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Hands-on review: Updated: Canon 7D Mark II
3:11 am | October 31, 2014

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Hands-on review: Updated: Canon 7D Mark II

Introduction and features

  • New: we’ve added our own sample images to those offered by Canon.

As the Canon 7D was launched way back in 2009, its update is somewhat overdue and there have been rumours of a Mark II version for quite some time. Now at last the Canon 7D Mark II has been revealed and can take its place as the manufacturer’s flagship APS-C format camera. Canon is claiming that it will produce ‘best in class’ image quality.

Although the new camera has a 20.2-million-pixel sensor like the Canon 70D, we are told that it is a new device. The micro lenses have also been redesigned for improved efficiency (i.e. light transmission) and this should contribute to an improvement in image quality.

angle front view

What’s more, this sensor is coupled with Dual Digic 6 processing engines to make the camera faster and more responsive. This enables a maximum continuous shooting speed of 10 frames per second (fps) for 31 raw files or until the card is full with JPEGs; and a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-16,000 with expansion settings taking it up to ISO 51,200.

That’s the highest non-expansion setting in any Canon SLR. The maximum continuous shooting rate can be set to 2-10fps in High mode, 1-9fps in Low and 1-4fps in Silent shooting mode.

angle front view

The Canon 7D’s autofocus system is widely respected, but the 7D Mark II improves upon it with a 65-point system, with all those points being the more sensitive cross-type. In addition, the central point is a dual-cross type at f/2.8 and sensitive down to f/8, which is very useful for photographers who want to use an extender with their telephoto lenses. The central point is also claimed to function down to -3EV (moonlight).

Canon has given the new camera the same EOS iTR AF and AI Servo AF III autofocus technologies as the Canon EOS-1Dx and Canon 5D Mark III. These give the photographer a selection of six shooting scenarios to tailor the AF system so it has the best chance of keeping a moving subject sharp.

front overview

Exposure is handled by a new 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared sensor – that’s better than the Canon 1DX, which has a 100,000-pixel sensor – and is divided into 252 zones. As a result, the 7D Mark II is likely to respond differently to the original 7D in some situations. It will be interesting to see how the camera reacts in high contrast situations and if the same weighting is given to the brightness of the area under the active AF point.

Like the Canon 70D, the 7D Mark II’s sensor has pixels that can be used for phase detection focusing (Dual Pixel AF) in Live View and Video mode. This enables smoother, faster focusing than contrast detection alone. Unlike the 70D, however, the speed at which the focusing occurs can be varied to allow for slower, more cinematic adjustments in video mode.

side view

Further good news for keen videographers is that Full HD video can be recorded in Mov or MP4 format at up to 60p in NTSC mode or 50p in PAL. There’s an HDMI port that can provide a clean uncompressed (4:2:2) feed to external recorders and there are ports to connect both a microphone and a headphone for better sound recording and monitoring.

There’s also a USB 3.0 port for faster image transfer, and a bracket ships with the camera to hold the cable securely in place when shooting with the camera tethered to a computer.

controls side

On the back of the camera is a 3-inch, 1,040,000-dot LCD screen which can be used for composing Movies or images in Live View mode. Naturally, given that the 7D Mark II is an SLR, there’s also an optical viewfinder. This shows 100% of the field of view and is capable of displaying key information such as the drive mode when the appropriate control is used to make an adjustment. There’s also an electronic level visible at the top of the viewfinder which works independently of the AF buttons.

To help deal with the inconsistent exposure that can trouble images taken under fluorescent lights, Canon has included a Flicker detection option that when selected changes the shutter lag for more consistent exposure. It will be interesting to see how this performs.

Top screen

Canon has given the 7D Mark II dual card slots: one can accept SD/SDHC/SDXC media while the other is compatible with CompactFlash (CF) cards. This may seen unusual now, but it’s a good idea decision given that the camera is likely to appeal to photographers upgrading from cameras with SD card slots, as well as those looking for a second body to support a camera that uses CF cards.

CF cards are also generally faster and have better heat sinking than SD media, which makes them a better choice in a camera that can shoot at 10fps.

bottom front

Other specification highlights include an intervalometer for shooting time-lapse sequences and the like (it has the same functionality as Canon’s TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller), multiple exposure mode, a built-in compass and GPS technology comparable with the Canon GP-E2 GPS Receiver to enable geotagging of images.

