When it comes to Canon’s advanced APS-C format DSLRs the top bodies are definitely the Canon 7D, Canon 70D and now the Canon 7D Mark II. The cameras bridge the gap between expert and enthusiast, offering a wide range of competitive professional features like speedy performance, HD video and impressive battery life. For years, the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D were so similar that many considered them to be neighbors in a series, despite the fact that the Canon 7D was released some four years prior in 2009.
However, now that the Canon 7D Mark II has hit the market, there are even more questions for photographers looking for the best in features, performance and, of course, price. The choice between the cameras will of course depend on which one best suits your own needs in each of the considerations we’ve outlined above. That being said, we feel obliged to note that when it comes to the most feature-rich of the three bodies, the Canon 7D Mark II is the obvious winner, being the most recent in the Canon APS-C line of bodies.
Of course, that isn’t to say that it is the best camera for you, so let’s look at all the features of these cameras in depth to see where their advantages and disadvantages lie.
The Canon 7D has always been a high performer, a quality that has attracted its fair share 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 of the time. But, once people started using the Canon 7D it became very obvious that this new camera wasn’t a refresh at all, but a new level in imaging technology.
The Canon 7D delivers for photographers of all skill 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 big talking point when the Canon 70D hit the shelves was the sensor technology that, although not new in general, was new for Canon’s enthusiast line. The ‘Dual Pixel’ AF sensor allows for phase detection autofocus in live view and movie mode, a feature that was sure to be a big seller.
So, feature-wise the Canon 70D offers photographers that 20-megapixel ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor, as well as 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.
The Canon 7D Mark II wasn’t just an upgrade to the long-successful Canon 7D, it was the upgrade that many Canon users have been waiting for. Since the Canon 7D was released in 2009, so ahead of its time, rumors have been rife about what Canon intended in their next model of the series. It has been a five year wait, but finally the Canon 7D Mark II has arrived to replace the Canon 7D, now discontinued.
Some critics have already argued that this particular model has not been worth the wait, but when we consider the number of impressive bodies that Canon has released since the originally Canon 7D, all of which theoretically work up to the Canon 7D Mark II, there should be no argument about the waiting time.
In terms of features, the Canon 7D Mark II offers a full range of impressive specifications that are sure to impress. These include a 20-megapixel ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor, an ISO range of 100 – 16000 standard and up to 51200 expanded, dual DIGIC 6 processors, 65-point AF system, with all points cross-type, 1080p60 video recording with built in stereo microphone and headphone jack a 3-inch 1.04m-dot LCD screen and built-in GPS capabilities.
With the Canon 7D so ahead of its time, the Canon 70D offering a wealth of advanced modern features, and the Canon 7D Mark II representing the peak of ASP-C camera technology, there’s a lot to see in these three 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 three bodies don’t line up in specifications when it comes to their sensors. The Canon 7D offers an 18-megapixel sensor, an advance at the time that is now considered normal, while the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II offer 20-megapixels. However, although the numbers would suggest otherwise, the advantage that the Canon 70D and Canon 7D Mark II might gain from this is inconsequential.
The specific type of sensor installed in the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II is a ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor, which varies from Canon’s traditional sensors like the one installed in the earlier 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 technology in the newer models that captures the advantage in this regard.
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. Now, the Canon 7D Mark II takes this speed one step further by offering dual DIGIC 6 processors, which better both the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D. The dual power of these advanced processors gives the Canon 7D Mark II responsive performance with minimal delays and lags across the board.
That being said, the Canon 7D still does quite well when it comes to continuous shooting, due in part to firmware updates, although it is never going to match the newer Canon 7D Mark II. 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. The Canon 7D Mark II eclipses these numbers, offering almost unlimited JPG captures, and up to 31 RAW images at speeds of up to 10fps, some of the fastest we’ve seen.
Whether or not the speed matters to you will depend entirely on your specific style as a photographer. If you make it your business to capture the perfect shot of a fast moving subject, the Canon 7D Mark II is the best option, closely followed by the Canon 7D.
Although the Canon 7D Mark ii & 70D both have 3-inch 1.04 million dot resolution screens, the 70D features an articulated touch screen which is a clear advantage
Surprisingly, it is not the newer Canon 7D Mark II that excels when it comes to screen technology, but the Canon 70D. This solid camera body betters both the Canon 7D’s 3-inch 920k-dot resolution screen, as well as the Canon 7D Mark II’s 3-inch 1.04m-dot resolution screen.
For photographers, the Canon 70D showcases a 3-inch screen, also 1.04m-dot resolution, which is both touchscreen and articulated. The articulated screen is ideal to assist in composing shots, shooting at high or low angles, and shooting effective video, while the touchscreen makes menu navigation a breeze, and perfects autofocus with its innovative ‘touch to focus’ technology in Live View.
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, superior technology is the winner again here, with the newer Canon 7D Mark II flattening the competition across the board.
