From around home, with the 7D Mk II
Where do I begin? I suppose that I’ll start by quibbling about a few of the things that I don’t care for about the new 7D Mk II camera.
I don’t know why, but Canon went cheap on the strap that comes with the camera, it’s not as well padded as the straps that came with the 60D bodies that I have, and it also seems to be made from a cheaper fabric that irritates the back of my neck. Maybe Canon assumes that every one will purchase one of the trick aftermarket straps for higher end camera?
I miss the vari-angle display of the 60D bodies as well, even though I keep them in the storage position 99% of the time. That’s one of the reasons that I miss that feature, the screen of the 7D is always exposed to being scratched or broken, since it’s in a fixed position. I haven’t tried live view photography or shooting videos with the 7D yet, I’m sure that I’ll miss the vari-angle display even more when I do.
I love all the options as far as the focus points that I have with the 7D, but I also have a small quibble about making the selection of which mode I’m going to use. I have to press a button to enable making changes to the focus point(s), then use a lever to cycle through the options, of which there are six or seven, I’ll list them shortly. The lever only works in one direction, so I have to move the lever repeatedly to get to the mode that I want to use, rather than being able to move more quickly to get to the one that I want.
Okay, I think that’s all the nitpicking that I have to do for now, so it’s time to get to the good stuff!
There are seven different focus point(s) settings:
A super small one for pinpoint auto-focusing, but that only works with a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger I believe, the manual is a bit unclear about that. I did try it while using the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the results weren’t very good.
Then, there’s a single point mode, and you’re able to select any single point of the 65 available to use.
Next, AF point expansion, which uses five focus points grouped together, and you can select which five.
Then, AF point expansion II, which uses nine points, and again, you can select which nine.
Next, Zone AF, which uses twelve points in one of nine zones that you can select.
Then, there’s large zone AF, which uses any one-third of the focus points available.
Finally, 65-point automatic selection AF, which uses all 65 focus points, depending on the lens.
I’m already getting more technical than I would like, but as a quick example, the 10-18 mm lens I have can’t use all 65 focus points, it’s limited to “only” 45 focus points. All of my other lenses can use all 65 focus points, but only the Tokina f/2.8 macro lens can make use of the dual cross-type point in the center of the screen, all my other lenses are restricted to “just” single cross-type points, darn. 😉
Anyway, I think that by listing all of the ways that I can make use of the focus points, you’ll understand why I would like the selector lever to work in both directions, it takes a while to cycle through all the options available, and here’s why it matters. If I’m trying to shoot a bird in the brush, I’d like to use a single point to make sure that the camera focuses on just the bird, not the intervening brush.
However, for birds in flight, trying to keep only one focus point on a moving bird is difficult, and as fast as the 7D Mk II auto-focuses, if the focus point moves off from the bird for even a split second, the camera has focused on something in the background rather than the intended bird. So, for moving birds, I prefer to use the mode with five or nine focus points, so I can keep at least most of the focus points on the bird.
By the way, those photos aren’t truly indicative of what the 7D is capable of when it comes to birds in flight. For some reason, I let myself get distracted in trying to positively ID the species at the time, rather than concentrate on getting the images, and making a positive ID from the images. I could tell right away that it wasn’t a red-tailed hawk, but I wasn’t sure what it was when I began shooting. I think that must have been one of last year’s young osprey, as it didn’t look as large or as lanky as adult osprey appear. Anyway, it was cool seeing an osprey here at home!
Anyway, like I said, I prefer to use one of the focus point groups, such as the five or nine-point groups, for birds in flight, but that’s of right now as I’m learning the 7D. If I use more than just the smaller groups, the auto-focus becomes “confused”, trying to focus on both the bird and the background at the same time.
I hinted that the auto-focusing of the 7D Mk Ii is fast, it’s much faster than that of the 60D, by a considerable margin. I’m not sure how it speeds up the focusing motors built into the lenses, but it does, boy does it ever! Even with my long lenses, the Beast and the 300 mm L series, the 7D is on focus almost instantly most of the time. Low light, and/or low contrast subjects take a little longer, but that’s true of the 60D bodies I’m used to.
Now then, I’ve already told you that the 7D has improved the focusing of the 300 mm L series lens, it also works better when I use the Beast at the close end of its focusing range. The specs say that the Beast can focus down to around eight feet, but it never worked well for me under about ten feet, on the 60D. That’s all changed.
Okay, so I’m not typically going to shoot flowers with the Beast, not when I have the Tokina macro lens for them.
That was from one of the 60D bodies, just for the record.
Back to the 7D for now. Getting the Beast to focus at the close end of its range is what got me these.
I actually had to rock back on my heels a few times because I was so close to the chickadee that the Beast couldn’t focus on it, even on the 7D. Those weren’t cropped at all, I’m thinking of having one printed to create a giant chickadee. 😉
Since I’ve only had the 7D for a couple of weeks, I’m still not completely used to it yet, I’ll get faster at getting to the correct auto-focus settings for the subject at hand as time goes on, but here’s why it matters. Just after I had shot the photos of the osprey, I was reviewing the images when I heard a scratching sound coming from the tree above me. I looked up to see this.
