The Canon 7D's Auto Lighting Optimizer Sucks

The Canon 7D's Auto Lighting Optimizer Sucks

I love our 7D. So much that we have two of them. It's an affordable medium for super high resolution video. The lenses and work flow are far cheaper and easier than our old BFF, the Red One. For sure we will stick to the Red One for larger shoots as the quality is unmatched, but the 7D works for everything else.

The first glass I bought was a Canon EF 50mm 1:1.4. It's amazing. The depth makes every photo look top notch. It out-performs my human eye in natural lighting, even indoors, at night, with a single 50 watt bulb.

But, there is always a but...

I wanted to give it a real test. So, St Patrick's Day, 2010 I headed into the city for the annual Hannahoe Vigil in Reading, PA's St. Peters Cemetery. It's a tradition that's brought townies and gawkers up the hill and into the dark cemetery at midnight for 114 years. It's not a sponsored, corporate event - it's what celebrating local heritage is all about. Standing in the dark with friends and soon-to-be-friends, playing instruments while you're drunk, and sharing a few bottles of Jameson. Of the dozens of attendees, only a few knew each other before the hour in the dark. Afterwards everyone was hugging goodbye and planning a trip down the hill to the pub.

Back to the story. Yea, it was dark. Real dark. There were only a few flashlights but through my lens everything looked fantastic. You can see from the footage, while not the most spectacular documentary you'll ever watch, it looks great in YouTube with its downsizing and compression.

When I got home I opened the footage on the computer. I was immediately disappointed. It was grainy, noisy, pixilated, what ever you call it -it just generally looks like gain was added. Turns out that it was. The Canon 7D has a default setting called "Auto Lighting Optimizer". I wish it would be called "Gain" like every other camera.

Another thing I noticed when other people's camera's went off, was, even though I was shooting 30P, the frame recorded in 1/2. Check out the flash footage frames. It looks really weird in real time, and even stranger as stills.

The setting ruined the high-res footage. Lucky this was just a test. Hopefully it will help someone else out there before they make the same mistake.

The documentary footage: