A little while ago Canon HQ in the Netherlands asked me if I wanted to give their brand new 7D mkii (7D2) camera a spin. Even though this cameras is more or less aimed at nature- and sports photographers, I liked the idea of testing it out of it’s comfort zone so I happily said ‘yes’!
The original 7D was launched 6 years ago and turned out to be an incredibly successful camera for Canon. But what was then cutting-edge technology, really needed an upgrade and so the new version (mkii) was announced last September. The 1.6 cropfacor remained (means it “enlarges” your view about 60%) but the rest of the camera got a major overhaul. Now, a crop factor is great for using a telelens (you get 60% extra) but not so great for using wide angle (you lose 60% of the wideness) so I was very curious to see this one in action since I like to shoot wide a lot. I had just the perfect gig for it: the start of the new World Tour of the number 2 DJ’s in the world: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike “Bringin the World the Madness” in the Antwerp Sportpaleis.
Now having shot the event the night before I was a little more relaxed bringing a new camera into my setup for the second night. Even though I’m not a fan of using 3 camera’s at the same time I got to say I was in for a surprise – just holding this camera felt like holding an incredibly solid piece of work. Every button felt like in the right place and the built felt very, very high quality. Another thing I liked: the layout, about the same as my 5D3 so working with it was quite like coming home. But then came the biggest surprise: the autofocus and speed… unbelievable!
At first I was in doubt whether I picked up the right camera. For a split second I thought I was shooting with my 5D3instead of the 7D2. It was so incredibly fast and accurate that I really cannot believe that this kind of technology is now available in a €1700 camera. It is not as good as my 5D3, it is as good as my 1Dx, which is a €6000 camera!!! It’s like having a mini-1Dx for a third of the price, I was seriously impressed. Besides the rapid accurate focus it writes the images to the card at the fastest speeds imaginable, I did not manage to shoot a full buffer once the whole night (do keep in mind I shoot Jpeg, not RAW).
Another big surprise was using the live-view, I had a few people holding up selfiesticks at the perfect photospot so I had to shoot out of hand, high above my head. Normally this guarentees off-level photos so using live-view can help a lot. Normally though, this kills your autofocus and is therefore too cumbersome to use a lot. I was really happy to see it working almost flawlessly here – extremely high accuracy meant I kept using it night when I had to and even at times where there really was no dire need. Normally I never use it this much, I would really enjoy having it this good on my regular cameras as well.
So, no bad points? Yes, there is one: the image quality of this camera is good – good, but not superb like I’m used to on the 5D3 or 1Dx. Do keep in mind those are camera’s twice or even three times as expensive. I loved the color accuracy but I really started to notice more noisy and less sharp images when shooting at 800ISO (which I do a lot!). So after a while I tended to keep it at 400ISO for most of the time, which was fine for wide angle shots but less convenient for telelens photos of moving DJ’s and partypeople. For me, who’s a total freak when it comes to sharp images this is a bit of a letdown. I could imagine most people not being bothered by it, but for me it would not be preferable.
This, of course, is not really a surprise, the camera is not specifically designed to perform under the conditions that I’m used to: poor light, lots of dark spots and usually hazy surroundings due to fog machines. However, without a single doubt in my mind, this is the best camera to buy when you’re into nature photography or like shooting sports – nothing in this price range even comes close. I had a lot of fun using it and with just a little better image quality at high ISO ranges it would have been a no-brainer as the ultimate all-round camera.