Dredging Up the Canon 7D

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

Almost two years ago Samantha and I did a little review on the Canon 7D that caused a bit of a stir. We felt that the 7D is one of Canon’s most user friendly and best handling cameras. We loved it for that. What we did not like was the quality of files from the camera which we felt were sub par. Of course a vocal majority of people blamed our methodology, and the way we used the camera for the shoddy results; according to them the camera was not the problem, it was the testers. If that is the case then why do we get really fine results from the Canon EOS 1Ds, the Canon Rebel Xsi, The Canon Rebel T2i, and the Nikon D300s? Others accused us of being paid by Nikon for the bad review. Really? Wow. It goes on on on. In the end neither Samantha or I and the way we do photography could get acceptable results from the camera.

In the intervening time, we have received dozens of emails from 7D users telling us they see exactly what we saw in our review (crappy files). They all want to know if there is a ‘fix’ for the camera that they otherwise love. I had hoped that Canon would have addressed whatever issue was causing the problem (too strong of an anti-aliasing filter, or some adjustment to the sensor) but they don’t seem to have (to my knowledge). For example, here is an email I just got yesterday from another unhappy 7D owner:

I know this is old news to you, but it’s new to me and I’m wondering if you can help? I bought a Canon 7d about 6 months ago. I took it out of the box, shot the usual dumb pictures of my kitchen and back yard, but didn’t really look at them. I won’t bore you with the details, but for a bunch of reasons I put the 7d down and didn’t get back to it until today.

So today, I took the 7d and my wife’s Nikon d300 out and shot about 150 pictures, most of the time shooting identical or similar pictures with both cameras. Long story short, the Nikon pictures are perfect and the 7d pictures look like the ones in your 2009 article. Every single one.

A few of the Canon pictures, ones that have a distant subject and something in the foreground, look as though they might be tremendously front-focused. I don’t mean a little bit; I mean they’re focused about half-way between me and the subject. I’ll have to go out tomorrow and test that.

In any case, the problem has nothing to do with diffraction, or raw conversion programs, or any of the other things that commenters bashed you with. They’re just not sharp.

This makes me sad, because like you, I love the way the camera handles, and the color is fantastic, better, I think, than the Nikon. Also because I was dumb enough not to do this until it was too late to return the camera, and I don’t even feel that I can sell it honestly. So as of now, I feel like I might have burned 1500 bucks, or whatever. I Googled “soft Canon 7d”, and I found your blog.

Sooooo, here’s the question: Since you’ve been aware of the issue for a year or so, I’m wondering If you ever found out what the problem is. Did Canon ever acknowledge that there is a problem? Can it be fixed? Or is it just a paperweight that I might as well throw away? If there is a fix, could you just point me in the right direction?

The point of this post is not a ‘we told you so’ or to rehash the results of the test. The point is simple; numerous people have troubles getting an acceptable file from the 7D (it’s not just us). Are there any 7D users out there that have solved this problem and if so how? Does anyone know what the cause of the problem is? Has Canon addressed the issue or made a fix (e.g. firmware update)?

Not only have we heard complaints about file quality but we have also heard about severe front-focus or back-focus problems with the 7D that can’t easily be fixed with micro-focus adjustments (this sounds like the problem in the email above). We want to hear from 7D users who have had any  ‘problems’  (focus or otherwise) with the 7D and learn how you fixed those problems. We would like to help out frustrated 7D owners to get them the camera they thought they purchased. Please constructive comments only, bashing and name-calling will not be tolerated. Thanks in advance.

Readers have sent in these really helpful links as well:

How to fix auto-focus problems with the 7D

Canon 7D Auto-focus Petitition


63 Responses to “Dredging Up the Canon 7D”

  1. I picked up a 7D about 1½ year ago. I wanted to replace my 5D1, which wasen’t the perfect camera for birding, due to resolution and focussystem. The 7D seemed to be the perfect camera for this, but man was I wrong.
    I liked the possibility to adjust the focus as you wanted, the stop of hunting if the focuspoint slipped the subject and stuff like that. But in the end, it didn’t produce the sharpness I was looking for. My old 5D1 ended up producing sharper and more detailed shots when upscaled than the new 7D did. I did expect the colors on the full frame sensor to be better, but I would have expected the detail in the 7D to be better.
    I therefor had my 7D at the repair-shop for a fix and adjustment. Three days later I had it back, they claimed they had done the adjustment, but the pictures where the same, so I ended up returning it. Sorry, I can’t say there is a smart fix,

  2. Are you using it for video or for stills? If it’s video, you have to transcode the footage. This ups the “quality” immensely. I use a program called Grinder. It’s part of the Magic Bullet Suite from Red Giant Software. Easy to use, and has fantastic results.

  3. I experienced soft focus on mine using a number of different lenses at the time which included the 16-35mm,100-400mm, and 50mm 1.4 on two separate copies.

    Since the 7D was replacing my 50D, it was curious that the images lacked any marked improvement. For the most part it appeared the increase in MP simply resulted in larger file size without an increase in definition over the 50D. I wrote of my findings in my Amazon.com review at the time.

