Pimp my Canon 7d: Road testing the latest Video DSLR


I have been lucky enough to acquire a Canon 7d for the next few weeks to give it a good old road test from the point of view of someone who will use it for the video mode.

So over the next few weeks keep an eye on my blog as I will play around with it as much as I can.

I am writing then when I should be packing as my taxi is coming in an hour and am not ready. Off to Dublin for 4 days to do some workshops out there on Film look and DSLR Cinematography. I will have the 7d with me of course. There are a few places left on the Saturday so if you aren’t already coming, hurry up and book the last places. All attendees will also get a discount on Genus products.

As soon as I can I will be out shooting with the camera. In the meantime here are photos I took of the camera, pimped up with Zacuto baseplate and rods, Rode stereo mic and of course the Genus Mattebox, perfect size for the 5d.

Any requests of what you would like to see from me with the camera please post below…


Initial thoughts. Nice weight in hands. Teeny bit heavier than 5dmk2. Takes same batteries and love the new dedicated video mode button on back. But the real test comes when I start shooting with it and that will be very soon. I promise. I will be showing some footage on the big screen at the workshop/ seminar in Dublin too.


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    1. Please check to see if the screen can be cleared of all crosshairs, boxes, etc so that the 1080i signal sent out in live view via HDMI cable might be captured somehow. On the 5D, you could never get that darn box out of the way.

      All issues regarding monitoring a high quality image while recording are technical bottlenecks preventing better use of the canon DSLR cameras for indie motion picture production. Is there any improvement on the possible solutions for running multiple monitors, compared to what is known about the 5dmk2?

      Please post high ISO low light shots with 5D and 7d for side by side comparisons using same lens, etc.

      Take photos and measurements that might speak to the issues of adapting various cine lenses to the 7D. Mirror clearing issues, etc. Also please test MF nikor lenses for rear clearance issues, esp wide angles such as 35mm f1.4 Ai’d, 28mm f2.8, 24mm f2.8, 20mm f3.5 etc. To use these on the D5 mk2 one often had to mill down flanges.

      thanks, and have fun in ireland!

  1. Three things that I would appreciate if you could test:

    * HDMI output while recording. Does it drop from 1080i to 480p?

    * AGC? Is it always on?

    * Bitrate in 24p mode? Is it still 48 mbps, which would mean that each frame would be higher-res than in 30p mode.


    1. hudson, do you think the 7d is better whit an smaller sensor ? or still thinking the 5d is best even whit conversion? is the DOF acceptable ” cinematic feel” i really think the 5d2 is better even whit the 7d. Maybe i wrong.

  2. Can’t wait to see your footage Philip. The release of this camera may finally make my DSLR film dreams come true!

    I’m also really excited about the F-Stop stuff. Can’t wait to hear the final details.


  3. *Any requests of what you would like to see from me with the camera please post below…*

    Can you check out the HDMI port on it and see what you can/can’t do with it?

    Some handheld shooting to analyze the jello effect would be helpful.

    If there is anyway you can set up a shot next to a 5dmii to show a comparison to low-light capabilities, that would be awesome.

    Thanks for taking suggestions. I’m jealous that you get to play with the 7d.

  4. It would be great if you have a steady cam to see some shots on the move with the 7D. Of course focus will be an issue, but it would still be good to see how the camera handles this.

    And if you have the time, a hand held telephoto shot, fully zoomed out.
    if you found yourself in the situation where you needed to shoot like this, would be nice to see how the cam handles.

    Thanks. All the best

  5. You have a few Nikon mount Zeiss lenses right? I saw that you used one or two with the 5D. Can you try shooting some footage with them on the 7D? I have the 35/50/85 CZ primes and they are beautiful, I’d like to continue to use them with the 7D for photo/video.

  6. Thanks for all Phil!

    Yes, please check Nikon lens on the 7D body and could you please specify which adapter you will use.

    Also with audio, recording voices loud and low and also ambient sound with a seperate mic.

    Low light on high and low iso, even with a few candles!

  7. Hi Phil.. I shot a lot of complex type landscapes etc using Time-lapse and HDR for the National Park Service etc and a travel program and quiz show. I have had a couple of 5ds for a few years which are TOTALLY wore out with shutter wear and repairs and moisture problems but I must say they have been fantastic! The video quality you are getting is very exciting and I am waiting for the update on the 1d series before I make a move as I feel that the 5d was Canon’s first attempt at Serious HD Video with great glass wear, the 7d is showing the response from that with the improved width it now offers. And reading the rumor logs are expecting a release date of the end of this month on the 1d?? What do you expect to be in the release..A unit with great HD and inbuilt HDR LOL, Any thoughts would be of value..

    1. Did you ever get a response about using Nikon lenses on the 7d? I’m curious, which lens work best with the 7d, especially at the wider focal lengths.

      1. The only issue I have run into using nikon glass on a T2i, which should respond similarly to the 7&5d is that you have to confirm that a lens is attached and you can’t shoot wide open without some blooming in the highlights – everything goes all fuzzy for one reason or another beyond my current understanding and the solution is closing down a stop. Unfortunately this takes my nice ƒ1.4 50mm nikon and makes it an ƒ2 and it takes my ƒ2’s (24 & 35) and makes them ƒ2.8’s. Which is how I justified buying a Tamron 17-50vr ƒ2.8. It’s slower than the 50mm but stabilized and I can autofocus.

