Canon has announced the EOS 7D DSLR last week and so far it is looking very promising. It includes some new features and upgrades that have been long overdue. You may already know that I have been very critical of Canon in the last 2 years when it comes to their DSLRs and lenses. I have written numerous posts about apparent quality control issues at Canon (just search for them on my blog), and I have written some very negative posts about the EOS 50D (here) and EOS 5D Mark II (here) cameras. In the case of the EOS 50D, from the day of its announcement, I could see that it would not be a very successful camera, and it turns out that this is now exactly the case because of all the issues I pointed out right from the start. In the case of the EOS 5D Mark II, from the day of its announcement, I could see that it would be severely handicapped by the very old autofocus system Canon included with it. And if you just look at the comments at my post here, or search the Internet for 5D Mark II autofocus issues, you will find that I was again right. If you read the posts about the 5D Mark II here on my blog, you’ll find that there are even more issues with it, such as noise and banding even at low ISO values resulting in poor image quality.
If you look at my first post about the 50D, you’ll see the following:
I predict that the price of the 50D is going to drop very fast after its availability in October especially when Nikon will lower the price of the D300 soon. I also predict that Canon will release the real successor for the 40D, the EOS 60D in the second half of 2009 finally containing some significant technological improvements. As a result of the DEFCON 1 declaration at Canon’s DSLR division, the refresh cycle for the 1D series camera’s has also been shortened from 3 years, and new 1D models are going to appear in 2009 instead of 2010 and likely very early in 2009.
It looks like the upgrade to the 40D hasn’t come in the form of the 60D, but instead as the EOS 7D, right on time in the second half of 2009 indeed containing some very significant improvements. There will still be a 60D coming, and it will be close to the 7D with regard to features. And by the way, the next 1D is getting close to being announced.
With the EOS 7D, it seems that Canon has finally listened to what photographers have been saying, looked at what they needed, and designed a camera with the right combination of features. Canon appears to be back in the game, and any future DSLR announcements are going to be very exciting. It is a pity that it has taken them so long to deliver what we needed. The EOS 50D should have been what the 7D is today. It was about time Canon got up from their lazy asses and actually delivered something new and exciting. Many people who bought the EOS 5D Mark II are now very disappointed, some even mad, because the EOS 7D is in almost all aspects way more advanced than the EOS 5D Mark II, while costing an incredible $1000 less. Think about that for a moment.
I said that the EOS 5D Mark II was not worth its price when it was announced, and what we’re seeing today is just more proof of that. The only thing the EOS 5D Mark II has that could be seen as being better than the 7D is its full frame 21MP sensor. If you don’t need full frame, the 7D has an arguably better and more advanced sensor. From the sample images I’ve seen so far, the 7D images don’t suffer from the pattern noise and banding that can often be found in the images taken with a 50D or a 5D Mark II. Taking into account that the 7D costs $1700, and that it has features that are way more advanced compared to the same features on the 5D Mark II, the 5D Mark II should realistically cost around $1800 right now. People have paid way too much for way too little. The 5D Mark II costing $2700 should have been a 7D body with the 21MP full frame sensor in it. Having seen the 7D, I’m hopeful that in the near future the 5D Mark III will contain at least all the features of the 7D with a fullframe sensor in it.
The 7D seems to be Canon’s answer to the Nikon D300s, and it looks like it will give the D300s some good competition. There’s a lot that I like about the EOS 7D, such as the new 19 point AF system, 8 fps shooting speed, the new metering system, the intelligent viewfinder with 100% field of view, 1.0 magnification, and overlaid LCD display. Also the fact that you can now finally use the built-in flash to trigger external Canon flashes wirelessly (without an ST-E2).
The only thing that I’m not so sure about right now is the image quality. Canon has included a new 18MP sensor in the 7D which, from the sample images I have seen so far, appears to deliver much better image quality compared to the EOS 50D even while having a higher pixel count, and comes close to the EOS 5D Mark II. I could see no pattern noise and banding issues so far, like I mentioned before, and this is a very good thing. However, looking at RAW files, I still think that the images produced by the 7D contain a little too much noise, even at lower ISO values, and the images at high ISO contain way too much noise. JPEG images coming out of the camera look better because of the noise reduction being done inside the camera, at the expense of lost detail, but RAW images look terrible so far. An example can be seen on Rob Galbraith’s website:
You can see white specs in darker parts of the image, and this can be very difficult to clean up in post production. Apparently Canon is advertising the 3200 and 6400 ISO values on the 7D as usable, so I have to wonder if this is the image quality that Canon considers to be acceptable. It seems Canon and many other DSLR manufacturers still don’t get what photographers are really asking for. We do not want more megapixels containing even more noise. Most photographers would prefer a 10 or 12MP sensor that could deliver virtually clean ISO 800, instead of a 18MP sensor that delivers a lot of noise at ISO 800 and makes ISO 3200 barely usable.
At this point however I haven’t seen enough good sample images to really say if this is going to be an issue on the 7D, so we’ll have to wait for the reviews and experiences from people who have used the camera. But right now, the 7D does look like a camera that I will want to buy at least two of in the very near future. Looking at Canon’s recent DSLR releases and all the quality control issues they’ve had, it would be wise to wait at least 4 months after general availability before you actually buy a 7D, just to make sure that there aren’t any issues with it. You really do not want to spend money to become Canon’s beta tester. Wait for the reviews, read the experiences from those who were brave enough to buy one early and then decide.
I’ll try to get a loaner 7D body from Canon to do some of my own tests and will be updating my blog in the mean time as more information becomes available and to let you know if I’ll be ordering the 7D. By the way, Canon also announced 3 new lenses together with the 7D, and I can tell you that I’m going to buy the new EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS lens as soon as it becomes available.
Update November 8th, 2009: I have posted my review of the 7D. Check it out.