It’s also nice to see the advanced HDR capability of the 5D Mark III, as this allows you to record a sequence of three raw files as well as the composite JPEG image that is created in-camera.

lens side

One disappointment, however, is that the 7D Mark II doesn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity built-in. This seems a shame as it would allow photographers to control the camera remotely via Canon’s smartphone app. It seems odd that this is missing from Canon’s top-end, enthusiast-level APS-C format camera when the full-frame Canon 6D, which is aimed at a similar audience, has it. Those wishing to transfer images wirelessly will have to purchase the Canon WFT-E7B Wireless Transmitter.

The new camera takes a new, higher capacity variety of the LP-E6 battery that the 7D takes; helpfully, this is backwards compatible.

Build and handling

While its sits above the EOS 70D in the Canon SLR line-up, the 7D Mark II is only around 90g heavier. At 910g (body only) and 148.6×112.4×78.2mm, however, it is a little heavier and larger than the original EOS 7D (820g and 148.2×110.7×73.5mm respectively). Some of this change in weight may be attributed to the Mark II’s improved dust and water resistance, which makes it the second most weather-resistant Canon SLR after the 1Dx.

Thanks in part to its magnesium alloy chassis, the new camera certainly feels solid enough and comfortable in the hand. The textured coating on the grips give good purchase and it feels like an enthusiast-level camera should. This is matched by a claimed shutter durability of 200,000 cycles.

Rear view

Although the 7D Mark II makes a few changes to the control layout, users of the original 7D will soon find themselves at home. The most noticeable difference on the back of the camera is the arrival of a sprung lever around the mini-joystick control.

This acts as a kind of function controller for the main control dial in front of the shutter release on the top of the camera. When the switch is in use, the dial can be used to adjust one of a small collection of features including sensitivity. The preferred option is selected via the Customisation option in the Quick Menu.

front lens

Another significant change made is the introduction of a Rate button to the left of the LCD on the back of the camera. This performs like the Rate button on the 5D Mark III and allows you to quickly rate images out of five as they are reviewed. It turns ‘chimping’ (reviewing images) into a worthwhile past-time because the rating is visible when images are downloaded and you can find your favourite shots very quickly.

The Picture Style button has gone, but there’s a Creative Photo button that gives access to the Picture Style, multiple exposure and HDR options. In Review mode, this button enables you to compare two images side-by-side, which could be very helpful with the convenient new Rate button.

side lens

On the original 7D, the Quick menu is accessed via a button to the top left of the LCD screen. This is now the Menu on the Mark II and there’s a new Q button just below the mini-joystick controller. I think this is a good change as it makes the Quick menu quicker to access.

Adding the Rate button to the side of the LCD screen has meant the raw/JPEG button on the 7D has had to make way for the Info button, which is now relocated above the LCD screen.

top lens

Turning to the top of the camera, everything is as it was before apart from the addition of a lock on the mode dial. While this is useful for preventing the dial from being knocked out of place, it would be better if it was the type of lock that you can choose to use or not. As it is, it has to be pressed to allow the dial to be rotated.

Although the menu is very familiar to Canon EOS users and it’s logically arranged, it looks slightly neater than the 7D’s menu thanks to the font’s improved kerning, which adjusts the spacing of the lettering. It’s a small point, but a noticeable one.

menu view

As on the Canon 1-Dx and 5D Mark III, the autofocus system has a dedicated section along with a series of selectable Case Studies that specify the tracking sensitivity, acceleration and deceleration tracking and AF point switching.

menu 2

These factors help tailor the system to suit the subject by controlling how quickly the camera should respond to factors such as changes in subject distance or the subject moving across the frame. These options are useful, but explanations offered for each one could be clarified a little or perhaps a few more examples subjects given to make it clearer what is being changed.

menu 3

Performance and early verdict

As the 7D Mark II uses a new sensor and I have yet to see any images from it, I can’t draw any firm conclusions about the image quality that it produces. Canon is claiming that it produces ‘best in class’ images, but the definition of the camera’s class is doubtless subject to a list a qualifications.

Given that the pixel count is 20.2 million, we can be reasonably confident that the camera won’t be able to resolve as much detail as a 24-million pixel model like the Nikon D7100 or D5300. However, there are lots of cameras around at the moment with 16 million pixels that produce superb images that people are very happy with, so that isn’t a major issue.

Detail front

Canon’s automatic white balance system is one of the best around and it generally does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of a scene and not rendering warm tones completely neutral. In fact it often tends towards slight warmth in neutral or cool conditions to produce a more pleasing image.

I see no reason to expect the 7D Mark II to perform any differently in this regard, but we will test the camera fully in a range of lighting conditions to make sure when we get a review sample in.

side angle

In the past, Canon’s iFCL metering system has been a mixed blessing. In some situations it does an excellent job and produces images with the subject correctly exposed, but in high contrast conditions the weighting that it applies to the brightness of the subject under the active AF point can cause dramatic under- or over-exposure of much of the scene.

