The Canon RF Revolution – More Gear Changes Than Ever Before (Podcast 712)

The Canon RF Revolution – More Gear Changes Than Ever Before (Podcast 712)


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Canon has started taking orders for the EOS R5 and a wealth of other gear, and it will result in me changing more gear in such a short space of time than ever before, so today I’m going to explain my strategy and expectations for the future. The EOS R5 was first announced around six months ago, with Canon uncharacteristically publishing a news release about the fact that they were developing this camera and a number of other lenses including a new 100-500mm RF lens.

If you’ve been following my blog or podcast for the last few years, you’ll already know that I am all in on Canon’s mirrorless camera range, but I’ll step back a little further and explain what changed, and why I have been so happy to make this shift, and then move on to why I’m really looking forward to the R5 and how my gear bag will completely transform over the next two months. I’ll also talk about how I’m essentially doing this with virtually no additional expenditure, although that is mostly due to past investment, and not some magic formula that I’ve stumbled across.

Why Canon Mirrorless?

First, let’s talk about why I’m all in with the Canon RF Mirrorless system. You’ll probably agree that Canon came late to the mirrorless camera market, and I have to tell you, that around the time they released the Canon EOS 5Ds R, I was seriously considering jumping ship to Sony. Sony has and continues to really push the boundaries with mirrorless and have probably been a big factor in finally forcing Canon to pull their thumb out of their aperture. The high resolution and image quality of the 5Ds R were enough to keep me loyal though, and since its release in the summer of 2015, I was in many ways totally happy with my gear, and my decision to stay with Canon.

I took great pleasure in blowing all of the myths about the 5Ds R out of the water, using it hand-held at low shutter speeds and high ISOs, and for most major genres, including wildlife, which no-one thought this camera was capable of. Even my friends at Canon told me that they weren’t necessarily 100% happy with what I was publishing, because they didn’t think that everyone could pull as much out of the 5Ds R as I could, but for me, that just made me even happier to do what I was doing.

When the EOS R was announced almost two years ago, I initially pretty much ignored it, mostly because I was in gear nirvana. I was so happy with the gear that I owned that I just didn’t have my antenna out looking for anything other than a higher resolution 5Ds R. But then I stumbled across a technical document about the RF mount, and after a few minutes looking at that, I realized that Canon had done what they needed to do to not only get into the mirrorless game but to put a foundation in place to help them lead it. It was also obvious to me at that point, that Canon wasn’t playing at this. They’d developed a mount that would take their camera system into a new era.

The RF mount has more electronic contacts, helping them to do more with the lens, like the addition of the Control Ring, which I love having mapped to my ISO, but the biggest change was that the RF mount puts the back of the lens just 20mm from the sensor. Compared to 44mm with the EF mount, because they needed room for the mirror, the light coming out of the back of the lens has less distance to travel and therefore doesn’t spread out as much, which of course, leads to sharper images.

Not to say that the images from my old EF lenses were bad in any way, but as I showed in my 5Ds R and EOS R Printoff post, a 30-megapixel image from the EOS R with the RF 24-105mm lens could be printed larger than a 50-megapixel image with the EF 24-105mm lens. I also have a quick test shot to share later from the new RF 15-35mm f/2.8 lens that absolutely blew me away with regards to edge sharpness on such a wide-angle lens.

EOS R Not Perfect, But…

I saw Canon’s future in that one document about the RF lens mount, and it gave me enough confidence to sell one of my 5Ds R bodies, and replace it with my first EOS R at the end of 2018. On my Hokkaido Landscape Tour & Workshop, I found the first problem with the EOS R that would hamper my photography a number of times over the course of the next year, and that was the tendency for the electronic viewfinder to fog up if the camera got wet. It didn’t seem to be a problem when it was really cold, but in temperatures floating around freezing point, it was a pain.

As I got stuck into faster-paced shooting on my Japan Wildlife Tours in 2019, even with the settings adjusted to give the best possible performance of the electronic viewfinder, I found that I was always looking at a stroboscopic view of the subject as I released the shutter in burst mode, and although I got used to it after a day or so, it would occasionally cost me a few frames. These two issues were really the only issues though, and I could work around both and was in general very happy with the EOS R. So much so that I quickly replaced my second 5Ds R with a second EOS R, and sold my EF 24-105mm lens. I also sold my EF 85mm f/1.4 lens and replaced it with the RF 50mm f/1.2 lens, which is absolutely stunning!

