There seems to be a lot of interest in this report. I have added the raw files below. Try the Raw converter test yourself.
Download All Raw Files Plus a Few More (warning large 230mb zip file)
Here are the links to some free downloads of the raw converters used in this comparison:
Note of Error: One of the thumbnails was originally posted in error. That thumbnail has been corrected.
Canon 7D worse than Canon Rebel XSI?
Apparently, there are a growing number of people who now believe that the image quality of the Canon Rebel XSI (450D) (12MP) is as good, or better, than the new Canon 7D (18MP). As silly as this may sound on the surface, there are two reports on the internet that lend credence to this belief. The main report was written by a blogger named Darwin Wiggett. His blog entry had a number of entries similar to the following:
“We were surprised by just how much sharper the Rebel images appeared in the field tests.”
“We were continually dismayed at the soft, muddy files we were getting from the 7D. In test after test, the 7D files were especially poor when using telephoto or wide angle lenses with distant scenes.”
“The G11 gives very vibrant colours even when the RAW files are processed with the exact same settings (auto white balance, standard picture settings) as the 7D. We’re not sure why. Disregarding the colour differences it looks like the little G11 produces files to compete with the bigger sensor on the 7D.”
Then there is this entry on thedigitalpicture:
“The 7D images are softer than the other DSLRs at the same sharpness setting – repeated testing confirms this. There is no focus error here and the examples use an aperture wider than the DLA. A set of examples processed at a DPP sharpness setting of “2″ shows similar sharpness to the T1i and 50D. Also noticeable is that sharpening sharpens the noise which makes it more apparent. Thus, equal sharpness results in the 7D losing some of its lead in the high ISO noise comparison.”
What in the world is going on here? Has Canon finally come totally off the track and introduced a camera with a stellar feature set and stuck a sub-par sensor in the thing?
There seem to be a lot of people ready and willing to believe just that.
Well, I just had to pop-out of semi-retirement (on the camera gear review front) just long enough to have a look into this mystery. Aren’t you glad?
So, I ran on down to my trusty local rental store PPR and picked up the 7D again along with a 35mm f/1.4 lens and set out to do a few quick tests. I just had to know if Canon had officially lost it. What, with their inability to make a camera that can focus and all.
Without further ado, here are the results of these simple tests.
Canon Rebel XSI vs. Canon 7D
Round 1: JPEG Battle (Straight out of the Camera, Neutral Shooting Style, f/5.6)
Hmm, not seeing it. They look very similar to me. The 7D is the clear winner on the packaging. The Auto White Balance on both cameras also performed equally poorly under this single tungsten bulb. So, no great color difference to see.
It looks like this round goes to the higher res 7D camera. It will also be sharper upon down-sampling or cropping.
Round 1 JPEG Winner: Canon 7D
Round 2: Raw Files Processed in Canon DPP
Ok. So, we corrected for white balance this time using the gray card included in the shots. DPP does seem to be rendering the reds in the 7D image incorrectly. The reds appears almost orange on the backdrop and the bag. However, I’m definitely still seeing more detail in the 7D images. The Canon XSI (450D) image processed in DPP 3.7 almost looks worse than the JPEG straight out of the camera. The colors are improved due to the manual color balancing, but the detail doesn’t appear any higher.
The Canon 7D is the winner using raw and Canon DPP 3.7 at default settings.
Round 2 RAW DPP Winner: Canon 7D
Round 3: Raw Files Processed in Adobe LR 2.6RC
Now both files look sharper and seem to show more detail. This is due to the default contrast, sharpening and other relevant settings being higher in LR by default than in DPP.
However, the Canon 7D reds are a bit out of control here. Adobe needs to work on the profile for this camera. When doing our original testing on LR 2.5 the color rendition was much worse (all the reds were a bright orange color). They’ve obviously improved the situation, but it still needs work, imho.
This round looks like a tie, except the color rendition is better for the XSI when using LR 2.6RC.
Round 3 Raw Lightroom Winner: Tie (with the edge to Canon Rebel XSI for better color rendition in this raw engine)
Round 4: Raw files processed in Capture One Pro 5
Well, it looks like Capture One Pro 5 really shines with both cameras. The default settings for this raw conversion tool outshine both of the other major players.
The colors for both the Rebel XSI (450D) and 7D look very good. Obviously, Phase One still has the edge in their camera color profiles and “out of the box” image quality with these two cameras. It is too bad their workflow isn’t as good. I’m afraid I rarely use C1 anymore (although, I used them for years before LR came out). Perhaps I will have to give them another look.
It is clear that the 7D is resolving more detail in this example.
Round 4 Raw Capture One Winner: Canon 7D (Real Winner is Capture One)
Conclusion from first 4 Rounds: These reviewers were testing a Raw Converter (DPP 3.7, not the Canon 7D)
Hopefully, these first four rounds have shown you that you shouldn’t always believe what you see, or read, on the internet. The two reviews mentioned at the outset have managed to create a mini firestorm on the forums by pointing out their findings. They purported to pass judgment on the image quality of the Canon 7D. What they were really doing was testing out the DPP raw conversion engine (and associated color profile). As you can see from the simple tests above, DPP is the worst of the bunch for “out of the box” pleasing images. Why they chose to test in Raw and in DPP, I don’t know. But, you the reader should be aware that Raw Conversion software has a lot to do with what you can get out of a camera. DPP has never been the quality leader (sorry, Canon). The Canon 7D is the clear overall winner in both raw and jpeg. Capture One will provide the most pleasing files “out of the box.” Lightroom works pretty well and comes in a close second (except for the color issues). DPP is a distant third, as usual.
But, but there must something more to it than that you say. What about Diffraction and Subtraction and all the other scientific stuff I’ve been reading about?
Why didn’t you shoot at f/16 like one of the other reviewers? Well, I did. Just for fun. Although, the shots above were enough to convince me this wasn’t going anywhere.
Outdoor Shots at f/16
I don’t see the XSI resolving a lot more detail than the 7D. They look pretty similar. Especially considering the higher MP count of the 7D.
What I do see is a lot better looking color rendition for the 7D image. Both of these shots were taken using Auto White Balance.
How about another tree shot?
Colors still look better on AWB with the 7D. Don’t see any more mushiness here in the 7D shot either.
How about a building shot?
Again, the colors look better in the 7D shot. No mushiness here, either.
Overall Conclusion: The Canon 7D easily bests the Canon Rebel XSI
All smoke, no fire. Time to go home folks, nothing to see here.
Keep in mind there are many, many variables involved with processing raw files. If you want the best results from raw I would suggest a quick purchase of Capture One, or LightRoom 2.6. Canon DPP just doesn’t cut it, at least not for these cameras.