Canon 7d Vs 70d Comparison Essay
The Canon 6D Mark II has not been the most well-received camera thus far. But how does it actually perform, and are the complaints justified?
The initial complaints were around the fact that this camera does not shoot 4K video. Discussions then moved on to its dynamic range and how it underperformed even against APS-C cameras. The most recent complaints are around the fact that its performance at higher ISOs may be worse than the original 6D. Personally, my biggest gripe about this camera is the fact that it only has one storage slot. This one individual point makes it less viable in a professional setting for me, however this may not bring as much concern to shooters upgrading from the original. The 6D Mark II has been referred to as a bigger Canon 80D and for good reason. There are a few minor differences between the two cameras except for the sensor size and price tag. The Canon 7D Mark II sits in between the 80D and 6D Mark II when it comes to the price and for that reason, it's viable to compare these three to one another.
How a camera feels in the hand is actually very important and can determine a major part of usability. When comparing cameras this feature tends to get overlooked, but I find it to be a very important point. The 7D Mark II has by far the best ergonomics between the three. The deep grip and the rubber placement on the camera makes for a very comfortable experience. The 6D Mark II is noticeably worse in the hand. Although the grip is deep enough, on the back of the camera the rubber placement is lacking. Due to this, I found the camera slipping very often, especially when using bigger full-frame lenses like the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II. This may seem like nitpicking but after about 20 minutes of holding the camera, it becomes a big enough problem. The 80D seems to have just about enough rubber on the back of the camera and is light enough for this issue to not be a problem.
The Canon 80D has slightly more rubber near the lock switch.
Button placement on the 6D and 80D are good enough for most circumstances, however the lack of a joystick is disappointing. The flip-out touchscreen, on the other hand, does make up for many of the other drawbacks. The only thing missing from the 7D Mark II is the flip-out touchscreen. Dual pixel autofocus is just not the same when without a touchscreen.
From all three cameras, the 7D Mark II has the best focusing system. It's fast, effective, and the focus points are generously spread across the frame. The 80D comes in at a close second, and last and least effective is the 6D Mark II. The focusing system in the 6D is seemingly the same as the 80D, which means all of the points are clustered towards the center of the frame. This makes off-center composition very difficult and in my testing I found myself using focus recompose for most of the shots. Shooting at wide apertures and nailing focus with this method can be very difficult, meaning that many images may turn out slightly out of focus. To make matters worse, the 6D Mark II does not have 100 percent viewfinder coverage like the other two, therefore focusing and composing is more challenging.
80D versus 6D Mark II (above).
The 6D Mark II does, however, manage to find and nail focus very quickly, even in low light scenarios. I found this to be very impressive, and although the other cameras didn't really struggle, the 6D just seemed to be a bit quicker. Shooting in live view with the 80D and the 6D was a very pleasant experience. Touch-to-focus coupled with the amazing dual pixel autofocus from Canon made the whole thing pretty effortless. The 7D Mark II does well to focus in live view due to having the same kind of system, however, without a touchscreen, dual pixel auto focus just seemed a little ineffective and half-baked in comparison. Although it is an older camera, it is still a current camera and a potential for many when deciding between the three.
There's very little between all three cameras when shooting in ideal circumstances. One could expect a significant difference in image quality between full-frame and APS-C cameras, however there isn't much of a difference when put to the test. In my testing I found the 7D Mark II to be consistently sharper than the other two even when shot from the same distance with the same framing. I didn't, however, get a chance to extensively explore this point. The thing to take away from this is that when it comes to detail and sharpness, the differences are negligible and very difficult to tell apart. If you do shoot in controlled environments with the aim to get the best image quality, any of these cameras will perform adequately.
Dynamic range has been a cause for concern with many people considering this camera and in my testing, I was able to confirm that the 6D Mark II was noticeably worse than both the 7D Mark II and 80D at ISO 100. The 80D was the cleanest out of the three in recovered shadows and the 6D Mark II was the worst. The difference may not seem significant when looking at the results, but considering the 6D is a newer camera with a full-frame sensor at double the price of the 80D, the result is disappointing.
So far much of this article has been negative towards the 6D Mark II, however there are a number of redeeming features for the 6D. The fact that is it a competitively priced full-frame camera with a flip-out touchscreen is a first for Canon. Having a flip-out touchscreen is extremely useful and can help you get shots that may have otherwise been extremely difficult or not possible. The full-frame sensor also means you can use all of the amazing high-end glass available to the format at its full potential.
The other thing to consider is that the 6D Mark II is also much better in low light compared to the 80D and the 7D Mark II. If you need that high ISO performance the 6D will be a much better option as it is a full stop cleaner than the other two. The 80D at ISO 6,400 is slightly noisier than the 6D Mark II at ISO 12,800.
What I Liked
- The flip-out touchscreen
- Autofocus speed and accuracy in low light
What I Disliked
- Single card slot
- Clustered focus points
- No 100 percent viewfinder coverage
- No headphone jack
- No joystick
- Dynamic range at ISO 100
- High ISO performance worse than the original
The fact that the 6D Mark II is better in low light compared to the 80D and 7D Mark II is not enough. The reason is that there are several comparisons online that show the original 6D outperforming the current one by a full stop at high ISO. Also for the APS-C cameras, it's very easy to get that stop of light back simply by using a faster zoom lens like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8. With that lens, you can shoot at ISO 3,200 instead of 6,400 and get a similar level of performance. The 6D Mark II is also missing a headphone jack meaning that its advantages over the 80D are minimal. The image quality between all three cameras are so similar which begs the question, why would anyone want to buy the 6D Mark II over the other two cameras. The 7D Mark II is a far more professional and effective camera, the ergonomics, dual card slots, image quality, faster burst rate, and buffer make it a far better option at a much cheaper price point. The extra 25 percent in resolution from the 6D Mark II isn't much of a difference especially when you can use the crop factor as an advantage. The camera is built for the professional photographer and if you earn a living from your work the 7D Mark II is a much more viable option.
The 80D, on the other hand, is essentially the same as the 6D except for the smaller sensor and the addition of a headphone jack. At half the price one can quite comfortably buy an extra couple of lenses or accessories and produce similar or even better results in comparison. This unfortunate circumstance makes the 6D Mark II a disappointing release from Canon and the complaints about it are, for the most part, justified.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II One Shot Mode
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Burst Mode
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Silent Mode
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Silent Burst Mode
Burst Comparison: 70D, 7D, 7D II and 1D X
Camera sounds are recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain and positioned 1" behind the rear LCD.
Live view shooting can also be used to further minimalize the 7D II's audibility.
Perhaps even more beneficial for understanding what can be done with this frame rate is to look at a visual example. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at the 10 fps rate. Drag your mouse completely across all of the labels in 1.3 seconds to get an idea of the speed of the approaching American Quarter Horse – approximately 35 mph (56 kph) based on previous GPS testing. I know, the labels are a bit small for that mouse move, but this approach happened very fast.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
As with action capture of many subjects, there are specific positions of the horse that I like best. My favorite is all four hooves off of the ground at the same time to leave no question about the speed of the horse. That horse position is best-timed with the horse and rider nearly filling the frame.
Even at 10 fps, I do not have many captures of the ideal pose in this entire burst example. True, I have the opportunity to shoot this particular approach over and over again, meaning that I might be able to get the same image with a 5 fps camera if twice as many passes were made. But, not all subjects give you a second chance (sports and wildlife are two such examples). Also, it takes twice as much time to shoot two passes and time is a precious resource for all of us.
Here is another example showing wing positions captured in a 10 fps burst. Shown is a juvenile bald eagle chasing an adult (the adult has a fish in its talons).
