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.
That’s just as the image came from the camera, here’s the second photo of the male after a few tweaks in Lightroom.
I’ve already posted this one of the female, but I’ll throw it in again, just for the record.
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.
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…
…and like a complete idiot, in flight.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. 😉
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.
Then, I tested the new camera out on blue and green.
Then on the yellow daffodils again.
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.
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!
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.
Still, I was impressed by the way that the 7D tracked the hawk against a busy background!
The willows have begun to bloom, and once again the Beast on the 7D surprised me with this.
Then, it was time to put the 7D with the Beast to the birding test!
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.
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!
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!