Canon EOS 70D review: A fast camera, but not for pixel peepers

Although it's not the fastest camera in its class in every aspect, I gave it extra performance ratings props for its overall speed and excellent Live View focusing and fluidity.

Design and features
I really like the design of the camera, though there are a few things I wish were a bit different. Overall, it's a slightly more streamlined layout than the 60D, so overall it's comfortable to grip and shoot, even single-handed.

On the top left sits Canon's now-typical mode dial with center lock button. It's got the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes , plus a single custom setting slot. On the right top above the status LCD is an array of direct-access buttons for metering, ISO sensitivity, drive mode, and autofocus mode (single, AI Servo, and AI Focus), plus a top dial and a second AF area select button. You cycle through your AF area options -- single-point, Zone (center 9 points or 4-point clumps on the top, bottom, left, or right), or auto 19-point -- by repeatedly pressing the button, then choosing the point or points using the back Quick control dial.

The back offers Canon's typical thumb-operated Live View/Movie switch with record button; AF-On, exposure lock, and second AF-area selection buttons arrayed above the thumb rest; Quick Control panel and review buttons next to the LCD; and the multicontroller navigation control inset in the quick-control dial around the Set button. It has a dedicated lock switch; you can choose to apply it to the main dial, quick control dial, multicontroller, or any combination. On the front near the bottom of the lens mount is a small, reprogrammable depth-of-field button. The viewfinder is sufficiently big and bright that the preview is usable.

Canon's articulated touch screen remains a favorite of mine for shooting video, and the 70D keeps the same interface as the T5i. It's responsive and has an intelligent user interface, including the usual capabilities, like touch focus, that streamline Live View shooting. You can view the screen pretty well in direct sunlight. You don't have to use it if you don't want to, though operations like selecting ISO sensitivity go much faster when you can directly select rather than having to cycle through them. Overall, I find Canon's interface straightforward and easy to use.

The 70D's multicontroller is slightly smaller than the 60D's. Sarah Tew/CNET

I've never been a fan of the multicontroller design, though. It looks sensible and straightforward, but it's too flush with the control dial and now that it's smaller it's even harder to precisely manipulate without stopping and concentrating.

In other interface quibbles, I don't really like the viewfinder level display either. It's a tiny camera icon with em dashes that project from it indicating the degree of off-level rotation. Unfortunately, it's really hard to use -- nay, impossible -- in dim or dark conditions. In contrast, other viewfinder implementations use illuminated bars along the bottom and sides and provide information for two axes, not just one.

Also, the camera still has only a single card slot. Boo. And though it has built-in Wi-Fi, you have to disable movie mode in order to turn it on. I don't mind that they can't work simultaneously, but jeez, if I try to turn on Movie mode why not disable Wi-Fi for me? Don't just say, "Movie recording is disabled when [Wi-Fi] is set to [Enable]." It's really annoying to be unexpectedly forced to delve into the menu system because I'd forgotten to turn the Wi-Fi option off. I've missed shots because of this nonsense.

