We test Canon's most hi-tech D-SLR for serious enthusiasts, with its new sensor, dual processors and top-end AF system
As you might guess from its name, the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II replaces the 7D, which first appeared way back in 2009. It therefore assumes its place above the APS-C-format 70D and below the full-frame 5D Mark III in the Canon D-SLR enthusiasts lineup. It packs in far more advanced tech than the 6D, but forgoes this camera's 20.2Mp full-frame sensor for a new APS-C sensor of the same resolution, that has redesigned micro lenses that allow more light to pass through onto the photo diodes.
To boost performance and enable a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10fps (frames per second), Canon has given the new camera a pair of Digic 6 processing engines. With a fast-enough memory card installed, up to 31 Raw files or 1,030 JPEGs can be shot in a single burst. If you need to shoot for more than 3.1 seconds, the High-speed Continuous shooting rate can be set between 2-10fps, while the Low rate can be set between 1-9fps and Silent mode between 1-4fps. The sensor and processing engines combination also allows a native sensitivity range of ISO100-16,000, which is the highest native setting of any Canon APS-C camera, with expansion settings going up to ISO51,200.
While the original 7D has 19 autofocus points, all of which are cross-type, its replacement has a class-leading 65 cross-type points. With f/2.8 lenses the central point is dual-cross type for extra sensitivity and is capable of operating when lens and teleconverter combinations take the effective aperture down to f/8.
Like the EOS-1D X and 5D Mark III, the 7D Mark II also has EOS iTR AF and AI Servo AF III autofocus technologies, which allow you to adjust tracking sensitivity, acceleration/ deceleration tracking and AF point auto switching options to help keep moving subjects sharp. As with the 1D X and 5D Mark III, these features can be adjusted via a collection of 'case studies'.
There are also seven AF point selection modes that enable the photographer to set the starting AF point and, in continuous AF mode, tell the camera how to track the subject if it moves.
Like in the 70D, there's a Dual Pixel AF system, which operates in Live View and video shooting modes. Videographers will love the ability to slow the focusing down to produce more cinematic transitions. Speaking of Live View mode; the 7D Mark II has a 3-inch, 1,040,000-dot LCD screen for composing and reviewing images and movies.
There's also an optical viewfinder that shows 100% of the scene and can display an electronic level as well as important information such as exposure mode, white balance mode, drive mode and the metering mode - the display can be customised via the menu.
"The 7D Mark II is the most weather resistant Canon EOS D-SLR after the 1D X"
Other notable features include: dual card slots (one SD/ SDHC/ SDXC and the other is CompactFlash), an intervalometer for shooting time-lapse sequences, HDR mode, multiple exposure mode, a built-in compass, and GPS technology to enable geotagging of images. Sadly, there's no Wi-Fi connectivity built-in; Canon tells us that it has been omitted because the metal used in the body of the camera may compromise Wi-Fi performance.
Build and handling
Canon has retained the magnesium alloy construction of the original 7D for the Mk II version, and the shutter has a claimed durability of 200,000 cycles, but it has uprated its weather proofing so that it is the most weather-resistant Canon D-SLR after the 1D X. This may in part explain the 90g increase in weight and slightly larger size. The camera also feels nice and solid, and the grip on the front of the camera and the thumb-ridge on the back have an excellent textured coating, so they feel really secure in your hand.
Owners of the original 7D will find the Mark II very familiar, but there are a few changes to the control layout. Like the 5D Mark III, there 's a Rate button instead of the Picture Style button. A single press of this when reviewing an image gives it a rating of one star out of five. Press it again and the rating goes to two out of five and so on. These ratings are attached to the image EXIF data, so they are visible in software such as Canon's DPP and Adobe Brige, making it easy to find your best shots when downloaded to your computer.
In place of the Q (Quick Menu) button on the 7D is a Creative Photo button that gives access to the picture style, multiple exposure and HDR options. In playback mode, this button enables you to compare two images side-by-side and scroll through your shots, rating as you go if you like. There's also a new sprung selection lever around the mini-joystick control.
This can be used to change the function of the Main 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; the preferred option is selected via the Customisation option in the Menu. It can be set to adjusting the sensitivity, AF point, AE lock, AE lock hold, switching to the central (or registered) AF point and accessing exposure compensation.
The lever can also be used to set the AF point button has been pressed; this is a convenient way of working as the lever is easier to locate than the M-Fn button (next to the shutter release) when the camera is held to the eye. Alternatively, the AF point selection mode can be set to use the large thumbwheel on the back of the camera (after pressing the AF point button).
The only noticeable difference between the top of the 7D and the top of the 7D Mark II is the arrival of a lock button on the chunky Mode dial. This button needs to be pressed before the dial can be rotated, preventing the accidental selection of an unintended exposure mode.
