Feature Article: Behind the Scenes – lifting the lid on the development of the new Canon EOS 7D
Canon Inc., of Japan, has been developing SLR cameras for over 50 years and is widely recognised as being a world leader, in terms of image and build quality. It’s not often that an imaging company with this heritage will make the conscious decision to tear up the rule book and go back to the drawing board to create a ground breaking digital SLR camera. So what inspired Canon to set this new challenge, to start with a blank page and create an entirely new photographic experience?
The answer is a desire to give photographers the enhanced experience they want from a camera. With this bold objective Canon set out to gain insight from photographers across the world – embarking on an extensive research project that saw them consult with over 5,000 photographers globally – to discover what the dream camera would be, what preconceived ideas could be challenged, what opportunities existed, what photographers - of all abilities - wanted to experience.
The insight armed Canon with the knowledge to create a camera that would go beyond any previous digital SLR, matching speed and accuracy of image capture with a build that delivered an intuitive, immersive photographic experience. The result is the spectacular Canon EOS 7D. Mr. Shinbori, Deputy Group Executive of Photo Products Group & Senior General Manager of Camera Development Center, Canon Inc., was part of the development team responsible for this impressive new camera. He has contributed to this behind the scenes story of how the EOS 7D was created and how the research influenced the development of specific camera features.
Canon consulted over 1,500 people in Europe and over 5,000 people worldwide, which included a series of focus groups in Japan. Mr Shinbori explains, “We contacted photographers of all abilities and experience – it was important to understand what different people look for in a camera.” One of the EOS 7D’s strengths is its versatility. It is not a ‘one-size fits all camera’; the research showed that it was important to develop a digital SLR camera that would give photographers the tools they need in order to experiment with photography.
An interesting insight gleaned from the research revealed the importance of the sound and feel of the camera as well as the inclusion of impressive technological features. Canon took this feedback on board and created a camera that gave photographers a tactile experience so photographers feel like they are truly capturing an image.
Even in the age of LCD screens, the viewfinder remains the most important interface on a camera for many photographers. Mr Shinbori describes the situation Canon faced: “Most people accepted the notion that viewfinders on many cameras were unable to produce a true representation of the image being captured. We set out to change this notion – which was not an easy task!” The result is a first for EOS - a viewfinder with 100 percent coverage and 1.0x magnification.
Canon set-out to create a camera that felt really comfortable in the hand. Buttons, dials and switches were made larger so the photographer finds it easier to manipulate functions. “The research showed this was particularly important for photographers working in cold conditions, as they often would not know if the shutter button had been pressed when wearing cumbersome gloves.” The shutter is engineered to produce a satisfying feeling and sound when the shutter button is pressed, adding to the sensory experience of the EOS 7D.
Protection from Environment and Weather
Research showed that for photographers who like to capture images in the most challenging of conditions – the quality of construction is paramount. Canon used this feedback to create a camera with excellent protection from the environment. “We added sealing material to ensure maximum water resistance, and the seams of the magnesium body were strengthened”. This created levels of weather protection equivalent to the legendary EOS-1N.
It was important for Canon to develop new technologies that give photographers the very best image quality with the fastest, most accurate performance straight out of the box. The EOS 7D incorporates several new technologies as outlined below.
Canon completely redesigned the AF system for EOS 7D. In today’s market, AF accuracy is extremely important. Digital files can now be enlarged on a computer screen to levels that would have been unthinkable in the days of film. With this in mind, improvements have been made to the system’s precision and accuracy and Canon introduced innovative new features such as orientation sensitive AF. This enables the camera to recognise the angle the camera is being held and automatically select the preset AF point.
The research showed that photographers are increasingly concerned with improved image quality under all lighting conditions. Canon’s solution is a new 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor that delivers excellent results in both the low and high-speed ISO ranges. Mr Shinbori adds, “The sensor was developed and manufactured in-house where we had a unique opportunity to directly feed the research insights into the technical developments.” Canon developed the circuitry and the photodiodes so they are more sensitive and significantly improve the ‘Signal to Noise’ ratio.
It was clear from the research findings that photographers are often forced to compromise between speed and image quality. Canon sought to rectify this issue with the inclusion of Dual “DIGIC 4” processors. The power of DIGIC 4 is clearly demonstrated in its superior noise processing capabilities. Dual processors ensure photographers experience 8 fps with 8 channel readout – they get a fast processing speed from their camera, irrespective of ISO setting.
Canon combined feedback from the research with lessons learnt from the development of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II to develop the EOS Movie function. This resulted with the inclusion of full manual exposure control and the ability to select frames rates to suit different TV standards or creative needs. The EOS 7D makes it easier for photographers to switch instantly to movie capture, from any other shooting mode, thanks to a dedicated switch.
Canon incorporated feedback from photographers around the globe – combining innovative technologies with intuitive design - to create a camera to meet all their needs. Canon hopes photographers will enjoy using the features which they helped to develop, to realise their passion for the power of image.
Back to the Canon EOS 7D review.