Canon 7D versus 50D

I owned a Canon Rebel XTi (400D) for almost a year and then upgraded to the 40D ... and then subsequently picked up a Canon 50D for an Antarctica cruise. So about a year after that, they announce on September 1st, 2009 the follow-on to the 50D ... the Canon 7D.

While it arguably should have been called a Canon 60D (retains the same APS-C sensor size, but they claim they will continue the xxD line), there are a number of "pro" upgrades that make the Canon 7D quite the camera ... so here's a side-by-side review of the Canon7D versus Canon 50D. Most notable is the 20% jump in megapixels but still higher ISO capability (and what appears to be less noise), redesigned auto-focus and metering system, larger viewfinder, built-in wireless flash control (about time!), and of course, video. There's a number of other nice improvements that should make the Canon 7D a heck of a DSLR.

Feature Canon 50D Canon 7D

MegaPixels 15.1 (4752x3168) 18.0 (5184x3456)

ISO 100-3200, 6400-12800 extended 100-6400, 12800 extended (and (claimed) less overall noise)

Continuous Shooting 6.5 fps up to 90 JPEG, 16 RAW, 11 RAW+JPEG 8 fps up to 126 JPEG, 15 RAW, 6 (!) RAW+JPEG
The 40D & 50D are machine guns that go on forever and the Canon 7D is even more so ... but *SIX* frame burst depth for RAW+JPEG is very disappointing.

Auto-Focus All 9 cross-type with center high-precision/diagonal at F/2.8 All 19 cross-type with center high-precision/diagonal at F/2.8
Canon 7D has a completely new auto-focus system design (with separate AF processor) that also includes spot auto-focusing.

Metering 35 area eval, Center weighted, Partial, Spot 63 area eval, Center weighted, Partial, Spot

Viewfinder 95% coverage at 0.95x magnification 100% coverage at 1.0 magnification
Canon 7D Viewfinder uses a transmissive LCD to toggle display of auto-focus points, grid display, pitch/roll level, etc.

Built-in Flash GN 13m/43f, 17mm coverage GN 12m/39f, 15mm coverage
Top Flash X-Sync Speed     Same 1/250 second - be nice if higher
The Canon 7D built-in flash can do wireless control of other flash units ... a welcome addition that has been a long time coming!

Video Shooting None 1080p at 24/25/30fps and 720p at 50/60fps
Video Display Same NTSC, PAL, and HDMI
On the 7D, a microphone input is added and the mini-USB connector also provides NTSC/PAL output via a supplied cable

Main LCD Display 3.0" - 920,000 dots - VGA Same with auto-brightness and better anti-glare/viewing angle

Misc. Both have UDMA storage (much faster) Highlight Tone Priority, noise reduction levels, vigenetting adjust, auto-lighting, micro-focus adjustment

Shutter Lag/Blackout Same 59/100 milliseconds
Shutter Speeds Same 1/8000 to 30 seconds and Bulb
Analog-Digital Converter Same 14 bit
Live View Same Auto-focus with Face Detection
Remote Control N3 but no IR control RC1/5 IR remote plus wireless remotes via N3 connector
WeatherProofing Moderate - Foam on Battery and CF Door - pics Extensive
Processor(s) Digic IV Dual Digic IV
Shutter Design Life 100,000 pictures 150,000 pictures
Battery Canon BP-511A 1390mAh Li-Ion Canon LP-E6 1800mAh Li-Ion
Shots with no flash 800 1,000
Weight w/battery 810 grams - 28 ounces 900 grams - 31 ounces
Size 146 x 108 x 74 mm (5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in) 148 x 111 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in)
Intro US Price $1400 - Oct/2008 $1700 - Sep/2009
Canon Technical Report 50D Not available yet
Canon Info Canon 50D White Paper Canon 7D Web Site

After using the Canon 50D for a while, I wrote the following as suggestions that would make the follow-on 7D even better - how did they do?

  1. YES - Everyone always asks for more megapixels, but that comes at a tradeoff in terms of speed and image quality, especially high ISO performance. Personally, 15 megapixels was OK for me and I'm more interested in more dynamic range, lower noise, etc. But it appears that the 18MP 7D does all of that!
  2. YES - Standard blah-blah-blah about even better autofocus and metering. 7D is new in both areas and claims AI Servo II ... seems much faster at acquisition and holding on the target.
  3. NO - Increased image quality and dynamic range with 16 bit A-D.
  4. YES - Even faster continuous shooting - 8fps versus 6.5.
  5. NO - Increased burst depth - very disappointing to see drop in RAW+JPEG to 6! :-(
  6. YES - Add video capability with true hi-def and variable frame rates.
  7. NO - To assist with that, how about a rotateable/flexible LCD screen!
  8. NO - Really cheap remote wireless (via RF so no line-of-sight limitations) shutter control - heck, why not built the receiver into the camera and sell a small $20 trigger? Note that the 7D (versus the 50D) did add the ability to do this via infra-red line-of-sight.
  9. YES - Allow on-board flash to be a master and control remove flashes. BTW, Canon uses light is used to communicate so line-of-sight is necessary - eventually would be nice if they migrated to RF.
  10. YES - Better weatherproofing since it doesn't cost much to use rubber seals/gaskets?
  11. NO - The Rebel XTi LCD display can display all the shooting information and has a sensor near the viewfinder that detects when you put your eyeball up there and toggles it off. This ends up being really handy ... especially for us older folks since it's a challenge to read the smaller info display on top of the camera. Yes, we can replicate this on the 50D by hitting the Info button ... but that has to be done every single time - unsure if the 7D has this.
  12. NO - Enhancements to the electronic shutter functionality so X-sync speeds can be really, really high.
  13. TBD - Cheaper, smaller, lighter, blah-blah-blah ... but same price point works if you add good features!

I obtained my Canon 7D from Amazon and some misc. testing I have done is:

  1. Test for Sensor Dust
  2. Take a 100 & 1600 ISO long exposure to see if any hot pixels
  3. Black Frames: How much residual noise
  4. Calibrate lens with micro auto focus adjustment
  5. Test wireless flash control - no HSS as a master - hopefully fixed in firmware release
  6. High ISO tests with bookshelf - classic! ;-)
  7. Use XNtime Stopwatch to assess true frames per second shooting rate
  8. Auto-focus tracking with Kyle soccer
  9. Buzz Lightyear video demonstrating fps

Overall, I'm darn happy with the 7D ... in addition to the technical specs, it just feels and shoots better ... a darn nice upgrade from the 50D!

I welcome any comments on all of this. Back to more camera stuff.