Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D firmware version 2 update (August 2012)

Canon EOS 7D product photograph, courtesy Canon Inc.

If you’ve got a Canon EOS 7D, you might have read Canon’s earlier announcement that they were working on a firmware update that would add quite a few new features to this good old workhorse. The final version of that firmware update is now available, and it’s called version 2.0.0. Download 7D Firmware Update Version 2.0.0 at

After you get to the Drivers and Software page choose from the Operating System and OS Version menus, and then you must click the Firmware heading to expand the listing. There’s no installer; as usual, you simply copy the firmware update to a compact flash card that you formatted with the 7D, and then use the 7D menus to load it from there. Detailed installation instructions are included with the download.

New feature highlights

Looking through the release notes on the Canon page, these new features jump out at me (not a complete list, see the release notes for that):

  • Shoot up to 25 images in raw burst mode, a nice bump up from the old limit of 15.
  • Maximum Auto ISO setting. This means I’ll finally be willing to use Auto ISO, since I thought the existing Auto ISO feature had a tendency to crank up ISO further than I would normally like.
  • Rating function. This could be great for marking images before I get them back to the computer. However, when I tried it, would not let me rate a raw image in camera unless I had captured it as Raw+JPEG. In other words, rating works with JPEG and Raw+JPEG, but not raw alone. This is possibly because it doesn’t want to write the rating directly into the raw file (Adobe has the same philosophy). JPEG is a standard format that can store the rating into an IPTC header. The rating I applied did successfully transfer to Lightroom 4.
  • Audio recording level manual setting. While most who shoot video for serious projects will still record to a separate, higher-quality audio capture device, being able to set a manual recording level will help simplify more casual video productions. I haven’t tried it out yet, but reports are that you can adjust the audio level only before you hit the video record button, not during recording. So make sure the audio level is correct before you start recording. I noticed that there’s also a “Disable” option in case you don’t want the camera to record audio at all.
  • Time zone function. This could be a good feature, although my understanding is that there is no industry metadata standard for recording the time zone. I’m still thinking of just setting all my cameras to UTC…
  • Support for the GP-E2 GPS receiver, if you need to capture location data.
  • In-camera raw processing and JPEG resizing, if you ever need to process images without a computer. Not a big deal to me.

The directions for installation are included with the firmware download. After this firmware update is installed successfully, the 7D will ask you to enter the date, time, time zone, and whether daylight saving time is in effect. This is probably because of the time zone feature.

Canon also recommends that if you’re going to update the 7D firmware, update your other Canon utilities too, from the same Canon EOS 7D download page.

That Canon would provide this level of support for a camera that’s been out for so long is commendable (new features for free!). But it might also be a sign that Canon isn’t going to replace the 7D any time soon.

Canon EOS Utility updated for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

(see bottom for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion info)

If you’ve had any trouble running Canon EOS Utility on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, you’ll be happy to know that a new version of EOS Utility was just released, and it’s listed as supporting Mac OS X 10.6.8 and 10.7. To download it, go to the Canon USA Digital SLR Cameras web page, click the picture of your camera, and then click Drivers and Downloads. (Update: Canon changed the page and link, so I updated the link and the Canon page now looks different than the screen shot below.)

Canon DSLR software on the Canon USA web site

Although it isn’t necessary to install the Canon software if you use software such as Lightroom, Aperture, or Camera Raw to import and process your Canon DSLR images, you may find Canon EOS Utility easier for a few things such as tethered shooting and camera configuration.


[Update on October 4, 2012: Changes to USB device handling in OS X 10.7.5 may have broken Canon tethering, according to this blog post: OS X 10.7.5 breaks Canon tethering]

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion update

Canon now provides a Mac OS X 10.8 choice in their Choose Operating System menu. As I write this update (September 2012), the only downloadable item listed is the latest firmware update. Other categories say new software will be available in October 2012, so you should check it again.

