The Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 are both what their respective manufacturers would call mid-level DSLR cameras. This means that they’re targeted at enthusiast photographers, people who are serious enough about their hobby to invest in higher quality, more complicated equipment, but not quite ready, or not interested, in buying a professional body.
In many ways, the March 2013 release of the Canon 70D wasn’t just as a regular replacement for the popular, but aged, Canon 60D, but also as a response to Nikon’s February 2013 release of the Nikon D7100. The cameras seem quite similarly matched, but our comparison hopes to uncover which model, if any, has the advantage.
The Canon 70D is the latest in Canon’s long line of mid-range DSLR camera bodies, but unlike many of its predecessor models, the Canon 70D is a big step forward. A marked upgrade from the Canon 60D, and even worth making for those who already own the Canon 60D, the Canon 70D has adopted of the best aspects of the brand’s camera line up, and eliminated the worst.
Looking at the Canon 70D’s features and specifications, we can see that the Canon 70D offer 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.
Released in February of 2013 the Nikon D7100 represented in many ways Nikon stepping into the growing demand for what they call ‘enthusiast cameras’. Basically, these are cameras that fall into the entry-level category in many ways, i.e. they’re DX format and reasonably affordable, while at the same time offering features that photographers have grown accustomed to seeing in professional models.
The Nikon D7100’s predecessor was the Nikon D7000, although significant improvements to the camera internally and externally mean that upgrading will likely yield a different experience, even for Nikon D7000 owners.
The Nikon D7100 features a 24-megapixel DX format sensor with no OLPF, an ISO range of 100 – 6400 standard and up to 25600 expanded, an EXPEED 3 processor, 51-point AF system with 15 sensors cross-type, 1080 60i/30p video with built-in stereo mic, external mic port and audio monitoring jack, a 1.2m-dot 3.2-inch LCD screen, with 2 SD storage slots, all in a fully weather sealed body.
The Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 aren’t just comparable cameras, in many aspects they’re very similar. However, it would be a step too far to say they are the same, although these similarities do leave them very evenly matched against each other.
To get a better idea of the capabilities and unique features of each camera, we’re going to break down the specific differences between the Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 and see which one comes out on top.
Megapixel & Sensor:
Both Canon 70D and Nikon D7100 offer APS-C sized image sensors, of the same size, featuring sensor cleaning capabilities. The Nikon D7100 offers a higher pixel count of over 24-megapixels compared to the Canon 70D’s 20, meaning that the images the Nikon D7100 produces have a higher resolution. However, most users won’t notice this slight different unless printing large images or cropping heavily.
Additionally, the Nikon D7100 does not feature an optical low pass filter, while the Canon 70D does. The lack of an OLPF general results in clearer, sharper images. It should be noted however that the Canon 70D features a totally different kind of sensor, which they call the Dual Pixel imaging sensor. This particular sensor provides larger pixels, which increases the cameras performance in terms of capturing images and also in autofocusing, which we’ll explore more later.
Despite the Nikon D7100 featuring a larger (3.2-inch v. 3-inch), higher resolution (1.2m-dot v. 1.04-dot) screen than the Canon 70D, it is the Canon 70D that triumphs over the Nikon D7100 in features alone.
The screen itself, although not as high as the Nikon D7100’s by comparison, is still a very high quality screen that allows for easy image perusal and on the spot improvements. As well as this high-resolution screen, the Canon 70D offers an articulated screen touchscreen capabilities. The articulated screen makes it easier to capture images at high or low angles, while the touchscreen is a useful tool for accessing the Canon’s menus with ease.
Although both cameras perform very well in low light conditions, the Canon 70D offers a maximum light sensitivity that is 1 f-stop better than its Nikon competitor (6,400 ISO v. 12,800 ISO). Despite this, it is the Nikon D7100 that outperforms the Canon 70D in terms of low noise, high ISO performance, with a potential of 1,256 ISO vs. 926 ISO.
The speed of the Canon 70D in comparison to the Nikon D7100 comes down to their respective processors. Both models offer the very best in image processors currently on the market, with the ability to handle most photographer’s needs without issue. But, it is the Canon 70D, with its DIGIC 5+ processor, that wins over the Nikon D7100’s EXPEED 3 due to its ability to provide 7fps in high speed shooting compared to the Nikon’s 6fps. Testing on both bodies have also shown that the Canon 70D has substantially less shutter lag during capture, 75ms compared to 251ms for the Nikon D7100.
Both the Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 use phase-detection when shooting from the optical viewfinders, and there’s no denying that they’re both very fast. The Nikon D7100 features more autofocus points, but the Canon 70D outdoes the Nikon in terms of cross-type points, offering 19 compared to the Nikon’s 15. Both cameras also feature continuous autofocus tracking, and face detection, but it’s on the inside that we start to see the difference.