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Certain wings positions are more photogenic than others and in this case, there are roughly 2 frames per wingbeat in which to capture the ideal positions. A 20 fps rate would not be too fast for this use. A 10 fps rate is twice as likely to capture ideally positioned subjects than a 5 fps rate.
Of critical importance for most photographers, and especially for sports/action and wildlife photographers, is autofocus accuracy. A camera's image quality doesn't matter if the subject is out of focus. The first 7D received what Canon at that time called "... the most advanced AF system ever seen in an EOS SLR." While that 19 cross-type AF point system was groundbreaking, the 7D II breaks a lot of new ground.
The 7D II receives the 1D X's AI Servo AF III along with an enhanced version of the EOS 1D X's EOS iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF system, featuring viewfinder-based face and color detection along with a newly-developed wide-area 65-cross-type-point AF system.
Cross-type points are sensitive to lines of contrast in two directions instead of just one – for potentially significantly better focusing performance. The 1D X and 5D III both have nearly as many AF points as the 7D II (61), but at most, only 41 of their AF points function as cross-type points. The 7D II's center AF point has dual cross-type functionality with an f/2.8 or wider aperture lens.
As with the 1D X and 5D III cameras, the 7D II's AF Configuration Menu permits configuration of the AF system's tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking, and AF point auto switching.
An AF first for a Canon APS-C DSLR is that, like the 5D III and 1-Series bodies to date, the 7D II will autofocus with lens and extender combinations with max apertures as narrow as f/8. In this case, only the center AF point acts as a cross-type point and only the four neighboring AF points function in addition. Those pursuing bird and wildlife photography, two of the most common uses for extenders, will especially appreciate this feature.
Another eye-catching spec is the 7D II center AF point's low light performance. Only the EOS 6D matches this camera's -3 EV center AF point spec.
The EOS 7D Mark II’s AF Area options are Single-point AF, Spot AF (reduced size single point), AF Point Expansion w/ 4 points (single point plus 4 surrounding points in "+" configuration), AF Point Expansion w/ 8 points (single point plus all 8 surrounding points), Zone AF (one of 9 preconfigured zones), Wide Zone AF (new – a large group of center, left, or right AF points) and Auto AF point selection (all 65 AF points active). These options are illustrated below.
Spot AF | Single | 4pt Expansion | 8pt Expansion | Zone AF | Wide Zone AF | Auto AF
While I expect most photographers to favor only a small subset of these options, there is a focus configuration available for your needs. Especially notable: the large percentage of the viewfinder covered by Canon EOS 7D Mark II AF system is a big deal, at least when shooting in AI Servo AF mode and when there is no time to recompose after focusing. Here is an example:
The horse gallops toward the camera – fast. I want the rider to be in focus, but the horse's ears and mane strongly compete for the top AF point's attention as the animal quickly moves up and down. The shallow depth of field does not allow both to be in reasonable focus at the same time. Having an AF point so close to the border of the frame allows me to (better) avoid the AF point's attention moving from the rider to the horse.
Good examples of situations requiring a wide-positioned AF point include any sports that involve running (track, baseball, soccer, football, field hockey, etc.). When a person is running fast, they lean forward and the head leads the lean. If the subject's eyes are not in focus, the shot is likely a throw-away. To keep the runner's eyes in focus requires an AF point placed on them and at the oft-desired near-frame-filling distances, an AF point positioned close to the frame edge is required. The 7D II has you covered here.
Cameras with a lower percentage of the viewfinder covered by AF points require similar subjects to be captured from a longer distance and/or with a wider focal length, meaning cropping is required to achieve the same desired frame-filling result. Cropping of course reduces final image resolution. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II's wide area AF system has you covered in these situations, allowing you to fully utilize its 20.2 MP sensor. There is little remaining need to focus and recompose and in-motion subjects are more easily captured in their final-cropped framing – this capability is a big deal.
