Is the new Canon EOS 7D a Nikon D300s killer?

Is the new Canon EOS 7D a Nikon D300s killer?

Summary: With no real direct competitors, the Nikon D300 has dominated the mid-range digital SLR market for years and its recently released successor, the Nikon D300s looked poised to inherit its older sibling's crown. That is until the Canon EOS 7D was announced yesterday.


With no real direct competitors, the Nikon D300 has dominated the mid-range digital SLR market for years, and its recently released successor, the Nikon D300s, looked poised to inherit its older sibling's crown. That is, until the Canon EOS 7D was announced yesterday. Priced at $1,699 ($100 less than the D300s), the 7D will give the D300s a run for its money when it's released later this month.

Rather than come out with a less expensive full-frame dSLR as Sony did with its Alpha DSLR-A850 a few days ago (say, a 5D Mark II junior), Canon decided to go for a high-end APS-C camera (a full $300 less than the A850), which slips neatly into the EOS line between the 5D Mark II and the 50D -- and is pitted directly against the D300s. So what do you get by spending $100 less?  For starters, the 7D sports an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor (vs. the D300s' 12.3-megapixel sensor) and it records 1,920x1,080 HD video at a full 30 fps, compared to the D300s' 720p video at only 24 fps.

For a further specs comparison between the 7D and the D300s (plus the Pentax K-7, a lower-priced APS-C camera that also shoots HD video):

Canon EOS 7D Nikon D300s Pentax K-7
Price $1,699 (body only), ships end of September $1,799.95 (body only) $1,299.95 (body only)
Sensor 18 megapixels, 22.3x14.9mm CMOS 12.3 megapixels, 23.6x15.8mm CMOS 14.6 megapixels, 23.4x15.6mm CMOS
Continuous Shooting Speed 8 fps 7 fps 5.2 fps
LCD 3-inch, 920,000 pixels (fixed) 3-inch, 920,000 pixels (fixed) 3-inch, 921,000 pixels (fixed)
Autofocus 19-point (all cross-type) 51-point (15 cross-type) 11-point (9 cross-type)
Sensitivity ISO 100-12800 ISO 100-6400 ISO 100-6400
Live View Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media Compact Flash Type I/II Compact Flash Type I/II, SD, SDHC SD, SDHC
Movie Mode 1920x1080 (30 fps)/1280x720 (60 fps)/640x480 (60 fps) 1280x720 (24 fps)/640x424 (24 fps)/320x216 (24 fps) 1536x1024 (30 fps)/1280x720 (30 fps)/640x416 (30 fps)
Dimensions 5.8x4.4x2.9  inches 5.8x4.5x2.9 inches 5.1x3.8x2.9 inches
Weight (body) 28.9 oz 30 oz 22.9 oz

Topics: Enterprise Software, Hardware, Processors

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Missed a couple of things

    The 7D also uses SDHC CF cards. Those appear to be required for the
    maximum burst rate. And according to the posted spec, HD video works
    not only at 30FPS, but also at 24 and 29.97. I want one.
  • RE: Is the new Canon EOS 7D a Nikon D300s killer?

    For the money, the Pentax K-7 seems to be the best value
    of the three compared here. Couple it with a few Pentax
    limited primes and a K-7 should compete with the new 7D
    or the Nikon D300 quite capably everywhere except in
    extremely low-light, high ISO conditions.
  • Don't forget the lenses!

    Let's not forget all those wonderful EOS lenses that the 7D can use. You don't see all those Canon lenses at every major sporting event for nothing.
    • Um, Nikkor is a class apart

      One, you see those lenses at sporting events because Canons marketing machine is much savvier. How many of those are given away for free to get the photographer hooked on? Find out. It'll be a fun revelation for you.

      Second, Nikkor's lineup of glass is second to none. And they are much better built than the lightweight plasticky feel of Canon.

      I've used both, and finally settled on Nikon. Canon to its credit is more aggressive in releasing new features, but I'll stick with tried and tested tech that Nikon launches.

      Pentax K7 is a good investment too, but not for the long term.
  • Nikon is still takes the better image

    I'm a canon user (own a 30D with 5 canon lens). I'm invested in Canon.

    Still, Canon chose to sacrifice maximum image quality by cramming even more pixels into the 1,6 crop sensor. It was a shameless marketing act to sell pixels over image quality.

    It's a great camera indeed, but saying the 7D is a Nikon killer falls short. This is the equivalent to the Megahertz wars - alot of pixel hype, no substance on image quality.
    • Too early to tell

      I agree that adding more MP doesn't seem conducive to improving image quality, but this sensor sounds like a new production, so I think we'll have to wait until the camera is actually out to see how the image quality compares.

      It did surprise me that they added MP, given that they reduced the MP in the G11 from the G10 recently.
      • Unless the sensor is physically larger... accomodate the extra megapixels Cannon has added, then Prognosticator is right about the image quality not being better given general CMOS technology especially given that the Cannon's sensor dimensions are smaller than the Nikon sensor in the D300S.

        Simply putting more dots onto a standard piece of paper doesn't increase the usability of the paper if they're so close together that you get bleed-over, making that paper smaller and increasing the dots increases the "opportunity" for that bleed-over as noise.

