When Canon published the 7D Mark II in September of 2014, I found quite intrigued by the camera and truly wanted to seek it out. Like many others, I have been getting pretty tired of waiting for Nikon’s “Pro DX” refresh to replace the D300S, which came out back in 2009 (almost 6 years ago!), so I wanted to see whether such a tool would still make sense for Nikon to release based on specifications, performance, and price. Sporting a high-end autofocus system with 65 cross-type focus points, insanely fast 10 fps continuous shooting speed, dual image processors, -3 EV light sensitivity, magnesium alloy construction, and weather sealing, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is specifically tailored at sports and wildlife photographers. And with its price tag of $1799, the EOS 7D Mark II sounds much more appealing to budget-conscious photographers who do not want to pay close to 4x more for the much heavier and bulkier EOS-1D X.
Since at this period there is no straight competitor to the Canon EOS 7D Mark II from Nikon, I will be comparing the camera to the fan level Nikon D7100, as it is the most capable APS-C camera today from Nikon. Remember that a lot of what I say about the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is from the position of a long time Nikon shooter.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Specifications
|Model Name||EOS 7D Mark II|
|Sensor Size||CMOS (15.0 x 22.4mm)|
|Native ISO||100 - 16,000|
|Extended ISO||100 - 51,200|
|Shutter||1/8000 - 30 Seconds|
|Dimensions||5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1 in.|
(149 x 112 x 78 mm)
|Weight||910 gm (2.0lb) Includes Batteries.|
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Features
When compared to its predecessor, the EOS 7D Mark II shows improvements in many areas. First, the autofocus system is drastically better, with 65 AF points, all of which are cross-type. The EOS 7D Mark II is obviously a better selection for use with teleconverters since it can now autofocus at up to f/8. There is a slight bump in resolution from 18 MP to 20.2 MP. Next, maximum native ISO is increased to 16,000 from 6,400. The Canon 7D Mark II includes a dual card slot for both CF and SD card types. The continuous shooting speed has increased from 8 to 10 FPS and the buffer size has also been slightly increased to keep the camera shooting for about the same duration. The 7D Mark II appears with the latest shutter system rated to 200K cycles compared to 150K on the 7D model. Movie shooting has been improved with up to 60p @ 1920×1080 resolution. There is also now a fixed GPS on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the LCD display resolution has been a little improved too. The only downgrade is battery life – the 7D Mark II is CIPA-rated at 670 shots vs 800 shots on the original 7D. So in pretty much all way, the 7D Mark II has developed over its predecessor.
The comparison to the D7100 is a bit tricky because we are dealing with a different brand and a different class camera. To start off, the Nikon D7100 has a physically bigger sensor and there is a 4 Megapixels difference in image resolution. The autofocus systems are quite different, with the 7D Mark II having a 65-point all cross-type AF system vs the 51-point AF system with only 15 cross-type sensors, putting the Canon 7D Mark II in front of the Nikon D7100, at least on paper. Where the 7D Mark II obviously shines is the nonstop shooting speed of 10 fps vs 6 fps on the D7100 and a larger buffer that lets for twice longer constant shooting. The shutter system is also rated advanced on the D7100 at 150K vs 200K on the 7D Mark II and it sounds quieter in comparison. The 7D Mark II has a built-in GPS, while the D7100 does not. Where the Nikon D7100 arrives on the top is its larger back LCD display with more dots, better battery life, lower weight and smaller size. The most important differences here are autofocus system, continuous shooting rate, buffer and image quality. Aside from picture quality (refer to the camera evaluations page of the review), the EOS 7D Mark II is definitely a more skilled camera for recording the fast action. Like I pointed out earlier, the D7100 is not a direct rival to the 7D Mark II and there is a pretty big difference in price too, so these differences are expected.
Build and Handling
When it comes to building quality and construction, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is as good as it gets, thanks to its full magnesium alloy shell and much-improved weather sealing over the original 7D that can easily withstand dust, rain, and extreme humidity. Canon describes the 7D Mark II to be closer to the 1D X in terms of construction and weather sealing, so you do not have to worry about abusing this camera in the field, as it is designed to be.