Before we looked at the different Dual Pixel sensor offered in the Canon 70D. It is in the autofocus abilities of the camera that this piece of hardware really shines. The Nikon D7100 uses a 2016-pixel RGB sensor to work on contrast-detection, while the Canon 70D’s sensor allows for phase-detection on 80% of the sensor space. For the photographer, this translates as faster and more accurate shooting in Live View, as well as much improved performance for focusing while shooting video and stills.
It is in video that we start to see how the two cameras substantially differ. Canon has always been known for their impressive camera performance in the realm of DSLR video recording, and the Canon 70D is no different.
On the outside it might appear as though both cameras offer similar video capabilities. Indeed, both Canon 70D and Nikon D7100 have the ability to shoot 1080p HD video with built-in stereo sound. The Nikon D7100 even outdoes the Canon 70D with 60/50fps versus 30fps.
But the Canon 70D’s more advanced sensor was made for video, and designed specifically to keep moving subjects in focus. This, along with the simple ‘touch to focus’ capabilities of the screen, means that for video enthusiasts the Canon 70D does Nikon one better.
We live in an internet age, but Nikon seems to have missed the memo about their consumers need to connect their cameras and share images online. While the Canon 70D features wireless capabilities built-in, allowing for easier transfer and distribution of images online, the Nikon D7100 relies on a mobile adapted that must be purchased additionally and plugged in to use.
It might not be something considered by all photographers, but those who have experienced will know the benefits of having two memory cards slots. This feature, which is available on the Nikon D7100 but not on the Canon 70D, offers photographers greater freedom in their image capture. Specifically, the Nikon D7100 allows for one card to store RAW images while the other stores JPEG, making for a much easier workflow.
They might look like they have all the best specifications and features, but both the Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 are cropped-frame cameras. This will mean nothing to most photographers, all entry-level cameras are the same in this regard, but it’s worth keeping in mind when lens shopping as the focal length will not measure true on your cropped-frame body.
The Canon 70D is usually bundled 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. What lens you choose to go for in this instance is entirely dependent on your own needs as a photographer. The 18-55mm is the standard kit lens for many starter photographers, but at this level enthusiasts might already have one, or be looking for more versatility in their equipment. As a lens, the 18-55mm IS cannot be denied. It’s a great little lens, good for every day and general use, with Image Stabilizer (IS) technology that minimizes the risk of blur as well as an STM stepping motor for very silent focusing abilities.
However, at this level it isn’t surprising that the more popular choice in kit lenses for the Canon 70D is the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. Like its little brother, the 18-135mm IS offers Image Stabilization and STM focusing, but the flexibility of a greater zoom makes it much more useful both as a kit lens, and as a piece of photographic equipment.
The Nikon D7100 on the other hand has been seen occasionally bundled with the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II, a reliable lens noted for its ability to retract for greater compact storage as well as its impressive Vibration Reduction technology and Silent Wave Motor.
However, the lens most often seen with the Nikon D7100 is the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR kit lens. A suitable and well-balanced lens for the Nikon D7100, the 18-105mm performs admirably and is a great all round lens. Like most kit lenses, it is pretty basic, but offers photographers Internal Focus (IF) mechanisms as well as a Silent Wave Motor and the Vibration Reduction found on most Nikon kit lenses of this level.
For those planning on making a long-term camera investment, it is worth remembering that, unlike the Canon 70D, the Nikon D7100 has an in-built autofocus motor. This means that it can work with a wide range of Nikon’s older lenses, which might make it easier to find lenses outside of the kit.
A Final Comparison of the Canon 70D and Nikon D7100
The truth about the Canon 70D and the Nikon D7100 is that there is no winner. Both cameras are at the peak of their respective series, and in the release aimed to directly compete with one another. Their manufacturers have anticipated each other well as in specifications and features, both inside and out, it seems that the two are a tie.
That isn’t to say that the cameras are the same. Our comparison, if it has not distinguished a winner, has certainly shown where the differences lie. The Canon 70D offers photographers an articulated touch screen, faster video autofocus thanks to phase-detection technology, faster continuous shooting, less shutter lag, more cross-type focus points and built-in wifi technology, all impressive qualities.
On the other hand the Nikon D7100 provides a larger, higher resolution screen, significantly more focus points, a higher megapixel resolution, less startup delay, an in-built focus motor and 2 SD card storage slots.
So, what is the answer for those photographers trying to make a choice between these two models? It comes down to personal preference, and individual need. For those photographers eager to embrace the new world of DSLR models, who want to test more advanced connectivity or improve their video capture skills, the Canon 70D proves the better choice. For the traditionalists, the people who want the absolute best in capturing images before they make the hard choice of upgrading to a full-frame camera, the Nikon D7100 is the better choice.
For all users, it will ultimately depend on your personal circumstances, level of comfort with each manufacture brand and possible outside deciders like brand loyalty or preference.