A short update on the Canon 7D vs the Canon Rebel XSi

In our original review of the Canon 7D we absolutely loved the handling and performance of the camera but we just could not get sharp RAW files. In fact we found our little entry level Canon Rebel XSi gave us better files than the Canon 7D! What was going on? We were totally dismayed. All sorts of useful suggestions came out of our review but several were repeated over and over. One was that we should not have used any aperture greater than f5.6 with the 7D due to DLA. Another was that we should not have used used Canon’s DPP because it is ‘not a great RAW converter’ and finally we should have also shot JPEGS when comparing camera outputs.

Fortunately Drew Strickland over at ProPhotoHome did tests where he compared the two cameras while controlling for these variables. In the end Drew concluded that the Canon 7D easily best the Canon Rebel XSi (in terms of file quality)

Check out Drew’s review of the two cameras both shot with a 35mm 1.4 lens at f5.6. Drew did some nice comparisons which I have outlined in bold below. Go check out his files for each section, read his summary and decide for yourself if you think the 7D is better than the Rebel

Here are my thoughts on Drew’s results:

Round 1: JPEG Battle (Straight out of the Camera, Neutral Shooting Style, f/5.6)

Although we didn’t shoot JPEGs in our test, Drew’s results do not surprise us at all. We suspect that Canon would have to have fairly aggressive sharpening in the 7d JPEG engine to overcome the inherent softness of the files. As many wildlife and sports shooters reported to us, the camera gives great results at 5.6 or less and when shot in JPEG. If this is your shooting method, the 7d will perform well as shown by Drew in this test.

Round 2: Raw Files Processed in Canon DPP

At default settings Canon DPP does apply some sharpening to RAW files. One of the reasons we turned off sharpening in DPP in our tests was to see what was captured on the sensor and not ‘altered’ by software sharpening. So in this test of Drew’s are we comparing apples to apples? Was the sharpening the same for the 7d and the XSi? Even if it was and even if you agree the 7d file looks better, remember, this is as good as it gets for the 7d. The 7d has its best performance at f5.6 or lower and we reported it does fairly well in the studio especially with close subjects. Go out in the field and shoot distant scenes with a little higher apertures and the 7d files falls apart with DPP.

Round 3: Raw Files Processed in Adobe LR 2.6RC

I agree with Drew that, in Lightroom, the Rebel is easily as good as the Canon 7d. No question. And the default settings in Lightroom gave better results than the default settings in Canon DPP for both cameras. If you use either the 7D or the Rebel, Lightroom’s Camera Raw makes nicer images than Canon’s DPP when both are at the default settings.

Round 4: Raw files processed in Capture One Pro 5

Drew gave it to the 7d here, but I don’t think there is any real measurable difference here. I would call it a tie. What is enlightening is the Capture One Pro 5 is the best of the three RAW converters presented. Anyone getting a 7d will need to invest in Capture One if they want the best files possible.

Outdoor Shots at f/16 Using Capture One Pro 5

Although Drew said he did not see much of a difference here, to me the Rebel still looks better. And this was with both cameras optimized for  in the best RAW conversion software.

Overall Conclusion

Drew figured he put the baby to bed and debunked the problems with soft files in the 7d and showed without a doubt that the 7d bested the Rebel. To me Drew’s tests shows the importance of using the best RAW converter possible and also reinforced to me that the Rebel is one of Canon’s best values in a camera. The performance of the Rebel with a good lens at f5.6 and using good RAW converters put the little ‘amateur’ camera right up there with Canon’s top APS-c camera. Our expectations of the file quality for the 7D were that the files would EASILY outperform the Rebel. They don’t–Drew’s tests bear that out. Maybe the problem with the 7D is not about file quality but of our expectations – we just expected more from the 7D.

Thanks Drew for confirming why we  should not retire our Rebel!

For a good ha ha check this out for Sam’s thoughts on the 7d review


20 Responses to “A short update on the Canon 7D vs the Canon Rebel XSi”

  1. […] A short update on the Canon 7D vs the Canon Rebel XSi « Darwin Wiggett Says: November 24, 2009 at 9:22 AM […]

    • Hi Darwin

      Shot for your review. I shoot on a 1D MkII still. I do mostly sport/ portaiture but am wanting to get into my nature and wildlife more. The new MK IV is a bit pricey. In South African Rand R52000. I was looking at the 7d and 5D MK II as replacements. I also don’t know why the price for the MKIV has gone up sooo much. I know they added video. Video is not new. I don’t need video. Anyways to get to the point have you used the 5D MK II and have any say on it. I would appreciate your opinion.

      I read the reviews and see people get quite hot headed over things. Some people seem very brand loyal or something.

      By the way your shots rock. Inspiring me to get out there and shoot some more of South Africa’s beautiful landscapes.

  2. Wow, Darwin, you really got people riled up about your review. It is nice that you were able to take the time to write it in a practical manner for those who have a hard time parting with hard earned cash!