No Newly Developed EF Lenses

I was all-in and confident that Canon was on the right track, and then they announced that they will not be developing any new EF lenses, to enable them to concentrate of the RF line-up, and I did a few mental fist-pumps, as this proved to me that my hunches had been spot-on. The RF mount is the future of Canon. Canon’s lens mounts over almost a century of camera manufacturing have mostly lasted around ten years each, until the EF mount which was released in 1987, and lasted over thirty years. Although there will be no new EF lenses developed, they’ll still be manufactured for a while to support current customers, so the EF era isn’t necessarily over, but with the RF mount coming onto the scene in 2018, it makes me wonder if it’s going to outrun the EF lineup. If it does, the RF mount will probably outlive me too, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Looking Ahead

So, that’s the background, now let’s talk about what’s coming soon, and my strategy to move pretty much all of my work over to RF glass and the new EOS R5 which will be hitting the streets in about a week’s time. The biggest change that I’ve just executed, although I decided that this would be what I’d do in January this year, is that I have just sold my 200-400mm lens, with the built-in 1.4X Extender. I loved that lens, but want to talk about the reasons for letting it go.

First and foremost, is that since Canon released the updated 100-400mm lens in the summer of 2016, I actually really only used the 200-400mm for the Red-Crowned Cranes, owls and foxes on my Japan Winter Wildlife Tours. Even for the rest of this tour I almost exclusively used the 100-400mm, so we are talking around 4 to 5 days of use per year, and that really isn’t enough to warrant keeping it. For my other wildlife work, such as Namibia, and all other trips that I do, the 100-400mm was the longest lens that I took along.

That is the main reason for letting it go, making up around 70% of the incentive, with around 29% of the remainder being a financial incentive. With the virus hitting my business pretty hard, I simply cannot afford to buy all of the new gear that is coming along without selling something, and I was able to get the equivalent of around $6,000 US for my six and a half-year-old lens, and along with the money I got for one of my EOS R bodies, will pay for both the EOS R5 and the new 100-500mm lens which is scheduled for release in September.

The other change which I have made just last week is that I have sold my EF 11-24mm f/4 lens, along with my Mark III 1.4X and 2X Extenders, and they came to around $15 more than I needed to pick up the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 lens, which has actually been on the market for around six months already. I have been planning to make this change for a while, but because I wasn’t in a position to also sell the Extenders, I held off until now. And if you are wondering what I’m going to do for extenders now, well, I actually had around $1,600 of points from selling the second of my 5Ds R bodies, and that neatly covers the cost of the two new RF mount Extenders which are also being released in around a week’s time.

Extender Zoom Restrictions

With the 100-500mm a couple of months out, the Extenders will have no lens to attach them to for a while, but I’ll report on how these work with the 100-500mm as soon as I get a chance to shoot with them in September. One relatively large disappointment with this combination is that the 100-500 lens is restricted to a 300mm widest focal point when used with the new Extenders.

Looking at the design, it’s obvious that the protruding elements of the Extenders prevent the back element of the lens from moving to their full extent, so instead of a 200-1000mm lens with the 2X Extender, we get a 600-1000mm lens, and with the 1.4X Extender, we’re looking at a 420-700mm lens. This does reduce the versatility of the lens when combined with the Extenders, but this is, at this point, the first time that the shorter distance to the sensor has added a negative aspect to Canon’s RF Mount and Mirrorless line-up. I’ll live with it, and having the ability to shoot at up to 1000mm with such a small system will be very welcome too.

The Final Upcoming Change

To round out all of my planned changes, I will actually sell the EF 100-400mm and my second EOS R body in September, when the 100-500mm is released, and expect that the money I get for those two items will get me pretty close to what I need to buy a second EOS R5. I really like shooting with two identical bodies, and I know for a fact that once I start shooting with the R5, taking my EOS R as a second body will really mean that unless the R5 broke, the second body would hardly get used. It’s not that the EOS R is a bad camera. I really do like that camera, but I know how my mind works, and when there are benefits to be reaped from using something else, I generally go with that.

