Initially released in the fall of 2013, the Canon 70D was easily one of the most anticipated cameras released that year. Officially it’s the replacement to the older 60D. But, in many respects, it simultaneously replaces the original 7D as well.
With the release of this camera, Canon promises significant improvements and several highlight features previously unseen in any DSLR camera up until this point. And, on paper, the changes appear to make it a seriously strong contender in the mid-range DSLR market and the perfect fit to compete with Nikon’s D7100. However, have they done enough to make a camera that stands tall and remains relevant even after so much time has passed? Let’s find out.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon 70D?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Low Light Performance
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Video Capabilities
- Autofocus Performance
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is this a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon 70D?
Image quality has improved dramatically over the predecessor. Canon has finally ditched the long-standing 18MP sensor and replaced it, instead, with a 20.2MP CMOS sensor along with the updated Digic 5 image processor. The new sensor now provides on-chip phase-detection as well, which significantly improves autofocusing performance, more on that to come. This bump in resolution allows the camera to deliver better resolving power when looking at fine details and also a superior dynamic range. Users can now achieve HDR-like effects from a single photo, and images provide considerable latitude during post-processing recovery. Overall, the image quality is very similar to the pricier 7D.
The camera also provides continuous shooting speeds of up to 7 fps and a healthy 65 JPEG or 16 RAW buffer.
Canon has implemented several significant improvements with this iteration to make the camera quite capable as a video camera. It records 1080p full HD video up to 30 fps. However, it now provides additional customization over how images are recorded to the card, similar to the 5D Mark III and 6D. This customization comes in the form of variable data rates during recording. Users can choose between high quality with less compression or lower quality with more compression, which provides added flexibility in editing. The camera also delivers better compression ratios, where it now offers both the IPB and All-I compression methods. Overall, the video quality has improved some as well, though not dramatically, and the footage is slightly sharper than the predecessor.
Unlike other iterations in the series, it now displays audio levels during video recording, similar to the 5D Mark II. And it provides better control over audio capturing as well.
Low Light Performance
Compared to the predecessor and the original 7D, low light performance has improved slightly, but not significantly. The updated Digic 5 processor allows the camera to now feature a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 12,800, further expandable to ISO 25,600. Users can expect usable images up to ISO 6,400, where only minor post-production noise reduction is required, and excellent videos up to ISO 1,600. One thing of note, any noise that is present has more of a pleasing aesthetic that’s not quite as jarring and blotchy as before—a nice touch.
The most notable improvement with this camera, however, is brand new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, making it the first camera ever to provide the feature. Canon’s now installed a dedicated on-chip phase-detection competent onto the sensor. Effectively, it adds another layer of dedicated autofocusing processing, which significantly improves tracking performance and overall accuracy. With that, the camera now allows users to focus in Live View and video modes. Overall, this system delivers a vast improvement over the predecessor and the other SLRs up until this point.
Subject tracking is both extraordinarily fast, smooth, and tenaciously accurate as subjects move throughout the frame, almost camcorder-like. And remains confident, which makes it well suited for use at all times. Even when used with a slow USM lens, focusing continues to be quick and rarely hunts. Overall, the performance here easily rivals traditional camcorders, and it was hands down the best SLRs for Live View focusing at the time of release, bar none. And the technology that thoroughly removed the slow Live View focusing that typically plagued SLRs up until this point.
The camera also sports an updated AF system when composing via the viewfinder, now with 19 points, all of which are cross-type compatible. Overall, this system is very robust and is largely similar in performance to the 7D. Focusing is quick across all lighting conditions, to include dim light. The centermost point is also cross-type at f/2.8, making it the most accurate point and adds an extra layer of precision to the entire system.
With the touchscreen, the camera also provides smooth and natural rack focusing.
It uses the long-standing LP-E6 battery, which Canon rates for 920 shots per charge.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3.0-inch fully articulating TFT touchscreen LCD with a 1.04M dot resolution, making it the ideal choice for self filming or shooting at awkward angles. The touchscreen also supports touch focus, touch tracking, pinch to zoom, and menu navigation.
It also features an optical viewfinder with 98% coverage of the image area and a 0.95x magnification.
It maintains the standard Canon menus as many cameras before it, which remains easily mastered and intuitive to use. Previous users will find navigating this camera very easy, and beginners will find it simple to learn.
It obtains the on-screen touch interface and controls from the T5i, which is quite intuitive and very responsive.
It also features the Q (Quick) Menu, which is a single contextual menu that houses a variety of critical parameters for ease of access.
It features the customizable My Menu, where up to six items from the main menu and custom function settings can be registered.
