Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review – Canon’s budget DSLR camera for sports and wildlife photographers

In the five years that have passed since it was first introduced to the market, the Canon EOS 7D has gone from being an innovative piece of technology to appear to be a relic of a bygone era. Not just in the sense that its technological capabilities had been surpassed, but also in the sense that the concept of a professional-grade APS-C DSLR appeared to be one whose time had come and gone.

It is very evident that Canon does not believe this to be the case, as seen by the fact that the company has added really professional-grade autofocus to one of their bodies with the 7D Mark II. While Nikon seems to be pushing its high-end consumers toward full-frame, Canon’s lineup continues to provide a variety of different alternatives for photographers.

The eagerly anticipated EOS 7D Mark II takes the advantages that its forerunner had, like as very capable autofocus and video, and improves upon them in every possible way.

Key specs

  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
  • Continuous shooting at 10 frames per second with autofocus
  • 65 autofocus sensors that are all cross-type.
  • 150,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Improved protection from the environment
  • Slots for both Compact Flash (UDMA) and Secure Digital (UHS-I)
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in GPS
  • LP-E6N battery with a greater capacity
  • There is a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second.
  • rated for 200,000 cycles in the shutter (vs 150,000 on 7D)

An all cross-type, 65-point autofocus module is available on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for use by stills shooters. This, in conjunction with data from the EOS-1D X’s 150,000-pixel RGB + IR metering sensor, enables the camera to provide the most recent iteration of the “Intelligent Tracking and Recognition” (iTR) focus technology.

This implies that with iTR on and an initial focus point set, you may commence focus with a half-depress of the shutter button and then enable the camera to track the subject as it moves across the frame. This is possible because of the initial focus point selection. In this kind of situation, the camera will make use of whichever AF point it determines to be essential in order to keep the subject that was initially chosen in focus.

The camera is capable of filming continuously at a rate of 10 frames per second, which is a speed that, until very recently, was only achievable by professional-grade sports cameras. Included in this package is a shutter that has been tested to withstand 200,000 cycles.

The primary image sensor is a modified version of the Dual Pixel AF architecture that was introduced for the first time in the Canon EOS 70D. This results in a resolution of 20 megapixels. When this occurs, it also indicates that the camera’s image sensor is able to record information about the location of the subject as well as the depth of the scene whenever the mirror is raised.

This has the potential to enable more precise focusing and subject tracking while shooting video in ‘Live View,’ as well as other shooting modes. With regard to motion pictures, the capabilities of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II have been improved, as seen by the addition of a 1080p/60 shooting mode, the second choice of wrapper (either MOV or MP4), and a third compression option (IPB-Lite, as well as IPB and All-I).

In comparison to the EOS 7D and the Nikon D7100

What a change a little over half a decade can make. The Canon EOS 7D was one of the first single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) to enable 1080p video recording, a capability that is now standard in DSLRs despite the fact that it may not be entirely polished.

Because it is able to determine the subject’s location and distance from each frame that is shot, the Dual Pixel AF that comes standard on the Mark II has the potential to deliver outstanding autofocus when recording video. In theory, this may be sufficient to enable the 7D II to provide dependable performance.

Body & Design

Although it is physically quite identical to its predecessor, the Canon 7D Mark II has a slightly different button arrangement than its predecessor. The only difference between the controls on this camera and those found on the Canon 5D Mark III is the presence of a thumb switch located around the multi-controller. Other than that, the controls are virtually similar. Canon has said that the uniform style was done on purpose in order to create a consistent and enjoyable user experience across all of Canon’s product offerings.

When contrasted with the 7D

The body of the 7D Mark II is fairly similar to the body of the 7D, giving comparable levels of grip and ergonomics (which are typically good). According to Canon, the 7D Mark II is “four times more weather sealed” than the original 7D. This is a claim that is plausible based on the in-depth examination carried out by LensRentals.com.

Within your grasp

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a hefty camera that has a grip and ergonomics that are quite comparable to those of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Although its grip is well-designed to make it simple to hold the weight of the camera and the lens that is attached to it, it is not likely to be a camera that can be shot with only one hand.

Canon has taken the conscious decision to remain conservative in its button arrangement and the general feel of the camera by modeling it after the EOS 5D Mark III. This decision can be seen in the camera’s overall design. However, this works to Canon’s advantage because the ergonomics of the 5D Mark III are really well designed. It is simple to access the buttons that are most frequently used with either your thumb or index finger.

LCD monitor

The LCD of the EOS 7D Mark II has 1.04 million dots and is 3.0 inches in size. It also features the most recent gapless technology, which helps eliminate internal reflections and boost contrast.

The LCD display has a resolution of 720×480 pixels and has an aspect ratio of 3:2. It is not touch-sensitive, which, in our opinion, is a bit of a letdown because it would have been helpful in maintaining attention when watching the video (something the 7D Mark II should be good at given dual-pixel AF).

The viewfinder’s dimensions and the crop

The size of the viewfinder is a statistic that is buried somewhere in the specifications of every single SLR (often in a format that makes a comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is an important consideration when it comes to usability. The larger the viewfinder, the simpler it is to frame and focus your photographs, as well as the more pleasurable and engaging the process is.

Because viewfinders are measured using a fixed lens rather than a lens of similar magnification, you also need to take into consideration the size of the sensor. As a result, the values in the figure below represent the manufacturer’s specified magnifications divided by the various ‘crop factors.’

