pWhen Canon announced the 7D Mark II in September of 2014, I got quite intrigued by the camera and really wanted to try 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 7D Mark II is specifically tailored at sports and wildlife photographers. And with its price tag of $1799 MSRP, the 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 there is currently no direct competitor to the 7D Mark II from Nikon, I will be comparing the camera to the enthusiast-level D7100, as it is the most capable APS-C camera today from Nikon. Keep in mind that a lot of what I say about the Canon 7D Mark II is from the standpoint of a long time Nikon shooter.
1) Canon 7D Mark II Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 20.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 4.1µm pixel size
- Sensor Size: 22.4 x 15.0mm
- Resolution: 5472 x 3648
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-16,000
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 25,600-51,200
- Sensor Cleaning System: Yes
- Image Processor: Dual DIGIC 6
- Autofocus System: 65-point all cross-type AF system with EV -3 sensitivity
- Lens mount: Canon EF
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- Body Build: Magnesium Alloy
- Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec exposure
- Storage: 1x CF and 1x SD (SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible)
- Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism with 100% coverage
- Speed: 10.0 FPS
- Exposure Meter: 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- LCD Screen: 3.0 inch diagonal Clear View II LCD screen with 1,040,000 dots
- Movie Modes: Up to 1920 x 1080 @ 60p
- Movie Output: H.264/MPEG-4 in MOV and MP4 formats, Uncompressed HDMI out
- In-Camera HDR Capability: Yes
- GPS: Built-in
- Battery Type: LP-E6N / LP-E6
- Battery Life: 670 (CIPA)
- USB Standard: 3.0
- Weight: 820g (excluding battery)
- Price: $1,799 MSRP
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Canon.com.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Canon 7D Mark II compares to its predecessor and the Nikon D7100.
2) Canon 7D Mark II vs Canon 7D vs Nikon D7100
|Camera Feature||Canon 7D Mark II||Canon 7D||Nikon D7100|
|Sensor Size||22.4 x 15.0mm||22.3 x 14.9mm||23.5 × 15.6mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.2 MP||18.0 MP||24.1 MP|
|Sensor Pixel Size||4.1µm||4.3µm||3.9µm|
|Image Size||5,472 x 3,648||5,184 x 3,456||6,000 x 4,000|
|Viewfinder Type and Coverage||Pentaprism, 100%||Pentaprism, 100%||Pentaprism, 100%|
|Storage Media||1x CF, 1x SD||1x CF||2x SD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10.0 FPS||8.0 FPS||6.0 FPS|
|Buffer Size (RAW)||31||25||9|
|Continuous Shooting Duration||3.1 sec||3.1 sec||1.5 sec|
|Shutter Durability||200,000 cycles||150,000 cycles||150,000 cycles|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-16,000||ISO 100-6,400||ISO 100-6,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 25,600-51,200||ISO 12,800||ISO 12,800-25,600|
|Autofocus System||65-point all cross-type AF||19-point all cross-type AF||51-point AF with 15 cross-type sensors|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8||Up to f/5.6||Up to f/8|
|Video Maximum Resolution||1920×1080 (1080p) @ Up to 60p||1920×1080 (1080p) @ Up to 30p||1920×1080 (1080p) @ Up to 60i|
|LCD Size and Resolution||3.0″, 1,040,000 dots||3.0″, 921,000 dots||3.2″, 1,228,800 dots|
|Construction||Full Magnesium Alloy||Full Magnesium Alloy||Partial Magnesium Alloy|
|Battery Life||670 shots (CIPA)||800 shots (CIPA)||950 shots (CIPA)|
|Weight (Body Only)||820g||820g||675g|
|Dimensions||148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm||148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm||135.5 x 106.5 x 76mm|
When compared to its predecessor, the 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 7D Mark II is clearly a better choice 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 7D Mark II adds 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 comes with a new shutter mechanism rated to 200K cycles compared to 150K on the 7D. Movie shooting has been improved with up to 60p @ 1920×1080 resolution. There is also now a built-in GPS on the 7D Mark II and the LCD screen resolution has been slightly 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 every way, the 7D Mark II has improved 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 D7100 has a physically larger sensor and there is a 4 MP 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 7D Mark II ahead of the D7100, at least on paper. Where the 7D Mark II clearly shines is the continuous shooting speed of 10 fps vs 6 fps on the D7100 and a larger buffer that allows for twice longer continuous shooting. The shutter mechanism is also rated higher on the 7D Mark II at 200K vs 150K on the D7100 and it sounds quieter in comparison. The 7D Mark II has a built-in GPS, while the D7100 does not. Where the D7100 comes out on the top is its bigger rear LCD screen 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 image quality (refer to the camera comparisons section of the review), the 7D Mark II is certainly a more capable camera for capturing 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…
3) Camera Construction and Handling
When it comes to build quality and construction, the Canon 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 very solid in hands and truly does feel like a professional camera when compared to other DSLRs like the Nikon D7100. I have been using the 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 soaked in rain several times – the camera performed flawlessly afterwards as if nothing had happened.
