Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review

Introduction

Initially released in the fall of 2014, Canon’s 7D Mark II is the long-awaited replacement to the original 7D released five years prior. The Mark II is their current APS-C flagship camera, sitting right below the full-frame 5D series. On paper, it promises massive improvements in virtually every aspect of its predecessor. And it appears to be a significant overhaul in core functionality.

The original 7D was easily one of the most popular sports and journalism tools that Canon’s made up to this point. It was also one of the pivotal cameras that brought DSLR filmmaking to the mainstream consumer market. So this new release has enormous shoes to fill, given its predecessor’s acclaim. But considering how much time has elapsed, this lineup was desperate for an update.

And Canon has been rather slow on releasing DSLRs, giving rivals plenty of time to advance. Canon aims this camera to compete with Nikon’s D7100 and D750. But have they done enough to make this camera competitive, or are these changes overdue? And is this a camera that’s still relevant today? Let’s find out?

EOS-7D-Mark-II-camera-specs

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon 7D Mark II? 

Pros:

Image Quality

It features a brand new 20.2MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor with an Optical Low Pass Filter, a nice change from the predecessors 18MP sensor. With this release, Canon’s also equipped the camera with dual DIGIC 6 image processors, significantly increasing its processing power. They’ve also redesigned the camera’s shutter mechanism, which has made it more stable and quieter than the predecessor.

Otherwise, the image quality is mostly the same across most lighting conditions. And the 2MP bump in resolution isn’t a significant enough difference to make it easily noticeable during real-world use. Nevertheless, the camera still offers reasonable image quality, despite its age. And its 14-bit RAW images are also accurately exposed and deliver that pleasing Canon aesthetic.

The camera does, however, offer notable improvements in continuous shooting speeds. It now provides continuous bursts up to 10 fps, a 25% improvement over the predecessor 8 fps maximum. And this type of power places the camera squarely against Canon’s 1DX and Nikon’s D4 professional sports flagships. The camera’s buffer depth has also improved thanks to the adding processing power. And it can now provide 31 RAW images or 130 JPEGs before buffering.

Video Quality

Unlike the predecessor, it now shoots 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps, allowing users to capture slow-motion footage in-camera. This addition makes it the second Canon camera to provide this frame rate and a substantial improvement over the predecessor’s 30 fps maximum. Like most Canon cameras, it shoots the footage to either the MP4 or MOV formats using the MPEG-4 codec and IPB compression. And the footage is entirely free from artifacts, aliasing, or moiré.

The camera also provides a clean, uncompressed 1080p signal via HDMI for use with external recorders.

Like most cameras in this class, video recordings are limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds.

Low Light Performance

While the camera doesn’t provide a dramatic increase in resolving power, it does fare better in low light. And, overall, low light performance is excellent. It features a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 16,000, which is further expandable to an H2 setting, the equivalent of 51,200. And the new sensor shows a one-stop improvement in performance over both the 70D and the predecessor. Users can expect usable images up to ISO 6,400, making it equal to the 5D Mark III. And even above 6,400, images display little color noise and offer a natural grain structure.

Focusing Performance

It features the brand new 65-point all cross-type AF system, four more points than the 5D Mark III, and premier 1DX flagship. And not only does this camera offer more cross-type points, but it also delivers excellent coverage over the imaging area, reducing the need for focus recomposing. This system can also focus down to -3 EV, the equivalent of moonlight, which is excellent considering the camera’s age.

And Canon’s even equipped the camera with the new EOS iTR AF system, which upgrades the AF system to take into account distance, color, and facial recognition for improved accuracy. This 65-point system makes it one of the most advanced cameras, representing a 242% improvement over the predecessor archaic 19-point system. And to date, this camera remains one of the fastest focusing SLRs when composing via the viewfinder. And not only is focusing incredibly fast, but it’s also accurate and tracks subjects beautifully. Overall, the performance delivered here is easily on par with Canon’s flagship 1DX and Nikon’s D4.

It also inherits the Dual Pixel CMOS AF (DPAF) technology from the 70D when shooting in Live View. However, unlike the 70D, Canon’s improved this version to include customization, a feature carried over from the 5D Mark III. Users can now customize the AF transition speed and subject-tracking parameters for smoother and more natural rack focusing.

And it provides enormous control over the tracking sensitivity, giving users detailed control over the AF’s responsiveness and behavior. Overall, the Live View focusing performance is excellent. Focusing is quick, smooth, and wildly accurate. DPAF rarely loses track of subjects. And if it does, it shifts smoothly back to where it needs to be. And it’s a confident system that’s well suited for professional applications for both stills and videos.