A transparent LCD is positioned underneath the prism itself. This LCD may be used to display a variety of different things, including grid lines, customized warnings (including flicker), levels, and information that makes it easier to comprehend which AF points are currently being utilized. We may thank our lucky stars that the focus screen itself can be changed.

Because the 5D Mark III and the 7D lacked this functionality, we are relieved that it has made its way down from the 1D X and the 6D. This enables you to do things like swap out the included screen for a more precise one that enables you to judge focus more accurately with faster lenses (it gives a more accurate preview of the depth-of-field for fast primes in comparison to the preview that the standard screen provides, which is between f/4 and f/5.6).

Body Elements

The newly designed 20-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor is the driving force behind the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. It is equipped with Canon’s proprietary dual-pixel AF architecture, which enables phase-detection pixels to be spread throughout 80% of the horizontal and vertical regions of the frame.

It has an ISO range that goes from 100 to 16,000 as usual, but it can go as high as 51,200.

The familiar joystick on the 7D Mark II has been redesigned to accommodate a thumb switch in its place.

This switch is configured, by default, to cycle through a variety of AF area selection options when toggled. It makes perfect sense that this switch would be dedicated to what is undoubtedly the next most used aspect of the autofocus system, which is the pattern of AF points that the joystick would move about.

Please take note that the switch may be programmed to control a variety of additional functions by going to the ‘Custom Controls’ menu.

The AEL and AF area selection buttons on the top right shoulder of the camera no longer have the capability to de-magnify or magnify as their predecessors did. This is managed by the ‘Magnify’ button, which can be found on the left side of the LCD.

It is regrettable that the AF area selection button cannot be reassigned, considering that this function is already the default behavior assigned to the thumb switch indicated above. However, this function cannot be reassigned.

The old ‘green square’ full auto and ‘Creative Auto’ positions have been combined into a single ‘Auto+’ mode (as seen previously on the EOS 5D Mark III, which, again, this camera’s body emulates in many ways). In addition, the mode dial now incorporates a central lock button.

A power switch in the same 7D form may be found underneath it.

The 7D retains both the IR remote control receiver (located in the bottom left) and the self-timer light (located in the upper right).

Importantly, this indicates that the Mark II will not include built-in autofocus (AF) illuminator, with the exception of the strobing flash (which we find incredibly annoying and would never use).

The big depth-of-field preview button found on the 5D Mark III has been carried over to the 7D Mark II. This button is located such that it can be used by the third finger on your right hand. When compared to the 7D, it is now a great deal simpler to reach, which is especially helpful when working with big lenses or shooting in portrait orientation.

Because of the pop-up flash, you now have the ability to visually trigger additional Speedlites.

It is also utilized in strobe mode to improve autofocus in low light, although we strongly advise you to turn this feature off because the strobed flash is so painfully intense that it might potentially cause blindness.

To assist the autofocus mechanism work more effectively in low light, Canon has developed a variety of Speedlites that generate IR or red patterns.

The 7D Mark II now has dual card slots that may be used for either CF or SD cards. It has the same file management features as cameras in the 1D series, so you may record JPEGs to one card and RAWs to the other, for example. Alternatively, you can duplicate all the data on both cards. You also have the option of programming the camera to automatically switch to the second card once the first one is filled up.

A headphone jacket has been added to the extensive bank of connections so that audio may be monitored while the video is being recorded. In addition to this, there are ports for USB 3.0 and HDMI, a stereo microphone socket, PC studio flash, and the standard N3-type remote control socket. A new battery called the LP-E6N is used in the Canon 7D Mark II camera.

This battery has a larger capacity than the LP-E6 batteries that were used in the Canon 5D Mark III and its predecessor. Importantly, the form factor has not changed, which means that you should still be able to use the previous LP-E6 batteries in it. This is a positive development.

When using the viewfinder, the battery will last for around 670 photos, but the live view mode will only allow for approximately 250 shots.

The tripod socket is arranged so that it is parallel to the axis of the lens, and it is encircled by a rubber pad for a fast-release plate that is of sufficient size.

Controls and Methods of Operation

Controls at the very top of the camera (right)

Current Canon owners will have no trouble becoming acclimated to the layout of the top controls of the 7D Mark II. The principal control dial is located just behind the shutter release button. Using this dial, you may alter the primary exposure parameter, such as the aperture in Av mode or the shutter speed in Tv mode.

The M-Fn button, which can be reprogrammed to do a variety of purposes including Flash Exposure Lock, is located in the middle of the two dials. It is important to keep in mind that the addition of the thumb switch surrounding the multi-controller on the back of the camera, which has its default function assigned to changing the AF area mode, frees up the M-Fn button to perform a different action that may be customized by the user.

There is a row of three buttons located behind the main dial. Each button may engage two different functions, and these functions can be adjusted using the front and rear dials.

White balance and metering are located on the left side of the camera, whereas flash exposure correction and ISO are located on the right. This button is at a particularly convenient location for altering the ISO setting when the camera is held up to the user’s eye. A smaller button that illuminates the top-plate LCD may be found just next to them.

Controls at the very top of the camera (left)

The power switch and mode dial are located on the other side of the pentaprism. In addition to the standard four exposure modes of Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual, this offers a fifth option called Bulb shutter mode and three user-defined locations where you may save the camera’s settings for certain situations that are frequently encountered.

There is also a setting known as Auto+ that was previously available on the 5D Mark III. This mode provides a wide variety of creative control that is centered on the outcomes of the photograph being taken, which makes the camera somewhat more “shareable” with users who are not photography specialists. The ‘Creative Auto’ mode, which was a combination of the green zone and program modes, is not available on the 7D, which is a notable omission. We can’t think that it will be missed very much at all.

