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.