An apparently undocumented attribute of the outer AF points (at least in single AF point mode) is that they all can use contrast information under the next AF point toward the center, causing the adjacent AF point to functionally appear as a focus assist-like point. When contrast becomes weak (or even non-existent) on a selected outer AF point and the next point down/up (for top/bottom AF points) or left/right (for right/left AF points) has good contrast, the 7D II will auto focus using the position of that particular assist point. Here is a pair of examples:
No Contrast | Low Contrast
I created a white canvas in Photoshop and then created two vertical bars spaced to fall under the rightmost AF point and the next point to the left. The camera is unable to focus on the white canvas (no contrast available), but can easily lock focus onto the black bars. I then reduced the opacity of the right bar until the stronger-contrasting bar under the adjacent focus point took over the camera's attention. The 7D II was tripod-mounted and positioned at an angle to the display to better discern the camera's selected point of focus. Shown in the examples is a screen capture from DPP showing the selected AF point and the area where the LCD display's pixels are most in-focus. The bar under the right-most AF point is still visible in the "Low Contrast" example, but the camera focuses similarly on the strongly contrasting bar to the left.
Corner AF points (including the corner points in the slightly enlarged center section of AF points) utilize contrast information under the two adjacent points.
Whether the outer AF points are simply larger than the point indicator or the adjacent AF point is actually being used, I cannot say. Whether this feature is beneficial or problematic is dependent on the situation you are shooting in. It was somewhat problematic in the horse example I've been showing as the bouncing ears and mane did get the 7D II's attention sometimes. The 5D Mark III's AF system does not exhibit this behavior, but the 5D III's outer AF points are farther from the borders than even some of the 7D II's next-to-outer AF points. I should also note that I could have adjusted the 7D II's AF tracking parameters to ignore the temporary interference of the ears (the default tracking settings were in use).
When the 7D Mark II was announced, the big question on my mind has been "How does the 7D Mark II AF system compare to the best-ever-prior AF system found in the 1D X and 5D Mark III?"
The 1D X and 5D Mark III AF systems are easily the best I've ever used and my in-focus hit rate when using these cameras, especially with subjects in motion, has never been higher. Then the 7D Mark II was announced with even more focus points (including a higher number of cross-type AF points) and many of the same or even improved AF features found in the 1D X/5D Mark III.
In response to my question, Chuck Westfall (Advisor, Technical Information, Canon USA) was gracious enough to prepare a detailed technical comparison for us. Chuck's information is a must-read for anyone choosing between these three DSLRs:
Chuck Westfall Compares the 7D Mark II AF System to the 1D X and 5D III AF System
I found the 70D to be Canon's best-focusing APS-C format DSLR prior to the 7D II's release and based on initially available information, expected the 7D II to easily surpass this competence.
When design meets reality is of course the real test and I've been paying very close attention to 7D Mark II auto focus performance. It is easy to measure and compare image quality, but autofocus performance and especially AI Servo AF performance is very difficult to evaluate. Multiply the infinite combination of lighting (amount, size and spectrum) and subjects (color, contrast, size, shape, speed and direction) possible by the wide range of configurable AF settings and it becomes clear that exhaustive testing of AF performance is simply not a realistic endeavor.
Predicting the point of perfect focus on a fast-moving subject at the precise moment the shutter opens in AI Servo AF mode is one of the biggest challenges for AF technology and AI Servo AF accuracy testing is one of the most-difficult camera tests to perform. Shooting a challenging scenario that is familiar to me is the best method I've found to at least get a baseline comparison and having one of the kids gallop their horses straight at me is one of the best baseline tests I've found. The 10 fps example shown earlier in the review is an example from the 1,500-or-so images captured on two different days under different lighting conditions (full clouds and direct sunlight).
