The ultimate hobbyist body

Canon 7DMII: The Ultimate Hobbyist Body

In Gear, Photo Basics by Jeff Harmon

The ultimate hobbyist body

New flagship crop from Canon is the ultimate hobbyist body

After years of rumors, in late 2014 Canon finally refreshed their top-end of their APS-C crop sensor line of camera bodies with the 7D Mark II. Here is why it has the makeup to be the ultimate body for hobbyist photographers.

Crop Sensor

Many will think I am crazy in suggesting any photographer may actually be happier with a crop sensor (Jim talked about hating the term “crop sensor” in podcast 92 at about 15 minutes in) over those sexy full frame sensors everyone (myself included) pine for – but hear me out.  Forgetting costs for a moment (see below), I firmly believe the APS-C crop sensor makes the most sense for a hobbyist.  Photography is trending toward diversification with photographers doing a least a little of every type of photography.  No better way to learn about light and how to best capture it for different situations than to shoot in as many different situations as possible.  A professional is more likely to buy multiple camera bodies made for each type of photography and can get slightly better results because of it.  However, a hobbyist photographer usually has to live with one body (again back to cost) and the crop sensor is better suited to match all of those different needs.

Yes, the jack-of-all-trades master-of-none phrase would apply here. A full frame sensor will likely always have advantages in most situations over a crop sensor, but there are actually some situations where crop sensor can have a slight advantage. In fact, the new APS-C crop sensor inside the Canon 7DMII goes from 18 to 20 megapixels and handles higher ISO SIGNIFICANTLY better, closing the gap between it's full frame big brothers more than ever before.  With a crop sensor you have more lens choices (see point below), farther reach, and a little more room in the depth-of-field to be ready for anything you want to throw at it.

Build Quality

Beyond the size of the sensor, one of the reasons professional photographers tend to use full frame bodies over crop bodies has to do with the build quality. The crop sensor inside Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other brands is very capable, but historically has been housed in cheaper components.  This made it more susceptible to dust, water, and breaking down from constant use. The 7DMII boasts a dust and weatherproof (NOT waterproof) magnesium body, comparable with the quality of the full frame bodies that are far more expensive.  In fact, Roger Cicala of borrowlenses.com published a brief review of the build and says it may be the best weather-sealed camera he has run across.  For a hobbyist this makes it not only possible to shoot in conditions they never would have before, it lessens (doesn't eliminate) the need for a backup body.

Lenses

You have likely heard it before, and I'll say it again here, lenses are second only to the quality of light in affecting the quality of photos.  If you want to increase the quality of your shots getting better glass to put on the front of it will do far more than getting a better camera body.  True of all Canon crop sensor bodies, the 7DMII can use not only the lenses meant for a full frame sensor (Canon EF mount) but can also use those that won't work on a full frame body (Canon EF-S mount).  Yes, there is a reason the EF mount lenses are more money, they are worth it.  In the right hands they will produce better quality images.  But EF-S mount lenses can be very good.  The point here would be more choice (many of them cheaper) is better for the hobbyist.

Speed

Thus far the reasoning here could be applied to many different types of camera bodies from Canon, Nikon, and others.  Although the 7DMII takes the crop sensor and build quality to a new level, numerous manufacturers have offered bodies that would make great choices for the hobbyist.  But this is where the 7DMII makes some separation. It is the fastest crop sensor camera available today. It has 65 cross-type auto focus pixels, rivaling the focus system of many significantly more expensive cameras. The focus system is flat out fast.  Because they are focus pixels on the sensor they can also be used while recording video, which now supports 1080p HD at 60fps (sadly no 4K). It can burst shoot 10 pics per second, up from 8 per second in the predecessor.  This is also a number that rivals many bodies that are significantly more expensive. The storage writing speeds (if you have a fast SD or CF card) and the dual Digic 6 processor together means you spend less time waiting for that red write light to turn off so that you can resume shooting.

Cost

For everyone but governments, budgets are always a factor in making choices, but the hobbyist photographer is usually on a tighter budget than professionals.  The crop sensor is more budget friendly, and not by a little.  When you consider not only the cost of the sensor but also the cost of the lenses that are required with full frame bodies, it is multiple thousands of dollars difference.  The 7DMII isn't the cheapest crop sensor camera body – retailing at first release for about $1,800.  In fact, if you are just beginning your photography endeavor the Canon T3i or Nikon D5200 are very good crop sensor bodies at less than half that cost and you could add some good lenses (again, far more important than the body) for the cost of just the 7DMII body alone.

Some would argue that the Canon 6D, retailing at about $1,900, would give you a full frame body at almost the same cost.  This is true, but the 6D doesn't have a build quality that is as good as the 7DMII and can't touch the speed of the 7DMII.  Plus the 6D can only use those more expensive EF lenses, so you have a lot more investment to make there.

Bottom Line

A hobbyist can get 90% of what a full frame body provides in terms of image quality, build quality, and speed at a significantly less cost.  As a hobbyist photographer I am saving my pennies to get the Canon 7DMII.  It may end up being a speed bump on the road to full frame, but I think it will do more to up my photography than any other investment I can make right now (I already have some good lenses).

Update December 2014: Be sure to check out the comments below on this article for some good questions and answers on the topic.


About the Author

Jeff Harmon

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The hobbyist editor here at improvephotography.com. IT Professional by day, passionate hobbyist photographer ever other second possible. Living in Herriman, Utah. Loves trying to capture the beauty around every day and family portraits occasionally. Be sure to check out my portfolio at http://jsharmonphotos.com.