Canon 7D is in the house...

Okay, so I finally got my new 7D. I was supposed to get it a month ago as I pre-ordered it but Best Buy and American Express somehow screwed my order up - and before I realized it there were no more pre-orders. Anyway, finally got it from B&H Photo (my fave online video store anyway).

So yesterday on Thanksgiving I took it for a test drive. Here is the footage shot around my house in between courses of turkey and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving 7D Test from Blake Calhoun on Vimeo.

All the footage was shot 1080p24 with a mix of AUTO and MANUAL settings (they are noted in the footage). Also, most of the footage is not color graded - only a few side-by-side comparison shots at the end are simply using the built-in Avid color correction tool (the "AUTO" footage really doesn't need color grading anyway unless you're going for a stylized look).

A few initial thoughts and notes for those considering buying one of these...

1. It's not a toy and it's not particularly easy to use. I would put this in the Serious Hobbyist up to the Pro level users only. This is not a camera to shoot home movies with (although you could of course).

2. Along these same lines, I don't feel this is the best camera for a "run and gun" style shoot. First off, hand-held is not easy at all - at least not right out of the box. If you buy a Zacuto Z-Finder (a $375 magnifying viewfinder that attaches to camera's LCD) and perhaps even a support system from Zacuto or Redrock Micro, etc. - then you can shoot some nice stuff. Otherwise I'd highly recommend using a tripod. Not only are there rolling shutter issues (you can minimize these though), but image stabilization is (typically) not on the lenses - some do have it though - but in my test it doesn't work the same as a traditional video camera's stabilizer. Also, the camera is slightly clumsy to hold since you can't use the eye piece to shoot video - only the Live View LCD (I actually prefer using an attached external monitor, if possible, like an Ikan or Marshall - but again, not ideal for "run and gun").

3. And more to this point - it's not very easy to focus while you're on the move and setting exposure takes a bit more time (and expertise) than a traditional video camera. There are no zebras in the viewfinder. There is a meter that gives you a safe exposure range, but it's not something that I found was quickly or easily done. When you focus too - you can zoom into the spot on the LCD (5x and 10x magnification) which is great, but again, doing this quickly is not easy (as mentioned earlier, an external monitor is ideal).

4. Lastly on this "run and gun" point is the audio. In my test footage I just used the built in mono mic and it sounds fine truthfully. But, I wouldn't want to use it for more than just test footage, or reference sound. I plan on buying a Rode shotgun mic ($249) to attach to the top, which will give much better sound and in stereo. But the camera still doesn't allow for manual control on the audio - it's all auto (maybe this will be a firmware fix in the future?). The Rode mic will work fine for b-roll and quick soundbites, etc. but for optimum sound you'll need to roll double system using something like this Tascam recorder ($399). You can actually put this recorder on the camera's hot shoe and use it as a mic, or you can plug in professional wireless mics or a boom into the XLR inputs (and have manual control, but this would typically require a second person to run sound).

5. I mentioned an external monitor a few times above and I think this is important if you can afford one (both financially and time wise). But one thing that sucks is you don't get a "full frame" sent to the monitor while recording - only the exact image that's on the camera's LCD - which includes the "info" and grey letterbox bars. So the image is actually 4x3 that you're viewing on the monitor (with the 16x9 video within). But, when you play it back - which you can do almost instantly - it plays back in all its HD glory (via HDMI to the external monitor), so this is nice.

UPDATE: I did learn (and tried this out) that with the HDMI cable connected you can cycle through different outputs using the "Info" button and end up getting 16x9 to the monitor while recording. This is good. Bad thing is you lose the exposure reading, but if you're locked in this isn't a big deal really.

FYI, I'm no expert with these new DSLR cameras at all - just an informed consumer and filmmaker sharing my thoughts. I actually get most of my info on them from a very smart British filmmaker named Philip Bloom. For pretty much "everything DSLR" I highly suggest checking out his blog and his instructional DVDs for the Canon 7D and 5D. I actually bought and watched the 7D training DVD today ($135 via an instant download) and got some really good information from it.

Wrapping things up here are my Pros and Cons of the camera (btw, I know I've mainly seemed negative above, but to me the Pros waaaay outweigh the Cons)...

PROS: Interchangeable lenses, huge selection of lenses and creative choices, shallow DOF without having to use a 3rd party lens adapter, great image quality (especially for the price), great low light ability, small form factor to shoot in tight (or public) places easily

CONS: A lot of workarounds to make it a "pro" camera (and a lot of extra costs), double system sound (for best audio results), rolling shutter, clumsy rig for shooting hand-held

Overall I think this is a GREAT CAMERA and perfect for the (indie) filmmakers out there looking to shoot a low budget feature film, a short film or a web series. It's also a good B camera to a RED (or whatever flavor of HD rig) for higher end work on commercials and features. I also think it's a very nice camera to shoot nature footage and beauty b-roll shots (on tripod). Lastly, it's a really good choice for photo journalist who need the ability to shoot video too.

Again, for complete details and more in-depth coverage and reviews please visit Philip Bloom's blog (I read it all the time).

And one other really good resource is Stu Maschwitz's Prolost blog.

Now go out and buy a 7D! :)

-Blake


1 comments to "Canon 7D is in the house..."

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