Canon's 7D DSLR was released in 2009 to rave reviews and found its way into the camera bags of many a sports shooter. Five years later, the new Canon 7D Mark II brings professional-level features and processing horsepower never before seen in an EOS camera.
Are you a current Canon 7D owner looking to upgrade to the Mark II? Are you looking to step from a more entry-level or mid-range DSLR? Read on for a run-down of the major features and improvements over the 7D predecessor. For more in-depth information, head over to our Canon 7D Mark II hands-on preview for all the details of Canon's new flagship APS-C HD-DSLR.
The original Canon 7D featured dual DIGIC 4 image processors, a first for an EOS camera outside of the professional EOS 1D-series. In the intervening 5 years, Canon advanced their image processors a couple generations, allowing the 7D Mark II to leapfrog all other Canon EOS cameras with its DIGIC 6 processor. These dual DIGIC 6 image processors give the new camera more processing power than even the $7,000 Canon 1D X.
The faster dual processors in the 7D Mark II provide a significant boost to ISO performance. The default ISO range is now 100-16,000 and expandable up to 25,600 and 51,200 (up from the 7D's maximum native ISO of 6,400, and maximum extended ISO of 12,800). Continuous burst shooting performance gets a nice boost, allowing the 7D Mark II to fire off shots at 10fps, whereas the 7D topped out at 8fps. There's also a new silent continuous burst mode at 4fps that's not found on the 7D.
The 7D Mark II's buffer capacity also gets a considerable improvement over the 7D. The Mark II is now capable of 31 continuous shots in RAW mode and an insane 1,090 shots in JPEG, which is an enormous step up from the 25 RAW or 94 JPEG shot buffer depth of the 7D.
The 7D Mark II offers a metering system more advanced than that in the 7D (or the 5D Mark III and 1D X, for that matter). The new 7D Mk II uses an actual RGB metering sensor with approximately 150,000-pixels. This is a huge improvement over the 7D's 63-zone segmented light-sensitive sensor, which only allowed for basic correction of red and green hues. The new metering sensor even improves on those found in the 5D Mark III and 1D X, which offer 100,000 pixels and lack the infrared metering capability of the 7D Mark II.
Besting the AF system on the 5D Mark III and 1D X in almost every area, it goes without saying that the 7D Mark II trounces the 7D here. While the original 7D used a 19-point, all cross-type AF system, the Mark II has a whopping 65-point all cross-type AF system, beating the 61-point, 41-cross-type system in the 5D Mark III and 1DX.
The f/2.8 dual cross-type point on the 7D Mark II gives the camera the ability to focus down to f/8, which was only possible on the 5D Mark III and 1D-series (the 7D could only focus down to f/5.6). This means the 7D Mark II will be an easy upgrade for supertelephoto and teleconverter 7D shooters.
The Canon 7D Mark II should also provide vastly improved AF tracking abilities over the 7D thanks to the inclusion of Canon's AI Servo AF III, the exact same system as in the $7,000 1D X. And the 7D Mark II also includes orientation-sensitive AF point selection, allowing photographers to configure different AF point settings depending on whether they are in landscape or portrait -- great for wedding photographers.
Perhaps the biggest autofocus upgrade over the 7D is the Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which provides fast, smooth live view focusing. In contrast, the original 7D used contrast-detect AF (CDAF) for live view still images, which we reported was quite slow and totally unsuitable for fast-moving subjects. For video recording, 7D shooters were stuck to manually focus during video recording, or locking focus with CDAF prior to recording. With the 7D Mark II, photographers and videographers will enjoy the same fast, smooth, professional-looking video autofocus that we called a 'game-changer' for the 70D.
The 7D Mark II expands upon the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology introduced on the 70D with the ability to adjust the Movie Servo AF speed and sensitivity. You can now customize the speed of focus transitions between subjects, as well as how quick the AF system is to refocus on different subjects, avoiding situations where the camera refocuses on an obstructing object passing briefly in front of the subject.
But our favorite feature is the AF Lock feature, previously found only in Canon's cinema line of cameras, such as the C100. The mode allows you to move seamlessly from continuous video AF to locked focus, and back to continuous AF, all during one video. Think of locking focus on one point, like the approach to a gymnast's vault: as the gymnast runs toward the camera and comes into focus, you release the AF lock and the video AF follows her as she spins through the air after leaping over the vault.
Apart from the 'game-changing' on-chip phase detect system, the 7D Mark II includes a number of significant video recording enhancements over its predecessor. The 7D was introduced in the relative infancy of the HD-DSLR, and since then Canon's made big improvements to video quality and features.
Video compression formats are an important component of video quality and workflow. The 7D offered only IPP compression, which is a lower-end compression scheme that compresses video frames based on preceding 'key' frames. Having any video on a DSLR was a big step back then, but the state of the art has moved forward.
