Canon 70D Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon EOS 70D
Resolution: 20.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Kit Lens: 7.50x zoom
18-135mm
(29-216mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
ISO: 100-25600
Shutter: 30-1/8000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in.
(139 x 104 x 79 mm)
Weight: 43.5 oz (1,233 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $1,550
Availability: 09/2013
Manufacturer: Canon
20.20
Megapixels
Canon EF, EF-S APS-C
size sensor
image of Canon EOS 70D
Front side of Canon EOS 70D digital camera Back side of Canon EOS 70D digital camera Top side of Canon EOS 70D digital camera Left side of Canon EOS 70D digital camera Right side of Canon EOS 70D digital camera

70D Review Summary: The long-awaited Canon 70D comes packed with a groundbreaking new technology -- Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system -- that provides on-chip phase detection autofocus at every single pixel. That means a DSLR can finally record video with full-time continuous AF that's truly camcorder-like, with smooth racking and exceptional subject tracking. And it improves Live View AF to the point where using the LCD monitor feels almost as fast as traditional viewfinder shooting. The 70D also gets an upgrade to 20.2 megapixels of resolution, as well as compelling Wi-Fi features that include remote image capture with full exposure controls. The camera may not wow enthusiasts looking for significantly better still image quality, but the Canon 70D marks a serious step up for photographers wanting pro-level video performance and quality.

Pros: Dual Pixel CMOS AF delivers full-time continuous autofocus (with phase detect at every pixel in framing area) for video and Live View still shooting; Full HD (1080p) video recording with pro-level features and quality; Improved resolution and good high ISO performance; Excellent Wi-Fi remote shooting with full exposure controls; 3-inch articulating LCD touchscreen.

Cons: Image quality only improved slightly over 60D; Dynamic range still lags behind competing models; May not feature enough upgrades to convince people to step up from 60D.

Price and availability: Available since September 2013, the Canon EOS 70D is priced at around US$1,200 body-only. Two kit bundles are offered: one with the 18-55mm STM lens for US$1,350, and another with the 18-135mm STM lens for US$1,550. A dedicated 70D battery grip is also available for US$270.

Imaging Resource rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Canon 70D Review

by William Brawley, Mike Tomkins, Dave Etchells and
Preview posted 07/02/2013

Review posted

Canon 70D review -- Front quarter view

The Canon 70D may very well have started a revolution with an innovative autofocus system that's new not only for Canon DSLRs, but also for the camera industry as a whole. Thanks to its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, the Canon 70D -- a replacement for the three-year-old 60D -- could change the way you shoot both video and still images.

At the heart of this innovation is the Canon 70D's image sensor, a 20.2-megapixel APS-C-type CMOS chip that's been designed to accommodate on-chip phase detection -- but with one huge difference. To date, on-chip phase detect systems have provided but a handful of focus points scattered across the sensor's surface. With the Canon 70D, almost two-thirds of its surface area at the center of the frame can provide phase-detect AF, and not just at a handful of locations -- we're talking phase detect at every single pixel.

And unlike typical hybrid systems which use phase detect simply for a ballpark distance and direction to focus, then fine-tune with contrast-detect AF, the Canon 70D's on-chip phase detect is accurate enough that tuning with contrast detection isn't necessary. That is huge news for video capture, because it means no more hunting around the point of focus. With the AF bobble gone, full-time video becomes a much more exciting proposition, letting you quickly and smoothly guide your viewers' attention between subjects without distraction.

Want the full and unabridged story on the Canon 70D's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system?
Read IR founder Dave Etchells' in-depth analysis to learn how it works, and what it can do.

The new image sensor doesn't just drive the completely new autofocus system; in addition, its resolution has been increased slightly over the Canon 60D's. Sensor size is unchanged, but Canon has increased the active imaging area of the sensor slightly, from 22.3 x 14.9mm to 22.5 x 15.0mm. This means that, although pixel pitch has been reduced, the difference isn't as great as you might otherwise expect. A simultaneous switch to Canon's new DIGIC 5+ image processor further aims to tame image noise.

Canon 70D review -- Another three quarter view

The net result is that, according to Canon, the 70D will produce noise levels that are roughly on par with the lower-res 60D for raw shooting. Meanwhile, the company says that JPEG shooters will see a "huge improvement" in image quality. To back up that claim, the ISO sensitivity range has been expanded to encompass everything from ISO 100 to 12,800 equivalents, with the ability to expand sensitivity as high as ISO 25,600 equivalent. Further in our review we'll see if the camera live up to these promises.

The new image processor also yields a significant increase in burst shooting performance, which is now rated by Canon at a full seven frames per second.

Canon has gifted the EOS 70D with a new body that's just slightly smaller, while retaining the same side-swiveling LCD monitor, and packing in several new features. These include a touch-panel overlay on the LCD monitor, built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity, a stereo microphone, and the same Live View control seen on other recent Canon SLRs. And supplementing the new on-chip phase detection system, there's also a new dedicated autofocus sensor, identical to that used in the EOS 7D.

[Note that in some markets, a variant of the Canon EOS 70D is offered without the aforementioned Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity. Technically, the Wi-Fi enabled variant is known as the EOS 70D (W), and the variant without Wi-Fi as the EOS 70D (N).]

Canon 70D review -- Comparison with Panasonic GH3
The Canon EOS 70D's design clearly shows a strong focus on video. Here, it's compared to one of the most video-friendly mirrorless cameras, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GH3.

As well as all of the hardware changes, Canon has made numerous tweaks to firmware as well. These include the ability to preview creative filter effects before shooting, a new 3x to 10x variable video zoom function, the same video snapshot feature seen in recent Rebel-series cameras, and a choice of both ALL-I and IPB compression schemes for video, along with optional time code.

Walkaround. Although the Canon 70D looks a lot like its predecessor, it does feature a brand-new body design. Let's take a look at what's stayed the same, and what's been changed.

Canon 70D review -- Front view

Seen from the front, the Canon 70D is a little less wide than is predecessor. Otherwise, though, the basic dimensions are pretty close to those of the 60D. The arrangement of controls and features on the front of the camera is near-identical. The most significant difference is the absence of the small four-hole microphone port that, on the 60D, sat directly above the model number badge.

Canon 70D review -- Top view

Seen from above, the Canon 70D likewise retains an arrangement very much like that of the 60D. As well as the two four-hole ports for the relocated microphone -- now stereo, and straddling the rear of the hot shoe -- there's a new button between the Shutter button and front dial. This new control is used to select between autofocus area modes. The number of positions on the Mode dial has also been slashed by a third, to just 10.

Canon 70D review -- Rear view

It's when you come to the rear of the camera that the changes are more significant. In fact, something of a game of musical chairs has taken place. The Menu and Info buttons have jumped from the top right corner of the LCD monitor, and now sit above its top left corner, instead. With its chair taken, the Delete button has grabbed a spot at the bottom right corner of the display.

That move left the Playback button homeless, and so it has jumped up to take the spot previously occupied by the Info button. The Quick Menu button now sits above it, with its old spot now button-free. The Unlock / Print button of the 60D is replaced by a Lock switch, and the Live View button is substituted for a more modern Live View switch with central Start / Stop button.