I recall being in Iceland around six years ago with my 5D Mark III and a 1 DX body and killed my 5D Mark III in the rain to prove a point, and I hated the fact that I had to drop down from 22 megapixels to 18 for the few days that it took for my 5D to come back to life. That was me worrying over just 4 megapixels, so I know that a drop of 15 megapixels from the R5 to the EOS R will be too great for my simple mind to handle.

A Tribute to the 200-400mm Lens

I can’t say that I am all smiles regarding these changes. I will miss the 200-400mm and 11-24mm lenses. These two lenses are absolutely amazing and have been a pleasure to own. In the past, I’ve done entire posts as tributes to lenses that I’ve had to let go. I just opened Capture One Pro and started looking through my 200-400mm shots hoping to find just one that I could share and say, this is my favorite! But that plan went out of the window in just a few minutes. I managed to whittle it down to a selection of 10 images though, so I’ll drop those into an album in case anyone is interested.

I was reminded too, as I looked through these images, how liberating it was to switch from the 600mm f/4 and 300mm f/2.8 to just the one lens, and the zoom and built-in extender made it incredibly versatile. I also remember though that in the few years before Canon releasing the Mark II 100-400mm lens, I would routinely hand-hold the 200-400mm on the boat photographing the sea eagles.

That Missing 1%

I also just recalled that I didn’t tell you what the last 1% of my reason for selling the 200-400mm lens was. Well, it was because as wonderful as it was to have that 1.4X Extender built right into the lens, there were a number of times in fast-paced shooting when I’d lose shots through being indecisive about the timing of flipping that switch. Of course, having to take the lens off the camera to add an external extender takes much longer, but when it’s fitted, or not fitted, you generally run with it until the action stops. There’s less to be indecisive about.

A Tribute to the 11-24mm Lens

I did the same exercise with images from my 11-24mm lens, and actually found it harder to whittle down my initial selection of 41 images to just ten, but here again, is an album of my favorite ten images with this lens. I know I’m a big softy, but I enjoy looking back and taking a moment to pay tribute to the gear that has helped me to capture what I consider to be some of my best work.

There will be times when I miss that 4mm that I’m losing by switching from the 11-24mm to a 15-35mm lens, but I can’t say I’ll miss having to take the lens off my camera to put a piece of cut gelatin ND filter into the filter holder on the back of the 11-24mm lens, and then try to get it back on the camera without moving the focus or zoom rings, because with heavy filters, even by increasing the ISO, I couldn’t see to compose and focus with the filter attached. But otherwise, I’ll certainly miss the 11-24mm.

RF 15-35mm f/2.8 Lens First Impressions

Having literally only shot a handful of images with the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens at this point, I’m not really in a position yet to do a full review, but I did want to share a few images in a First Impressions style update. The first thing that hit me as I took the 15-35mm lens out of its box is that it’s bigger than I anticipated, but being an f/2.8 lens, and a sturdily built L lens, I guess I should have expected that, and it certainly isn’t a problem.

EF 11-24mm (left) and RF 15-35mm (right)
EF 11-24mm (left) and RF 15-35mm (right)

I lose 4mm on the wide end of the focal length zoom range and gain 11mm on the long end, and it will be nice to once again have a little overlap with my 24-105mm lens, which makes it more versatile. Here is a photo of the two lenses together, to give you an idea of their difference in size and shape. Note that the 15-35mm lens is slightly closer to the camera so that I could focus on the text of both lenses, and that might make the 15-35mm lens look slightly larger by comparison. At 840g though, the 15-35mm is a welcome 340g lighter than the 11-24mm lens, and dimensions-wise it’s 20mm smaller in diameter, and 5mm shorter in height.

EF 11-24mm (left) and RF 15-35mm (right)
EF 11-24mm (left) and RF 15-35mm (right)

Before I boxed up the 11-24mm lens to send to the shop that I’d bought the 15-35mm lens from in part-exchange, I placed the 50mm lens on the table, and from approximately the same distance, shot a photo with each of the wide-angle lenses at the widest focal length. This may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, but with limited time, I found the information that I was most concerned about, and that was how much wider that 4mm gets me in practical use, and sharp the lenses are in comparison, at the center, and near their edges.

