2014-09-15

Canon EOS 7D Mark II – Hands-on and First Impressions

On September 1st 2009 Canon announced a new enthusiast-level camera, the EOS 7D.  With its 18 megapixels and a class leading 8 FPS it was, and still is, an incredibly popular camera, especially amongst wildlife and sports photographers because of its speed and durability.

Now Canon tends to replace their enthusiast DLSR cameras every 2 years or so and from late 2012 rumours of a 7D replacement started to surface.  Another two years down the line and, although the 7D is still very much up there amongst the competitors, it has become a little long in the tooth. Finally, all the years of rumours were today laid to rest as Canon officially announced its replacement, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II


This is arguably the most eagerly anticipated camera of the year and it looks like it’s been worth the wait. It’s evident from the specifications that Canon has aimed this very much at the action photographer such as wildlife and sport with 10 Frames per second and a mouth watering 65 AF points.

  • 20.2MP APS-C Sensor
  • Dual card slot CF+ SD (UHS-I)
  • 10 Frames per second
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Processors
  • 65 AF points All Cross-type.
  • f/8 Auto focus on centre point.
  • ISO 100-16000, ISO Boost mode 25600 and 51200
  • 1080p 60fps
  • In-built GPS
  • Built in Intervalometer
  • Clean HDMI output.
  • Microphone and headphones jacks
  • Viewfinder has 100% coverage
Hands-on

I had the privilege of being allowed to take a look at the EOS 7D Mark II at Canon’s headquarters just as it was announced. If you haven't already seen it, click here to view the interview I had with Canon's David Parry.

As a 7D photographer myself, I’ve been on the edge of my seat watching and waiting for the 7D replacement as I'm sure have many of you.  Below are my thoughts and feelings of my hands-on experience.

The Body


The current 7D feels very well built and I'm pleased to say the Mark II hasn't lost that trait. It's incredibly comfortable in the hand and If I'm honest it felt like holding a 5D Mark III. The size and the button layout are almost identical to its full frame brother, even the materials used feel the same, which if you've played with a 5D Mark III you will know is a very good thing. This does mean however that if you're a 7D user you're going to take a little time getting used to the unfamiliar button layout and you will need to remember that the zoom button has moved.  Of course if you're a 5D Mark III user you will feel right at home straight away. Another couple of additions that I really liked was the lock to the function wheel on top to stop it being knocked (we've all done it) and the new "switch" surrounding the joystick on the back. This is fully customisable which will be very useful given its easily accessible location. David from Canon had it set to enable the front toggle wheel to change ISO when in either shutter or aperture priority and when released it reverts back. This makes things much easier than taking your eye away from the shutter. 7D owners will also be pleased to hear that the cameras now has dual card slots, Compact Flash and SD. This gives you a lot of options including parallel recording or using one as an overflow so you moment.

Sensor

Now, I love my 7D and firmly believe that it’s still the best camera in its class for the sort of photography I do which is Wildlife. But the only thing that annoyed me over the years was the higher ISO noise levels. In 2009, when the camera was released, it was regarded by many as being very good at higher ISO's. This view however has changed over the last few years with both Nikon and Sony bringing out sensors with far superior high ISO noise levels. Canon are fully aware of this and their sensor, despite sharing the same mega pixel rating as the 70D, is brand new and has been coupled to dual DIGIC 6 processors. From what I saw it seems to have worked well. Although I wasn't able to take any shots away with me whilst I was at Canon, I did take a number of higher ISO shots (2000-3200) and from the LCD screen they look far better than the 7D images do. This I'm sure will please 7D users everywhere, including me.

Another welcome addition is DAF (Dual Pixel Autofocus). If you haven't already tried a 70D (the only other Canon DSLR that has this feature currently) you're in for a treat. Although this is a great feature for videographers, as a wildlife photographer, this feature really excites me. I've been in many situations where live view has been either easier or essential and now having the ability to maintain full autofocus will be a great improvement.

Features

The camera certainly isn't short of features. There are three that really stand out for me.

First is the epic frame rate. For sport or wildlife photographers time is of the essence. Whether it's a bird flapping its wings or a footballer taking a penalty, if your camera has a slow frame rate then you lower the odds of getting the perfect shot. The 7D was no slouch at 8 FPS (frames per second) but the Mark II at 10 FPS becomes the quickest APS-C DSLR currently on the market. Buffer size has also increased and now sits at a healthy 31 Raw files (only 4 short of the Canon flagship 1DX )  versus the 7D's 25 and, with a quick enough card, it will shoot JPEG files indefinitely.

The second feature is the inbuilt intervalometer. This has the same functionality as Canon's TC-80 Timer which would normally set you back £119. This is the first time Canon has added this facility into a camera (excluding third party hacks). This feature will sit well not only with landscape photographers but also with astrophotographers.