In the galloping horse shoots, the 7D II performed extremely well. This camera, behind a fast-focusing Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens, had no trouble keeping up with the horses down to close distances. As I already mentioned, the camera liked to focus on the horse's mane instead of the rider on occasion, but that the 7D II's AF could switch between the two at such a fast rate (between frames) shows the camera's incredible AF speed. Otherwise, the 7D II appears to stay focused on this challenging subject as well as the 1D X and 5D III. And again, I could have adjusted the tracking parameters to avoid this issue completely.
A few indoor soccer matches and a running event were included in my 7D II AI Servo action testing with good results observed. The soccer matches were under terrible lighting conditions with strong light flicker and the AF hit rate was decent. The running event was outdoors and AF tracking performance was excellent.
"How well does the Canon EOS 7D Mark II perform when shooting birds in flight?" has quickly become a frequently asked question. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II, especially because of its high performance AF system, high density imaging sensor, fast frame rate and modest-for-what-you-get price, is quickly finding favor with bird photographers. And, one of the biggest challenges faced by bird photographers is maintaining focus on birds in flight. Thus, the question is getting asked.
I had the privilege of spending the larger part of a day shooting bald eagles below the Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland with the 7D II this week. My goal was to discern how well this AF system could track the often-erratic movement of these beautiful birds in flight (and to hopefully come away with some nice images).
The day's moderate-to-heavy cloud cover eliminated any harsh shadow issues, but made the sky a white canvas (white sky is OK, but is not my favorite) and provided low light to further challenge the AF system. The bottom line is that I'm really impressed with my success rate from this day.
I was using the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens with and without a Canon EF 1.4x III Extender behind it. Tracking these fast and erratic-moving birds with such a narrow angle of view was quite challenging, but when I kept the selected center AF point or one of the 4 neighboring AF points (based on the AF area I was using) on or even close to the bird I was tracking, most of the images were properly focused. Especially impressive was the ability of this camera to maintain focus on the birds even with backgrounds that the birds visually blended into and even more impressive was this camera's ability to maintain focus on the birds even with high contrasting backgrounds including electrical line towers and bare tree branches against a bright sky. I was using the AF Case 2 to instruct the camera to be slow to leave a tracked subject due to obstacles.
After catching its dinner, this eagle in the above picture flew directly toward the camera. I began tracking and shooting at 10 fps. I have numerous good images of this eagle, but this was the most-frame-filling that did not cut off any significant amount of the bird. This image is essentially right out of the camera. I extended the canvas slightly to the bottom, added the extreme tip of the two bottom-most feathers and removed imperfections from a couple of other feathers. I changed the Picture Style to Standard (in DPP), changed saturation to "1", white balance to "Cloudy" and added a touch of noise reduction.
This camera is a great choice for bird photography. The consensus that I'm hearing from the other photographers frequenting Conowingo Dam is that their 7D Mark II experiences mirror my own.
I expected to have no problems with the 7D II's One Shot AF mode – I rarely do with any Canon EOS DSLR cameras – and my expectations have proven true. Simply place your selected AF point on a point of adequate contrast on your subject and the camera very quickly gets the job done. One shot AF works very well even under very low light levels. From a dimly lit room, looking through a slightly cracked door into a very dark basement, the 7D II was able to auto focus on the edge of a barely-visible reflection using the center AF point when the camera's meter was selecting a 30 second exposure at f/2.8. This is a very impressive capability and event photographers shooting in cave-like venues will especially appreciate this feature.
Another AF feature I'm impressed with is EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition). Using color along with face recognition technology to help track subjects within the selected AF Area while in AI Servo AF mode, iTR definitely makes a difference when trying to track specific subjects including people's faces, yellow tennis balls and other subjects. Perhaps the biggest downside to enabling iTR is a possibly slightly reduced max frame rate. The iTR technology is not available in Live View mode (the raised mirror blacks the iTR sensor in the viewfinder), but Live View has its own face tracking technology that also works very well.
The bottom line is that I have to declare the 70D (and 7D) dethroned as king of APS-C AF. The Canon 7D Mark II is now the best-focusing APS-C DSLR available (as of review time).