  8. When you get to test it, very interested in the audio characteristics since they seem to be non-existent in all the write-ups.
    The 5D had audio auto gain control which was awful and could be corrected by the BeachteK adapter. However, it would great if the 7D had better audio characteristics and eliminated the need to go dual system recording.
    quote from Beachtek:
    Important note regarding the DXA-5D XLR Adapter for the Canon 5D Mark II

    A few people have voiced a concern over the low volume levels when recording into the Canon 5D Mark II. The DXA-5D adapter is a passive device and outputs a unity gain signal – therefore, the output signal will only be as good as the microphones you are using. Remember that the Canon 5D Mark II is far from perfect as an audio recorder. The preamplifiers in this camera have a rather poor signal to noise ratio which create excessive hiss – especially if the input signal is low.

    It is important that you use a sensitive condenser type microphone and place the mic as close to the sound source as possible. Also, both trim pots on the adapter should be kept fully open for no attenuation. For the very best results, you can use a mixer in front of the adapter to boost the signal to whatever level you need. Most wireless mics also work very well through the DXA-5D as they have a relatively hot output signal. In addition, there is second output jack on the adapter to record to a digital recorder such as the popular Zoom H4 or Sony PCM-D50 when you need the highest quality audio. You can then use the nifty new software program from http://www.singularsoftware.com to easily sync up the audio from the digital recorder without having to use time code.

    The DXA-5D is designed as an interface device for this camera. It allows you to connect professional audio sources and gives you switching, level control, phantom power and monitoring features. Please remember the audio limitations of the Canon 5D Mark II – no device will turn this camera into a high end digital audio recorder.

    Thanks for your work on this. take care,

    1. Nice tip re singular software and syncing to external recorder without time code…-thanks Elliot and Phil. That seems to be the best solution for people like me who have good field recording device. I will still watch the results of the camera test pimped up with Rode mic with interest, assuming Phil finds it again! I’m interested in the stereo mic and its directional characteristics + of course what sounds it picks up from the camera and what techniques are used to minimise that.

  9. Hello! I’ve been serching the web,but I didn’t found the information I need: is there a audio level control or only automatic level control. If it’s manual, can You control channels separately? Many Thanks ! dfg

  10. Thanks Philip for all the great information on the 7D. I am looking for a new HD camcorder, the first thing I need to do with it is record my daughter’s volleyball matches so I can get some great footage to send to college recruiters. I need to capture the full court, but want the players to not look like they are 4 foot tall. I am thinking of either the Canon 7d with a wide angle lens, or the Canon VIXIA HF S11 with a WD-H58 Wide Converter.

    What are your thoughts on these two setups? Which lens would you recommend for the 7D? Do you think the rolling shutter will be an issue if I zoom in to follow a player occasionally?

    Thanks Again,


  11. Am most interested in still image quality compared to 1DMkIIn bodies. I know this has bigger files but… are the images actually better in use?

    How does Auto Focus compare to the 1DMkII series? Any problems with focus on warm days with moving subjects like too many of the 1DMkIII cameras?

  12. Hi! What’s the model of the mic attached to your 7D? I heard that the 7D only has an internal mono mic… Was wondering how I could get good audio with this baby… I also heard that you can attach a mixer to it so it can record in stereo. Any thoughts about this? Thanks!

  13. Hi Philip, Canon5D did a rig review and they only gave the Genus Mattebox 1 star out of 10 for quality. I was wondering what you thought of that. I wanted to get one since it seemed like a pretty good price. Do you like yours?

    1. Sorry but after a lot of pictures and testings with my 7D with Filming HD I am realy not satiesfied. It is such a bad resolution, the question about modulation in fine structures– nobody talks about that. Everybody is diskussing about the best rig! Look at the hard detail-lines. This camera is only good for nice close up, with soft sharpness.I am sorry to say that but when you look at the pictures on 1080-1920 screens, you will see these realy big mistakes in modulation. And it is not the fault from the lens, it is the codec. It destroys details over 1500 lines. More is unpossibil. you can use the best lens for filming. The end of resolution is near.

      1. That is saying something, I’ve been more than tentative at purchasing a 7D so I waited for the T2i. And guess what, same sensitive sensor but also same terrible compression. Can’t believe someone would pay for a 5D after seeing the results, if you are on a budget maybe, if not …. you get what you pay for. “The end of resolution is near.” – And we can thank youtube and digital cable/tv for that. We should all be crossing our fingers for the Magic Lantern guys and a firmware update that gets this thing working with a Convergent Designs Nano Flash.

      2. yes, that’s the main problem with videos on these dslr
        some of the lines are “skipped” to reduce the resolution to 1920×1080 pixels
        instead of scaling down with anti-aliasing algorithms, the lines are simply cut down

        some improvement may be achieved recording at 1080p and than, scale down to 720p in post-production..


  14. Hi guys,

    Forgive my ignorance, please, but could one of you please let me know what kind of external mic I should get for the 7D? Could you let me know which mic is seen is these photos here?

    Thank you very much!

    Taos Turner

  15. Excellent looking camera! I used a Canon 7D the other day to film a triathlon. It’s not as good for filming as our HVX200 but for some shots it worked excellent. Not the greatest for snap zooms and rack focusing as I was hoping. I do like what you’ve done to your camera though.


    1. Could someone tell me if this is correct. I have just recently purchased a 7D . Upgraded from a 20D. When I look through the 7D the viewfinder without the battery is very grainy and you can’t see anything. With the 20D its not the case its clear without the battery in it. When I put the battery in the 7D the clarity is fine, but to be honest not as good as the 20D though its marginally and I could get used to it.

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