First, here are the two images uncropped, so that you can see the approximate difference between 11mm and 15mm. You’ll have to excuse my shadow on the left of the frame and that I didn’t use a tripod. As you can see, either side of the white background paper is more visible in the 11mm shot, but it’s not a huge amount. Click on one of the images then navigate back and forth with your mouse or arrow keys on your keyboard to compare the images.

Next, here is a crop of just the 50mm lens from the middle of the frame, so that you can compare the sharpness of the two lenses. The 11-24mm lens image is on the left, and the image from the 15-35mm lens is on the right. There is not a lot in it, but under close inspection, you can see that the 15-35mm lens image is slightly sharper.

In this final pair of crops though, all from the same image, we can compare the sharpness of the two lenses near the edge of the frame. On the left is the image from the 11-24mm and the image shot using the 15-35mm lens is on the right. I was blown away by how much sharper the 15-35mm lens is close to its edge, wide open, at 15mm.

I thought for a moment that the lens in the edge of the image shot with the 11-24mm lens might be out of the depth of field, but at 11mm, focusing at around 60cm or two feet, and with an aperture of f/5.6 which is what I was using, with my Photographer’s Friend app set in Pixels Peeper mode, which is the most punishing, we still have almost 60 cm or two feet of focus, so that is not the case. The 15-35mm lens is just amazing! I was never really unhappy with the sharpness of the 11-24mm at the edges, but that was before I saw what Canon could do with the RF mount and their mirrorless camera bodies. This, to me, is a revelation!

This whole slew of new gear is a revelation in many ways too. Over the last six years or so, Canon has enabled me to gradually shrink my kit down, while continuously increasing the image quality of my work. I have, of course, yet to see what the Canon EOS R5 and the new 100-500mm lens is capable of, but I trust that Canon wouldn’t release anything that is a smidgeon less than stellar at this point, so I’m really just not worried about that. I will continue to report on my findings and hope that it helps those of you that reside with me in the Canon camp or are thinking of jumping ship.

We’ll start to wrap this episode up there. If you are thinking of picking up any of this new gear that we’re seeing released in the coming months, and you found this post useful, please help to support my efforts by buying with our B&H Photo affiliate links to the right. You might also want to check out my gear page on B&H as this is updated relatively regularly, and some RF related changes will be implemented soon! No lenses or cameras were injured or ill-treated during the making of this review, and no-one paid me to do this or gave me any of the gear that I talked about today.


Show Notes

View Martin’s Gear Page on B&H Photo: https://mbp.ac/gear
Canon EOS R5 Body – https://mbp.ac/EOSR5
Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM Lens – https://mbp.ac/100-500
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens – https://mbp.ac/15-35

Music by Martin Bailey


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Canon EOS 7D Mark II First Impressions (Podcast 453)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II First Impressions (Podcast 453)

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, and last week used it to shoot three days with the adorable Snow Monkeys in Nagano, four hours north-west of Tokyo, and I’m now in a position to talk about my first impressions. I’ll follow up with a more detailed review later, but here are my initial thoughts on this new camera.

1.6X Crop Factor

Before we jump in and look at some photographs, let’s talk a little about the camera itself. Probably one of the most important aspects for many is that the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a crop factor camera. I have been shooting with full frame bodies since the first generation 5D and 1Ds, and although my old 1D Mark IV that I used for wildlife had a 1.3X crop factor, since the release of the Canon EOS 1D X I have been shooting exclusively with full frame cameras.

The 7D Mark II has a 1.6X crop factor, which means that if you are shooting at a 100mm focal length, the camera actually captures an image that is the equivalent of a 160mm focal length. Now, for wide angle shots this is obviously an unwelcome limitation, but my main use for this camera is going to be wildlife, and similarly for sports photographers too, getting a little bit more reach out of our telephoto lenses is generally a good thing.

100% Viewfinder

I’ll try to go into more detail on all the new stuff when I have more images to share and more experience with the 7D Mark II, but for now, here are a few other things that I am very happy to see in this new body. Firstly, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the viewfinder on the 7D Mark II is approximately 100%. The original 7D also has a 100% viewfinder, although I never used the 7D. My old crop factor cameras had very dark viewfinders though, which I never really liked. You don’t necessarily notice this if it’s all you shoot with, but once you start shooting with a 100% viewfinder the narrower field of view models seem dark and difficult to really see well.