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alltop_Photo: A short update on the Canon 7D vs the Canon Rebel XSi http://bit.ly/5dXhwC Photography.alltop…

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  5. Hi Darwin,

    Thanks for this post and your further explanations. I have responded in a little more detail in the discussion section of the above linked article located here:


  6. There’s an interesting article from Canon about sharpness, pixels, and how higher end cameras can seem less sharp:


  7. Darwin thanks for the review and the wealth that can be drawn from all the replies. As a P&S user i was gearing up to take the leap into the DSLR’s world and in anticipation of the 7D i bought a 70-200f4 IS lens. At least now i know what camera not to buy.

    Hopefully someone at Canon is listening and can give us a “7Ds” with a 1.3 crop 16 MP sensor from the 1D mark 4 or a 50D replacement with a ~12 MP sensor based on the 7D body (without Video?).

    In the mean time i will have to get something to get something to stop the USM of the lens not to get rusted in, most likely the 450D.

    Thanks again and good luck.

  8. Darwin,
    Thanks to you and Drew for your courteous “dueling” reviews. I have learned much about both cameras from both of your comments and will stick with the XTi for a bit longer. Not being a “pro”, I will probably eventually go to the 7D or its successor for its handling features which will help make up for my photographic shortcomings so that I can focus on continuing to learn the basics of photography. Again, thanks to you both for being courteous and replying to each other thoughtfully. I suspect it has helped others as much as myself and sets a good example for DPReview posters.

  9. Hurray for calling it as you see it and having the guts to speak out when the quality seems less than ideal. It amazes me how quickly people jump in to defend the camera too. Same thing with the 5d MKII that seems to have a water sealing flaw in some models – people are really quick to offer 101 reasons why it’s not Canon’s fault.

    I don’t usually listen to all the reviews and garbage on the Internet about camera models – but I may trust your reviews since you’ve proven you’re not just a ‘let’s be just promote the latest and greatest no matter what’ kind of reviewer!

  10. hmmm,7D is worse than XTI or Xsi.. Hahahahahha, that’s not how I found.. I found 7 d is equally shar or even better, given the same lens.. 7D blows xsi and xti anytime ahhahahaha. And 7D has a better color depth and the image looks a lot crispier over all 7d produced a better image quality than either xsi or xti coming out of a raw file. Hahahahahahahahahah so what next?? U are gonna write a review that xsi better than 1ds mark III

  11. The thing is Canon doesn’t design its “entry level” DSLRs to have less image quality than the more expensive ones. Both are made with the best IQ possible. when you pay more for a semi pro model you are paying for pro features like weather sealing, faster continuous shooting, and more advanced auto focus not “better” IQ. The premise that the 7d should have better IQ because it has a few more mega pixels and is more expensive is just absurd. If canon does it right there shouldn’t be a huge difference, if any, in IQ between the two. Which is exactly what every review I have read except yours shows.

  12. […] Wigget says the images are soft.  Drew Strickland at ProPhotoHome disagrees.  Wigget is still not convinced.  Meanwhile, Fake Chuck Westfall is apoplectic [NSFW].  Bob Atkins, for his part, likes the […]

  13. Huh – That’s funny. I guess I can just go on really enjoying my Xsi! It’s light and it takes great photographs.

  14. I am surprised at Strickland’s evaluation. His tests prove the importance of the RAW converter but in each instance, the 7D IQ looks quite obviously either lower or indistinguishable from that of the Rebel. Just writing the contrary under the image doesn’t make it so.

    If in any doubt, consult http://www.dxomark.com. It’s quite another thing to be told by a computer that the 7D, while it does gets a fractionally higher overall mark, is lower in pretty much all the curves against the 500D. There is obviously a point where pixels are just too small. Add the 3Dx to the comparison and see how much better it can get by going from 4.3µm to 5.9µm. I am now quite worried about what the 1D4 and 1Ds4 will be like. It will be a shame if Canon can not beat, or equal, the 3D and 3Dx. On a positive note, this does show that we have reached a plateau in digital SLR IQ and that instead of having to change bodies every six months, we can now concentrate on taking pictures.

  15. I don’t agree with Darwin’s review; I’m with the diffraction camp that argues that the 7D is a specialized camera for under f/8. However, Canon did do something really nasty to its users: the 7D, based on price, looks like a turbo-charged alternative to the 50D. It’s not; it’s a specialist camera for specialist uses and being advertised without that fact included will just make lots of people unhappy with their $2000 P&S equivalent. So, if you upgrade from a 50D to a 7D, you’re going to be really unhappy because the 7D is not intended as an upgrade. On the other hand, if you add the 7D to your equipment for specialist uses, you’ll be reasonably satisfied.

    Unfortunately, the D300 / D300s doesn’t have these problems so Nikon shooters are still ahead.

  16. While the Rebel XSi isn’t a bad camera, it just lacks build quality and functions compared to the 7D. I also have a hard time tweaking the images to look like I want them when shooting with the Rebel XSi, much easier with the 7D.

    Now my wife got the XSi and I use the 7D. Would NEVER go back.

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