Handling-wise, the Canon 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 large grip is very nice and comfortable and the controls of the camera very much resemble the Canon 5D Mark III. In fact, aside from the added lever under the multi-controller, the slightly repositioned LOCK switch and the minor differences in shape of the camera, there is virtually no difference between the 7D Mark II and 5D Mark III on the top or the rear of the camera (Left: Canon 7D Mark II, Right: Canon 5D Mark III):
The camera is extremely customizable and many buttons on the camera can be set to perform different functions, which is 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 dual dial setup on Nikon DSLRs (with one on the front and one on the back), which makes it easy to change aperture, shutter speed and other camera settings. On the Canon 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 hand, why would you want to rate pictures on your camera looking at the tiny LCD screen 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 wish the Rate button was swapped with another zoom button, just like on Nikon DSLRs: one button would be used for zooming in and another for zooming out. I prefer using two 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 some strange reason, 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 previous images. This wastes time and I wish Canon finally 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. In contrast, on Nikon DSLRs, the AF focus point is moved by the multi-function joystick. 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 camera, so that the joystick moves the AF 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 joystick, scroll down to the very last option “Multi-controller AF point direct selection” and set it to “AF 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 above setting change, along with other camera menu recommendations are provided in my “recommended Canon 7D Mark II settings” article.
The menu system on the Canon 7D Mark II closely resembles that of the Canon 5D Mark III. There are 6 main 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 to take a look at the above-referenced recommendations article to get a better understanding of the menu system.
4) Image Sensor, Dynamic Range and AF Performance
The Canon 7D Mark II sports a 20.2 MP APS-C sensor (1.6x crop factor), with a native ISO sensitivity of 100-16,000, which can be pushed further up to ISO 51,200. Unlike Nikon, which often buys sensors from other manufacturers like Sony and Aptina, Canon develops and manufactures its own sensor technology for its cameras. Although the 20.2 MP APS-C sensor sounds a lot like the sensor from the 70D, Canon claims that the sensor technology was not reused in the 7D Mark II and that the sensor was newly developed for the camera. While I have not compared the two cameras side by side to see what differences there are in performance, folks at DxOMark performed their analysis of both cameras and here is their conclusion on high ISO performance and dynamic range:
Indeed, it seems like Canon has made changes to the sensor on the 7D Mark II, since both noise / SNR and dynamic range appear to be a bit different. However, it is important to note that the changes are not drastic and only appear to be noticeable at higher ISOs, particularly in regards to SNR. What’s particularly disappointing is how little the change is in dynamic range. As you can see from the graph above, there is practically no difference at ISO 100 and at other ISO levels, dynamic range improvements do not exceed half a stop. To understand how far Canon is behind its main rival Nikon, let’s go ahead and add the Nikon D7100 to the mix:
Now this right here is the reason why Canon gets so much heat for its proprietary sensor technology. Look at how far up the Nikon D7100 is at lower ISO levels, reaching close to 14 stops of dynamic range, while the 7D Mark II struggles to reach 12. If you do not believe in numbers, see my post comparing Canon and Nikon in Dynamic Range, where I show how much worse Canon is in both overexposing and underexposing images.
And here is a summary of the comparison of the 7D Mark II to the 70D and Nikon D7100:
Based on what DxOMark shows, the 7D Mark II’s sensor is inferior to the sensor on the Nikon D7100 in every way, from color depth and dynamic range to high ISO performance. However, do not be confused with the low-light ISO scores above – having a score of 1082 compared to 1256 does not represent 16% inferior performance. DxOMark claims that a difference of 25% represents only 1/3 of a stop difference, so the 7D Mark II is not significantly worse in handling noise when compared to the D7100. In fact, as you will see from the camera comparisons section of this review, the 7D Mark II performs similarly at high ISOs and there is little difference between noise levels on the two cameras.