The 7D II is more-directly competing with the extraordinary AF system found in the 1D X and 5D III. I'm not ready to declare the 7D II better than the 1D X and 5D III for AF performance, but I have spent a lot more time with these two bodies and there are some differences (as Chuck pointed out) between these AF systems with both sides having advantages. In use, I'm not seeing a big difference in accuracy.
Conventional DSLR phase detection AF relies on light passing through the semi-transparent main mirror and reflecting from a sub-mirror into the AF sensor below. The AF sensor, in connection with the dual DIGIC 6 processors (the most processing power ever in a Canon DSLR), performs phase detection AF with incredible speed. The extremely fast and very accurate phase detection AF system has been reason alone to select a DSLR over any another type of camera.
When the mirror is raised for Live View shooting or Movie mode, the primary phase-detection AF system becomes unavailable. Typical for recent DSLR models is that sensor-based contrast-detection AF then becomes available and that sensor-based contrast AF has been painfully slow.
Groundbreaking with the recent introduction of the EOS 70D was Canon's innovative Dual Pixel CMOS AF (DAF) system. Each pixel on an imaging sensor in a DAF implementation is dual purposed with phase detection AF being the secondary purpose. Since the imaging sensor pixels are able to perform both imaging and fast phase-detection focus measurement simultaneously, continuous AI Servo-like AF is available in Movie mode. Canon calls this feature "Movie Servo AF".
Click on the above image to learn more about Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is the second DSLR to arrive with DAF technology and this implementation is referred to by Canon as the "... next generation of Dual Pixel CMOS AF ...". "New DAF features include user-selectable adjustments for Movie Servo AF Speed and Movie Servo AF Tracking Sensitivity. Additionally, overall focusing speed, face detection performance, and performance in low light and with low-contrast subjects have been improved over previous Canon models." [Canon]
Live View/Movie focusing modes include what has become the Canon standard: Face Detection with Tracking, FlexiZone Multi with 31 AF zones, and FlexiZone Single. Note that some older lenses are incompatible with Dual Pixel CMOS AF – here is the list provided when the 70D was introduced:
|EF 14mm f/2.8L USM||EF 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5|
|EF 24mm f/1.4L USM||EF 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5A|
|EF 100mm f/2.8 non-USM Macro||EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6|
|EF 400mm f/2.8L USM||EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6 PZ|
|EF 500mm f/4.5L USM||EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6 USM|
|EF 600mm f/4L USM||EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6 II|
|EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM||EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6 III|
|EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM||EF 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5|
|EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM||EF 35-105mm f/4.5-5.6|
|EF 20-35mm f/2.8L||EF 35-105mm f/4.5-5.6 USM|
|EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM||EF 35-135mm f/3.5-4.5|
|EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM||EF 35-135mm f/4-5.6 USM|
|EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5||EF 70-210mm f/3.5-4.5 USM|
|EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 II||EF 70-210mm f/4|
|EF 28-80mm f/2.8-4L USM||EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6||EF 80-200mm f/2.8L|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 USM||EF 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II||EF 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 USM|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II USM||EF 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 III USM||EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 IV USM||EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM|
|EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 V USM||EF 100-200mm f/4.5A|
|EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM||EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM|
|EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM||EF 100-300mm f/5.6|
|EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6||EF 100-300mm f/5.6L|
|EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6 USM|
There is likely an issue with the CPU capability in these lenses, preventing them from being fully compatible with the Dual Pixel CMOS technology. The more-conventional Live View contrast detection AF method will likely be reverted to with one of these lenses mounted. I do not currently have any of the listed lenses (though, again, that 1200 L is always calling me), so I've done no testing in this regard.
