Canon EOS 7D on my shopping list

When I bought my EOS 50D in fall 2008, I thought it would last me for a few years. But I was wrong. I’m ready for the EOS 7D.

I wish the 7D came out last year. But this is what I always say about new D-SLRs. There’s no end to it. One key feature of the 7D is the viewfinder with 100% field of view. This is what I really want, and really miss.

The 50D’s viewfinder coverage is only about 95%. That 5% sounds minor, but it actually makes a significant difference in how it affects your composition of the shot. What you see is not what you get. I often find myself reshooting a shot after noticing that the image has too much space on one side.

The 7D’s weather-resistant construction is also very welcome. It often rains/snows in Japan, so it’s quite essential. The faster continuous shooting speed of 8 fps is nice, even though the 50D’s 6.5 fps is nothing to complain about.

I really hope the 7D will last me a few years. I cannot afford to buy a new D-SLR every year.

I also take videos, so video cameras with better image quality is always of interest to me. It’s really amazing to see how much the image quality of videos taken by compact digital cameras has improved in recent years. Everything is now HD at the 16:9 aspect ratio. It makes me want to reshoot all my old videos with a new camera.

I looked at the Lumix GH1 which is causing a lot of excitement among video enthusiasts. But I decided against buying one because of the lack of power zooming. You have to zoom manually, and since I zoom a lot while shooting videos, manual zooming won’t work for me. I think if Panasonic offers a D-SLR camera geared more for video than for still shooting, than it would be revolutionary. Right now, all D-SLRs are mainly for still shooting.

Which forces me to look at conventional video cameras. The problem with conventional camcorders is that they do not have very wide-angle lenses. Maybe 35mm or 40mm at the widest. I need a 28mm wide angle at the very least. It is possible to attach a wide-angle lens attachment to the camcorder, but it’s pricey and I wonder about the distortion. My temporary solution is the camera I just bought last month. It’s a compact digital camera with an incredible 25-300mm zoom range and takes HD (but not Full HD) videos. The image quality is quite good and I’m happy with it. I wish I had a camera like this a few years ago.

There’s no doubt that we’re witnessing a revolution in video technology and video culture with the popularity of YouTube and so many people taking and uploading video clips. Of course, the quality of the clips is another story. Most people are amateurs shooting video which often is too shakey or not good at all.

I’ve always taken movies or videos with a conventional movie film camera or camcorder since high school. My first digital movies were taken with my first compact digital camera in 2003. Then came YouTube. I started uploading videos to YouTube in July 2006, and I’ve come a long way since then. New digital cameras improved the video quality by leaps and bounds. I can still remember Casio’s super slim digital cameras which could shoot videos, but without sound. Made no sense to me. My Canon Powershot S50 at least recorded sound as well.

At first, it was a very casual thing. I shoot a video clip, then upload it to YouTube. I was happy just to record some motion and some sound, to add some background info to my still and silent photos.

But now, I’ve become much more seasoned and sophisticated, taking videos more seriously. I now shoot to create a story or record a logical sequence of events. I also use professional and amateur video editing software to edit my videos. I try to make each video as interesting as possible. And also add annotations. If you watch my early videos on YouTube (uploaded in 2006) and my most recent videos, you can see the difference in not only the image quality, but in the content quality as well. I would have to call myself an “advanced” amateur videographer (instead of just an amateur videographer).

My problem, though, is shooting both video and stills at the same time. When I’m shooting video, I’m usually shooting stills at the same time with my D-SLR. Yes, I’m holding two cameras at the same time. That’s why in most of my videos you may hear my D-SLR taking pictures or see the flash being fired. I’m doing a pretty good job at shooting both stills and videos at the same time. I won’t tell you how I do it, but often there’s a compromise between the still shooting and video. Of course it’s hard to shoot very well with both cameras at the same time. But if one or the other is much more important, I will stop using the other camera and just concentrate on shooting stills or video. Note that in most situations, I cannot use a tripod.

But I continue to perfect my techniques for shooting both stills and videos at the same time. It is a challenge.

Update: In Feb. 2010, I sold my EOS 50D body and bought the EOS 7D body.