The Canon 7D Mark II is a high-end DSLR camera that Canon announced on September 15, 2014. It features a 20.2 MP CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus. And it has a continuous shooting rate of 10 fps, a 65-point all-cross-type AF system, and built-in GPS.
Canon 7D Mark II Image Quality
Since it is a crop sensor camera, images are a little noisier than usual. But the density of the pixels allows for sharper images due to the larger number of pixels per square inch.
Cropped sensors also avoid the corner parts of most lenses, which are usually the weakest point of the lens itself. Thus it avoids much of the vignetting and softness in the corners.
When purchasing a cropped sensor camera, one would expect noisier images compared to a full frame counterpart. To be honest, I expected the same thing. I assumed that after ISO 3200, the images would be useless. But I was wrong.
I can safely shoot up to 8000 ISO and the sensor still holds its ground. Yes, there is some noise creeping in. But it isn’t anywhere near being fatal.
We can compare the 7D II to the Canon EOS 6D, the cleanest full frame camera that Canon produces, albeit two years older. (Not counting the Canon EOS 5DS, since it has a different purpose). And the 7D Mark II is just a hair noisier.
But being noisier than its full frame brother is just physics at play. The pixel size is smaller. So it gathers less light and produces more noise.
But I shoot with the EOS 7D Mark II in all sorts of scenarios. They range from concerts to high-contrast portraiture.
And the dynamic range for this cropped sensor camera is impressive. It has some magenta fringing in the shadows if you recover them too much. But that scenario is quite rare.
I shot the photo below at ISO 6400, two stops underexposed. And I recovered it heavily in Adobe Lightroom. And it is still a completely usable photo.
On the color reproduction side, the sensor is a bit too excited about the blue tones. When clipping occurs, the blue tones tend to get clipped first for some reason. And this is most noticeable when one tries to recover details in highlights.
Even though this applies to extreme scenarios, it should be considered when the right exposure techniques are used.
Besides this instance, the sensor holds its ground in color reproduction. And it does a great job at portraiture. I didn’t notice any difference when comparing it to the Canon EOS 6D. But that is the case with most modern sensors.
It features 60 fps in 1080p, which is good for having a bit of room for slow motion. But generally, it does a great job in the video department.
The material produced by the 7D Mark II is good enough for professional use. But it requires a little more tinkering in post-production.
Having the Cinestyle picture profile from Technicolor makes a huge difference there. And the dynamic range in video mode is surprisingly good. The following video was mostly shot with the 7D Mark II with only natural light.
Sadly, zebras and focus peaking are missing from the camera. This would make the work much easier. But this DSLR provides uncompressed HDMI output and a headphone jack to monitor the audio, which is great!
Body and Handling
When you look at it, the Canon 7D Mark II is basically a 5D Mark III body with a cropped sensor inside. But the resemblance between those cameras ends there.
I haven’t had the chance to play with a Canon EOS 1Dx. So I can’t compare it to that. But for all the other comparisons, I stand by my words.
The overall build quality on the Canon 7D Mark II feels different. It’s more solid and more premium when compared to its “bigger” brothers.
According to the specs, it has the best weather sealing of other Canon counterparts, except for the 1Dx. And given how many beers it has “drunk” when I’ve photographed concerts and parties, I can vouch for that.
Burst Rate and Shutter Speeds
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing the Canon 7D Mark II to the 6D and 5D Mark III is the shutter. This is in terms of speed, sound, and vibration.
The 6D is quiet when compared to the 5D Mark III. In contrast, the 5D Mark III is loud and clunky. And you can feel the vibration it produces in your shoulder.
Then the burst rate comes into play. And you can feel the difference right away. By sound and feel, the 7D seems more stable and precise. And yet it has a 50% more frame rate.
The buffer size is quite big, with cards fast enough to shoot around 35 to 40 RAW files before the buffer fills up. Without a card, it stops at around 22 to 27 frames depending on what you shoot.
With a 10 fps burst rate, you can hold to a decent three-second burst without any problems (shooting RAW). When shooting only JPEG files, the buffer never fills up if you use a card faster than 60 Mbps.
The shutter actuation time is quite fast. (This is the time it takes for the mirror to go up, the shutter cycle to complete, and then for the mirror to come back down).
So with shutter speeds above 1/200 s and at 10 fps, you can see everything going on while holding a burst. This is quite cool!
Besides the fact that you can see everything, this also gives the focus system more time to track and adjust. And it contributes to more photos being in focus.
Just like most DSLRs, the Canon 7D Mark II is just a hair too small for my hand to fit on the grip. My pinkie finger sits on the edge. And this makes it tiresome after prolonged use.
But that is the case with every Canon DSLR that I’ve held in my hands. And the 7D II is the biggest one of the bunch. (This excludes the 1Dx line, which has two grips.)
The solution for that issue is a battery grip. Although it adds to the price, it is completely worth it.
Not only can I fit my whole hand with it, the weight distribution and center of gravity are also better. And the addition of another battery plus vertical grip and controls is a great time saver.
Even though it adds to the weight, it doesn’t make it harder to use. This is due to better weight distribution and balancing. I feel like this camera is made to be used with a battery grip.
Besides the grips themselves, the buttons are positioned quite logically. And everything is intuitive.
The only button that seems a bit weirdly positioned is the Main Function (M-Fn) button. It requires removing your finger from the shutter button to press it. And this can cost you pictures. So it is a bit pointless to use.
