Canon 7D Mark II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Fairly typical saturation levels with excellent hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon 7D Mark II produces images with fairly typical saturation levels. Reds, oranges, dark greens and dark blues are pushed small to moderate amounts while cyans are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 108.6% (8.6% oversaturated) at base ISO is close to average, but it gradually increases with ISO (most cameras decrease saturation with ISO), peaking at 114.4% at ISO 25,600, though that's only a moderate boost. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon 7D Mark II produces pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using manual white balance. Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pink. Very good results overall. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the 7D Mark II's hue accuracy is excellent when manual white balance is used (as it is for these results), and is much better than average. There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but all are fairly minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.45 which is first-rate, one of the better scores we've recorded to date. Delta-C color error increases with ISO, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

Click to see E7D2FAR2I00100.JPG Click to see E7D2OUTBAP2.JPG Click to see E7D2hSLI00100NR2D.JPG
See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon 7D Mark II's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very warm reddish or orange/yellow color casts. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among cameras we've tested, but disappointing nonetheless for a pro model. The Manual setting produced the most accurate results, though just slightly cool with a small nudge towards green. The Canon 7D Mark II required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Good color, though a tendency towards slightly cool color balance with somewhat high contrast under harsh lighting. Average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Canon 7D Mark II tended toward a slightly cool color balance with Auto WB, though overall color is generally very good. The Canon 7D Mark II required +0.7 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face bright, about average for our"Sunlit" portrait shot. The Canon 7D Mark II's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above left, though the camera's contrast, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples of this. The Far-field shot (above right) is also a bit cool, but exposure is quite good, with the camera avoiding blown highlights and maintaining good detail in the shadows.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, ~2,500 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about 2,600 from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,500 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart showed the Canon 7D Mark II's images with sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,500 lines per picture height horizontally and to about 2,500 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge or aliasing artifacts start to interfere at this resolution. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 3,000 and 3,200 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file shows higher resolution than the in-camera JPEG, perhaps another 100 lines, though complete extinction of the pattern was extended to about 3,600 lines. While ACR was able to extract more detail, it also produced more moiré and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Good sharpness and detail with a sharp lens, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts. Minor to moderate detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

With default sharpening settings, the
Canon 7D II's JPEG files show good sharpness, but also some noticeable
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 7D Mark II's 20-megapixel sensor captures excellent image detail when coupled with a good lens, though as is usually the case with Canons, the 7D Mark II's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. While JPEG images may look a bit oversharpened on screen at 100% (as do most in-camera JPEGs), they result in crisp-looking prints. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from a digital SLR at base ISO. Still, a good performance for a 20-megapixel APS-C model, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon 7D Mark II produces sharp JPEG images with very good detail but with visible sharpening haloes. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 8.7 using default noise reduction and color profile, with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, more noise can be seen in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. And, as expected, sharpening haloes aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Still, not bad in-camera default JPEG processing, but as usual you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for an APS-C sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

Images are quite clean at ISOs 100 through 400, with just a tiny amount of luminance noise seen in the shadows, and very little chroma noise. Some blurring of fine low-contrast detail is already visible at base ISO, though, as mentioned previously. Noise "grain" is slightly more evident at ISO 800, but detail remains very strong despite some minor blurring due to noise reduction. ISO 1600 is of course a little noisier, but fine detail is still very good with a noise grain that's quite fine and chroma noise well under control. At ISO 3200 blurring becomes noticeably stronger resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though a fair amount of fine detail is still left. ISO 6400 is quite grainy with minor chroma noise, but there is still some fine detail left. Noise and the effects of noise reduction working hard to keep it under control really become apparent at ISO 12,800 and above with heavier luminance noise, stronger blurring and more obvious chroma blotching. Still, high ISO performance has been improved over the 7D, and is roughly on par with the best APS-C models with similar resolution currently available.

See the Print Quality section below (when available) for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4, using one of three very sharp reference lenses (70mm Sigma f/2.8 macro for most cameras, 60mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro for Nikon bodies without a drive motor, and Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 for Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds bodies). To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. If you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us about it; we already know it. :-) The focus target position will simply have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Very high resolution with strong overall detail, but somewhat high default contrast and unremarkable dynamic range. HTP and ALO options do a great job of dealing with tough lighting. Very good low-light performance, but autofocus can struggle in very low light.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon 7D Mark II produced moderately high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. The mannequin's face was too dim at the default and +0.3 EV settings and too many highlights were blown with +1.0 EV, so we preferred the image with +0.7 EV exposure compensation. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a bit more than we're used to seeing from an APS-C sensor lately, indicating mediocre use of available dynamic range compared to the best of recent competitors. Shadow detail was however pretty good, though very deep shadows are a bit noisy and posterized. Bottom line: while dynamic range isn't bad, the Canon 7D Mark II didn't do as well with this difficult shot compared to some recent state-of-the-art peers.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 7D Mark II's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail, though shadows were also affected, as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+0.3EV)
HTP
Setting:



Off


On

Highlights
Shadows
(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)
Histogram

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. The result is evident in the histograms and thumbnails above, clearly showing the superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, though shadow brightness is also affected somewhat. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200. Except in the very deepest shadows, though, overall noise is low enough at ISO 200 that this is really a negligible trade-off for all but the most critical applications.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the 7D Mark II offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (+0.3 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening shadows and indeed most of the image without shifting the highlights as much, though some additional highlights were clipped. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

High Dynamic Range
The Canon 7D Mark II's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There are three strength settings available (+/-1EV, +/-2EV,+/-3EV), plus Auto. And there are 5 possible Effect settings: Natural (default), Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed. The source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported. (Mouse over the links below to load the corresponding thumbnail.)

