120studio.com
November 1, 2014





Background


The new Canon EOS 7D Mark II has a lot of people excited.  I'm even kind of excited about it, and I don't usually get that excited about "yet another digital camera".

Before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, I want to help you decide whether the 7D Mark II is really the best choice for the money.  Toward that end, we're going to compare it to the Canon EOS 70D...

While we're at it, we'll also compare it to the Canon 6D.  (Even though the 6D is sort of for a different use than the 7D II, there is some overlap.)

A Quick Note


This article is made possible only with the support of readers like you, when you use the links on here to purchase your cameras and gear.  The small commissions from sales are what allow me to keep this site going.   Thank you!




Comparison of Features


A 120studio.com
Camera Guide

Canon 70D

Canon 7D MkII

Canon 6D          

Autofocus While Video Recording?
Yes
Yes
Not continuously
Battery Pack
Canon LP-E6
or LP-E6N
Canon LP-E6
or LP-E6N
Canon LP-E6
or LP-E6N
Card Slots
SD x 1
SD x 1 and CF x 1
SD x 1
Continuous Shooting (fps)
7
10
4.5
Cross-Type AF Points
19
65
1
Custom modes on dial
Yes (x1)
Yes (x3)
Yes (x2)
Flash Unit Built-In?
Yes
Yes
No
GPS
No
(GPS receiver sold separately)
Yes
Yes
Image Processor
Digic 5+
Dual Digic 6
Digic 5+
In-Camera HDR
Yes (3-shot, +/- 3EV) Yes (3-shot, +/- 3EV)
Yes (3-shot, +/- 3EV)
ISO Max (highest standard setting**)
12800
expandable to 25600
16000
expandable to 51200
25600
expandable to Ludicrous Speed (102400)
LCD swings or tilts out?
Yes
No
No
Multi-Shot Noise Reduction?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Price (body only)
MSRP:  $1,199 US
MSRP:  $1,799 US
MSRP:  $1,899 US
RAW capture
Yes
Yes
Yes
Resolution (megapixels)
20.2
20.2
20.2
Self-Cleaning Sensor
Yes
Yes
Yes
Sensor Size
APS-C
APS-C
Full Frame!
Shutter Life Expectancy
150,000
200,000
100,000
Spot Metering Angle
(% of viewfinder)
3.0%
1.8%
3.5%
Video framerate
max @ 1080p
(rounded to nearest fps;
 e.g. 59.9 = 60)
30 fps
60 fps
30 fps
Viewfinder coverage (approx.)
98%
100%
97%
Weather Sealing
Partial
Full
Partial
Wi-Fi
Yes
No
Yes
SPECIAL NOTES:
Best all-around Canon semi-pro*
Highest fps this side of a 1D-X
Best low-light performance by far.  Even somewhat better than the 5D Mk III.


70D:  Get it here
7D MkII:  Get it here
6D:  Get it here

*I define "semi-pro" as having many / most of the pro features, but without the expense.  Everything from the Canon two-digit D-series up through the 6D and 5D Mark III could be considered a semi-pro camera.  The real "professional" camera is the 1D series.  I wouldn't worry too much about it, though;  any of these cameras is capable of producing beautiful work.  At the end of the day, that's all that really matters.

** These cameras have "extended" ISO that you can activate through the menu system.

Autofocus


The AF systems on the 70D and the 7DII are both more than enough for all-around use.  Compare with the Canon 6D, which has only 1 cross-type AF point:  quite usable for landscapes, or pictures of people who aren't moving too fast.

The 70D with its 19 cross-type AF points is like space technology compared to that.

The 7D Mark II is unbelievable.  It has a whopping 65 cross-type AF points.   If you're purchasing a DSLR on the basis of autofocus, the 7D Mark II is currently the best thing out there.  Its AF system is even more advanced than the $3,400 5D Mark III... at about half the price.

The 7D Mark II is a sports machine.    If action sports is your bag, get this camera.  Even if you photograph Speed Tiddlywinks or something, the 7D II will help ensure that you don't miss the shot.   (Don't get knocked around, though;  I hear those games can get pretty rough.)



Low-Light / High ISO


At ISO 6400, the 7D Mark II is almost identical to the 70D. 

At ISO 3200, I think the 70D offers just a tiny bit more detail clarity than the 7D Mark II.  I was hoping the 7D2 would bring out some amazing new low-light technology, but it's pretty conservative.  The one big plus here is that the 7D Mark II has better low-light performance than the original 7D, which is 2009 technology.

Overall, it's a tie in this category.  Until we see radically different sensor technology, I would say that crop-sensor high ISO performance has about run its course.   Figure on great images up through ISO 1600, good ones at ISO 3200, and somewhat usable ones at 6400.  Anything higher than this would be only for use in a pinch.  