Picture Styles, multiple exposure mode, and in-camera HDR can all be accessed through the new image effects button, which can be found at the very bottom of the image and directly to the right of the ‘Rate’ button. The option to compare photographs is available when the Playback mode is selected.

Controls in the back (right).

The majority of the important shooting controls for the Canon 7D Mark II are located on the back of the camera and are laid out such that your thumb can operate them.

The 7D is the origin of the combined Live View and Movie mode buttons. If you flick the lever to the Movie position, the camera will enter live view with a 16:9 preview, allowing you to compose in the appropriate aspect ratio.

Recording may be started by pressing the button in the middle of the device. When the lever is in the Stills position (as it is displayed), entering Live View may be accomplished by pushing the button.

While you are taking a picture, pressing the Q button will bring up an interactive controls panel. This screen gives you the ability to modify camera parameters that aren’t necessarily accessible directly through the camera’s other buttons. In addition to this, it incorporates superimposed option menus in the Live View and Playback modes, providing quick access to functions such as the ability to convert Raw files in-camera.

The new ‘AF area choose’ thumb switch is located above the Q button. This thumb switch enables you to switch between different AF area modes, and it may also be reassigned to a variety of other features by making use of the ‘Custom Controls’ feature.

Mark I owners will be comfortable using the remainder of the buttons and dials on the Mark II. The huge dial on the back may be used to adjust the aperture in Manual mode, as well as the exposure compensation in P, Av, and Tv modes.

The autofocus (AF) point may be moved across the frame by using the multi-controller joystick, either in conjunction with the button in the upper right corner of the screen, or, if you’d rather, directly (via a menu setting).

We believe the latter makes a great deal more sense when it comes to filming fluid motion, and we find it a bit absurd that the multi-controller is not immediately allocated to AF point selection by default.

Performance in the Rifle Shotgun

Continuous Shooting & Buffering: Even while the 7D Mark II’s frame rate of 10 frames per second is significantly less than the EOS 1D X’s frame rate of 12 frames per second, it is still an extremely quick rate.

We are operating on the assumption that the majority of users are more concerned with the high-speed performance of the device, despite the fact that it supports both high-speed and low-speed shooting rates. In our testing, the Mark II delivered the following results:

Viewfinder Shooting

There is no doubt that the 65-point autofocus system that is entirely cross-type is one of the most impressive aspects of the EOS 7D Mark II. Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: the focus system in question is really quick.

When using the One-Shot focus mode, it is simple to observe how the AF points light up nearly immediately after the shutter button has been pressed. There is no question that the autofocus mechanism swiftly detects a subject and focuses extremely quickly on it, but the exact speed with which it focuses will, of course, be determined by the lens that is now attached to the camera.

As was said before, the 7D II’s ability to shoot at 10 frames per second brings it dangerously close to the capabilities of the EOS 1D X, and based on our tests, the autofocus system is up to the challenge. When set to AI Servo mode, the system performs an outstanding job of keeping up with a subject that is rapidly moving either toward or away from the camera.

Even when you click the shutter button and start taking pictures at a rate of 10 frames per second, it performs a fantastic job of keeping the focus consistent from frame to frame. It is possible to observe the AF points following right along with the bicycle rider during the entire journey in the set of photographs that are shown below of the biker.

When it comes to dedicated phase-detect autofocus, this is the level of performance that we have come to anticipate from these types of systems. Fast focus and tracking of targets that are moving toward or away from the camera are the two most important aspects of dedicated phase-detect autofocus. In point of fact, the ability to do these things is one of the primary draws for professionals and hobbyists alike to choose DSLRs over their mirrorless equivalents.

We spent many weeks putting both pre-production and production units of the 7D II through their paces, and throughout that time, we were always amazed by the speed with which it could focus and its ability to keep focus even at the highest frame rates. It is lightning fast, and using it is a lot of fun. However, the incorporation of iTR into the AF system of the Mark II is what makes it much more fascinating than it already was.

iTR stands for “intelligent tracking and recognition.”

Although we are aware that the 7D Mark II is capable of exceptionally rapid focusing, the concern that arises when employing iTR is not “Will it focus quickly enough?” but rather “What will it focus on?” There are two aspects that are important to examine in this context: The first ability is the camera’s capacity to identify a person’s face, and the second is the device’s capacity to follow a face or other subject after it has been captured.

When iTR is activated and the camera is set to determine the location of the first AF point depending on the subject matter of the scene, the AF system successfully recognizes and focuses on faces.

Because the metering sensor has a substantially lower resolution to distinguish patterns than the full sensor does when live view mode is active, one of the presumptions that is made here is that the face needs to be sufficiently large for the metering sensor to recognize it. In actual use, the camera will typically get the focus correct so long as a face occupies approximately one third of the vertical space within the autofocus region when the camera is oriented horizontally.

When there are numerous faces in the picture, things get a little more complicated. In this instance, the camera will often concentrate on the face that is the largest (and most likely the one that is nearest) first.

iTR will give faces higher priority than other subjects when determining what subject to focus on and how to track it. However, in addition to subject distance, it will also take into account color patterns and other characteristics in the picture.

This indicates that even if you are photographing something other than a human subject, the autofocus mechanism will still make an effort to follow the subject as it moves.

You have the option of letting the system determine the starting AF point (or points) depending on the scene; alternatively, in the iTR settings, you have the option of telling the system to begin with an AF point that the user has specified and track from there.

