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Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review

CANON EOS 7D MARK II Review: Should You Buy this Camera?

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review

Key Features

  • 2 MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS sensor
  • 3-inch 1.04 million dots Clear View II LDC display
  • 65 points AF system, all cross-type with EV-3 sensitivity (center point) for locking focus in extremely low-light conditions
  • Canon Dual DIGIC 6 image processor
  • ISO sensitivity of ISO 100-16000, expandable to 25600
  • EOS Scene Detection System that features 150,000-pixel RGB + IR metering sensor
  • Intelligent viewfinder with 100% frame coverage with 1.0x magnification
  • Advanced custom controls, built-in intervalometer, and bulb timer
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF mode
  • Shutter durability up to 200,000 cycles, enhanced dust and weather resistance
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
  • Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
  • Built-in GPS

Introduction

Canon announced its professional DSLR EOS 7D Mark II on September 15, 2014. The camera comes as a perfect upgrade to Canon 7D that was released in September 2009. Considering the 7D tradition, the new EOS 7D Mark II brings in some professional-level specs to an APS-C camera. Let us discuss the detailed features and specifications.
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Design, Build, and Handling

Apart from some minor changes in the button layout, Canon EOS 7D Mark II is quite identical to its predecessor. The camera weighs at approx. 820g (body only). The controls are very similar to 5D Mark III except for the addition of a thumb switch around the multi-controller.

The camera has two buttons for ‘Menu’ and ‘Info’ at the top left. The button for ‘Q-menu’ has been positioned at the upper left of the thumb dial. You get three buttons on the top left edge of the camera. These buttons are the multi-function ‘Picture Style’, ‘Magnify’, and ‘Rate’ buttons. A lock button has been added to the mode dial. There is a small bump in front of the hotshoe which includes a GPS module.

 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Display

 

The EOS 7D Mark II sports a 3-inch 1.04 million dots LCD that ensures much reduced internal reflections to improve the contrast. The screen has an aspect ratio of 3:2 with 720×480 pixels of resolution. Unfortunately, the screen is not touch-sensitive i.e. you need to control all the settings via operating menu buttons.

The LCD displays a wide range of settings including the grid lines, customizable warnings like flicker, active autofocus points, levels etc. One feature that was not there in the 5D Mark III is the swappable focus screen. This time, Canon has added this useful feature that lets you analyze the focus better especially when using faster lenses.

You may have noticed the fact that usually, the manufacturers don’t often talk much regarding the size of their viewfinder. The viewfinder’s size plays a key role in determining the usability—the bigger the size, the simpler it is for you to lock the focus. EOS 7D Mark II sports an optical viewfinder having 100% frame coverage with 1.0x magnification.

As we discussed earlier that the camera sports a thumb switch that is placed around the joystick. You can toggle through different AF area selection modes using this switch. The switch is customizable to control a variety of other features under ‘Custom Controls’.

 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Controls

 

The AEL and AF area selection buttons are located on the top-right shoulder of the camera. The ‘Magnify’ button on the left of the LCD can be used to magnify or de-magnify. There is a central lock button in the mode dial and the full auto ‘green square’ and ‘Creative Auto’ positions are combined into a single ‘Auto+’ mode. The power switch sits underneath the mode dial.

There is an IR remote control receiver in the bottom left and a self-timer lamp in the top right of the camera. 7D Mark II does not have any built-in AF illuminator except for the flash which we find to be a bit annoying. Just like the 5D Mark III, the camera sports a large depth-of-field preview button. The button is absolutely within your reach when you are using portrait mode or using larger lenses.

There is a pop-up flash which means you have an option to trigger other Speedlites optically. It can also be used in strobe mode for assisting the AF in the darkness. Since the flash is annoyingly bright, we recommend you to avoid this until it is unavoidable. Canon offers a wide range of Speedlites emitting IR/red patterns that aid the AF system to focus in dark.

Canon has added dual SD and CF card slots in 7D Mark II. It supports the same file management options, therefore you can copy all the files to both the cards. You can also record RAWs to one and JPEGs to the other card. It gives you an option to set the camera to auto-switch to the other card when one is full.

 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II connections

 

Coming to the connectors, the camera has a headphone jack for recording audio when shooting video. Apart from this, there is a USB 3.0, HDMI connectors, PC studio flash, a stereo microphone socket and an N3-type remote control socket. The camera uses the new and improved LP-E6N battery. The tripod socket is placed in-line with the axis of the lens.

Performance and Image Quality

Canon EOS 7D Mark II sports a newly developed 20.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor. The dual-pixel AF system allows for phase-detection pixels across 80% of the vertical and horizontal area of the frame. The 65-points cross-type AF system is definitely one of the highlights of this camera. As we all know that cross-type focus points are much more precise than the regular ones which help the camera to obtain more in-focus images. You have the total flexibility to choose any focus point without concerning about potential focusing errors.

The camera offers a low-light sensitivity rating of -3 EV which makes it more suitable to be used with the teleconverters. This means the camera has an advantage of 1 EV center point as compared to 5D Mark III and 1D X. The center AF point in 7D II is high-precision dual cross-type when an f/2.8 or above lens is attached to it. Therefore, it can detect the diagonal lines with wide aperture lenses.

