After the success of EOS 7D, it seemed like Canon had forgotten that they even made premium APSC DLSRs for wildlife and action photography but our assumption was not right. They were indeed working on an heir to it and were just waiting for the right time and now after 5 years it is the time that company felt to bring out the ace (7D Mark II) up their sleeves. So is Canon EOS 7D Mark II worth your time and money and will it stay true to the genes of 7D? Let’s find out in our in-depth hands-on review of Canon EOS 7D Mark II.
Canon classifies 7D Mark II along with 7D into the DLSR enthusiast section and we totally agree to that, this camera is indeed a toy for serious amateurs who specifically aim to capture outdoor action and wildlife or basically fast moving objects. This guy can also be a very good second body for a pro level wild life or action photographer like the one who uses Canon 1DX as primary camera and want to use a second body.
Design and Build
7D Mark II is built like a tank, it’s basically a pro level body just with a smaller lens. The entire body of the device is made out of magnesium alloy and is totally weather sealed. It does resemble 7D but at 910gms is pretty heavy, even heavier than some of the pro level bodies like Nikon 810 which is about 870gms. It also has patches of rubber where you hold giving it a better grip. We also liked the grip which is wide and well separated from the lens mount which does not let your fingers cramp.
On the front you have the lens mount, the APSC sensor and lens contact points. You also have the IR blaster right in front on the grip, above the grip you have the shutter release button. In between the lens mount and the grip you have the auto focus assist lamp, the DOF preview button. To the right of the lens mount lies the mount release button above which lies the flash release button, mic and the 7D Mark II branding. On the top it’s again a typical Canon layout. Just behind the shutter release button you have the M-fm button, behind which lies the lone command dial and then four buttons that have two functions, first one is to white balance, metering and the second one to Drive-autofocus and then you have exposure compensation, ISO and the last one is just to light up the small screen on top. To the left of the screen you have the flash that comes out when you press the flash release button. Further on the left lies the shooting mode dial and power lever. The thing that we liked the most about the shooting mode dial is that you have three custom user modes that you can save the settings into. You also have lan yards on both the sides. On the right side you have dual card slots, one would take SDXC or SDHC while the other takes in a CF card. On the left side you basically have two flaps. The first one opens into the external mic jack, headphone jack, external flash button and the XLR input port. The other one opens into USB 3.0 data transfer port and the mini HDMI port. Down below you the tripod mount and the space for your battery. Now coming to the back where most of the action takes place, you have the LCD monitor which is very disappointing as it’s not touch screen. We can understand it not being tilting or articulating type as they are not suitable for outdoor camera because if they were they could have easily broken down, but still we would have liked it to be touch screen it would have enhanced the experience of the dual autofocus system that 70D initiated. You have the 100% view finder, menu, info buttons, start and stop button, live view button. To the right corner rests the command dial setting buttons. To the left of the monitor you have the usual buttons rating your photo, zoom in, delete, playback and the lock button as well. A key feature about the design is that just over the command dial you have the jockey, what’s important is that the lever around the jockey is a great deal as it makes it very convenient to change the autofocus modes.
Display and User Interface
The device comes in with a number of menus like the Q button would let you change some of the settings like for example the exposure compensation scale, ISO, even the shooting mode like P AV, autofocus modes, white balance and metering. The Info button would let you know about what settings the camera is in. Then you have the Main menu, which is very extensive. A great thing about the 7D Mark II is that it gives great emphasis on the auto focus system and thus it has a dedicated menu for auto focus only, which has under five sub menus. The first menu being the Shooting menu which includes image quality, Lens aberration correction which further has corrections for your peripheral illuminations, chromatic aberrations and distortion. Apart from these you have the auto light optimizer, white balance and higher ISO noise reduction, HDR modes and interval time. You get 6 Autofocus cases. Case one being the most obvious where you have versatile multipurpose setting. You can select the number of focus point as well 9, 21 or all 65. And then your metering can also be linked to autofocus points. Then you have your Playback menu, the system settings menu, and finally you also have the favorite menu. Overall the menu system or the user interface of 7D Mark II is pretty extensive and has a fair bit of learning curve.
The 7D Mark II system is in general very responsive and fast.
The 65-point (all crosstype) AF system is very fast and largely accurate, if not 100%.