    After weeks of looking for solutions I Microadjusted my 100-400mm and then went to a AF Point Expansion for all my shooting. On occasion using AF lock for re-composition of a shot. Since going with that solution, the soft focus issues have not been a problem and I do everything from macro photography, sports, to birding.

    This solution may not be for everyone but the 7D simply has too many good features not to find a way work with it.

  4. Nothing has changed that I know of. Depending on what you’re comparing it to, the noise and sharpness are questionable but I have yet to have any noticeable focusing problems.

    I still really enjoy the 7D and the results are still acceptable for my use. If I’m missing out on something better – I’m not aware of it.

    I wish I had an answer for this email but I don’t. There are multiple focusing options in this camera and it’s not clear which was used. Are you using a single point focus or allowing the camera to completely auto focus by selecting the subject for you?

    If we look hard enough, I’ve heard equal number of complaints about front/back focus on the 5D as well. It’s never ending.

  5. David Eastman Says:

    I preordered my 7D when they were first released. My experience has been one of constant frustration with the difficulty obtaining sharp focus. The best I can do when shooting handheld is to only use a single focus point, and focus with the af lock button in ai servo mode. This still produces mixed results. Otherwise, I shoot on a tripod, switch to liveview, and manually focus in 10x magnification mode. Even so, the images are less sharp than with my 450D. The ONLY lens that produces good results for me is the 70-200 2.8 IS II… and that lens would make a Holga look good!

    • Hmmm… what is it about the 7D that gives those soft files? And why does the T2i and the 60D which supposedly use the same sensor yield sharper files (what is going on in those cameras that isn’t happening with the 7D). Too bad Canon won’t tell us. David, sorry to hear about your frustrations. A camera should work out of the box, is that too much to ask?

    • Try using “one shot” mode instead of ai server mode, as the camera will think you’re trying to track something & focus will be all over the place

  6. francois kolbe Says:

    I bought my 7D to replace my 6.5 year old 20D, and I have now had the 7D for 1.5 years. I did compare the two when I got it and the 7D was to me light years ahead when comparing the same photo’s shot at the same exposures using the same lenses i.e moving them from the one body to next, that said before updating to the new firmware 1.2.5 I did have issues with focusing especially when using my sigma 180mm macro. When I got the 7D I stared using it never read the manaul…biggest mistake I made I mean I had a 20D who needs a manual.

  7. Around two months ago I decided to purchase a new digital SLR, and being I have all Canon gear I decided to stay Canon. The choice was between the 7D and the 5D MII. Well after much deliberation and thought I went with the 7D for two reasons. 1. Newer auto focus than the 5D and 2. the crop frame sensor appealed to me due to the fact I photograph skydivers with the 100-400 glass. In a nut shell the camera had a serious front focus issue with all of my lenses that none of my film or “Rebel” digital has ever had. I sent the camera back to Canon and they told me there was nothing wrong with the camera body and sent it back to me. Some how miraculously the front focus issue disappeared, however with that issue gone I now realized the other two major problems with my camera. Auto focus and image quality. I shot a wedding a couple weekends ago and my assistant was shooting a T2I right beside me. We took a total of 1500 photos, and low and behold I am floored with the results. The Rebel produced sharper photos at all F stops, and a better white balance across the board. Plus with both cameras being 18mgp the quality of enlarged image went to the rebel hands down. So now my assistant and I are in a battle with Canon over the 7D and its frustrating as all hell. They say the camera meets specifications, but honestly as a professional I feel like this camera doesn’t provided sell-able product. Do you have any advice? Currently I have: 7D, T2I, 580 ex, 430 ex, 100-400L, 24-70L, 100 2.8 macro, battery grips, and a cheap 28-80 lens. Been thinking about selling it all and jumping ship to find a different camera manufacturer. Any thoughts? I write you because I saw your thread online about the 7D which I wish I would have seen 3 months ago.

    • Yes, I can’t believe just how much better the T2i files are over the &D and how much better the autofocus is on the Rebel. I would sell the 7D and get another Rebel. d

    • I ended up doing the switch to Nikon. I just didn’t wanna write it in my answer to Darwins question, because I thought of it as not important. I ended up selling my 5DI, 400/2.8L IS, 70-200/2.8L IS, 24-105/4L IS, 17-40/4L, 180/3.5L and 3x550EX and the ST-E2 and returned the 7D to the shop.
      I don’t think it should be the solution though, it is rather expensive to do this. But as you think, it is annoying that a cheaper camera will end up producing better pictures than what you see from a camera in the upper range of the line up.
      A solution could be to get the 60D, same sensor. But to be honest, I’m not sure if they suffer from the same focus-issue. Or perhaps choose the 5D2, which I’ve only heard positive about. You will not get the same accurate – in search of a better word, I know it might be misplaced in this syntax – focussystem. Or you should go all the way in and pick the 1D4.

  8. Here is a comment I just received from my Facebook page:

    “Darwin, I’ve had the same experience with the 7d as you have. I even sent it in to canon to “fix”, but they did nothing to it. A few months ago I found that “The Canon 7D ships with the Spot AF and Expansion AF disabled.” Enabling spot AF has helped somewhat. Doing so is described at the following link: http://blog.photoframd.com/2009/12/07/canon-7d-problem-focusing-customize-the-af/

  9. The noise level of the 7D at low ISO is unacceptable. My 40D + 1DMKIII produce much smoother files, crisp with very little noise at low ISO.
    I had high expectations from the 7D and I bought the camera for the AF and high ISO capability. I am happy with the AF but the images simply don’t pop!

