When the original Canon EOS 7D made it’s début, back in 2009, it offered photography enthusiasts the first ever affordable cropped sensor Camera, with hyper fast burst rates capable camera for sports and wildlife photography. Five years later, with the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II set to bring back it’s predecessor’s professional-level features and processing power, it’s time to test mettle once again and separate fact, from fiction.
Does Canon’s newest offering hold up to our expectations? Or does it fail to deliver the goods? Let’s find out! 😉
I was privileged enough to procure the Canon 7D Mark II, a few days before it’s official launch, here in India (the launch date, as of this writing being still a good two weeks away). Readers would do well to remember that this is a not an in depth analysis, but rather a compact hands-on review, as I’ve only had so much time on my hands between treating the masses and testing my latest acquisition, which was primarily tested against and compared with its cousin, the Canon EOS 70D.
Presented below, for your critical analysis, are some of the more notable features, exclusive to the device.
- 20.2 Megapixel CMOS APS-C Sensor supporting next generation Dual Pixel CMOS sensor-based AF (which is almost identical specification with EOS 70D)
- Dual DIGIC 6 Processors
- 10.0 fps continuous shooting for up to 130 JPG/31 RAW frames
- Highly customizable AF system featuring 65 All Cross Type AF Points with f/8 center point sensitive to -3 EV extreme low-light conditions
- ISO 100-16000 with expansion to 51200
- Built-in GPS receiver with a digital compass records location information (longitude, latitude, elevation, direction and UTC time) to EXIF
- Improved custom controls with built-in Intervalometer and bulb timer
- 60 fps 1080p video, speed and sensitivity-customizable Movie Servo AF, MOV and MP4 recording formats and uncompressed HDMI out
- Magnesium alloy body, shutter durability rated up to 200,000 cycles and enhanced dust and weather resistance
- EOS Scene Detection System features a new 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor for improved precision
- 3.0-inch Clear View II LCD monitor (approximately 1,040,000 dots)
- Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
- Dual Memory Card Slots supporting one CF (UDMA Mode 7) and one SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
- 100% view, 1.00x magnification Intelligent Viewfinder II
- Distortion correction joins Canon’s previously introduced in-camera chromatic aberration and peripheral illumination correction
- New LP-E6N Battery and Battery Grip BG-E16. The LP-E6 batteries are also compatible.
If you look closely at the camera, you’ll see that it’s not just another rehash of the EOS 7D. Quite a few features have changed and improved. It is, in my opinion, that much closer to EOS 70D, than to 7D. Since it was a camera created for sports & wildlife, I headed to nearby Sammilan Shetty Butterfly Park 2run by my good friend Sammilan. I was accompanied by my good friend Sibi Ussan who kindly provided his EOS 70D & Tamron 150-600 to test with 7D mark II. I thank them profusely as without their help this review would not have materialized.
The 7D Mark II now sports a much stronger construction with weather sealing. However, It looks and feels much more like an EOS 5D Mark III. The grip is now significantly larger and has a nice rubbery feel to it, making for a comfortable hold, with vastly improved ergonomics.
Control-wise the layout is almost exactly as the EOS 5D Mark III. The main additions here are a new AF area selection lever, which surrounds the multi-selector. This has the same function as that of the M-Fn button, letting you switch between AF area modes on the fly. On its own, the lever isn’t of much use, but it frees up the M-Fn button to be used for something more useful like focus and exposure lock or image quality settings.
The camera also has a similar battery to the 5D Mark III. The new The LP-E6N battery has higher rating, at 1865 mAh, but lasts only up to 800 shots in the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. I put in a 32GB Lexar Professional 1000x CF card into the CF slot, figuring that this new camera would take full advantage of the UDMA7 speed. As discussed earlier, most readers would be aware of my abject disappointment with Canon, for not providing the SD slot in 5D Mark III (check my review of 5D Mark III for details), in the newer, UHS-I standard. I was bummed to see that the SD slot is once again, only UHS-I, once again showing that Canon is behind in their adoption of the newer and better quality standards (UHS-II). What this means for the user, is that the SD slot is much faster than that of the 5D Mark III, but not nearly as fast as it ought to be. I guess until Canon decides to up their game, I will sticking to CF cards for getting the fastest possible buffer speeds with this camera.
