A firmware upgrade so important, we reviewed it!
I just got a new camera. It looks like my three-year-old Canon EOS 7D. It has all the same custom settings as my Canon EOS 7D. And it’s free!
In July, Canon announced that they would release a major firmware upgrade to its popular prosumer-level DSLR, the Canon EOS 7D, which is available at Adorama. The announcement was greeted with both enthusiasm and frustration, because we all had to wait until August before the firmware was available to download. As a 7D owner, I downloaded the firmware as soon as it became available in early August, and have spent the last couple of weeks testing this historic firmware release for this exclusive Adorama report.
The phrase “historic firmware release” sounds like an oxymoron. After all, most firmware updates address bugs, and maybe improve a minor feature or two. In the grand scheme of things, unless it is to fix a major bug, it’s been relatively trivial stuff (although important for those who have been faced with issues addressed by the firmware)f. But with v2.0, Canon introduced a menu of new and improved features—possibly the most extensive firmware overhaul ever—and set a new standard for consumer-level support of a digital camera. Best of all? If you already own the Canon EOS 7D, it’s free!
Key Canon EOS 7D features added or improved in v2.0:
- Buffer capacity increased from 15 to 25 RAW images
- Top ISO extended from 3200 to 6400
- Campatibility with Canon GPS GP-E2 receiver
- In-Camera RAW image processing
- Manual adjustment of audio levels in video, up to 64 levels
New features, such as RAW image processing, have been added to the existing menu structure.
How does the Canon EOS 7D loaded with Firmware v2.0 fare? Let’s find out!
Contrast, sharpness, saturation and color balance are all easily controlled after the fact in RAW images.
In-Camera RAW Processing
To access RAW processing, go to the first bottom of the first “blue” menu item and hit SET. This will access all RAW images on your memory card. (It will also indicate if you shot RAW only or if you shot RAW + JPEG.) Select the image you want to work on and again hit SET. A menu appears, giving you the options to:
- Change the White Balance;
- Apply a picture style (Portrait, Standard, Monochrome, or pre-set custom settings) or manually set contrast, sharpness, saturation or color tone;
- Apply or disable Auto Lighting Optimizer
- Apply or disable high-speed noise reduction in three levels of intensity;
- Change image size or quality.
The RAW image editing screen. Select the editing parameters from the five choices in the grey box on the left side, hit SET to go select options (see right image).
If you don’t like the changes you’ve made, you can reset them by pressing the Info button, and you can use the magnify tool to inspect detail areas of your image.
I found the RAW processing feature to be very useful; there are times when I’m on a train or have other downtime away from a computer that I can now use to do basic image editing, saving me several steps per image in post-processing. This feature, by itself, would be a major update. But there’s more.
When using my fastest memory card (a Lexar Professional 400x 8GB CF card), I was able to capture full burst rate of RAW images for at least 25 consecutive shots before things slowed down; I even shot 25 or more consecutive images when shooting RAW+JPEG simultaneously. When shooting JPEG only, burst mode never slowed down. I had it going for about a minute with no sign of slowing down—a pro-level performance. Before the upgrade, the buffer filled after about 15-18 frames: 8fps slowed down to 1 or 2 frames a second as the buffer struggled to make room. So for action shooters, this is a big improvement.
While this three-year-old camera’s low-light performance may no longer be top of the heap thanks to improvements in newer sensors, adding a stop of low-light performance came in handy in a pinch.
Monitor the sound: Check levels in this screen and adjust audio input in 46 steps.
Manual Sound Adjustment
If you’re a videographer, the big win here is the ability to adjust sound in camera, a feature the 7D notoriously lacked pre-v2.0. Before the update, audio was automatic, taking control of a key component of video out of the videographer’s hands. Buying an external audio recorder and syncing it to the video was the only solution for quality-conscious videographers. Now, you can preset audio, choosing one of 64 audio levels, which you can check via on-screen indicators to see which level is best. You can’t adjust audio levels during recording, but this is still a great improvement.
Image rating is very cool: I could quickly rate images as I reviewed them, giving me a quick reference so I could go directly to the best shots for post-processing. While I didn’t try out in-camera JPEG resizing, GPS compatibility, file name customization, or time zone settings, and didn’t do a before-after comparison of scrolling of magnified images (Canon says it’s faster now) I’ve spoken to other trusted Canon 7D users who say all of these new/improved features do indeed work as advertised.
Conclusion and Recommendation
If you own a Canon EOS 7D, this is a must-download firmware update. Download it now. If you were sitting on the fence about buying a 7D (after all, its $1,500 price tag is mighty tempting for a camera with its extensive feature set), the added capabilities provided by Firmware v2.0 might just be enough to convince you that now is the best time to buy a Canon EOS 7D—at Adorama, of course!