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Posted by Dogbytes, 07 August 2023 · 1,033 views

canon eos 7d
Oops! A look back at the first couple of weeks on the Dark Side!

Okay, so in the midst of a period of, well, austerity, I find myself utterly pissed off with taking pics with my phone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great phone - it’s just a bit lacking in control and tactile feedback when it comes to being a camera. So what’s a man to do in a situation like that? Find a really cheap camera, thats what.

Now, it turns out, not altogether surprisingly, that there are cheap cameras and there are good cameras but there are no cheap, good cameras. If I’d had £500 to spend, there would have been some chance but I had £200! Okay, I thought, if I can’t get a good camera for cheap, I can perhaps get one that used to be good! You may be beginning to sense my desperation by this point in my tale :D

Anyway, to cut a long story a bit shorter, this very morning I ended up collecting a minty mint Canon EOS 7D complete with battery grip and an EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens. Within my budget too! So why the title of this journal entry?

Well it’s like this… I have never owned a Canon DSLR. In fact the only Canon I’ve ever owned was an original Ixus APS film camera back in the last century. I’ve had (film & digital) Olympus, Nikon, Leica M, Leica R, repeats of many of them and Sigma - but no Canons. I haven’t been avoiding them, they just never crossed my path until now. However, I didn’t let that put me off - a LOT of people get on very well with them, they’re well respected, they have at various times been, arguably the best you could get for certain jobs.

Imagine my horror then when, after going and looking at said camera, I get it home only to find I hate it with the same fervour Jeremy Clarkson has for his dislike of Meghan Markle! I took four pictures with it and now I never want to see it ever again! I haven’t even looked at the pictures.

HOW can anyone use such a thing? The ergonomics of it are the worst I have ever experienced on any camera ever. There are controls all over the place and you need fingers like needles to operate some of them. What the fuck were they thinking with those four buttons on the top? Why can I not reach the On/Off switch without repositioning one of my hands when I pick the camera up? There is no way this thing can be operated by touch which means I have to put my reading glasses on to change anything.

Yes, yes, yes, you‘ve been using them for twenty years and you‘ve never had a problem. Crap! Even my Sigma FP had better ergonomics than this (even if it did have worse AF). Well, like it or not, I’m stuck with it for the time being, so I’d better find away to get on with it, if indeed I can bring myself to get it out of its bag.

Hopefully I’ll be back before too long with some saving graces. They’ll have to be bloody big though.

The next morning…

Well I spent a bit of time, yesterday evening, watching YouTube vids by people (in recent years, mind you!) who reckon that the 7D is the best APSC DSLR ever! Well, I’m not quite there yet but I did take it out this morning a shoot a few dozen test pics. It may not be quite as bad as first impressions led me to believe…

Two weeks later…

Well I’ve still got it! I won’t say I like it (well, not much anyway) but I don’t mind it. It’s got a nice feel to it - a bit of substance to it and with a well damped mirror action. I’ll never get used to the ergonomics. They’re just plain bad and I fail to see why I should have to work around Canon’s stupidity. I leave it on Aperture Priority, Auto ISO and Evaluative Metering. Back button focus, single shot. I use the front wheel for the aperture and the rear dial for Exposure Compensation. That’s it.

With most modern cameras I shoot jpg 99.99% of the time. Nikon jpgs are such that you can and there’s still plenty latitude for adjustment. With the Canon I have to shoot RAW. All the time. The jpgs aren’t great and there isn’t much can be done about them. The RAW files are reasonably good IF you are very careful with exposure.

The Dynamic Range of this old APSC sensor is bizarrely restricted. I imagine it was okay when it came out but it’s not now. If there’s a highlight to be seen, it’ll be blown unless you are obsessive about checking and correcting the metering decisions the camera has made. This is not helped by the fact that its ergonomics mean I can’t easily compensate on the fly. I end up leaving it with -1 stop exposure dialed in and dealing with the consequences later.

On the plus side, it’s a bit of a revelation how detailed 18mp actually is. Obviously, if you put it side by side with a modern hi-res sensor, the difference is plain to see but in practical terms it’s fine. Likewise the Image Quality, the ‘look’ I’m getting to the images, is very good. I don’t know whether it’s the lens or the sensor (because I on,y have the one lens) but it’s working. The images are fine.

Maybe it’ll all end well afterall. Watch this space…

Expose for the highlights, let the shadows be damned.


I hate fiddling with a camera when I should be taking pictures. Pictures... not captures! Gawd, I hate that word. Frames.... is OK.


There was a book... actually, my father bought it for me back in the early seventies, called "Independent Photography" by ... uh, Robert Foothorapt (I think that's how it's spelled)... anyway, it's a good tome for anyone interested in the art and science of photography, even if it was written loong before digital. The author deals with many of the same quirks as you and grouses about them frequently over the course of the book. It's a good read.


However, the main point... (I know, you were afraid that there wasn't going to be a main point!) ... is that the camera doesn't take the picture. The photographer does.


It's just a tool... a means to an end. The vision is inside the photographer.


I'm sure you'll wrangle that Canon to the ground and have it hog tied before long. Actually, it looks like you already have.



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I usually shoot old Canons as if they were loaded with fast slide film.

Protect those highlights!

Noise in underexposed shadows can be saved with a good De-noise app or plugin, but blown highlights are lost forever.


It might be worth downloading and evaluating PhotoNinja as it tends to tweak a bit more DR out of any old(ish) raw files. The built-in de-noising and colour calibration tools don't exactly hurt the workflow when working with older sensors either.


It is quite stable even on older Macs, I run 1.4.0c on an old 2007 Core2Duo as well as my 2020 16" i9

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Yes, I was aware that highlight protection would have to be a priority - I just didn’t realise how much of a priority and to what extent the highlights would need to be protected! I also didn’t realise, and I’m still quite shocked about it, just how noisy the shadows would be. You’d need to shooting in a studio to be able to control the light enough to avoid blown highlights and noisy shadows at the same time. When I’m shooting outside, even in pretty flat light, I’m going to get one or the other. How sensor technology has improved!

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The most objectionable thing with noisy shadows, to me, at least -- is color noise. If you can eliminate that, you've gone a long way towards fixing your shadow noise problem. 


Since I've never shot with a digital Canon camera I can't be much more help beyond that. Some sensors don't react well to noise canceling software but most of them get rid of color noise fairly well.


But protect those highlights ... once they're gone, shows over.



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A few years back, I went to the dark side with a Canon film camera.  I hated it, and switched to Nikon and never went back.  

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A few years back, I went to the dark side with a Canon film camera.  I hated it, and switched to Nikon and never went back.  

I’ve had it five weeks now, I think, and I’ve become a bit more objective about it. In fairness to it, the body has a feeling of immense solidity to it - more so even than an F3 or F4. Its AF is no worse than my D610 was, it misses regularly with no real excuse - it was never going to be another D850, I suppose! The metering is just weird and the dynamic range is shocking. 
What worries me most is that the lenses are so good. I managed to get a bit more cash over the last month and have added two more, so I now have and EF-S 24/2.8STM (38.4mm equivalent) and an EF 200/2.8 L ii (320mm equivalent) All the lenses are excellent bordering exceptional. Nikon have nothing to touch any of them at that price point. I find myself wondering what an EOS 5DR might be like… :D

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