Two Things I Do Not Like About the Canon EOS-7D Mark II « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Two Things I Do Not Like About the Canon EOS-7D Mark II

Important Note

My samandmayasgrandpa att e-mail account was suspended on 18 DEC. Those who tried to reach me by e-mail between then and yesterday had their mails bounced back. If you tried to reach me during that period please re-send any important e-mails. It was re-activated soon after I got back from my big trip to the Southern Ocean.

What’s Up?

Though I still have traces of my cold, I am finally feeling much better this morning. If you are one of the few who missed the Canon Digital Learning Center “Bird Photography with Arthur Morris” seven video series, be sure to click here for a link and the complete details. I still have many exciting new images, tales, and lessons from my recently-concluded trip to share with you here over the course of the next few weeks and am looking forward to doing just that.

Today’s blog post took about 2 1/2 hours to create. It was published at 5:05am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL. Today, I will continue to work on the upcoming 7D Mark II User’s Guide and get to work on Used Photography Gear e-mails. And watch the two NFL games. I am rooting for the Seahawks to beat the Packers and the Colts to dispatch the Patriots. Can my perfect losing streak continue?

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This shag image was created at 4:11pm on December 17, 2014 in cloudy bright conditions on New Island, the Falklands, with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and the amazing Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the light blue sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Manual selection–single point/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The 7D II has a superb AF system. Here it tracked the incoming bird perfectly against a background other than sky.

From Ted Cheeseman via e-mail

I think that by the currently accepted taxonomy, the bird is a King Cormorant (aka White-bellied Shag), Phalacrocorax (atriceps) albiventer.

Note: Ted’s up to the minute knowledge of all things Southern Ocean borders on the super-natural.

From Cheesemans’ Expedition Leader/birding specialist Joe Kaplan via e-mail:

According to the current e-Bird listing this one goes as Imperial Cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps).

Note from artie: The scientists in charge change the species names of the Southern Ocean comorants (shags) about every to weeks…..

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II

I have championed this camera since the moment I first got my hands on it. And I still love it. How can you beat a lightweight relatively inexpensive body with superb AF, a fast frame rate, superb image files,and pretty darned good control of high ISO noise. There are, however, two things that bug me about the 7D II.

The Number One Thing That I Do Not Like About the 7D Mark II: the Almost Invisible vertically-oriented Exposure Scale in Manual Mode

When you are working with the 7D Mark II in an automatic mode like Program, Aperture value (aperture priority), or Time value (shutter priority), there are two analogue exposure scales in the viewfinder, a horizontal one at the bottom, and a vertically oriented one on the right side. When you are working in manual mode, the only analog scale on the 7D II is the vertically oriented one on the right side of the viewfinder. The problem is that the marks on the vertical scale are smaller and seem to be more dimly lit than the markings on the horizontal analog exposure scale that is easily seen when working in P, Av or Tv.

(Notes: In the official Canon nomenclature, the vertically oriented analogue scale is termed “Exposure level indicator (Metering/Flash metering).” The exposure compensation here is shown by the first mark just to the right of the scale. The flash exposure compensation is shown by a second mark, effectively just to the right of the first mark, only if the pop up flash is raised or an external Speedlight is in place and turned on.

In the official Canon nomenclature, the horizontally oriented analogue scale is termed “Exposure level indicator.” Relevant subheads include “Exposure compensation amount,” “AEB range,” and “Flash exposure compensation.”

The first two are straightforward. The amount of Flash ec is shown on the horizontal scale only after the Flash exposure compensation/ISO button on the top right of the camera has been pushed.)

I believe that the problems encountered when attempting to view the vertical analogue scale when working in Manual mode are compounded because the viewfinder box of the 7D II with its 1.6 crop factor is physically smaller than the viewfinder box on a pro body; unless you have your eye squarely in the dead center of the viewfinder either side of the box block your view of the scale. At times can be difficult at best to read the analog scale. The brighter the ambient light, the more difficult it can become to view the vertically oriented analogue exposure scale (when working in Manual mode).

You can demonstrate the problem by working in Manual mode and moving your eye slightly left and then slightly right in the viewfinder; for most of us the analogue scale will disappear and then appear and then disappear again.