Far-field High Dynamic Range
Off

As you can see, the HDR shots above (Natural effect) have improved dynamic range with preserved highlights and shadows that have been opened up with lower noise. Do however note that a significant part of the image has been cropped away in the alignment process, and that the resulting images aren't quite as detailed overall, because the cropped image is resampled to full 20-megapixel image size. Also be aware that ghosting can occur when elements of the scene move during the sequence capture, as can be seen with the moving flag and leaves in some of these shots.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon 7D II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the 7D, and also to Nikon's top APS-C DSLR at time of writing, the D7100, though the Nikon isn't really in the same pro class as the 7D Mark II (but Nikon's pro-level D300s APS-C DSLR has been discontinued). You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon 7D II's dynamic range is practically identical to the 7D's up to the ISO 800 setting with a peak of about 11.8 EV at base ISO, but does significantly better at higher ISOs with over a 3/4 EV advantage at the ISO 12,800 setting. The Nikon D7100 does significantly better at lower ISOs, though, with a peak of about 13.7 EV at base ISO which is almost a whopping 2 EV advantage, but as ISO rises, the gap shrinks and the two cameras perform very similarly at ISO 6400 and above. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon 7D Mark II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see E7D2LL001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL001007.JPG
32s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL001007XNR.JPG
32s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see E7D2LL032003.JPG
1/16s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
51200
Click to see E7D2LL512003.JPG
1/256s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL512007.JPG
1/16s, f2.8
Click to see E7D2LL512007XNR.JPG
1/16s, f2.8

Low Light. The Canon 7D Mark II performed well in our low-light tests, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise remains fairly low at ISO 3200. Some chroma noise in the form of subtle color blotching in the shadows and dark areas is visible at lower light levels, though it's effectively suppressed by default noise reduction. As you'd expect, noise is quite high at the maximum ISO of 51,200, particularly when noise reduction is minimized (extreme right column in the table above).

We noticed a few hot pixels here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. We didn't see any signs of heat blooming and banding (pattern noise) appears to be very low.

Color balance was pretty neutral with Canon 7D Mark II's Auto white balance setting (just a touch cool), even at high ISOs, though white balance warmed up a bit at lower light levels.

When using the optical viewfinder and dedicated phase-detect AF, the Canon 7D Mark II's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens. That's not great for a pro model, and not quite as good as its predecessor, the 7D, even though Canon rates the 7D Mark II's AF down to -3.0 EV versus only -0.5 EV for the 7D. However our AF target for this test is a pattern of grey cross-hatched lines against a white background rather than a target with full black/white transitions in it, so the 7D Mark II is likely still within Canon's spec when shooting a high-contrast target. The Canon 7D Mark II was able to focus on the target in complete darkness with AF assist enabled, though. And in Live View mode with Hybrid AF, the Canon 7D Mark II was able to focus down to below the 1/8 foot-candle light level, which is very good for a DSLR in Live View mode with an f/2.8 lens.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 7D Mark II do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 100/200/400 images all display excellent detail and vibrant colors, and can be used for prints up to 24 x 36 inches. Thanks to the 20MP sensor, there is no visible pixelation, especially when viewing a relatively close, arm's-length viewing distance. Larger prints, such as 30 x 40 inches are perfectly usable for bigger wall displays.

ISO 800 prints are impressive with very low noise, great detail and pleasing colors all the way up to 20 x 30 inches. ISO 800 prints are just a hair softer than ISO 400 prints, but larger 24 x 36 prints are certainly usable for wall display here.

ISO 1600 images easily produce pleasing 16 x 20 inch prints. Noise, particularly in the shadows, is now more visible, but still well controlled and not strongly detrimental to fine detail and colors.

ISO 3200 prints are very similar to ISO 1600 ones, but ever-so-slightly more noisy, making 13 x 19 inch prints the largest size we're comfortable with. 16 x 20 inch prints could be acceptable for less critical applications, however.

ISO 6400 images display more apparent noise and subsequent softness. Acceptable prints top out at 8 x 10 inches, yet at this size, detail is still very good and colors appear normal and pleasing.

ISO 12,800 prints top out at an acceptable 5 x 7 inches, with noise becoming quite strong and taking its toll on fine detail.

ISO 25,600 images show quite a bit of noise at larger size prints, but still manage a surprisingly acceptable 4 x 6 inch print.

ISO 51,200 prints are too noisy and devoid of enough fine detail to be called acceptable at any size.

As we found in our image quality comparison, the Canon 7D Mark II shows a visible improvement in image quality over its predecessor, and the same can be said for print quality results. Base ISO images still top out at 24 x 36 inch prints, though larger prints are suitable for wall display. This 24 x 36 inch print size remains acceptable up to ISO 400, which trumps the original 7D's ISO 400 print size of 20 x 30. At mid-range ISOs of 800-1600, the 7D Mark II easily prints large images up to 20 x 30 and 16 x 20 inches, respectively. And at the extreme ISOs, the 7D maxed out at a 4 x 6 inch print at ISO 12,800, while the 7D Mark II manages a size larger (5 x 7) at this sensitivity, and even prints an acceptable 4 x 6 inch print at ISO 25,600.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS 7D Mark II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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