Monday, March 23, 2015

The 7D Mark II Review

So, the 7D Mark II, the new King of the Crop.

I didn't think the 7D Mark II was going to be this impressive, I actually thought Canon made the same old mistake by putting in some existing mediocre sensor. In this case, I thought it was just going to be a beefed up 70D in a metal shell.

It turns out to have a new sensor, with better low light performance, and much more.


The overall build quality is expected, like a tank. It has a full magnesium alloy body. Allegedly the 7D Mark II has more weather sealing then original 7D, which is already extremely tough. We've all seen the viral 7D Torture test done by the guys at DigitalRev TV. If that couldn't destroy the original 7D, then I wonder what will it take to hurt a 7D Mark II.

The 7D Mark II has a nice firm grip, but it does feel rather big and heavy in the hand. It almost feels like holding a full frame such as the 5D Mark III.

It has dual card slots, one CF, one SD.

It now comes with a new battery, the LP-E6N.
The N version of the LP-E6 has 65mAh more compared to the good old LP-E6. Just a mild improvement. I didn't notice much difference in battery life of the slightly larger capacity battery in practical use. That being said, the camera will still work perfectly fine with the traditional old LP-E6 batteries.
The 7D2 also has dual DIGIC 6 processors, which makes this camera a very powerful beast.

Nothing new on the top panel, squishy shutter button, M. Fn. button, shutter speed dial, LCD Panel.
The mode dial now has a mode dial lock, and the icons are beveled. 3 Custom modes.

On the front, we have the 5D Mark III style DoF preview button, that you can actually conveniently press.

There is now a headphone jack for input monitoring. The USB 2.0 port has been replaced with a USB 3.0 one.

The back panel of the 7D Mark II is basically exactly the same as the 5D Mark III.
Compared to the original 7D, the buttons have been moved around a bit.
There's a new toggle lever now, just around the multi-control nipple. The lever is referred by Canon as the AF Area select lever. Basically you can assign a bunch of functions to it.
Thank god the SET button doesn't rotate along with the aperture dial this time 'round.


The AF system has been overhauled. It now has the EOS iTR AF, which takes into account distance, color, and face recognition data for auto AF pt selection.

The 7D2 now has 65 AF points, thats 4 more than the 5D3 and 1Dx! The points extend to the edges of frame, providing excellent coverage.
What's more, ALL the points are cross-type. the 5D3 and 1Dx only have 41 cross type AF points.
The AF system is able to focus down to -3EV. Pretty impressive.
Subject tracking is phenomenal. AF is incredibly responsive if used with USM lens. You get a very high keeper rate coupled with the 10fps.

Shooting with the 7D Mark II is a joy. The 10fps burst feels like shooting a minigun.
The buffer is huge, it can take in 22 raw files before filling up.
If this were full frame, this would be in 1Dx territory. However being a crop, it has its advantages as well. Sports and wildlife shooters would appreciate the extra reach given by the crop factor

The viewfinder blackout is extremely brief. It feels just like the blink of an eye .

Image quality

The new sensor on the EOS 7D Mark II means that the image quality has been significantly increased. At first it may seem that the 7D2 has the same 20.2MP sensor as the 70D, but the low light shots say otherwise, low light shots are clearly cleaner than the EOS 70D. In fact, the 7D Mark II probably has one of the best-performing APS-C sized sensors out there.

This camera has all the features you’d expect in a pro body - actually even more.
It has the good old AF config tool, AF Microadjustments, and even the HDR and multi exposure functions that were first introduced in the 5D3.

The 7D Mark II has an improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The AF speed has not increased, but now you can choose to slow down the AF and change its subject tracking parameters in SERVO AF mode. It's really a firmware thing though.

One of the new features is the built-in intervalometer you can set it to continuously take from 1-99 shots, then unlimited no of shots by setting it to 0. The maximum interval between shots is 99hrs, 59min, 59secs. After it has done the set amount of shots, it disables itself. However, the only way to stop it before it is done shooting is to power off the camera. (Seriously Canon?)
If the buffer fills up midway, it also stops automatically.

Another new feature is the bulb timer. You set the duration for the bulb exposure, so there's no need to hold down the shutter button anymore. This is a feature I wish my 5D Mark III had! Canon should really put this feature into all DSLR's through a firmware patch.

