Canon 7D brings new love to old lenses

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So it’s 2010 and no Space Odyssey Monoliths have appeared.  Oh well, maybe in 2012 😉

I have been using the Canon 7D since September 2009 and I am still amazed by this technological marvel.  I have been a longtime Canon user (going back to the Canon EOS 630) and I have seen improvements in every generation of cameras.  Over the years, I have built a great collection of Canon lenses.  But, there was always one lens which disappointed me — the Canon 100-400mm L.  Sure, it is only a f/4.5 @100mm and only f/5.6 @400mm, but the range is great for its size (approx. the same size and weight as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS).  I always thought the images looked flat.

When I purchased the 100-400mm L, I had the Canon 20D.  I purchased the lens just before an eclipse and was hoping for some great shots.  Instead, the pictures looked more like a fuzzy dirty ball.  The 20D would not give an AF Lock with the 1.4 Extender attached, so it was strictly manual focusing using the viewfinder.  No such thing as Live View back then.  I used the lens a few other times for some nature photography and it was always a mixed bag.  Eventually, I decided that the lens was just not worth the carrying weight and sentenced it to the closet.

When the 7D was released, I started seeing some great photos and videos taken with the 100-400mm L.  I pulled it out of the closet and gave it another try.  Was I surprised!  I used the lens in my New York City Lights video with great results.  So, I decided to address that 5-year old ghost and take a picture of the moon.  You can see the results below taken with the same Canon 100-400mm L lens and Canon 1.4 Extender II.   (There is approx. 45degree rotation between the two images.)


The detail in the 7D image is amazing. I was able to get a AF Lock using @400mm with the 1.4 Extender attached and the Live View was a big help.  The 7D image was taken in Manual mode using 200 ISO @ f/8 and 1/500 shutter during a clear night sky.  I did experiment with a few setting combinations, but I liked the above image the best.

And no Monoliths on the moon!  I am still a little disappointed in that.

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5 Replies to “Canon 7D brings new love to old lenses”

  1. I, too, was recently surprised to find that my 100-400L and my 1.4TC would autofocus in LiveView mode. What an amazing treat!

    I’ve tried that moon shot before with my cold-numbed hands trying to turn the focus ring, both through the viewfinder and liveview mode of my previous Canon bodies. I think I’ll have a little easier time of it now!

  2. That is cool isn’t it!! The full moon on Jan 31st is supposed to be one of the closest (and largest) of the year. I am hoping for clear skies!

  3. I’ve been a canon fan for a very long time and recently purchased the 7d to use with my 100-400mm zoom for photographing birds. I really wanted to like this camera but have to say I’ve been extremely disappointed with the photos this camera lens combination produces. The autofocus for this camera / lens combo is good for large object , very hight contrast / silhoueted images like the moon above, but for anything smaller and less contrasty ( like a blue bird on a fence 50 ft awy on a bright sunny day! ) expect a sharp focus success ratio of only 1 in 10 photos, at best. Even my crappy panasonic DSLR with its teleconverter reliably outperforms the canon 7d / 100-400mm lens combination though it’s only 1/6 the cost, approximately. In my opinion, and significant experience ( several months and several thousands of photos ) Canon really dropped the ball with this cameras poor single point, ai servo ( i.e., the best the camera can do ) autofocus ability!

  4. Before you trade-in your 7D, you should try customizing the AF. Take a look at my article Problem focusing? Customize the AF! With all of the AF points active, the 7D will pick the closest AF point which has the best contrast. This is rarely what you want. By changing the AF to either Single AF or AF Expanded, you will reduce the number of active AF spots and achieve a precise focus on your intended subject.

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