But the M-Fn button is easier to use when your hand gets tired. This is because it requires less maneuvering around.
The viewfinder is quite large and has 100% coverage. The fun thing about it is the overlay. All the information you need can be displayed on it using an LCD overlay.
And it is quite bright, especially if you use lenses with a wider aperture. The f/1.8 on the Sigma 18-35mm looks marvelous in low light.
But one thing that bothers me is that the light meter is vertical and on the right side instead of the bottom. Also, it is smaller than the bottom bar. So it isn’t really intuitive in the beginning, but I got used to it quickly.
One Shot and AI Servo Autofocus (AF)
According to Canon, the Canon 7D Mark II had the most advanced autofocus system built into a camera until the 1Dx. And that was actually true. But it isn’t as dandy as it sounds on paper.
Yes, it focuses ridiculously fast. Yes, it does track fast-moving subjects without any issues. And the 65 cross-type points, which cover almost the whole frame, are a great addition. And you can select them and each one within seconds.
But that focus system is delicate and somewhat discriminatory.
Let me elaborate. I own a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art lens. It’s a marvelous piece of glass and razor-sharp across the board. But the 7D Mark II won’t focus properly with this lens for the life of it.
Yes, it is a third-party manufacturer, and some incompatibilities are expected. But the Sigma Art line doesn’t work with the Canon 7D Mark II. And many of the Tamron lenses don’t work well either, nor do Tokinas.
The only exception is in Live View, where it focuses perfectly. Don’t get me wrong. The camera will function. But the focus is completely inaccurate. Sometimes it will front focus by a meter. Other times, it will back focus by a meter.
On-target shots occur around two to three times out of 10 tries. Focus with the Sigma Art series seems to improve in servo mode with a group of focus points.
If you ask me, the complexity of that focus system comes at a price, which means lens limitations.
Also, the focus accuracy on the 7D Mark II increases with the focal length. That means it focuses better using telephoto lenses rather than wide-angle lenses. Anything below 50mm and the focusing accuracy is reduced.
But when it comes to AI Servo for moving subjects? Oh boy, that is a different ball game. Not only is Servo mode more accurate than One Shot mode (even on stationary targets), it behaves like a focus on steroids.
Interestingly, when the rare occasion of missing a target on the Servo occurs, it is mostly on slow-moving targets. But that is extremely rare.
Additionally, there are “cases” (basically presets) with which you can fine-tune your Servo focus. But at the end of the day, you’ll use one the whole time. It will be the one that suits your shooting style the most.
Live View (Dual Pixel CMOS)
The Live View—the Dual Pixel CMOS focus—is a different story. The Live View focus in DSLRs before the 70D and the 7D Mark II were introduced was quite slow, clunky, and almost nonexistent during video shooting.
The Canon ESO 7D Mark II features the Dual Pixel CMOS. This makes autofocus during Live View and video recording a breeze.
It’s not perfect. But it has served me well in 80% of situations. And it tracks faces nicely. You can even pick out a face from a crowd and have the camera track it.
Basically, the focus is as fast as your lens. That was something I had never seen before in a DSLR. And frankly, I loved it. The lens incompatibility issues would be a deal breaker if it weren’t for its focus system.
These are some useful features you get with the Canon 7D Mark II.
The GPS on this camera is quite accurate. But it’s best to be careful with the refresh times.
If set to one second, it eats the battery quite rapidly. But if it is set to five minutes of refresh time, it becomes inaccurate since it needs some time to find the location again.
I’ve found that a refresh time of around one minute works best.
The camera can detect flickers from artificial light and release the shutter when the light hits the peak. This reduces the burst rate. But it ensures maximum light captured during exposures. It’s quite a cool feature if you ask me.
Dual Card Slots
But the SD card slot is the fastest one in the Canon line. It can write at speeds of around 100 Mbps, while the 5D Mark II tops out at around 60 Mbps.
If I were to sit three meters away from you in an average cafe, you wouldn’t hear the shutter releasing.
Missing or Pointless Features
There are a few features I wish the EOS 7D Mark II had. And a few others that are head-scratchers.
Sadly, there isn’t built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. It would provide quite an amount of options if it had Wi-Fi capabilities.
The Canon EOS 80D has a cool screen. And it can be flipped out and swiveled. It is quite useful for video and for shooting in awkward positions. (For example, if you hold the camera above your head).
The 7D Mark II has none of that. The screen is a regular old-school one, albeit quite detailed and bright, just like any other camera.
I’m still not sure why it’s there. Besides being useless, it could be easily replaced with a Wi-Fi module and solve way more problems.
I don’t understand why this still exists as a separate mode. Why not just remove the 30-second shutter speed limiter in other modes and be done with it?
AF Assist Lamp
I think every camera should have one. I’m not sure why Canon is allergic to AF assist lamps.
Our Verdict: Canon 7D Mark II
The Canon 7D Mark II would be one of the best all-around cameras on the market, at least according to my standards. For around $1500, you can get a 7D Mark II with a battery grip and a lens.
No, it is not a full frame camera. But then again, lenses like the 18-35mm f/1.8 from Sigma make up for it quite nicely. If you are an all-around photographer like me, I couldn’t recommend a better camera for the money.
You get excellent image quality, a high frame rate, and excellent video. And it has a body built like a tank and a revolutionary focus system. Yes, there are some quirks here and there. But no camera is perfect! Simply put, you can use it for everything and it will hold its ground without any issues.