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Canon EOS 7D

Review Date: Jan 12, 2012 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,499.00

Pros: Build quality, UI, electronic viewfinder grid, movie mode, micro focus adjust
soft, inconsistent focus, noise

I was a 50D owner who decided to upgrade to the 7D based on the movie mode, weather sealing, and other cool features. What I was not expecting was that images from the 7D would lack the "pop" that the 50D had, even with the same lenses.

My first outing with the 7D was the most shocking. I took my 300 F4 L IS prime to a horse stable and filmed my girlfriend with her horse. When I got back, most of the photos were out of focus to varying degrees. While only a few were flat-out of focus, most ďjust missedĒ, and thatís the most infuriating part. I refer to my 7D as the ďjust missedĒ camera. It never really seems to nail a photo all the way. My 50D, 40D, XTi, and XT had no trouble doing this regardless of focus modes or user modes. You could swap on a lens during a sunny day and expect sharp, in-focus images. Not so with the 7D. This is especially problematic with telephoto lenses.

After months of playing with focus modes and experimenting with micro focus adjust, it never really made a difference. True, the 7D has a more complex focus system, but I also think itís just plain inaccurate. Although my 50D was a touch slower, the keeper rate was far higher. Looking back over my Lightroom 3 library, images from 2010 and the 50D (with the same lenses shooting wildlife and landscape) are superior to the 7D images. Why? There are several reasons. First, the low ISO noise on the 7D is just too much. You better nail exposure or you get punished. This should not be the case for a $1500 camera. There are too many pixels packed onto this sensor. This also affects camera shake. I have to shoot at higher shutter speeds handheld with the 7D than the 50D.
The 7Dís RAW files are mushy compared to the 50D and 40D files. This inherent softness combined with the noise makes for unappealing images that do not inspire confidence. It also seriously reduces the ability to crop. The room for cropping on the 50D and 40D was outstanding. Not so on the 7D because you end up exaggerating noise and softness.

Yes, the 7D offers cool features such as electronic viewfinder grid, a killer movie mode, weather-sealing, and a sharp look and build, but none of these things matter if the IQ isnít there.

The handling of the camera is great. Itís super fast. It feels like a well-oiled machine and everything is roses and sunshineÖuntil you see your photos.

For you 40D and 50D users out there, donít bother upgrading to the 7D like I did. Youíre getting better IQ with what you have. The only upgrade from your cameras is the 5DII, which is where Iím heading once I get my 7D back from Canon.

I wanted to love the 7D. Itís an attractive camera with whiz-bang features. But the IQ just isnít what youíd expect from a $1500 lens. Before I went to DSLRís, I shot with fabled consumer super zooms like Canon S2ís and Fuji S602. These were fun cameras, but I moved away from them because of poor low ISO noise and mushy files. Moving to the XT was a revelation in clean files and sharp images. But Iíve got to say, the 7D feels like a slide back to those super zooms.

One last note: The 7Dís IQ is better at wider angles for some reason, although still a bit mushier than the 50D. Images from my 17-40L were respectable, if not having a bit of super zoom look to the files. That said, every single lens I own worked perfectly and was much sharper on my 50D and 40D.