  10. I’m sure happy with my Nikon D7000, almost bought the canon but glad I didn’t. got a 105mm macro nikkor lens and getting the 20mm f2.8 to go with the 35mm 1.8 — my sympathies to the folks that buy gear in good faith and somehow don’t get a what is marketed by big companies as a quality product !
    they issue’s you would think be resolved by canon by now.
    the car industry is famous for this as well, hidden warranties and problems they try to sweep under the carpet.

  11. Mohelsky Helmut Says:

    I have my 7D now for about 2 years. Initially I had great difficulties because it did not focus properly (front and back focus were out of whack) and I did not know was it me or was it the camera or the lens. As you can imagine it created a lot of frustration (it was then too late to return the camera). Eventually I turned with this problem to a friend, a professional photographer. His name is Chris Dodd, http://www.chrisdoddsphoto.com. He fixed it by doing the micro adjustments on the camera. He had to do it for each and every lens I have. Ever since my 7D is o.k. and I am happy with it.

  12. I purchased a 7D about a year ago and could not get an acceptable file, not only was there an issue with focus, at base ISO the noise was horrid, it was so bad that I expected a little Canon Elves to jump out of the camera and cry “April Fools!” and then put it right. I read the manual, and tried everything to no avail. I have a Nikon D700, and several medium format systems, and have been shooting for over thirty years, so I know my way around a camera. I went on a few forums for some help and was called out for being inept and for not know what I was doing, was even called a pedophile for posting a photo of my nine year old daughter to show the examples of soft focus and unacceptable noise coming out of my 7D. I returned the camera to the store where I had purchased it, a high end camera shop/studio in Atlanta, there was a Canon rep there at the time, we spoke and the first thing he asked me was “Did you read the manual?” Long story short, we got a tripod, a memory card, and a laptop, and after about fifteen minutes of him shooting with my 7D, he declared the camera as “defective.” To Canon’s credit, he offered me some incentives to stay with the brand, but I felt that if Canon’s quality control was this bad, no way was I going to buy another Canon product. Too bad, I really wanted the thing to work, but it just didn’t.

    • Yes Canon alienated a lot of customers with the both the 1d and 1ds Mark III auto-focus stuff and later with the 7D problems which of course both Canon and the Canon Fan boys on the web blamed on user error. All of us who have problems with the 7D are idiots. Great attitude Canon.

    • Yes Canon alienated a lot of customers with the both the 1d and 1ds Mark III auto-focus stuff and later with the 7D problems which of course both Canon and the Canon Fan boys on the web blamed on user error. All of us who have problems with the 7D are idiots. Great attitude Canon.

  13. Scott Paris Says:


    It’s fixed! (I think).

    [I’m the whiner who wrote the original email that started this thread.]

    I followed the directions on the photoframd blog, and activated Spot and Expansion AF, then went out today and re-shot the pictures that provoked my email. In both of these modes, the camera acts like a normal DSLR. Focusing is accurate and fast. I shot one series with objects at infinity, 50, 20 and five feet (all in the same frame), and was able to accurately and easily focus at all four distances.

    So the gross mis-focusing problem seems to be fixed. I haven’t tried the other options that allow you to control the focus point with the joy stick, and I haven’t done pixel-peeping comparisons to see if the files are as sharp as, for instance, my wife’s D300. But one step at a time.

    And, of course, there may be other problems that I just haven’t run into yet.

    I have mixed emotions about all this. Of course, I’m happy that the camera is better. I like Canon equipment, and I love the handling and controls of the 7d. But I really don’t understand why Canon would ship a camera with default settings that don’t work for a lot of people. (A quick Google search reveals that there are a LOT of unhappy 7d owners) If they have to ship it that way, why not include a red tag about setting the autofocus? Canon have clearly wasted a ton of time and money doing warranty repairs on cameras that probably weren’t broken, not fixing the problem and not telling the owners what to do. An epic PR fail.

    If a company has a product with a lot of unhappy customers, even if the problems are partly the customer’s fault, the only successful response is a large and visible campaign to educate the customers and fix the problems. Nobody’s going to buy a second camera from a company they’re unhappy with.

    Anyway, sorry to have used up so much bandwidth, and thanks again for posting my letter. This one seems to have had a happy ending.

    • OK now that focusing is working great, I would be interested in what you think of the quality of the files especially compared with the Nikon D300.

      • Scott Paris Says:

        Absolutely going to do that, but for the last few days, when I’m not working, it’s been pouring rain. Maybe an underwater housing for landscape photography?

        When I pixel-peep the 7d images, there does seem to be noticeable noise in the dark areas, even at ISO 200. But I made a couple of 11×14 prints and the noise is not resolved, so it doesn’t really affect the results that I care about. Still, it’s surprising.

      • Scott Paris Says:

        I read my 10:54 AM post again and realized that it might not be clear. What I should have said is: I made 11×14 prints and the “noise” that I see when I pixel-peep is NOT visible.

