Canon EOS-7D Mark II/100-400 II Warning « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon EOS-7D Mark II/100-400 II Warning

What’s Up?

I fly to Charolotte, NC this afternoon and then drive to Spartanburg, SC for the CNPA Annual Meeting. I have tons more on the 100-400II and the 7D II and lots more Southern Ocean and San Diego images to share with you here and will be doing that on a daily basis.

This blog post took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare. It was published at 4:46am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL.


I will be presenting 3 programs at the Carolina Nature Photographer’s Annual Meeting, Friday thru Sunday. My keynote presentation, “What Makes a Great Natural History Image,” on Friday, is being generously sponsored by Canon USA/Explorers of Light. I hope to see many of you there. Be sure to say “hi” and get a hug. Learn more or register here.


This image was created at La Jolla, CA on the recently concluded San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 560mm), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode. Rig on the Black Rapid RS-7 Strap.

Important Note: I was 100% positive that this image was created with the 7D II but in fact it was created with the 1D X. I made the corrections above at about 11:50am on Thursday. Honest mistake. The fact is that I did not do much with the 7D II/1.4X III/100-400 II on the trip….

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the bird’s eye and re-compose with both forearms resting on a rock at chest level for stability. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Playing With Fire…

There is numerous internet chatter and even a BPN thread or two regarding unsharp 7D Mark II images. Many mention a distinct lack of sharpness when a 7D II is hand held with a telephoto lens and a 1.4X teleconverter. Read on to learn why these folks need to look in the mirror and strongly consider operator error….

For today’s image I was working fully zoomed in to 560mm. What folks are forgetting is that with the 1.6X crop factor of the 7D II the effective focal length works out to 896mm. That yields 17.92X magnification. Folks hand holding this combination are indeed playing with fire. Those who run around hand holding this combo who do not realize that they need to take extraordinary care to keep the lens completely still are doomed to failure in the form of unsharp images. Only those with superb sharpness techniques should even attempt to hand hold this combination. In most cases the use of high shutter speeds is recommended even if doing so requires setting higher ISOs.

It is mandatory that folks understand that the effects of camera and lens shake are a factor not of the effective focal length, but of the square of the focal length. This is also the reason that there are some internet reports that IS does not appear to be working properly when folks who have never used 1.6 crop factor cameras before the 7D II are hand holding telephoto and super-telephoto lenses for the first time when using a camera with a CMOS 22.4 × 15 pixel sensor. It is not the Image Stabilization, it is the square of the effective focal length that is the culprit….

Best would be to use this rig on a tripod topped by a Mongoose M 3.6. Note that even when working on tripod at long effective focal lengths you will need to employ both high shutter speeds and excellent sharpness techniques. See the section on Sharpness Techniques in The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images on CD only).

To a lesser but still significant degree, the warning here also applies to those use the 7D II/100-400 combo without the addition of a TC: long effective focal lengths require the use of top-notch sharpness techniques even with the great 4-stop IS system of the new 1-4.

Image Questions

#1: Why f/14?

#2: Why no plus compensation in the relatively soft light?


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34 comments to Canon EOS-7D Mark II/100-400 II Warning

  • It is amazing that we got any sharp pictures with Fuji Velvia(ISO 50-actually 40 and pushed to ISO 80)-certainly we only tried to get panned flight pics. New Photographers take for granted all the new advantages they have that can expand the picture possibilities( of course we didn’t use the wet plate either so we were “advanced” at the time ).
    Without the advances I probably would not be shooting active subjects and be limited to mushrooms,etc!About time I took my new 7D Mark II out of the box!

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Agree. How about the fact that Brian K. Wheeler used to get more than 50% sharp on hawks in flight with manual focus….. a

    • Scott B

      Great comparison to the times, Charles! I missed out on film and it took me some mental strain to learn digital because some of the terminology is rooted in film; ISO, sensor sizes, etc.

      You are correct though. All but the most carefully planned out and executed film shots would have been blurry with what you had available.

      I can’t believe what technology and the Internet does to us. I upgraded from a superzoom to a Rebel T4i and didn’t pixel peep nearly as much as I do with the 7DII. Noise was there in my shots, but it was okay. Now I find myself obsessing over noise and sharpness with each new piece of gear and knowledge I acquire.

      All that said, I think you will love the 7DII and appreciate it on a much deeper level than I do!

