Short Answer: Yes!
Long Answer: Read On
A few days ago I was "Earthshatteringly Disappointed" with my new 7D. However, upon learning that I couldn't return it, I decided to give it a fair shake to see if it would be worth keeping or dumping for a loss.
I took it out to Jackson, Wyoming yesterday and shot quite a few shots and I wanted to share the results here.
Firstly, the photos linked from this post were all shot with these settings in common:
Lens: 17-55 f/2.8 IS
Filter: Lee 0.6 ND Soft Grad
Tripod: Manfrotto 055XPROB with 322RC2 Head
Image Stabilizer: Off
Drive Mode: Single
Shutter Release: 2 Second Delay
Mirror Lockup: On
Auto Lighting Optimizer: Off
Silent Shooting: Off
Long Exposure NR: Off
Output: Full RAW
Edited In: Adobe Lightroom 3.5 (Camera Raw 6.5)
Now, my best two shots of the day (full resolution jpegs):
Shot 1 Details:
Focal Length: 24
Focus: Back of Barn
Shot 1 Edits:
Tone Curve Adjustments
Shot 2 Details:
Focal Length: 35
Shot 2 Edits:
Tone Curve Adjustments
Lens Profile Corrections:
Personally, I am really happy with these shots. Are they winning any awards? No. But, that is _my_ failing and not the camera ;-)
Both shots show a ton of detail. Shot2 is a familiar shooting place. I have tons of photos that look exactly like this from my XSiâ€¦ but they don't even come close to the level of detail displayed here. Shot1 I've shot a few times (most recently a few months ago) and comparing to my XSi I definitely received quite a bit more detail from my 7D.
But what about noise? The 7D has quite a lot of it for shooting at Low ISO, but I found that I could clean it up adequately with NR without too much of a loss of detail in other areas (which is one thing I was worried aboutâ€¦ what good are 18 MP if I have to blur everything with NR?). Here is a comparison of the tip of the "Grand" in Shot2 both before and after editing:http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7161/6495416405_1318e18975_o.jpg
The noise in the sky is easy to notice, but there is also quite a bit of noise "on" the mountain as well. But as you can see it cleaned up pretty nicely. Would I rather the noise wasn't there? Definitely! Is it tolerableâ€¦ it might be.
That was at ISO 100â€¦ someone in the "Earthshattering" thread suggested I shoot at ISO 160. Let's compare 100 vs 160 before we do any edits: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7154/6495415439_e27d29e1e9_o.jpg
To my eyes the 100 (which is on the left) is ever so slightly cleaner. Let's see what those same shots look like after we edit the photo:http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7174/6495415939_aa6ac7d7aa_o.jpg
Now we can definitely see that the ISO 100 shot cleaned up better. These zooms are from Shot2â€¦ but the same phenomena happens in Shot1 (where ISO 100 is again cleaner). I think I'll be sticking to ISO 100.
Last thing I was interested in is the diffraction limit using this lens / body combo. In the "Earthshattering" thread it was proposed that the diffraction limit on the 7D is f/6.9â€¦ and in fact that appears to be the case! I shot a _ton_ of exposures from f/5.6 up to f/14â€¦ and anything over f/7 definitely gets fuzzier! That said, I found that up to about f/9 there wasn't any real difference, but beyond that you were definitely losing sharpness. Here is a comparison of f/8 to f/11 for the trees in the foreground of Shot2:http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7012/6495472603_bdae7d4f33_o.jpg
The reason I chose to zoom to the trees here is because they were "foreground interest" in this shot, but not terribly close to the camera. Recall from above that in this shot I manually focused on the mountains in the backgroundâ€¦ so I would need some amount of a small aperture to make sure everything in the foreground is sharp. Turns out, that for this situation f/8 was enough to keep things sharp in the foregroundâ€¦ and pushing further, even to f/11 caused a loss of clarity!