The camera feels extremely solid in hands and really does feel similar to an expert camera when compared to other Cameras like the Nikon D7100. I have been using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II in very cold, below freezing conditions (we’ve had our share of very cold days in Colorado this winter) and pretty much got it covered with water in rain sometimes – the camera performed flawlessly afterward as if nothing had happened.
Handling-wise, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is superb. It definitely feels more comfortable to hand-hold than the D7100, pretty close to what the Nikon D810 feels like. The big grip is extremely nice and easy and the controls of the DSLR very much resemble the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. In fact, aside from the added lever under the multi-controller, the slightly repositioned LOCK switch and the minor differences in the shape of the camera, there is virtually no dissimilarity between the 5D Mark III and 7D Mark II on the top or the back of the camera.
The DSLR is really customizable and loads of buttons on the DSLR can be set to perform different functions, which are expected from this class of a camera. From the Nikon shooter perspective, the toughest thing to get used to was the lack of a rear dial. I am very used to the double dial system on Nikon Cameras, which makes it simple to modify aperture, shutter speed, and other camera settings. On the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, the top rotary dial changes its behavior depending on what mode you are in. For example, in aperture priority mode, the dial changes the lens aperture; in shutter priority and manual modes, it changes the camera shutter speed. The big rotary dial on the back of the camera is used for exposure compensation in aperture and shutter priority modes and switches to changing aperture in manual mode. It usually takes me some time to get used to this behavior when switching to Canon, but it is not bad and you can get used to this behavior rather quickly if you shoot often.
The left back side of the camera has a similar layout as Nikon’s higher-end DSLRs, except some of the buttons serve different purposes. I like the button placement, except for the “Rate” button. The good news is that if you choose to rate your photographs in your camera, the information is carried over to Lightroom and Aperture when the images are imported. On the other way, why would you want to rate images on your DSLR looking at the tiny LCD display in the first place? I sort through and rate my photographs in Lightroom and if there is something wrong with a picture I took, I simply delete it. When working in the field, I do not have the time to sit and look through images on the camera – I import them into my computer as soon as possible. I really hope the Rate button was switched with a different zoom button, just like on Nikon Cameras: one button would be used for zooming in and the other one for zooming out. I prefer using 2 buttons to zoom in/out instead of pressing a button, then changing zoom levels with a rotary dial on the top of the camera. At the same time, you can program the zoom button to jump to 100% view, just like you can program the OK button in Nikon DSLRs to show 1:1 magnification, which is very nice and useful for assessing sharpness images.
Another huge annoyance that Canon has had in its DSLRs forever is image review after capture. For few strange causes, once you capture a single image or a sequence of images, you cannot use the rotary dial on the back of the camera to see previous images (with image preview turned on). You have to press the Play button first and only then you can scroll back to take previous pictures. This wastes moment and I hope Canon, at last, addressed this bug in a firmware release.
By default, the multi-controller / joystick on the back of the camera is programmed to do nothing when looking through the viewfinder, so it cannot be used for moving AF points. Indifference, on Nikon Cameras, the Autofocus position is moved by the multi-function control. Having to constantly press the AF selector button in order to change my focus point slows me down quite a bit, so I had to change the behavior of the DSLR so that the pointing device moves the Autofocus points. If you want to change this behavior, here is what you need to do: Press the “Q” button, then navigate to “Custom Controls” with the pointing device, scroll down to the final preference “Multi-controller Autofocus point direct selection” and put it to “Autofocus point direct selection” instead of the default “OFF”. Once you do this, you will be able to change the AF focus point with the joystick.
The menu arrangement on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR straight resembles that of the Canon 5D Mark III. There are 6 major icons and dots underneath that represent sub-menus. Although everything is grouped together by function, the menu system on the camera is quite extensive and can be difficult to understand, especially for a beginner or someone who has never shot with a Canon DSLR before. I would recommend taking a look at the above-referenced recommendations article to get a better understanding of the menu system.