New Technology in the EOS 7D Mark II

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EOS 7D Mark II

Now that the EOS 7D Mark II has started shipping and more reviews of the camera are coming in I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the innovative technology in the camera.

That’s right, I used the word innovative – an adjective more likely to be applied to mirrorless cameras made by Fujifilm, Sony and Olympus than digital SLRs made by Canon or Nikon by the photography press, bloggers and even photographers themselves.

That’s mostly because Canon and Nikon seem to be standing by while the mirrorless camera makers innovate and improve their products. Mirrorless cameras are maturing fast – I own both a Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and X-T1 and they are superb image making machines. But they are very different to cameras like the EOS 7D Mark II. While some people accuse Canon of lack of innovation based on their lack of action in the mirrorless market, they seem to be overlooking the innovation happening in the high end SLR market.

Perhaps the definition of innovation has changed too. Canon created a big stir with the EOS 300D / Rebel XT, the first digital SLR priced below £1000 / $US1000. They created more waves with the EOS 5D Mark II, which introduced a standard of video technology into digital SLRs which has changed the face of movie making. But would you want to own an EOS 300D now? Or even a 5D Mark II? It’s still a superb camera but it has been surpassed by the technology in Canon’s latest cameras.

In short, innovation is easier in a relatively immature market such as the mirrorless segment, and much harder in a mature market like that occupied by high end digital SLRs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next generation of mirrorless cameras criticised for lack of innovation as a result of being a little bit better than their predecessors rather than miles better.

EOS 7D Mark II

Back to the EOS 7D Mark II. On paper it’s an amazing camera. It has the best autofocus system of any APS-C Canon digital SLR. I wouldn’t be surprised if the image quality rivals that from full frame Canon SLRs either, or at least comes close enough that it makes little difference. I don’t own one myself, so I’m not speaking from personal experience, but it will be interesting to see if these hold true as other photographers buy and test the camera and post their results online.

So, who is the EOS 7D Mark II for? I think the market is very clear. This camera is primarily aimed at sports and wildlife photographers who demand high autofocus performance and high image quality from their cameras. It is designed to work with Canon’s telephoto and super-telephoto lenses, indeed may even be better than a full-frame camera with these optics because the crop factor of the APS-C sensor effectively extends the reach of these optics by 1.6x (ie a 300mm lens used with the 7D Mark II has the same field-of-view as a 480mm lens, if such a thing existed, on an EOS 5D Mark III or 1D-X).

The secondary market is photographers who want the best all round digital camera within the 7D Mark II’s price bracket (the big advantage of the 7D Mark II being its lower price compared to the 5D Mark III and 1D-X).

Getting back to the mirrorless vs. SLR debate: if mirrorless cameras are digital SLR cameras, then surely the EOS 7D Mark II is the mirrorless camera killer, thanks to the advanced autofocus system which beats anything seen on a mirrorless camera to date?

Bottom line: digital SLRs are still the best all round camera design in terms of performance. Some photographers (including myself) are attracted to mirrorless cameras because they are smaller and weigh less (and cost less) than high end digital SLRs, but we accept that there are trade offs and one of those is autofocus performance when it comes to photographing anything that moves. Where digital SLRs suffer by comparison is in terms of size, weight and cost.

Maybe one day we will see a camera with the quality of a Fujifilm sensor, the size and weight of mirrorless and the autofocus performance of an EOS 7D Mark II (and wouldn’t it be nice if it was inexpensive too?). Until then we have to dream and select the best tool for the job at hand. Or, as is the case for most enthusiasts, pick the camera that is most appropriate for the range of tasks it will likely be called upon to undertake.

EOS 7D Mark II

EOS 7D Mark II innovative features

Here’s a run-down of the new technology in the EOS 7D Mark II.

New shutter and mirror drive system

The camera’s shutter unit is rated to 200,000 clicks. This goes hand-in-hand with the 10 frames per second burst speed, adding to the expected life span of the camera’s component parts for sports and wildlife photographers who shoot in burst mode.

