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Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds

 

Christopher Dodds Nature Photographer | Promote Your Page Too

« Canon 7D mark II 1,600 ISO image | Main | Canon Pixma Pro-1 Review »
Thursday
Oct162014

Canon 7D mark II hands-on mini review

Northern Gannet (Morus Bassanus, Fou de Bassan, NOGA) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds www.chrisdoddsphoto.com All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 7D MKII, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, (@200mm). ISO 800, F5.6 1/4,000s Manual. "Photograph made with a beta (non-final) sample of Canon EOS 7D Mark II. Image quality may not represent the final output from shipping cameras but is likely to be very close." - fine print courtesy Canon Canada Inc.

Canon EOS 7D mark II review

My friends over at Canon Canada have been keeping me busy testing and trying the newly announced Canon EOS 7D Mark II. I have been busy building a portfolio of images made with the new camera that I will present at various dealer launches of the camera for Canon. In keeping with tradition, I won't list all of the features and specifications which can be found on the Canon 7D Mark II product page found HERE.

I had access to the first generation pre-production unit on Sept. 15, but didn't get my hands on it until I returned from Arizona on Sept. 23. There were rules in place to prevent images from being posted from the pre-production unit; easy to understand that Canon didn't want the critiques to get their hands on images before the firmware and hardware were tweaked enough to properly represent what the camera is capable of. To be crystal clear: I am A Canon Northern Explorer of Light, an ambassador for the brand. I am not under any obligation to mislead you or misrepresent this camera; I am not begging you to purchase through an affiliate link here which will give me any commission.  This is simply my review of this much anticipated camera.

I wanted to put the camera through it's paces at one of the best locations I know;  somewhere there are beautiful birds and lot's of them, somewhere that if the weather is right, there would be non-stop action to photograph. I jumped behind the steering wheel, set my GSP and drove the 14 hours to one of my favourite places: Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) off the southern coast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.

The weather, the Northern Gannets and the new camera performed flawlessly. I was blown-away by the Dual Digic-6 processor driven auto focus system. In low contrast,  cloudy and slightly foggy conditions, shooting white birds against near white backgrounds, the auto-focus was unbeatable. I started with my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, and quickly went through all of the lenses and extender combinations to see if there were limits. Even shooting with a lens+extender combination with a maximum aperture of f/8 (600mm f/4L IS USM II and 2X III extender … yes, 600mm  with doubler =1200mm X 1.6 crop factor= 1920mm), the auto-focus proved it may even be slightly faster/better than the professional Canon 1DX. Throw in 10 frames per second capture rate and no noticeable shutter lag and this truly is a dream camera body for bird photographers and action/sports/press photographers alike.


The BIG Question: how is the noise?


Almost every single time someone on a workshop tells me that their camera is noisy at any given ISO, I can clearly show them they are constantly underexposing their images and correcting their poor  field craft via software after the fact. There are various ways to correct poor exposure mistakes; the most obvious of which is to slide the exposure slider to brighten it. Since digital cameras see and record light like our eyes see it, there is much more detail in the highlights, than the shadows. Underexposing an image limits the data captured at the time of exposure and there is no way to replace that missing information without introducing noise to the image. I see these mistakes mostly amongst photographers using some of the most expensive cameras on the market; they have paid a lot of money for a camera, but are recording about half of the data it is capable of recording had the image been properly exposed to start with.

While discussing the performance of a camera at high ISO, it is important to note that physics dictates that a smaller sensor would have more noise than a larger sensor of the same type. This is of particular importance while comparing the 7D mark II to Canon's flagship professional camera body, the 1DX. The 1DX, in my opinion, remains the very best camera money can buy for high ISO noise preformance; but at a much higher price point.

So, what about the 7D Mark II noise? Simply put: the camera produces amazing results. I used the camera at 200, 400, 800, 1,000, 1,200 and 1,600 ISO without feeling concerned at all. The files are rich and full of detail; images made at 1,600 ISO did show a little noise in the shadows, but there is a tremendous improvement over those same files from the original 7D. I have played around with ISO settings up to 16,000; impressive performance for an APS-C sensor, but I might start to reach for my 1DX if anything above 3,200 ISO is required for the task.

In conclusion

The Canon EOS 7D mark II totally rocks! If you weigh the features, file size and quality against the price, it is a worthy 1DX contender. There is little reason to own a 1DX if you regularly work below 1,600 ISO and the 7D mark II makes an awesome and economical back-up to anyone with a 1DX. I know that I will replace my second 1DX with the lighter 7D mark II. I will be keeping a 1DX in my camera bag, but will likely favour the lighter 7D mark II on most occasions; to be honest, I haven't picked-up my 1DX since getting my hands on the 7D mark II. The 1.6X crop factor was a welcome treat after using full frame cameras for so long; not having to add an extender also meant not loosing a stop from the maximum aperture of the lens I was using, which meant I didn't have to increase my ISO to maintain my desired shutter speed.
I love the weight and feel of the camera, which truly is much more rugged, weatherproof and professional feeling than the original 7D. I will have a hard time using any camera now without all of the information available through it's new viewfinder display; level, shooting mode, settings, file format, etc. are all available without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. Throw in 10 frames per second capture rate and no noticeable shutter lag and this truly is a dream camera body for bird photographers and action/sports/press photographers alike. The GPS and compass is a very welcome addition and the camera, as a whole, represents tremendous value.

Stay tuned for more about the 7D mark II in future posts.

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Reader Comments (15)

Hi, Christopher

Can you, please, tell me what memory card have you used during the test?

Tnx.