Overall, although the 7D Mark II does quite well in handling noise, its dynamic range performance is rather disappointing when compared to other modern APS-C sensors.
5) Autofocus Performance
Although it might seem like the 7D Mark II might have the same autofocus system as on the 5D Mark III and 1D X cameras, the Canon 7D Mark II actually has a newly developed AF system that is better than all other current Canon DSLR cameras, including the top-of-the-line EOS-1D X. First of all, there are 65 focus points available, all of which are cross-type, compared to 61 focus points, 41 of which are cross type on the 5D Mark III and 1D X. Here is a comparison of the viewfinders between the 7D Mark II with the 1D X:
In contrast, the Nikon D7100 has 51 focus points and only 15 of them are cross-type. As explained in my autofocus explained article, cross-type focus points are much more accurate when compared to regular / one dimensional ones, so having that much precision in every single focus point helps a great deal in obtaining more in-focus images when using different focus points. With the 7D Mark II, the flexibility to pick any of the focus points without worrying too much about potential focus errors is a great relief when shooting any kind of subject.
On top of this, the 7D Mark II has a low-light sensitivity rating of -3 EV and it is a more suitable tool to be used with teleconverters (focuses at up to f/8 range with the center focus point). Both the 5D Mark III and the 1D X are rated at -2 EV.
Where the 7D Mark II is inferior when compared to 5D Mark III and 1D X is high-precision dual cross-type AF points: the 7D Mark II only has one of those, while the other two cameras have 5 of them. Please note that only some of the latest generation Canon lenses with apertures of f/2.8 or faster are able to take advantage of these dual cross-type AF points, so it is not necessarily an advantage when using older glass and slower lenses.
But all these numbers can be just numbers if the AF system is unreliable. I have been shooting with the latest Nikon DSLRs like the Nikon D750 with Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX system and I love the reliability of the autofocus system. It is both fast and accurate, especially when shooting in low-light conditions. When assessing the autofocus performance of the 7D Mark II, I wanted to get a feel for how it compares to the Nikon AF system and compare the two, as objectively as possible.
When shooting with the two AF systems side by side, I found the 65-point autofocus system on the 7D Mark II to be very strong when compared to Nikon’s Advanced Multi-CAM 3500DX / FX. The main advantage is the all cross-type AF system. Where Nikon can struggle at obtaining focus outside the central focus area in Single Servo / AF-S mode, the 7D Mark II just nails focus pretty much every time, making it a more versatile setup when using outer focus points for everyday photography. For shooting fast action in AI Servo / AF-C mode, both systems have their pros and cons and it is hard to say which one is a clear winner. Shooting the 7D Mark II using AF Point Expansion with 9 points gave me pretty similar results to what I typically get with Nikon’s 9-point dynamic AF. The hit ratio was very good and the number of keepers was high. Sadly, Canon does not have the ability to pick more focus points for its dynamic focusing, so I could not compare performance with more focus points. I did not do a lot of testing with Canon’s intelligent Tracking and Recognition (iTR), as I do not like to let my camera pick what to focus on. From what I gather, it works similarly as Nikon’s 3D autofocus mode.
What I liked about the Canon 7D Mark II focus system is its fine tuning options. Nikon cameras usually have only one setting that allows fine tuning AF and it is called “Focus tracking with lock-on”. Basically, this setting allows you to specify how long the camera will wait before adjusting focus on a subject – you can specify short to long values, depending on what you are photographing. In comparison, the Canon 7D Mark II has three configuration settings: “Tracking sensitivity”, “Acceleration/deceleration tracking” and “AF point auto switching”. By using different combinations of these settings, one can really adapt the AF system to practically any situation. Canon even provides “cases” or templates that are basically different combinations of these three settings:
Overall, the autofocus system on the 7D Mark II is very solid and deserves high praises for its performance. Let’s now take a look at the buffer capacity of the camera and compare it to the Nikon D7100.