Intelligent Viewfinder II

I also really like some of the new features in the Intelligent Viewfinder II, such as the ability to turn on a permanent digital level that displays whenever you half-press the shutter button. On my other bodies, I have to map the M-fn button to display this level whenever I press it, and I was stumped initially that I could not map this button in the custom functions of the 7D Mark II, but then I found how to turn this on in the viewfinder, and love that it’s there all the time now as I shoot.

Here’s a screenshot from the User’s Manual to show you what I mean. The digital level is at the top of the frame, above the focusing points, which means that you can now simply glance at that whenever you need to ensure you have the camera level, rather than pressing a button to display this information using the focus points, as is the case for the 5D Mark III and 1D X that I also use.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Intelligent Viewfinder II

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Intelligent Viewfinder II

You can also now display various camera settings to be displayed in the Intelligent Viewfinder, such as your auto-focus mode, which I love being able to do. I switch between One Shot and AI Servo quite a lot, and being able to see that right there in the viewfinder is very useful. I’ve also turned on displaying my image quality in the viewfinder as well. I only ever shoot raw, but I have found myself in JPEG through reasons I can never understand in the past, and have had to reshoot images in raw, so I just like to be able to see this in the viewfinder as a double-check.

65 Focus Points!

Of course, the other major change and probably the reason that I decided to buy the 7D Mark II is that it has an almighty 65 Focus Points, all cross-type! The 5D Mark III and 1D X have a very respectable 61 focus points, but even the 1D X with it’s incredible auto-focussing only has 41 cross-type sensors. Now, does this mean that the 7D Mark II has better autofocus, well, unfortunately it doesn’t really, as we’ll see.

10 Frames Per Second!

Another feature that sports and wildlife shooters are always interested in, is the number of frames per second, and the 7D Mark II shoots a very respectable 10 frames per second. This is the same as the 1D Mark IV, which was the top of the line sports camera from Canon before the 1D X, and even the 1D X only beats that by 2 frames per second in raw mode, so again, 10 fps for a $1,800 camera is just crazy-talk. Amazing! As an aside, the shutter sound of the 7D Mark II is pretty sweet too. Not very loud, but a nice solid sound that’s very easy on the ears. [Listen to the audio to actually hear the shutter sound I recorded.]

GPS Built-in

I also really like how GPS is now built in, which saves me from having to use my GP-E2 which I’m still using on my 5D Mark III and 1D X to geotag my images. In the 7D Mark II settings you can set the camera to either just tag images, or create a track-log and tag the images at the same time. One thing that I don’t like is that the camera continues to record coordinates even after you turn it off. This means that you have to go into the menus to disable GPS when you no longer need the track-log to be created. In my opinion this should turn off when you turn off the camera, or at least have an option for it to be turned off with the camera, which would save going into the menus each time.

“Enhanced” Weatherproofing

At first, I thought this might be a bit of clever marketing blurb, as it was with the 5D Mark III, but Canon claim that the 7D Mark II has “enhanced dust and weather resistance”, and go on to state in the camera specifications that the camera’s seals are built to resist water and dust, which in addition to the rigid magnesium alloy body make the 7D Mark II “ready for almost anything”.

Now, I’m still not going to take this at face value until I’ve really given the weather proofing a good hammering, but we had a fair amount of rain on one afternoon with the snow monkeys, and it snowed for most of the rest of the time, and the camera held up fine so far, without any kind of protection. Now of course, snow isn’t wet until it melts, so that’s not such a great test, but the rain didn’t bother it at all, in the few hours that I got mine wet. More to come on this later as I really put the camera through it’s paces.

7D Mark II in Snow

7D Mark II in Snow

Built-in Intervalometer and Bulb Timer

I also want to give an honourable mention to the built-in intervalometer and bulb timer, which has been a long time coming, and I love this, but, it’s totally wasted for me on this camera, because I will almost certainly never use this feature on my wildlife camera. This is something that I would have loved in the 5D Mark III, and will be happy to hopefully see in a future full-frame camera, which is what I’ll use for my landscape work.