Canon EOS 60D Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 7D Nikon D7100 Pentax K-5 II / IIs
Sensor effective resolution 18MP CMOS
14 bits
20.2MP CMOS
n/a
18MP hybrid CMOS
14 bits
24.1MP CMOS
14 bits
16.3MP CMOS
14 bits
22.3x14.9mm 22.5x15mm 22.3x14.9mm 23.5x15.6mm 23.7x15.7mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 80 (exp)/
100 - ISO 12800/
51200 (exp)
Burst shooting 5.3fps
16 raw/58 JPEG
7fps
16 raw/65 JPEG
8fps
25 raw/130 JPEG
6fps
(7fps in 1.3x crop mode)
n/a
7fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 96% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
100% coverage
1.0x/0.63x
Optical
100%
coverage
0.94x/0.63x
Optical
100% coverage
0.92x/ 0.61x
Autofocus 9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 Dual Pixel CMOS
19-pt phase-detection AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8
19-pt phase-detection AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 51-pt phase- detection AF
15 cross- type; center to f8 or faster
(Multi-CAM 3500DX)
11-pt phase-detection AF
9 cross- type
(SAFOX X)
AF sensitivity 0 to 20 EV -0.5 to 18 EV -0.5 to 18 EV -2 to 19 EV -3 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles n/a 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles
Metering 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77-segment
Metering sensitivity 0 to 20 EV 1 to 18 EV 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/ 60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/ 60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p 1080/60i/ 50i/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(60i/50i only in 1.3x crop mode)
1080/25p; 720/30p/ 25p Motion JPEG AVI
Audio Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Mono; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Shutter only n/a
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB
(approx. 12 minutes)
n/a 4GB/29:59 min 4GB/29:59 min 4GB/25 min
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
LCD size 3-inch articulated
1.04 megapixels
3-inch articulated touch screen
n/a
3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
3.2-inch fixed
1,228,800 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x CF (UDMA 7) 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC/ SDHC
(SDXC requires firmware upgrade)
Wireless connection None Wi-Fi None None None
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 1,100 shots
(320 Live View)
920 shots
(210 Live View)
800 shots
(220 Live View)
950 shots
(n/a)
740 shots
(n/a)
Size (WHD, inches) 5.7x4.1x3.1 5.5x4.1x3.1 5.8x4.4x2.9 5.3x4.2x3 5.2x3.8x2.9
Body operating weight (ounces) 27 27.2 35 27.3 26.1 (est)
Mfr. price $899.99 (body only) $1,119 (body only) $1,599 (body only) $1,199.95 (body only) $1,095.95/
$1,199.95 (body only)
$999.99 (est, with 18-135mm lens) $1,349 (with 18-55mm STM lens) n/a $1,599.95 (with 18-105mm lens) $1,249.95 (with 18-55mm WR lens)/n/a
n/a $1,549 (with 18-135mm STM lens) n/a n/a $1,449.95/ n/a (with 18-135mm WR lens)
Release date August 2010 August 2013 December 2009 March 2013 October 2012

The Wi-Fi implementation is identical to the Canon EOS 6D's and not bad for remote shooting using the EOS Remote app, which currently lets you change shutter speed and aperture, ISO sensitivity, and exposure compensation. Configuring the connection is neither notably easy nor difficult; the camera acts as access point that you then set as the device's Wi-Fi connection, then launch the app. However, as with many of these cameras, it doesn't always connect to the phone the first time.

You can also wirelessly tether the camera to a computer using Canon EOS Utility, but only through an access point, not peer-to-peer; that renders it useless for a subset of cases. Setting it up is a little more convoluted than I'd like (or than I expect in 2013), and the camera didn't consistently see my work network.

The 70D offers a reasonably broad set of video-specific features, though like most of the company's dSLRs it ostensibly can't output clean HDMI for external recording (I wouldn't be surprised if that capability eventually surfaced in a Magic Lantern hack, though.) Like many of the dSLRs that Canon's been churning out, there's nothing else notable in the 70D's feature set; a reasonable set of still shooting options but no photographer-friendly frills like time lapse/intervalometer, multiple card slots, or multiple custom-setting slots.

For a complete accounting of the 70D's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
I wanted to give the camera an image quality rating of 7.5; it's very good, but overall not quite as good as the D7100, all things considered. It's unfortunate, because the rest of the package -- excellent autofocus system, streamlined shooting design and appropriate feature set for the price -- adds up to a camera I really like.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
JPEG shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim light)
Shutter lag (typical)
Canon EOS 70D
0.4
0.2
0.2
0.8
0.2
Canon EOS Rebel T5i
0.7
0.3
0.3
0.8
0.2
Nikon D7100
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.4
Canon EOS 6D
0.6
0.3
0.3
1.3
0.4
Nikon D600
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.6
0.5
Nikon D5200
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.8
0.5

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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    Where to Buy

    Canon EOS 70D (Body Only)

    Part Number: 8469B002
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Digital camera type Digital SLR with Interchangeable lenses
    • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
    • Sensor Resolution 20.2 Megapixel
    • Image Stabilizer Optical
    • Optical Sensor Size 15.0 x 22.5mm
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