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Thread started 14 Mar 2015 (Saturday) 15:35
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Canon EOS 7D Mark II, reviewed by GregDunn

TOGGLE RATINGS BETWEEN ALL AND GregDunn (showing now: GregDunn)
Overall Rating9.5
Overall Image Quality9.5
Value for Money10
Must Have9.5
Suitability to Intended Use10
Got What I Expected10
AF Performance10
Handling and Ergonomics9.5
User-interface9.5
Ownership Status: "own"

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GregDunn
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Indiana
Mar 14, 2015 15:35 |  #1

I'm getting close to retirement age, so I wanted to have a pair of cameras where either one would be an OK backup for the other in an emergency. I doubt I'll be able to buy the latest greatest gear to stay current for too much longer, so now's the time!

I've been shooting as a serious amateur for about 40 years, starting with a Minolta XE and making the jump to Canon when Minolta decided they weren't going to enter the DSLR revolution. So for about 12 years I've been Canon-only, based on what I shoot (sports, events, occasional wildlife and very occasional portraits). Once I'd readjusted to the different requirements of shooting digital, I was able to justify a better camera in order to stay ahead of my improved skills. The first serious camera I bought was the 7D, based on its legendary focusing performance and high resolution sensor. While I was perfectly happy with it for most work, I decided to follow up by adding a 5D mk III a while later, for its improved noise performance, more current focus system and better depth of field control. After shooting the 5D3 for a while, I knew I needed to keep an APS-C sensor as well, so when the 7D mark II came along I looked at it carefully before making my decision to upgrade the 7D - hopefully my final purchase for a while. The longer reach, near-identical control layout compared to the 5D3, and technology upgrade had me leaning strongly but it took some Raw files downloaded from the net to clinch my decision; it was clear this would be a significant upgrade to the original 7D, and a great partner for the 5D3.

Now - I found a great deal online from an authorized dealer through CPW (highly recommended) and this happily coincided with receiving my yearly bonus check. My camera arrived in just 2 days so I didn't have long to prepare for it. When it appeared on my porch, I unpacked it, quickly ran through a preliminary setup and did a hurried micro-adjust for my 70-200 f/2.8IS as I wanted to challenge the camera right away. Outside, I did a couple of quick grab shots of BIF (lots of ducks and geese around) and was able to catch our resident bald eagles perching during the brief interval before sunset. Then back to the interstate which passes our subdivision, to rip off a couple of 10FPS bursts on passing traffic in the fading light. After the sun went down, I set up some shots in our very dark utility room and tried to autofocus on a target with so-so contrast. The camera locked on somewhere around EV-3 (as spec'ed) and I took some images at increasing ISO between 1600 and 16000. Then back to the computer to look at them all.

I was really surprised - normally when I get a new camera I struggle a bit getting used to it and my first few shots are iffy. The 7D2 was so similar to the 5D3 that my first shot (BIF grab as they passed overhead) came out fine though underexposed a bit due to the bright background. In fact, NONE of the shots in that first test were out of focus, unless you count the very difficult attempt to pick a small bird out of the middle of a tree - that was a serious attempt to mislead the camera and the fault was mine for putting the spot focus point in a very poor place. Every shot of a burst of 15 on a fast-moving bus and 2 trucks (approx. 70 MPH, not quite head-on) was dead on. Ducks and geese with the medium sized zone focus were child's play. Even when one of the eagles decided to take flight and I had to bring the camera up to my eye and hurry the shot, he was still in focus as he dodged through the trees. Looking at the Raw high ISO test, and knowing that I was using the evaluative metering instead of ETTR as I would normally do in actual use, I was pleasantly surprised. ISO6400 with some very gentle sharpening and NR in Lightroom was just as good as ISO1600 SOOC. ISO16000 was decent even at 100%, and totally usable at lesser crops or with NR. Versus my 5D3 I see about a one-stop difference in Raw noise performance, with excellent sharpness due to the higher pixel density. Altogether I was thrilled with the quick test results and went to my normal sports gig on Friday with few concerns.

