Why I’m Shooting With A Canon 7D MK II

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PhotoFocus has just posted the following update to their blog:

Yep you read that title right. I am going to be using the new Canon 7D MK II as my primary*camera. For most of the last three years, I’ve mainly relied on Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. They are inexpensive, super easy to carry and offer amazing image quality. In the case of the Panasonic, these cameras offer some of the best and most affordable ways to capture professional video.
[h=2]DSLR or MFT?[/h]I have occasionally used DSLRs for big shoots like Coastal Brown Bears or American Bald Eagles. While I often use DSLRs for birds and wildlife I have even made some outstanding wildlife images with Micro Four Thirds cameras.
But along came the Canon 7D MK II – and that is a game-changer. While I couldn’t justify keeping the heavy, and very expensive Canon 1DX in my bag since I retired, a sub-$2000 camera body that does 95% of the same thing with a lot less weight and for thousands less than the 1DX – that is a different story.
I can do most of the things I need to do with the Micro Four Thirds cameras, but there are things – like shooting birds in flight all day or working with fast, moving objects, where the advanced auto-focus of the Canon 7D MK II will make for better results.
[h=2]Key Features of the 7D Mark II[/h]The advent of a 10-FPS DSLR (with comparable AF to the 1DX) would tempt any sports, wildlife or bird photographer. And these features, coupled with the right lens make for a fantastic bird/wildlife kit. Which lens? Well there are several that will do a fine job. But there are two*lenses I am really looking forward to pairing with the 7D MK II. The Sigma 150-600 and the new Canon 100-400 IS L MK II zoom.
[h=2]Sigma 150-600[/h]Let’s start with the Sigma. I was granted momentary access to the not-yet-released Sigma 150-600 while at Bosque this year. All I can say is wow!

First some backstory…
Long-time Photofocus readers will remember that I am no stranger to Sigma lenses. I spent years using “The Sigmonster.” The big 300-800 Sigma zoom was my go-to lens for bird and wildlife photography. During the time I used the 300-800, I was constantly impressed that Sigma had pulled off a lens of such quality for what amounts to a bargain in big glass land. But Sigma didn’t update that lens and new technology, better glass coatings and a number of other features on new lenses contributed to me deciding that I could no longer justify carrying that big, heavy beast.
So when my pal Robert O’Toole brought one of the first production 150-600 models Sigma released into the wild I wasn’t surprised that it was so amazing.
Robert will have an in-depth write-up on the Sigma 150-600 here soon. But I can give you a quick executive rundown of what I think he will say.
The lens is built like a tank. If you have visions of a cheap, plastic, third-party lens, think again. This baby is built as well as any Canon or Nikon lens I’ve ever seen. It’s weather-sealed. It is also optically superior to anything in the class. Sigma has managed to make a stabilized lens, with a long focal length, sharp as a tack at almost every focal length and almost every aperture. And they’ve managed to do it for around $2000!
Now there is a trade-off. It’s relatively slow at f/5.6-6.3. But it has good close focusing distance and it’s sharp. It’s no heavier than other lenses in the class and here’s the kicker. . . When paired with the Canon 7D MK II – it brings you an equivalent focal length (EFL) of 960mm!!!
That’s a bird photographer’s dream focal length. When it comes to shooting birds, you can almost never have too much lens. Now shoot that lens on a body with 10FPS and 61-AF points, and you are talking pure gear porn. All for under $4k!

[h=2]Canon 100-400 IS L MK II zoom[/h]About the new Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM…
When you need to photograph birds, you need lots of lens but a zoom is helpful too because it’s easier to find the bird in the frame at a short focal length, and then zoom in to get the bird big in the frame. Canon’s new version of the venerable 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 zoom fits the bill. When mounted on the 7D MK II – it offers an effective focal length (EFL) of 160-640mm. That’s a sweet spot for bird photography.
While I’ve only shot a few test frames with this new lens I can tell you it’s a keeper. It delivers prime-quality images, especially in good light.
[h=2]How My Workflow Has Changed[/h]In days gone by, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to take north of $35,000 worth of gear to Bosque for the snow geese, to Florida for water birds or to Homer, AK for the eagles. Now I can see myself out there with a Canon 7D MK II, a good tripod/head and the Canon 100-400 or the Sigma 150-600 for long shots. Add a few shorter lenses for landscapes and flight shots and it’s case closed.
What originally attracted me to Micro Four Thirds was low cost and great portability. While I’m giving up most of the portability when I shoot the 7D MK II, I’m still getting great value, and I’m using a camera/lens combo that allows me to shoot anytime, anywhere and know that I have enough reach to accomplish my goal.
Will this matter to many of you? Who knows? I am certain that it’s the minority of you who shoot sports, birds and/or wildlife. But if you’re in that group, you will eventually want to pay attention to the 7D MK II. I’ve only shot with mine a few times but it’s got great image quality, impressive low-light performance and the auto-focus is simply better than almost anything on the market save the 1DX.
For those of you who need to shoot video with incredibly long lenses, well you will also be excited since the 7D MK II’s video capabilities are improved. I still prefer the Panasonic GH4 for video, but if I have to pick a stills camera that can also handle video, the 7D MK II can do the job.
I’ve been lucky in that throughout the last half of my life, I had access to any gear I wanted. Now that I am retired, I can’t justify $15,000 lenses. But the Canon 7D MK II paired with any number of Canon lenses and/or the new Sigma 150-600 will solve my problems and help me tell a few more stories about the birds.
P.S. I am not abandoning Micro Four Thirds. I can still see plenty of cases for grabbing my Olympus and a short zoom lens and going for a walk. But the MFT stuff will be backup to the new Canon. It really is an amazing camera for the money.
P.S.S. Another factor in my decision is the latest version of Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software. Version 4.xx is free with the camera. *In my opinion it offers RAW conversion for Canon files that’s unmatched by Apple, Adobe or anyone else. I still use Lightroom and Photoshop, but I do the RAW conversion in DPP.
I’ll have an update after I do a few shoots with this new combo.
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Filed under: Gear, Photography Tagged: 7D MK II, Canon, canon 7d mk ii, Digital camera, Sigma, Sigma Telephoto, Sigma Zoom Lens


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