Like the original 7D, the Mark II's menu is divided into sensible sections and is logically arranged, with the autofocus system having a dedicated section, including the list of six 'case studies' mentioned earlier. These control how quickly the camera responds to factors such as changes in subject distance or objects entering the frame.
The Live View switch needs to be set to the video option before pressing the menu button gives access to video controls; this is a convenient way of reducing the number of features listed at one time in the main menu, however, some of the stills image features, such as image quality, are also shown when the camera is in video mode.
On the whole the images and video that the 7D Mark II produces look great straight from the camera. It's also capable of resolving an impressive level of detail. Noise is also controlled well throughout the native sensitivity range, but as usual the expansion settings (the options that Canon considers not of sufficient quality for normal use) are best reserved for emergency situations and when images only need to be viewed at small sizes. JPEGs captured at the ISO51,200 expansion maximum have luminance noise visible at most normal viewing sizes and some areas appear bruised with green and magenta blotches.
Stepping down to ISO25,600 improves things significantly. There's still quite a lot of luminance noise visible, but the false colours are much better controlled. Moving down again to the uppermost native setting (ISO16,000) results in another serious improvement in image quality. There's a noticeable increase in detail resolution, although images still look a little soft at 100%, and less false colour is visible in JPEG files. Meanwhile, when all noise reduction is turned off the ISO16,000 Raw files have a hint of coloured speckling visible when sized to A3. Zoom in to 100% and this chroma noise becomes very noticeable, but there's still a respectable level of detail visible so it's possible to find a good balance between the two in post-capture processing.
At the other end of the sensitivity scale at ISO100, there's just the merest hint of luminance noise in some areas at 100% and images have lots of detail visible. Our lab tests also reveal that the 7D Mk II's Raw files have around 2EV greater dynamic range when the lower sensitivity settings are used. This means that the Mark II can record a wide range of tones within a single shot and images stand up better to tonal adjustment.
That's useful in high-contrast situaitons, or if you don't get the exposure just right in-camera. Below ISO3200, the newer camera also produces Raw files with a stronger signal-to-noise ratio, which means it produces cleaner images with more detail.
"Like the original 7D, the menu is divided into sensible sections and is logically arranged"
In-camera HDR combines three bracketed shots for an extended tonal range
One of things that impressed us most about the 7D Mark II during our testing is its new 252-zone metering system, which gathers data from a 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared sensor. In the past we have found Canon's iFCL metering systems a little frustrating in Evaluative mode because it can put too much weighting on the brightness of the subject under the active AF point so that, in high- contrast conditions, you can end up with badly over- or underexposed shots. It acts more like centre-weighted metering than some other systems.
The new system in the 7D Mark II, however, does a better job of taking the brightness of the whole scene into account. Naturally, there is still some weighting applied, but we found there are fewer occasions when the exposure compensation facility is required.
All that said, there seems to be a slight tendency towards bright images and some of my landscapes shot in bright conditions look better when the exposure is reduced by about -1/3EV, either in-camera or post-capture. In most cases, however, this slight overexposure isn't at the expense of important highlights.
As we have found in the past with Canon D-SLRs, the 7D Mark II's automatic white balance system does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the scene. In bright sun it produces pleasingly warm tones and in overcast conditions it captures the coolness without going overboard and giving a blue tint; the results look natural.
Canon's standard picture style provides a good general purpose setting that generates JPEGs with pleasant colours and decent saturation. The Landscape option is a nice alternative, with appropriate scenes, and unlike the Landscape settings on some other cameras it doesn't overcook the blues or greens. Their saturation is boosted, but it's safely within the realms of reality. The Portrait picture style is also good for people shots and it doesn't over-enhance reds or bring out pimples.
As usual, the Monochrome picture style produces rather dull or muddy images in it's default setting. These can be improved by boosting contrast or tweaking exposure, but the enthusiast nature of most 7D Mark II users means they are likely to use the picture style options as a guide and make Raw-file conversions post-capture.
You need to first push in a central button to turn the dial, preventing the selection of unintended exposure modes.
The viewfinder gives a full-size 100% view, while an overlaid display shows vital shooting info and an electronic level.
The Q button has moved over to the right, while a Creative Photo button gives access to picture styles, multiple exposure and HDR options.
The 3in display is now a 3:2 ratio 1,040K dot device, and the Menu has adopted a thinner, more stylised font.
The mini-joystick is now surrounded by a sprung lever, which can be used to modify the function of the Main dial.
|7D Mk II LAB TESTS|
RAW* SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO
RAW* DYNAMIC RANGE
RAW* RESOLUTION (AT ISO200)
We've been looking forward to testing the 7D Mark II's 65-point autofocusing system and it didn't disappoint. It's both fast and accurate, and capable of working in very low light. It's also complex, with no less than seven focus point selection modes - Single Point Spot (Manual Selection), AF Point Expansion (Manual Selection), AF Point Expansion (Manual Selection, Surrounding Points), AF Zone (Manual Selection of Zone), Large Zone AF (Manual Selection of Zone) and 65-point Automatic Selection AF - plus a collection of AF AI servo adjustment options (Tracking Sensitivity, Acceleration/ Deceleration Tracking and AF Point Auto Switching) for use in continuous autofocus modes, so it takes a while to get used to it all.