6) Buffer Capacity
The Canon 7D Mark II has impressive continuous shooting speed of 10 fps, but how good is fast shooting speed if a camera does not have a big enough of a buffer to accommodate all those images? Let’s take a look at the buffer capacity of the Canon 7D Mark II and compare it to both its predecessor and the Nikon D7100:
|Camera Feature||Canon 7D Mark II||Canon 7D||Nikon D7100|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10.0||8.0||6.0|
|Continuous Shooting Duration (RAW)||3.1 sec||3.1 sec||1.5 sec|
It is pretty clear that the Canon 7D Mark II is way ahead of the other two cameras in both continuous shooting speed and buffer capacity. But how does 10 fps really compare to say 6 fps and how does the buffer capacity impact the continuous shooting duration? To answer these questions, I shot a video where I demonstrate the difference between the 7D Mark II and the Nikon D7100:
Without a doubt, the Canon 7D Mark II is a much better choice for photographing fast action than the Nikon D7100…
In addition to the brand new autofocus system, Canon also bundled a brand new metering system with a 150,000 pixel RGB and IR sensor, which puts the 7D Mark II ahead of both 5D Mark III and 1D X, which have older metering systems. The new metering system is capable of recognizing 252 zones and it is also capable of reading full color, which results in superior exposure metering performance. When photographing different scenes in varying lighting conditions, I found the metering sensor to be fairly accurate when shooting in Aperture Priority mode. All metering modes (evaluative, center weighted, partial and spot metering) worked as expected and when I did have exposure problems in some rare situations, taking care of the exposure issues with the 3-step exposure compensation using the big rotary dial on the back of the camera was pretty easy.
8) Battery Life
As for battery life, the Canon 7D Mark II is rated a bit below its predecessor at 670 shots versus 800, most likely due to more demanding processing requirements for handling so much more data. With a dual processor architecture, more advanced AF and metering systems, it is expected that the camera will yield less shots per charge. However, keep in mind that these figures are CIPA estimates that take into account flash, live view and image preview use. If you do not use flash, sparingly use live view and turn off image preview, you should be able to yield over 1000 images per battery charge. Make sure to turn off GPS when you don’t need it, as it will eat up the battery pretty quickly. Also, keep in mind that the battery performance degrades when temperatures are very low. The battery indicators on the top LCD and in the camera menu seem to be pretty accurate, so it should be a pretty good indicator of both charge potential and battery health.
9) Live View
Canon’s implementation of Live View is excellent. No interpolation at 100% zoom and superb clarity at all zoom levels. I love the way Canon designed the Live View/Movie switch with the Start/Stop button that changes in functionality depending on whether you are in movie or live view mode. Changing the switch to video mode automatically flips the mirror up and starts the video mode and the Star/Stop button is used for recording video. This is a great feature for videographers, since you can keep the setting on movie mode when powering the camera on or off and the mirror will automatically lift up or down without the need to press anything.
10) Movie Mode
Although there is still no 4K video support, the 7D Mark II has superb HD movie recording capabilities, allowing up to 60 fps at full HD resolution of 1920×1080. Canon obviously does not want its DSLR line to compete with high-end dedicated video recording cameras like the EOS 1D C, which is why there are some limitations. Personally, I look at video recording as a “nice to have”, since I rarely ever shoot video…
The GPS capability also works quite well, which is a huge plus for travel and landscape photographers. The camera obviously needs a clear sky to locate satellites initially, but once it is done, the tracking works quite well when traveling. I experimented with the GPS feature a few times and it seemed to track location fairly well. However, I had GPS mostly turned off when traveling in California, since I only had a single battery and wanted to preserve battery life as much as possible.
Setting up GPS is easy. Locate the “GPS/digital compass settings” option in camera menu under the wrench menu, then set GPS to “Enable”. Next, go to Set Up and set other options. I set up “Auto time setting” to “Enable”, “Position update intvl” to “Every min”, enabled “Digital compass” (I recommended to calibrate the compass after enabling it) and disabled GPS logging. Keep in mind that updating of position frequently drains battery fairly quickly, so if you want to save power, set “Position update timing” to a longer interval.
12) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Some technical information:
- White Balance: Custom Temp 4850, Tint: +42
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Focusing was performed through Live-View Contrast Detect
- Long exposure NR: Off
- High ISO NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Canon 7D Mark II performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
As expected, performance at low ISO levels is quite good. There is a little bit of noise added at ISO 400 and ISO 800 shows a bit more noise, but it is perfectly acceptable.