This situation was the same in Shot1â€¦ where I focused toward the back of the barn (which is probably a little close for true hyperfocus, I just wanted to make sure I had the barn in focus). When I look at the mountains in the back I was expecting that something beyond f/9 was going to be necessary to get the most sharpness back thereâ€¦ but not true. Again, anything over f/9 softened the details in the mountains.
This is something I never saw on my XSi. I don't know the exact diffraction limit on my XSi but anything over about f/13 or f/14 definitely produced a softer image. This is telling me that the 7D is definitely more sensitive to being fed a sharp imageâ€¦. i.e. the 7D is definitely recording more detail.
Now were both of these shots (f/8 and f/11) acceptable: definitely. But it's always good to know where the limits actually are for your kit.
So what's the final verdict here?
I believe that when it comes to IQ the 7D can hold it's own for landscape photography. When you include the numerous benefits of using the 7D in the mix, I think it makes a great landscape photography tool.
Pros For Lanscapes:
- Body Design
It was ~15 degrees when I was shooting these yesterday. Because of the layout of the 7D I was able to keep my gloves on the whole time! Good Stuff: dedicated buttons for advanced options, joystick and wheels workable with gloves, big buttons on the left easy to press with gloves, big bright viewfinder, LCD panel on top gives an instant reading of current options, and more
- Custom Modes
C1 is now "Landscape Mode" for me. This has been a dream of mine for years. All those options at the top of the post are dialed into C1â€¦ it brings tears to my eyes to know that I can put the camera in C1 and shootâ€¦
- Built In Level
I have bubble levels, but being able to use the built-in electronic level is handy.
- One Touch Live View
I use Live View to do manual focusing for tripod mounted shots - the 7D has a nice big button that makes that easy to do with gloves on.
- Feels good in the hands with a heavy lens on.
Again, with gloves, the 7D is not going anywhereâ€¦ always a bit dicey with my XSi!
Details! I feel like I got a level of detail in those shots that I wouldn't have been able to get with my XSi. I don't currently have my XSi or I would do a direct comparison, but just looking at the photos on my screen (and comparing to previous shots with my XSi) the details certainly stand out.
I didn't need to use AF much when shooting yesterday (had plenty of time to setup a tripod and manually focus) but the few times I did I was extremely impressed with how quick and accurate the focusing was on the 7D. It just doesn't mess around! I also love how I can switch focusing modes right in the viewfinder without taking my eye away (to select AF point or points, etc.)
For both of the shots I posted I think I dialed in +1/3 exposure adjustment (just to bring out a bit more shadow detail for use in post). The +1/3 certainly wasn't necessary. The built-in evaluative metering is _awesome_. It never failed me all day! I actually never use my XSi in evaluative metering modeâ€¦ it just always does the wrong thing. I actually always use center weighted averageâ€¦ at least then I would have some idea of what it would do so I could compensate manually. The 7D frees me up to focus more on composition and less on trying to second guess the metering system.
This thing feels like a tank. I wouldn't hesitate to take it out in a storm. It certainly didn't mind the fairly cold temperatures yesterday.
Cons for Landscapes:
- Low ISO Noise
It is there. I do wish it wasn't. But it can be cleaned fairly well in post.
Not a big deal, but when hiking around I did notice the weight a bit. For the weatherproofing and hardiness of the body the weight is certainly acceptable.
So am I going to sell it? At this point: I don't think so. I just enjoyed using it a little too much yesterday.
If I could send it back, would I?? That is a hard one. I still think the answer to that question is probably yes. I think I would probably wait a few months and see if a 5D3 comes out. However, this isn't an option for me. Yes, I could sell it, but I would probably lose $300-$500â€¦ which is hard to justify considering all of the great things about this camera.
Note that in this post I didn't talk about any of the other things the 7D does well. I did use it to shoot around Jackson Wyoming quite a bit with my wife yesterday and found it an ABSOLUTE joy to use while walking around and taking candid photos of my wife. I won't go into all of that here though, because I don't think anyone is questioning the 7D for that use.
It's been shown numerous times that the 7D excels in basically every way other than landscapesâ€¦ hopefully I've shed some light on some issues surrounding that use of a 7D.