Field Test

OK, so they’re the main features that I am impressed with, and that lead me to pick up my own 7D Mark II, but how did it handle in the field?

As I said, I used the 7D Mark II for three full days shooting the Snow Monkeys with some private tour customers that I took over to Jigokudani for four days last week. I shot all of the images that we’ll look at today with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens without an Extender fitted. I’ll update you on these findings after I’ve taken this camera to Hokkaido with me to photograph the red-crowned cranes, whooper swans and sea eagles for a total of almost four week in January and February, but my initial impressions based on photographing the snow monkeys are as follows…

Slight Start-up Lag

First of all, if you want the ultimate sports and wildlife camera, the 1D X is still it, for a number of very subtle reasons, but when you consider that the 7D Mark II is almost a quarter of the price, the reasons could become pretty insignificant. One of the reasons is that there is a very slight lag when you first raise the camera to your eye to capture something in a hurry.

A number of times I’d see a snow monkey doing something that I wanted to capture in an instant, but the camera takes just a split second or maybe even half a second or so to respond as you try to focus initially. Now, this could be down to the Intelligent Tracking and Recognition, or iTR Autofocus which the manual says can slow down focusing a little. I prefer to leave iTR AF turned on though, because it uses subject colour information to continue to focus on the subject, which is pretty important when tracking a subject around the frame.

It’s also very possible, if not likely, that the lag that I saw was due to the cold weather, which slows down the liquid crystal action that is used to display the in-screen information, giving the impression that the camera itself is slow. The temperature was between 1 degrees Celsius to around minus 8 during our time with the snow monkeys, which is certainly cold enough to start seeing this behaviour.

So, is this slight lag a big problem? Not really. I can totally live with it, especially when you consider the cost of this camera compared to the 1D X. We aren’t really comparing apples to apples by expecting it to be quite as snappy. I’ll let you know how the camera fairs in really cold conditions once I’ve used it in Hokkaido, but I don’t think this is going to be a big issue. Plus, Canon only actually support the camera down to freezing point, which is ridiculous when you consider how these cameras are used, but that’s their decision to make I guess.

AI Servo Performance

The other thing that wildlife and sports shooters are going to be interested in hearing about, is the AI Servo focusing performance. Once again, so far this doesn’t seem as accurate as the 1D X. Let’s look at a series of 30 frames of a snow monkey coming straight towards the camera. This burst was literally three seconds long, so I didn’t stop shooting at all between these thirty frames.

Snow Monkey Autofocus Test

Snow Monkey Autofocus Test

The very first frame was totally sharp, so the camera had no problem locking on to the face of the snow monkey quickly as I raised the camera. Note that in the settings I have the camera setup to give priority to focus for the 1st AI Servo image, so this is as expected. I also have the AI Servo 2nd image priority set to Focus rather than Speed, so I was expecting the following frames to be perhaps more consistently sharper, but that wasn’t the case. The camera kept sharp focus until frame 5 when it ran off a little for a total of 5 frames, before locking back in on the face in frame 10, the last image on the top row.

100% Crop of First Frame

100% Crop of First Frame

[UPDATE] I’m adding the above and below 100% crop of the first and the tenth frame of this series in reply to a comment. This first frame was the sharpest of the first 10 frames, with the rest varying slightly between that and the following tenth frame image.

100% Crop of Tenth Frame

100% Crop of Tenth Frame

After that, frames 11 through to 17 were also slightly soft, with the focus just slightly behind the face. Frame 18 was sharp again, and then the focus ran off very slightly again for five frames, getting gradually worse, until the focus almost locked back in again on frame 24 and it got really sharp again by frame 26. Unfortunately by that time the snow monkeys foot was starting to leave the bottom of the frame. The last two frames were totally soft, as the monkey dropped out of the frame.

I’m checking sharpness at 100% as I always do, because I want maximum sharpness, and honestly, I think the performance was under par, and I found this to be continuously the case for around eight similar bursts. The sharpness comes in for some frames, but then runs out again, and you just don’t see that level of failure with the 1D X with the same tracking and sensitivity settings.

Don’t get me wrong, if you aren’t worried about critical sharpness, many of these frames are usable, but they aren’t totally sharp. Here’s a 100% crop from frame 18, which is probably the sharpest of the series, so that you can see how sharp it got. I’d use this at a push, although I’m not totally happy with it. The settings for this series by the way was 1/800 of a second, at f/8, ISO 640.