  14. I had my 7D for about a year now, and it progressively getting worse. When it was new it was great. Then at the beginning of the year it got worse and worse. 1 out of 10 or more frames were out of focus. I micro focus adjusted for the lenses that I use on it, but it still isn’t close to my 5D Classic, or my 1D MKII. I don’t even take it for client shoots anymore, as I cannot rely on the camera to produce consistent result. I will have to contact Canon and have them look at the camera. I guess I should have saved up more money and got the 5D MKII…. oh well.

  15. It would interesting to know if the 60D and the 600D, which share the same sensor of the 7D, experience the same issue.

    I am a happy owner of a 450D, which is slowly reaching his end-of-life mark and I am little bit worried to jump on the current canon dslr generation. I hope that these issues will be adressed with the next camera generation. In the past I have preferred to invest in glasses, but recently I had to admit that a 3 years old entry level camera is quite limiting in term of IQ for long exposure photography.

    If I were a 7D owner unhappy about the file quality, I would try to resize the file to a lower resolution 12-14MP, which is more than enough for most of the typical amateaur applications.


    • we did an informal test of the 60D and the new Rebels (T2I and T3I), they are light years better in file quality than the 7D, same sensor, not sure why different results. d

      • Hi Darwin,
        this is quite interesting! Did you publish a review/post about that? It would be nice to have a field test comparison.


    • I have not published a comparison, we just did the tests for personal reasons and found the files of these other cameras to be much better than the 7D.

      • Get to it Darwin! This is a question I have wondered about and haven’t found an answer yet. How good is the 60D, really?

      • We just tested the file quality and it looked to be close to the Rebel t2i which I find to be of good quality, I did not do a big auto-focus test or anything else, just wanted to see if the file quality of the 60D beat the Nikon D300s, it was just slightly less in quality than the D300s.

  16. From Facebook:

    As working professional photographers with two Canon 7Ds with Canon battery grips we would like to join the fray.

    Full Disclosure: We are not sponsored by Canon, Nikon or Sigma. We purchase ALL our equipment the same way most consumers do, from a retail store, almost always at full retail pricing unless there is a sale. We are speaking from our own personal experience NOT from something we heard, read or were told.

    As far as auto focus issues:

    We have spoken to the Canon reps at various trade shows about getting the most accurate focusing from our 7D rigs and were told that a lot of issues have to due with which focus points, servo modes and custom settings you use.

    Our keeper rate for critically sharp is around 20% to 30% when we shoot dog agility using IS on, servo AF, manual selection: AF point expansion with centre point selected, shooting full RAW, at high speed continuous with the 70-200L ƒ2.8 IS. It varies with other lenses, distances, light conditions, subject sizes, etc. WE DO NOT pre-focus on a target, switch to MF and then release for multiple frames. We actually focus track the subject.

    We have updated the firmware at least once since we got them over a year ago. We have used the micro adjustment settings successfully on one body but it’s a bit dodgy on the other with certain lens combinations in real world shooting.

    We are mainly using two different 24-105L ƒ4 IS, 70-200L ƒ2.8 IS, two 50 ƒ1.4 Sigmas (amazing lens with razor thin DOF, the sharpest 50mm we could find!) , 16-35L ƒ2.8 and a 24-70L ƒ2.8 (amazing sharpness but hard to hand-hold).

    As far as image quality goes:

    We have blown up prints to about 20×30 inches with no noticeable bad results in image quality that others may have experienced so I’m not certain what folks are talking about…

    BUT we have noticed something with 5 of the 12 Canon bodies that we have owned over the years: once those 5 passed around the 15K-20K actuation mark:

    The image quality began to degrade slightly on one of the 40Ds @ around the 15K mark (thinking of selling before it gets too bad or using it for extreme shooting while the batteries are still good) and on one of the 7Ds at around the 30K mark.

    The 3 XTi bodies that we had all show NOTICEABLE degradation after only 10K actuations. We chalked this up to the price point of the XTi.

    None of the bodies had been sent to Canon or the stores where they were purchased for servicing, we just cleaned them ourselves.

    WE ARE NOT saying that the image quality is bad, only that as professionals charging for fine art prints we care about things that 98% of the planet do not.

    Each iteration of the bodies we have owned from the XTi, to the 40D, 7D and 5DMk2 provided successively better image quality, FOR US.

    I did notice that our 40D image files were better than the XTi but not as good as the 7D and that the 7D had the best AF hit ratio of the bunch. Perhaps someone will do a scientific test of several cameras in a double blind scenario.

    No problems in focus or quality from our 5D or 5DMk2 to report. Nothing that we have used thus far compares in image quality to the 5DMk2, in our opinion. Though the AF on both cameras is entry level at best and due for an upgrade. We do not expect awesome AF tracking from these bodies though.

    If you said you have had problems with the two 7D bodies you tried I believe you. You have tested more equipment, properly, than I ever hope to. 😉

    BUT I have noticed a lack of quality control in both Nikon and Canon cameras over the years AT ALL PRODUCT LEVELS: (Pro series and consumer series bodies with dirty sensors, poor manufacturing, over-hyped advertising, firmware issues, etc.)”