Display & Viewfinder

It features a 3.0-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 1.04M dots. Canon’s also treated the monitor with their Clear View II coating, improving visibility. And overall, the screen provides excellent viewing angles. And it’s sharp with accurate color rendering.

It features an optical viewfinder with a 1.0x magnification, which makes it large but also quite bright. The viewfinder also offers helpful additions, such as a two-axis level, and other information like spot metering, grid lines, and much more.

User Interface

It inherits the standard Canon user interface and menus. Thus, both newcomers and existing users will find the navigating experience on this camera intuitive. And they will quickly master its layout.

It obtains the Quick (Q) menu, which provides immediate access to the critical shooting parameters it offers.

It obtains the customizable My Menu, which provides up to five tabs of customizable options for quick access to frequently used menu settings.

The camera provides three custom shooting modes, C1-C3, to quickly recall full shooting setups.

The camera also offers seven customizable buttons, which are programmable to 18 settings.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

The camera’s build quality is excellent. It features a magnesium alloy chassis, which provides full weather sealing and durable, rugged construction. Canon’s designed this camera to the highest degree, and it remains among their best-built bodies to date. However, the size and weight afford the camera better ergonomics. In this case, those come in the form of a deep and contoured grip, significantly reducing the likelihood of cramping or fatigue. The grip couples well with the camera’s weight to create a comfortable and remarkably stable platform for prolonged shooting.

And it’s well balanced when mounted with large focal lengths. In size, it’s about the same dimensions and form factor as the 5D Mark III. And it also inherits a similar button configuration and control scheme, which makes the camera incredibly familiar to existing Canon users. Compared to the predecessor, Canon’s only repositioned the Menu and Q buttons for better one-handed operation. But otherwise, the placement remains mostly the same and equally as logical and well-executed. Everything is where you’d expect it, and the camera is quite easy to use.

It features an AF joystick, known as the Multi-controller, for quickly changing AF points and navigating the camera.

It now features an AF Area Selection Lever, which doubles a customizable button. This lever makes it quick and convenient to change between focus zones and the various focusing modes offered.

The Mode Dial now has a lock to prevent accidental changes during transportation.

It now features a Rate button, allowing users to rate images in-camera. This feature saves time as the rating transfer to post-processing software. And you can compare two images side by side as well.

Niche Features/Extras

Unlike the predecessor, it now features dual card slots. One slot uses an SD card and the other a Compact Flash (CF), which makes the camera perfect for professionals who need redundancy when shooting.

It features a PC Sync terminal to connect and trigger compatible flash units.

The camera now offers a USB 3.0 port, which provides faster file transfer speeds.

It features a built-in intervalometer for time-lapses, making it the first Canon camera to obtain this feature. This mode also provides excellent customization.

It features a silent shooting mode, which dampens the shutter to make the camera quieter. And, surprisingly, this mode is quite effective and makes the camera more silent than competitors. Strange considering it’s an SLR, and this mode is typically gimmicky.

It obtains AF micro-adjust, to finetune the attached lens for precise focus.

It has a microphone input.

It has a headphone input, unlike the predecessor. And you can adjust the output levels via the menu.

It features built-in HDR.

It has a built-in flash.

It has a multi-exposure mode, inherited from the 5D Mark III, for in-camera multi-exposures.

It features a built-in bulb timer mode, which removes the need for a remote shutter release—a useful feature for astrophotography.

It offers built-in GPS for geotagging images and logging your longitude and latitude while shooting.

The camera obtains flicker reduction, which minimizes the inconsistent exposures and color shifts when shooting under fluorescent lighting.

The camera has built-in lens chromatic aberration correction, which compensate for lens anomalies and known issues automatically as you shoot.

Cons:

Image Performance

The dynamic range and fine resolving ability of this camera’s sensor are lacking compared to rivals that employ 24.2MP sensors without Optical Low Pass Filters. And the level of detail in its image is not competitive with rivals at this price point. Even Nikon’s D3200, an entry-level DSLR, outpaces this camera in image quality. And comparatively, this camera’s images are noticeably soft.

Overall, while the image quality has improved over the predecessor, it’s not enough. The camera also doesn’t offer much room in dynamic range for post-processing, particularly lifting shadows, before introducing noise. Sure, for most users, the differences won’t be immediately apparent in real-world use. However, it’s worthwhile to note.

Video Capabilities

The camera doesn’t obtain any advanced video-centric features, such as Canon’s log profiles. And it also doesn’t offer the higher-end ALL-I compression method when shooting 1080p videos at 60 fps, only 30 fps. Thankfully, there isn’t a visible loss in quality and detail when switching to 60 fps, even when using IPB compression.