This can be helpful when taking pictures using the “focus-and-recompose” method.

Tracking with iTR might be a bit of an unpredictable experience at times. There is no question that the system is able to follow topics, but the rate at which it can follow them is an area in which it occasionally experiences difficulty.

As long as the subject of your photograph does not change its position excessively fast, the autofocus points will usually do a decent job of keeping up with it. However, if a subject starts moving quickly, it is often easy to observe the AF points lagging behind the subject a bit. This happens when the subject is traveling faster than the AF points. If you click the shutter button too quickly, you run the risk of shooting a picture of your subject before the focus points have caught up with them.

One of the situations in which we see this in action is when using a variation of the “focus-and-recompose” technique. In this approach, you begin focusing on your subject by using the AF point or points located in the camera’s center, and then you allow the camera to move the AF points so that they remain focused on your subject as you recompose the shot.

As long as you don’t recompose too fast, iTR will normally retain the AF points above the subject. However, the points don’t follow your subject with the refinement and accuracy of Nikon’s 3D tracking and occasionally get lost. This is the case as long as you don’t recompose too rapidly. An illustration of this may be seen in the section of this review titled “Shooting Experience.”

The tracking system is functional to a certain extent, but it is not nearly on pace with the very finest tracking systems that we have tried. We discovered that the AF points have a propensity to go off the subject from time to time, which means that the system is not always as precise as we would like it to be.

Additionally, it does not demonstrate the same degree of confidence as Nikon’s 3D tracking, which assigns one AF point that uncannily follows your subject wherever it goes. We are quite impressed by the camera’s ability to recognize faces, but in future bodies, we would like to see Canon place more of emphasis on its tracking skills.

There is a possibility that utilizing iTR will cause the AF system to operate at a slightly slower speed. Because there is a lot of information being processed while iTR is active, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you. In actual use, we did not find this to be obvious in most situations, with the exception of the more taxing ones.

On the other hand, if you are in a scenario in which the ability to focus quickly is really essential, or in which the relevance of capturing facial expressions is insignificant, it is usually best to leave it turned off.

Shooting in Live View with Dual-Pixel Autofocus:

Live view shooting with the 7D II is, on the whole, a very pleasant experience, and this is largely because to the camera’s Dual-Pixel focusing mechanism. When we tested the Dual-Pixel autofocus on the EOS 70D, we discovered that it was exceptionally accurate and precise. Based on our observations with the 7D II in real-world situations, it looks to function just as well.

The Mark II does an excellent job at recognizing faces when filming in live view mode, and it is also exceptional in its ability to follow people or other things. Even if the topic or the photographer is moving, the camera will usually maintain the focus point fixed on the initial subject no matter which direction it travels in. This is true regardless of which direction the subject moves in.

Even if the subject is out of view of the camera for a fraction of a second, the camera will often reacquire it if it returns to the viewfinder within a few seconds. (In point of fact, this kind of tracking is exactly what we wish would be available when shooting with an optical viewfinder as well!)

There are some restrictions on how well this works, however, there aren’t many of them. Because focusing with Dual-Pixel AF in live view is slower than focusing through the viewfinder, it is possible that it will not function for subjects that are constantly moving.

During continuous filming, one area in which live view operation falls short is in its usability. The continuous shooting option does not make use of the fact that the Dual-Pixel autofocus is highly adept at tracking moving objects; nonetheless, it does have that capability.

You are able to shoot in a continuous fashion with this camera; however, as soon as you push the shutter halfway, the screen will black out, and the camera will lock the focus point in place, so it will remain in the position it was in before you began shooting.

You can see where the autofocus point locked focus and remained in position for the entirety of the burst in the series of photographs of the motorcyclist that are presented below.

Flicker detection

The Canon 7D Mark II also has the capacity to detect flicker from a light source that you are shooting under and react appropriately to it. This implies, at its most fundamental level, a warning that appears in the viewfinder to indicate that the camera has detected a flicker in the illumination.

If you want to capture video, this can be helpful since it encourages the use of multiple shutter speeds, which helps prevent the brightness of your movie from changing as it is being shot.

However, the camera will do more than simply warn you; it will also synchronize its continuous shooting to meet the peak brightness of the light’s alternating dimming and brightening pattern. This may slow down the continuous shooting pace, but it should eliminate the uneven image brightness that might occur between frames when working with artificial illumination.

Autofocus and exposure metering

A completely brand new 65-point AF module

The autofocus (AF) module of the Canon 7D Mark II is totally new, and it was designed after the AF system in the Canon 1 DX, which is designed for professional use. It has 65 autofocus points that are dispersed throughout a significant amount of the frame, with a coverage area that is particularly extensive horizontally.

When utilizing lenses with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster, all of these AF points are cross-type, but the center AF point has the ability to do high-precision, dual cross-type focusing when used in conjunction with lenses that have an aperture of f/2.8 or faster. In addition to this, the center point can focus with lenses (or lens/teleconverter combinations) that have an aperture as slow as f/8, and it can also focus down to an EV value of -3. While compared to the 1D X and the 5D Mark III, this central point now has a benefit of 1 EV when shooting in low light.

Only 41 of the 61 AF points on the 1DX and 5D Mark III are cross-type, but the 65 cross-type AF points on the 7D Mark II are capable of identifying detail in both the horizontal and vertical planes. An autofocus (AF) system that has the capability to detect both sorts of information is more reliable.

