pimp my ride, my 7D set up for video
Unlike Ira, I bought the the Canon EOS 7D to use primarily as a video camera. Why you ask? You CAN buy a pretty good dedicated video camera for the same price. Well for 1700 bucks I get a video camera that accepts the excellent canon lenses that I already own and unlike the EOS 5D Mark II it supports multiple frame rates. Also after using it for a day or two the camera is more than good enough to serve as a backup to my 5D MK II's on a still shoot and the really fast still frame rate opens up some possibilities that I hadn't thought of (see that video at the bottom of the next page).
Physically the 7D is very similar to the 5D MK II. All the controls are where you would expect them. There is an additional button in back dedicated to the control of live view and video recording. If you are used to the EOS cameras you'll get the hang of this one quickly.
On first impression the video seems at least as good as the 5D MK II! The 7D has a smaller aps sized sensor so your lens is magnified by a factor of 1.6 but that is not necessarily a bad thing. First off you get greater depth of field. Now I know we all like the shallow depth of field/filmic quality of the video out of the 5d MK II. But as a practical matter these cameras are hard to focus in video mode (don't even try autofocus with video it is a joke) and a little extra depth of field can come in pretty handy. You can still back off the f-stop and get shallow depth of field if you want it.
The most useful accessory that I have found for the camera is a Zacuto Z finder. It is a very expensive magnifying glass that snaps to the back of the camera via a plastic frame (my frame is on my MK II so I'm using my daughter's pink hair bands to hold the finder on till a new frame gets here). It makes focusing easier and gives an additional point of contact with your body for steadier video. The Z finder makes any dslr function much more like a traditional video camera. It IS 400 bucks but worth the money.
The feature that I'm most interested in are the multiple frame rates. The 5D MK II shoots 1920x1080p at 30 fps. The 7D will do that plus 1920x1080p at 24 fps and 25 fps. It also shoot SD video at 24, 25 and 30. And get this 1280x 720p at 50 and 60 fps. What that means is that you can shoot video for viewing with any video system in the world, and more importantly to me shoot slow motion. I spent Saturday filming a soccer game at 60 frames per second. The clip below is that 60 fps footage conformed to 30 fps with Cinema tools.
Admittedly it is only 720p but that is more than big enough for web use.
Now for the bad news. None of the firmware upgrades that I wanted are installed in the camera (read them HERE). The biggest problem is that the sound is still uncontrollable. There doesn't seem to be a way to bypass the automatic gain on the sound card so we are stuck using 2 system sound an synching them in post just like the 5D MK II.
Speaking of post there is a lot of it on this camera. Like the 5DMK II it shoots an h.264 codec. H.264 looks good but is a really really processor intensive codec to edit. That means you will end up transcoding the footage out of the 7D to something more pliable like Apple pro res 422 doing your edits and then exporting back to h.264 for display. Yes it is a time sucking pain, no you should not shoot breaking news with this camera and expect to get it on the 6 o'clock news.
All in all it is a great camera. It takes the same batteries and cards as my 5D MK II. I will use it more for multimedia projects than print, but multimedia is the direction the world is moving. Check out the rest of the soccer game below shot as stills at 8 frames a second then assembled as a time lapse.