Field Review: Canon 7D (Day 2)

The field review of the Canon 7D continues and accompanied me to the recent Pillow Fight in Union Square. I’ve shot this event for the past four years and so have an understanding of what typically goes on here. Being an action and sports camera, let alone a rugged one, I thought that the 7D would’ve been the perfect camera for this. The answer: yes and no.

Now before I get into all this I want to tell everyone of you readers out there that only an idiot like me would bring along his newly purchased Canon 7D with a 24-105mm f4 L IS lens, jump straight into the middle of the battle and use a sun-sniper strap to boot. On top of this, make sure that your glasses don’t come off and get trampled and crushed by the hundreds of people smacking one another with pillows.

That idiot, is me :). I do not recommend doing this. It’s the closest to being in the middle of a war zone that one could shoot in without being in Iraq or the middle of a paintball field. Let alone this is dangerous. You will fall down onto concrete by tripping over someone or feathers and potentially break your camera.

Now that that is out of the way, the features of the Canon 7D seem perfectly tailored towards shooting something like a giant pillow fight: rugged body, superb autofocus system, fast frame rate, HD video option, and Canon’s selection of fine lenses.

Despite how prepared it would be for the slaughter I found there to still be problems.

For example, the mode dial is very easily turned. This isn’t a good thing. It was often smacked out of place before I could realize that it was and couldn’t figure out why my photos weren’t coming out the way I exposed them to be. Switching the dial messes up your settings by going into the custom modes, to manual or aperture. A way to counter this measure could be to go the route with what Pentax did with the K-7, put a little button that the photographer needs to depress in order to change the shooting mode. Alternatively, they could do what the 1D Mk IV does: require that one presses the mode button and then switch. I would actually prefer this option much more with the 7D and my 5D Mk II.

This problem even made me believe at one point that my 7D was damaged in some way, but instead it just wasn’t shooting at continuous high speed. It led me to believe that a shutter problem occurred.

My findings so far with Canon’s new and improved autofocus is that it is much smarter, faster and accurate than the Nikon D300s’. However, it cannot compete with the autofocus system of the D3x and D3s. The system on those two cameras have blown away anything that I’ve tried so far. Working together with the 24-105mm F4 L IS, the camera was very fast.

To that end, neither system is perfect. I shot in small JPEG mode and easily shot over 2,400 photos. The wide majority of them were out of focus. When they hit the spot, they were tack sharp. To be fair, I shot most of these in full autofocus mode, and not in zone or expansion. When shooting in the latter modes, it never missed a shot and tracked everything very well.

I shot at the lower ISOs, never really needing to go above 1000 ISO at all because of the already bright sunlight.

The camera took quite a beating and in fact, beat me up as well. At one point, someone knocked the camera away from my eye and into my nose. That hurt quite a bit but the camera was okay.

Elbows knocked into it as well. Both the lens and 7D both withstood all the punishment to be able to travel to a party afterwards. The viewfinder and camera still stayed very clean despite my being covered in feathers only to be helped rid myself of them by a lovely young lady on the F train later on.

The 7D, with the exception of the autofocus, seemed to be the perfect camera for this event and in many ways it was. I know that my 5D Mk II would not have been able to keep up, but many people at the event shot with it. Perhaps the 1D Mk IV would have been better though.

More to come in the review!