While the Canon 7D offers an ISO range of 100 – 6400 standard and 12800 expanded, pretty much what we would expect to find in the 2009 model, the Canon 70D ranges from 100 – 12800 standard with 25600 expanded. The Canon 7D Mark II brings out the specifications, with 100 – 16000 standard and a whopping 51200 expanded, by far the best of the three. This isn’t surprising when you consider both the newer release as well as those upgraded processors, but it brings the cropped frame camera ever closer in specifications to Canon’s pro models.
Both the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D 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 ‘Dual Pixel’ 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.
The Canon 7D Mark II again dazzles with its updated specifications offering a 65-point autofocus system with all points being cross-type, on top of the similar ‘Dual Pixel’ sensor featured in the Canon 70D. This superior system, which far betters that of both the Canon 7D and the Canon 70D, allows the Canon 7D Mark II to focus with incredible accuracy as well as speed. It means that photographers can track a fast moving subject, and capture them without issue. This autofocus system, paired with the established speed of the Canon 7D Mark II, make it idea for speed photographers who require precision focusing.
The thing to remember when you’re comparing the Canon 7D, the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II in terms of their video performance is that while the initial Canon 7D was released when DSLR video was just beginning, the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II were much more videographer focused during their respective releases. 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.
The Canon 7D and the Canon 70D offer the same frame rates for full HD video, but the newer Canon 70D is the obvious winner thanks to 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.
Indeed, we’d been tempted to note that the Canon 70D remains a solid contender even in comparison with the Canon 7D Mark II. Yes, the Canon 7D Mark II offers better frame rates (up to 60fps) as well as headphone audio monitoring, which is more of the professional videographer’s preference. But for the amateur and enthusiast, that ‘touch to focus’ screen is a powerful tool, and very useful to many. Admittedly, the Canon 7D Mark II offers a vastly improved autofocus system, as we’ve already discussed, so for the more detail minded the newer model is definitely the way to go. But for those that appreciate the user experience, and are looking to ease themselves into DSLR video, the Canon 70D is a notable addition.
For photographers, having a battery life that keeps up with their activity and potential is important, and is something to consider in a new body. Surprisingly, the Canon 70D offers the best battery life of all three camera bodies, with around 920 shots compared to 800 on the Canon 7D and a mere 670 on the Canon 7D Mark II. Of course, environmental factors can alter the performance of a battery, but certainly if you’re looking for something that is going to last for a full day of intense shooting, the Canon 70D stretches the furthest.
The Canon 7D is a great camera, but when it comes to additional extras it is pretty bare bones. The Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II on the other hand are cameras with extras. That being said, the Canon 70D outperforms the newer Canon 7D Mark II, offering both built-in wireless capabilities, allowing for easier image sharing and transferring, while the Canon 7D Mark II offers GPS. For some photographers, both are required for the ultimate body, but if you need to choose between the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D Mark II, you’ll need to decide between connectivity and geotagging images for now.
Like most cameras at this level, both the Canon 7D, Canon 70D and Canon 7D Mark II 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 Stabilizer (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, which is the same lens that the Canon 7D Mark II will be bundled with. As a lens, the 18-135mm offers all that the 18-55mm does but with an increased focal length that many photographers will find enormously valuable. Certainly, if you want something that is flexible with focal length, providing both wide-angle and mid-zoom perspectives, the 18-135mm will provide.
Although we have seen the Canon 7D with both of these lenses in some kits, it often comes in a kit with the Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. This lens is an older one that, as well as the Image Stabilizer (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, Canon 70D and Canon 7D Mark II
From our comparison it should be pretty easy to see that the Canon 7D Mark II is the camera that has come out on top. Its technological advancements simply can’t be ignored, even though the Canon 70D and the Canon 7D very well considering their respective ages.
For photographers, the Canon 70D offers a high-resolution sensor with advanced technology at its release 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 reasonable light sensitivity, both standard and expanded, a lighter body and improved battery charge compared to both the Canon 7D and the Canon 7D Mark II. 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.
If you’re looking for the best in new equipment, with the most varied and advanced array of features, there’s obviously no competition to the Canon 7D Mark II. With its updated processors, sensors and autofocus system the Canon 7D Mark II leaves behind the competition. Its higher price tag comes with the promise of accurate focusing at speeds we’ve never seen before in cropped frame cameras, a feature sure to impress the wildlife, sports and action photographers. At the same time, its impressive video abilities, along with its superior ISO offering, mean that this is more than a fast camera; it’s a versatile and flexible body for a range of photographic style and levels.
Ultimately, the choice between the Canon 7D, Canon 70D and Canon 7D Mark II will be a challenging one, that will depend just as much on your own needs as the features of each model. If nothing else, we hope that this comparison showed you that although the Canon 7D Mark II is certainly the best camera, it is not by all measures the best for you simply by being the newest. All three bodies are impressive additions from Canon to the world of DSLR photography, likely to awaken the potential of a variety of photographers.