I do volunteer shoots for regional roller derby teams; after some acclimation I have settled on case 6 with tracking sensitivity dialed down slightly. At practice I set up with ISO1600 and my usual pair of strobes (the practice space is very dark and lit with horrible green fluorescents; it's about EV3/ISO100 in there at the best of times). I used my 24-70 mk I because the f/2.8 gave me great AF response with the 7D mk I. Altogether I took 200 shots while chimping and making some slight tweaks. I found that ISO1600 required MUCH less light than ISO800 with the mk I, so I dialed the strobes down about 1.5 stops and still was ETTR quite a bit. I missed ONE shot due to AF (probably me hurrying the shot) and the only frames I discarded were due to composition. After applying some exposure reduction in Lightroom, the shots were essentially noise-free even with some occasional drastic crops for composition and no NR. I never had this successful a shoot with my original 7D, though I was very happy with it.

So, as a summary I decided to follow Wallstreetoneil's lead and list some of the high/low points of this camera after a week of fairly heavy scrutiny.

1. Raw only on the CF and SD (set to sequential record; I have a large enough CF that the SD is there in case of emergencies only).
2. 10FPS has to be heard and seen to be believed. I don't plan to use it a lot, but it's clear that the camera is capable of excellent performance during a burst on fast-moving targets. It definitely makes heads turn at an event.
3. I haven't settled on a maximum ISO vs. quality trade-off yet. With ETTR, ISO1600 is amazingly good. I'm sure ISO6400 would be fine if I'm not expecting a heavy crop, and ISO16000 is perfectly OK with a little clean-up in post. I pushed the original 7D to 12800 occasionally, but only in places where I had no choice. With the mk II, I wouldn't hesitate as long as I can mostly fill the frame.
4. As stated, Case 6 + 1 notch down on Tracking Sensitivity for sports and BIF work fine for me. Your technique may require totally different settings.
5. This camera IMHO is a great companion for the 5D3 and I really feel that the choice for which one to grab on a shoot is based on 'reach', AF quality, DoF control and that extra little bit of noise performance.
6. I haven't shot astrophotography with the mk II yet, but I'm sure it will outperform the 5D3 based on shots and measurements I've seen from Roger Clark and some other resources I've viewed. The ultra-low base noise + thermal current and high pixel density are just made for astro work.
7. Microadjustment was easy and successful on all my lenses - even the 24-70 mk I which has a quirk between 60 and 70 mm. I haven't had to revise any values captured with Dot Tune yet, in real life shoots.
8. I know that my 99%+ hit rate with the camera's AF system is a lot to expect; I'm sure as I run into more varied situations I'll find more problems with my technique and more things which confuse the camera. I want to emphasize that I did not make things easy on the camera while testing; I asked it to exceed what I would have expected to work, and it surprised me every time. I use point + 8 surround for all sports, but had success with that + zone for BIF as well, so I may try some different settings for both in the future. Even so, it impressed.
9. Battery life - I haven't even run through a single charge/discharge cycle on the battery yet. After about half an hour of manipulating the settings with the supplied battery, it dropped from about 40% to 20% charge. I attached the BG-E16 for all subsequent shooting and happened to stick the actual Canon OEM batteries in because they were the first ones that came to hand. I don't expect the rear LCD to get nearly as much use after I've gotten the camera set up and tweaked, but with fairly heavy use (including live view for a number of the test shots) they're down to about 52% including 300 actual exposures. I have not used GPS yet, nor do I expect to - unless I'm somewhere that knowing the location is crucial. I want to revisit battery use with a pair of my preferred STK 2600 mAH batteries after I've moved out of the testing phase. One Canon battery (probably the one which came with my 5D3) is already showing reduced recharge performance.

So there it is - a keeper, for sure. It will be interesting to see how often I need to pull the 5D3 out of the bag from here on; I'm hoping the 7D mark II will replace it for most sports shooting and let me use each camera for its strengths.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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GregDunn
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Indiana
May 29, 2015 23:05 |  #2

Comments after the 1.0.4 firmware update: I didn't see any change in the MFA values for either my 24-105 or 24-70 after the update, nor any lockups. AF performance is not appreciably different - still excellent. I'm approaching 7000 frames on my body now and believe it's dialed in as well as can be. I don't think I have ever owned a camera before which is so dependable and confidence inspiring. It's getting a lot more use than any of the others, that's for sure; but the good news is that my 5D3 will last quite a bit longer now!