The LCD monitor looks identical, but now features a touch-screen overlay. In other respects, the layout is much as it was.

Canon 70D review -- Left view

The left-hand side of the EOS 70D (as seen from the rear) also shows a few changes. The connectivity available on this side is as it was, but the original single flap covering all of the ports has been split in two, with one half moved slightly behind the other. Microphone / wired remote terminals sit in front of and above the HDMI and combined AV Out / Digital (USB) ports. Above these, the speaker grille is now a nine-hole instead of seven-hole arrangement.

Canon 70D review -- Right view

On the right-hand side, the changes are solely cosmetic, with no features added or removed.

 

Shooting with the Canon 70D

by William Brawley

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The Canon 70D coupled with the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens proved to be a great, comfortable combo that produced sharp images, pleasing colors and nice, creamy bokeh. (Shot with Live View)

When Canon announced the 5D Mark II five years ago, it took the video production world by storm. It was the first full-frame DSLR with high-definition video recording capabilities, and was offered at an extremely affordable price compared to other large-sensor video cameras at the time. It wasn't a slim margin, either: The Canon 5D II was tens of thousands of dollars more affordable, and yet still had a larger sensor than its rivals!. However, for the average video shooter or casual consumer, the 5D Mark II and other subsequent HD-DSLRs all lacked a critical feature: full-time continuous autofocus for video.

Canon 70D review -- Three quarter view with popup flash raised

Now, the Canon 70D isn't the first Canon DSLR with video autofocus by any means, as most of the brand's newer models have some form of continuous Live View AF. However, the Canon 70D feels like the first DSLR that does continuous Live View AF properly. Canon's new Dual Pixel CMOS AF is pretty amazing -- and not just for video. It works great for still photography, too, as I found out during my time putting it through its paces.

I've been a Canon user for a few years now and shoot both still photography and video. I started with a 7D, and a while later added a 5D Mark II to the mix. In terms of still photography, I love my 5D Mark II for landscapes and occasional events or portraits, but my 7D has been my go-to still camera for capturing anything fast and tough to shoot, such as sports and wildlife, thanks to its more advanced autofocus and higher speed continuous shooting.

When I first learned about the 70D's new AF system, it was immediately clear the camera would be huge for the video crowd, but I wondered how it would handle still photography. My personal preference when shooting stills with a DSLR is to use the viewfinder nearly 100% of the time, unless I'm on a tripod shooting landscapes or using manual focus. The 70D does have a dedicated phase-detect AF sensor for viewfinder shooting, just like any other DSLR. However, I started thinking creatively about what kinds of subjects I could shoot -- or shoot more easily -- in Live View mode, thanks to its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. Did it work? Oh yes! But I won't spoil the surprise just yet. Let's take a closer look at the camera, first.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
Out for a hike? The 70D is light enough to carry in your hand, over the shoulder or in a backpack for a day outdoors. (Shot with Live View)

Design and feel. The Canon 70D takes its design cues from the 7D and morphs them with the 60D. I like the result. Having used a 7D extensively, the 70D feels very similar in-hand with a comfortable, contoured, heavily rubberized grip and subtle indentations for your fingers. The 70D is a bit smaller than the 7D -- and the 60D too, but only by a hair -- yet still has a nice heft to it, and my hand fits nicely around it.

The 60D's body was comprised of an aluminum chassis with an exterior of polycarbonate resin and fiberglass, and it appears that the 70D has retained that design and construction choice. The 70D is heavier than the 60D by nearly 3 ounces (80g), but since I'm used to carrying heavier cameras, I found the 70D was still comfortable to hold. It didn't weigh me down at all when I carried it around in my bag.

Canon 70D review -- Articulated LCD monitor

The 70D maintains the characteristic articulating LCD screen design of the 60D. In the past, I've normally dismissed this type of screen as somewhat gimmicky, and something that either adds bulk or is more fragile and easily broken. However, after using the 70D, I have to say, I think I'm a convert. For certain scenarios, I discovered that I love the 3-inch tilt-screen, such as when I needed to shoot at awkward angles on a tripod. The LCD folds out from the body and can swivel 270 degrees. It can also be stored with the screen against the camera, meaning it's protected from scratches and bumps when I'm carrying it around, or when it's stashed away.

Coupled with fantastic capacitive touch capabilities, the articulating monitor proved to be a very versatile feature -- made even more important since Live View shooting has been improved by the 70D's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. The touchscreen on the 70D is excellent, and feels very similar to that of a high-end smartphone. It doesn't appear to add any bulk compared to my 7D, and seems relatively robust and rugged. Quick, light touches are enough to navigate through menus or tap on icons, even on the "Standard" sensitivity setting. It's great for shooting video with the tap-to-focus feature, as I can minimize the risk of jostling the camera when tapping or pressing on the screen. In bright sunlight, the LCD is still very readable. There's some glare if the angle is just right, but thanks to the articulated hinge of the LCD, I could easily tilt it to eliminate glare.

Controls. Moving on to the buttons and control layout, the 70D looks unsurprisingly similar to the 60D for the most part. There are a few minor changes that, in my opinion, make it a little easier to use and more familiar to users of other Canon DSLRs. The first thing I noticed was the addition of the 7D's fantastic Live View toggle switch. Unlike the 60D, you don't have to rotate the Mode dial to Movie Mode, then tap the Live View button to start and stop video recording. Users of the 7D or 5D Mark III will be at home with the 70D in this regard.

Canon 70D review -- AF mode button

The 70D (left) features a similar convenient AF mode button near the shutter release. It's a design cue taken from the 7D's (right) Multi-Function Button, no doubt.

One of my favorite controls on my 7D is the Multi-Function button, a small programmable button near the top scroll wheel behind the shutter release button. Canon has added a similar -- albeit single-function -- variant of this button to the 70D, and I love it. By default, the 7D set this button to toggle through the various AF point modes, and the 70D's button does the same. When doing traditional viewfinder shooting, pressing this button lets you quickly change AF modes (single-point AF, zone AF and 19-point automatic selection AF), and displays your options in the viewfinder.

The third change to the layout is that the Menu button is now in the upper left-hand corner, as it is on most of Canon's current DSLRs. This is great for those of us with a deeply ingrained motor memory of button layouts. Canon has also moved the Playback button right above the rear scroll wheel, making it much closer to the delete button. Users of the 60D should be happy that these two buttons are no longer in diagonally opposite corners of the camera. My brother owns a 60D, and he and I would both fumble with its button layout, which just didn't seem to make sense.

