When it comes to Canon’s advanced APS-C format DSLRs the top two are definitely the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D. Both cameras bridge the gap between expert and enthusiast, offer a wide range of competitive professional features, speedy performance, HD video and impressive battery life. They’re so similar you’d be forgiven for assuming that they’re upgraded models of each other, or neighbors in a series.
In fact, the Canon 70D first appeared in July of 2013, while the Canon 7D launched some four years earlier in September of 2009! How did this happen? Well, when it was released the Canon 7D was considered way before its time, offering features that photographers never expected on a camera at that level.
For many photographers, the issue between choosing between these two models has been made more confusing by the pricing of both bodies. The cameras are competitively priced, and around the same range, but the sheer popularity of the Canon 7D means that it is often available in great condition at used prices.
To help with this decision, this article will look in detail at both the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D, to ascertain from the specifications, features and usage, which camera has the ultimate advantage.
The Canon 7D has always been a high performer, and this has attracted a lot of attention since its release in 2009. Before it hit the market many enthusiasts thought that the Canon 7D might have been intended as a refresh on the Canon 50D, a popular body in the EOS series. But, once people started using the Canon 7D there was a quick realization that this new camera wasn’t a refresh at all, but a new level in imaging technology.
The Canon 7D delivers for photographers at all levels with an 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a 3-inch 920k-dot resolution LCD screen, an ISO range of 100 – 6400 standard with up to 12800 expanded, a 19-point AF system, with all points being cross-type, 1080p30 video with external microphone jack, 1.0x magnification and 100% viewfinder coverage all in an environmental sealed body.
Now, keep in mind when you look at the Canon 7D’s specifications that this camera is now more than 5 years old, and despite this it’s still able to offer many of the base features that we might expect in cameras released this year.
One of the newest in Canon’s mid-range DSLR series, the Canon 70D takes bigger steps than many of its proceeding models. In fact, it’s such a marked upgrade from the previous Canon 60D, that we would even recommend considering the upgrade for Canon 60D owners looking for something new. True to their reputation, Canon has worked to take all the best aspects from their line, and remove the worst in the Canon 70D.
The Canon 70D offers photographers a 20-megapixel ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor, an ISO range of 100 – 12800 standard and up to 25600 expanded, a DIGIC 5+ processor, 19-point AF system, with all points being cross-type, 1080p30 video recording with a built-in stereo microphone and external microphone port, an articulated 1.04m-dot LCD touchscreen and built in wi-fi capabilities.
With the Canon 7D so ahead of its time, and the Canon 70D offering a wealth of advanced modern features, there’s lots to understand about both of these camera bodies. But, in order to see whether newer really is better we’re going to look at the particulars of each camera’s features, and see how they stack up next to each other.
Megapixel & Sensor: Straight away we can see that the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D don’t line up in specifications when it comes to their sensor. The Canon 7D offers an 18-megapixel sensor, an advance at the time that is now considered normal, while the Canon 70D offers 20-megapixels. However, although this does give the Canon 70D a slight advantage, it isn’t where the real differences lie.
The specific type of sensor installed in the Canon 70D is a ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor, which varies from Canon’s traditional sensors like the one installed in the Canon 7D. The ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor improves performance camera-wide from better autofocus in live view and video recording, which we’ll discuss in more detail later. So, despite the admirable performance of the Canon 7D, it is the Canon 70D’s technology that sees it at an advantage here.
Processor & Speed: The Canon 70D features the DIGIC 5+ processor, compared to the dual, but older, DIGIC 4s present on the Canon 7D. Unsurprisingly, this has seen the Canon 70D jump head in terms of processing ability and speed in working through the images during shooting.
That being said, it is the Canon 7D that offers better speeds for continuous shooting, due in part to firmware updates and the larger number of megapixels on the Canon 70D sensor. This means that although the Canon 70D produces a very effective 7fps in burst mode, with a continuous buffer of 65 large JPG and 16 RAW images the Canon 7D bumps it up to 8fps with 130 large JPG and 25 RAW. This will make absolutely no difference to many photographers, but for people who shoot at speed, particularly sports photographers, it might mean the difference between getting the perfect shot.
Screen: Again the more advanced technology present on the Canon 70D sees it better the Canon 7D when it comes to screen. Although the Canon 7D’s 3-inch 920k-dot resolution screen is nothing to scoff at, the Canon 70D simply offers more features. As well as a 1.04m-dot resolution screen of the same size, the Canon 70D’s screen is both touch compatible for easier navigation through the menus and articulated, to assist in composing shots, shooting at high or low angles, and shooting effective video.