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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feeda
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Jun 09, 2015 03:13 |  #3

Nice review! Would you mind elaborating on the noise performance of the 7DII versus the 5D3? (e.g., would you say they're more/less/around 1 stop apart?) Crop sensors are getting better every day, but it seems they haven't quite caught up to full-frame in terms of quality at high ISOs.




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wicktron
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Jun 12, 2015 19:58 |  #4

Thanks for the detailed review




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GregDunn
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Jun 16, 2015 15:25 |  #5

Ha - sorry for the delay. You'd think I would have subscribed to my own thread, wouldn't you? :lol:

Well, there are several distinctions between the 5D3 and 7D2 noise patterns. Of course, due to the larger sensor, the 5D3 is going to have less noise at very high ISOs when you underexpose. This will likely never change, because an improvement in technology that allows crop sensors to get to where FF sensors are today would also benefit FF sensors, pushing them further along.

The 7D2 is about a full stop better than the 7D with slightly underexposed images; however, if you ETTR as we should all try to do, the noise in the image all but vanishes. I have some ISO1600 images which were actually grossly overexposed (I was setting up manual flash in an unfamiliar venue and the test shots were not estimated well) but thanks to shooting Raw I was able to rescue them - not that they were important images. There was absolutely no need for NR in those shots. ;-)a Allowing that the 5D3 is about 2 stops better than the 7D with average exposures, then yes, it's probably around 1 stop better than the 7D2 as long as you don't underexpose too much.

The noise characteristic of the 7D2 is a bit more coarse than the 5D3, but the higher pixel density means that if you get a good in-focus image you can sharpen quite a lot using USM and not magnify the "grain". Then some judicious use of NR will do a really good job of eliminating it. It doesn't clean up quite as well as the 5D3 but up to ISO3200 it is all right. At 6400 and above the noise starts to interfere with the fine detail just a bit, though if I had a shot which filled the frame and needed no cropping I wouldn't worry about going to 12800. The noise is very random at any ISO, so unless you are fond of underexposed 100% crops you should have little trouble suppressing it without making the textures look like plastic. Even the 5D3 starts to need some attention at 6400! I did use the 5D3 for a graduation last week because I knew the lighting would be poor and indeed I never went below 6400. The 7D2 would have been a less happy choice there, but due to the crop factor I probably would have been able to fill the frame and the noise would have come out OK.

Bottom line: give this camera plenty of light and you won't have to worry about noise. I rarely pull the 5D3 out for shoots unless I have no control over the lighting, but in those cases it's still great to have both tools.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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steve75
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Aug 11, 2015 14:38 as a reply to GregDunn's post |  #6

Hi Greg, great review.... Can i ask, seeing as you are using both a 5d mk3 and 7d mk2 how you compare the AF performance between the two cameras. Put aside everything else, full frame vs crop, noise, fps etc etc. Shooting sport, which of these two cameras do you feel focuses quickest, holds focus best whilst tracking in servo and over multiple frames and even when obstacles pass between you and the target? I see the 7d mk2 has a double cross type sensor for the main central focus point, but i also see that the 5d mk3 has five of them..... The more i read on the net, the more frazzled my brain becomes!

Cheers

Steve


Current gear: EOS 7D w/ BG-E7
300mm f4L IS, 70-200mm f2.8L IS II, 24-70mm f2.8L, 85mm f1.8, 1.4x mkII tc, 430ex.

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Luxx
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St Louis
Aug 11, 2015 14:45 |  #7

I was looking at imaging resource and comparing noise from 70D, 7DII and 6D and it seemed that 6D was a stop better than 7DII which is a stop better than 70D. I have the 70D and 6D and the improved noise even at ISO 800 to 1600 prevented me from switching to the 70D for anything but birding.




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GregDunn
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Aug 12, 2015 02:15 |  #8

There's really not a huge difference between the two cameras in terms of AF speed. I feel that the case parameters are slightly different which may cause one to seem more responsive in some circumstances, but with a good large-aperture lens I would be hard pressed to choose. I know that right out of the box the 7D2 was very fast and accurate even before I tweaked the settings. Canon implies that they've adopted the best features of the 1D series in the AF algorithms, and indeed they've had several years to leapfrog the 5D series performance.