For instance, if the camera is turned into the portrait position, an AF point that can only detect horizontal detail when it is in the landscape orientation will only detect vertical detail when it is in the portrait orientation. Because of this, it may be more difficult to maintain focus on horizontal lines, such as the horizon or even one’s own eyes.

When a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or faster is mounted to the 7D Mark II, the center autofocus point transforms into a high-precision dual cross-type point, which helps the camera handle difficult focusing conditions. This indicates that it is able to identify diagonal lines with wide aperture lenses, in addition to being able to detect horizontal and vertical lines (it provides sensors that are both x-shaped and +-shaped).

Because the dual diagonal sensors have larger baselines, it is possible for them to deliver greater focus precision. This should be helpful in applications that demand critical concentration, such as those dealing with short depth-of-field.

Totally brand new RGB and IR metering sensor with 150,000 pixels

Canon is also launching a new RGB + IR metering sensor with 150,000 pixels with the release of the 7D Mark II. This sensor filters in and improves upon the technology that was initially launched with the 1D X. When compared to the 63-zone metering system present in the 7D and the 5D Mark III, the sensor’s capacity to employ color and IR information to see the scene and perform scene analysis should, in theory, result in more accurate metering.

And although it’s wonderful to see this technology flow down from the 1D X, we’re perplexed as to why Canon left out the 1D X’s ability to bind spot-metering to the selected AF point in the 5D Mark III. Sincerity compels us to state that we want Canon to implement the metering sensor technology and all of its benefits (scene analysis, spot-metering connected to AF point, and iTR) in each and every one of its DSLR cameras, just as Nikon has done throughout its entire range of DSLR cameras. **

Intelligent Monitoring and Recognition Systems (iTR)

When operating in AI Servo mode, the RGB + IR metering sensor is also put to use for subject identification to assist with focus tracking. This is the first time that we have seen iTR used on a camera other than the 1D X, and it is referred to as Intelligent Tracking and Recognition, or iTR for short. When the focus is first established, the goal behind iTR is to make use of the color and infrared information collected by the RGB + IR sensor in order to have a better understanding of the subject at the chosen AF point.

After obtaining this information, the camera is able to utilize it to follow the target while keeping its focus on it. After activating iTR on the 1D X, we saw a significant increase in the camera’s capability to automatically identify the right AF point to follow the subject that was being focused on. Especially when compared to the state in which iTR was disabled, as well as when contrasted with the 7D and the 5D Mark III, both of which are devoid of iTR.

The interesting thing about iTR is that it has the ability to help not only with sports photography but also with a lot of other kinds of photography that need accurate placement of the AF point over a moving subject. This is one of the reasons why it is so fascinating. When it comes to dealing with focus shift caused by re-framing or by subject movement, we feel that iTR, in addition to Nikon’s equivalent ‘3D focus tracking’ (which is available throughout the company’s whole line of DSLRs), is quite beneficial.

This is especially important to keep in mind while shooting photographs with a small depth of focus with fast prime lenses, particularly wide-angle ones. In addition, iTR and Nikon’s counterpart are both able to detect faces and focus on (as well as track) those faces even when Live View is not enabled.

AF setup

The somewhat complicated autofocus mechanism of the Canon 1D X and Canon 5D Mark III has been inherited by the Canon 7D Mark II, which results in a streamlined menu structure for customizing the AF system. Presets are based on different use cases, and each preset may be customized individually. In addition, AF micro-adjustment is provided to assist in critical focus, which is especially helpful with fast primes and zooms that have an aperture of f/2.8.

Due to the fact that we have not yet had the opportunity to capture screen grabs from the 7D Mark II, we have included some of the menu settings that are available on the Canon 5D Mark III below. However, we did check, and we found out that the menus of options displayed below are exactly the same.

The thumb switch is used to choose the AF area.

A thumb switch that, by default, gives you control over the camera’s autofocus area selection mode is one of the new additions to the Canon 7D Mark II.

Importantly, if you don’t want to utilize the thumb switch to pick the AF region, you may reassign it to one of the following purposes by taking advantage of the ‘Custom Controls’ functionality that is included on all recent Canon cameras:

Mode for selecting the AF area (default)

  • AE Lock
  • Lock and Hold for AE
  • Toggle between the AF point that has been selected and the AF point that is center (or registered).
  • ISO (with dial)
  • Exposure Compensation (with dial)
  • Various Modes for AF Area Selection
  • Single-point spot AF (manual selection)

When you switch to this mode, you will be responsible for manually selecting which of the 65 AF points will be utilized for focus. In practice, just a small portion of the AF point itself is employed to achieve a better level of accuracy.

Single-point AF (manual selection)

When you switch to this mode, you will be responsible for manually selecting which of the 65 AF points will be utilized for focus.

AF point expansion (manual selection)

In this mode, you manually pick an AF point for focus, and the camera utilizes that point in conjunction with points that are close by (effectively creating a 3×3 grid) to acquire focus.

Zone AF: 9 zones (manual selection)

In this mode, you manually pick one of 9 zones, which are specified by either a 4×3 grid on the sides or a 5×3 grid in the middle, and the camera focuses on a subject that falls beneath an AF point or points that are included inside this zone.

Large Zone AF: 3 zones (manual selection)

In this mode, you will manually pick one of three areas: the left cluster of AF points, the center cluster of AF points, or the right cluster of AF points. When a subject falls inside the range of one or more of the camera’s autofocus (AF) points, the camera will concentrate on that subject.