October 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPinholer

Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB Compact Flash card.

October 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Thank you for this article. i have been following all the Canon rumors for this camera. I am a Canon Shooter having started with a 20D, upgraded to a 40D, Added a 7D and then a 6D. So i have been using canon cameras for a long time. I am looking into buying this camera and from what you have stated about he beta, i am sure the production camera will be as expected. Thanks Again for your review

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Strickland

If you used an f/4 lens and 2xTC, I assume that the 7D2 AF works well enough on center point at f/8. Did you have to "fool" the TC by taping it, or does the camera AF when the Canon electronics tells camera that lens is f/8? I have in mind using my lowly but beloved 400mm f/5.6L plus 1.4xTCII with the 7D2. Also, did you need to use a grip with extra batteries, or was the snappy AF performance obtained on a bare 7d2 with just the one LPE6n battery? Thanks.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancyP

Hi Nancy,

The Canon 7D mark II will auto focus with any lens or lens and extender combination with a maximum aperture of f/8. It should work really well with your 400 f/5.6 and 1.4X TC. No fooling or taping required. I did not have access to the grip with extra juice and the camera was snappy as described.

Very best,
Chris

October 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Hi Christopher,

Can you tell me if the 7D Mark II with his 7.2 Volt battery, can handle the AF motor 400 mm F 2.8 L USM II ? I had problems with my 7D to use the AF lens motor was sometimes hang and for that reason i byed the 1Dx with his 11.1 Volt Battery . Anyway , i ordered the 7 D Mark II.
http://birdsinflight.be/canon-1dx-english.html

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPierre Nowosad

Chris

I always use the "expose to the right" method of shooting but this can't always remove noise from my 18MP APSC Canon files, especially at higher ISO

Could you therefore clarify. Do your comments about low noise up to ISO 1600 refer to "out of the camera" JPEGs or to RAW files?

Thanks

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack Davidson

Hi Pierre,

The camera comes with a LP-E6N 7.2V 1865mAh Lithium Ion Battery. It can easily drive the auto focus motor of 400mm f/2.8 L USM II lens. YOu are going to love the 7D mark II.

Very best,

Chris

October 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Hi Jack,

My comments refereed to both the RAW file, and the JPEG produced in camera from the RAW data; I am currently shooting both large JPEG and RAW images simultaneously.

To clarify your comment about noise, please understand that I said: "Underexposing an image limits the data captured at the time of exposure and there is no way to replace that missing information without introducing noise to the image." or, in other words, Exposing to the right will MINIMIZE noise produced during capture.

The EOS 7D mark II will have less noise than any of it's predecessors.

I hope this helps - very best,

Chris

BTW, I am loving the files from the 7D mark II produced with ISO up to 3,200 :)

October 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Hi Chris :)

Long time no see ;)
Can you tell me if the camera let you shoot during the processing of noise reduction on long exposure ? Example : in my setting , noise reduction on long exposure is "enable" then when I shoot aurora borealis for 25 seconds , should I wait another 25 seconds before I can take another picture ? on my 1D Mark III , I don't have to wait , I can shoot during the noise reduction processing.

Thanks !

Dom :)

October 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDominic Cantin

Hi Dom,

The long exposure noise reduction in the 7D mark II works the same way as it does in your 1D mark II.

Long Exposure Noise Reduction can be fairly effective, but it has a significant downside because of the way it works. What's happening is this: your camera makes its exposure for the image. Long Exposure Noise Reduction then kicks in, and charges the camera's imaging sensor for the same amount of time, making a "dark frame." The camera then compares the noise in the dark frame with the noise generated in the image, and removes any noise that is the same. This method is known as dark frame subtraction.

Hope this helps!

Chris

October 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Lieber Chris
Vielen Dank für deinen Testbericht. Gerade am vergangenen Wochenende konnte ich die Canon EOS 7D Mark II zum ersten Mal in den Händen halten und testen. Bereits da stand für mich fest, dass ich meine 7D gegen die 7D Mark II eintauschen werden, und nach deinem Testbericht werde ich diesen Wechsel erst recht vollziehen.
Gruss aus der Schweiz
Roland

EDIT (by Chris): English Translation:

Dear Chris
Thank you for your review . Just last weekend I was able to keep the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for the first time in his hands and test . Already since it was clear to me that I will trade my 7D against the 7D Mark II , and after your review I will make this change even more.
Greetings from Switzerland
Roland

November 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoland

Any thoughts on how well the 7d2 will drive the 600mm f4 II? I tried some BIF stuff with the 5DIII and that lens and was pretty disappointed at the focussing, not many keepers. Might be my technique but I've heard that the 5D doesn't have enough power to drive that lens fast. The 7d2 would have the same problem, right?

If it's a power problem does a grip help at all or is that just for more shots before you swap batteries?

Thanks!

November 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLarry M

Hi Chris,

Great photos as usual!!!

I've traded my Canon 300 2.8 L IS and 600 f4 L IS for a Canon 200-400 + 1.4X in order to get a more flexible range os focal distances. My current Bodys are 5D3 and 1D4 and I'm thinking about trading the mark IV for the new 7D2, due to the Crop factor and better Servo AF.

Since you had a 1D Mark IV before, how does the 7D2 compares for BIF?

Thanks
Nuno

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNuno

Hi Nuno,

Wise move; I bet you are loving the new 200-400mm lens.

The 7D mark II will outperform the Canon 1D mark IV in every respect; auto-focus, High ISO noise performance and capture rate. It is the perfect camera for birds in flight (BIF).

Hope this helps and very best,

Chris

April 15, 2015 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

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