Canon users don’t expect an APS-C model camera to be the best that the company can offer, but the EOS R7 takes enough from its flagship cameras and offers it at a tempting price that makes it a compelling offering.
Build Quality and Design
The Canon EOS R7 weighs one pound, 5.5 ounces (612 grams) with the battery and one memory card installed. It measures 5.2 inches wide (132 millimeters) by 3.6 inches tall (90.4 millimeters) by 3.6 inches at the grip (91.7 millimeters). Overall, it feels like a decent balance by trying to be compact while not forgoing the fact it’s made to fit comfortably in the hand.
With some full-frame RF lenses, like the 14-35mm f/4L, I experience the backside of my fingers rubbing on the lens because there isn’t enough clearance to the grip. This is not something I typically report, and can’t remember another camera besides the R10 where this is a problem for my hand size.
One solution to this would be to add a vertical grip which would change how my fingers can angle into the grip with the added height. However, it’s evident that Canon has no intention of releasing one as the battery door is not easily detachable, there are no alignment holes on the bottom, and there is no clear way the grip’s controls would electronically interface with the body.
This new body design is a little more complex than the EOS R10 that it was announced alongside, but not quite as nice as the EOS 90D in terms of layout. There is no topside display, and I find it somewhat lacking when it comes to direct-access buttons and dials. As the higher-end model of the two mirrorless APS-C cameras from Canon, I expected a better palette to work from than this.
With this camera, Canon is trying out a new multi-controller joystick that is inside a flat circular dial. It’s placed in alignment with a user’s thumb tip, and the purpose is to have these two controls in the same place for fast switching and interaction. My thumb can only be in one place at a time, so I get the appeal of stacking controls like this.
In practice, I haven’t noticed an advantage compared to a traditional unpaired setup. We are all going to have different levels of interaction with these controls, but for my shooting, I’ve learned it’s not critical for them to be paired like this.
A downside to this camera is that there are only two control wheels while there exist three ways to control exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I manipulate the shutter speed and ISO far more often than I touch aperture, so I would like to change the back wheel to do ISO. That is technically possible, but Canon stopped its efforts there. No button on the camera can be programmed to be the aperture control in the same way that many can be set to press and change the ISO. This sounds like a niche problem, but it’s actually part of something bigger.
Every time I think of an acceptable workaround to something I don’t like about Canon cameras, it ends with an abrupt dead end because the company does not offer enough of its full menu within customization options. Canon arbitrarily limits what buttons can be customized, and what customizations can be done to that specific button. But hey, most buttons can be programmed to “create folder,” something that 100% totally requires one-tap access in the middle of the action (sarcasm, of course).
Even though the stacked multi-controller and dial thing is fine — that is to say, not good or bad — I have to say that the on/off/movie switch has to be one of the most questionable interface choices I’ve seen on a camera. It’s given the most ergonomic and relaxing locations for a thumb to rest on the camera; you know, where a lot of times you’ll find an exposure dial because of how perfect the location is. Yet on the R7, it’s being completely wasted on a function we never deal with in the act of shooting. Anywhere else would have been a better choice than where it is now.
The R7 features a three-inch flip-out screen (also referred to as a vari-angle) with 1.62-million dots of resolution. The electronic viewfinder features 2.36-million dots. This is a better LCD screen than the R10 and 90D, but worse for both the LCD and viewfinder when compared to the aging EOS R. The viewfinder is noticeably low quality for a 2022 release and might not make a good first impression on those transferring from DSLRs simply in terms of how the world looks. The screen also has room for improvement, but I’m actually impressed with the viewing angle and brightness it offers that can overcome the sun while monitoring outside.
On the right-hand side of the camera is a sliding cover that houses two UHS-II SD card slots, similar to the EOS R6. The R7 takes LP-E6NH batteries, which are the same type found in the R6 and R5, and are larger than the ones used in the R10. After shooting around 900 photos over the course of a day, the battery still had about a third of its life left.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the EOS R7 has dust and moisture resistance comparable to the 90D. This is better than the R10 where obvious points of entry, like the battery door on the bottom, don’t have any sealing protection. Another avenue of dust that’s being blocked off is at the sensor: this camera does indeed have a mechanical closing shutter that blocks the sensor when the camera is powered off.