65-point automated selection AF

In the autofocus setting known as “One Shot,” the camera decides both the subject that will be in the center of the frame and the AF point that will be used.

In the ‘AI Servo’ autofocus mode, once you make an initial selection of a focus point, the camera will automatically make further selections of the appropriate focus point(s) to keep the subject in the frame.

live view in addition to the movie AF

The Dual Pixel AF sensor, which has a total of 40 million pixels, effectively divides all of them in half, with half of them being able to take in light from the right-hand side of the lens and the other half from the left. The final photos are created by combining pairs of pixels to produce files with a resolution of 20 megapixels, which sample all of the light that enters the lens.

However, because the camera is able to compare the light coming from both the left and right sides of the lens, it is able to give phase-detection focusing even when the mirror is in the up position. Read our review of the EOS 70D for a more comprehensive breakdown of this topic.

Live view with automatic focusing

This technology helped provide the EOS 70D with faster autofocus in live view mode than we had previously seen from Canon’s DSLRs, but it still wasn’t as fast as when combining the optical viewfinder and the specialized PDAF sensor together in the camera. When we tested the EOS 70D, what surprised us the most were not so much the speed but the precision of the Dual Pixel AF system. It was able to provide results that were far more consistent than what the dedicated AF module was capable of.

Unfortunately, the information of subject distance that this technology provides is not employed to enable tracking autofocus while the camera is in live view mode. Just like the 70D, the 7D II does not attempt to refocus in live view when continuous shooting is being done.

Movie autofocus

During the filming process, the on-sensor phase-detection is utilized in several ways. Face Detection + Tracking, FlexiZone Multi, and FlexiZone Single are the three options for the autofocus point selection modes that may be used when shooting movies with your camera.

When paired with Movie Servo AF, the following choices allow the user to choose how the camera refocuses when the user has selected the beginning location for the autofocus system in the final of those modes:

The AF Tracking Sensitivity setting determines how tenaciously the camera will attempt to maintain the previously set focus depth, even if anything gets in the way of the camera’s view of the subject. You also have the ability to alter the speed of the autofocus, which allows you to determine how easily the camera shifts its focus from one location to another.

During this mode, the flash button located on the front panel of the camera also functions as the AF lock. As a result, it should be simple to regulate when the camera will attempt to refocus and when it won’t.

It’s a shame that, unlike the EOS 70D, the 7D II doesn’t have a touchscreen, but that’s not the only drawback. It may sound like an unusual thing to search for in such a traditional DSLR, but a touchscreen may be a fantastic method to re-position the focal point when you are filming a moving image. Despite this, there is a mode that allows you to utilize the back joystick while recording.

Utilizing Autofocus While Shooting in Live View and Video

When you are shooting video or stills in live view mode, the process of identifying and tracking subjects with the on-sensor AF system is quite constant. This is true whether you are shooting video or stills. We’ll spend most of our time discussing the Face + Tracking mode since it’s actually the most intriguing in terms of how the camera makes use of Dual-Pixel AF and the things that it can accomplish.

When Face Plus Tracking is turned on, the system instantly recognizes and locks on to a face if there is one in the picture. To indicate that the face has been identified, the system places a little square that is proportionate to its size over the face. When there are many faces in the scene, the camera will often focus on the one that is the most evident first; however, when there are numerous faces, little arrows will appear to indicate that more faces have been identified as well. A little movement to the left or right on the joystick will cycle between all of the faces that have been spotted in the picture. It is easy to understand, and it works quickly.

If there are no faces in the frame, you have the option of either letting the Face + Tracking mode automatically choose the AF point for you (in which case it reverts to FlexiZone-Multi focus mode), or manually selecting a subject to focus on. One rapid push of the joystick will activate a user-controllable focus square in the center of the frame. Positioning the square over the subject you want in focus and pressing the shutter halfway will lock the focus on that subject.

After the autofocus has been locked onto a face or another subject, the AF system will track that face or subject very carefully in all three dimensions with a high degree of precision. When a subject moves either toward or away from the camera, there is a discernible absence of focus hunting in the image. Before the AF system will switch targets, it must be convinced that another face or object has convincingly taken over the frame or that the original subject has been completely obscured. In other words, the original subject must be completely hidden from view before the AF system will switch targets.

The phase-detect AF mechanism in the viewfinder is significantly faster than the Dual-Pixel autofocus. Although focusing through the viewfinder may be done in a flash, it is more accurate to say that focusing in live view is trustworthy.

Video Quality

We are dissatisfied that Canon has not made major improvements to the video recording capabilities of the 7D Mark II, despite the camera’s inclusion of intriguing new features such as clear 4:2:2 HDMI video output and Dual-Pixel AF. It provides an incremental step from the 7D and is pretty comparable to the 5D III in that it has a tendency to be soft and has poorly resolved details. This was the case in both our in-studio test as well as our experience out in the real world.

We are going to take a more in-depth look at the video quality of the Mark II, as well as compare it head-to-head with the Panasonic GH4, which is currently one of our top performers for video. Unless otherwise specified, each video was captured with the best possible quality level on each camera and with the recording parameters set to their defaults. (Because the 7D Mark II is incapable of recording in 4K, we were forced to restrict our filming to 1080p on the Panasonic GH4.)

Downloading the original video files is strongly recommended so that you may avoid the compression artifacts that are frequently seen in YouTube’s renditions of videos.

General Video Quality

The first video was captured with a dual-head tripod with the 7D Mark II and GH4 attached to it in order to keep the field of view consistent between the two cameras. When we first look at the film taken with simply the Mark II, we notice that the colors are typically attractive, even though when watched at 100 percent it has a softer feel.