The third feature is the addition of a GPS unit into the camera. This, much like the intervalometer, takes its functionality from another Canon accessory, this time the GP-E2. The GP-E2 would normally sit on the hot shoe mount of the camera and cost £299.  The integrated GPS on the camera allows GPS location data to be added to the "EXIF" text metadata that's produced for each photo you take. Although this may not be on many people's radar as a feature they would look for in a camera, its undeniably very handy. We've all been in the situation of going away, taking a few thousand shots, getting home and forgetting the location of a shot. This is now no longer a issue as, using the logged data, you can use Google Earth to show the exact location.

Autofocus

This is the most exciting upgrade in my opinion.  Early rumours were that Canon would pinch the hugely well respected AF system from the 1DX/5D Mark III for the 7D replacement.  Canon, however, went one better. The 1DX system has 61 AF points of which 41 are cross type with an AF servo III system and F8 Autofocus. The 7D Mark II not only has the AF Servo III and Autofocus to F8 but also has a staggering 65 AF points, all of which are cross type!  This gives it the highest cross type AF point count of any DSLR on the current market. Now, it's worth pointing out it doesn't quite exceed the 1DX in all areas as it has 5 Dual cross types at F2.8 versus the Mark II's 1, but still, it sounds massively impressive. To complement this, Canon have brought over the "Case Study" menus from the 1DX/5D Mk III.  This gives the user the choice of 6 preset AF options to help get the most out of the system:-

  • Case 1: For general purpose shooting that provides accurate and fast focus across a wide range of shooting situations.
  • Case 2: Is designed for situations where the subject may move away from the AF point momentarily.
  • Case 3: Allows you to instantly focus on subjects that enter the AF point area.
  • Case 4: Is designed for subjects that change speed or direction rapidly.
  • Case 5: Is designed for use with automatic AF point selection, Zone AF and AF Point expansion and subjects that move erratically, up and down or left and right.
  • Case 6: Is for subjects that change speed abruptly and move erratically. Like ‘Case 5’ it is used with Automatic AF point selection, Zone AF and AF Point Expansion.

The abilty to switch to a different case quickly if the subject matter changes without having to set it up manually is very helpful.   Another plus point is that the centre focus point in the Mark II is rated down to EV -3. That is more sensitive than the 5DIII or the 1DX. Its only equalled by the 6D, which when reviewed by Canon photographer David Clapp, he claimed "it can literally AF in the dark"!


Negatives

There aren't many, but there are a couple of thing which would have made the camera that little bit better. First is a touch screen. This features on the 70D and is very useful when combined with the Dual pixel Autofocus as you can tap the screen where you would like to focus. The second is the lack of built in Wi-Fi.  Again, this feature will be missed, as being able to connect the camera to smart devices has many advantages.

Summary 

As I said, I'm a long standing 7D owner and I can honestly say this looks like a very worthy upgrade. In my limited time with the camera I found everything that I thought needed upgrading or I didn't like has been done. Canon has added some tried and tested features from their pro range and some new and exciting items. The only grey area at the moment is the image quality -  but I'm confident that with the reworked sensor and the DIGIT 6 processors we'll have what is basically a Mini 1DX but with an APS-C sensor. I hope to be able to get my hands on it again soon to report on that.

Should you buy it?

If you're into your action photography this camera is going to be hard to beat. It has it all. 
If you're a 7D user the benefits are there and you're going to see the advantages if you upgrade.
If you're a 1D Mark IV user, the Mark V isn't coming. This, on paper, is better than a Mark IV and if the noise is as good as Canon says it is, it's a logical "downgrade".

As a 7D user, will I be Upgrading?

I'm number one on the list :)

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II will be available from Park Cameras from November 2014. Pre-order and you’ll receive one of the first cameras available in the UK! In addition to this, Canon are running an offer whereby you can save up to £250 on selected lenses when purchased at the same time of pre-ordering your camera. This applies to lenses such as the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM which would be great partners with this camera.

If you've got a question about the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, why not post a comment in the box below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Marc
Park Cameras  

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being a 1Dx owner I have always felt the 7D with a cropped sensor had too many
pixels and affected 'noise' too much even at relatively low ISO's. The new 7D Mk11
has the same size cropped sensor (albeit a new one) and more pixels than the original 7D. My concern before I go down the route of buying one is how it deals with 'noise' at high ISO's as I would like this camera as a back up to my 1Dx.

Park Cameras said...

We're yet to see any true high ISO shots from the 7D Mark II but the early results seem very promising. Being full frame the 1Dx will always excel in the noise department but as a backup the 7D Mark II will make an excellent companion. With the 1.6x Crop it could be very handy in situations where you need a bit extra reach and with the High FPS and 65 Af points it will be more than capable.

Anonymous said...

Hi, dow we know yet if it's got Micro adjust for the lenses?

Park Cameras said...

Yes, like the 7D, the 7D Mark II benefits from the Mirco-adjustment feature.

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