Lastly, the 70D maintains Canon's locking Mode dial that's become a mainstay in its other recent DSLRs, and which I've quickly grown to appreciate -- no more erroneous mode changes! The 70D also does away with cramming in a little icon for each Scene mode on this dial, as it did with the 60D. Now, there's simply a single "SCN" mode option on the Mode dial, and you can access and navigate through the various scenes on the touchscreen LCD.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The 18-135mm kit lens provides decent "macro-ish" shooting capabilities with a 39cm (16 inch) minimum focusing distance and a magnification of 0.28x. (Shot with Live View)

There are a couple of qualms I have with the controls on the 70D, albeit minor ones. The rear control dial on the 70D (and 60D) surrounds a multi-directional tilt-button unlike Canon's higher-end DSLRs which have a separate multi-directional joystick-like button placed above the rear wheel. I find that the larger-sized rear control dial of cameras like the 7D and 5D Mark II are easier to rotate without looking, and there's less risk of an accidental button-press on the multi-directional button.

I also miss a dedicated white balance button in the row of control buttons along the top LCD screen. The 70D actually has a set of five buttons, whereas the 7D, for example, has only four. Each button on the 7D has a dual function, one being adjusted by the top scroll dial and the other by the rear dial. The buttons on the 70D are all single function, however, and are adjusted by either control dial. With less room for options on the single-purpose buttons, Canon removed the quick white balance adjustment, which I found quite handy.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The Canon 70D's 3-inch articulated LCD screen, which can be pivoted 270 degrees, makes it easy to get uniquely-angled shots like this low-to-the-ground picture.

Shooting with the 70D. If you've ever shot with any other prosumer-level Canon DSLR then you'll feel right at home operating the 70D. Control conventions and the menu system are standard Canon fare, but even users switching over from other brands should find this camera equally easy to use. Suffice to say, for me, switching over from my 7D and 5D Mark III to the Canon 70D was comfortable, familiar and easy.

My plan of attack for shooting with the 70D was to use Live View for the majority of my testing since it's this camera's claim to fame. However, traditional viewfinder shooting shouldn't be forgotten -- it's been substantially upgraded from the 60D as well. The 70D borrows the excellent 19-point all-cross-type AF system from the 7D. Shooters of fast action and wildlife will rejoice in this fact.

When shooting with the viewfinder, the phase-detect AF felt just as snappy as my 7D, or my 5D Mark II with the center AF point. Nothing stood out to me to indicate any lag or AF performance issues with phase-detect AF. Obviously, lens choice can affect the performance of autofocus, but when using a Canon USM or STM lens, the 70D focused very quickly. Our lab results found pro-grade AF shutter lag, and in real-world shooting, the 70D was certainly no slouch. Given that the 70D features the same 19-point all cross-type AF system from the 7D, it's not surprising that I found the 70D to be a excellent performer at AF speed and accuracy.

It's also worth noting that the 70D can shoot up to 6.7 frames per second in burst mode according to our lab testing, whereas the 7D goes up to 8fps. The 70D is not as fast, nor does it quite reach Canon's performance claim, but it's not too shabby either. It's much improved over the 5.3 frames per second speed we saw from the 60D.

Just how fast is the Canon 70D? Find out by clicking here to see our full battery
of rigorous, objective speed and operation tests conducted in the IR Lab.

Remember when I mentioned that the new Dual Pixel CMOS AF is great for still photography, and not just an advantage for video? As long as you're using a compatible lens, the Live View focusing actually feels almost as fast as traditional phase-detect autofocus through the viewfinder. I took the 70D out for a hiking trip with the new EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens, and in bright sunlight, Live View AF blazed new trails for me photographically. When I first enabled Live View, I was pretty astonished with what happened when I gave the shutter button a half-press. I got tell-tale AF confirmation beeps almost instantaneously, which is pretty amazing compared to how other DSLRs perform in Live View. I'm used to resigning myself to expect slower AF results every time I enter Live View using my Canon DSLRs and EOS M, which all feature slower contrast-detect AF systems. Not so with the speedy 70D.

That said, where I feel the 70D really shines is not in normal, everyday still photography, where most users (including me) would simply use the viewfinder, but rather for certain shooting scenarios and tricky shots. After all, the 70D has a trifecta of features -- Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the articulating screen and Wi-Fi -- that make Live View shooting particularly awesome and present unique opportunities which other cameras just can't take advantage of.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
This was one of the worst-case-scenarios for the Dual Pixel CMOS AF in Live View mode. On subjects that are very tiny, like this little spider, the camera had a very difficult time focusing. The 70D immediately focused "through" the spiderweb. But most DSLRs would have this problem, too.

Dual Pixel CMOS Live View AF + Wi-Fi + articulating LCD = fun. One of my favorite things to photograph is birds, and hummingbirds in particular. Hummingbirds are a tricky subject to shoot, since they are not only very tiny and extremely fast-moving, but they are also quite skittish around people -- or at least the ones I've encountered are. I've attempted to photograph them with a long telephoto lens, and many times even the slightest movement to raise my camera scares them away. Wouldn't it be nice to remotely set up a camera, yet still have the ability to see through the lens and have powerful subject-tracking autofocus? Enter the 70D.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The Dual Pixel CMOS AF with AF Tracking did a great job locking on to fast moving subjects like this hummingbird. (Shot with a beta sample of the 70D AND a 400mm lens; Photo has been converted from raw and edited with Adobe Lightroom 5 & Photoshop CC.)

I spent my first weekend with our earlier pre-production version of the 70D taking photos of hummingbirds with my 400mm f/5.6 L lens. Thanks to the 70D, I was able to get more shots of these little guys than I would have with my regular Canon cameras, trying to stand as still as possible. First, I placed the camera on a sturdy tripod, and due to the abysmal minimum focusing distance of the 400mm lens (~12 feet without using extension tubes), I had to position the camera practically up against the back of my house to get the framing I wanted. However, thanks to the articulating touchscreen, I could stand to the side of the camera and frame shots and configure settings in the menu with ease.

Canon 70D review -- Getting the Hummingbird shot
Thanks to the Wi-Fi and articulated screen of the 70D, I could set up more intricate shooting scenarios like this one above. The makeshift tablecloth "camo-cover" also helped protect the camera from any stray "fluids."

Next, I set up the Wi-Fi feature in the 70D. You are given the option of either connecting your smartphone or tablet to the camera via an existing Wi-Fi network, or turning the camera into a wireless access point and connecting your smart device directly to the camera. This is excellent if you're out in the field somewhere without any network connection.

I went with the direct-connect method and quickly connected my iPhone to the camera's network. Then I used Canon's EOS Remote app (available for Android and iOS), chose the remote shooting option, and after a few seconds, the Live View screen of the 70D appeared on my phone. Now I was ready to shoot.

On a side note, this was my first time using a Canon Wi-Fi-enabled camera with their EOS Remote app, and I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed. Not only can you simply trigger the shutter button and see the Live View screen, you can also fully adjust exposure settings like shutter speed, ISO and aperture all without touching the camera.

Canon 70D review -- Remote control from an iPhone 4s
An example of what I saw using the Canon EOS Remote app on my iPhone 4s. The app -- which is also available for Android phones -- gives you not only remote shutter release, but also Live View, exposure control and image playback.

Now, in terms of shooting and focusing, of course I could have simply pre-focused the lens and fired away when I saw hummingbirds fly in to view. However, I wanted to see how well the 70D's new focusing system performed, particularly with subject tracking. I set the 70D to Live View and to Face + Subject tracking AF mode, and framed the scene in a way that the bird would generally be in the focusing zone, which covers 64% of the sensor area.