And it provides a total of 23 custom functions.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
In design, it shares many similarities with the outgoing 60D that it replaces. However, it is a bit smaller, now weighing only 675g. From a build and ergonomics standpoint, it sits between the higher-end professional 5D and 7D bodies and their more entry-level rebel line. So, overall, build quality is good, but not the greatest Canon offers. And while It doesn’t enjoy the same ultra-rugged magnesium alloy chassis that the 7D uses, it does provide weather resistance.
Otherwise, the button layout is mostly the same as the predecessor but feels similar to the 5D Mark III. The only notable changes are a streamline Mode Dial, with fewer automatic options, an improved Live View switch, and a locking multi-controller to prevent accidental changes. Otherwise, the body looks and feels reminiscent of the predecessor. If you already have the Canon 60D, this camera will be immediately familiar to you.
It offers a built-in pop-up flash.
It features built-in wireless connectivity for image transfer, similar to the 6D. However, it is quite limited in capabilities.
It offers built-in HDR, and the implementation is rather robust and similar to the 5D Mark III.
It has a microphone input.
It offers built-in RAW processing.
The camera still suffers from moiré to the same levels as the original 7D and the 5D Mark II during recordings. So while the sensor has improved, this particular aspect remains present. And, unfortunately, even when recording in the All-I compression method, moiré is still present in certain scenes.
The camera lacks a clean HDMI output for use with external recorders.
The camera automatically separates files if the file size exceeds 4 GBs during recording, which requires combining them in post for a continuous clip. This adds an unnecessary step to the post-production workflow, and is quite tedious.
Canon has clustered the 19 autofocusing points in a tight configuration around the center of the frame. With that, focus recomposing will be a crucial technique to ensure proper composition and accurate focus.
The camera lacks a dedicated white balance button. And, unfortunately, you cannot customize a function button to perform this particular operation either.
The Depth of Field preview button is in a rather difficult to reach position, which makes accessing this functionality a bit challenging.
It lacks a headphone input.
Is this a good beginner camera?
Yes. It makes an excellent beginner’s camera for the first time DSLR users. If you’re currently in the market looking for a budget-friendly and feature-rich camera, this is surely one to consider. Even considering its age, it remains among Canon’s best cameras for the casual user and first-timer buyers. It delivers several significant improvements in capabilities the predecessor lacks, most notably confident Live View focusing, better touch implementation, and added video features. But, the reality is this isn’t just a beginner’s camera. It’s also a compelling choice for seasoned shooters alike.
Is this a good camera for you?
Current 60D users should consider upgrading. The main reason to do so is the vast improvements made in the autofocusing capabilities and performance. If you’re currently experiencing issues with focusing on the 60D, this improvement along with the touchscreen and Wi-Fi capabilities makes for a worthy upgrade.
For videographers, do know this camera is capable and is a compelling choice for the price. The only drawback is the data rates are not as strong as more recent iterations in this series, and the camera suffers from moiré in certain scenes. Otherwise, it’s an excellent choice with its articulating touchscreen and confident focusing system for run and gun solutions.
For those looking for a capable tool for sports, wildlife, or journalism, this camera makes for a suitable option. While the focusing system in the viewfinder only provides 19 points, all of them use cross-type compatibility. Combined with the camera’s customization over tracking, it makes for quite the confident tool. Surprisingly, with the improvements made to this release, this camera takes the position of the 7D as the best budget centric sports and wildlife camera.
In the end, this camera comes dangerously close to being the ultimate all-in-one tool. The improvements made to the autofocusing performance deliver camcorder-like accuracy with virtually little hunting along with DSLR image quality and better low-light performance. Thus, it’s not a surprise to see that it revolutionized our expectations of what was possible with traditional DSLRs when it came to video capture. This camera is quite the Frankenstein in Canon’s lineup, where they’ve taken several successful and proven elements throughout their entire lineup.
It carries features from the 60D, 5D Mark III, 7D, and the T5i. Most notably the updated sensor, allowing the camera to closely rival the focusing of traditional video cameras. In many respects, this camera is a refreshed 7D in a 60D body, delivering the higher-end feature set in a smaller and more compact form factor. And, overall, it offers all of Canon’s best features into a single unified body. Even considering its age, it remains as one of the top enthusiast aimed cameras on the market and a competitive option today.
In the end, the 70D revolutionized our expectations of what was possible from a traditional DSLR. It’s a camera that takes several successful and proven elements from Canon’s lineup, to create a product that comes dangerously close to being the ultimate all-in-one tool. But, in many respects, it’s a refreshed 7D in a 60D body, delivering the higher-end feature set in a smaller and more compact form factor. And even considering its age, it remains as one of the top enthusiast aimed cameras on the market and a competitive option today.