The camera’s main mirror has a dedicated motor that enables it to move very quickly during continuous shooting to help maintain an uninterrupted view in the viewfinder. This enables photographers to keep following the action while shooting continuously at high speed.

New autofocus system

The EOS 7D Mark II has 65 cross-type autofocus (AF) points. By comparison, the EOS 7D has 19 cross-type AF points and my EOS 5D Mark II has just one, and a grand total of just nine AF points. Cross-type AF points are the most accurate (I wrote more about the topic here) and incorporating 65 of them into the EOS 7D Mark II helps it track moving subjects accurately. It also means that you have many more AF points to choose from when composing other types of photos, such as portraits, giving you more freedom in composition. The centre AF point is sensitive down to -3 EV, meaning that it works in moonlight.

The camera also has Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus in Movie Mode and Live View. One of the new features is that you can slow the autofocus tracking speed in Movie Mode, allowing you to create focusing effects where the camera slow locks focus on the subject. Not of interest to photographers that shoot stills only, but something movie makers will get excited about.

Built in GPS and digital compass

This camera will embed GPS co-ordinates into your photos’ metadata. Not only will it record longitude, latitude and elevation, but it uses a built-in digital compass to indicate in which direction the camera was facing when you took the photo. Combined with Lightroom’s Map module, this helps you organise and search photos by location as well as other criteria like keywords or camera settings.

Interval timer

The EOS 7D Mark II has a built-in interval timer that you can use for shooting time lapse sequences. You can also set the length of time the shutter remains open in Bulb mode. While these features appear on some other cameras, it is a first for the EOS range.

New metering system

The Evaluative metering system in the EOS 7D Mark II utilises a new exposure sensor. It splits the frame up into 252 areas, analysing each one individually to arrive at a recommended exposure setting. It also has infra-red pixels for detecting infrared light which is used in calculating exposure settings and improving the accuracy of the camera’s autofocus system and subject tracking.

Personally, I doubt the new Evaluative metering system will make much difference to experienced photographers. After all, the histogram tells you precisely how accurate exposure is and if you shoot in Raw you are probably exposing to the right anyway (maybe the dream camera I mentioned earlier could include an expose to the right mode too?) But it may help inexperienced photos shooting JPEGs.

Summing up

If you’re wondering whether you should buy the EOS 7D Mark II the answer probably lies in how happy you are with your present camera. The key question is do you need a better autofocus system, because that is the primary feature and main attraction of this camera.

If you’re interested in photographing sports or wildlife, but don’t have a camera that’s up to the job, then the 7D Mark II might be the camera for you. The autofocus is the most advanced in an EOS APS-C body, and the crop sensor helps you make the most of the lenses you already own (or plan to buy in the future). It’s also significantly less expensive than the EOS 5D Mark II and 1D-X, the other two models you may be considering if high performance autofocus is a priority.

More resources

I’ve only touched on what I believe to be the most interesting features of the EOS 7D Mark II in this article. Here are links to reviews of the camera, plus videos made by other people that will help you learn more about the camera.



Articles and reviews

Alessandro Trotavi on the EOS 7D Mark II

EOS 7D Mark II: Canon’s Fastest APS-C DSLR

Richard Walch: Making Waves with the EOS 7D Mark II

EOS 7D Mark II developer’s interview, parts 1, 2, 3 and 4

Gizmodo review



Real World Field Report: Canon 7D Mark II by Scott Kelby


Hands-on review by B&H


Canon’s Chuck Westfall on the EOS 7D Mark II


Chuck Westfall on the direction that Canon is moving with future cameras


Cello: A short film created with the EOS 7D Mark II


Understanding EOS

Understanding EOS ebook

My ebook Understanding EOS is the perfect guide for anybody who wants to learn how to get the best out of their EOS camera. Click the link to learn more, and see the other ebooks in the Understanding EOS series.



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