The Canon EOS R7 uses a newly-developed 32.5-megapixel APS-C sensor and DIGIC X image processor. Canon is clear this is not the same sensor that’s in the 90D, despite the same megapixel resolution. The results are quite wonderful, and I’m loving the images I get out of this camera. There’s complexity in the dynamic range that allows for beautiful renditions of scenes, and the colors are classic Canon all the way. That said, the straight-out-of-camera product never meant much to me, and with the R7’s RAW files, I find plenty of data to push and pull even further without making a mess of things.
Looking at the noise levels of this APS-C sensor, it’s fully competent considering its size and price of the camera. ISO 800 is where trouble used to begin with the 7D Mark II that once I owned — Canon’s previous APS-C flagship — but here it’s still well within its range. Generally speaking, it appears that ISO 3,200 is where details begin to wash away. That’s not bad at all, considering that a couple of clicks from there is where good full-frame cameras will also start showing similar results.
One of the big features of the R7 is its in-body image stabilization which can compensate for camera shake up to seven stops when combined with a lens that has optical stabilization. Many of my photos with the camera were taken with the RF 100-500mm and EF 100-400mm lenses, and after adding in the 1.6x crop factor, I only have an appreciation for how stable the frames are even when the light gets low and shutter speeds get slower.
The R7 can shoot continuously up to 15 frames per second with its mechanical shutter or up to 30 frames per second using the electronic shutter. This is not a backside-illuminated stacked sensor, and the camera is prone to exhibiting rolling shutter effects with fast-moving objects in electronic shutter mode. This limits the usefulness for achieving 30 frames per second, and it’s better left on full mechanical for capturing action.
Throughout my time photographing primarily birds with this camera, I never once naturally hit the buffer limit. This is when the camera is firing so many photos and recording them fast as it can to the SD card that it will temporarily pause shooting so that it can keep up with the flow of data. Worst case scenario, shooting 30 frames per second, the camera could shoot up to 61 JPEG+RAW frames provided I was using a fast 299 MB/s write speed card. To clear all of these frames from the buffer, it took 8.5 seconds.
Autofocus on the EOS R7 gives a fair shake at mimicking the intelligence of the best camera available today, the $6,000 EOS R3. Functionally, it’s the same great experience. With subject tracking enabled, anywhere in the frame is good enough for the camera to find a subject. No longer do we need to pick an appropriate focus area and place it over the subject to begin tracking its eye or head or body. The R7, like the R3, can also intelligently track vehicles.
That said, the difference is with reliability. Even when I see the subject being tracked in the viewfinder, the resulting sequence of images will still have some that are out of focus. Since the camera seems to understand the scene, this could be something that’s lens dependent or it could be that the combination is not communicating fast enough.
One of Canon’s Best Cameras
Calling the Canon EOS R7 one of Canon’s best cameras is a lofty claim, but I think it’s still deserved. We are talking about a $1,500 camera that can get away with creating pretty much anything at a high level. It feels pretty nice in the hand, has weather sealing, plus incorporates many of the company’s latest software features inside. The 32.5-megapixel APS-C sensor with in-body image stabilization is capable of taking some beautifully rendered images with room for cropping and composing in post. It’s shockingly fast in both frames per second and autofocus, making it a lot easier to come away with keepers.
While not touched on in this review, even the video shooting is ready for assignment with 10-bit 4K 60p footage that it can record, which is oversampled from 7K, is really nice and the ability to harvest as much dynamic range as possible with Canon Log 3 is also possible.
Some downsides are that the layout of the camera’s buttons and dials could have been so much better, and Canon continues to make users suffer with botched button customization. Thirty frames per second also sounds really nice for marketing, but it’s usually going to be the 15 frames per second you’ll want to actually use.
Are There Alternatives?
The Canon EOS R7 was announced alongside the EOS R10, another APS-C camera that costs $500 less. The R10 has a slightly smaller chassis without weather sealing, takes a smaller battery, and only has room for one UHS-II card slot rather than two. It lacks in-body image stabilization and has fewer megapixels. Also, it has a slower maximum shutter speed, worse low-light autofocus, and a lower resolution viewfinder and rear LCD screen.
There’s a lot to gain from that extra $500 if the budget allows it.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. Overall, the Canon EOS R7 is successful at nearly everything it’s trying to be. There may be some features left off from the wish list, but it’s still very much an excellent camera.