Canon 70D Review

 
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Canon 70D Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Groundbreaking Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology delivers full-time continuous autofocusing for both video recording and Live View still shooting and features on-chip phase detect system with nearly two-thirds frame coverage at every single pixel
  • Extremely smooth and accurate camcorder-like video AF
  • High quality, Full HD (1080p) video at 30p and 24p, with pro-level ALL-I and IPB compression
  • 19-point all-cross-type conventional AF system with microadjustment
  • Exceptionally fast (pro-grade) conventional autofocus lag
  • Improved Live View still AF (though still not as fast as most mirrorless cameras)
  • 20.2-megapixel APS-C sensor delivers improved resolution over the 60D
  • Very good high ISO performance
  • Excellent hue accuracy with manual white balance
  • Quality 30 x 40 inch prints at base ISO
  • Decent, stabilized kit lens with versatile focal range (18-135mm STM)
  • Low shutter lag and very fast cycle times
  • Speedy 6.7fps burst mode, with good buffer depths for its class
  • Sharp and bright 3-inch LCD touchscreen that swivels a very useful max of 270 degrees
  • Built-in, pop-up flash supports wireless control of slave flash units
  • Very fast flash recycle speeds
  • Excellent Wi-Fi features, especially remote shooting via Canon app (iOS and Android) with full exposure controls
  • Highlight Tone Priority and Auto Lighting Optimizer features help with harsh lighting
  • Built-in lens corrections for shading and chromatic aberration can be individually controlled
  • Multi Shot Noise Reduction and Handheld Night Scene modes
  • In-camera HDR feature with adjustable strength (though see Con about cropping)
  • Three RAW file resolutions: Large (20MP), Medium (11MP) and Small (5MP)
  • Very good battery life when using optical viewfinder
  • Image quality hasn't improved much since the 60D, though added resolution helps produce larger prints
  • Sensor's dynamic range is not improved, still lower than competing models
  • Very warm results with Auto and Incandescent white balance indoors
  • Outdoor shots with Auto white balance slightly cool
  • In-camera HDR mode crops away more of the image than most systems
  • Lacks dedicated white balance button
  • Only 97% optical viewfinder coverage
  • Higher than average geometric distortion and chromatic aberration from the kit lens (though camera automatically suppresses C.A.)
  • Video exhibits more moiré and anti-aliasing effects than pro-level models like the 5D Mark III
  • Cannot record video remotely using Canon Wi-Fi app
  • AF assist performed by flash (but does not require flash exposure)
  • Single card slot
  • No headphone jack

The Canon 70D ultimately may not have delivered what everyone wanted or expected -- a significant upgrade in still image quality over its predecessor, the 60D -- but instead it ushered in a new technology so unexpected (and useful) that there's no way we could be disappointed. For those looking for a better increase in image quality, we'd recommend the Nikon D7100 (70D vs D7100). But we love when a camera manufacturer surprises us with a treat like Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. After all, a rare, groundbreaking innovation like this doesn't come around too often.

What's even better is that the 70D's full-time phase detection autofocus system for video and Live View shooting -- with PDAF at every pixel in the AF area -- more than lives up to its promise. We were thoroughly impressed by how quickly and accurately the Dual Pixel CMOS AF operated. For movies, this technology finally puts true camcorder-like performance into an HD-DSLR; it's been a long time coming. Racking focus between near and far subjects is especially easy and smooth with the 70D's LCD touchscreen touch-to-focus feature. And when using Live View for still shooting, the advanced autofocusing felt nearly as fast as traditional viewfinder shooting under most scenarios.

It's not just the Canon 70D's revolutionary AF system that makes it a video powerhouse. The camera is capable of Full 1080p HD recording at 24fps and 30fps, offers ALL-I and IPB compression modes and provides many other pro-level features. While its videos may exhibit a bit more moiré than, say, the 5D Mark III and other higher-end models, the 70D produces excellent quality movies for its class. We just wish you could shoot video remotely via the camera's otherwise-stellar built-in Wi-Fi system.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, our reviewer had a blast setting up and using the 70D's remote still shooting mode to capture some hummingbirds outside in the summer heat while he rested in his air-conditioned living room waiting for the right moment. Using Canon's EOS Remote app (available for both iOS and Android smartphones), you maintain full control of exposure and focus while you're photographing from a distance -- not something every camera's Wi-Fi's system can do, but they should. Combine this with the camera's 3-inch, 270-degree articulating LCD touchscreen, and you've added a lot of versatility that goes a long way to help you get just the right shot.

Finally, we return to the still image quality issue. First off, let it be known that the Canon 70D still takes great pictures, just not ones that are exceedingly better than the 60D or 7D can take. Some Canon fans are understandably upset about this. The dynamic range isn't much better either, and the 70D still trails many of its competitors in this area. It does improve a bit in resolution, moving up to a 20.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor from an 18-megapixel one, without hurting much from smaller pixel sizes. And the camera does perform better at high sensitivities than its predecessors -- and many competitors. Its processing seems to be more even-handed and less aggressive with noise reduction at those pumped-up sensitivities.

The Canon 70D may not be what fans had hoped for, but it looks to us like it has laid a new foundation for autofocusing performance with a technology that we wouldn't be surprised to see rolled out in other Canon cameras in the near future. While it's not necessarily geared for everybody -- especially those who demand the ultimate in image quality -- it's still a remarkable prosumer DSLR that's especially ideal for video enthusiasts and independent filmmakers, as well as anyone who puts high value on quick and accurate autofocus (Yes, even the conventional AF is ferociously fast!). For all these reasons, the Canon 70D earns a resounding Dave's Pick, and its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is among our early front-runners for our camera Technology of the Year.

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