        Additionally I don't see any comments about the sensor being "new technology" which is what I assume you meant by "new production" so I'm curious where you came up with this bit of information.

        And last but not least, I own a D300 and I don't understand why *any* high end camera maker would put video recording into a digital SLR. If I want to record movies, I break out a video recorder. I would expect that video recording using a DSLR sensor would reduce the life (and quality) of the sensor due to heat buildup.

        Yes, I know CMOS are better than CCD sensors, but even CMOS sensors generate heat when operating, which they do continuously in movie mode.
        • Maybe "new design" would have been a better phrase

          Here's the info from Canon:

          [i]The EOS 7D includes a new 18 megapixel CMOS sensor with a wide ISO range that delivers excellent results in both the low and high-speed ranges as well as improved image quality. The sensor is a standard APS-C size (22.4x14.9mm) and produces an effective field of view of 1.6x the lens focal length.

          The EOS 7D sensor features condensed circuitry with improved sensitivity and increased capacity of the photodiodes, which enables shooting at high ISO and prevents overloading when shooting in bright conditions. The ISO range (100 - 6400) is expandable to 12800 enabling photographers to capture subjects in their natural light without the use of a flash.

          The EOS 7D sensor includes gapless microlenses that have been moved closer to the photodiodes. These technological advances, which were developed and manufactured by Canon, improve the signal to noise ratio creating very clean high ISO images.[/i]

          I'm not claiming it works as well as Canon claims, just that until the camera is actually out, I'm not going to make a final decision on image quality.

          As far as video goes, I'm not a fan, but the wider range of DoF available with the DSLR sensor (which is larger than most consumer-level video cams) and the lens choices offer a production capability not found in most moderately-priced video cameras.

          I can't really speak to the heat build up issues, but not being an engineer I guess I just figure that Nikon's and Canon's engineers probably thought about that, but who knows, their marketing departments may have over-ridden them.
        • Video on DSLRs

          I understand the concerns about video on DSLRs, but it can be a very useful feature.

          I have a Canon T1i, which has video. I'm not a pro by any means; I primarily use the camera for family photos, but I do know what I'm doing with the camera and am pretty serious about my photos. Still photography is my primary interest, but I like to have videos of my kids, too.

          Video in the SLR is invaluable to me- it lets me travel light and carry one device. I wouldn't use it for heavy video recording, but for short clips, it way better than having to juggle two devices and the quality is good.

          After using the T1i, I would not buy a new DSLR without video. I doubt it costs much to add video to the camera, so why not support it? Many people may have no use for it, but they don't need to use it.
    • Not based on real data.

      IR shows better noise (per pixel even) than the 12MP D300s. As for MP
      war, so long as you have aliasing, you can have more pixels and IQ will
      go up. Simple as that. NOTE: Color depth has more to do with the CFA
  • Canon's pixels

    Canon's tack in the past, at lower price points, was to load up on megapixels and try to undo the damage with aggressive noise reduction in software. The result, of course, was loss of detail, contrast, color, etc. End up with a so-so image anyway.

    That would be a poor move in this class camera. If they've added those pixels I will assume, for now, that they've found the hardware secret to lots 'o pixel with low native noise. We'll see.

    I thought the pixel war was over and manufacturers would instead use their resources to target high-ISO noise, allowing us more flexibility in shutter speed, aperture, use of flash, etc.

    Wrong again ......
    • Are you thinking Nikon???

      Think NR on the D2X, D200, D2H. It wasn't until the D3 that Nikon
      finally figured out a more hands off approach on NR even though they
      still median filter the RAW images. Blows for Astro work.

      Canon (especially for CRW files) has always had a pretty hands off
      approach to Noise on their DSLRs.
  • All this is speculative until we see a proper review

    Specs ONLY tells us nothing
    • Absolutely

      I certainly agree that hands-on is much more important than company
      claims. I don't think that 18 megapixels on the Canon sensor is
      diffraction-limited, so the question is how well the light is steered to
      individual points on the sensor.

      As a serious amateur, I see the video as a plus. I'd like to shoot the
      occasional bit of moving footage, but not enough to actually buy a
      separate video camera. And as soon as a camera implements Live View,
      video is basically just an encoder away anyhow.
    • preview

      This is a good preview from a trusted source.
      • I think that's just the Canon announcement

        Not that there's anything wrong with Steve's Digicams, but I don't think that's his analysis, it's just Canons press release.

        You can look at other hands-on previews from these sources:


      • And sample images...

        As always, IR beats most:
  • RE: Is the new Canon EOS 7D a Nikon D300s killer?

    As an earlier poster said "don't forget lenses". If you've already invested in Nikon glass the new Canon is a non-starter unless you've got lots of money. If you've got a bunch of Canon glass this would be a great update.
  • Watch out for the noise

    I understand Canon is giving away free earmuffs with the 7D to protect users from the noise generated by 18mp on a 1.6 crop sensor ;-)

    Just kidding. It seems strange that they have dropped the pixels on the G11 because of noise, but upped it on the 7D.
    • The 7D is a much larger sensor than the G11.

      Even "small" DSLR pixels are huge by P&S standards.

      BTW: IR shows the noise under very good control.