Everything I Know About the Canon 7D I Learned from Louis C.K.

*This is a very old blog post but I thought the information was relevant so i wanted to repost this. My apologies for the horrible formatting but it is what it is.*

So I have been getting a lot of emails and messages on Twitter asking me all sorts of questions about shooting with the Canon 7D . I am going to attempt to cover the majority of everything I’ve learned about the 7D since I started shooting with it.



The Canon 7D has limitations that have been well documented all over the web. I recently watched “A Constant Forge”, a documentary on director John Cassavettes and one line, in particular, rang true. He was talking about never wanting to shoot another commercial film because money ruined the creative process for him.
He said something to the effect of, “Limitation is the key to inspiration.”I think in the day and age we live in we have become a society with a short attention span.We want it bigger,better,faster and NOW. It’s like the bit by comedian Louis C.K., Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.

We need to master our craft and get back to the basics. Shot composition and storytelling. I plan on working on those two myself.
Be thankful for the amazing technology we have at our disposal and stop whining like a bunch of spoiled children. Aliasing,WAHHHH. Moire,WAHHHH.
12 minute limit WAHHH, No Audio Control WAHHHHHHH. What do you want Canon to give you for $1700 ? Should it come with your own personal DOP to set all the shots up for you too? Do you remember what it took a few short years ago to get this type of look for a film? It would have been impossible to do what you can now for this type of money.
So, instead of this RED vs. the Canon DSLR civil war that is erupting in the filmmaking community, How about this ?
Take whatever equipment it is that you have the good fortune of owning and go shoot something amazing. Let your limitations be your inspiration.
Force yourselves to think in a way you never have before. Can’t afford a 7D ? Go get a Flip HD, shoot it on your iPhone. Just do it.
Sorry. Now back to the original point of this whole post.
What do I know about the Canon 7D that could be helpful?
Something simple yet one of the most important steps when shooting with the Canon 7D , Canon 5D MKII, and any other camera really, is flattening the color.
It may seem pointless to you. Why would I flatten the color? I want it to come out of the camera with rich vibrant colors. No you don’t. That’s why God invented color grading.
My weapon of choice for color grading is Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks . It is an absolute necessity for me. The things I can do with it in post are absolutely fantastic.
It’s one of those things where you can download the software and begin using it almost immediately. A very intuitive interface, and the ability to save your own custom
looks actually makes color grading fun. Who knew? Here is how you Flatten the Color on Your 5D (also works on 7d ) Thanks to Stu from ProLost for this.

Turn Auto Lighting Optimizer OFF. I haven’t seen this documented anywhere but I hate this feature. It basically sucks to me. Should be called Auto Make picture look crappy
IMHO. So disable this feature. Period.

You need one or all of the following. A tripod, a monopod, Glidetrack , Glidecam , Zacuto Rapid Fire or Tactical Shooter . Get yourself something to stabilize your camera.
There’s nothing that turns me off more then shaky handheld footage. It looks amateur.
With HD video it is very noticeable and rolling shutter is not kind to this type of shooting.
Not saying handheld shooting can’t be done with a Zacuto Z-Finder and sniper like breathing tactics it was actually done quite well as demonstrated in this post by John Moon of Northernlight Filmworks .
However,for the average shooter, myself included, shooting handheld is a good way to end up with a lot of useless shaky footage.

