Canon EOS-7D Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: December 22, 2009

Last Updated: December 29, 2009

The Canon EOS-7D ($1699, body only) is a midrange digital SLR that offers some pretty high-end features. Some of the highlights include an 18 Megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor, dual DIGIC 4 image processors, a 19-point all cross-type AF system, a new 63-zone metering system, 8 frame per second continuous shooting, HD video recording, and much more.

While the 7D may seem like the replacement for the EOS-50D, it's actually a new model that sits in-between that model and the full-frame EOS-5D Mark II. The table below compares the specs and features between the 50D, 7D, and 5D Mark II:

Feature EOS-50D EOS-7D EOS-5D Mark II
Street price (at time of publication, body only) $954 $1687 $2646
Sensor size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 22.3 x 14.9 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
Sensor resolution (effective) 15.1 MP 18.0 MP 21.1 MP
Processor DIGIC 4 Dual DIGIC 4 Dual DIGIC 4
Lens support Canon EF, EF-S Canon EF, EF-S Canon EF
Crop factor 1.6X 1.6X 1.0X
LCD size / resolution 3.0" / 920,000 pixel 3.0" / 920,000 pixel 3.0" / 920,000 pixel
Viewfinder size / coverage 0.95X / 95% 1.0X / 100% 0.71X / 98%
AF system 9-point, all cross-type, w/diagonal cross-type center point 19-point, all cross-type, w/dual diagonal cross-type center point 9-point w/six assist points and cross-type center point
Metering system 35-zone 63-zone dual layer 35-zone
ISO range (fully expanded) 100 - 12,800 100 - 12,800 50 - 25,600
Flash x-sync speed 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/200 sec
Wireless flash support
No Yes No
Continuous shooting rate 6.3 frames/second 8.0 frames/second 3.9 frames/second
Continuous shooting buffer size (per Canon) 16 RAW, 90 JPEG 15 RAW, 126 JPEG 14 RAW, 310 JPEG
Video recording No Yes, Full HD Yes, Full HD
External mic input No Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA standard) 640 shots 800 shots 850 shots
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in. 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in. 6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in.
Weight 730 g 820 g 810 g
* With UDMA-enabled CompactFlash card

So there you have it. The EOS-7D is kind of like a super 50D, with improvements in virtually every area. Throw in the Full HD movie mode from the 5D Mark II and you've got a camera set to compete with the likes of the Nikon D300s (though the 7D has 50% more resolution than that camera).

Is the EOS-7D the ultimate midrange D-SLR? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The EOS-7D is available in two kits. You can buy just the body alone ($1699), or you can get the camera plus an F3.5-5.6, 28 - 135 mm IS lens for $200 more. Here's what you'll find in the box for each of these:

  • The 18.0 effective Megapixel EOS-7D camera body
  • F3.5-5.6, 28 - 135 mm IS USM lens [lens kit only]
  • LP-E6 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring EOS Digital Solution and Software Instruction Manuals
  • 275 page camera manual (printed)

I figured that the majority of 7D buyers already have a lens, and will be picking up the body only kit. If you're just starting out, you can get the kit which includes the venerable 28 - 135 mm IS lens. The reviews on this lens are mixed, but it's a decent everyday lens for just $200 more. If you want to use other lenses, there are plenty to choose from. The EOS-7D supports both EF and EF-S lenses with a 1.6X focal length conversion. What this means is that the 28 - 135 mm kit lens has a field-of-view of 44.8 - 216 mm.

Digital SLRs never come with memory cards, so unless you have a CompactFlash card sitting around, you'll need to buy one right away. The EOS-7D supports both Type I and II CompactFlash cards, including the ultra fast UDMA-enabled models. I would buy a 4GB card at the very least, as fast as you can afford.

The EOS-7D uses the same LP-E6 lithium-ion battery as the 5D Mark II. This battery packs a whopping 13.0 Wh into its plastic shell, which is about as high as you'll find these days. Let's see how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS-7D 800 shots LP-E6
Nikon D300s 950 shots EN-EL3e
Pentax K-7 740 shots D-LI90

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

There's not a lot of competition in this segment of the digital SLR market, with the 7D having just two close competitors. You can see from the table that the 7D's battery life numbers are right in the middle of the three cameras. Keep in mind that if you're using live view exclusively, the battery life will drop precipitously: to 220 shots per charge, to be exact.

If 800 shots per charge isn't enough for you, then you'll probably want to pick up this:

EOS-7D with optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon USA

... optional battery grip! The BG-E7 battery grip (priced from $215) can hold a pair of LP-E6 batteries, giving you double the battery life. The grip also includes a magazine which holds six AA batteries, should you want to use those.

When it's time to charge the LP-E6, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs right into the wall (though this might not be the case outside of the USA), and it can charge the battery in about 2.5 hours.

Digital SLRs support a load of accessories, and the table below covers just a fraction of those available for the EOS-7D:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The 7D supports all EF and EF-S lenses with no conversion ratio
External flash

430EX II
580EX II

From $134
From $250
From $384
Get improved flash strength and less chance of redeye with these use external flashes. The 270EX is kind of a stripped down model (hence the price)
Right angle finder Angle finder C From $180 For looking into the optical viewfinder from above
Wired remote control RS-80N3
From $47
From $129
Basically a shutter release button on a 2.6 foot-long cable. The RS model is a shutter release only, while the TC model has a self-timer
Wireless remote control RC-1
From $25
From $23
Two infrared remotes
Wireless controller LC-5 From $370 A pricey, long range (330 ft) wireless remote with self-timer function; attaches to the hot shoe
Battery grip BG-E7 From $219 Get double the battery life (with AA support) and extra controls for shooting portraits
Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E5A $700 Transfer images to your computer via Wi-Fi or Ethernet; control the camera from a computer or mobile phone; geotag photos using a GPS and the USB port; very expensive, too!
AC adapter ACK-E6 From $129 Power your camera without draining your batteries
HDMI cable HTC-100 From $59 You can get generic cables for a lot less elsewhere
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

And believe it or not, those are just a few of the accessories available for the EOS-7D! Other options include focusing screens and diopter adjustment lenses for the viewfinder, macro lights, car chargers, and lots more.

EOS Utility - Main Screen

Canon includes version 21.0 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the EOS-7D. The first application that you'll probably bump into is EOS Utility, which is sort of a gateway to all the other software programs. Here you can download photos from your camera, use remote capture, adjust camera settings, or monitor a folder (used with the optional Wireless File Transmitter). Do note that as of this writing, EOS Utility is (mostly) incompatible with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

EOS Utility - Selecting Photos to Download

If you choose to select and download images to your computer, you'll get the screen you see above. Once photos are transferred to your computer, you have two ways of viewing and editing them.

ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

The "consumer-friendly" option for viewing images is ImageBrowser (for Mac) and ZoomBrowser (for Windows). On the main screen, you get the usual thumbnail view, with quick access to image e-mailing, printing, editing, and slideshows.

Double-click on a JPEG image and you'll bring up the photo in its own window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature, for those who don't mess with all those controls.

The Browser software can be used to view RAW images, but that's about it. You cannot edit or convert the 7D's RAW files to other formats. For that you'll need...

Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X

... Digital Photo Professional! The main screen isn't too much different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail + shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.

RAW editing in DPP

The RAW editing tools in DPP are quite robust. Basic properties you can edit include exposure, white balance, the tone curve, Picture Style, saturation, and sharpness. In addition to adjusting the basics that I described above, DPP also lets you tweak color tone, saturation, the tone curve, both luminance and chrominance noise, and lens aberration (such as distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing).

I'm sure that most people in the market for a camera like this know what RAW is, but in case you don't, here's a quick explanation. RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG), fewer shots in continuous shooting mode, and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG. The EOS-7D supports three different RAW sizes: full size (that's 17.9 MP), 10.0 MP, and 4.5 MP.

Remote camera control, complete with live view

Back when I mentioned EOS Utility, I said that it supports remote capture, so here's some more detail on this handy feature (which, might I add, doesn't cost extra). This software you control the camera right from your computer, with access to most camera settings. The live view feature is fully supported, complete with a histogram, composition grid, and the ability to enlarge the frame and manually tweak focus. Photos are saved directly to your computer, though they can be stored on the camera too, if you wish.

You can also take movies using Remote Capture, though the files are initially stored on the camera. When you're done recording, the software will allow you to copy the video files over to your PC.

Remote Capture also lets you set up the My Menu feature (more on that later), and it can also be used to send Picture Styles that you've created to the camera. The Picture Style editor (another piece of software) lets you open up a RAW image, adjust color, the tone curve, contrast, and sharpness, and then save the results as a new Style.

A complex camera deserves a detailed manual, and Canon includes one with the 7D. It's not what I'd call pleasure reading (expect a lot of "notes" and other fine print), but it will answer any question that may come up about the camera. You'll find documentation for the bundled software as well as for direct printing on a CD-ROM included with the camera.