Bird photography with Canon 7D

I took my new Canon EOS 7D out for a field test on Sunday. Practiced a lot of shooting on these mallards and gulls trying to get a feel for how the auto focus system works and what settings are the best for tracking birds.

The detail captured by the 7D is amazing. Shooting these ducks on the water it captured incredible amount of detail compared to my old 10D or even to the 1D Mk2 that I have used for bird photography before.


A male mallard flapping his wings.


Here’s an 100% crop of the shot above. Click on the thumbnail to see the image in its full resolution. Check out the little water beads on the head of the mallard and the details in the feathers.

Duck crop

Canon EOS 7D can shoot at 8 fps. Now I’m not exactly a fps fan because I still believe that pressing the shuttle at the right time is the only way to get the right shot. Imagine that you want to take a photo of a world class tennis player returning the serve with the ball right in front of the racquet. The ball will be traveling at 100 kilometer per hour or 27.78 meter per second. At 8 fps the time between frames would be 0.125 second, which means the ball would have traveled 3.47 meter between frames. Putting that into the context, it meas that even at 8 fps, you might miss the intended shot. Now that’s not saying 8 fps doesn’t help. It helps in shooting events that’s hard to gauge the exact time you want the shot to be taken. For example the following sequence of a American black duck flapping the wings were taken with the 7D shooting at 8 fps. I wanted a shot with the wing opened fully at the back and the timing is hard to get unlike say sporting event. As you can see 8 fps certainly helped in getting the shot.

Duck flap burst

The 7D is really quick on focusing. The camera feels very snappy on acquiring the focus and very good at tracking the bird as it flies around. And the 18 million pixels allows you crop really heavily. For example, the following shot, the gull covers only 10% of the frame, yet if I crop the gull out, it is sharp and every usable in a print.


Seagull crop

A few more bird in flight shots.


I was tracking a gull with my camera and as the gull flies right in front of me I took a few shots.


However, it seems that someone was feeding the gulls. I caught the bread right in the air without knowing. 😯 I only saw the bread after I came back and checked the photo on the computer.


The gull took a dip in the lake and then fly off. You can actually see the water in its mouth.


This one was shot around sunset and I had to use ISO 800 to get a fast enough shuttle speed. The noise level is very good from the 7D and the light from the sun just before sunset looks really good on the bird.


Okay this is not a bird shot, but this raccoon was circling around me when I was waiting for the sun to go down. :)



6 comments to Bird photography with Canon 7D

  • Sion Davies

    Hey I’m just wondering what lens did you use to take the squirrel pictures and what not!!! Do you think I should buy the 7d im just starting off as a photographer

    • Bird shots are taken with Sigma 100-300 F4 EX HSM and the raccoon was taken with a Sigma 24-70 F2.8. As for if you should buy a 7D, well it depends on how far you are going to take the photographing hobby and how much you are ready to pay for it. Personally I think for person that will take the hobby for a long time but on a budge, then prioritize the lenses. Because lenses lasts a long time unlike the body. In fact I can produce equally good photos on a T2i. Maybe not as good of bird in flight photos, but then I’ve done bird in flight even on a D30 and that’s nearly 10 years ago. And I can do all the rest not so action paced photo with a T2i or similar. But then there’s more to photography than bird in flight right? So is 7D a good choice, yes, if you can still afford a good lens or two that will cover your need. Otherwise, I’d prioritize lenses over camera body unless you only do bird in flight photos. Oh yeah, keep in mind, even though I have no complaints about 7D doing bird in flight, apparently a lot of people on the Internet thinks otherwise. They think the 7D can’t track moving object properly. I can only say for the birds I shoot, with the skill I have, and with the expectation that I have for bird in flight, I find 7D better than adequate.

  • Sion Davies

    Well I am a 17 year old and I have done photography in school, and I was so taken back by the Beauty!! And I do have some extra money I could buy the 7d. I don’t know yet if I actually want to make my career but I am going to university and college in the near future so the camera could come in handy. and I’m planning to do more than just wildlife photography. But how is the 19 or 9 focus points. Do you do more photography other than wildlife

    • In most other situations, I find 9 point more than enough for focusing point. Is 19 point good? Well yes it is good because I now need to move less when I focus and reframe the photo. But is that a problem? Nope not for me at least. In fact when I was using my 10D, I mostly use just center focus point any way. So in fact I can live with 1 good focus point just fine. The rest are just added bonus. If you just want quickly do random snap, more focusing point might help. If you are doing more setup shots, then focusing point really doesn’t matter much. Personally I would say it comes down to budget again. If I have to choose between 7D + average consumer lens vs. a 60D + a good lens (say Sigma/Canon 24-70 F2.8). I pick the 60D choice any day. But if I can have a 7D and the good lenses, then sure why not. A 7D is a very good camera and other than the crop factor, it can take you a long way.

  • Sion Davies

    Thank you, do you have more pictures I could see

    • All I have would be what I have the blog site you see. Nearly 100% of the photo in post posted after October 25th, 2009 is taken by the 7D unless otherwise noted.

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