Canon EOS 7D Digital Camera Review$1,699.99
The Canon 7D uses the MPEG-4 codec to compress video and the camera can shoot video with a number of frame rate and resolution options. Most users are likely to shoot Full HD 1920 x 1080 video with the 7D, in which you have the option of a 24p or 30p frame rate. This offering of a 24p frame rate option stands in stark difference to the Canon 5D Mark II, which can only shoot 30p video.
In addition to the Full HD settings on the Canon 7D, there is also an option for shooting HD video at a 1280 x 720 resolution with a 60p frame rate. The camera has one standard definition recording option—a 640 x 480 resolution with a 60p frame rate. The Canon 7D doesn't have as many compression options as the Panasonic GH1, which can shoot using either AVCHD or MJPEG compression, but its multiple frame rate settings and standard definition recording feature are still worthy attributes.
According to Canon, you should be able to store 49 minutes of HD video (in any frame rate) on a 16GB SD/SDHC memory card. The same size memory card should hold 99 minutes of standard definition video shot with the 7D. As we see with many video-capable DSLRs, the Canon 7D has a single clip limit of 4GB or 29 minutes, 59 seconds. Recording ceases automatically once this limit has been reached, and you must press the record button again to start a new video clip (the camera will not start a new clip automatically). Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content
The Canon 7D essentially functions under automatic control in every mode except Manual mode. In all the other modes shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are set automatically, although exposure can be adjusted manually if you wish. The camera does not have a continual autofocus feature in video mode, so you do have to press the shutter button down halfway (or press the focus button on the back of the camera) in order to focus your image automatically. Autofocus takes a good deal of time (often 1-2 seconds, depending on the lens) and makes quite a bit of noise.
Auto exposure was also somewhat slow on the Canon 7D, but the camera produced accurate results in video mode. Transitions between light and dark took a bit longer than a regular consumer camcorder. Auto white balance was generally effective, as was the auto ISO setting.
The amount of zoom available on the Canon 7D is directly linked to what kind of lens you use with the camera. The camera is a DSLR, which means it has an interchangeable lens system with a variety of compatible lenses. All of our test footage was shot using a 28mm - 135mm lens, which is equivalent to a roughly 5x optical zoom. To zoom with the camera you must rotate the zoom ring on the lens—you can't zoom using a toggle or switch like you can with most camcorders.
The Canon 7D does not have a continual autofocus feature like you'd find on nearly all regular camcorders. This means you must focus manually during video recording, or press a button to autofocus every time you want to refocus on a moving subject. By pressing the autofocus button, the camera's focus motor will make noise and the exposure levels will change for a few seconds while the 7D focuses. This is the normal way for DSLRs to autofocus—it just doesn't work well in conjunction with video recording. Of the video-capable DSLRs we've tested, only the Micro Four Thirds cameras (Panasonic GH1, Olympus E-P1, and Panasonic GF1) feature continual autofocus systems in video mode.
Exposure can be set manually on the 7D in all shooting modes except for Manual mode. The camera has a range of exposure controls going from -5 to +5 EV and can be set in 1/3 EV steps. Exposure can be adjusted during video recording (or before) and is done so by rotating the large dial on the back of the camera.
Aperture and shutter speed can only be controlled for videos when the camera is in Manual mode. Each can be set independently (in Manual mode), with the shutter being controlled by the top-mounted dial and the aperture controlled by the round dial on the back of the camcorder (the same dial that sets exposure in all other modes). The camera has a wide range of shutter speeds available in video mode, ranging from 1/30 to 1/4000 of a second. We would have liked to see Canon offer a few slower shutter speeds (like 1/15, 1/10, or 1/4), just to give users the option of shooting video with a very slow shutter effect. Both aperture and shutter speed can be set manually while video recording is taking place.
ISO can also be set in Manual mode, but you do have the option of setting the camera to auto ISO control in this mode as well. The camera's entire ISO range is available in video mode (from ISO 100 to 6400 and expandable to 12800). You cannot change the ISO setting while you are recording, so you must set it before you hit the record button.
The camera has the same white balance controls in video mode as it does for taking photos. This means you can set a custom white balance, use a white balance preset, or set the color temperature manually. In addition to these manual controls, the Canon 7D also has a grid display option in video mode that positions a grid on the LCD to assist with framing the shot (the grid does not appear in your recorded footage).
Audio features usually aren't the strong point of any video-capable DSLR and the Canon 7D doesn't do much to buck this trend. It has a tiny built-in microphone up front, but this mic only records monaural audio. The built-in mic also doesn't pick up clean audio whatsoever. It records plenty of noise coming from the autofocus motor, rotating dials, and an audible crackling sound was always audible whenever live view mode was engaged. The mic is also located in an area where you fingers are likely to accidentally rub or tap when you grip the camera or rotate the lens ring. Basically, don't use the built-in mic if you want good audio along with your video on the 7D.
Thankfully, the Canon 7D does offer a 3.5mm external mic jack. You can record stereo audio by connecting an external mic to this jack, and you can place the microphone farther away from the camera so you don't pick up any external noise (your best bet would be to hold an external mic on a stick, boom operator style). Whether you use the built-in mic or connect an external one to the 3.5mm mic jack, the audio levels on the 7D will be set automatically.