01 October 2017

Long-Term Use / Experience with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Long-Term Use / Experience with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II
From a Birds in Flight Photography Perspective

Entry-level body and zoom lenses
During 2013 I became seriously interested in photographing birds in flight around Woodbridge Island, Cape Town. With the very close proximity to the Milnerton Lagoon and relative close access to most bird species I started out with the Canon EOS 700D and a variety of Canon 70-300mm lenses, eventually settling with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super telephoto lens.

Deciding on a long lens

I did a few months of extensive research before purchasing the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens with a decision based on; Autofocus speed, image quality, weight and lack of Image Stabilization. This lens served me very well through four EOS bodies and I still use this lens for my Birds in Flight Photography - exclusivity paired with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. Its probably my best long-term purchase (ROI) and will keep it for any future body upgrade pairings.

Common Starling in Flight: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Upgrading from the Canon EOS 70D
During 2014 I started shooting birds in flight around Woodbridge Island with the very responsive Canon EOS 70D paired with the EF 400mm f/5.6L lens and for all in-flight purposes I was more than satisfied with the results (ito Auto-focus, larger viewfinder, image quality, tracking and the EOS 70D's 7 fps).

I also purchased a second EOS 70D for maintaining an exclusive Birds in Flight pairing while using the second EOS 70D and the Canon EOS 6D for my low light, landscape and macro / close-up photography workshops and projects.

Early 2015 my Birds in Flight Photography at Woodbridge Island was recognized by one of our local Cape Town retailers and they provided me (via Canon South Africa) with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens for a week of testing and writing an article - of which I published shortly after the test period on my Canon Camera News website. The weather was not great, but I managed to do various shoots at two Cape Town locations. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II article is now available here on my new Vernon Chalmers Photography website: First Impressions and Test Shoots Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town Image Gallery / Samples

Pied Kingfisher in Flight: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Birds in Flight Workshops with Canon EOS 7D Mark II
During this time I also arranged  for the facilitation of my first Birds in Flight Photography Workshop Cape Town (which was sponsored by Canon South Africa via the Canon retailer). I traded one of my EOS 70D's for a new Canon EOS 7D Mark II, studied and practiced the 65-Point AF System for a few weeks and I was good to go for the workshop and to facilitate private training for Canon photographers who started upgrading to the Canon EOS 7D Mark II from the older Canon EOS 7D and EOS 70D's.

The First Impression and Test Shoots Cape Town article will have all my personal views and findings of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II as the current Canon flagship APS-C body. I still maintain the same views and impressions and although Nikon (as one other brand) became very competitive with the Nikon D500 I still believe the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (also as part of the EOS system wrt lenses et al) is still one of the best Birds in Flight / Action Photography APS-C bodies on the market today.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon Zoom vs Prime Lens (Birds in Flight Photography)
I've used the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM zoom lens on Canon South Africa's own Canon EOS 7D Mark II and during my field review of one of my workshop delegate's Canon EOS 80D and I can in all objectivity say that the AF and tracking speed of the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens is just (by a small margin in my opinion) more responsive than the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

Globally reported Canon EOS 7D Mark II AF issues
After the launch of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II in September 2014 there were a fair amount of complaints with the AF-system under certian conditions (ito sharpness and focus issues experienced with various lenses). I've read countless real world test articles, blog posts and comments on various websites. Some photographers really struggled and in some cases had their cameras exchanged. For some its still an ongoing challenge and the online discussions about the AF focus accuracy (under certain conditions) with some of the bodies are still active.

From the first Images: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Out Of The Box Shooting
Straight out of the box my copy of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II performed as expected (on many of the factory default-settings).

Up to today, more than two years later, the camera and AF-System is performing exactly the same it did when I captured my first 10 fps high-speed burst with this camera - Egyptian goose taking flight.

My Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens pairing is still  exclusively used for Birds in Flight photography and my other two EOS bodies are used for everything else.

I still have great pleasure going out to Woodbridge Island shooting the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and I still use this body (and AF-System) as benchmark for all my Birds in Flight Photography training and workshops - as it is in many ways the same as the Canon two 65-Point AF-systems Deployed on the Full Frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 5Ds (R) and EOS-1D X. Now we also have the upgraded 65-Point System in the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV / Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.

Perced Birds: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Perched Birds with Canon EOS 7D Mark II
I capture a fair amount of perched birds with this pairing and am quite comfortable to use the same Manual and AF-settings I will for my Birds in Flight Photography. From time to time (depending on the opportunity) I may use Av mode for a few captures, but the majority of the time I don't change anything - just to keep it simple and quick - and to always have my preferred Manual settings as the primary default  setup when going out for a shoot.

I have no immediate plans for replacing this body, but are keeping my eye on the possible release of a Canon EOS 7D Mark III. I prepared a Canon EOS 7D Mark III Wish List - from a Birds in Flight Photography perspective. I will probably replace my Canon EOS 6D with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV before year-end, but am still more than satisfied with the EOS 6D for low light,  landscape and some portraiture / fashion work. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II will replace my EOS 70D whenever we see a future Canon EOS 7D Mark III DSLR body. Looking forward for some macro and close-up photography projects once the EOS 7D Mark II is semi-retired from Birds in Flight.

Red-Eyed Dove in Flight: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
In conclusion
Birds in Flight Photography is in many ways a skill to be mastered irrespective of the camera body used. When I acquired the Canon EOS 7D Mark II I knew what my requirements where; more responsive AF-system, faster fps, two memory card slots, a more robust and configurable EOS body than the Canon EOS 70D - to be used with the same Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.

The EOS 7D Mark II is without any doubt one of the most advanced high-performance and action-orientated Canon EOS DSLR body. It most definitely met most of my requirements and expectations. Today it is still Canon's highest performing action photography EOS APS-C body in Canon's DSLR range. Its not perfect, I personally would have preferred a stop or two better low light / ISO performance for my Birds in Flight photography, but its not really a major issue,  I just shoot in good light (as I live right next to my Woodbridge Island shooting environment).

Yellow-billed duck: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
With a 300mm+ lens pairing (considering individual good light shooting conditions) and adequate photography skills the Canon EOS 7D Mark II Birds in Flight photographer will perform very well against most Canon EOS Full Frame DSLR offerings on the market today.

Towards the future...
The Canon EOS 7D Mark III will have to be another game changer for the Canon engineers to match / exceed the high expectations and shooting standards of most current Canon EOS 7D Mark II photographers. I'm personally looking forward to the release of the Canon EOS 7D Mark III - even it is just for more dynamic range and improved low light performance.

Article and Image Copyright: Vernon Chalmers 2017

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Canon EOS 7D Mark III Wish List for Birds in Flight Photography

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Birds in Flight Photo Gallery

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town