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Canon 7D Mark II: The long-awaited $1,800 prosumer powerhouse arrives

The update to Canon's aged midrange dSLR has some really nice enhancements, as well as some disappointing omissions.

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Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
6 min read

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Like the Nikon D750, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II debuts so long after its predecessor -- the 7D arrived in 2009 -- that for purposes of comparison it might as well be considered a completely different camera. The only thing left is the remarkably similar (though not unchanged) body design. Even the launch price has changed: the 7D arrived at $1,700 for the body, while the 7DM2 is starting at $1,800 (£1,600; Canon Australia doesn't set official prices, but a direct conversion would be approximately AU$2,000.)

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Canon 7D Mark II: Mostly the same on the outside (pictures)

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So let's just hit the highlights:

  • Sensor. Canon opted to go with its Dual Pixel CMOS sensor technology for the 7DM2, the same technology used in the 70D, where half of the image pixels doubling as phase-detection sensors to deliver better video autofocus performance. However, despite being the same resolution as the sensor in the 70D, the 7DM2 uses a new version of the sensor that's supposed to deliver better focus in low-light/low-contrast environments.
  • Video capabilities. Canon has finally buckled and delivered clean HDMI out of the box on a lower-end camera; and not only that, but video and audio via HDMI. No 4K here, though it does support medium bitrate HD along with the rest of Canon's typical video-recording capabilities. This camera introduces a new movie codec, IPB Light, which increases the compression ratio, as well as the ability to customize autofocus speed and tracking sensitivity while recording video. You can also select between 23.98fps or an exact 24p.
  • Autofocus and metering. The Dual Pixel CMOS cameras have a supplementary, traditional autofocus system for viewfinder operation; the 7D introduces a new 65-point all cross-type AF system with more autofocus points than higher end models like the 5D Mark III or the 1-D X, though it's not the High Density Reticular AF version. It also incorporates the iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF in conjunction with a new metering sensor for better object recognition to support tracking. How much of a difference all that makes is a matter beyond the specs, though.
  • Performance. Dual Digic 6 engines power a fast-for-this-class-of-dSLR 10fps continuous-shooting rate and USB 3 for faster transfers. There's also a new mirror with improved vibration reduction.
  • Design. As I mentioned, the body hasn't changed dramatically, though there are some nice improvements. It's still dust-and-weather-sealed magnesium alloy, and the shutter mechanism durability rating has been upgraded to 200,000 activations. One big upgrade: 2 card slots, 1 CF and 1 SD. The buttons down the side have changed function which will confuse those of us with the playback zoom procedure encoded into our muscle memory. There's a new lever circumscribing the joystick for quickly cycling through the different AF-point selection configurations. And while the mode dial still remains half empty, it now locks. Yay! While the viewfinder has the same specs, Canon has updated the information overlay to display levels.
  • Features. Although Canon missed the Wi-Fi boat on the 7DM2, it did incorporate a GPS, and finally an EOS gets an intervalometer. It also has a silent drive mode.

My take

Here's the face-palming disappointment: a fixed LCD without a touchscreen. As someone who's been shooting with the 7D for years (until it recently dropped dead), it was one of the few things I missed in the camera and was really looking forward to in the 7DM2. And with all the video capabilities that Canon has packed into the camera, it's really annoying to not have the touchscreen interface for adjusting settings during video or rack focusing.

Furthermore, while I have no issues with the Dual Pixel CMOS, it's frustrating that there are no fast, high-quality STM lenses to use with it. I'm really hoping that whatever tweaks Canon made to the new sensor results in better performance with standard lenses, or that it rolls out some fast STM lenses soon.

There's certainly plenty in the camera to like, especially if the new autofocus system delivers for both single shooting and for focus hit rates on continuous shooting. But in the years since the 7D came out a lot has changed in this market segment. A lot of the potential upgraders to this camera can get exactly what they need from the $1,200 cameras, plus new mirrorless models like the Panasonic GH4 and the Samsung NX1 look like awfully attractive alternatives as long as you're okay with an EVF -- and they're still a bit cheaper.

Don't get me wrong: I'm really looking forward to trying it out, and I really hope it delivers on the performance.

Comparative specifications

Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Nikon D7100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Samsung NX1
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 24.1MP CMOS 16.1MP Live MOS 28.2MP BSI CMOS
14-bit
Sensor size 22.5 x 15 mm APS-C
(exact size n/a)
23.5 x 15.6mm 17.3 x 13mm 23.5 x 15.7mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 2.0x 1.5x
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ISO 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 16000/ISO 51200 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600/51200 (exp)
Burst shooting 7fps
40 JPEG/15 raw
10fps
1,090 JPEG/31 raw
6fps
n/a
12fps
100 JPEG/40 raw
(40fps with electronic shutter)
15fps
n/a
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Optical
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100% coverage
1.0x/0.67x
Optical
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63 x
OLED EVF
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.34x/0.67x
OLED EVF
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.04x/0.69x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 19-point phase-detection AF
all cross-type
center dual cross to f2.8
65-point phase-detection AF
all cross-type
center dual cross to f2.8
51-point phase-detection AF
15 cross-type
center to f8
49-area
DFD Contrast AF
205 phase-detection AF
209 contrast AF
AF sensitivity -0.5 - 18 EV -3 to n/a EV -2 - 19 EV -4 - 18 EV -4 - n/a EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync n/a 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 60 secs; bulb to 60 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Metering 63 zone 150,000-pixel RGB+IR 252 zone 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 1,728 zone 221 area
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 30p, 25p, 24p @ 50Mbps
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p, 50p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
C4K/24p @100Mbps; UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 200Mbps
H.265 MP4
UHD/30p, C4K/24p, 1080/60p, 50p
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input, Stereo, mic input, Stereo, mic input, Stereo, mic input,
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB n/a 4GB 4GB/29:59 mins No
Clean HDMI out No Yes No Yes Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
Display 3 in/7.7cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Fixed
1.04m dots
3.2 in/8 cm
Fixed
921,600 dots
(plus extra set of white)
3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.7 cm
Tilting Super AMOLED touchscreen
1.04m dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x CF, 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection None via optional WFT-E7A Version 2 Optional Wi-Fi
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 800 shots
(2,600 mAh)
n/a 950 shots
(1,900 mAh)
530 shots
(1,860 mAh)
500 (est.)
(1,860 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.5 x 4.1 x3.1 in
139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm
n/a 5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 in
135.5 x 106.5 x 76mm
5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in
132.9 x 93.4 x 83.9mm
5.5 x 4.0 x 2.6 in
138.5 x 102.3 x 65.8mm
Body operating weight 27.2 oz
771.1 g
n/a 27.3 oz
773.9 g
19.8 oz (est.)
560 g (est.)
19.4 oz (est.)
550 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $1,200
£1,090 (est.)
AU$1,350 (est.)
$1,800
£1,600
Canon Australia does not set official pricing
$1,100
£800 (est.)
AU$1,500
$1,700
£1,300
AU$1,750 (est.)
$1,500
UK and AU pricing to be announced
Release date August 2013 November 2014 March 2013 February 2014 October 2014