  17. I’ve had my 7D for about a year and a half now, used a 40D before that. I LOVED the 40D, focused so fast and tracked very well. So with everything I had read about the 7D’s specifications, I figured it would take way better pictures than the 40D.
    Rude awakening. I could not get anything sharp out of the 7D, always front or back focusing, auto-focus never locking on, blurry photos. Not very happy with the fact that I had sold a 70-200 F2.8L IS to buy the 7D body!
    I had convinced myself that I had a bad copy of the 7D, but then I started scouring the Net looking for solutions. With a lot of input from some patient 7D users in the Fred Miranda forums, I got my 7D working, and working VERY well. What did I change?
    (as a note, I shoot mainly wildlife, birds in flight being my passion)
    1) Given the pixel difference between the 40D and the 7D, I theorize that you MUST shoot at a way faster shutter speed to not get motion induced ‘blurry’ shots. I try to shoot at 1/2000sec and no lower, whereas with the 40D I could shoot as low as 1/640sec or 1/800sec and still get sharp photos.
    2) Custom functions!!! Change ’em!
    CF III-7 1:continuous
    CF III-1 Slowest or second slowest sensitivity
    CF III-3 1:continuos AF track
    CF III-4 1:focus search off
    CF III-6 Disable Zone and 19-point
    The way the 7D comes, in default form, is HORRIBLE, and its too bad that a lot of users seem to find themselves in the possession of a seemingly possessed camera!
    3) Crank the ISO, in order to get the shutter speed up. Very useable images can be taken at 2500 ISO, i’ve printed them at 8X12 and the noise is amazingly minimal! Printed an eagle in flight taken at 800 ISO at 30X40, wicked stoopid sharp.
    4) Disable zone AF, use center spot only
    Happy with my 7D now, finally, but it was a very apinful learning curve.

  18. I’m hoping that Canon will fix it with the 7D MkII

  19. Uggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!
    Tried all these tricks people posted, and still cannot get a sharp auto focus image from my 7D. To bad I have a wedding to shoot in 5 days and will be using my trusty Rebel T2I instead of my 7D. I’m still in a battle with Canon over my camera and they are asking me once again to send it back to the same technician “Jeff” who looked at it before and said there is nothing wrong with it. If Canon does not fix my camera or replace it with a working model one of two things will happen: 1. Class action lawsuit for all the consumers who bought lemon 7d’s against Canon, or 2. I will video and record the quality of my 7D vs other cameras and then destroy it on YouTube. In which I will hope the video goes viral enough that I can make back the 1700.00 I spent on my camera and buy a new one. Or switch to Nikon. Any ways I will keep you posted with Canon’s customer service towards this issue or lack there of.

  20. A couple of things. I’ve seen it mentioned in several places, including a review for the 7D at http://www.the-digital-picture.com, that at default sharpness settings the 7D is a little softer than other Canon cameras which use the same sensor, such as the Rebels and 60D. That review simply recommends that the user set sharpness to 2 or 3 to get comparable results. It seems there is enough sharpness flexibility in the settings to avoid the soft images a lot have complained about. I suppose that is the purpose of having these setting options, to rectify margins of error. With any of these cameras you are never going to be in a situation where sharpness has to be set to maximum, so the fact that they do not perform the same at a zero setting should not matter. Here is the quote from the review.

    ‘Though I would like to see sharper results at lower sharpness settings (set sharpness to “2” or “3” and don’t worry about it), the Canon EOS 7D turns in great performance and great image quality in a great package’.

    The same article also suggests a stronger anti-alias filter in the 7D to reduce moire may be responsible for the softer images. That may be, but then I’m thinking why would they use a stronger filter than they used in the Rebels and the 60D? Anyway, sharpening in camera settings seems to be the solution.

    I have also heard complaints about the noise produced by the 7D, but does the 7D produce more noise than the Rebels and the 60D? From the reviews and comparison shots I have seen the complaints seem to be more about softness of image than noise. I think we should remember that despite the single number designation, the 7D is really just a souped up Rebel, which is still a very good camera. The 7D is not going to give you better image quality than a camera which uses the exact same sensor. You are paying for the build quality, weather sealing and the other features such as the AF system and dual-axis level.

    If however the 7D does produce more noise than the Rebels and 60D at the same ISO settings, it may have something to do with the greater heat produced by the 7D. Here is a quote from Wikipedia about image noise:

    ‘Temperature can also have an effect on the amount of noise produced by an image sensor due to leakage. With this in mind, it is known that DSLRs will produce more noise during summer than winter’.

    One of the things I have heard mentioned about some 7Ds is that they get warm. I think this may be caused by the fact that they have 2 DIGIC 4 processors in a smaller body and weather sealing that prevents that heat from escaping. The only other cameras which have 2 processors are those from the 1D series, but they are bigger so will allow for greater separation between parts and more air flow within the body of the camera. They also have bigger sensors and fewer pixels so will produce less noise anyway.

    • Your sharpness settings only apply to JPEG images. Why do RAW files from the Rebel look significantly sharper than RAW files from the 7D?