Lenses. Lenses. Lenses.
A very common question is what lens should I get? Well that is a difficult one to answer specifically,it depends on what you are shooting, but I can offer some guidelines. The 7D works with a 1.6
Crop factor so here is your simple math equation to figure out what a non APS-C lens becomes effectively on the 7D. Take the lens (i.e. 50mm ) multiply by 1.6. Here are a few lenses
already figured out for you.
16-35mm = 25.6 -56mm
35mm = 56mm
50 mm = 80mm
24-70mm = 38.4 -116mm
85mm- 136mm
70-200mm= 116 -320mm
Now which lens do you want to buy? I am a bit of a lens snob and also one of the key reasons I shoot with the 7D is for low light capabilities. So I personally would avoid buying a lens higher then a 2.8. Unless,you will be shooting in well lit situations or it is a lens to compliment the prime lenses you already have.
I have heard the 70-200 F/4 is sharper then the 2.8 but it also can’t shoot in low light so, I like the 50mm 1.4  as a very cheap workhorse lens. At a little more then $350 if you’re just starting out it’s a good lens to get you up and running. The 24-70 2.8 has a great range and is one of my favorite lenses.
Let’s say you shoot weddings, or you want to get close ups of people/things but from far away the 70-200mm 2.8 is absolutely wonderful. As far as the rest of the lenses go I haven’t had much experience with them so I can’t say a lot about them.
Here’s an idea though. Either rent the lens first or better yet see if any of your friends who are photographers already shoot with Canon. If you are out shooting something and you ask very nicely they may just let you try one
of their lenses. If they aren’t that nice? Maybe you will have to go out and shoot a little behind the scenes piece for them in exchange for some of their knowledge on lenses and to try out some of theirs.You not only will gain valuable insight but you may also make a great business connection and perhaps even a friend.
So there you have it. Hopefully that helps someone. It’s not everything I know about the Canon 7D but it’s a start.


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14 replies
  1. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I'm a photographer, and I just wanted to say that you can also rent lenses from several reputable sources. I've done it a few times and it helps to evaluate how "real world" beneficial certain glass is before dropping serious coin.

    Great post!

    Reply
  2. j
    j says:

    Hey guys thanks a lot for the feedback it's always appreciated!! I don't make any money from doing this, so it definitely helps to know people are either entertained or gaining something from it 🙂
    Thanks again!!
    -Jon Connor

    Reply
  3. Reel Action Media
    Reel Action Media says:

    I really like the point that cameras are just one set of tools we use to make films. The quality of a film is not due to the camera but to the filmmaker. Its easy to forget that when we get a gadget in our hands. Its a good reminder and helps me not get upset when I hear all the negatives about the new camera. Phillip Bloom (whose blog /twitter feed sent me here) relates how the folks at skywalker ranch didn't care about the details of the camera, just how it looked on screen.
    Thanks for the post. I've subscribed to your Rss feed and look forward to more good info.

    Reply
  4. Boz
    Boz says:

    Hey, nice site and great post! I couldn't agree more. The camera snobs and pixelpeepers need to give it a rest. As you said, what do people expect for $1700?! I have a 7D and I'm loving it. With a little bit of creativitity you can make GREAT films with it. And if moire is a problem there's a filter for that: http://www.caprockdev.com/antimoire.htm

    Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  5. gryphonpro
    gryphonpro says:

    I am a community video producer… lots of international experience but all developement, low budget, etc. I am very glad that I discovered your blog as I move toward the future (HD) from the highest quality SD my clients could afford.

    Reply
  6. j
    j says:

    Hey guys thank you all for reading and even more for commenting and being a part of thecommunity!!! Thanks a lot!!
    Jon Connor

    Reply
  7. Julian Grant
    Julian Grant says:

    Good post. Great thoughts. Am shooting a new feature film on the 7D right now and – as always – there are issues and limitations. This is true of shooting in any format or configuration. As the democracy of image capture continues to evolve, filmmakers will continue to push the boundaries of what it is capable of. I recommend a good 18mm lens for your master shot, a 50mm for closeups and the use the zoom (with a follow focus) for sexy walk and talk sequences. Shoot 1/60th of a second and ISO no higher than 1600 for sweet video. Test the crap out of everything. Thanks again.

    Reply
  8. Lucas Herrera
    Lucas Herrera says:

    Filmmaker Mag Blog! Nice job, Jon. Glad to see people are recognizing your great blog. Thanks for your continued sharing of knowledge.

    Reply
  9. guitars bass
    guitars bass says:

    Howdy correct now there, I can?t entry the internet site properly inside Opera, I seriously hope you’re heading to repair this!

    Reply
  10. Patrick Crowley
    Patrick Crowley says:

    Great article. I’m always trying to convince people to stick to finishing thier project on DSLRs, especially since they are editing on FCP7 still. Which only edits in 1080p or below. Not to mention, the weight of the RED with lenses eliminates using my 18′ jib and my steadicam that made thier film look so amazing in the first place. Pay your actors and get the best performances with that money instead.

    Reply

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