Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR

The new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR has just been announced! The feature list includes an 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 8 frames per second continuous shooting and plenty more goodies. Join us in a detailed overview of the Canon 7D’s features and a handy EOS 7D v 50D v 5D Mark II comparison...

The new Canon EOS 7D digital SLRThe new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR

Canon EOS 7D: What’s new?

The Canon EOS 7D isn’t a minor upgrade and re-badge job, it’s a serious redevelopment based on consultation with over 5,000 photographers worldwide. The result is a new high-end EOS digital SLR that offers you the speed, accuracy and functionality to capture images as you see them.

EOS 7D: Back to the drawing boardEOS 7D: Back to the drawing board

New 18 Megapixel Sensor

At the heart of the Canon 7D is a new APS-C sized 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, providing a 1.6x focal length multiplier like the EOS 50D, which is good news for wildlife and sports photography enthusiasts.

The sensor incorporates a relatively new photodiode and gapless microlens design (debuted on the EOS 50D) to improve the signal to noise ratio, the end-result being cleaner low and high ISO images. The EOS 7D has a standard ISO range of 100 – 6400 which can be extended to ISO 12,800.

Fast 19-point Autofocus System

The entire Canon 7D autofocus system uses cross-type AF points, which are ideal for tracking subjects, faster focus acquisition, and superior accuracy compared to standard single-strip AF points. If you need high-performance autofocus then the Canon 7D’s 19-point AF system is an attractive option in-between the 9 AF points on the EOS 50D & 5D Mark II and the 45 AF points on the latest 1-series (albeit only 19 are cross-type).

The autofocus system on Canon 7D has a clever trick up its sleeve: You can set the autofocus point or zone to change automatically as you flip the camera’s orientation from landscape to portrait. This tremendously practical feature could really speed up scenarios such as switching from a group photo to an individual portrait at a fast-paced event.

100% Viewfinder

The 7D features a 100% viewfinder which enables you to see the entire frame prior to releasing the shutter. The 100% coverage is valuable for accurate composition, allowing you to exclude any distracting objects at the edge of the frame rather than cropping later and losing resolution.

The magnification of the viewfinder is 1.0x and whilst the final size doesn’t match a full-frame DSLR, it isn’t a tiny tunnel-vision viewfinder that plagues many digital SLRs with an APS-C size sensor. The 7D’s viewfinder is larger than any previous EOS digital SLR with an APS-C size sensor, which means easier composition and less eye-strain during extended photo shoots!

The 7D's CMOS sensor (left), viewfinder prism (center) and autofocus sensor (right)The 7D's CMOS sensor (left), viewfinder prism (center) and autofocus sensor (right)

Blistering 8 Frames per Second

The EOS 7D is capable of capturing images at 8 frames per second, in a continuous burst of up to 126 JPEG or 15 RAW images (with a UDMA compact flash card). This is quite a feat considering the hefty 18 megapixel images, especially when you compare the 7D to the pro 1D Mark III which can capture a 10 fps burst of 110 JPEGs at 10 megapixel resolution. How does the EOS 7D manage this huge amount of data? Dual DIGIC 4 processors!

Integrated Speedlite Transmitter

The EOS 7D has wireless Speedlite control built-in via the pop-up flash, allowing you to trigger multiple Speedlites from the camera, whilst maintaining full E-TTL II metering.

The EOS 7D's pop-up flash can wirelessly trigger SpeedlitesThe EOS 7D's pop-up flash can wirelessly trigger Speedlites

The integrated Speedlite transmitter is a real win for Canon users, up till now Canon EOS owners have had to use a Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter to wirelessly control their Speedlite flashguns. This move puts EOS system on par with Nikon’s Creative Light System (CLS) which has included an on-camera trigger on pro-models since the D200.

Sophisticated iFCL Metering System

The Canon EOS 7D debuts a new 63-zone metering system that uses Focus, Colour and Luminance data (hence it’s named iFCL) to ensure accurately exposed shots. The new iFCL system is based around a new dual layer metering sensor.

Conventional metering sensors are most sensitive to red light, which can lead to overexposure. The new dual layer sensor for iFCL captures red & green light in one layer, and blue & green light in the second. Capturing more light information than a conventional metering sensor allows iFCL algorithms to make more accurate metering decisions, which means you get perfectly exposed images, even in challenging light conditions.

