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Reasons to Upgrade

I'm growing frustrated with my current Canon 400D (XTi) camera body. Below are issues I have with it, and how a new Canon 7D would address those problems. Are these issues worth the $1800 price tag to upgrade (including several other accessories, less the resale cost of the 400D)?

Problem with 400D How 7D addresses the problem
Image quality in low light is lower than I'd like, and even at my max ISO of 1600, I often can't get shake-free images. 7D allows up to ISO 12800, a 3-stop improvement over the 400D. Despite the smaller photosites, image quality at ISO 1600 is also improved, with the 7D's 3200 on par with the 400D's 1600.
Autofocus speed, especially at 300/5.6, is abysmal in anything but brilliant sunlight. Manual focus through the dim viewfinder, despite being off by a bit, is more likely to provide a usable image than AF that hunts to the far end of the focus range. 7D has 19 AF points and a more advanced focus engine, compared with the 400D's 9 AF points.
When shooting with a tripod for portrait or other shots, especially with manual lenses, it's difficult to know if I've focused correctly using only the tiny viewfinder. The 7D (and every other camera released by Canon after my 400D) has LiveView with zooming, allowing you to see a 10x magnification of the image on the LCD before taking the shot. Critical focusing of stationary objects becomes trivial.
The viewfinder on the Rebel series is very small and dim, which makes it rather difficult to focus accurately with manual lenses. The split image / microprism focusing screen that I added does help. The 7D viewfinder is about 20% larger in each dimension than the Rebel viewfinder. The drawback is that it's not designed to work with replaceable focusing screens like the one in my Rebel. They are available in the aftermarket, though. Oh, if only I could have a viewfinder like the picture window in my Olympus OM-10 film camera!
I sometimes will leave the SLR at home and take the point & shoot camera because I know I'll want to shoot video at an event, even though the P&S camera takes poor still photos. The 7D can shoot 1080p high definition video. It eats memory cards for breakfast, I'm sure.
When shooting outside (or sometimes, in the bathroom), I'm worried that a light mist or other mishap will ruin my 400D. The 7D is fully weather sealed, making it impervious to anything but submersion. To get the full benefit, the lenses must also be sealed, of course, which means buying L glass.
In continuous shooting mode, the 400D will only do 2.5 frames per second. For any sort of action, that's not nearly fast enough. You're better off trying to time the shutter for the decisive moment and hoping you catch it right. The 7D shoots 8 frames per second.
When lighting with off-camera speedlite flashes, I have to forego eTTL metering and power my flashes manually using cheap radio triggers, which makes it hard to shoot in dynamic environments. The 7D has a built-in IR-based, eTTL-capable flash trigger that will work with my Canon 430EX flash (I think).

Canon 7D body, refurb, from Adorama, $1399.95

Katzeye focusing screen w/ OptiBrite and no composition markings, $160

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last updated 23 Feb 2011
Obi-Wan (obiwan@jedi.com)

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