[Update on October 2, 2012: Canon EOS Utility version 2.11.4 may crash on Mountain Lion when tethering a Canon 5D MKIII. For details, see this post on another blog: Canon software crashing on OS X 10.8]

Canon SLR video: Technicolor picture style optimizes dynamic range

Canon EOS 7D

In an earlier article, I talked about how customized Canon picture styles (rendering profiles) can optimize the dynamic range of video captured on Canon digital SLRs for better image quality during post-processing and color grading. Now you have one more option: The Cinestyle picture style by Technicolor.

Unlike the picture styles available so far, Cinestyle was developed by Technicolor color scientists together with Canon USA and the ASC Directors of Photography…it’s hard to beat a team like that. And the Cinestyle picture style is free.

Cinestyle is optimized for the Technicolor post-processing workflow, but Technicolor says you can use Cinestyle together with any non-linear editing system (NLE) as well. Also, while Cinestyle is optimized for the Canon EOS 5D MkII, they say it should work fine with other Canon SLRs that capture video, and based on the online comments so far that seems to be true. I personally haven’t tried it out yet. In reading through the information available online, it works best if you also apply an S-curve lookup table (LUT) that’s available as a free download. For more information and to download Cinestyle tools and documentation, go to the following links:

Technicolor Cinestyle and LUT download and documentation
Technicolor FAQ for Cinestyle picture style
Vincent LaForet’s blog post about Cinestyle with examples and tips

Canon 600D/T3i: Wireless flash control and swivel LCD

Canon EOS 600D T3i product photograph

At first glance, the Canon 600D/EOS Rebel T3i seems to be another routine update to Canon’s entry-level line of SLR cameras, but two features in particular compel me to comment. Before we get to that part, it helps to lay down a little context.

Canon broke open the high-definition video DSLR video market with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and solidified its position with the Canon EOS 7D. It was not too long ago that if you wanted to do Canon HD-DSLR video, you had to pick between those two models, and you couldn’t get in for less than roughly $1600 US. However, neither model has automatic continuous focus during video shooting, nor the articulated (swivel) LCD screen found on just about every video camera out there. Those omissions aren’t a barrier to professionals who routinely surround an HD-DSLR camera with a rig, a field monitor, and focus pulling hardware, but they do annoy more casual videographers.

From a predictable hierarchy…

Canon started migrating HD video down the line, reaching 1080p at 30/25/24 fps with the Canon 550D/Rebel T2i a little less than a year ago, largely matching the video capabilities of the 7D. But the 7D and 5D Mk II continued to offer definite advantages in other ways, such as the sensor size and manual audio gain control of the 5D or the wireless flash control of the 7D.

…to a significant change in feature alignment

With the 600D/T3i, Canon starts to turn things upside down a little. For one thing, it finally adds an articulated LCD screen to the Canon SLR line. Because the video capabilities of the 600D are largely on par with the 7D, the video power of the $1600 7D is now available in the $800 Canon 600D. And that’s not all. The 600D is now only the second Canon digital SLR that has built-in wireless control over Canon Speedlite flash units. It was a big deal when the 7D picked up this feature (in part because it finally caught up to a feature Nikon has had for a while); I’m surprised Canon moved it so far downmarket so fast.

A sign of big things coming?

Because both the swivel screen and wireless flash control are now available way down in the Canon product line, Canon probably intends to add unknown new features to the 5D and 7D that Canon feels are big enough to continue to differentiate those models at the high end (full-time video autofocus, anyone?). The swivel screen will eventually appear further up in the Canon line, but they may keep it off of the 1D and 5D series which are more likely to be used by pure still photographers. And someone who buys a 5D to do serious video is more likely to attach an optical viewfinder or field monitor rather than rely on any on-camera LCD.

It will definitely be interesting to see how it all sorts out. For now, while pros will continue to shoot with the 7D and 5D, still-image enthusiasts who plan to shoot a lot of video may find that the 600D/T3i could be all the Canon camera they need—dramatically reducing the cost of both HD-DSLR video and wireless E-TTL flash control.