The Canon 7D Mark II is able to fire off shots at up to 10 frames per second in RAW, RAW+JPEG, and JPEG. The only hangup here is that when shooting RAW you get just 31 RAW shots at a time, a number that drops all the way to 19 when shooting in RAW+JPEG. It can do so, while tracking subjects, as well as putting its 65-point autofocus system to good use. The focus system itself is also extremely accurate, tracking subjects easily, without hunting, even with junk in the foreground that could easily distract lesser AF systems.
I miss two great features present in 70D, though. Tilt LCD, which is also touch sensitive. Lack of an articulating LCD is understandable, as it would not be as robust as the rest of the body. My biggest gripe is the lack of a touch-sensitive LCD. When you’re going to provide video-centric features like mic/headphone jacks and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, lack of a touch sensitive LCD feature, feels dumb. A 70D will be a far better choice if you want to avail of these features.
The Camera combines an excellent 65-point (all cross-type sensitive) phase-detect autofocus system with Dual Pixel CMOS AF built right into the image sensor itself. These modes allow for making some fine tuned adjustments, such as tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration, and the sensitivity with which the camera will switch from one AF point to another.
Just like the 5D Mark III and 1-Series bodies to date, the 7D Mark II autofocuses, with lens and extender combinations with max apertures as narrow as f/8. In this case, only the centre AF point acts as a cross-type point and only the four neighbouring AF points function in addition. Those pursuing bird and wildlife photography, two of the most common uses for extenders, will especially appreciate this feature.
Also, in addition to offering a Dual Pixel CMOS AF, for smooth and accurate autofocus while capturing video, the 7D Mark II can also shoot at 1080/60p, with full manual exposure and audio control. There’s also both a mic and a headphone jack for capturing and monitoring audio. Shockingly, this is only the second Canon DSLR other than the 5D Mark III to include both jacks.
When shooting video, one can choose from a multitude of frame rates at 1080p, from 24fps up to 60fps. You can choose either MOV or MP4, and either ALL-I (which is easier to edit) and IPB (which is smaller and has equivalent quality to ALL-I). The new 1080/60p is IPB only and choosing it prevents the use of the ‘Movie Servo AF’ option, as they’re mutually exclusive.
The Movie Servo AF is most wonderful. It’s smooth, quick, and extremely accurate. There’s also minimal hunting in low light, and focus is nearly silent with Canon’s STM lenses. One can even adjust the sensitivity and speed, slowing down the servo AF for smooth focus pulls without ever touching the focus ring.
The 20.2-megapixel sensor on the camera is almost certainly the same as on the EOS 70D, but dual Digic 6 processors replace the the 70D’s lone Digic 5+. The main functional improvement is that the ISO range now stretches from 100-51,200 instead of topping out at 25,600.
Another feature I found interesting about the device, is that the file sizes are so vastly different for each image. The higher the ISO, the larger the file size. At ISO 100, the file size of an image, in .JPEG format is 5MB, whereas at ISO 6400 the file size is 8MB. At ISO 16000, the file more than doubles to 12MB. Crazy, but true.
The image quality, at high ISO speeds has also vastly improved, with better processing leading to lower noise totals, in general. With noise reduction turned off or when shooting RAW you’ll want to keep the settings at ISO 1600 and under for the best results, but JPEG shooters (such as those utilized by sports photographers) can ratchet up the noise reduction slightly and get usable shots up to ISO 6400. Check this collage of of various ISO captures using X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. I have used Fine JPEG settings for these in-camera JPEG files. All other parameters which alter the JPEG (noise reduction, highlight tone priority etc.) have been disabled to get accurate noise profile. This collage of 100% crop is 14MB, please download it from here and watch it in 100% view to get accurate picture.
