The Digital Photo Guy

Canon 7D Auto Focus Features

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Articles, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Getting the Best Out of Your Canon 7D Auto Focus

The Canon 7D has turned out to be one of the most capable Canon mid-range dSLRs ever. It’s not just new, it’s revolutionary in mid-range dSLRs. It has so many new capabilities that it’s difficult to pick just one or two as my favorites. One feature I apprecate the most is its new AF system.

Anyone who keeps up with things dSLR knows about the new 19-point AF system. Compared to the older 9-point system, 19 points is a huge improvement. It allows precise selection of just the right AF point for just about any scenario. If that were the only improvement, it would be big but Canon didn’t stop there.

My personal favorite new feature within the 19-Point AF system is the new Zone AF. Click the image below to see the different zones that can be selected.

Using the standard Canon AF Point Selection button on the back top right and the new M-Fn (Multi-Function) button, I can cycle through all the AF Area Selection Modes I’ve enabled. Yes, you heard that correctly. I can choose which of the 5 AF Area Modes to enable so I don’t waste time cycling through unneeded modes. 

In my 7D, I have the 19-Point AF Auto Selection (all points active) disabled because I rarely want the camera to decide which AF points to use.  Of the remaining four AF modes, I typically use Single Point. Like previous models, all the AF points are f/5.6 cross-type sensors. The center AF point is a high precision cross-type sensor for use with lenses that are f/2.8 or brighter.

As stated earlier, my personal favorite new AF Area Mode is Zone. That’s what the animated GIF image above shows. I can select each of the five zones (left, right, top, bottom and center) and 4 AF points (9 in the center) are activated in that zone. It’s like having a mini-AF system.

When photographing sports or fauna, I was always conflicted between all points active or single point AF. When all points are active, dSLR owners know the hazards of having the camera select the nearest AF point. With single point AF, it was tough to keep that small point focused on the player’s face.

With Zone Area, I can select a zone and keep the bird’s head in focus while ignoring the wingtips or a closer bird. I can keep the running back’s head in focus and the camera doesn’t “grab” his extended stiff arm. I’m looking forward to putting this to the test at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge this winter when I lead a field workshop photographing sandhill cranes and snow geese.

My Newest Favorite On-Line Stores

Recently, I’ve been buying a lot of computer stuff from Newegg. I’ve been very impressed with their efficient service including RMA process for defective/failed items. Newegg has a self-RMA system that allows you to create your own RMA number and a shipping label to return a product. Obviously, they still check it at their end to be sure the problem isn’t with the nut behind the keyboard but, once they verify the problem, they replace it quickly. In my case, the replacement was shipped back via 3-day UPS.

Batteries, batteries and more batteries. These little buggers are the bane of the digital world. In the past, I’ve always bought all my rechargeable AA Ni-Cad batteries from Thomas Distributing and Canon BP-511 (non-OEM) Li-Ion batteries from SterlingTek.

With the Canon 7D came a new battery design, of course! It turns out new batteries are much more sophisticated and have internal chips that monitor charge level and other vital info. For example, a generic “uncoded” LP-E6 equivalent battery will NOT charge in a Canon charger and will NOT activate the battery level meter.

In searching for a spare battery for the Canon 7D, I was determined not to pay $85 for a genuine Canon battery but I also wanted some assurance that the battery would work in the 7D. I ordered the spare from BatteryEmpire, an eBay seller in Hong Kong. It was shipped promptly and charged perfectly in the Canon charger. In the 7D, it reports the battery charge level and, in all respects, seems to be an exact replacement for the Canon battery. The only remaining question is longevity but for US$26 including shipping from Hong Kong, I can’t complain too much if it only lasts 1 years as compared to 2 years for an $85 Canon battery.

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