      You may be onto something with the anti alias filter and with the 7D getting warmer than the Rebel. How else to explain such big differences between 2 cameras that use the same sensor?

      Rebel files are much nicer than 7D files in all the tests I did.

      • I wish I knew, but if any of the people having problems with soft images are referring to JPEG, increasing the default sharpness settings would be a solution. There have been a lot of complaints about the 7Ds IQ and softness, some of which would probably have come from individuals who are shooting JPEG but may not know about the need to sharpen.

        As for those shooting RAW, they are presumably doing this to get the maximum out of their images in post, so while their starting image might not be as good as on a Rebel, for whatever reason, presumably a little more tweaking would bring it up to standard. RAW files rarely look that great to begin with. What if the 7Ds are a little worse, just move the slider a little more to improve the picture. No more labour is involved and you’ll never need the maximum options in the RAW converter so you’ll never reach the point where more correction is needed but no more is possible.

        Clearly there is something about the 7D that creates these peculiarities, but after the correct adjustments to account for them, surely it should be able to produce pictures comparable to the Rebels and the 60D which use the same sensor?

        I happen to think that the heat the 7D produces is responsible for the increase in noise, but hopefully it is not a huge increase and is correctible. There is just so much going on in the body of that camera that the sensor has to be affected by it. I suppose that’s the price you pay for all that spec. Short of putting a fan or vents in the camera, it was probably unavoidable.

        As for the sharpness issue, maybe it is an anti-alias filter issue, which was corrected in the Rebels which came out later and the 60D, who knows?

        I like to play around with the studio shot comparison test on dpreview where in the same scene shot you can compare the image quality of up to 4 different cameras at a time at the same and different ISO settings in RAW and JPEG. The 7D does okay from what I’ve seen, obviously noting that at default settings (correctible in camera) it will have softer JPEGS than Rebels and the like. From everything that I have read and seen I now look at the 7D as a highly specked Rebel which needs a little more tweaking or configuration to get the same results, which it should be able to do. Is this not the case?


      • I dunno, soft files to start with, even though corrected after in post won’t equal good sharp files captured in camera.

        I feel Canon screwed up with the 7d. The files are mush and require serious correcting (and won’t match up to a good rebel file even after correcting)

  21. Well, what are people saying out there? Were you not able to correct your RAW files in the 7D to an acceptable standard?

    Also, if you ever shot in JPEG did you sharpen the in camera sharpness settings above default?

    What did you find after these adjustments?

  22. Hello Darwin

    I read this on the Canon website and thought it might interest you and your readers. It’s a bit long, but relevant to this discussion:

    With digital images, the sharpening can be done at various stages, either in the camera or on a computer. Most digital cameras aimed at the consumer market do the sharpening in camera. This is why an image from the PowerShot G7, for example, looks so sharp and vivid when you come to print it. Canon assumes that images from a digital compact camera will normally go to an ink-jet printer, so in-camera processing optimises them for this purpose.

    The situation is different with professional cameras. Here, the final destination of an image might be a web site, an ink-jet print, a newspaper or a magazine – or a combination of these. Each needs a different set of parameters applied to the image file for the best results. This means that it is necessary to keep image processing within the camera to a minimum.

    Digital cameras capture RGB images – that is, an image composed from different ratios of red, green and blue light. If the image is to be published in a magazine, it must be converted to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). For the best print quality, any sharpening should be applied after the CMYK conversion. Sharpening done in the camera cannot be removed at a later stage, so it is best to apply little or no sharpening until after the file is converted to CMYK. The images from your camera will look a little soft when you first see them on a computer monitor,

    However, if your images are not destined for publication, you might want to boost the sharpness with the in-camera processing. This is easy to do. Simply go the Parameters on the Camera menu and increase the sharpness to a level between ‘1’ and ‘5’.

    If you have moved from the EOS-1D to the EOS-1D Mark II, you might find that the images look less sharp. There are two reasons for this. First, images captured with the EOS-1D Mark II have less noise than images from the earlier model.

    This provides a smoother gradation, which can give the impression of reduced sharpness. Also, the EOS-1D does not have a phase plate. This makes the images look sharper, but can increase the level of false colours. If you want images from the EOS-1D and EOS-1D Mark II to be similar, set the sharpness parameter on the EOS-1D Mark II to ‘1’.

    Even after making these changes, images from more recent EOS professional digital cameras can still look softer than those from earlier models. This is because recent models have more pixels, which means that pixel size is smaller (11.5µm on the EOS-1D; 7.2µm on the EOS-1Ds Mark II). Smaller pixels are more sensitive to camera shake, as a smaller movement will cause the image to move across more pixels. You need to hold the camera steadier – ideally on a tripod.

    For the same reason, sports photographers also need to re-think their shutter speeds, as blur from subject movement will be more apparent on cameras with more pixels. Where possible, consider increasing the shutter speed, even if this requires an increase in ISO speed.

    However, if you shoot RAW images, rather than JPEG, none of these camera settings will have any effect. The RAW image receives little processing within the camera, leaving you with a ‘digital negative’. You apply the parameter settings when you open the RAW image in programs such as Digital Photo Professional or Adobe Photoshop. The file is always opened as a copy, leaving the original RAW file untouched. This means you can experiment with different parameter settings to obtain the result you want – and can apply different settings if the image file is going to be used for different applications.


  23. James Barber Says:

    I recently bought a 7d to replace my Nikon D300s and I was quite well aware of your tests. So far there has been no evidence of a problem with my 7d and it is matching the D300s for focus and sharpness, I shoot one notch higher sharpening for the 7d but I think that is just the requirement for a higher megapixel sensor. I am quite pleased with the camera.


    • Sure in-camera sharpening of the JPEGS can help but when you compare RAW files, the D300s gives better images. Better data in results in better images after processing. But mileage varies, if you are happy, then that is all that matters!

      • James Barber Says:

        I understand and don’t doubt your results but I am not seeing that with my camera in raw. I looked over your articile in detail and my 7D is not working that way. Have they updated it? I have the latest firmware. My sharpening comment was meant to make the jpegs look the same but normally I am shooting both so I usually use the raw. All are processed in CS5 and Lightroom 3.

  24. I wish I could offer a “fix” in this post, but sadly I’m suffering from the same issues as everyone else.

    I was all over the 7D when it came out. So many cool features. I heard rave reviews about high ISO. I don’t shoot many indoor or night scenes, so I figured this high ISO praise would translate to ISO 100-800 for the nature photos I take. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It seemed this excellent high ISO noise praise is generated by a spiffy in-camera JPG processor. Well, I shoot in RAW, specifically landscapes and wildlife, and I hate to say this, but I’m disappointed by the 7D’s image quality. First, something doesn’t look right. There’s an almost watercolor effect to landscapes. At 100%, the files are noisy and mushy, much worse than my former XT, 40D, and 50D (I found the 40D to be the best of the bunch).

    The problem seems to be exasperated when using telephotos. My 300 F4 L IS prime was suicide sharp on the 40D and 50D. On the 7D? Mush. Can’t get a sharp photo. The same prime with my Canon 1.4x II TC was outstanding on the 40D and 50D. On the 7D? Awful. Micro focus adjusting does not fix the problem. Images just seem like they never truly lock focus. There is no “pop”.

    From a nature photographer’s standpoint, this camera has been frustrating. What good are all these fancy features if your keeper rate has plummeted? Oh wow, there’s a built-in leveler. But are my RAW files sharp? Nope.

    The priority in a $1600 DSLR should always be IQ. Always. Every single other feature should take a backseat. Why the 7D is like this, seemingly locked into a weird “not-quite-focus” mode is beyond me. I’ve tried all the fixes posted here and in other places. These have not changed the issue.

    At this point I’m having the body sent into Canon, although I don’t have positive thoughts about that. I’m worried it will come back worse, but I have no choice.

    If it comes back the same, I may have to pick up a 5D II. When I spend $1600, I expect the RAW files of the new DSLR to beat the RAW files of a Rebel. This is not being too demanding. A camera, at its core purpose is a device to capture the best IQ using reliable focus within the technologies realistic price point.

    As a wildlife photographer, am I willing to eat 180mm in crop factor to get sharp files? You bet. Because the ONLY thing that matters in all of this is IQ, not gee-whiz bang features or GPS coordinates or five hundred ways to customize a flaky AF system. What good is an extra 180mm if the pictures aren’t sharp?

    I wish I didn’t have to waste so much time with this. I pay Canon good money to test their products. I love their IQ when they get it right.

    There’s a ton of people with this issue. The most important question Darwin raises in all of this is: “Why do the RAW files of supposedly lesser cameras look superior to the 7D?”

    That’s the question that needs to be answered. My RAW photos match the awful ones Darwin produced, and I’d like an answer. Certainly Canon are aware of this. Certainly they get these soft 7D’s back and wonder why.

    What I’d like, and what many others would like is for Canon to explain this, and heck, maybe even offer a solution. Instead we get silence.

    I’m sure everyone is familiar with the whole Charlie Sheen debacle from earlier this year. At one of his “comedy tour shows”, an audience member booed Mr. Sheen. Mr. Sheen’s response?

    “Already got your money, dude.”


    • You describe exactly what we see in the 7D RAW files (mushy, milky images) – Yech! We don’t see that in the T2I (with the same sensor – what gives?).

  25. Hi!

    i’ve recently bought 7D and after a few days of tests doubting about my skill i realize that my camera have the Out of focus issue!

    I’ve read a lot of forums even this one from top to bottom and I discovered that nobody has the slightest idea of what the problem is about.

    (im not a complete noob btw)

    Here my conclusions:

    1º The out of focus issue is only for some lens.:
    My old canon 55-205 IS works perfectly! No Focus problem
    My new Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II… oh god… what a frustration (OOF Issues)

    2º From reading so much information from users, i believe that only some D7 have this problem. (Canon quality control fault?). So, it is very frustrating for those who have this issue and feels like it is his own lack of skill or something
    I’ve found some users that have no problems with 70-200 2.8 IS II.

    3º I need some more tests, but i feel that Out of Focus problem only aplyes for long distance subjects and zoom. I have no focus problem testing F2.8 shots in a metric tape in 70mm
    (need to do more testes about this)

    4º in AI Servo, the lens just go in and out of focus repeatedly. it can be slightly improoved reducing tracking speed options, but is not enough… it just don’t stop tracking and majority of photos became out of focus.