Canon has introduced a new and improved 150,000 pixels RGB + IR metering sensor in 7D Mark II. The sensor’s ability to use color and IR information and perform an analysis of the scene is more accurate as compared to an earlier 63-zone metering system. But we missed the option of linking spot metering to the selected AF point, a feature that is present in 1D X.

The camera also uses the metering sensor to recognize the subject and assist focus tracking in AI Servo mode. This process is known as ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR). The iTR system is not only useful for sports photography but also other photography that requires an accurate placement of the AF point when tracking a moving subject.

The camera’s 10fps continuous shooting is amazingly fast. It supports both low and high-speed shooting rates. The camera performs really well in Live View shooting and the credit goes to the Dual-Pixel autofocus system. Upon our tests, we found it to be smooth, accurate and precise. The face detection in live view mode is excellent even if the subject is moving. However, the Dual-Pixel AF is not that fast in live view as compared to the viewfinder shooting.

The JPEG processing is much better in EOS 7D Mark II as compared to the 7D. The JPEG files maintain color and contrast and show quite controlled noise. Even the Raw noise is a bit better. This time, Canon has eliminated banding that is commonly present in dark shadow areas in most of the EOS cameras.

 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Body

 

Nowadays, high ISO performance is a very important criterion to determine the capability of a DSLR in low lighting conditions. The camera starts adding visible grain at ISO 1600, but that is acceptable. The amount of noise significantly increases with a loss of color and detail at ISO 3200. At ISO 6400, there is a considerable amount of noise with a heavy loss of colors and detail, particularly in the darker areas of the image.

The performance is even worse at ISO 12800 with the colors mixing together in certain areas of the image. You will also notice a loss of detail and dynamic range. The results at ISO 16000 are completely unusable with too much of noise and heavy loss of both detail and colors. Hence, we recommend this setting to be best avoided.

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is capable of recording in both MOV and MP4 formats up to 1920×1080 resolution at 60p. The camera includes an ALL-I intraframe compression for high-quality video and an IPB interframe compression for the smaller ones. Canon has also introduced IPB Light compression scheme for recording video that is even a more compressed format.

With the introduction of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, the functionality and performance of the AF system are increased further. The colors in the video are generally pleasing, though feels a bit soft with some loss of details when viewed at 100%.  You can now adjust the Movie Servo AF Speed that includes the different speeds for before or during the recording. The camera allows you to lock focus on a subject even before recording, and once you start recording the speed of focus transitions can be set accordingly. Additionally, you have the option to adjust Movie Servo AF Tracking Sensitivity.

 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Performance

 

Coming to the connections, the camera comes with a USB/HDMI output in 8-bit 4:2:2 with variable bit rate quality. The HDMI audio output helps the camera in syncing audio with external recorders. The camera adds some other advanced features that include a silent movie mode, a timecode support, and an optical distortion correction in movie mode.

The GPS works pretty well. This feature is definitely a good option for the landscape or travel photographers. Initially, you may need a clear sky so that the camera can locate the satellites. Once, the work is done, the camera tracks the location quite well. We would have been much happy if the camera had a built-in Wi-Fi.

The battery life of Canon 7D Mark II is rated at 670 shots in viewfinder shooting which is much less as compared to its predecessor (800 shots). This is most likely due to the new dual processor system, advanced AF, and metering systems. The camera can capture an average of 250 shots in live view mode. It should be noted that the battery performs well if turn off GPS or image preview. We would recommend you to use all these features wisely if you want to extend the battery life.

Should You Buy the Canon EOS 7D Mark II Camera?

Canon EOS 7D Mark II is priced at $1153.99 (body only), $1849 (with 18-135mm IS STM), and $2149.95 (with 18-135mm and 55-200mm STM). The biggest question is should you like to take the plunge in buying this camera? Well, the answer is most likely, yes. Mark II comes as a good upgrade to 7D while retaining a comfortable and user-friendly design and controls.

The image quality is pretty nice with an excellent AF system and an improved sensor. The metering system works really well with the additional iTR system for focus tracking. The 10fps burst shooting is an add-on. However, the video quality and the dynamic range fall behind as compared to the similarly-priced market counterparts. But the overall performance is appreciable. The EOS 7D Mark II is just the right pick for you if you are looking to move up from a mid-range DSLR.

Pros

  • 65-point all cross-type AF system
  • EV-3 sensitivity for center AF point
  • 10fps burst shooting
  • iTR metering sensor with subject recognition and face detection
  • Good color rendition and tonality at high ISO
  • Dual-Pixel autofocus for video and Live View
  • Silent control when shooting video
  • Support for .MOV and .MP4 video files
  • All-I recording setting (all-intra)
  • Anti-flicker shooting
  • In-camera lens aberration corrections
  • USB 3.0
  • Headphone jack for monitoring video sound
  • Dual SD and CF card slots
  • Enhanced weather and dust resistance

Cons

  • Base ISO dynamic range and Raw exposure latitude is comparatively poor
  • iTR struggles in precisely tracking moving subjects, especially fast moving subjects
  • Screen blacks out during live view mode
  • No AF with continuous shooting in live view
  • No touch screen
  • Video lacks detail
  • No Wi-Fi

About Richard Smith

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