If you require better than this, then full-frame is the way to go.  If you just want the best high-ISO / low-light camera on the market right now, read this review.... or just buy the high-ISO superstar right now and be done with it.



Video

Both the 70D and the 7D Mark II have dual-pixel AF technology.   They also have Movie Servo AF mode.  That means you can actually use the autofocus normally while recording. 

Technically, you can autofocus while recording with other DSLR's besides the 70D / 7DII.  However, only with dual-pixel AF technology can you really avoid that crude, halting sort of autofocus that we've come to associate with DSLR video.  Ordinary DSLR's cannot do real-time AF tracking of video subjects;  the 70D and the 7D Mark II can.

The 70D actually has one major advantage over the 7DII:  a swing-out LCD.  You can adjust the LCD so that you can hold the 70D high above your head and still see what you're videotaping.  This is great for weddings or news events where you can't otherwise get above the crowd.  The guy with the 7D Mark II can shoot faster action than you can, but if he can't even see what's happening, it won't do much good.


The 70D has an articulating LCD screen;  the 7D II does not.


The 7D Mark II, like the 6D, has a regular (fixed) LCD screen.  This is not a major drawback, but if you do a lot of video, the 70D's swing-out screen might be more important than having 65 cross-type AF points.

I know we're talking about video, but there's another place where the 70D would be the better choice.  That's if you're doing HDR or night sky photography and you've got the tripod set too high or too low for comfort.  Maybe the camera is at an angle that would make you have to crouch or strain your back to see the LCD.  You won't have to do that with the Canon 70D.   Little things like this can really make a difference when you can't get around as easily.  (Get your 70D through this link and it helps me keep my website on-line.)

You will also find the articulating screen useful when using an ultrawide lens such as the new Canon EF-S 10-18mm.   It's not too convenient to be hunched over and crowding your face into a viewfinder when you're near the ground.  This is often where ultra-wide-angle shooters find themselves.   Like to shoot ultra-wide much?  Get the 70D, and pair it with that lens.

The 7D Mark II has one very noteworthy feature, if you're a serious videographer.  This has to do with the actual video quality.  No other camera I know of allows you to adjust the video AF speed ("focus transition").  The 7D Mark II has this feature.  The result is that you can simulate the graceful appearance of slow manual-focus... with the accuracy of AF.  Without this feature, AF will just sort of whip back and forth to get the exact focus;  no finesse.

Sometimes I wish Canon wouldn't do this, but that's how it works.  Pick one or the other:  either you can get the swing-out LCD of the 70D, or the adjustable focus-pull effect of the 7D Mark II



Other Features


The 7D Mark II has a couple of seemingly little features that could really make it the go-to camera.

Along with GPS, the 7D2 has a built-in digital compass feature that tells you what direction the camera was pointed when you took a picture.  If you do a lot of nature hiking to get your photos, this feature could be handy.

The 7D2 also has a spot metering angle of only 1.8% of the viewfinder.  That's much narrower than either the 70D or the 6D.  A narrow angle allows you to get more accurate metering of landscape features.  If you shoot slide film, especially large format, a 7D Mark II could be a great companion.

The compass feature, the narrow spot-metering, and the in-camera HDR make for a rather tempting landscape camera.  That's a pleasant surprise, since the 7D II is really billed as a sports camera.  Who knew?

The Canon 70D is still a strong camera, though.  It, too, has in-camera HDR, and like the 7D II, you can set user-defined Picture Styles.  The one thing I don't like as much about the 70D is that it has only one Custom mode on the dial.  Then again, that one is better than none. 

And if you really need a compass, you could always carry a real one.  I'd carry one anyway, even if toting a 7D II with me.


So, Which Camera?

If it comes down to budget, I'd go directly for the 70D.  It's probably the most versatile DSLR that Canon makes right now.  It has great AF, it has dual-pixel technology for video, and it has the control set that you expect in a pro or semi-pro DSLR.  The 70D has at least one thing the 7D II doesn't have:  an articulating LCD screen.  It also has Wi-Fi, if you find that useful.

The 70D can do most of what the 7D Mark II can do, maybe just not quite as fast.  At 7 fps continuous shooting, it's a very solid camera for many types of action photography.

The 7D Mark II's primary strength is not improved image quality, because it really doesn't offer much of an improvement over the 70D.   In fact, I don't even see a difference.   Its primary strength is in other areas.

What it does offer is 65-cross-point autofocus, and of course the awesome 10 fps continuous shooting speed.  I don't photograph a lot of sports, but if you do, the 7D Mark II might be exactly the camera you've been looking for.   That's not to mention the three Custom modes, the 100% viewfinder, the dual card slots, the focus-speed adjustment, and 60 fps video.  Taken together, these features make the 7D Mark II one of the most capable DSLR's on the market.

    




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