Snow Monkey - Frame 18 100% Crop

Snow Monkey – Frame 18 100% Crop

Here too (below) are frames 19, 20 and 21, which gradually run more and more out of focus, from left to right. Don’t forget to click on the image to enlarge it to see the detail, or lack of detail in this case. This example is about 66% of the original, so it’s downsized very slightly to enable me to show you all three images together. Frame 19 is just about usable at a push, but frames 20 and 21 are unusable really. Now, in a burst like this, I’m happy if I have some usable frames, so this is not necessarily a bad result, but it’s not as good as I’d expected either.

Snow Monkeys Out of Focus - 66% Crop

Snow Monkeys Out of Focus – 66% Crop

So, these results are probably not what many of you were hoping to see and hear about, but this is the reality. Do bear in mind that even when using the 1D X we aren’t necessarily going to nail every frame, but the hit ratio is usually a bit higher than this in similar conditions. As I say though, this was from just over a handful of bursts, and I’ll be giving the 7D Mark II another good test in January and February on my Winter Tours & Workshops, and I will be sure to report my findings in March when I get back.

My auto-focus settings here were by the way were Tracking Sensitivity at zero, so equal priority for Locked on and Responsiveness. Acceleration/deceleration Tracking was set to 1, which should help to track a subject moving at various speeds, and AF point auto switching was set to zero, as I usually prefer the auto-focus to stick with my subject rather than easily moving to surrounding objects.

ISO Performance

OK, so before we finish for this first impressions review, let’s take a quick look at the ISO performance. I shot between ISO 640 and 1600 over the three days, and was pretty impressed with the ISO performance to say that there are 20.2 megapixels on the 7D Mark II’s APS-C sensor. I’ll need to do some straight comparisons to really compare the 7D Mark II and the 5D Mark III and 1D X, but from what I’ve seen, up to ISO 1600, the 7D is seems to be pretty much on a par with the 5D Mark III. Here is a 100% crop from an image shot at ISO 1600, 1/125 of a second at f/8.

Grooming Junior - 100% Crop

Grooming Junior – ISO 1600 100% Crop

Click on the image to view at full size, as the above image is resized for the blog post, but you can see in the full sized image that there is a little bit of visible grain creeping in, but it’s very organic, and nothing that I’ll worry about when I have to start to increase my ISO in low light. I’ll do some direct comparison’s later, but for now, all I can say is that I’m pretty happy with the ISO performance of the 7D Mark II.

Here too is the image that I cropped this last example from, just in case you were wondering what this little guy looks like in context.

Grooming Junior

Grooming Junior

And here to finish with is another shot of a little monkey, just because. You’ve gotta love these little guys. This was shot at ISO 800, 1/400 of a second at f/5.6.

Little Monkey

Little Monkey

Current Conclusion

So, after that you’re probably wondering how happy I am with the 7D Mark II. Well, at this point in time, despite the new 65 cross-type focus points, I’m happy enough, but not overly impressed with the auto-focus. I’ll know more about this soon, but for now, it’s good, but not amazing. ISO performance is good, especially considering the 20.2 megapixel resolution, and there are a bunch of other features that I mentioned that are very welcome too.

All-in-all, it’s a big thumbs up, and when you consider that I’m basing most of my comparisons with the Canon EOS 1D X which is almost four times the price, you really can’t go wrong with the 7D Mark II. As a cheaper alternative to the top of the line, you’ll get what you pay for, and much, much more.

100-400mm Mark II Review Coming Up!

I have actually just also picked up the new 100-400mm Mark II lens released on Dec 19 (2014) the day after this visit to the Snow Monkeys. I will be taking the 100-400mm on the road in January and February, and will be reporting my findings on that in March too, along with the 7D Mark II update. If you don’t usually follow my blog, do bookmark it, subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes etc. so that you don’t miss these upcoming reviews along with all the other photography goodness that I publish.


Show Notes

Canon EOS 7D Mark II on B&H: https://mbp.ac/7d2

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens: https://mbp.ac/70-200ii

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens: https://mbp.ac/100-400ii

Music by Martin Bailey


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