Several times when photographing on the recently-concluded Southern Ocean trip I raised a lens with a 7D II attached and had great difficulty seeing the vertical analog scale (only of course when working in Manual mode). At this point my choices were either to opt to work in the dark (so to speak) by making an image and then checking the histogram or to switch to Av mode. Either is fine in most situations where the light is constant and the subject is not doing anything special. If you come upon a new exposure situation while you are working in Manual mode and the subject does something spectacular you will miss the action.

You can read more about this problem here in the Photography Gear forum on BirdPhotographers.Net. You can check out the honest critiques done gently in the Avian forum here.

Can the problem be solved by a firmware update? Possibly.


This is the layout of the 1D X AF grid. It is the same on the 5D III. Note that the central block is 3 X 7 and that the two outer blocks of sensors are 4 across X 5 tall. More importantly note the relatively narrow gap between the central block and the two outer blocks. Compare with the 7D II AF grid in the next illustration.

The Number Two Thing That I Do Not Like About the 7D Mark II: the AF Grid Void

This is the one–that to my knowledge–has never been mentioned before. Except by me in various personal conversations with other photographers….

On previous EOS digital camera bodies with similar layouts the left, center, and right AF arrays were closer together. In addition, when you worked in either Expand AF area (the selected sensor plus as many as four surrounding AF points) or in Expand AF area: Surround (the selected sensor plus as many as eight surrounding AF points) and move the selected arrays of sensors across the boundary between the three AF arrays (left, center, and right) the transitions are seamless. For example, if you are in Expand AF area: Surround with the central sensor selected with a 1D X or a 5d III and you move the selected array of eight centers one click to the left you will still have nine active sensors, six in the central array and 3 in the left hand array.


This is the layout of the 7D II AF grid. Note that the central block is 5 X 5 and that the two outer blocks of sensors are 4 across X 5 tall. More importantly note the relatively wide gap between the central block and the two outer blocks. There-in lies the problem.

That does not happen with the 7D II; the transitions are not seamless.. You are fine when you move the selected block of sensors one click to the left (because the center block is wider at 5 X 5 with the 7D II than with either the 1D X or the 5D III where the center block of AF points is 3 across X 7 tall). But when you move the selected block of sensors two clicks to the left you will find yourself only with a 3 tall X 2 wide block of six active sensors. The block does not cross over to the left hand (4 X 5) array. One more click to the left and you again find yourself with a 2 X 3 block of of active sensors, this time in the left hand array.

With the widest-ever gap between the central block and the two outer blocks of sensors you are often left wanting. The exact spot that I want to put my array on is often in the void between the central block and one of the two outer blocks. For those who take great care as I do as to exactly where they place the array of active sensors, this often makes getting the exact composition that you want either more difficult or impossible.

Important note: the “AF grid void” problem that I detail immediately above is usually only encountered when you are tracking a slowly moving subject or when you are hand holding and need to keep AF active at the moment of exposure. If you are on a tripod working with a static subject then either One-Shot or Rear Button focus will enable you to come up with the exact composition that you want.

I am hoping that the “AF grid void” problem might one day be solved with a firmware update so that a 5-sensor array stays a 5-sensor array when you cross the void and a 9-sensor array stays a 9-sensor array when you go from the center array to one of the outer arrays….

When folks on IPTs ask, What is the big secret to success in bird and nature photography my answer is always the same. “Paying attention to the small details….”


Do consider joining me for a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos archipelago in July, 2015.

GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 14-28, 2015 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $12,499. Limit 14 including the leader:/Openings: 2.

My two-week Galapagos Photo-Cruises are without equal. The world’s best guide, a killer itinerary, a great boat (the Samba), and the best leader with eight Galapagos cruises under his belt. Pre-trip and pre-landing location-specific gear advice. In-the-field photo instruction and guidance. Jeez, I almost forgot: fine dining at sea!