  • Sarah Mayhew

    I have always used a 1.6 crop factor camera. When I upgraded from a Canon 60D to a 7D II I had more soft images and was bummed. I had read the manual and set the many options for the Autofocus in the menu to what I thought would be best. However, I went in again and changed them again and now am getting a much better hit rate for sharpness. I am finding that the 7D II has a superior autofocus tracking system to the 60D. I am very pleased. I have gotten shots I never would have gotten with my 60D. I always hand hold, never use a tripod.

  • Steve Soderling

    If you look at the physics of the 1.6 crop factor, John A is absolutely correct. The APS-C sensor is exactly like taking the center 22.4mm x 15mm from a full frame sensor. What creates the perception of a longer focal length is that this smaller area (with its reduced angle of view) is effectively ‘blown up’ to full image size. Also, the pixels in the crop sensor are packed a lot tighter than on the full frame sensor. A 5DIII has 22.3/1.6/1.6 or 8.7MP in its APS-C sized center section. The sensor on the 7DII packs 20.2MP into the same area giving it a 2.3x advantage in resolution so you see a lot more detail in the image it creates. To provide the same resolution as the 7DII, a full frame sensor would need 51.7MP (are we all thinking 5DS?).

    A reduced angle of view and more detail in the image sounds a lot like what a longer focal length lens provides. In this case, however, it is provided by the sensor instead of the lens. So I can see where the camera’s operator would perceive that a longer lens is attached to the camera with the crop sensor. Depending on the quality of the lenses optics, the image may or may not actually show the extra detail that the sensor can capture.

    It would be interesting for someone (with a larger budget than I have!) to test this with a 7DII and a 5DS sometime. With everything else being equal, 100% crops from both cameras should show the same level of detail.

    By the way, I believe the image Artie posted today shows that really sharp images can be taken with the 7DII. Although, I wonder if the head could have been as sharp at f/5.6.

  • Liam Behan

    Hi Artie,

    Im fairly new around here, so I have no great input, but, you say “I have a harder time making sharp images a lot more with the 7D II on a given lens/TC combo than I do when using a full frame camera with the same set-up” I have owned 40D, 60D, 70D, 5D3, & 1D4 and I cannot get as sharp an images from the 7D2 with my short 70-200 L IS II or 70-300 L IS as I can/did with the other cameras. Single point AF is fine but AI Servo is not good. I presently do a lot more sports than birds and for my sports images the 7D2 has been pretty bad. I also have a D810 with the 80-400 VR EFS G and images are tack sharp from any range with the correct SS ISO and F-Stop.

    Your skill though is the true determining factor in your amazing images produced from this set-up, unfortunately the camera is aimed at photographers moving up in gear and with less experience that a master like yourself. I think Canon has an issue. Like Bill said above they maybe running scared at the moment.

    Love you site and images.


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. do check out the sports shooter thread that is mentioned in the BPN thread that is linked to in the comments. BTW, welcome 🙂


  • The sentence should have said” When all things are equal tripod mounted use is best ” I handheld pics of Jaguar in Brazil and cranked ISO up from a boat because using tripod was not plausible.
    Just trying to point out importance of tripod use even when it seems to be a pain in the a– !

    • Scott B

      That’s good to hear Charles. Right now I’m usually walking and taking pictures of birds where I see them, usually in woods or on beaches in New England. For me that means limited setup time to get the shot I want. That’s where the “pain in the a-” factors in for me.

      It could be GAS, but I think a lay-flat tripod and head-mount that swivels like my neck is the only way I could use a tripod to capture erratically moving wildlife.

      That could also show my inexperience where I am trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because I read about the benefits of one so constantly. Maybe a tripod, for me, should only be used in those controlled instances that I have the opportunity to sit and wait.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Chas.. I can only go by what you wrote not what you meant 🙂

      Love to you and Joyce. a

  • Mike G

    Hi Art,

    Great write up today (as usual) and thanks for the info you provided on sharp images.

    Just wanted to point out that your very nice Brown Pelican image indicates you were using a Canon EOS-7D Mark II crop body, however the EXIF data for the image clearly shows it was taken with your Canon EOS-1DX. Thought you you might want to update this entry for clarity purposes.

    Have a great day. Look forward to tomorrow’s read.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thank s Mike. Jeez. I searched for a 7D II/1.4X/100-400 image for an hour and was thrilled when I found this one. I have corrected my honest mistake. artie

  • Art, you should expect to see more shake in the viewfinder when using a crop sensor camera, but only because the viewfinder has a higher magnification than a full frame camera. The image is not moving around any differently on the sensor than it would be on a full frame camera, you are just seeing it better.