This was my first time shooting a setup like this, and it was quite a humorous experience. In a way, I felt almost like I was cheating. Instead of standing out in the hot sun and humid air, I set up the camera, high-tailed it inside and captured some great wildlife shots all from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room.

Canon 70D review -- Autofocus point display
When the hummingbirds slowed down just a bit, the 70D's Dual Pixel AF tracking was able to find the subject and lock on very quickly. This screenshot comes from Canon's Digital Photo Professional software, which has the ability to display the AF point(s) used by the camera.

The results? I was very impressed that the 70D did everything I wanted it to. The AF tracking did a good job of recognizing the hummingbird as it flew into the frame, and although there was a very slight delay until it appeared on the Live View display inside the smartphone app, I was able to trigger the shutter in high-speed continuous mode and snap some photos. More often than I expected, the AF tracking locked on to the hummingbird as it flew into the frame.

Canon 70D review -- Autofocus point display
Of course, shooting like this, the Dual Pixel AF wasn't always perfect. According to the EXIF on this photo, it was taken just 5 seconds earlier than the shot shown above. The bird zoomed into the frame quickly, and for the first sequence of shots, the AF was just slightly off, but the 70D quickly adjusted, as shown in the previous screenshot.

Now, no autofocus system is perfect and of course it missed the mark times, either by remaining locked onto the bird feeder or sometimes just deciding to focus on something else in the frame for whatever reason. Sometimes, it would catch the bird just a fraction too late. This is to be expected whenever you're relying on the camera to calculate and select its own AF point. Also, I was most likely pushing the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system to the extreme, as Canon specifically told us that for small objects in the frame like birds in flight, that traditional phase-detect autofocus is much more reliable and recommended. However, the fact that I can get nearly as fast AF speed in Live View as I can with regular phase-detect AF was very impressive.

The 70D's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system also did a great job in low-light situations and at night. For the most part the 70D had few problems focusing in dark areas; it was only when trying to focus on low-contrast or very dark objects that the Dual Pixel system had issues locking-on.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The Canon 70D was able to handle low-light scenes very nicely, producing slightly less high-ISO noise than did the 60D or 7D.

The kit lens (well, one of them). When I took the 70D out for a hike and some nature shooting, I took along with me one of the two kit lenses that Canon offers with the 70D -- the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. This pairing was quite light and easy to carry around in my hand or backpack. The lens itself is fairly lightweight, yet there's still a little heft to it that adds a feel of quality and durability. It's quite unlike the more plasticky feel of the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, which is the other kit lens option with the 70D. The 18-135mm lens also features a metal lens mount as opposed to the 18-55mm's plastic one. (Though the 18-55mm's build isn't quite as nice, it's still better-than-average for a kit lens and a good value.)

Want to learn more about the Canon 70D's EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens?
Click here to see our optical test results.

The key features of the 18-135mm lens are its versatility, long zoom range and image stabilization. I really enjoyed having the reach of 135mm; I hadn't used a lens like this one in a long time. (I owned the Nikon 18-135mm lens with my D80 many years ago.) At 18mm, the lens provides a decently-wide angle of view, if not as wide as I would have liked. (I'm a fan of ultra-wide angle lenses.) I ended up using the longer end of the lens more, though. The 18-135mm has a decent minimum focusing distance of 1.3 feet, but I found myself wanting to get just a little bit closer when shooting small subjects.

Overall, this is a nice lens that produces sharp images, with great image stabilization and nearly silent focusing thanks to the STM motor.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image

Image quality. The 70D's brand new APS-C sensor features 20.2 megapixels of resolution. It's Canon's first APS-C camera since 2010 not to feature an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor. I was very intrigued -- and somewhat concerned -- by this, as I've heard complaints from fellow 7D shooters about noisy images due to the extremely tiny pixels Canon used to get 18 megapixels on an APS-C sensor. The perceived downside of smaller pixels is that these little photosites have a harder time collecting photons than do those of image sensors with larger pixels (and a resulting lower megapixel count). For example, in the 7D, you have 18 megapixels crammed onto an APS-C sensor, whereas the 1D Mark IV has a larger sensor area (APS-H) yet only 16 megapixels. Therefore in low-light scenarios, the 7D, for instance, should struggle with high-noise problems at higher ISO levels. I've typically paid little mind to this issue when shooting with my 7D. As long as I expose properly (and don't pixel-peep!), I don't usually see noise problems. I'm also not afraid to post-process my raw images and fiddle with noise reduction adjustments.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
Shot with the beta version of the 70D, this image was captured in raw format at ISO 1250, 1/3200s, f/5.6 and then edited in Adobe Lightroom 5 for noise reduction. (Shot with Live View)

So, when I was out shooting with the 70D, I wanted to get a feel for it how it handled higher ISOs given that its pixel size was even smaller. In my hummingbird shooting bonanza, I was typically shooting at ISO 1250 or 1600, and the resulting photos were pretty good. Was there noise? Sure. However, it wasn't unexpected, nor was it something a little Adobe Lightroom noise reduction or other noise removal plugins couldn't handle. I did most -- if not all -- of my test shots in raw+JPEG with default JPEG noise reduction enabled for higher ISO values, and the 70D's processing did a decent job with noise reduction on the JPEG images, while still leaving a good amount of detail.

You can view the IR Lab's in-depth Canon 70D's image quality test results by clicking here,
but be sure to read further on for side-by-side comparisons against the 70D's top competitors.

As far as the other facets of image quality go, I found the 70D to be a solid performer. Colors looked great and the dynamic range was pleasing. With both the 18-135mm kit lens and my 400mm lens, I found my images to be sharp, showing off a lot of fine details.

Did the 70D's images blow me away? Not really. They're very good, but look pretty similar to what I've seen from my 7D. However, the other features of the 70D definitely make up for this by letting me capture some unique shots that my other Canons can't, straight out of the box.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
Canon 70D review -- Sample image
The Canon 70D was able to produce nice, bright colors at default Picture Style settings. The notorious "Canon reds" dominate these shots, and are perhaps a little too saturated.

Video. Now, still photography is only half the story with the 70D. Where the new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology really shines is with video. Canon appears to be taking aim at the other big shots in the HD video-capable stills camera market, like the Panasonic GH3, for example.

As I said before, Canon was one of the first players to the DSLR video market with the 5D Mark II, but it lacked one crucial feature that average consumers -- accustomed to years of camcorders -- expected from video recording devices: full-time continuous autofocus. Since then, Canon has included full-time autofocus in a number of their DSLRs, but the 70D is the first one that I've seen that really brings "camcorder-like" video autofocusing to the playing field.

I loved shooting video with the 70D, and this comes from a videographer who's stuck by his 5D Mark II and 7D that only have manual focus. Video autofocusing feels smooth and accurate on the 70D. It's not too fast, nor does it hunt back and forth when acquiring focus like you see with contrast-detect AF systems.

