On a Sunday outing to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, I ran into some of my first real frustrations with the Canon 7D. While I’ve used it with the 400mm DO lens in the past, I was having tremendous difficulty getting photographs that I thought were in crisp focus.
Now, in all fairness, I’ve never thought that the images from the 7D were as crisp as they could be, even if they were still in sharp focus. That is that the image acutance, or the contrast between individual pixels, is just not as high as other semi-pro or professional camera bodies, such like the 5D Mark II or 1D Mark III. I believe this to be a function of Canon’s misguided decision to cram 18 megapixels into an APS-C sensor. I would have been happy with 10-12 megapixels for a camera like this. But I digress.
The problem I encountered was not a question of not enough acutance–which would be corrected by sharpening in Lightroom or Photoshop–but many of the photographs were simply not in focus. Before sending the camera to Canon for a fix, I compared its performance to my 5D Mark II as well as another 7D body from my dad. The difference? Night and day.
Tweaking the camera’s autofocus microadjustment panel seems to be the obvious answer. Today, in an attempt to correct the problem, I tinkered with the 7D’s microadjustment with the 400mm lens and it would seem that the solution likely lies in that menu, but I am ill-equipped to calibrate the lens focus. Enter LensRentals.com and the Lens Align. While the professional LensAlign is $180, it’s available from LensRentals for an entire week for only $15. It should get here Wednesday, and I will have an article reviewing this product and explaining its use after I get my 7D back in order.
This evening I spent a solid two hours in the pouring rain to photograph fans outside of Memorial Stadium before tonight’s football game. In particular, my editors wanted a photo for Vox Magazine that would illustrate the tremendous amount of refuse and recycling generated by the tailgaters to football games. Too bad that the assignment seems to have killed my 50mm f/1.4’s autofocus, and possibly my cell phone!
I am not certain to what extent it is common knowledge that Canon’s teleconverters (TC’s) can develop problems with their locking pins. Specifically, that the locking pin becomes “sticky” and does not always engage into the lens to which it is being attached. This past April, on Artie Morris’ Fort DeSoto, Florida IPT, one participant’s Canon DSLR and 1.4x TC fell off of his 500mm lens. The TC’s faulty locking pin, which never engaged into the 500mm lens, led a counter-clockwise turn of the camera and lens (via the lens’ tripod collar) to become a near disaster. Thanks to a flash cord attached to the camera’s hot shoe, the camera splashed in the salt water but bounced back up and later recovered–it was never wholly submerged.
Ever since that event, I’ve been far more aware of the condition of all of my Canon TC’s and extension tubes. I noticed shortly thereafter that my 1.4x II TC’s locking pin began to engage only half of the time. Pushing the lever forward would force it to work, but did not constitute a fix. Finally, I sent it to Canon Jamesburg at the very end of April and had it repaired for $70.00. However, the fix did not last!
This November at Bosque del Apache I noticed that the locking pin was developing the problem that Canon repaired at the end of the spring. It had been six months and three weeks: three weeks outside of Canon’s warranty on all repairs. The good news–and kudos to Canon–is that sending it in with a letter explaining the problem, and a copy of the dated invoice from the repair in April, led them to repair the TC free of charge.
Just let it serve as a warning: if anything is not working as it should, and it is of enough concern that you need to remind yourself whenever using it to exercise caution because it could break, just get it fixed! The last thing you want is to lose a $4000 camera body because you didn’t want to pay for a $70 repair.