I was still set on nine focus points, so the camera focused on the tree limb, rather than the bird. Because of the short depth of field with the Beast at 500 mm, the tree limb is in focus and sharp, but the sapsucker’s head is a bit soft from being slightly out of focus.
Okay, changing gears a bit, I got a free SD card with the 7D when I purchased it, and I got what I paid for. The camera store must have rummaged through their stock and found an old, outdated SD card that’s extremely slow. It was taking the 7D forever to write the images to the card, I missed a few shots because of that. I have since begun using one of the much faster cards that I bought for the 60D, and that has sped the 7D writing to the card up so that I no longer have to wait several minutes if I have shot a series of photos.
Still, to really take advantage of how fast the 7D is, I need to pick-up an even faster CF card for it. The 7D holds one of each, SD and CF cards, so I’ll set it to use the CF card as the main storage device, and keep a SD card in it also for backup if I ever fill the CF card. I have tried the full speed test of the 7D a few times, and it really does shoot at ten frames per second under the right conditions. That’s really a bit crazy, but I can see that there’ll be times when it comes in handy. Most of the time, I leave it in the slow mode, only five frames per second, which is still faster than my 60D bodies.
The next item to report, ever since the first day that I used the 7D, I’ve been amazed at how accurate the exposure metering system is. That holds true for each of the three lenses that I’ve tried on the 7D so far, the Beast, the 300 mm L series, and the 70-200 mm L series lenses. However, that changes dramatically when I use the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter with the 300 mm lens, which is the only lens I’ve used the extender on extensively. With the extender, the exposure is way off most of the time, usually overexposed by a full stop or more. I’m not sure why that would be, I half suspect that it’s the way that the 7D is programmed, to work well with Canon lenses and extenders, but not so well with other manufacturer’s equipment. But it’s something that I can live with, the osprey was shot with the 300 mm lens with the extender. I just dial the exposure compensation down when I install the extender, and go from there.
I have done limited testing of the extender and the Beast, but I lose the ability to auto-focus if I zoom the Beast past around 400 mm, due to the variable aperture of the Beast. Since that’s the case, I’m usually better off without the extender, and zooming the Beast all the way to 500 mm.
Well, I’m going back to the 7D’s auto-focusing system, that’s the main reason I purchased it, and there’s still more for me to say. It works much better in the servo mode of auto-focusing than the 60D does, that’s the mode where the camera is constantly focusing. I found that the servo mode produced too many out of focus images when I used it on the 60D. Not so with the 7D, since the entire auto-focusing system is so much improved. That may become the mode that I leave the camera in most of the time, but I’ll have to use it a bit more to be sure.
Back button auto-focusing helped the 60D bodies out, that does even better on the 7D, it works exactly as it should.
Okay, what does this all mean, I can see myself going crazy with bird in flight photos, and other action shots. During my last trip to the Muskegon area, I found a flock of Bonaparte’s gulls feeding in one of the man-made ponds there. I got the 7D set-up for action photos, did the same with the 300 mm lens, and even with the extender in the stack, I put the auto-focusing points on one of the gulls and let the 7D do all the rest of the work. It turned out dozens of images like this.
It was almost too easy! I watched the birds while holding the shutter release down, and that’s all there was to it, no muss, no fuss, just lots of good photos to sort through. The 7D kept the gulls in focus as they moved around, and the shutter kept cycling away at five frames per second.
So, a gull is a rather easy subject for the 7D to track, but it also does well on smaller birds.
If I can get the focus points to lock onto a bird, the 7D stays locked on the birds as they move, and it can keep up with the birds, as you can see.
The 7D comes with six pre-programmed scenarios for how it tracks moving subjects, and each can be customized by the user. It will take me a while to get to know each of them, and which one works best for different situations. I have a lot to learn, a whole lot to learn. I’ll try not to be so technical in the future. So, from what I’ve seen so far, all three of my longer lenses perform much better on the 7D than they did on either of the 60D bodies, as far as focusing and sharpness.
But then, I’m still learning how to get the best results out of the 60D, which is no slouch of a camera if used correctly. Here’s a few images shot with the 60D with the Tokina macro lens.
But, back to the 7D Mk II, what a camera! I have a few more of some of the very first photos that I shot with it, and at the time, I was thrilled with these.
Now, those look worse than many of the photos that I rejected after my walk today. I’m not going to try to tell you that the 7D only shoots great photos no matter what, no camera can do that. However, I never thought that I would see this kind of image quality in a photo shot with the Beast.
Also today, I was following a red squirrel as it foraged for food in a small tree. The squirrel hopped down to a lower branch, and I followed it with the lens. Normally, I’d have to restart the focusing process since the squirrel had moved so far. But, the 7D snapped into focus before I could react to restart focusing, it had tracked the squirrel during its leap, I wish that I had thought to shoot while the squirrel was still in midair, but I didn’t. I did catch the landing though.
Am I a happy camper? You bet, I’ve had the 7D for just over two weeks, and the only surprises so far have been how well it does live up to its reputation of having one of the best focusing systems on the market today. Well, other than it doesn’t set the exposure as accurately when I use the Tamron tele-converter, and I have to go back to thinking while I’m shooting. 😉
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!