  • Hand holding photos versus tripod mounted photos-
    No matter who you are the number of acceptable photos with the tripod versus hand held will be higher.
    Recently on a trip I had to hand hold and/or use a uni-pod(7d-100/400 tele)..My acceptable photo numbers crashed.
    Also no matter if you think “I still got it” age will take its toll ! Many of us (mostly men) refuse to honestly evaluate this.
    Yes you can get sharp tele pictures hand held but evaluate yourself honestly .
    Use a tripod whenever possible !

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I disagree with your first sentence as there are times when the freedom of hand holding allows for the creation of many more “acceptable” photos than would working on a tripod. Agree on the old age bit :). More on that soon. And agree that it is generally best to use a tripod in low light. And I always evaluate my work honestly 🙂


  • Ken Pride

    f14: hmm; maximum depth of field ensures that the entire pelican is sharp; the combination if ISO, shutter speed and depth of field are perfectly balanced???

    No compensation required because you are “exposing” for the pelican and the background could be darker without affecting the quality of the image. It seems that the pelican is the light source due to the refectiveness of the white feathers.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes on getting the whole pelican sharp. Am confused by your exposure comments :).

      The need for extra d-o-f was a result of being relatively close…. best, artie

  • Scott B


    I am guilty of the operator error you speak of as I have mentioned this lack of sharpness on your blog comments before.

    I’ve used 1.6 crop cameras (Rebel T4i and now 7DMk II), with single-point AF, so I am comfortable with my hand-held ability. Chances are, the times when I’ve eschewed the 1.4x TCIII, my shutter speeds were high enough to match the total focal length (or higher), and I have had great sharpness, so it was easy to project my faults to the 7DMk II/100-400 II/1.4x TC combo.

    After a quick refresh reading of the sharpness techniques in ABP II, my first step is going to be increasing my shutter speed. My perceived failure is keeping the shutter speed to the focal length of the lens, 400mm, without accounting for crop factor and teleconverter. As you stated, this would be 896mm and my shutter speed should, at minimum, reflect that.

    While the debate on effective focal length vs. square of the focal length sails over my head in terms of comprehension, raising the shutter speed is a great second step. The first is admitting I have a shutter speed problem!

    I’m loving your write-ups of the 7DMk II/100-400II. Please do keep them coming!


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Scott, Thanks and will do. Please note that with proper sharpness technique when hand holding you can go a lot lower than the recommended 1/the shutter speed…. That thanks to the 4-Stop IS system. artie

      • Scott B

        I still have a lot to learn technically, artistically, and behaviorally, but I am confident that I will.

        It doesn’t seem many people are concerned with camera shake from a shutter press, but will spend good money on a stability system (tripods, mounts, heads, etc.). Why is this? Does the equipment and advanced techniques used make this less of a concern?

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Not sure what you mean by “camera shake from a shutter press.” a

          • Scott B

            I’ve read claims that when you press the shutter button down, it introduces shake to the camera system as a whole, which affects the overall sharpness of an image.

            Question restated, are the gear and holding techniques you practice to increase sharpness enough that when you press down the shutter button to capture the image, you aren’t worried about shake or lack of sharpness?

            I really appreciate all of the time you are spending with comments today, too!

  • Bill Richardson

    I just hope Canon has not created another 1D3. A lot of people denied a focus problem on that camera right up until Canon admitted and fixed it. Time will tell. I do know of 2 very experienced wildlife photographers who have experienced focus problems with the 7D2 though so I am suspicious it is not simply operator error.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Bill, Are you referring to Arash Hazeghi’s and Doug Brown’s comments in the BPN 7D II thread? artie

      • Bill Richardson

        No, I had not read those comments but would be interested to have a link.

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Hey Bill,

          Here you go:

          By the end of this long thread the guy who originally trashed the 7D II states that his 7D II image files are “brilliant.”

          Same at the linked-to sports shooters thread… artie

          • Scott B

            I read both the BPN and SS links on sharpness.

            What are your thoughts on turning down/off noise reduction on the 7D II for sharpness? I couldn’t tell over the timeline when 7D II support was expanded to popular imaging software, but this only affects JPEGs and not RAWs correct?

            The other item that came up was AF microadjustments. Is this something to be relied on?

            I think because I am getting some sharp and some lacking that it is my technique and I shouldn’t look to find faults in my hardware.

            This Purple Sandpiper is great at f/14 with direct lighting after watching the brilliant Canon Series on Bird Photography with Arthur Morris.

            I suspect for this Sanderling, I could have stopped down a bit more to get great sharpness in the eye.

          • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

            Hi Scott,

            Which noise reduction? There are two types? Pretty much all forms of NR have at least some effect on fine detail and image sharpness….

            While some scoff at the benefits of proper micro-adjustments, making correct micro-adjustments to your various lens/body combinations will undoubtedly yield sharper images overall (assuming some degree of operator skill both with micro-adjusting and creating sharp images in the field. Provided that you use the LensAlign Mark II, the only system that offers TPS, true parallel alignment.

            Glad that you enjoyed the Canon tutorials. The eye of that Sanderling looks pretty sharp to me…

          • Bill Richardson

            Thanks Artie. Seems the post refers to disappointing image quality in general. Hard to judge the value of the posts without knowing if the people calibrated there lenses, used good technique, etc. The problem my contacts referred to is focusing being erratic. People seem to confuse sensor sharpness with focusing accuracy/consistency so it is hard to evaluate the discussion. My short experience with the 7D2 did not reveal focus problems but I was disappointed only in the high ISO noise. I have shot my 1DX at 40,000 ISO with decent results and the 7D2 is not in that ballpark. ;-0

            Bill. You did not read the thread to the end 🙂 artie

          • Scott B


            I was referring to in-camera NR settings. From what I read, only DPP will read in-camera NR settings for a RAW photo, so does it even make sense to use the setting?

            I need to decrease my focus sensitivity setting because even branch movement will stir focus in AI-Servo. Thanks for the LensAlign Mark II link. I suspect that my 100-400II likes to front-focus a hair, which is why I think the Sanderling eye isn’t as sharp as it could be. Maybe I am just obsessive about sharpness as I appreciate your feedback.

            Also looking forward to purchasing your 7Dmk II guide when it’s ready. There is a lifetime of great information in The Art of Bird Photography II and I suspect nothing less for this upcoming guide.

            With any luck I’ll be able to join you on one of your IPTs over the next couple of years. They look amazing and probably the only thing I would consider worth my time for in-the-field instruction.

            Last question if you will indulge it. What gloves do you use for cold weather photography? It’s been cold in New England this winter and I haven’t found a great solution yet.

            Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

            Which in-camera NR settings? There are two, High ISO and Long Exposure…. YAW on the link. Lots of folks are overly obsessive with regards to sharpness and fine feather detail…. Still working hard on the &D II Guide…. And thanks for your kind words. As for gloves, the best that i have found are from WalMart: Mossy Oak with Thinsulate. Cheap and as warm as any I have found.

            YAAW on keeping the conversation going :).

            As for an IPT, best to make it to one of the two at Bosque next year…. We all only get one ride on the merry-go-round.

            later and love, artie

  • Art, as you know the question of crop sensor cameras is controversial. I believe you are firmly on the wrong side of the debate. In terms of sharpness, your own comparison images shown when the 7DII first came out show that as long as there enough pixels left in the cropped images such that the sharpness is determined by the lens and not by the pixel size, it does not matter whether the cropping is done by the camera on the 7DII or in Photoshop on images from a 5DIII or 1DX. This is the case for any ‘reasonable’ cropping. In terms of camera shake, it is not the square of the focal length which matters, it is the focal length itself of the lens plus teleconverter, and it matters not a bit whether the camera is full-frame or crop sensor. Shake is a linear effect, not squared.I am hoping that your friend Ari Hazeghi will clarify these points once and for all: he has the scientific background and training, and photographic experience, to provide an accurate explanation based on physics rather than speculation.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As far as my “test,” everyone agreed that it proved nothing. In addition, you are discounting the quality of the sensor in a given camera and the fact that not all pixels are created equal. As far as the shake, I can assure that what I am seeing in the viewfinder moves around a lot more with the 7D II on a given lens/TC combo than it does when using a full frame camera. And that I have a harder time making sharp images a lot more with the 7D II on a given lens/TC combo than I do when using a full frame camera with the same set-up.

      Other advantages of crop factor bodies on telephotos include smaller angles of inclination and declination (to the subject), less disturbance of the birds, and increased photographer confidence.

      I have zero problems with 7D II image quality. I showed some new 7D II images to Arash on the laptop over dinner and King’s Fish House in San Diego the other day and he was quite impressed.

      Thanks for being civil here :).

      When you buy your 55 mp Canon body please remember to use my B&H link. later and love, artie

  • Great shot Artie!
    #1 f/14 to get all parts of the head and wings as sharp as possible. Maybe also because you could, as the bird was at rest.
    #2 No compensation due to neutral gray bird and neutral blue background.
    Thanks Art B