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2 Years On With The Canon EOS 7D

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Sept. 2009 Canon announce the Canon EOS 7D.

Nov. 2009. I help organise a product release night for the Canon EOS 7D. I received the camera on the morning of the launch and had to get familiar with this new DSLR before lunch. 150 photos later and I was ready to show off this wonderful piece of machinery. Little did I know that this camera was about to change my photography FOREVER.

Fast forward to Mar. 2010. I make the decision to purchase a Canon EOS 7D for myself. I gathered my 3 Canon EOS 20Ds and other bits and set about raising the funds to buy one. A long time friend and a Second Hand Camera dealer helped me dispose of the excess gear and I was on my way to becoming a 7D fanboy.

Present day. Canon recently announced the new EOS 5D MkIII. This new camera caught my eye and for a brief moment I suffered from EOS ENVY. I wanted one. I all but placed my order for one. I read everything I could get my hands on about the 5D MkIII. History was about to repeat itself.

I took a long look at my gear and went through each and every piece and worked out its resale value and what it would mean to my photography if I sold it. I had spent the last 2 years creating the ideal kit based around the 7D. Could I make this work? In the end reality set in, I would literally have to start my kit again if I went ahead. The cost alone of a new body and 2 new lenses made it unmanageable without a lottery win or a sponsor. (Hint, hint Mr Canon Sir).

Instead of feeling cheated out of a dream, I revisited why I loved the 7D in the first place. This one camera earned me more money than any of my previous cameras did COMBINED. This is the first camera I’ve owned that has felt like an extension of my own hand. I can honestly say I can drive it without having to think too much about its operation. PLUS this camera has taught me more about my own style of photography than any other camera I’ve had. This camera has also made me change my techniques and has inspired me to learn more. Here’s a few of the changes I’ve made to my photography.

With all my previous DSLRs (D30, D60, 10D, 20Ds, 50D) I hated the viewfinder. I used my right eye to focus with and my nose would get smooshed up against the LCD screen. To solve this to some degree I would use the Eyepiece Extender EP-EX15. I removed the glass from the extender and it did help to some degree with the nose problem but I still wasn’t 100% happy but I wasn’t about to change brands over a viewfinder. When the 7D came along with its 100% viewfinder I still wasn’t overjoyed but it was better. A couple of months after having the 7D I watched a video by Joe McNally entitled “Da Grip” (See Below). This one video solved all my problems ALL I had to do was change the eye I used, not to mention the way I held a camera ! Have you tried to change the eye you use to look through the viewfinder with? It’s not easy but I persisted and I won out in the end. See for yourself.

This was the first of many changes this camera would force upon me. The next change was lens calibration. I understood the concept of why but I didn’t know the how. After months of research on different ways to “Micro Adjust” lenses and building my own Lens Calibration device I got around to learning this important step in fine tuning the lens to the camera. Did it make a difference? At the time no. Two years and 9 lenses later I’ve played around enough with the process to now say Yes it can make a difference to the sharpness of the lenses. Now that I have the studio in a usable condition, (as in most of the boxes from our move have been unpacked and stored) I can set about recalibrating all my lenses in a more controlled environment and I’ll blog the process and results another time.

Another of the big lessons the 7D has taught me is the correct use of the AF abilities the camera has. I was a point, press, check what AF marker lit up, redo if necessary kind of “focuser”. With 5 different ways to fine tune the AF array, 3 different AF modes and 19 AF points I had no choice but to experiment with the combinations and found how much more accuracy was available to me. It taught me that my techniques, up until now, was no longer going to cut it. I had to change another one of my bad habits. Sharper photos here I come. I also discovered that I could isolate the AF from the metering system. This has proven its worth time and time again. Especially in the studio and when shooting macro. I find it an advantage with almost every shoot I do. Check your cameras instruction manual to see if you can change the settings on your camera, if so give it a try.

I’ve always had two 550EX flashes and a ST-E2 Wireless transmitter since my D60 days. I loved the idea of off camera flash and being able to control the flashes from the camera. As with most of my early techniques the 7D managed to show that I didn’t know it all and I had to go back to Off Camera Flash School. The 7D was one of the first Canons to offer wireless flash control built-in to the camera’s flash system. After 2 years with the 7D, I can honestly say, I’ve learnt more about Off Camera Flash than I thought was possible and I’m only just starting to scratch the surface of the possibilities laying waiting for me to discover. All the images in this article are using off camera flash techniques I’ve learnt in the last year or so using my original 550EXs. I’ve also added a 580EX II and an older 420EX to my arsenal as well as a small truck load of modifiers too.

I’ve been shooting with wireless tethering on my 7D on and off for over a year. Now that I have the studio space I can finally get together all the ingredients I need to make this a permanent way to shoot for me. There is nothing like setting up a shot, making a test and viewing it on a larger screen, making a change and seeing the project come to life . A Canon WFT-E5 Wireless File Transmitter and Lightroom make this an absolute breeze to use. I did do an article earlier on about wireless tethering to my iPAd but that has proven to be more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll probably revisit that when I upgrade my original iPAd to the New, New, New iPad in a few years time, maybe.

There’s much to love about the Canon EOS 7D. It is truly a marvellous piece of engineering . One that I would buy again without hesitation. This camera did a great job in 2009, I can vouch for its ability in 2012. If & when Canon decide to release the 7D Mk II (if it’s called that) let’s hope that it carries on in the same vein as the 7D.

Happy Shooting

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