When the film from the 7D II and the GH4 are compared side by side, the 7D II footage seems extremely unclear. Simply put, the GH4 side of the screen appears to have superior clarity and level of detail. Details are discernible in locations such as the brick walls of the houses and the tree branches, but the 7D II just cannot capture these kinds of nuances. When we look at these regions at a magnification of 200 percent, we can see how significantly less detail the Mark II is obtaining.

We shot the second movie in a setting that is notoriously difficult for DSLR cameras to capture on video because it contains both diagonals and lines that are packed closely together. The image appears to be lacking in sharpness once more, especially when the right side of the screen is substituted by video captured by the GH4.

Even at the maximum zoom level of one hundred percent, it is clear to see that the 7D II is missing a great deal of information on the aluminum walkway. The closely packed diagonal lines of the walkway are almost entirely erased, in contrast to how they appear in the footage captured with the GH4, where they are more apparent.

When viewed at a magnification of 200 percent, the Mark II film reveals far less information. That is not to claim that the GH4 is flawless; the camera has some problems with stair-stepping on diagonal surfaces such as the railings and even on the path itself, but there is a great deal more detail there to work with.

Compression

We decided to shoot a scene of moving water in order to put Mark II’s three levels of video compression to the test. These levels are referred to as All-I, IPB, and IPB-light.

Flowing water is typically an excellent challenge for video compression since there is a lot of movement, usually random movement between frames. This makes moving water an interesting topic to capture, despite the fact that it is not the most visually engaging subject to photograph.

On a test like this, one may anticipate that some methods of compression, such as All-I, in which each frame is recorded in its own unique way, would do better.

If you look closely, you will most likely notice that the All-I footage is superior to the IPB footage, which is superior to the IPB-light film, which is superior to the All-I footage. It’s fine if you can’t tell the difference between the two. A single still image from the video might often provide more information than the whole thing does.

When examining the still image, it is much simpler to differentiate between the two versions, particularly between the All-I and the IPB-light. While you begin to make changes to the video, such as modifying the contrast or color grading, compression artifacts have a tendency to become more noticeable, even though the differences between the two are not immediately apparent when watching the video as it is immediately exported from the camera.

When photographing subjects that have a great amount of motion, our advice is to select All-I mode because it should produce the most editable results. There probably won’t be much of a difference between All-I and IPB when it comes to photos that have very little motion, such as an interview subject sitting in a chair during the interview.

In our hands-on experience, compression artifacts appear to manifest themselves considerably more readily when using IPB-light; unless you are very strapped for memory cards, we would advise staying away from this compression method.

Dim Lighting

How the camera reacts while shooting at high ISO in low light is demonstrated in our low light image, which also features Sam, who serves as the resident studio manager. It’s not terrible at ISO 6400, but much like other Canon video DSLRs, it has a tendency to oversharpen the dark regions and doesn’t leave much detail behind for you to recover.

The Dual-Pixel focusing mechanism locked onto Sam’s face and never let go, ensuring that he remained in focus for the entirety of the photo. This is a positive development.

Images Quality

When it comes to the quality of the images it creates, the Mark II is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Its resolution sensor is 20.2 megapixels, which is only a marginal improvement over the 7D’s resolution sensor and is not very obvious on its own. Simply said, it is not sufficient justification to warrant an upgrade from a 7D.

Despite this, Canon has been hard at work behind the scenes. Jpeg processing has undergone significant advancements since the release of the first 7D, and as a result, Jpeg files are now able to keep noise levels low while still preserving color and contrast for an additional stop (and sometimes more).

Raw noise is marginally improved, but the big advancement that Canon has made in this area is the eradication of banding, which is typically seen in regions of deep darkness on the majority of other EOS cameras. However, overall noise in shadows at low ISOs is still rather significant in comparison to what the competition provides. As a consequence, the camera has a relatively limited base ISO dynamic range, which results in less exposure latitude when shooting in Raw.

The situation is the same with regard to the video side of things. The All-I codec should produce better results when recording subjects that have a lot of motion, but the actual quality of the video files is only slightly improved when compared to the quality of the video files produced by the 7D, and they appear to be qualitatively comparable to the video files produced by the 5D III.

In addition, seeing as how 4K recording is becoming increasingly commonplace among cameras, we were surprised that the 7D II did not feature the capability. 4K is not a silver bullet, and it would be simple to look beyond this gap if there was a clear emphasis on offering top-notch 1080p footage; but, this does not appear to be the case. 4K is not a magic bullet.

In spite of the many advancements made for video recording, it appears that Canon is not making many efforts to improve the quality of the recorded video. As a consequence of this, the 7D II is unable to compete with other cameras in its price range, such as the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony a7S.