The great spots that we will visit include Tower Island (including Prince Phillips Steps and Darwin Bay), Hood Island (including Punta Suarez, the world’s only nesting site of Waved Albatross, and Gardner Bay)—each of the preceding are world class wildlife photography designations that rank right up there with Antarctica, Africa, and Midway. We will also visit Fernandina, Puerto Ayora for the tortoises, Puerto Egas—James Bay, North Seymour and Isla Lobos for nesting Blue-footed Booby (most years), South Plaza, Floreana, and Urbina Bay, all spectacular in their own right. We visit every great spot on a single trip. Plus tons more. And there will he lots of opportunities to snorkel on sunny mid-days for those like me who wish to partake.

We will be the first boat on each island in the morning and the last boat to leave each island every afternoon. If we are blessed with overcast weather, we will often spend 5-6 hours at the best sites. And as noted above, mid-day snorkeling is an option on most sunny days depending on location. Note: some of the walks are a bit strenuous. Great images are possible on all landings with a hand held 70-200mm lens and a 1.4X teleconverter. I bring a longer lens ashore on most landings as that fits my style. I generally work with either the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS or the Canon 200-400mm f/4 L IS with Internal Extender.

Do know that there is a NatureScapes Galapagos trip: one week for $8495. Thus, my trip represents a tremendous value; why go all that way and miss half of the great photographic locations?

The Logistics

Fly to Guayacil, Ecuador on July 12, 2015. Travel insurance/rest day: July 13 (We may or may not offer a photo outing on the 13th). Fly to the archipelago on July 14 and board the Samba. Get off the boat on July 28. Fly to Guayacil that afternoon. Fly home on the early morning of July 29 unless you are staying on or going elsewhere (or catching a red-eye flight on the evening of the 28th).

$12,499 includes just about everything: all transfers, guide and park fees, all food on the boat, transfers and ground transportation, your flights to the archipelago, and three nights (double occupancy) in a top notch hotel in Guayacil. If you are good to go, a non-refundable deposit of $5,000 per person is due immediately. The second payment of $4,000 is not due until 11/1/14. The final payment of $3449 per person will be due on 2/1/15. A $200 discount will be applied to each of the balances for couples or friends who register at the same time.

Purchasing travel insurance within 2 weeks of our cashing your deposit check is strongly recommended. On my past two cruises a total of 5 folks were forced to cancel less than one week prior to the trip. My family and I use Travel Insurance Services and strongly recommend that you do the same.

Not included: your round trip airfare from your home to and from Guayacil, beverages on the boat, phone calls, your meals in Guayacil, personal items, and a $600/person cash tip for the crew and the guide—this works out to roughly $40/day to be shared by the 7 folks who will be waiting on us hand and foot every day for two weeks. The service is so wonderful that many folks choose to tip extra.

Please e-mail for the complete itinerary and for additional info and images. Please cut and paste “Galapagos 2015 Info Please) into the Subject line.


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24 comments to Two Things I Do Not Like About the Canon EOS-7D Mark II

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    No thanks required! But while I’m here, thank you for sharing so many inspirational images and producing such an amazing teaching database. I often search and find what I am looking for.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks anyway! The search feature was messed up for a few days but Peter Kes got it back up to snuff yesterday. artie]

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Hi! Doesn’t back-focus and re-frame solve that gap problem? OR have I missed big point here?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Missed the big point. I may have been remiss in not mentioning that the problems I talk about with the AF grid void are encountered mainly when you are tracking a slowly moving subject or when hand holding and wanting to keep AF active at the moment of exposure.

      Thanks for bringing it up.

  • avatar Dave Adler


  • avatar Dave Adler

    I am looking forward to your crow (oops, no pun intended) eating apology when we see that the Colts will NOT have “dispatched” (as you put it) the Patriots later today!!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Win or lose no apology will be needed or forthcoming :). I love it that they give pretty boy the Super Bowl trophy every year BEFORE THE SEASON BEGINS. If memory serves me correctly the NY Football Giants had a few things to say about that in 2008 and 2012…. artie

  • avatar Graham Hedrick

    Here is what I just noticed. The focus points are not horizontally alligned from focus bank to focus bank. I can’t believe this is designed like this. I knew this camera was too good to be true. Ugh! 🙁