Provided you select the correct AF point selection mode and AF AI servo characteristics (which you set via a selection of shooting scenario Case Studies), it does a great job. We found 'Case 1' in the Shooting Scenarios list a good starting point that worked well when shooting BMX riders in action.
In addition, the hybrid AF system, which is available when composing video or still images on the LCD screen in Live View mode, is capable and able to find its target even in quite low light. With an STM lens mounted there's little back-and-forwards adjustment, even in fairy dull conditions, and although it's quite a large camera to use held away from your body, it is possible to use Live View mode when hand-holding the camera. It's a shame that the screen isn't on an articulating joint (Canon says this would compromise durability) as this would make composing shots at high or low angles much easier.
Switching from the 'Standard' to the slowest AF setting in the Movie Servo AF speed options has a significant impact upon the time the camera takes to focus the lens, moving the subject smoothly and cinematically into focus. If you need to speed things up, however, pressing the AF-on button snaps the subject into sharp focus quickly.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II takes a new, higher capacity variety of the LP-E6 battery that the 7D uses. During one day of this test we shot over 1,000 images and used the GPS system throughout, and the battery still had power left, with the indicator only going down by a couple of bars. That's very respectable performance, especially bearing in mind that we did a lot of image reviewing and spent lots of time investigating the menu.
Canon's top-end enthusiast DSLR offers super-fast performance
Enthusiast photographers tend to shoot a bit of everything and they need a versatile camera that can cope with a wide range of subjects and conditions. The EOS 7D Mark II is well equipped as a brilliant all-rounder, for everything from fast action to landscapes. Weatherproofing means that it can be used in harsher conditions than all Canon's other current D-SLRs (except the pro-level 1D X). Its new autofocus system and rapid 10fps burst will combine to instantly increasing your success rate when shooting moving subjects. The metering system, with its new 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared sensor, also delivers very well exposed images in a wide range of conditions. Noise is controlled well even at high ISOs, colours are pleasantly rendered and images have an impressive amount of detail for the camera's 20Mp pixel count. In all, the 7D Mk II is excellent, and certainly Canon's best APS-C model to date. The Mk II certainly makes a great upgrade from the original 7D, and from the 70D too.
|7D Mk II SPECS||760D/REBEL T6S SPECS|
|SENSOR 20.2Mp APS-C CMOS (1.6x crop)||SENSOR 24.2Mp APS-C CMOS (1.6x crop)|
|IMAGE PROCESSOR DIGIC 6||IMAGE PROCESSOR DIGIC 6|
|AF POINTS 65 (all cross-type)||AF POINTS 19 (all cross-type)|
|ISO RANGE 100-16,000 (expand to 100-51,200)||ISO RANGE 100-12,800 (expand to 100-25,600)|
|METERING ZONES 252||METERING ZONES 63|
|HD VIDEO 1080p at 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps||HD VIDEO 1080p at 30, 25, 24fps|
|VIEWFINDER Pentaprism, 1.0x, 100%||VIEWFINDER Pentamirror, 0.82x, 95%|
|MEMORY CARD 1x CF, 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC||MEMORY CARD 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC|
|LCD 3in, 1,040k, fixed||LCD 3in, 1,040k, vari-angle, touchscreen|
|MAX BURST Infinite JPEG, 31 Raw at 10fps||MAX BURST 940 JPEG or 8 raw at 5fps|
|WI-FI/NFC/GPS GPS||WI-FI/NFC/GPS Wi-Fi/NFC|
|SHUTTER SPEEDS 30-1/8000 sec, bulb||SHUTTER SPEEDS 30-1/4000 sec, bulb|
|SIZE (WxHxD) 149x112x78mm||SIZE (WxHxD) 132x101x78mm|
|WEIGHT 910g||WEIGHT 565g|
|WEB www.canon.co.uk||WEB www.canon.co.uk|
|PRICE (body) £1179/$1499||PRICE (body) £549/$849|
PROS: High-ISO performance; new AF system; 10fps; top image quality, great ergonomics
CONS: Not Wi-Fi enabled; AF setup might baffle some; non-touch-sensitive or pivoting screen
WE SAY: It's perhaps surprising that Canon's most sophisticated and expensive 'enthusiast' camera has an APS-C 1.6x crop factor sensor rather than full-frame, but the 7D Mk II offers the best build, image quality and shooting performance out of all the 'mid-range' EOS DSLRs.
BUILD & HANDLING ★★★★★
IMAGE QUALITY ★★★★★