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[Part 1] Breathtaking AF Performance for Movie Shooting

For the first time in five years, Canon has launched a new APS-C format flagship model, the EOS 7D Mark II. With the introduction of features such as the Dual Pixel CMOS AF and support for recording at 60p, an exponential leap is expected in the new model's movie-shooting performance. In this article, we will verify the performance of this camera through actual shots. (Edited by: Yasushi Sugawara)

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High-performance AF suited for capturing moving objects

Lately, the number of photography lovers has been increasing regardless of genre, be it railways, airplanes, wild birds, or landscapes. This growth in camera users has led to keener competition among the manufacturers as well as more rapid advancement in the performance and features of cameras. Against this backdrop, Canon has launched a new APS-C format model, the EOS 7D Mark II, the first model changeover since the release of the EOS 7D five years ago. With a focal length that is equivalent to about 1.6 times that of full-frame cameras, APS-C sized cameras are suited for telephoto shooting, and are a popular choice among photo enthusiasts who particularly enjoy photographing wild birds, airplanes, and sports.

AF performance is significantly enhanced on the EOS 7D Mark II, thanks to the introduction of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF which enables autofocusing based on phase-difference detection by the image sensor. Also, it is the first EOS model to support recording at 60p. This feature allows for smooth expression of movement and is particularly useful for shooting movies such as wild birds and airplanes. (*The AF mode will be switched to Contrast AF automatically when 60p/50p is selected in the Full HD mode and when an extender is attached.)

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It can be a challenge taking a shot of a subject approaching the camera from the front. Not only so, the high contrast in the water surface in the background makes it all the more difficult. Nonetheless, the AF of the EOS 7D Mark II was able to track the movement of the ducks and maintain focus on them. It is amazing indeed to see advancements made in the AF performance during movie shooting.

Lens used: EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ 1920×1080/29.97p (IPB)/ (f/6.3, 1/500)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight

Trying out the camera, I first of all experienced for myself its excellent AF performance when I filmed ducks taking off from the water. In fact, I am not an ardent supporter of AF, so under circumstances like that in the example, I would only make use of manual focusing. There is strong contrast in the clear reflection in the water, so I didn't think the camera would be able to recognise the ducks, which are the subjects. However, the EOS 7D Mark II proved me wrong. I have not yet encountered a camera that allows AF to operate correctly in such a situation, but the AF of the EOS 7D Mark II was able to maintain focus on the ducks at all times, regardless of whether the subjects were in the shade or under the sun.

In the past, capturing a shot with the focus maintained on a subject approaching the camera was a big challenge as it required highly sophisticated techniques in manual focusing. In the case of the EOS 7D Mark II, you can rest assured that AF will operate properly as long as the subject is captured within the frame. With this camera, users can now enjoy unparalleled follow shots with ease.

SAMPLE MOVIE

This sample movie was taken using the EOS 7D Mark II. AF capabilities are explained in detail from 1:17 onwards.

Presence of a focus puller inside the camera?

To take a similar follow shot, I aimed at a black kite flying toward the camera. Focus shifted to the utility pole for a moment when the black kite flew behind it, but the camera quickly re-established focus on the black kite when it came into sight again. It would be ideal if the camera could maintain focus on the black kite at all times, but needless to say, AF tracking would be impossible on a subject that is not visible. Nonetheless, I am still impressed by the camera's speedy adjustment of focus.

Shot of a black kite in the sky. The camera was able to detect the surrounding conditions and shifted the focus quickly from the black kite to the utility pole, and back to the black kite again.

What amazed me even more was when I videoed maple leaves. As illustrated in the photos below, as I directed the camera slightly to the right from 1 to 2, focus shifted to the maple leaf at the centre. This ideal shift of focus in accordance with the panning process happened before I, the videographer even took notice of it. It felt as if the camera was telling me, "The ambience will be better if you set the focus on the maple leaf at the back".

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I was amazed that camera shifted focus to the maple leaf at the back during the panning process. It was as if the EOS 7D Mark II could read the mind of the videographer.

Because the EOS 7D Mark II handled different situations so appropriately, I suspected it could be just a coincidence, so I tried to capture the same maple leaves again. The camera responded in the same way. It felt as if there was a capable camera assistant helping me to adjust the focus.

That being said, EOS 7D Mark II cannot determine every detail of AF, especially when it comes to adjusting the focusing speed. AF speed is selectable on the menu screen, so you can choose the speed that most accurately reflects your preferences.

Settings for making full use of the high AF performance

The amazing AF performance of the EOS 7D Mark II is made possible by the Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which is capable of speedy phase detection AF over a wide area that occupies 80% of the Live View screen, both vertically and horizontally. However, it is usable only in the 30p shooting mode (i.e., progressive shooting mode at 30 fps).

For shoots using a lead-screw type STM lens, operation sound during AF can be reduced to a minimum. Focusing speed can also be set to one of the five levels. The fastest AF speed is selected by default; this is similar to the speedy focusing operation when you are taking still shots. The slowest AF speed setting is more suitable for focus transition. However, note that maximum AF speed is selected by default if you have chosen an AF method other than "FlexiZone - Single", or are using a lens that is not compatible with Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

Image sensor: APS-C (approx. 22.4x15mm) CMOS sensor/ effective pixel count of camera: approx. 20.2 megapixels
Lens mount: Canon EF mount

Format: MOV, MP4 (video), MPEG4 AVC/H.264 (audio); MOV: Linear PCM/ MP4: AAC
Recording media: SD/ SDHC/ SDXC memory card (compatible with UHS-I or Ultra High Speed Class 1)
AF method: TTL secondary image-registration, phase-difference detection with dedicated AF sensor
Live View shooting: Dual Pixel CMOS AF/ Contrast detection

ISO speed: Scene Intelligent Auto (automatic setting between ISO 100 and ISO 6400), manual setting between ISO 100 and ISO 16000, etc.
Monitor: 3.0" TFT colour liquid-crystal monitor (3:2)/ approx. 1.04 million dots
Viewfinder: Quick return mirror/ approx. 1.00x (-1 m-1 with 50mm lens at infinity)
Input/output: SuperSpeed USB (USB3.0), HDMI mini, external microphone, headphone, remote control
External dimensions: (W)148.6 x (H)112.4 x (D)78.2mm
Weight: approx. 820g (body only)/ approx. 910g (based on CIPA Guidelines)

Yasushi Sugawara

Takes photographs of all sorts of living things, including birds, insects and plants, using special techniques such as time lapse, high speeds and three dimensional photography. Provides footage for TV, creates footage for exhibitions, writes for magazines and is active in many other areas. Member of the Society of Scientific Photography. Award recipient, EARTH VISION Global Environmental Film Festival (2000). Award recipient, Japan Wildlife Film Festival (2001). 

Video Salon

Video Salon started publication in 1980, and is Japan's only niche magazine on videographic equipment. Catering to readers who range from serious amateurs to professionals, it enjoys an established reputation not only for the information it provides on video cameras and editing software, but also on its drive-run reviews on videography with the latest DSLR cameras and its expert tips and tutorials.

http://www.genkosha.co.jp/vs/

Published by GENKOSHA Co., Ltd

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