Another compatibility issue that you need to be aware of is that the Movie Servo AF Speed (focus transition) feature is enabled only for STM lenses USM lenses marketed in 2009 or later (and only in FlexiZoneAF). STM lenses are also strongly-advantaged in Movie Servo AF focusing smoothness and quietness concerns. With a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens mounted, Movie Servo AF steps are made in somewhat-disturbing-to-watch quick jumps with very-audible-to-the-camera-mic clicking/clunking occurring during focus changes. The STM lenses silently and very smoothly adjust focus in your choice of speed for ideal cinematic transitions from one subject to another. Note that an exception is that the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM’s focusing sound could be picked up by the in-camera mic during very large transitions (min focus distance to max), especially if the camera was set to something other than a slow transition (meaning the AF motor was working as fast as it could for a long duration of time). However, relatively speaking, the sound was minimal compared to non-STM lenses.
My own kit has been light on STM lenses because I am generally favoring higher grade models, but having a set of STM lenses makes a lot of sense if recording video while making use of Movie Servo AF.
Prior to Movie Servo AF and STM lenses, nearly all DSLR video was recorded using manual focus. Cinema-grade video generally involved careful focus pulling that typically utilized follow focus accessories. Not all video will be recorded using Movie Servo AF, but this feature – along with the built-in image stabilization found in many of these lenses – greatly simplifies quality video capture. Especially because the focus changes are so smooth and pleasing, impressive DSLR video is now much easier to capture by the masses.
The 7D II's sensor-based AF includes benefits over conventional phase-detection AF. First, the AF coverage area encompasses a full 80% of the frame (measured horizontally and vertically) with no limit on a "number" of focus points to select from or include in auto AF. Second, no AF Micro Adjustment calibration is needed because the actual imaging sensor is being used for AF. And, AF can function with camera and lens combinations having an f/11 or wider aperture (vs. f/8 with the 7D II's conventional center AF point) – again, using 80% of the frame.
Live View AF modes include Face Tracking, Flexizone - Multi, Flexizone - Single and Quick mode. Canon's EOS cameras are very effective at locating a subject's face and tracking that person around the frame in Face Tracking mode. FlexiZone-Multi allows one of 9 zones for auto AF to work within – similar to Zone AF mode. FlexiZone-Single allows selection of one AF point – similar to One Shot AF mode. The remaining Live View AF mode is also the oldest – Quick mode. Quick mode closes the mirror temporarily to allow conventional phase detection AF to do its job. For obvious reasons, Quick mode is the only option not allowing selection of the continuous focusing Live View menu option.
As I found with the EOS 70D, the EOS 7D Mark II's Dual Pixel CMOS AF is very fast – not so far from the speed of conventional phase detection AF.
As I have already begun discussing the 7D II's video capabilities, I'll dive deeper into this feature. Incredible video quality for a low price has become standard with Canon DSLR cameras. But, the primitive AF performance in movie mode (if the camera even has AF in video mode – only recent ones do) has been a barrier to enjoyment of this feature for many. What I saw with the 70D was that, while still not as high performing as the DSLR's conventional phase detection predictive AF, Dual Pixel CMOS AF is capable of tracking anything short of high speed action. DAF made DSLR video capture as easy as with a consumer grade camcorder with far superior video quality. As expected, the 7D II performs at least as well as the 70D.
Overall, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II has received a superset of all prior EOS DSLR video features and becomes the first Canon DSLR to feature 60 fps 1080p recording. Available NTSC and PAL recording sizes and frame rates are:
1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps) (actually 59.94, 50, 29.97, 25, 24, 23.98 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps) (actually 59.94, 50 fps)
640 x 480 (30, 25 fps) (actually 29.97, 25 fps)
Note that Movie Servo AF is not available when recording 1080p at 60 fps.
Once again, with the ability to start new video files during filming, the 4GB /12 min HD Movie clip limit has been surpassed. "Legal reasons" (to fall below the EU's higher tax rate video camera designation) limit the maximum total HD clip length to 29 minutes and 59 seconds (generating three files). The 7D II " ... automatically splits files greater than 4GB (FAT specifications) for extended recording without interruption." [Canon]