The 70D also did an excellent job with video subject tracking. It quickly locked onto most targets and tracked them as they moved, keeping them in sharp focus almost all the time. I especially enjoyed the LCD monitor's touch-to-focus feature for quick-and-easy rack focusing between near and far subjects. Overall, the camera operated very smoothly and didn't quickly jump to refocus like some other cameras do. Again, the 70D's video AF performs very much like that of a camcorder -- and that's saying a ton.

Canon 70D Video AF Comparison: 70D versus Panasonic GH3 and Canon SL1
1,920 x 1,080, MOV, Progressive - Download Original (209 MB MOV)

One very cool feature that I realized while shooting video with the 70D is that I no longer need to worry myself much when using lenses that are not parfocal -- lenses that stay in focus when zooming. The vast majority of DSLR lenses are not parfocal, including my go-to choice when shooting DSLR video: the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS lens. I would constantly have to readjust the focus ring when I zoomed in or out. The smooth continuous focus of the 70D eliminates that worry, as the camera constantly adjusts focus while you zoom in and out. I experimented with this using both the 18-135mm kit lens and 24-105mm lens, and both worked great and stayed in focus while I racked near and far.

The 70D also beefs up its video recording formats to match Canon's more high-end DSLRs like the 5D Mark III. It features the same 1080/30p/24p and 720/60p resolutions and frame rates as the 60D, but includes ALL-I and IPB compression schemes like the higher-end models. This easily makes the 70D a contender for video enthusiasts and independent filmmakers looking for higher image quality at a reasonably affordable price.

Canon 70D Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, Progressive, 30 fps, ALL-I
Download Original (387 MB MOV)

There's a big caveat I need to mention regarding video on the 70D. Despite a stellar experience with Wi-Fi control with still photography, I thought I could do the same with video. Sadly, that's out of the question. In fact, you can't even record video while the Wi-Fi radio is enabled; it doesn't even matter if you don't plan on using the EOS Remote App. If you just leave Wi-Fi enabled -- by accident, for instance -- the camera won't let you record video. A big warning will be displayed on the screen telling you to turn off Wi-Fi.

This is not a deal breaker for me personally, but it's kind of a bummer that remote video recording is out of the question. I later found out that a similar limitation exists with the Canon 6D. I can perhaps see there being technical issues with transmitting the data necessary to stream a Live View picture from the camera to your smart device while simultaneously recording video, but why does simply having Wi-Fi enabled completely disable video recording? If there's not some technical hardware limitation at the root of this, perhaps a future firmware update can offer a remedy.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image
You can take still photos in movie mode, although they will shoot in the 16:9 aspect ratio like HD video footage.

Summary. So, did Canon create a winner with the 70D? I sure think so. It doesn't blow the competition or its predecessor out of the water in terms of still image quality -- it's only a marginal improvement compared to the 60D, primarily at higher ISOs. However, just as Canon claims, the 70D is a powerhouse in the video department, as well as with Live View focusing and shooting. The new Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is equally awesome at both. In most lighting situations (full sunlight to darkish interiors), Live View focusing felt nearly as fast as regular phase-detect autofocus. It was only in very dark scenes with low-contrast subjects where the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system struggled to acquire focus.

Canon 70D review -- Sample image

A wide-angle hummingbird photo taken using the 70D (again, beta version) with the Tokina 11-16mm lens. Without the Wi-Fi remote shutter release, I couldn't get a shot like this with the cameras that I own without resorting to buying additional accessories. (This photo was processed from RAW in Lightroom and Photoshop).

It's the trifecta of features that really attracts me to this camera: Dual Pixel CMOS AF, articulated LCD touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity. With ergonomics and image quality on par with my 7D for the most part, the 70D feels just that much better thanks to these welcome features. They give me the ability to shoot photos that I couldn't previously make with other cameras.

Could I shoot something similar after buying extra accessories like radio remote triggers or a camouflage blind to hide from the hummingbirds? Sure, but with the 70D, I can do something similar straight out of the box -- remotely setup the camera and then hide out of the way.

And for video recording, the 70D is a no-brainer. If you're a Canon shooter who records a lot of video, then the 70D should be high on your list for your next camera, as the autofocusing is spectacular, and the addition of ALL-I and IPB compression really makes the 70D a pro-level video tool. Note, though, that the 70D tends to exhibit some moiré and anti-aliasing at levels that are similar to what the 5D Mark II and 6D produce, so the 5D Mark III is still a superior camera in that regard. I've always found the 5D Mark II video quality more than acceptable for the type of videos I shoot and produce, so I'm not turned off by this, and I don't think the typical user should be either, especially given the 70D's much more affordable price.

Overall, the Canon 70D is a fantastic camera that's fun and easy to use, and features the excellent build quality I've come to expect from the company. The DSLR is packed with outstanding prosumer features for a camera in its class -- some not found on many other models. If you are already a Canon 60D or even a 7D shooter, it's not really a radical upgrade, if all you care about is pure still image quality. However, if the extremely useful and fun Wi-Fi features, an excellent articulated touchscreen and its game-changing Dual Pixel CMOS autofocusing for video and Live View shooting are intriguing to you, I think you should strongly consider moving up (or over) to the Canon 70D.

 

Canon 70D -- Additional Shooting Modes and Options

To illustrate more of what the Canon 70D has to offer, we shot additional images using a variety of the camera's special built-in modes and image processing effects. The 70D doesn't include as extensive a feature set of creative filters and effects as some entry-level cameras tend to.

 

Canon 70D HDR Shooting Modes
Canon 70D review -- Sample image
HDR off (no effect)
Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
HDR Auto
HDR ±1EV
Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
HDR ±2EV
HDR ±3EV
The 70D features a built-in multi-exposure HDR shooting mode, which will shoot three separate photos (one underexposed, one overexposed and one standard exposure) and blend them together into a single image in-camera. You are give four options for determining the "strength" of the HDR effect: Auto and then ±1 to ±3EV. Note: HDR Mode only works for JPEG images. HDR mode can't be used if raw or raw+JPEG is set.

 

Auto Lighting Optimizer
Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
ALO off (no effect)
ALO standard
Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
ALO low
ALO high

Highlight Tone Priority

Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
HTP off (no effect)

HTP on

Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
HTP off (no effect)
HTP on

Multi-Shot Noise Reduction

Canon 70D review -- Sample image Canon 70D review -- Sample image
Multi-Shot NR off (no effect) - ISO 6400

Multi-Shot NR on - ISO 6400

The Multi-Shot Noise Reduction takes four separate exposures in a continuous burst, and merges them together in-camera to create a single image. The result -- for a relatively static subject, anyway -- is lower noise levels and higher image quality than a standard single-exposure image using the "High" NR option.

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Canon 70D Review -- Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Canon 70D review -- CMOS image sensor

Sensor. The story of the Canon EOS 70D begins and ends with its 20.2 megapixel, APS-C CMOS image sensor. It's absolutely unique, with two photodiodes sitting under a single shared microlens at each pixel location. This, as we've described in much more detail further up the page, allows Canon to provide for on-chip phase detection at every pixel location over almost two-thirds of the sensor's surface area.