13) High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-16000)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Canon 7D Mark II performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 16000:
ISO 1600 adds more visible grain, but it is not bad. ISO 3200 on the other hand significantly increases the amount of noise in comparison and we are now seeing way more noise throughout the image, especially in the shadows. There is visible loss of color and a slight loss of detail as well.
As we push ISO to 6400, the amount of noise increases significantly. There is a heavy loss of colors, particularly in the darker areas of the image and there is visible loss of details at pixel level. ISO 12800 looks much worse in comparison, with colors mixing together in some areas of the image. There is a huge loss of dynamic range and detail.
The last native ISO level is 16000 and this one looks pretty bad with way too much noise, heavy loss of both colors and details. I did not bother with providing higher ISO samples, because they are completely unusable.
14) ISO Performance Summary
As expected from an APS-C sensor, the Canon 7D Mark II starts out quite well at base ISO, but its noise levels increase significantly with each stop. Images up to ISO 3200 look quite good, but anything pushed beyond that shows quite a bit of noise and there is visible loss of both colors and dynamic range. Personally, I would not want to push ISO beyond 3200, unless I resized images to very low resolution for the web. Overall, the noise levels look pretty decent, but it is hard to say whether they look good enough when compared to other cameras.
15) Canon 7D Mark II vs Nikon D7100
The Nikon D7100 with its 24 MP APS-C sensor delivers impressive results, with exceptionally high dynamic range and excellent handling of noise. Let’s take a look at how the 7D Mark II compares to the D7100:
Aside from color differences (which is normal), there is practically no difference in ISO performance at low ISOs. Both cameras perform very well and there is no clear winner here.
The same trend continues up to ISO 3200, where both cameras look quite similar.
As we push to ISO 6400 however, we can see that the Nikon D7100 preserves colors better – look at the red area under the ship and you can see that the D7100 is not mixing colors and the details look slightly better in comparison.
And at ISO 12800, the Nikon D7100 still looks better, even in terms of noise. Still, the difference is not drastic – perhaps about 1/3 or less of a stop.
Although ISO 25600 is already past the native ISO range of the D7100, it is interesting to see how it fares against ISO 16000 on the 7D Mark II. Although ISOs are not equivalent, the 7D Mark II clearly looks cleaner in comparison.
16) Canon 7D Mark II vs Nikon D7100 Summary
Despite slight differences in sensor size in favor of the D7100, it looks like Canon 7D Mark II does indeed perform quite well in terms of handling of noise at high ISOs. There is practically no difference between the two cameras up to ISO 3200 and only after ISO 6400 it becomes apparent that the Nikon D7100 leads the game with better color and detail preservation. Overall, the noise performance of the 7D Mark II looks very impressive. My only gripe is dynamic range which you cannot really see here – if only Canon was able to push the dynamic range at base ISO by two stops to match the D7100, it would make the Canon 7D Mark II fully equivalent in sensor performance…
17) Canon 7D Mark II vs Fuji X-T1
Let’s see how the Canon 7D Mark II compares to the Fuji X-T1 mirrorless camera. Since the X-T1 cannot shoot RAW at ISO 100 and above ISO 6400, I am only going to provide comparisons from ISO 200 to 6400 range. Since the Fuji X-T1 has a lower resolution 16 MP sensor, I down-sampled images from the Canon 7D Mark II to match this resolution for a proper comparison. When performing lab tests, I noticed that the images from the Fuji X-T1 were coming out a bit darker by about 2/3 of a stop, so I had to compensate the difference by adjusting the shutter speed on the X-T1:
Interestingly, while the performance of both cameras is similar up to ISO 400, the Fuji X-T1 shows cleaner output at ISO 800.
The same thing happens at ISO 1600, where the Fuji X-T1 looks a bit cleaner in comparison.
At ISO 3200, the Fuji X-T1 is looking cleaner still, particularly in the shadows.
And lastly at ISO 6400, the X-T1 still comes out on top with less grain throughout the image and better color preservation.
