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Does the camera really makes a difference in the real world? Part 1 – Intro

I am going to talk about a scary subject in a few forthcoming posts, one that frightens me terribly…

Imagine for a moment, maybe in horror because that’s what is happening to me right now, that you taking this prise winning photograph and your beloved Canon EOS 5D, yes Charl I was thinking of you, or Canon EOS 7D’s shutter locks up or something happens that renders your professional camera completely useless. It gives me the shivers, just thinking about it. There is nothing in the world that you can do about it. What now?

But wait, there is a Canon EOS 1000D in your bag! Your partner uses it from time to time to help out at a wedding or other event where you need to be at 2 places at the same time. You are saved!!! But are you, really?

I am not really exactly talking from experience here, but I have had my share of catastrophes that came uncomfortably close to this scenario. The worst was our trip to the Kalahari where my prized Canon EOS 300D and Sigma 170-500 were destroyed just before entering the park for 5 days. I had no backup cameras, I could not afford one at the time. To tell the truth going to any game reserve without a camera would be the equivalent of being blind for me. I was lucky enough to have found a Canon EOS 400D in Upington and I still had a kit 55-200 lens with me which I promptly used for the rest of the trip.

Today, I feel a bit like the Mythbusters, I am going to simulate that very improbable catastrophe using 2 very different cameras both 1.6 cropped. One is considered as the ultimate Canon entry level, Canon EOS 1000D, the other camera is the one that may have change the way Nikon fans, whether they admit it or not, look at Canon cameras, the Canon EOS 7D. Do not mistaken this for a comparative review, it’s not. It’s about living with an uncontrollable event and how to handle it and make the best of it.

Firstly, these are 2 completely different cameras with 2 completely different characters, never mind specifications, check Digital Photography Review for the reviews of each. The Canon EOS 7D is a pro level SLR, the rig is with a battery grip and 2 batteries in it and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM L weighs a massive 2.5KG, than again you can feel the the magnesium alloy body quality as you grip the camera, it feels and holds right… On the other hand the Canon EOS 1000D is an entry level that with one battery and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM L weighs a respectable 1.6KG but because it it smaller physical size it is going to be harder to handle.

Next, the real life test, for that I will use the same lenses and flashes with both cameras, either the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM L or the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 USM L and do the same photos with the same settings with both and see how hard it can get without having to spend more money.

Till next time when I take the challenges of a studio photography environment.

By the way, should you have a couple of challenges for me please feel free to add them to the comments and I’ll try to do some, given time.

Editor’s note (2010-03-10): The Canon EOS 1000D was returned to the workshop due to an error 99, so this may be longer to test then expected.
Further note (2010-08-28): The Canon EOS 1000D keeps jaming at the worst moment, the 7D no so much (it had a lens communication error today, it was the 1st glitch, fixed it in 10 seconds)

Living with the Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D

Firstly, this is NOT a review, if you are looking for a review please go to dpreview.com they dissect the camera to the nth level and then put it back together or Digital Photography School. By the way, DPReview’s rating is “Highly Recommended” with an average of 9.16/10 as compared to Nikon’s D300s (which I have a lot of respect for) with an average of 9.16/10, how odd is that? Anyways, this is about living with it and I have the camera for nearly a month.

First thing you have to understand about the Canon EOS 7D, it is a professional graded “still” camera!!! I will come to the video in a latter post, 1 thing at a time. So what do I mean by that? Well, coming from the very good and light Canon EOS 400D, its like coming off a bicycle with training wheels and driving a racing bike, I know I said this before and I will probably say it again.

First thing you will notice when you pick up the Canon EOS 7D is it’s weight at 918g with the battery in is not light add a battery grip with 2 batteries, a CF card grip and  a 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens and here comes 2,378 kg, not light at all I can tell you.

Second thing you will notice is it’s size, it is massively larger than the Canon EOS 400D, but what a grip, with 2,5kg in your hand you better have a good grip and you do.

Thirdly you will feel the magnesium alloy quality of this professional camera, it fells so good.

And then you switch it on and at first glance life just became more complicated, the buttons and the menu (until you figure out the Quick and Custom menus) looks devastatingly confusing. I read the manual cover to cover 3 times so far, about to do it again but not cover to cover this time. I can now drive the racing bike around a track but I am still far for being able to race…

There are little things I have noticed using the camera, if RAW is used at high ISO you might be disappointed with the amount of noise, oddly enough I did not find this problem with the use of JPGs, most probably due to the high amount of post processing. Taking movement of anything whilst is high burst mode (up to 8 frames a second)  is wonderful but watch how quick you fill your memory card. Lastly, it is deadly silent in comparison to other DLR’s I have used or tested.

So would I recommend it as an upgrade from a 400D/450D/500D? Not unless you are going into photography seriously, the price does not warrant it. If you are doing casual photography and want the ability to do the odd video clip, I would advise either the Canon 500D or the cheaper but versatile Canon PowerShot SX20 IS (I will do a “living with the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS a little later). If you, like me, are either in action, sport or wildlife photography the Canon EOS 50D will do fine if you do no care about video. But if you are serious and have the finance for it the Canon EOS 7D paired with a versatile L lens, I recommend the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM to start with bringing you to an equivalent of 39-112mm of this 1,6 cropped sensor,  is the way to go.

I will write more about this in the weeks to come as I will soon have the opportunity to try a Canon EOS 5D Mk1 and maybe others in the field. I am also taking some courses in the next few months of subject maters I had not really thought off previously. But first impressions are that It was a very good investment.