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Graham, What difference would that make? Besides, if you did not notice it before then it is not a problem 🙂 artie

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    I finally broke down and got a 7D2 looking forward to the crop sensor. After testing, I sold it. Up to 800 ISO the camera is excellent but above that the noise was too much for my liking. Very disappointed. Keeping my 1D4 and 1Dx until I can locate another good deal on a used 1DX for my second body. I guess the 1Dx has spoiled me!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Different strokes. I’ve done OK with ISO 1600 with the 7D II. Hey, you can buy lots of 1D IVs cheap right now. There are several on the used gear page here. for as low as $1900 with the prices still coming down…. On the big trip I used the cameras about 50-50 so either I must be dumb or confused 🙂 artie

    • avatar Keith

      “Up to 800 ISO the camera is excellent but above that the noise was too much for my liking.”

      User error or bad converter decisions: here’s a 100% crop of a 4000 (yes, four thousand) ISO, chosen by Auto ISO to maintain shutter speed, from my ISO – straight out of converter, cropped in Photoshop but NO additional PP NR:

      Noiseless. But I know what I’m doing, and I use Raw converters that are up to the job (that is, NOT Lightroom, NOT DPP)…

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        With all due respect Keith, the image that you linked to does no prove much of anything…. So do share, what is your magical RAW converter? artie

  • Artie,
    Whew, I thought it was only me. I’m left-handed & sight with my left eye and I just assumed that the exposure bar would appear correctly with the other 90% of the world. At least I’m not alone. I really like that the 7D2 now has similar functionality with the 1DX so switching back & fourth doesn’t take as much thought.

    I hope they can change the exposure bar via firmware, but I would think that the AF grids will be modifiable by firmware – that is probably where the AF sensors physically reside on the sensor or mirror. But, one can always hope.

    Thanks for all your up-to-date reviews.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I use my left eye too. Not sure what you mean about “switching back and forth….’ Please explain.

      I am sure that they will not be able to move the sensor arrays with a firmware change. But I hope that they can make the arrays in Expand and Surround seamless as they are with the 5D II and the 1D X so that we would have some type of coverage in the void areas. I have no clue as to whether that would be possible. artie

  • avatar Ron Horn

    Hi Artie,
    Thanks for posting these two concerns with the Canon 7D II. For photographers who wear glasses like me, the vertical scale is almost impossible to see while composing an image. You must physically move your face to focus your eye on the vertical scale, then move it again to get back to your image screen. Also, the center point marker is so small that the vertical scale is almost useless to me unless I really concentrate on it, which of course, takes your eye completely away from the scene. This issue has forced me to move off of manual mode much more than I prefer, because the light here in Alaska changes so quickly that that an exposure scale is essential when shooting in manual mode. The second problem is a minor irritation at times, but I can work around it. The vertical scale, however, is a constant issue and I have not found a good work around.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for chiming in. I meant to mention that eyeglasses (and too many winter hats) exacerbated the program. Note: if the light is constant you can simply work in Av, come up with the right exposure within 10-20 seconds, and then go over to Manual. And don’t forget it the light is changing constantly you still need to make changes to wind up with the right exposure. Really experienced folks can get to the right shutter speed with 4-6 clicks in the right direction as the sun goes in and out without metering anything :).

      Last comment: remember that Manual mode is Av mode….. By that I mean that if the sun comes out and you know that the right exposure in manual for a given framing and subject is -1/3 stop that -1/3 stop is perfect in that situation in Av…..

      Hey, I heard that there was NO light in Haines last NOV so at least you did not have to worry for a month 🙂 artie

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hey Greg, You stated the problem well. “Challenging” might be a better word :). See you soon on the Desoto IPT! It has been a while.

    later and love, artie

    ps: how was Venice?

  • Artie,
    I just returned from the rookery In Venice, FL, and Sanibel island and used my new Canon 7D Mark II. Although I shot mainly in aperture mode, I really was irritated by the focusing issue in your second point. I found that when the bird was on either side of the frame a left or right I wound up exactly on the slot between the two focusing areas. If I move to the center area the bird was too centered, and if I moved to the side the bird was too close to the edge of the frame. It was really quite irritating.