The 7D Mark II allows ALL-I compression, which gives the best image quality out of the camera, as it compresses each frame separately (making live easier for video post-production), but also leads to much larger files. Fortunately, the 7D Mark II also includes IPB compression, which is like IPP, but compresses groups of frames based on earlier and later key frames, this gives more information to help compress the video, so video quality is much improved over IPP. And for the first time on any EOS DSLR, Canon is also offering a third compression option -- IPB Light -- which compresses the video more than IPB, but results in smaller file sizes.
While video resolution stays the same with 1080p and 720p (no 4K here), the 7D Mark II does see improvements in framerate options, including a maximum 60p framerate at 1080 over the maximum 30p framerate of the 7D. (Both cameras maintain the 720/60p resolution and framerate pairing.)
One of the bigger professional-level advancements of the Mark II over the 7D is the addition of clean, uncompressed HDMI output, with audio. The 7D Mark II offers 8-bit 4:2:2 uncompressed video over HDMI with the ability to disable viewfinder information, allowing you to video with external recorders. Simultaneous internal recording and clean HDMI signal out is capable, though the camera's rear LCD will be disabled.
Other video additions include timecode support, a silent movie mode, and, for the first time, optical distortion correction in movie mode.
The Canon 7D Mark II offers a number of other changes and enhancements over the original 7D. The body construction is now more robust, as Canon said the dust- and weather-sealing of the all-magnesium body is "four times better" than on the 7D. And the button layout is almost identical to the 5D Mark III, albeit with the addition of the handy AF area-selection thumb lever surrounding the multi-directional "joystick" button.
The 7D Mark II also features interchangeable focus screens, something the 7D did not. The default focus screen displays a depth of field of approximately f/5.6 through the viewfinder, but for precise manual focusing with lenses of f/2.8 or wider, a Super Precision Matte screen can be swapped in.
The 7D Mark II also offers an ingenious new anti-flicker autoexposure option when shooting under problematic sodium-vapor lights often found at sporting events. In this mode, the autoexposure sensor detects the flicker of these lights and will subtly adjust the frame release timing to match when the lights are at their brightest for a proper exposure.
For more creative exposure options, the 7D Mark II includes the same built-in HDR and multi-exposure modes as the 5D Mark III. And in yet another first for any EOS DSLR, the 7D Mark II includes a built-in intervalometer and bulb timer for easy time-lapse and long exposure shooting.
Other notable improvements include dual memory card slots -- one UDMA 7 CF and one UHS-1 SD slot, as well as USB 3.0 connectivity. And while the 7D Mark II doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi, there is an integrated GPS module with a compass.
Finally, Canon has boosted the megapixel-count of the sensor from 18.0 on the 7D to 20.2. That means we are getting a new chip, but given the modest improvements in image quality we found in the 70D relative to the 60D we'll have to wait and see whether Canon has improved image quality much on the Mark II.
While we've yet to review the camera (we'll update relevant info here when we have), it's pretty clear that anyone with the 7D and a stack of Canon glass should be first in line to buy this camera. This really is a better-in-every-possible-way sort of upgrade.
But the competitive landscape now is totally different than 5 years ago, so while committed Canon shooters have an easy decision on their hands, we'll have to wait to render an opinion of this camera for photographers without a commitment to the Canon platform or Canon shooters looking further afield.
Maximum effective ISO is an estimate of the highest sensitivity at which a camera can capture excellent quality photos.
Cameras with higher effective ISO will be better choices for indoor photography, night shooting, and indoor sports photography, especially if you intend to make large prints.
You can learn more at our glossary entry.
Maximum effective ISO test data courtesy of DxO Mark.7D Mark II test data on DxO Mark 7D test data on DxO Mark
Excellent 18-megapixel sensor with impressively low noise and superb detail; Very good high ISO performance, especially for 18-megapixel subframe sensor; Rugged construction with magnesium body and weather sealing; Fast autofocus and fast burst rate of 8 fps; Full HD (1920x1080) movies at 30/25/24p, 60/50p at 1280x720.
No dedicated AF-assist lamp (flash is used), and AF-assist adjustment is buried in the Flash Settings menu; Kit lens (28-135mm) isn't quite up to the resolving power of the 18-megapixel sensor, odd focal length for subframe DSLR; No continuous autofocus in Movie mode.
Excellent image quality; High ISO performance improved over predecessor; Excellent burst speeds (up to 10fps); Significantly improved buffer depths; 65-pt AF system; Dual Pixel CMOS AF; Can focus down to f/8 (great for teleconverters); 1080/60p video; Headphone and mic jacks; Rugged build quality.
Autofocus speed (AF shutter lag) slower than 7D and 70D; Mediocre battery life for a pro DSLR; Dynamic range at low to moderate ISOs not as good as competitors; Phase-detect AF did not perform as well as expected in our low-light AF tests; No built-in Wi-Fi; No autofocus for 1080/60p video.