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Canon EOS 7D

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canon basically ceded the entry level pro performance market to Nikon in 2005 with the arrival of the D200 since then, Canon's 30D, 40D, and 50D have taken the slower but less expensive road, with a relatively stagnant AF system, which Nikon leapfrogged. But with entirely new AF and metering systems, a new high resolution eight channel readout sensor coupled with dual Digic 4 image processors and a new 100 percent coverage viewfinder, plus 1080p video capture, Canon EOS 7D looks like an aggressive attempt to make a comeback.

In addition to a body only version, Canon sells Canon EOS 7D in a kit with the 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS lens (44.8-216mm equivalent). One of the heavier single grip dSLRs available, there are no radical design departures in Canon EOS 7D but there are tons of subtle, and a few conspicuous, interface changes that greatly enhance the fluidity of the camera's operation. The new viewfinder is great, comparable with that of the D300s big and bright, with an optional overlay grid.

It's also slightly more comfortable than the D300s' because of the larger eyecup. Adding to its traditional array of buttons for metering, white balance, autofocus, drive mode, ISO sensitivity, and flash compensation Canon EOS 7D now includes an M-Fn button used to cycle through the AF point options, plus Canon brings the LCD illumination button into action for registering the orientation linked AF points. Unfortunately, the buttons are very difficult to differentiate by feel, and the M-Fn and illumination buttons are even smaller and harder to use than the others.

Following trends in consumer dSLR design, Canon EOS 7D now also has an interactive control panel for changing frequently accessed settings, called up with the Q button. Canon went from very few AF options to a gazillion in one model. Of course, there's the veteran full automatic AF selection. Spot AF is a subarea of the traditional single point AF, and for both of these you can choose from any of the 19 AF points. AF point expansion uses the three or four (depending upon location) points surrounding the chosen one.

Zone AF is similar to AF point expansion in that it allows you to define clumps of points in the center, top, bottom, or sides of the full AF area, but in contrast to expansion, where you still choose the primary focus point and it only uses the other points if the subject moves, the camera automatically chooses points from within the defined zone. The bulk of these are really designed to improve focus tracking during continuous shooting, and, much like Nikon's AF system, you have to think very carefully about matching the AF choice with the shooting situation or you can end up with surprising results.

Ditto for the flexible global and lens specific micro-adjustment tools, which it carries over from the higher end models. Very few users need all of these options, and Canon provides a solid interface for enabling or disabling the choices to minimize on the fly confusion. In Live View mode you have three AF options Live mode (contrast AF), face detect Live mode AF, or Quick AF (the "traditional" faster Live View AF, which uses the faster phase detection scheme but requires more mirror flipping).

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