We tried the burst mode on both a horizontal moving and a to and fro moving subject and in both cases I’d say the camera could nail focus more than 85% of times at the intended point, which is quite commendable if you consider the crazy 10fps speed.
Tracking gets difficult when you have a not-so-contrasting background.
The iTR is good too but can be improved, especially while the subject is against light. You can see the success rate of tracking the eyes is much lower while the subject was against light as compared to when he was facing light.
The dual AF system inherited from the 70D is a delight to use, and is the best Movie continuous AF system we’ve experienced, even under low light. I’d still give it less marks than the 70D because of absence of the touch-screen but atleast the laurel stays at home. There are a couple of catches though – you can’t servo AF at 1080p @60fps, and you can’t burst with continuous AF in Live mode. The 2nd is not a problem for me because I always shoot stills through viewfinder, but would’ve liked Servo AF during 60fps.
Still, it’s quite possibly one of the best AF systems when you need utmost speed and accuracy together.
You’ll see perfectly fine JPEGs and RAW till about 800. Noise just starts to creep in at ISO 1600. ISO 3200 is where things start deteriorating, but still you can use them online perfectly. ISO 6400 and up are bad with colors deteriorating and artifacts starts to show up. Thoughout the ISO scale the JPEGs are cleaner. You can still use ISO 6400 JPEG.
The colors are natural and skin tone is very true. I’ve always liked Canon’s skin tones for the fact that they are truer than some of the other close competitors. However if you intentionally would like to make them slightly warmer or cold, adjust in post. Saturation and hue are natural.
The 150,000 RGB + IR metering system is awesome, and it had no problem separating the zones properly. See the flowers in each case given proper exposure, against bright and dark backgrounds.
The DIGIC 6 makes a significant jump from the previous generation of image processors in terms of dynamic range. Although still not Industry leading, I actually liked the DR of the 7D mark II, considering the sensor size. You can check out the photos below where you would see that although I couldnot have pushed further without blowing up the background – the colors and details were not all lost in the editing, and we actually got some pretty usable (web only) stills.
We go 1260 stills and 16.2 mins of full HD videos on two charges, so you can roughly say 630 images and about 8mins of video on a charge – not superlative but still much better than mirrorless.
So the final question is would you buy the 7D Mark II? First factor to influence your decision is the pricing. It would cost you about $1,800 in US for just the body, you also get the kit for slightly over than $2,100 that’s the 18-135mm 3.5-5.3mm lens. We could not understand why Canon is giving this lens with this body that’s absolutely useless for the purpose one would buy this guy. In UK you’ll get it for just under ₤1,500 (just the body) and here in India you’ll find the body just over Rs 1,28,000. If you are serious about action and wildlife photography we would suggest you to just buy the body and get a very fast lens. If you can afford a very fast lens like the 300-2.8, 400-2.8 etc. then it’s absolutely fine else you can buy Canon’s 400mm 5.6 which is incredible. It’s pretty cheap, you can buy one for about $1300 to $1400. You can also buy third party lenses like Tamron or even the Sigma 150-600 sports version. Talking about competition, at this price point its closest competitor would be Nikon D750 which has a much bigger lens, has much better low light ISO performance but D750 is kind of all-round camera and thus is not exactly fit for speedy action shots or wildlife. D750 also has a burst rate of 6.5fps which is good but only fps is not the whole solution, you ought to have a great auto focus system for fast moving subjects which the 7D Mark II possess, it has a 65 auto focus system (all are cross type). The D750 has 50 Autofocus system but only 15 are cross type. Comparing it as per the product line, we can compare it with D7200 or the D7100. Sony also has a SLT system A722 which gives you up to 15fps and tracks subject very well in live view or in movie. The problem with SLT system is that it uses a translucent mirror which loses slight amount of light making it inferior in higher ISO. Comparing it with D7100 or D7200 isn’t fair as they are purely premium segment APSC cameras. They are targeted at the prosumers level who want to do all kind of things including a bit of wildlife and action, but 7D Mark II is a pro. There is a huge difference in pricing as well. Overall 7D created a knish for itself and we don’t see any competitor at that price point or that product line to that particular product and 7D Marks just widens that gap. We do have rumours of Nikon coming out with D400 but until it comes 7D Mark II would be our all round choice for wildlife and action photography where you can’t afford very expensive lenses. We recommend this product strongly.