The new sensor is also slightly higher-res than the 18.0 megapixel chip of the EOS 60D, although the difference is modest and accompanied by a reduction in pixel pitch from 4.3 to 4.1µm. Simultaneously, the sensor's active area has increased slightly to 22.5 x 15.0mm, bringing a minute reduction in the focal length crop from 1.61 to 1.6x.

Canon 70D review -- DIGIC 5+ image processor

Processor. The Canon 70D replaces its predecessor's DIGIC 4 image processor with a newer DIGIC 5+ variant, first seen in the EOS-1D X professional digital SLR. The new processor allows improvements both in performance, and in image quality.

Performance. In terms of performance, the Canon EOS 70D brings a 26% increase in our lab-measured burst-shooting speed, from the 5.3 frames per second of the 60D to a swift 6.7fps in the newer camera.

The performance (and increase in performance) don't quite match those claimed by Canon, but they're in the ballpark, and you'll certainly notice the extra speed.

Sensitivity. Equally important is the Canon 70D's noise performance. Here, the extra horsepower of DIGIC 5+ allows more sophisticated noise reduction algorithms, while the newer sensor design is said to mitigate effects of the reduced pixel pitch. Canon claims raw performance to be on par with the EOS 60D at like sensitivities, despite the slightly higher resolution, and our testing backed that up -- at the pixel level, both cameras turn in a very similar performance.

Canon 70D review -- Lens mount

Thanks to these improvements, the Canon 70D sports an expanded default ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 12,800 equivalents, with the ability to push to ISO 25,600 if needed. By contrast, the 60D topped out at ISO 6,400 ordinarily, with an expansion to ISO 12,800 available. The difference is, it has to be said, much as you'd expect given the three additional years of development possible since the 60D's release.

Lens mount. As you'd expect in an enthusiast EOS-series camera, there's a Canon EF lens mount that's also compatible with EF-S lenses.

35mm lenses have a 1.6x focal length crop when mounted on the EOS 70D. Two kit lens choices are available; either the 18-55mm STM lens, or the 18-135mm STM lens. Alternatively, you can buy the body alone, and supply your own lenses.

Canon 70D review -- Autofocus points in viewfinder

Autofocus. This, more than anything else, was obviously a key target for improvement in the Canon 70D. We've already detailed the new on-chip autofocus system, dubbed Dual Pixel CMOS AF, so if you've skipped ahead, scroll up to our "Close Look at the Canon 70D's Dual Pixel CMOS AF" for in-depth info.

Briefly, though, Canon's new system allows it to provide for phase detection at every pixel location across 80% of the frame height, and 79.56% of its width, both for still image shooting in Live View mode, and more importantly, during video capture. The system is accurate enough that there is no need for a fine-tune with contrast detection autofocus after phase detection has completed. Since it covers so much of the frame, it also allows phase detection autofocusing at apertures where dedicated sensors no longer work. Its main drawback, other than the fact you can't use the optical viewfinder, is that it operates only on one axis, and so isn't sensitive to vertical detail.

You're only going to derive the benefit of that system for movies and Live View, however. In regular still-image shooting through the viewfinder, the Canon 70D reverts to a dedicated phase detection sensor. It's not a new chip, but it's new to this class, and borrowed from the Canon EOS 7D. It provides 19 autofocus points, each of them a cross-type, optimized to detect both horizontal and vertical features. In the center of the screen is an X-type sensor, designed to detect diagonal lines as well. It also requires lenses of f/2.8 or better, while the other points will work up to f/5.6.

The dedicated AF sensor has a working range of -0.5 to 18 EV (at 23°C/73°F, ISO 100).

Canon 70D review -- Viewfinder information

Viewfinder. The Canon 70D features an eye-level pentaprism viewfinder with just over 97% coverage according to our lab testing, slightly improved from the 60D, which had a little over 96%. (The 50D had 95% coverage, so the figure is gradually creeping closer to the ideal, although Canon still lags some more affordable competitors in this area.)

The viewfinder magnification is unchanged from the 60D, at 0.95x (-1m-1 diopters with 50mm lens at infinity). Also unchanged is the eyepoint: 22mm from the center of the eyepiece lens.

Canon 70D review -- Viewfinder prism

Just like the 60D, the Canon EOS 70D provides a diopter adjustment range of -3.0 to +1.0m-1 diopters. However, it now lacks its predecessor's ability to exchange focusing screens, and instead features a fixed transmissive LCD screen.

Display. Just like its predecessor -- which introduced the feature to the EOS line -- the Canon 70D includes a tilt / swivel LCD display (or Vari-Angle, in Canon parlance). The tilt mechanism allows the LCD to be folded out 90 degrees to the left of the 70D's body, while the 270-degree swivel mechanism allows the screen to be turned 180 degrees to face upward or forward, or 90 degrees in the opposite direction to face directly downward. This also allows the LCD to be stowed facing inward, offering a modicum of protection against light bumps, scratches, and fingerprints.

The Canon 70D's screen comprises a three-inch, gapless Clear View II TFT LCD panel, in place of its predecessor's Clear View type. The change should translate to reduced glare and better contrast under strong ambient light. Dot count is still 1,040,000 dots, which roughly equates to a 720 x 480 pixel array. The Canon 70D's panel has 100% coverage and 170-degree viewing angles. Display brightness is adjustable in seven steps.

Canon 70D review -- LCD monitor

Touchscreen. Unlike the 60D, the Canon EOS 70D's display is overlaid with a touch-sensitive panel, allowing it to serve as a user interface element.

It's a capacitive panel like those found on most smartphones these days, and is particularly useful for touch autofocus during video capture, letting you seamlessly guide your viewers' attention from one subject to another with subtle focus changes.

Canon 70D review -- Mode dial

Exposure. The Canon 70D offers a third fewer exposure modes on its Mode dial than did the 60D, a change that makes it rather simpler and more approachable. Modes that have been retained include the obvious Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual, plus Camera User, Creative Auto, and Flash Off. The Full Auto mode has been replaced by an Auto+ (aka Scene Intelligent Auto) mode, the Movie mode dropped altogether, and the five Scene modes that previously merited their own Mode dial positions have been combined into a single Scene position.

Metering. Like the 60D before it, the Canon EOS 70D includes a 63-zone iFCL metering sensor, which has a dual-layer design. Each layer is sensitive to different wavelengths of light, allowing subject color to be taken into account when determining exposure. Information on focusing points is also considered in metering calculations.

Canon 70D review -- iFCL metering sensor

The Canon 70D's exposure metering options include 63-zone Evaluative, Center-weighted Average, Partial (7.7% of image frame at center), and Spot (3.0% of image frame at center). Metering sensitivity range is specified at 1 to 20 EV (at 23°C/73°F, with 50mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 100).

Shutter. Available shutter speeds from the electronically-controlled focal plane shutter in the Canon 70D range from 30 to 1/8,000 second in 1/2 or 1/3 EV increments. There's also a bulb mode of unstated maximum duration. Shutter life is rated by Canon at 100,000 cycles, unchanged from the EOS 60D.