The anti flicker mode is extremely effective, it works like a charm. Again, I wish all other DSLR’s had this. This makes shooting under fluorescent lighting much easier. No more ruined shots due to banding.
However with anti flicker on, you will experience reduced burst speed slightly.
If the camera detects flickering lighting, it will also flash a Flicker warning on your HUD.

Another cool thing to note is that you can actually scroll the info up and down in Playback mode, so you can scroll through and view much more information.

You can also choose what info to show on your viewfinder HUD. There is much more information available to be shown on your VF HUD now, such as a dedicated 2-axis level, the Grid, your shooting mode, White balance, Drive mode, AF mode, metering mode, image format, and flicker detection.

Oh yes, and this camera has GPS.

For the video shooters, the 7D Mark II brings good news - headphone jack! Not only that, you can also set the output value for the headphone jack.
You can also shoot 1080p Full HD at 60fps with the 7D2., however ALL-I mode is not available in 60fps Full HD. Only IPB is available. Servo AF is also unavailable in this mode.

So is the 7D Mark II worth buying? Yes. Canon has put in a lot of features consumers have always wanted. The 7D Mark II easily claims the top spot in the current APS-C DSLR lineup. Even from the original 7D, the Mark II is going to be a worthy upgrade.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Macro lens vs Extension Tube

Extension tubes have been known to give really, really good results. But how would they stack up to a real, dedicated macro lens?

To test this out, I used a EF 100mm F2.8L Macro lens, and a EF 50mm F1.4 with some dirt cheap extension tubes.

We'll start off with the macro. Here's what our scene looks like with the 100mm Macro at max magnification.

And as we can see, we have some very decent magnification indeed. The image is sharp all across the frame. The image was taken at F8 with a Canon 5D Mark III.

Now let's see what the 50mm looks like without the extension tube.


So now, let's slap on an extension tube and see what that does. We'll also be using a trick to get the lens to stop down off-camera. The way to do it is to set it to the aperture value you want with the lens attached to the camera. Now detach the lens with the DoF Preview button held down. The lens will stay at the aperture even when its detached.

This is what the 50mm looks like with an extension tube. The magnification is actually slightly higher than the macro lens. The contrast seems to be lacking a bit compared to the 100mm Macro L, but still very sharp in the centre otherwise. The edges is an entirely different story though, we can see the edges are very smudgy and nowhere near sharp. This isn't too surprising given that we are pushing the 50mm lens beyond its limits. It was never meant to resolve detail at such high magnifications.

This just comes to prove how good extension tubes can be. Extension tubes are very very affordable and deliver great results. If you're going macro on a budget, look no further than extension tubes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

7D Mark II shutter sounds and drive modes

I love listening to shutter sounds.

The new 7D Mark II has rather quiet shutter sounds. In the video, I basically ran it through the drive modes 4 times. I first did it with the lens attached, in viewfinder mode. I then did it again in Live View mode. I then repeated all that with the lens detached.

The 7D Mark II has the same old drive modes, Single, Low-speed Continuous, High-Speed Continuous, Silent Single, Silent Continuous, 10sec Timer and 2 Sec Timer. I didn't do the timer modes in the video.

It also has the Silent LV shoot modes. You get to choose from Disable, Mode 1, and Mode 2. In Mode 1, the camera somehow makes the shutter sound less...intrusive? It just sounds slower and gentler. Not much quieter in terms of amplitude though. I did not demonstrate Mode 2 in the video, but Mode 2 basically clicks the shutter when you press the shutter button and hold it down (the shot is already taken), and when you let go of the shutter button, it "reloads" the shutter.

I left the continuous shooting speeds at the default settings, which are 10fps for highspeed continuous, 5fps for lowspeed, and 4fps for silent continuous.

Here are some behind the scenes shots.

The video itself was filmed on a 5D Mark III with a 24-70 F2.8.

Audio was recorded using a Rode NTG-3 plugged directly into a Zoom H6. I monitored using Apple Earpods.

I triggered the 7D2 shutter using a pair of Yongnuo RF603's to minimize the operation noise. I basically dialed in the settings then remotely triggered them.