An analog exposure meter is now displayed on the right, and the display includes ambient compensation and flash compensation, in effect. The EOS 70D was the first Canon DSLR to provide a dedicated viewfinder level indicator. The 7D Mark II takes this bit of technology to the next level, by providing dual-axis indication, with a more precise scale. In dim light, red LEDs light the viewfinder LCD display for easy visibility. These red LEDs can optionally be set to be perpetually on or off, depending upon personal preference, by using the menu.
The 7D II also FINALLY gets a USB 3.0 port. Below the USB port is the HDMI mini port (Type C, HDMICEC compatible). While this port has been common on EOS DSLRs for awhile now, an output of uncompressed YCbCr 4:2:2, 8-bit for video streaming has only recently been made available. Another novelty feature, is the sound output via HDMI. A unique accessory bundled with the camera, is a cable protector that attaches to a small port under the HDMI Port. Using the cable protector prevents the cable from accidental disconnection and the terminal from being damaged.
The 7D Mark II has built-in Intervalometer (interval timer) and bulb timer functionality. While many of us were left questioning the presumable 99 images only upper limit for capturing a series of photographs (a potentially short time lapse), an unlimited number of images can also be captured by setting the number of images to 00, thereby eliminating the issue altogether. Interval timer shooting can be combined with AEB, WB bracketing, multiple exposures and HDR mode, but Live View shooting, bulb exposures and mirror lockup are not supported. I would like to see a mirror lockup with a 2 second self-timer implemented, in the near future.
I used several lenses on 7D mark II during the review. Most lenses like Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro & Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens performed flawlessly. Focusing was quick and accurate. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD was sluggish to focus on 7D Mark II and needed a manual focus ring turn to get into focus. The same lens performed flawlessly on EOS 70D. So I feel 3rd party lenses like Tamron may need a firmware update to work well. The test was brief and inconclusive.
Many reviewers have called 7D Mark II a 70D on steroids. I tested a 7D Mark II against an EOS 70D and found it to be a moderately improved device, over the 70D. In other words, both cameras performed equally well.
So, just how does the Canon 7D Mark II differ from the ubiquitous EOS 70D? Here’s how.
The Dual DIGIC 6 processors as opposed to the DIGIC 5+, offer better noise reduction, at higher ISO. A 65-point cross-type AF over a 19-point cross-type AF was far more useful in capturing images, as the available 65 points are spread out more widely than the 70D’s layout. An ISO of 100-16000 with an expansion to 51200, allows for more efficient low light capture.
The metering sensor is also much more accurate than in the 70D, capturing video, both in both .MOV and .MP4 formats as against 70D. A video quality of 1080p in 60fps was another advantage. The 7D Mark II also offers a more rugged build and a better weather seal, than the 70D. Having said that, the 70D manages to score quite a few brownie points by having higher battery life, built-in WIFI, Vari-Angle and Touch features. The 70D is also slightly smaller and lighter camera. The price difference between the two models (as of now nearly $800) might make the budget conscious photographer to opt for latter instead.
Those looking for the ultimate pro sports/action camera are going to choose the Canon EOS 1D X. Price is the easily, the 7D Mark II’s greatest advantage, with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF and built-in GPS among the additional features offered by the device.
The camera certainly stands to give a tough competition to the 1Dx as it readily offers all the important features required by a sports photographer, while a very efficient noise reduction performance, at a higher ISO, a full frame sensor and pixel density advantages are among the pros offered by the Canon EOS 1D X.
For me, personally, the Canon 7D Mark II makes for a good companion, along with the 5D mark III. Having similar features and button layout, the two are almost identical. The 5D III, with its higher resolution full frame sensor, offers better image quality, especially in low light conditions. However, that being said, the 5D III’s frame rate is rather slow for sports or action photography and for someone just starting out in these sub-genres, it would make for a lot more sense to pull out a 7D Mark II, in these situations.
Overall, the 7D Mark II is a great camera and is destined to rule the Canon APS-C sensor line-up, finding its way into the kits of a wide variety of photographer’s, where it’ll either be used as primary camera or play second fiddle to the EOS 5D Mark III or 6D.