Best of the Rest

The 7D feature list is so good we’re just going to summarise the rest so you can dive into the 7D vs 5D vs 50D comparison! Additional stand-out specs include:

  • 3 inch LCD screen with 920k pixel resolution & 160 degree viewing angle
  • 1080p HD video recording at 30, 25, or 24 frames per second
  • 720p HD video recording at higher 60 and 50 frames per second
  • 3.5mm external microphone jack and in-movie autofocus (like the 5D Mark II)
  • Pop-up flash with manual power control and 15mm wide-angle coverage
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level which provides pitch & roll information in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen (useful for level horizons)

Back of the EOS 7D, featuring a high resolution 3 inch LCD screenBack of the EOS 7D, featuring the high resolution 3 inch LCD screen

Canon EOS 7D vs 50D vs 5D

How does the EOS 7D stack-up in comparison to the 50D and 5D Mark II?

  EOS 50D EOS 7D EOS 5D Mark II
Megapixels 15.1 18.0 21.1
Sensor APS-C CMOS APS-C CMOS Full-frame CMOS
Viewfinder 95% @ 0.95x magnification 100% @ 1.0x magnification 95% @ 0.71x magnification
Autofocus 9-point 19-point 9-point
Metering 35-zone SPC 63-zone iFCL 35-zone SPC
Frames per Second 6.3 8.0 3.9
Buffer Depth 90 JPEG* / 16 RAW 126 JPEG* / 15 RAW 310 JPEG* / 13 RAW
ISO Range (full) 100 - 12,800 100 - 12,800 50 - 25,600
LCD Screen 3.0" @ 920k pixels 3.0" @ 920k pixels 3.0" @ 920k pixels
Video No 1080p / 720p 1080p
Dimensions 146 x 108 x 74mm 148 x 111 x 74mm 152 x 114 x 75mm
Weight 730g 820g 810g

* Only available with a UDMA-enabled card

Looks like the EOS 7D is very strong indeed. The 5D Mark II is powerhouse in its own right (as Hamish Brown discovers in our 5D Mark II review), the EOS 50D is a great blend of performance and value, but 7D is positioned perfectly as a bridge between the two. The 7D feature set is a powerful blend for many types of photography; including nature, sports (possibly as a 2nd body for 1D Mk III owners), fast-paced weddings and photojournalism.

Canon EOS 7D vs Nikon D300s

Everything about the Canon EOS 7D feels very similar to the Nikon D300s: both cameras have APS-C size sensors, fast frame rates, quick autofocus, and a 100% viewfinder. However on paper the EOS 7D looks like a bit of D300s killer:

  Canon EOS 7D Nikon D300s
Megapixels 18.0 12.3
Sensor APS-C CMOS APS-C CMOS
Viewfinder 100% @ 1.0x magnification 100% @ 0.94x magnification
Autofocus 19-point 51-point
Metering 63-zone iFCL 1005-pixel 3D Matrix II
Frames per Second 8.0 7.0 (8 with MB-D10 & EN-EL4a)
Buffer Depth 126 JPEG* / 15 RAW Unavailable
ISO Range (full) 100 - 12,800 100 - 6,400
LCD Screen 3.0" @ 920k pixels 3.0" @ 920k pixels
Video 1080p / 720p 720p
Dimensions 148 x 111 x 74mm 147 x 114 x 74mm
Weight 820g 840g
RRP £1699 £1495

Many photographers are locked into a system, with a big investment in lenses, flashguns, and other accessories. Nikon photographers will be happy with the D300s, and Canon photographers will be happy with the EOS 7D.

If you aren’t invested in a system then the EOS 7D vs D300s is a very difficult decision – control & handling preferences aside – the 7D looks like it’s slightly stronger. The extra 6 megapixels resolution, 8 frames per second (without a battery grip), 1080p video and greater ISO range are all key factors. Game on Canon vs Nikon....

View our Canon EOS 7D pre-order offer!

+ Read more about the EOS 7D at Canon.co.uk
+ View our Canon 7D sample images post