ISO: ISO is an important thing to consider in buying a new camera, especially if you plan to shoot in any kind of low-light conditions, such as the situations you might find in wedding or travel photography. Again, the superior technology of the Canon 70D means that it does perform much better. It offers both a higher maximum light sensitivity, with 12800 ISO over 6400 ISO, as well as a higher boosted light sensitivity, with 25600 ISO over 12800 ISO.
Autofocus: Both cameras perform equally when we just look at their respective autofocus systems. They each offer a 19-point system, with all points being cross-type, which makes them much more accurate than some other cameras. However, the Canon 70D’s upgraded sensor means that is utilizes on chip phase-detection, covering an amazing 80% of the sensor space, to provide even faster, more accurate, Live View shooting, as well as better focus performance for video.
Video: The thing to remember when you’re comparing the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D in terms of their video performance is that while the Canon 7D was released when DSLR video was just beginning, the Canon 70D was aimed to be the videographer’s DSLR. In fact, when the Canon 70D was being marketed much of it’s advertising focused solely on its video ability, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Although both cameras offer full HD video and the same frame rates, the Canon 70D far outstrips the Canon 7D with its swivel screen and Dual Pixel AF system. This combo means that as well as being easier to set up for filming and film with on a tripod, the Canon 70D offers continuous track autofocus for consistently clear videos. Add that to the camera’s ability to use the touch screen for ‘touch to focus’ and the Canon 70D is the real winner.
Other Additions: The Canon 7D is a great camera, but when it comes to additional extras it is pretty bare bones. The Canon 70D on the other hand is a camera with impressive extras. These include built-in wireless capabilities, allowing for easier image sharing and transferring, as well as built-in HDR and Creative Filters for the more artistic, and beginner photographers encountering DSLRs at this level.
Like most cameras at this level, both the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D are cropped frame cameras. If you aren’t sure what this means, don’t worry. It’s unlikely to cause any changes to the way that you use your camera. However, for smarter lens purchasing, it is worth remembering that lenses on cropped frame cameras do not measure true to their focal length.
The newer Canon 70D came in a kit with either the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM or the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. The lens that you decide on will ultimately depend on your own needs, and specifics like cost and interests. As you might be aware, the 18-55mm is something of a standard beginners lens for most photographers, so if you’re upgrading you probably already have one. It’s nothing outstanding, but you can’t deny the usefulness and versatility of this little lens, which is ideal for day to day use and comes with Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS) technology to minimize blur in your images as well as the STM stepping motor for near-silent focusing.
That being said, the more popular lens on the Canon 70D is definitely the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. It offers everything that the 18-55mm offers, but the increased focal length means that this lens tends to suit the needs of more photographers looking for something more flexible.
Although we have seen the Canon 7D with both of these lenses at various times, it often comes in a kit with the Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. This lens, as well as the Image Stabilization (IS) technology offers an Ultra-Sonic Motor, which allows it to focus very quietly much like the newer STM motors. It also offers almost the same focal length as the 18-135mm, so the choice is ultimately up to you. Many may find that the greater focal range suits them better, but ultimately there are a number of factors, including cost and availability, that may make that decision for you.
A Final Comparison of the Canon 7D and Canon 70D
From our comparison it should be pretty easy to see that the Canon 70D is the camera that has come out on top. Its technological advancements simply can’t be ignored, even though the Canon 7D performs much better than is expected considering its age.
For photographers, the Canon 70D offers a newer, higher-resolution sensor with more advanced technology that betters its focusing ability in Live View, a more full range of video related additions, an impressive articulating touchscreen display and built-in wifi. The Canon 70D also impresses with higher light sensitivity, both standard and expanded, a 10% lighter body and a 20% improvement on the number of shots per battery charge. It is the ideal camera for photographers interested in shooting and producing great video, as well as operating in lower light conditions.
That being said, the Canon 7D is still an impressive camera, and if you’re buying a body used you have an even better chance of getting your hands on quality equipment at a lower price. In particular, the Canon 7D really performs at speed and action photography, with both a better frames per second speed and a larger continuous buffer than the Canon 70D. Remember that the Canon 7D’s overall performance to a photographer with these specific needs can be further improved by fitting it with an appropriate lens.
When it comes to buying new equipment, there are always challenges in choosing from the vast market range. We’ve worked to bring you a wide selection of the information available on the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D and although the Canon 70D did end up on top this time, it was clear that competition on many fronts remained close.