Canon 70D review -- iFCL metering sensor

Internal flash. Befitting its status as a non-pro camera, the Canon EOS 70D includes a built-in flash, something that consumers appreciate, and enthusiasts may find benefit from occasionally, as well. (It's nice not to have to carry an external strobe on every trip, just in case.)

The 70D's built-in, popup flash strobe has a guide number of 12 meters (~39.4 feet) at ISO 100. Coverage is approximately 27mm (35mm-equivalent), and X-sync is at 1/250 second.

External flash. As well as the built-in flash, there's an intelligent hot shoe compatible with EX-series Speedlites and Canon's E-TTL II metering system. Both Canon's IR and radio-controlled wireless flash systems are supported, with the appropriate hardware.

Level gauge. Canon has included a single-axis electronic level function in the EOS 70D, capable of indicating side-to-side roll. Unlike some competing cameras, there's no front-to-back pitch indication, however. That means you should be able to ensure level horizons, but you won't get any help with preventing converging verticals.

Canon 70D review -- Weather sealing

Sealing. Just like its predecessor, the Canon EOS 70D includes weather sealing. Canon describes the camera as dust and moisture resistant, and says that it is sealed to the same degree as was the EOS 60D.

Creative. As well as the various exposure modes mentioned previously, the Canon 70D includes quite a few multi-shot and effects shooting modes.

The HDR mode shoots three images with a range of +/- 3 stops, and then merges the trio in-camera to create a single image with greater dynamic range. Images can be microaligned for you before merging, if you're shooting handheld.

HDR Backlight control is similar, except that you cannot disable image microalignment, and that the algorithms are optimized to draw out shadow detail while retaining highlight detail.

Multiple Exposure mode overlays anywhere from 2 to 9 sequential images -- or you can use a raw file as a starting point -- to create a single cumulative image. Two methods of merging are possible. Additive mode is similar to what you'd get when exposing a frame of film twice. In Average mode, every pixel's value is simply the average of that pixel location in all of the source images.

In Handheld Night Scene mode, the 70D will capture four sequential exposures, raising sensitivity enough to attain a hand-holdable shutter speed. It will then merge all four in-camera, averaging out some of the noise across exposures. The result: a handheld picture with less noise than you might expect, so long as your subject is reasonably static.

Finally, there is a choice of seven different Creative Filter effects in the 70D. These include Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Fisheye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Miniature Effect, Art Bold Effect and Water Painting Effect. Each offers three different effect strengths, and can be previewed before shooting your final image.

Video. The 70D doesn't just provide for still imaging. Video can be captured, too, at up to Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) resolution. When shooting at this maximum resolution, you have a choice of 30, 25, or 24 frames per second. At 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels), your choices are 60 or 50 frames per second. Finally, there's a VGA (640 x 480 pixel) mode, recorded at 30 or 25 fps.

Full-time phase detection movie autofocus is possible, although you can opt for single AF or manual focusing, should you prefer.

You can choose to control exposure either fully automatically, or fully manually. If set to a Priority or Bulb mode, the EOS 70D will use Program autoexposure. It's also possible to use Auto+ exposure, which will be set whenever any Basic Zone mode is dialed in.

Exposure lock is available in Creative Zone modes, and you can also apply exposure compensation. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 6400 equivalents in Basic Zone modes, and can be raised as high as 12,800 equivalent in Creative Zone modes.

All movies use H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, but you have a choice of ALL-I or IPB compression with high-def movies. VGA movies always use IPB.

By default, audio is captured with a built-in stereo microphone. Both an external mic jack and manual audio levels control capability are also provided. There's also a wind filter function.

Canon 70D review -- Connectivity

Connectivity. The Canon 70D features similar connectivity to the full-frame Canon 6D, including built-in Wi-Fi for remote shooting, sharing and transferring of photos with Canon's EOS Remote App. Note, though, that the Wi-Fi connectivity is not available in all markets. For some markets, a variant called the Canon EOS 70D (N) will be sold, and this will not include Wi-Fi.

this currently available only for iOS and Android devices. If you're using a smart device running BlackBerry's eponymously-named operating system, Nokia's now-largely-retired Symbian OS, or Microsoft's Windows Phone, Windows RT, or Windows 8 operating systems, you're out of luck.

There's also one important difference from the Canon 6D in the connectivity department. Unlike that camera, there is no GPS in the Canon 70D. Other connectivity features are standard fare, including both a USB 2.0 port and HDMI output (mini-HDMI, type C). There is also a 3.5mm microphone jack for attaching an external mic.

Storage. The 70D accommodates SD/SDHC/SDXC cards for storage, just like the 60D and 6D, and similarly features only a single card slot.

Canon 70D review -- Battery compartment

Power. The 70D employs a Canon LP-E6 rechargeable lithium ion battery for power. The battery is CIPA-rated for 920 shots on a single charge.

Accessories. A range of accessories are available for the Canon EOS 70D. If you shoot with the 60D, you'll be pleased to hear that quite a few -- including the LP-E6 battery packs, LC-E6 battery charger, ACK-E6 AC adapter kit, and CBC-E6 car battery charger kit -- can be used with your 70D. You can also keep your Angle Finder C, dioptric adjustment lenses, viewfinder eyepiece frames, remote switches, and cables.

There is one accessory you'll need to buy anew, though, and sadly it's one of the most expensive. The Canon EOS 70D uses a new portrait / battery grip, the BG-E14, priced at around US$270. The BG-E9 grip used with the 60D will not work with the newer camera.

 

Canon 70D Review -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Canon 70D with the Canon 60D, Canon 7D, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Pentax K-5 II and Nikon D7100.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Canon 70D versus Canon 60D at base ISO

Canon 70D at ISO 100
Canon 60D at ISO 100

Other than the additional 2.2 megapixels of resolution on the 70D, there is not much difference here in image quality at base sensitivity between current model and predecessor.


Canon 70D versus Canon 7D at base ISO

Canon 70D at ISO 100
Canon 7D at ISO 100

As with the 60D, there is not much difference between these two at ISO 100 for overall image quality, other than a bit more fine detail in a few areas like the pink fabric swatch for the 70D. The difference in the noticeable reflection on the mosaic tile crop is due to a subtle difference in lighting positions and isn't related to image quality.


Canon 70D versus Olympus OM-D EM-5 at base ISO

Canon 70D at ISO 100
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 200

Other than in the difficult red fabric swatch, the E-M5 tends to be stunning in comparison at base ISO to many other cameras in this general price range, especially apparent in the fine detail of the mosaic tiles and pink fabric swatch. Stay tuned to see if the results vary later in these comparisons as ISO rises and sharpening artifacts become more noticeable.


Canon 70D versus Pentax K-5 II at base ISO

Canon 70D at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100

The K-5 II renders the red fabric swatch quite well, which is tough for most cameras to do. It also renders fine detail in the mosaic tiles quite well. But as we've said with many comparisons this year, Pentax cameras tend to artificially pump certain colors and render others in odd ways. Above, the yellows of the mosaic tile border are over-saturated, and the pink fabric swatch has been rendered an untrue magenta.