The 5D3's multiple dual-cross points means a little more flexibility in choosing your subject framing, but the 7D2 has more cross points distributed over the frame and that nice small zone option. Servo tracking is maybe a little more responsive but holding focus is mostly a function of the case settings and your shooting style. I know that I pointed the camera at an oncoming truck and ripped off a long burst at 10FPS as practically the first test, and it nailed focus on every frame. So it must be handling predictive AF very accurately. I can use my 24-105L for action shots, and it's not normally considered a sport lens.

Bottom line: I have had excellent results with the 7D2 so far, but it's possible that going back to the 5D3 with what I've learned would result in an improvement as well. But I still grab the 7D2 first when shooting sport and wildlife so I think that expresses my confidence in the camera. It has never failed to deliver.

While the 6D has slightly better intrinsic noise at normal exposure settings, the 7D2 is superior if you are doing long exposures due to its extremely low pattern and read noise. It is the SLR for deep sky astrophotography at the moment. You'll be stacking frames anyway, so low pattern noise is key.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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Luxx
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Aug 12, 2015 06:55 |  #9

I'd like to hear mor opinions on 7d2 and astro




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GregDunn
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Aug 12, 2015 17:28 |  #10

There are a number of articles about using it for astro work, but these seem to be the starting points:

http://www.clarkvision​.com ...ws/evaluation-canon-7dii/ (external link)

http://www.slrlounge.c​om ...scape-photography-review/ (external link)

Most every other article quotes Roger Clark's findings (which you may already have read - I'm posting it for the benefit of any who have not). While there are a number of astrophotographers who still feel the 6D is better, they're either not using the 7D2 at its strengths or comparing apples to oranges (e.g., different lenses to compensate for the FoV difference). No doubt the 6D is superior for short-exposure shots where you can fill the frame, but when you start stacking long exposures and run into sensor read noise territory, the 7D2 pulls ahead. It actually doesn't seem to require dark frame subtraction, and at cooler temperatures the noise is incredibly low (see Roger's data in the first article). My only regret is that I don't have a tracking mount which will give me the opportunity to try out some of these techniques.

A friend of mine does have a quality tracker, and I hope to use it to compare my 7D2 against his 1D4 when the skies start to clear up a bit later this year.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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Luxx
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Aug 12, 2015 19:39 as a reply to GregDunn's post |  #11

The ioptron sky tracker…could that be used with a 7Dii? or is it too much weight




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GregDunn
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Aug 14, 2015 10:33 |  #12

It's the weight of the lens which will typically matter more than the body weight. A friend of mine uses a 1D4 and a 70-200 f/2.8 on his, which is right at the 7 lb. weight spec of the iOptron, and it works fine for him. The 7D2 is lighter, so you might be able to put an even larger lens on it.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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dgaustad
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Dec 12, 2015 14:16 |  #13

Nice review. My new 7D MKII just arrived yesterday. I also bought that to save wear and tear on my 5D MKIII. With the current deals at under $1K after rebate it was a no brainer. When you do meter, do you use partial or spot? I found myself using spot most of the time on my 5D.


Canon 5DIV |5D3 | 7D2 | T4i | 70-200 f/2.8L II | 24-70 f/2.8L II | 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L II |24-105 f/4L | EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 STM | 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM| Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 | Canon 430EX II

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GregDunn
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Dec 16, 2015 18:49 |  #14

I shoot a lot of sports in M mode with strobes, so it's not important in those situations. Generally when I do use Av, I myself am moving around so much that it's easier to use partial and EC than try to get the spot meter in the right place while composing. It's pretty much a personal preference though, and that's just what I'm comfortable with. If I'm composing a static scene, I'll try spot metering before I shoot sometimes.


Canon 1Dx | 5D3 | 7D2 | 6D | 70-200L f/2.8IS | 70-200L f/4 | 24-70L f/2.8 | 24-105L f/4IS | 100-400L f/4.5-5.6IS | 17-55 f/2.8IS | 50 f/1.8 | 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 | 4x Godox AD360

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aojorda
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Feb 02, 2016 12:54 |  #15

Thanks for the review! Looks like a great camera




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Canon EOS 7D Mark II, reviewed by GregDunn
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