I began to write this from up in the press box at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game had ended a couple of hours before–Missouri won 38 to 12, with most of the points racked up in the second half.
I used two camera bodies (initially I planned to use three, but I loaned my 1D IIn to my colleague whose camera was down to half battery before the game even started): my new 7D, and a 1D Mark III on loan Canon Professional Services. While I don’t like many parts of the Mark III, especially the way in which one chooses the focusing point, and I am wary of its ability to autofocus given its less-than-stellar history in this regard, I love the way that files look from the Mark III. And, besides, it’s about to be replaced with Mark IV bodies, so I figured I’d give it a chance as the used market is about to be flooded with them. And wow, was I surprised.
More after the jump!
The Mark III and the 7D
The Mark III that I was working with did not seem to have any autofocus issues at all. I set the AI servo sensitivity as slow as it could go (affecting how quickly the autofocus will “jump” to an object closer or farther at that focusing point, which is key when panning–you don’t want it to start focusing on the stands full of fans when you’re tracking the defining run of the Missouri Tigers’ wide receiver, Danario Alexander. And the files were crisp, and the colors buttery, which I can happily say is true of the 5D II, and, with regard to the color only, true of the 7D as well.
I intend to write a continuation of my 7D review soon, and will elaborate on this observation, but I feel that the files from the 7D are not as “crisp” as they could be (note that this is different from “in focus / sharp”), and I believe the problem is that Canon crammed 18 megapixels into the sensor when they should have gone with 12. I believe Canon may have hit the ceiling as far as ideal megapixels per square centimeter. Time to ratchet that number back down! Now, to be fair, I have not yet tried the 7D’s RAW functionality yet, and the files from RAW may well hold better details from the camera’s 18 megapixel sensor. I have not yet evaluated the camera’s RAW performance because Adobe has not yet updated Camera RAW or Lightroom, which is driven by Camera RAW, to support the 7D. Yes, the camera came with Canon’s own RAW conversion software, but my interest in manufacturer’s software is close to zero. Why won’t Canon and Nikon just give in and give us all DNG files?
I am, however, very happy to report that both the 7D and the 1D Mark III meter very similarly. Manually setting the exposure +2 2/3 stops off of the cloudy sky in Manhattan, Kansas, gave perfect histograms in both cameras.
As far as autofocus performance goes, I have been very pleased with the 7D. I have used a couple of focus patterns, and found that both single point AF as well as the “groups” of automatically-selected points (nine out of the middle, or four on the top, bottom, left, or right). The ability of the camera to remember which focusing point (and pattern) you used in either horizontal or vertical orientation (hint: they can be different, so set the camera to a “top” focusing point in vertical mode!), set by Custom Function III-12-1, is very smart. I have also found that setting the AI servo sensitivity to negative 1/2 (instead of fully negative, in the case of the 1D Mark III), is ideal for my own usage. Another photographer I know and respect swears by setting it to plus 1/2. Your mileage may vary.