The number one question asked by you all, and the height of my curiosity as well, pertains to the high ISO abilities of this new camera. So, I charged up the battery, waited for the sun to set and went out to the nearest Friday night high school football game.
Before I get into the photos and levels of noise at high ISO, let me tell you about my first thoughts when shooting with the new 7D Mark II.
When I removed the camera from the box, I was excited to see that it uses the same battery as the Canon 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III. This is great since I already have many of those batteries and chargers. This also means that it is easy for people to purchase extra batteries from almost any camera store. I slipped the battery into one of my existing chargers, topped it off, and popped it into the camera.
Now it was time to put in some memory cards. I put in a 128GB Lexar Professional 1066x CF card into the CF slot, figuring that this new camera would take full advantage of the UDMA7 speed. Many of you know that I was disappointed that Canon did not make the SD slot in the 5D Mark III in the newer UHS-I standard. This means that the 5D Mark III could not write to an SD card any faster than 133x. And that is just not fast enough! So, the burning question in my mind was "Does the 7D Mark II support the most current SD spec (which is now UHS-II)?" And I was bummed to see that the SD slot is only UHS-I, once again showing that Canon is behind in their adoption of the newer standards. What this means is that the SD slot is much faster than the 5D Mark III, but not nearly as fast as it could be. I guess I will stick with CF cards to get the fastest buffer clear in this camera.
When I turned on the camera and set the current time and date, I entered the menu system to change some of the settings.
Note: I always change the following settings in any new Canon camera that I get:
* Auto rotate - I like the image rotated on the computer but not on the camera. I always select the middle option, which shows you more of your portrait photos on the LCD of the camera.
* Release shutter without card -I have no idea why Canon ships the camera with this turned on, or why anyone would want this on (other than for camera stores to demo). Turn this off!
* Highlight alert - I like this turned on
* I usually choose to shot RAW instead of JPEG (Since there is no RAW converter for the 7D Mark II in Adobe Camera Raw at this time, I have chosen JPEG, but that will change soon.)
* Change single shot to continuous mode. I like having the option of shooting numerous photos at a time.
* I change the focus to be center point by default
* I customize the "My Menu" to add my favorite menu options. And I just noticed that the 7D Mark II has multiple tabs on this menu so I can add more than 6 favorites. Very happy about that!
I was surprised to see the advanced focus modes, which I have on the Canon 1DX, on this much lower cost sports camera. Yeah, I call this a sports camera, because of the high speed shutter, but there is not reason why this can't be used for portraits or other types of photography. Speaking of focus, I love that the 7D Mark II has 65 focus points. This is very handy when shooting sports, or anything for that matter, since you have so many more options of where you want your focus to be in the frame. When shooting the football game, I did move the focus points around and tried different focus modes. All worked as expected and the focusing was fast and responsive.
I connected a BlackRapid camera strap to the camera, attached a 100-400mm lens, and I was ready to go out and shoot the night football game.
The first thing that I noticed was how small and light the camera was in my hands. Very different from the big old 1DX that I am used to. And when shooting in burst mode the first time, I was surprised at how quiet the shutter was. Compared to the 1DX, the 7D Mark II shutter is much quieter! After shooting for a couple of minutes, I decided to see how quiet the silent mode was, so I switched the shutter mode to silent mode. The shooting speed went from 10 frames a second to just 4 frames a second. This may not seem like much, but after shooting at 10 frames a second for a while, it seemed REALLY slow. I quickly switched it back to regular mode.
Another thing that really freaked me out, was the cropped sensor. I have not taken photos with anything but a full-frame camera in years, and it was a little strange. When standing on the sidelines, using the 100-400mm lens, I could not capture a photo of an athlete on the sideline with me, from head to toe. With my full-frame cameras, I can do this. But, with that said, it was fun to have the extra reach, effectively making the 400mm reach to more than 550mm.
I normally shoot in RAW mode, even when shooting sports. The reason is that I always want the best quality photo, and RAW files have more data than compressed JPEGs. For this test, I set the camera to JPEG mode. I did this because there is no RAW converter for the 7D Mark II yet, and I would not be able to process the images. And since I want to show you photos directly out of the camera with no adjustments, a JPEG works better anyways.
Earlier I told you about the memory card slots, and that I was using the fastest CF card on the market. Well...with the 7D Mark II in JPEG mode, I never had a buffer fill. At one point, I must have shot 60 photos in one burst and could have kept going. I know that this will not be the case with RAW files, but it shows that the camera to card speed is very good and will be ample performance for almost any shooting.
OK, now let's get to the burning question of high ISO shooting.
My goal was to create a test that was "real world". In other words, I wanted to use a variable aperture lens that many of you (and I) could afford and might use on a daily basis. I chose the 100-400mm lens which shoots between f/4.5 and f/5.6.
I showed up at the high school field and was totally surprised at how dark it was. I was looking for a tough shooting environment, but this turned out to be even tougher than I planned. I guess I am spoiled shooting the Olympics and professional sports, as the lighting is usually very good. Not in this situation!
I figured I would start shooting photos at ISO 3200 to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the athletes. Not a chance! I set the camera to ISO 3200 and was only getting a shutter speed of 1/80th. Uh oh! Time to push the ISO into the crazy numbers which I usually avoid.
Here are a couple of photos captured from that game.
This first photo was taken at ISO 16000 at f/5.6 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/500 sec.
|You can click on this to see a larger image|
|You can click on this to see a larger image|
|You can click on this to see a larger image|
Note: All the photos below are full resolution JPEGs straight from the camera with no noise reduction. You can right-click on any of them to save and view them at full size.
|ISO 100 - Shutter speed 1.3 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 160 - Shutter speed 1.1 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 400 - Shutter speed 1/3 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 800 - Shutter speed 1/6 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 1600 - Shutter speed 1/13 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 3200 - Shutter speed 1/25 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 6400 - Shutter speed 1/50 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 10000 - Shutter speed 1/80 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 16000 - Shutter speed 1/125 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 25600 - Shutter speed 1/200 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
|ISO 51200 - Shutter speed 1/400 sec - (Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm, f/5.6, Gitzo tripod, Acratech ballhead)|
One thing thast I found very interesting is that the file sizes are so different for each of these images. The higher the ISO, the larger the file size. At ISO 160, the file size is 5MB, whereas at ISO 6400 the file size is 8MB. At ISO 51200, the file more than doubles to 12MB. Crazy, but true.
So, what is my conclusion about the Canon 7D Mark II? I don't want to give this one back to them! This camera offers a whole lot of features and image quality for the relatively low price of $1799. And even though I have a Canon 1Dx, I love having a smaller and lighter camera that can shoot 10 photos per second, and do so with really great quality. And there are times when having a crop sensor would be beneficial to get me a little closer to my subject. Basically, I see this as the little brother to Canon 1DX for a whole lot less money.
If you have been waiting to purchase a new camera for almost any type of photography (especially for sports and wildlife) this is a great choice!
If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
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