you missed. 😉

      Have fun in Tennessee, it’s almost as nice as Arkansas and Missouri.

      April 19, 2015 at 7:29 pm

  13. I like the tweaks you did with the drake. It can be challenging to get the coloration to show up depending on the lighting!

    April 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

    • Thank you Lori!

      April 21, 2015 at 7:10 pm