At long last – an updated Canon 7D dSLR, the Canon 7D II – could this be the best sports/action/wildlife camera available?

Written by Gary on September 17th, 2014

5 years is an eternity in the modern world of digital cameras, but Canon has finally announced an update to their current top of the line APS-C cropped sensor dSLR – their 2009 model Canon 7D.

There are not many reasons to buy a cropped sensor dSLR these days now that you can buy much more compact, lighter, quieter, more functional and fun Micro Four Thirds cameras and both Canon and Nikon have been feeling the heat.

Perhaps the main reason for buying such a camera is if you really need the fastest continuous AF tracking on fast moving subjects – as good as the latest Micro Four Thirds cameras are such as the Panasonic GH-4 and Olympus E-M1, they still can’t quite match the C-AF tracking capabilities of fully fledged phase detect cameras with double cross AF points, although the GH-4 is getting close with its new DFD technology.

Canon and Nikon desperately need to keep a significant advantage in this arena or they may find themselves rapidly without a market for their cropped sensor cameras.

On paper, Canon has not disappointed on this front – their new Canon 7D Mark II sports a number of enhanced features which would appear to give it the title as best sports/action/wildlife camera so far.

The enhancements over the old Canon 7D are considerable and in some areas even better their top of the range dSLR, their Canon 1D X.

Improvements over the Canon 7D:

  • 20mp sensor (not 18mp)
  • “4x more weather-sealed” – perhaps now you can be confident pouring a bottle of water over it as you can with an Olympus
  • button layout more consistent with the Canon 5D Mark III
  • new thumb switch to allow access to AF points pattern
  • dual SD and CF card slots
  • mode dial has a new central lock button as with the Olympus E-M1
  • 200,000 shutter (instead of 150,000)
  • 65 AF points
    •  all cross type, center double-cross
    •  center point is capable of focusing with lenses (or lens/teleconverter combinations) as slow as f/8, as well as down to EV -3 (not just 19 all cross with 7D and it gives a 1 EV advantage in low light compared to the 1D X and 5D Mark III)
    • although they cover a wider area, still do not cover as wide an area as Micro Four Thirds cameras and still do not offer the ability to AF on the closest eye as you can with Olympus cameras
  • 1080 60p/25p HD video with All-I, IPB, IPB-Lite and .MOV (not just 60p MP4) – similar to the Canon 5D Mark III
    • real-time lens corrections to video footage
    • C-AF only with STM lenses, or, USM lenses launched after 2009
    • recording restricted to 29min 59sec
    • can simultaneously output to HDMI but only 8bit not 10 bit like the GH-4
    • artificial light flicker warning
    • no slo-mo video capture like the GH-4 (96-120fps)
    • no variable frame rate mode
    • no log curve mode
    • no focus peaking
    • no touch screen to change AF point during video
  • new 150,000-pixel RGB metering sensor
  • metering sensor-assisted AF tracking – the latest version of the ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR) focus system from the EOS-1D X
    • this is also very useful when locking focus and re-composing, particularly with shallow DOF scenarios
  • on sensor phase detection Dual Pixel AF for Live View as with the Canon 70D but still no C-AF tracking in live view
  • spot-metering linked to AF point but still no Highlight or Shadow spot metering as with Olympus cameras
  • 10fps burst to 31 RAW (not just 8fps to 25 RAW)
  • built-in GPS
  • can now use exposure compensation in M mode with autoISO but cumbersome
  • higher capacity battery (LP-E6N) but can still use the old LP-E6 batteries
  • USB 3.0
  • still no sensor-based image stabilisation (IBIS), image stabilised magnified manual focus view, built-in AF illuminator, Timed BULB, Live BULB, LIVE Composite, focus peaking, nor flip out touch LCD screen as with Olympus

The 1.6x crop factor will allow it to have substantially more telephoto reach than a full frame dSLR, the metering sensor has 50% more pixels,  and the AF will work in lower light conditions than the 1D X giving it 3 important advantages when it comes to sports and wildlife photography.

At $US1799 it is not cheap for a cropped sensor camera but on paper, it may well be a very compelling camera for a niche sector who value highest performance C-AF tracking.

Those wanting the best video performance would be better looking at a Panasonic GH-4 which can do 4K video for the same price.

Those wanting the shallowest depth of field possibilities will want a full frame camera, the rest of us will have more fun buying a Micro Four Thirds camera of which there are a multitude of options now.


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