    * I’m trying al those strange teories before send it do canon for guaranty repair. *

    I’v done hard reset for 2 Hours. The same. I’m doing again for a few mor hours, maybe a day.

    The AF fine-tune adjustment for a start dont make sense this kind of adjustements on original *canon* lens. But doesn’t matter… don’t solve the problem. It’s just not enough.

    I haven’t tried another possible solve. sharpen the picture style. well… i’t test it but i don’t make sense for me… i think that is something like sharpening in photoshop.

    i have a lot more to share but is enough for first post lol

    sorry about my bad english 🙂

  26. i have oof issue on the 7d .
    compared it to the 60d , which focuses perfectly .
    tried to micro adjust the focus , it helps at certain distance , at other distances i need to set the micro adjustment to a different value – useless.
    i guess not all the 7ds are the same , but there is definately a problem with some of those bodies .
    i sent the camera back , and now they return it back to me , claiming theres nothing wrong with it.

  27. Wally Bauman Says:

    I have the same problems with my 7d, “soft and lacking defintion”, and “noise”. I am very disappointed. Think I’ll get what I can for it and get a 60d or a Rebel. I need the crop sensor for the extra reach, and need to stay with Canon since I have Canon lenses.

  28. James Barber Says:

    After 10,000 shots with my 7d I still do not see the poor quality. I am very pleased that it easily match my previous D300s. It is very clear that my 7D is a very good sample. Recently bought a 100-400L for it and images in raw are excellent.

  29. Massimo Bonatti Says:

    I bought my 7d about a year ago, there has been no evidence of softness in my raws to the extent of Darwin’s test. My copy matches and exceeds the D300s for focus and sharpness, When you set the 7D to record at only 8MP or 4.5MP images are spectacular. Because less, or no Bayer Interpolation is used in camera processing. I am quite pleased with my results. I beleive these tests were based on several bad copies.

    Please see tests conducted by Ken Rockwell at: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/comparisons/2010-08-03-5d2-7d-5d-d300/
    It clearly shows the superiority of the 7D images as compared to D300.

  30. George W. Says:

    My first DSLR was EOS Rebel T2i two years ago and It was a great camera and my first Canon. Six month later, I tried my friend’s 7D and was hooked by the 100% viewfinder, 19 point autofocus and 8fps speed. Thinking the sensor was the same as T2i and everything else “should be better” on 7D, I traded my T2i for 7D.

    With EF-S lenses (10-22mmm, 15-85mm IS and 18-200mm IS), IQ was OK but “muddier”, noisier and less sharp than the T2i and more vertical banding noises.(http://www.flickr.com/groups/canon_7d_digital_slr/discuss/72157623496964841/).

    Knowing my next camera would be a full frame, I decided to invest in EF 50mm f1.4(returned), EF 50mm f1.8 EF(returned), 100mm f2.8 IS Macro L and 70-200mm f2.8 IS II L, and my dispointment began. I could not get a focused photo on any wide open f-stop (f1.4, f1.8 & f2.8) unless I was shooting at f5.6 with these EF lenses. Regardless of how many times I sent the 7D body back to Canon for service, changing focus methods or adjusting the micro adjustment there was no improvement.

    I had 1 Agfa, 2 Olympus and 9 Panasonic before and after 12 cameras in 12 years later, my Canon 7D body was my only dispointment in photography.

    I waited for 6 months for 5D Mark III and sold the 7D. All my EF-L lenses become alive and 90% of the photos return sharp and focused in low light (6fps x 90% hit rate), while 7D was about 35% (8fps x 35% hit rate) with these lenses. Over all IQ shooting at ISO 1600 on 5D3 in RAW is like shooting at ISO 200 on the 7D with only 20% more noise but 200% sharper, 200% clearer, 200% better color and 300% more avaliable shutter speed in every shot.

    I really tried to like my 7D and was hoping it would be a good backup unit for the 5D3; however, like many 7D users I have read (and unlike my friend’s 7D), I had one of those “copies” that should never have passed Canon’s quality control, let alone leaving the factory to be sold on a shelf of a store!

    It’s time for me to let it go and move on to enjoy the photography life again and not to be bog down by the defect of a camera made by a manufacturer who is not willing to recall these 7D units. Goodbye 7D, I miss you, T2i and Hello 5D3!

  31. I am another sufferer and it is really so disappointing one repair after another to no avail. I saw the idea in the thread above and wondering if there is appetite on some type of class action? This many people, as are all over the web, can’t be wrong…

    • Massimo Bonatti Says:

      I highly doubt they will do anything for few hundred “UNLUCKY” ones… waste of time. My 7D satisfies me, of course won’t beat an ff but i am content by doing a little more work post and achieve great results.

  32. […] We have had many focusing problems resulting into soft images due to our Canon 7D. Our 7D works fine for the most part when using a fisheye lens in and out of the water (manual focus/preset), but with our Canon 70-200mm and Canon 600mm more images are turning out soft then sharp. If you don’t believe us you can read more about customers complaining here. […]

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