I’m looking forward to investigating the 7D Mark II’s new 252-zone metering system which gathers data from a 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared sensor. Will it manage to balance the exposure of high contrast scenes more successfully?

lens front

Canon’s recent high-end AF systems are excellent and the 65-point version in the 7D Mark II looks promising. I want to experiment with the hybrid AF system, which is available when images are composed on the LCD screen in Live View mode or when shooting movie footage. It will be interesting to investigate the different speed options.

Early verdict

Although there are many photographers that are happy to use a camera with 16 million pixels on either an APS-C or full-frame format sensor, I suspect that there will be quite a few who criticise Canon for only making a modest increase on the 7D’s pixel count (18 million) for the Mark II version (20.2 million).

However, it’s important to remember that there are significant benefits to having a more modest pixel count. Granted, detail resolution may not be through the roof, but the images are likely to have great dynamic range and latitude so that the camera can be used more successfully in a greater range of conditions and images adjusted more satisfactorily.

minus lens

The 7D Mark II is aimed at dedicated enthusiast photographers and users who want to be able to use their camera to shoot a wide variety of subjects in a huge range of conditions and produce high quality results.

There are some nice features in the 7D Mark II, not least the versatile AF system, the ability to create in-camera HDR images, and to record a sequence of three raw files for post-capture processing and bespoke merging; there’s even a helpful rating button.

side minus lens

However, I think it is a mistake to miss off one of the current ‘must have’ features – Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows users to control their camera remotely while seeing the live view image on their smartphone screen. It’s the type of feature that an enthusiast will appreciate because they understand the benefit of not touching the camera when taking a shot with the camera on a tripod.

It also encourages the camera to be used instead of a smartphone because the image can still be shared quickly. I think Wi-Fi connectivity is more useful than GPS technology since I usually know where I’ve been shooting. In addition, Wi-Fi connectivity effectively adds GPS technology and geotagging if you want it.

side minus lens

Photography is going though a major transition at the moment, with compact system cameras becoming increasingly significant in the market. There are still photographers who have yet to be convinced of the benefits of an electronic viewfinder (EVF), but these devices have improved to the extent that for many they are now becoming a sensible and desirable option.

It’s starting to become strange that you can pay £1600 (approx US$2,500/AU$2,825) for a camera and still not know what the image will look like until after it has been taken.

That said, there are still many photographers for whom an SLR is the only option that they will consider, and the 7D Mark II looks like a good, solid proposition. I’m looking forward to testing it fully in the near future.

tripod

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, we’ve shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart’s central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is capable of resolving up to around 28 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below:

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 100. Score: 28. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 200. Score: 28. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 400. Score: 26. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 800. Score: 26. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 1600. Score: 26. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 3200. Score: 26. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 6400. Score: 24. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 12800. Score: 20. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 25600. Score: 16. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 51200. Score: 16. Click here for full resolution image.

Raw

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 100. Score: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 200. Score: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 400. Score: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 800. Score: 28. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 1600. Score: 26. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 3200. Score: 24. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 6400. Score: 20. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 12800. Score: 20. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 25600. Score: 18. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 51200. Score: 18. Click here for full resolution image.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below:

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 100. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 200. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 400. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 800. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 1600. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 3200. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 6400. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 12800. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 25600. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 51200. Click here for full resolution image.

Raw

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 100. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 200. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 400. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 800. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 1600. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 3200. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 6400. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 12800. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 25600. Click here for full resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

ISO 51200. Click here for full resolution image.

Official sample images

Canon has made 13 sample images available from the 7D Mark II.

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

EOS 7DII Canon sample image

Click here for full resolution image

Real-world samples

Here are some shots taken during our own tests:

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

The Landscape Picture Style has brought out the colours effectively. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

The 7D Mark II’s AF system is fast and accurate, and it’s easy to shift the AF point for off-centre subjects. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

The level of detail in this sheep’s face and fleece show the levels of definition the EOS 7D Mark II can achieve. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

This was shot using the Canon’s Monochrome Picture Style – you can also add ‘contrast’ filters such as red and yellow. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

Even at ISO 1000 noise is well controlled and the textures in these leaves are still clearly visible. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

The Evaluative metering system has done a great job in tricky conditions, and the Canon’s Standard Picture Style has produced vibrant colours. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

These three shots were adjacent frames in a 10fps burst. It’s amazing how much movement there is in the subject even at 10 frames per second. Click here for a full-resolution image.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sample image

Click here for a full-resolution image.

We’re currently putting the EOS 7D Mark II through our rigorous lab-testing procedure, so stay tuned for our final verdict.



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