The Canon EOS 7D Mark II builds on the reputation, performance and ergonomics that was set by its predecessor the EOS 7D.
Canon has always made it possible for APS-C photographers to really get the feeling of what it is like to wield a pro-level DSLR, without actually having to pay an insane amount of money.
In other words, Canon has always been serious about making available better and faster more performance oriented APS-C bodies with features that are frequently borrowed from their flagship bodies and sometimes improved.
Nikon has been far more circumspect in doing the same.
The result is amazing cameras such as the EOS 7D. The 7D, however, had become a dated design.
There was need for a better more powerful camera than the 7D. Thus, entered the much anticipated 7D Mark II. In many ways the 7D Mark II embodies the best of two worlds – a smaller form factor and with that combined the features of a pro body.
Even at the risk of sounding like an oxymoron, the EOS 7D Mark II is a camera that is aimed at not only APS-C enthusiasts but also serious pro level shooters who would love to take advantage of the crop factor with their long lenses.
Let’s dive deeper and find out how impressive the features of this camera really are.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II ups the resolution benchmark – 20.2 megapixel against 18 megapixel, but loses out on the individual size of the photodiodes 4.1 µm against 4.3 µm.
This is a vital piece of specification that often evades even the most seasoned eye. The smaller the individual size of the pixels, the less their ability to capture light. Smaller photodiodes also lead to noisier images.
The EOS 7D Mark II gets a dual DIGIC 6 image processor when compared to the EOS 7D.
The extra speed is noticeable as the 7D Mark II shoots full resolution stills at 10 fps and full HD videos at 60 fps, 30 fps and 24 fps with continuous auto-focusing. More on the continuous auto-focusing later in this review.
Auto-focusing: On-chip Phase Detection
The most notable feature of the EOS 7D Mark II is its dual-pixel CMOS auto-focusing system.
This is not the first time that we have seen this though. There are other cameras in the Canon line-up that already have this feature – the EOS 80D and before that the EOS 70D to name two.
This technique uses a revolutionary new sensor design.
80% of the pixels on the sensor are actually a composite of two individual photo-diodes. Each set sees an image coming in from one side of the lens only. These ‘twin’ images are then compared with each other and aligned to bring the final image into focus.
The technique is reminiscent of how rangefinder cameras work. In this case, however, the technology is marketed as on-chip phase detection system. This technology makes the older, slower contrast detection auto-focusing system redundant.
Advantages of the On-chip phase Detection System
The advantage of this system is that it is faster than traditional contrast detection systems that work only when the mirror flips away from in front of the sensor. Plus, being essentially chip based, the system is always on.
Another big advantage is that the system works in tandem with Canon’s STM lenses.
The greatest advantage is for those who shoot mostly in live-view or shoot videos. Continuous auto-focusing in video mode was a touchy subject in DSLR AF designing. Not many systems had accurate and reliable continuous auto-focusing in video mode before Canon came out with the dual-pixel CMOS AF system.
This camera boasts something which even the flagship EOS 1DX Mark II doesn’t have: a 65-point all cross-type AF system. The 61-point high-density reticular AF system that is on the EOS 1DX Mark II has only 41 cross-type AF points.
The center point of this high density cluster is a highly sensitive dual cross-type AF point that works with lenses f/2.8 or faster and can auto-focus even in -3EV.
This is ideal when shooting in extreme low light condition such as when shooting at indoor events or shooting wildlife at or after sundown.
Compatibility with STM lenses
STM stands for stepping motor. This is a smoother, much quieter AF motor and is an improvement over the older USM or ultra-sonic motors. This system produces a bit slower AF performance but the result, particularly when shooting videos is a lot smoother.
With USM lenses you would have suffered faster but jerkier AF which is an issue in film / video making. With STM lenses you don’t suffer the same problem.
As already mentioned, continuous shooting speed is 10 fps at full resolution. Not many cameras except Sony’s DSLT (Digital Single Lens Translucent) cameras can shoot at 10 fps or higher.
Of course we are leaving out full-frame pro-level DSLRs in this discussion.
The EOS 7D Mark II is definitely ideal for shooting fast action, sports and wildlife photos, especially when birding. The crop factor of the APS-C sensor automatically makes the focal length of all full-frame lenses multiplied by a factor of 1.6x.
Even if you have a full-frame camera it would be fun to shoot with this camera for the ‘extended’ focal length.
Image sizes are 5472 x 3648 pixels. That means you can make large 18” x 12” industry standard 300 DPI prints without any loss in resolution. That too without having to upscale the image.
The camera supports 14-bit RAW.
All cameras have what is known as a native and an extended ISO range.
The native ISO range is what the camera is able to shoot at without any software interference. Once that is transgressed the camera uses software to further increase the sensitivity of the sensor.
The native ISO range of the EOS 7D Mark II is 100-16000. On extended mode the ISO range extends to 51200.
You are definitely going to have a lot of noise when shooting at those ISO numbers.
Viewfinder & LCD Screen
The large and bright pentaprism powered viewfinder gives 100% frame coverage. This is imperative for making accurate compositions, especially for photographers who love to get it absolutely right in the camera.
The back of the camera is dominated by a large 3” LCD screen with a resolution of 1,040k-dots. This is a non-articulating screen.
This is basically where cameras like the EOS 80D win, because, with the 7D Mark II you are kind of limited with the camera angles you can shoot from. By the way, the screen gives 100% frame coverage.
The video modes on the EOS 7D Mark II are more than enough for an enthusiastic videographer. The dual DIGIC 6 image processor ensures that the camera can handle high frame rates with élan.
It shoots full HD at 60, 30 and 24 fps. You have the option to shoot in either MOV or web-friendly MPEG-4 compression.
Plug, in an optional HDMI cable and you can capture the RAW unprocessed footage straight on an external recorder for further processing. Clips are fragmented after they reach a maximum file size of 4 GB.
The thing that you would be missing though, is built-in stereo sound recording. The EOS 7D Mark II only records linear PCM sound. You can however, plug in an external mic to record stereo quality sound. There’s also a headphone jack input that allows you to monitor the real time recording of sound.
There are a bunch of other features on the EOS 7D Mark II. These include:
- Dual card slots for both CF and SD cards
- Built-in GPS
- Built-in intervalometer
- Compatibility with Canon’s eTTL flash system
- Built-in flash
- 150,000 pixel RGB metering + IR metering sensor.
- Magnesium alloy construction
- Significantly better weather sealing than the older 7D
- Hot-shoe to mount an external flash or other accessories
- USB 3.0 connectivity
- Better shutter cycle rating compared to its peers (200,000 against 150,000 on the Nikon D7200 and the older EOS 7D)
Overall, the EOS 7D Mark II is a serious piece of hardware. It integrates Canon’s latest dual-pixel CMOS auto-focusing technology with a 65 point all cross-type AF system that is borrowed from the flagship EOS 1DX Mark II and then improved.
It shoots stills at a phenomenal 10 fps, making it a dream for action, sports and wildlife photographers looking to use a long lens and take advantage of the crop factor.
Plus, the camera structure is a robust magnesium alloy construction and comes with, as Canon puts it, ‘4 times better weather sealing than the original 7D’ – something that outdoor photographer will feel a lot better when heading outdoors.
To conclude, the EOS 7D Mark II is a far superior camera than the one it replaces. It is definitely a great buy considering all aspects.Check Current Price