18) Canon 7D Mark II vs Fuji X-T1 Summary
Unlike the Nikon D7100 that looked pretty similar to the Canon 7D Mark II in noise performance at most ISOs, the Fuji X-T1 looks cleaner starting at ISO 800. There is less grain and the shadows contain less noise in comparison. So one could argue that the Fuji X-T1 indeed performs better in noise performance. However, others will argue that Fuji cheats its way to victory by providing darker images. If I had not adjusted the shutter speed on the X-T1 and increased brightness in post-processing, the X-T1 would look very similar to the 7D Mark II, which I do agree with…
With both Canon and Nikon sitting quietly for almost 6 years and not releasing updates to their high-end APS-C DSLRs, many thought that demand for such market was dead and neither company would release such a camera. However, Canon was the first to break silence in September of 2014, when it finally revealed its Canon 7D Mark II, a significant and worthy upgrade to its predecessor. The camera was greeted with both fanfare and skepticism from many Canon shooters, because it made sense for some and no sense at all for others. While sports and wildlife photographers welcomed the camera and fully understood the benefits of having such a camera in their arsenal (namely its super fast 10 fps capture rate, a solid buffer rate, a professional-grade build and reach potential), other photographers were puzzled by the release of the camera, especially at its $1799 MSRP price, when they could easily get the full-frame 6D for less money. The thing is, the 7D Mark II is not an everyday camera and it was never meant to be. So if you are still wondering why you would ever need such a camera, you probably simply don’t.
The Canon 7D Mark II is a specialized tool aimed at sports and wildlife photographers that shoot fast action. True, the camera cannot really compete with other sensors in terms of dynamic range, but it is not a landscape or a portrait camera, so its dynamic range performance is not that important or relevant. Despite having a smaller sensor size than other APS-C sensors on the market, it does really well at high ISOs and looks pretty similar to the Nikon D7100 at up to ISO 3200 – and that’s all that matters, as you would rarely be pushing an APS-C sensor beyond ISO 3200 anyway.
So as a wildlife and sports camera, the 7D Mark II makes a lot of sense to me. As you have seen from the video posted in the buffer capacity section of this review, 10 frames per second is insanely fast when compared to 6 fps on the D7100. The larger buffer is amazing and quite sufficient for capturing fast action, especially if you use faster memory cards and pause for a second or two between bursts. Ask any wildlife photographer who shoots with a fast camera like the Canon 1D X or the Nikon D4S and they will tell you that there is a big difference in results between 10 fps and slower cameras. The more frames one can capture in fact action sequences, the more choices one has when picking the “winner” image. What’s better, a predator with fully spread wings about to catch its pray, or the same bird with partially spread wings? A football player scoring a touchdown in the air with the ball on the tip of his hand, or the same player holding the ball with both hands after he has already caught it? The answer is pretty clear – capturing fast action with more speed is always preferred. Canon also did an amazing job with the autofocus system on the 7D Mark II – its 65 point all cross-type AF system is very fast and accurate. With its EV -3 rating, the 7D Mark II can be used effectively in low light situations and with its f/8 focusing capability, teleconverters will couple great even with slower lenses. Featuring Canon’s most advanced 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, dual DIGIC 6 image processors and a dual pixel CMOS AF technology, the camera can track moving subjects while providing accurate exposures from shot to shot.
Yes, $1799 is quite a bit of money for a camera with an APS-C sensor, but when you compare it to something like the 1D X or the D4S, you will quickly realize that it sounds like a bargain in comparison, given how fast and capable the camera is. It would be nice if Canon and Nikon made similarly spec’d full-frame cameras at budget prices, but we know that it will never happen, as it would completely kill off sales of their top-of-the-line DSLRs. And let’s not underestimate the reach potential of such cameras. Although we have written quite a bit about this topic at Photography Life, it is always good to remind that sensors with smaller pixels magnify images more, giving better reach and cropping options (see my article on crop factor and equivalence for more details).
Overall, I am very impressed by the Canon 7D Mark II as a sports / wildlife camera. With Nikon heavily pushing full-frame cameras during the past few years, it is hard to say whether the company still believes there is a market for high-end cameras based on APS-C sensors. But based on what I have seen from the Canon 7D Mark II, Nikon is only losing its potential sales by not releasing a D300S replacement. We all have said it many times by now: Nikon, it has been too long, it is time for you to unleash the beast! Release that D400 (or whatever it will be called) – it is still not too late!
20) Where to buy and availability
B&H Photo Video is currently selling the Canon 7D Mark II body only for $1,799.
21) More image samples
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.
Canon 7D Mark II
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
- Speed and Performance
Photography Life Overall Rating