The camera also loses Dual Pixel CMOS AF when shooting 1080p 60 fps. This mode is strictly manual focusing.

The quality of the 1080p footage is reminiscent of the 5D Mark III, which means it’s quite soft and lacks fine details compared to rivals. You’ll have to sharpen the footage in post.

Due to age, the camera lacks 4K and 1080p 120 fps video.

Like many Canon cameras, it also partitions files into 4 GB segments, which requires post-production merging.

The camera doesn’t support focus magnification during video recording.

Autofocus Performance

The camera’s AF system offers an enormous amount of customization, making the menus for AF settings rather lengthy and complicated. Beginners will find it challenging to understand the best settings initially, as there are many menus.

Battery Life

The camera uses the LP-E6 battery, but battery life is below average for the class. Canon rates the camera to provide 670 shots per charge and 90 minutes of video recording. Typically, a 1,000 shot lifespan is the standard for this class of camera.

Display

The rear LCD is both fixed and doesn’t offer any touch capabilities. And without any form of articulation, composing at awkward angles is quite challenging and uncomfortable.

Ergonomics

Those with smaller hands may find the grip on this camera slightly too big, and hard to grasp.

Lacking Features

The camera lacks built-in Wi-Fi. If you want to control the camera or transfer images wirelessly, you’ll have to purchase an Eye-Fi capable SD card to do so.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Potentially.

While the camera is equally as intuitive as more entry-level bodies and its feature set provides ample room for growth, it doesn’t offer much for beginners. With that, if you’re a complete beginner, check out Canon’s two-digit lineup instead. But, if you already have some experience, then this is an excellent long-term camera.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Canon 7D Mark II?

General Photography: 

Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L IS II USM

Macro Photography:

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

Portrait Photography:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM

Product & Still Life Photography:

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro

Extra Batteries:

Canon Battery Pack LP-E6

SD Cards:

Lexar Professional 128GB VPG-65 CompactFlash card
SanDisk 256GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card

Tripod:

Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum 5-Section Tripod    

Battery Grip:

Canon Battery Grip BG-E16

Is this a good camera for you?

Possibly.

With its dual card slots and a feature set that matches the 5D Mark III, this camera is an excellent tool for professionals. Combining its weight, shutter design, and quiet shooting experience, it’s an incredibly stable platform. And the perfect fit when discretion is needed.

At half the price of Canon’s 5D Mark III, it provides better value considering it inherits much of the same proven features.

It’s an excellent upgrade for existing Canon shooters desiring better autofocusing, a more rugged body, and better high ISO performance. It’s also a worthy upgrade over the original 7D.

Combined with its confident AF system, 10 fps bursts, and deep buffer, this camera is a powerhouse as a budget-friendly sport, wildlife, or journalistic tool. For the price, it creates a reliable alternative to Canon’s pricier 1DX and Nikon’s D4. And it delivers exceptional value for those wanting a well-rounded sports shooter.

It’s also an excellent choice for aspiring filmmakers and videographers looking for a budget-friendly option. And for this purpose, a better choice than the 5D Mark III as well. The only drawback is the lack of an articulation touchscreen, like the 70D. But, the advantages here outweigh its disadvantages. And it remains a solid DSLR video camera for existing Canon users.

The only drawback in this camera, ultimately, is its sensor, which falls behind rivals who employ 24MP sensors. And it’s a beautiful, well-rounded body that’s held back by its image quality. Thus, for landscape shooters wanting the greatest detail and dynamic range, this camera isn’t the best choice. Consider Nikon’s D7100 instead.

In the end, Canon 7D Mark II represents a notable improvement over the original 7D. With this camera, Canon didn’t just make an upgrade without reason. Everything improved upon has significantly enhanced the camera’s shooting experience. This camera brings about improvements in several areas, from the sensor to the shooting speeds, and video capabilities.

And for that reason, it’s a worthy successor.  Not only does it make for an excellent sports and wildlife tool. But, it’s also incredibly well-rounded to efficiently serve the needs of virtually any photographer around. Its responsiveness and refinements make it one of the best camera’s they’ve released. And it’s an uncompromised camera that delivers an enormous selection of pro features. That despite having an APS-C sized sensor, it almost outpaces Canon’s full-frames and blends the line between both realms. Overall, it’s a big win for Canon and a masterful release.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.9

Summary

Canon’s 7D Mark II is an excellent all-round camera and a worthy successor to the original 7D. It lets pros and enthusiasts capture action on par with their top-end full-frame 1DX. But, at a price that’s within reach of practically everyone.