Finally, I was able to take my Canon EOS 7D into the field, I mean by that into the bush, how did it fair though?
Let me be honest up front, so there are no misunderstanding, after 6 months of using the camera I am still learning how to get it right. I may know how to, technically and theoretically, take a photograph but this machine is still partially a mystery to me. A mystery mostly because yours truly is off the “auto mode” and into some serious photography. Besides “auto mode” does not give me what I want, just what I expect and that is not good enough.
A tip for you, when you go into the bush choose you lens carefully, chances are you will not be able to change it as it will make you loose the moment. So, what lens are suitable in the bush for wildlife? You can look at this previous article I wrote, Choosing a lens to suit wildlife photography and Living with a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS L lens in the wild, but it gets more complicated than this. Consider light, are you going out in the day or twilight? In full day light a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 will do fine, in twilight you would be better off with a 70-200mm f/2.8 as the reach would be limited anyways. Fine so the next question is what about flash or high ISO to compensate? Flash, forget about it, it’s unlikely to help because of the distance we are talking about. As for high ISO, in the case of the Canon EOS 7D up to 12800 which I never used, it does help and the noise control of the Canon EOS 7D makes it all worth it. At ISO 6400, you have noise but less then my Canon EOS 400D at ISO 1600, besides there are wonderful tools to reduce grain/noise, check out Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta 2 for example.
So what have I learned about taking photos of wildlife with the Canon EOS 7D ?
- Set it to aperture priority, AV Mode. Then again I only shoot in this mode, it gives you control over the depth of field.
- Set the ISO to Auto, surprise surprise, yes and leave it that way, it will avoid profane language when you set it to 6400 and forget that you did, I found that the camera it very good at choosing the right ISO setting.
- Set the focus to AF Point Expansion, it will give you a little more control over the focus point then Single Point AF, just in case the subject moves.
- Set it to spot or centre weighted average metering, I find it gives me a better result overall
- Set to AI focus, again for flexibility (double tap the trigger and it acts as AI Servo) although AI Servo would work too but it may start hunting.
- Set it to High or Low Speed Continuous, though for fast moving subjects High Speed Continuous shooting is advisable.
- Have a high capacity CF card 8GB and above, trust me.
Oddly enough, I never shoot wildlife in RAW, simply because in RAW I can only shoot 6 frames (less then a second) in High Speed Continuous shooting before the camera slows down, in JPG this rises to a cool 70 (10 seconds).
Please note that none of the photos below have been modified except for the resizing required for the web.
Here is a sequence of Impala chasing Impala shot with the Canon EOS 7D in relative low light (twilight) with the settings above, set at f/4.5 using the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS L lens, the camera chose ISO 1600.
This photo of Rhinoceroses was shot after sundown with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM at f/2.8 at 1/4 sec and ISO 6400, it was on a tripod. You will notice noise but remember it was dark to the point where I could only see shadows.
In daylight the Canon EOS 7D paired with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS L lens give this result.
in brief, The Camera is very good and well suited for wildlife photography, if paired with the right lens.