01 September 2009

Canon Day (x2)

Photography news websites around the world were taxed to the breaking point last night as Canon announced their new, highly-anticipated DSRL, the Canon EOS 7D. I'll just hit a couple of highlights (see early reviews here and here).

This camera employs a small x1.6-crop sensor (APS-C) like the Digital Rebel and xxD series, but is a brand new 18mp design. This fact means that the individual pixels are smaller than those found in any other DSLR, which is a recipe for poor performance, but Canon has pulled every conceivable trick out of their hats to ensure it performs well. In this case, "well" seems to mean as good as the 15mp 50D, which is about where it's at. Not bad, but not good enough to keep you from wanting a (more expensive) full-frame camera. Or perhaps the more sane 12mp Nikon D300s, it's main competitor.

In every other respect, it seems to equal or even surpass the Nikon D300s. It has a new metering system, extensive weather sealing, dual processors for 8fps performance, a D300s-sized 100% viewfinder, and much more. It is a major new design that rolls out many technologies which now find their way into models up and down the line. Most impressively, it has video features that probably surpass those of any other DSLR.

The Canon 7D is not a successor model, it seems, to the 5D or 50D which sit on either side. It creates a new DSLR segment for Canon corresponding to the Nikon D300s and similar models from other makers. Let's call it "premium semi-pro." I'm not so excited about the superb video features, and very unenthusiastic about the massively dense sensor. The other features are great, but mostly because they will improve models up and down the line.

But Canon's persistence in waging a megapixel war disappoints me. More than a few Canon enthusiasts were so disappointed in Canon's last megapixel semi-pro model, the EOS 50D, that they traded up from their beloved 40Ds to the Nikon D300. Canon is making the same mistake all over gain, by jacking up megapixels primarily for a marketing advantage. Serious photogs want good pixels, not many pixels, and this camera sits in a segment aimed at them. It will be interesting to watch the response.

Now for Canon Day, Part 2: I just received my Canon 40D yesterday. It was a refurb and came to me with 1366 actuations on the shutter, a fair bit of use. But other than a few light scratches on the top LCD and a few wearmarks on the hotshoe, it looks brand new.

I've only shot a few test images, but it all looks fine. I did have one heartstopper. I clicked off one frame and I think the mirror stuck, blacking out most of the image. I really (!) hope that was just an anomalous hiccup. But it has me nervous.

Otherwise, it has a much bigger viewfinder than the XT, is physically larger, and handles great. The 3" screen is actually large enough to review images on (the XT's is just too small) and the scroll wheel/joystick combo on the back is a vast improvement for navigation.

My only dislike is that it does not have enough eye relief for us eyeglass wearers, but that's the case for all camera's under about $8000. They do make an eyepiece extender to help remedy this, but it also shrinks the viewfinder. I may end up getting it anyway.

Final verdict: I love it. It feels and handles like a real camera should. I could never move back down the model line.

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