Canon 70D versus Nikon D7100 at base ISO

Canon 70D at ISO 100
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

At 24.1 megapixels, the D7100 is the resolution king of this bunch, and it certainly shows in fine detail. The red fabric swatch is gorgeous, and while the 70D does a good job here, it is no match for the D7100 in overall image quality and fine detail.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Canon 70D versus Canon 60D at ISO 1600

Canon 70D at ISO 1600
Canon 60D at ISO 1600

We had hoped for a bigger difference in image quality between these two cameras, but here at ISO 1600 we're still left hoping, because there just isn't much.


Canon 70D versus Canon 7D at ISO 1600

Canon 70D at ISO 1600
Canon 7D at ISO 1600

The 70D handles noise here at default JPEG settings a bit better than the 7D, but the results are certainly not as profound as we expected.


Canon 70D versus Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 1600

Canon 70D at ISO 1600
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 1600

Sharpening halos start to present themselves here with the E-M5 around the bottle in the first crop, but the images are generally still better overall than the 70D. This is where processing from RAW would become even more interesting in comparison.


Canon 70D versus Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1600

Canon 70D at ISO 1600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1600

The K-5 II again pumps certain color saturations to an artificial level, and loses all contrast in the red swatch. It does however slightly outperform the 70D in the fine detail of the mosaic tiles.


Canon 70D versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Canon 70D at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

The 70D handles noise in the shadow behind the bottle crop a bit better than the D7100, but loses ground in the red fabric swatch. We make mention of this in our print quality analysis below, as we noticed the same phenomena in prints as well.


These days, ISO 3200 is a very viable shooting option for most good cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.

Canon 70D versus Canon 60D at ISO 3200

Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Canon 60D at ISO 3200

Once again, the 70D turns in a slightly better overall performance than its predecessor, especially in the red fabric swatch, but the basic differences are not overly dramatic.

Canon 70D versus Canon 7D at ISO 3200

Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Canon 7D at ISO 3200

The 7D starts to fade more in color saturation here, and loses most all contrast in the red swatch in comparison, leaving the 70D quality preferable in all three above crops.


Canon 70D versus Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 3200

Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 3200

This is where results at default sharpening become interesting. The E-M5's images appear crisper at first glance, but sharpening effects are much more pronounced, as well as losing all contrast detail in the red fabric. The 70D's approach here at default is less aggressive and more consistent.


Canon 70D versus Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3200

Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3200

As we've now said a few times, the K-5 II shows artificially pumped yellows in the mosaic and magentas in the pink fabric swatch. It does deliver more fine detail in the mosaic crop, and yet loses all contrast in the red fabric swatch. As mentioned above, the 70D is simply more consistent in its overall approach.


Canon 70D versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Once again we see more apparent noise in the D7100 for the first crop, but better detail in the mosaic tiles and the red fabric swatch. The differences between the two cameras is not nearly as pronounced as it was at base ISO.


Detail: Canon 70D versus Canon 60D, Canon 7D, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Pentax K-5 II and Nikon D7100.

Canon 70D
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon 60D
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon 7D
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus E-M5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax K-5 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D7100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. As is often the case, the E-M5 stands strong in the fine detail tables, looking sharp all the way to ISO 6400 and without the sharpening artifacts apparent that plagued it in other areas of the target. The D7100 is next at being able to resolve fine detail as ISO rises, with the 70D coming in solidly in third place. The lines in the lettering are not quite there for the other three as they reach ISO 6400.

 

Canon 70D Review -- Print Quality Analysis

Very nice 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100; a good 11 x 14 at ISO 3200; and even prints a reasonable 4 x 6 at its highest sensitivity of ISO 25,600.

ISO 100 makes a great 30 x 40 inch print, very crisp with good detail and color. Wall display prints are also quite good even at 36 x 48.

ISO 200 prints are excellent at 24 x 36 inches, with sharp detail, and again are suitable for wall display purposes up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 400 also looks nice at 24 x 36 inches, with only mild softening in areas of fine detail. Prints here are super-crisp at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 800 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print. There is a hint of noise in some shadowy areas of our test target, imparting a subtle "film grain" look, but still a very nice print. The noise is mostly non-apparent at 16 x 20 inches.

ISO 1,600 produces a very good 13 x 19, which is quite a respectable print size for this ISO, retaining nice, accurate colors throughout.

ISO 3,200 holds up well at 11 x 14 inches, which is yet again a nice size for so far up the ISO scale.

ISO 6,400 prints still pop nicely at 8 x 10 inches, with accurate color renditioning and only minor noise apparent in some areas.

ISO 12,800 prints a good 5 x 7 for this ISO, and colors still come through quite well.

ISO 25,600 prints at 4 x 6 just pass our standard for "good," which is no small feat considering that not many APS-C sensor cameras can make that claim.

The Canon 70D more than holds its own in the print quality department, delivering sharp, worthwhile images at sizes comparable to its competition all the way up the sensitivity scale. It is worth noting here that one of its primary competitors, the Nikon D7100, does print one size larger at base ISO due in large part to higher resolution and the lack of a low pass filter, but the 70D stays in step for most of the remaining ISOs, and even bests the D7100 at ISO 25,600. The D7100 does better at resolving detail in our difficult red fabric swatch, while the 70D does a better job controlling noise in shadowy areas as ISO rises, so there's a definite trade-off one direction or another. But for the most part these two challengers deliver comparable image quality other than the difference we mentioned at base ISO.

 

In the Box

The Canon 70D retail box ships with the following items:

  • Canon EOS 70D DSLR body (some markets have 'W' version with Wi-Fi, 'N' version without.)
  • 18-55mm IS STM or 18-135mm IS STM lens (in the US market, depending on kit; other markets may vary)
  • Front and rear lens caps
  • Eyecup Eb
  • LP-E6 Battery pack
  • LC-E6 Battery charger
  • IFC-130U USB interface cable
  • EW-EOS 70D Wide shoulder strap
  • EOS Digital Solution Disk CD-ROM
  • Software Instruction Manual CD-ROM
  • Camera Instruction Manual booklet

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 16GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity for a consumer DSLR, but if you plan to capture HD movie clips or shoot in RAW format, look for larger cards with Class 6 or faster ratings.
  • Additional lenses
  • Extra LP-E6 battery pack for extended outings
  • BG-E14 battery grip (and optionally, six long-life AA lithium disposable batteries if you want a backup when you're away from your charger, although it will also accept a second LP-E6 battery pack)
  • CBC-E6 car battery charger
  • ACK-E6 AC adapter kit or DR-E6 DC coupler if you already have a suitable AC adapter (for studio shooting)
  • External Speedlite flash, or other shoe-mount accessory flash
  • Angle Finder C
  • Dioptric lenses for viewfinder (if built-in diopter adjustment is insufficient for your prescription)
  • EP-EX15 II eyepiece extender (if you want to shoot while wearing your glasses)
  • External monaural or stereo microphone
  • HTC-100 or other Mini-HDMI cable
  • Medium size camera bag

 

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. 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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