Nature,  Photo Gear,  Wildlife

Canon 7d Mark II for Bird Photography

The Canon 7D Mark II is loaded with specifications and features that should make it perfect for bird photographers.  I’ve taken my time putting the Canon 7d Mark II to the test for bird photography.

Singing Carolina Wren

Singing Carolina Wren.  Canon 7d Mark II, Canon 500mm f/4 lens

The Canon 7d Mark II shoots at up to 10 frames per second.  It has a 1.6 crop factor for closer bird photos, 65 autofocus points (all cross type), and Dual Digic 6 processors for faster image processing.  The Canon 7d Mark II also uses a larger capacity battery (LP-E6N) for longer days in the field.  It is also backward compatible with the LP-E6 battery used in the Canon 7d Mark I, Canon 5D Mark III, and Canon 6D.

The Canon 7D also has configurable autofocus tracking with built in presets for better focus tracking.  I don’t use any of the presets for autofocus tracking, I use the custom settings described below for birds in flight.

The 3 configurable settings for autofocus are Tracking Sensitivity, Acceleration / Deceleration Tracking, AF Point Auto Switching.

  1. Tracking Sensitivity – How fast the autofocus reacts to a new object entering the scene.  I set the tracking sensitivity to -2 so the camera will stay focused on the subject.
  2. Acceleration / Deceleration Tracking – How sensitive the autofocus is to objects speeding up and slowing down.  I set the Acceleration / Deceleration Tracking to +2 to keep tracking if the bird speeds up or slows down.
  3. AF Point Auto Switching – The speed that the autofocus system switches focus points when AF Point expansion is being used.  I also set the AF Point Auto Switching to +2.

Mallard Hen in Flight

Mallard Hen in Flight.  Canon 7d Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS II.

I found the focus tracking in AI Servo mode with AF Point Expansion work well for birds in flight.  In the mallard photo in this blog, the camera tracked the speedy duck relatively well from a good distance.

Autofocus at f/8

This is a feature that has previously been reserved for the high end full frame Canon DSLRs.  With this feature, you can attach a 2.0x Teleextender to an f/4 lens and still autofocus at the center point.

Red-winged Blackbird Perched on a Catail

Red-winged Blackbird Perched on a Catail.  Canon 7d Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS II.

With all these terrific features, I still find the Canon 7d Mark ii lacking in low light photography.  Compared to the Canon 5d Mark iii, the 7d Mark ii still produces noisy images due to the crop sensor.

I also find that in low light conditions like heavy overcast the camera has trouble producing sharp focused images.  I did an autofocus micro adjustment using the Spyder LensCal SLC100 and it seemed to help some.  But if the lighting conditions are not great, I still reach for my Canon 5d Mark iii.

Written by Martin Belan

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