It is almost as if Dual-Pixel autofocus was included here as a sort of gateway drug to entice serious video shooters to move up to Cinema EOS cameras, which feature both top-notch video and Dual-Pixel autofocus. These cameras are designed to attract serious video shooters who are interested in moving up to higher-end cameras.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Specs

Body typeMid-size SLR
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution5472 x 3648
Other resolutions4104 x 2736 (M-Raw), 3648 x 2432, 2736 x 1824, 1920 x 1080, 720 x 480
Image ratio w:h3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels20 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors21 megapixels
Sensor sizeAPS-C (22.4 x 15 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorDIGIC 6 (dual)
Color spacesRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISOAuto, ISO 100-16000 (expandable to 51200)
Boosted ISO (maximum)51200
White balance presets8
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, normal
File formatJPEG (EXIF v2.3, DCF v2.0)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points65
Lens mountCanon EF/EF-S
Focal length multiplier1.6×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDNo
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,040,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typeClear View II TFT-LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeOptical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification1× (0.62× 35mm equiv.)
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Exposure modesScene Intelligent AutoProgram AEShutter priority AEAperture priority AEManual exposureBulbCustom (1-3)
Built-in flashYes
External flashYes (via hot shoe, flash sync port)
Flash X sync speed1/250 sec
Drive modesSingleHigh-speed continuousLow-speed continuousSilent single shootingSilent continuous shooting10-sec self-timer / remote control2 sec self-timer / remote control
Continuous drive10.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpotPartial
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (59.94, 50. 29.97, 25, 24, 23.98 fps), 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50, 29.97, 25 fps), 640 x 480 (29.97, 25 fps)
FormatMPEG-4
Videography notesChoice of MOV or MP4 and IPB, Light IBP, ALL-I compression
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesCompactFlash + SD/SDHC/SDXC
Connectivity
USBUSB 3.0 (5 GBit/sec)
HDMIYes (mini-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
Remote controlYes (wired or wireless)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLP-E6N lithium-ion battery and charger
Battery Life (CIPA)670
Weight (inc. batteries)910 g (2.01 lb / 32.10 oz)
Dimensions149 x 112 x 78 mm (5.87 x 4.41 x 3.07″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
GPSBuilt-in

Final Verdict

It would be simple to dismiss the EOS 7D Mark II as merely an incremental update to the previous generation of the 7D, yet doing so would be a grave error of judgment. Although the number 7 and the letter D may be found on the exterior of both cameras, the cameras themselves are totally distinct devices on the inside.

Canon is putting a stake in the ground and demonstrating that it is dedicated to the crop sensor market with the release of the 7D II. The Canon 7D Mark II is undeniably a professional camera, despite the fact that it will most likely be considered an aspirational camera for beginners or an upgrade route for folks who are currently using more consumer-oriented crop sensor models from Canon. It boasts a construction similar to that of a tank, the control layout of a 5D Mark III, and an autofocus technology that can rival that of the 1D X.

One of the many new features that Canon included in the Mark II merits special attention, though. It’s possible that dual-pixel autofocus is one of the most crucial yet underappreciated technologies that’s been added to digital cameras in a very long time.

The fact that Canon is now incorporating this technology into their Cinema EOS cameras is a huge development. It looks like Canon is still working to find the most effective way to deploy the technology, but it will be fascinating to watch how things go in this area.

There will surely be criticism from customers who are frustrated that they have had to wait five years for a relatively insignificant two-megapixel sensor improvement, but this point of view completely ignores the point of the camera. In essence, what Canon has done is pack as much of a 1D X into a tiny body priced at $1,800 as is humanly feasible, and the company appears to have been extremely successful in accomplishing this goal. There should be no confusion about the fact that this is a professional camera, as evidenced by the fact that it possesses professional-level features and functions.

So, should you go ahead and give it a shot? Most certainly, yeah. If you now own a Canon 7D and are considering upgrading to a more powerful camera, the 7D Mark II is an excellent choice since it can outperform the 7D while retaining its user-friendliness and familiarity. It would be difficult to make the incorrect choice if you shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and want more telephoto reach, really rapid shooting, or reliable autofocus.

The image quality is really great, and it is nearly impossible to differentiate between the two subjects. For that matter, everyone who has ever contemplated purchasing a 1D X needs to probably have a look at the 7D Mark II as well; it could really fit your demands at a much lower price point. Moreover, anyone who has ever considered purchasing a 7D Mark II ought to look at the 1D X. Can we now say “goodbye banding” to photographers who shoot raw using the majority of other EOS bodies?

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a fantastic camera that represents a significant improvement over its predecessor. It does have some problems, but there are a lot more positive aspects to it than there are negative ones.

Having said that, a sensor with greater performance, an iTR performance that is on pace with its top competitors, or outrageously high definition video to go along with the Dual-Pixel focusing would have set it apart from other products in its category. In point of fact, the 7D II would have qualified for the Gold Award in the event of any of these. Instead, due to its extremely impressive performance, it has been given our Silver Award.

Pros & Cons

Best For
  • Autofocus with dual pixels for use in live view and video
  • shooting at a rate of 10 frames per second
  • sensitivity of EV -3 for the center of the AF point
  • Fast autofocus
  • iTR metering sensor equipped with facial recognition, subject identification, and tracking capabilities
Need Improvement
  • There is no AF available when shooting continuously in live view.
  • iTR has difficulty keeping an accurate track on moving subjects, particularly quick ones.
  • Raw files have a relatively low dynamic range at their base ISO and exposure latitude.
  • There is no connection between spot metering and the AF point.
  • Soft video loses detail
  • During live view shooting, there was a lengthy blackout on the screen.
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
Even though it has an APS-C sensor, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a professional-grade camera in every other regard. Its ability to shoot at a rate of 10 frames per second and its lightning-fast autofocus set it apart from the majority of its competitors. However, it also includes features such as Intelligent Tracking and Recognition (iTR) for improved focus tracking, Dual-Pixel autofocus for smooth, natural-looking focus when shooting video, and ergonomics that are on par with those of Canon's 5D Mark III. Although its dynamic range and video quality are not as good as those of some of its competitors, it leads the pack in terms of its overall performance.

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