There’s a reason why you’ve never seen a Canon 7D review on this blog – I thought the sensor on that camera was complete garbage. Now, the 7D wasn’t all bad as it was a very nice camera body with the best AF system I had seen from Canon – at the time it had been released. However, I spent time doing my first bookshelf shots with that camera and was so underwhelmed by what I saw that I didn’t think it was worth losing sleep (during my 11:00 PM – 4:00 AM blogging hours back then) to write an article about it.
To all my readers who purchased 7D’s, I apologize for letting you down by not publishing a review. I vowed not to make that same mistake again, so I made sure that I would get a Canon 7D Mark II to review this time – no matter if it was good or bad.
Like the original 7D, the 7D Mark II sounds brilliant on paper. In fact, I thought the 70D was a decent camera, so I thought that if we had a 70D sensor in an improved 7D body that it would be a camera that is easy to recommend. However, what you get in some ways is better than that, yet some ways it is worse.
The 7D Mark II is basically a 70D variant living in what most closely resembles a 5D Mark III body and it differentiates itself from the two with a new menu font that I actually quite enjoyed. The net result is that 5D Mark III users will feel right at home, but enjoy LCD text that is much easier to read display (not that the previous one was bad). From there you get a whopping 10fps, a pop up flash, a built-in GPS and the first dual DIGIC 6 processors. This had me thinking that I might even want to replace my 5D Mark III because it sounded like the dream camera – on paper.
Sadly boys and girls, cameras aren’t just about body features and technical specifications. At the end of the day what matters the most to me is the accuracy of the auto focus system and the quality of the images produced. This is sadly where the 7D Mark II falls flat on its face to create images that perhaps suck less than the original 7D, but not by much. I also feel that the image quality of the 7D Mark II is one of, if not the worst of any DSLR in Canon’s current line up. In fact, I honestly preferred the T5i image quality over the 7D Mark II.
One of my friends used the analogy that if the 7D was stomach flu then the 7D Mark II was diarrhea. Sure the later is less of two evils, but you don’t really want either. Honestly, I couldn’t have put it better myself!
Now if you thought the 50D, 60D or 7D was a good camera then you’ll love the 7D Mark II. However, if you are like me and thought they weren’t worth owning if someone gave you one for free, then I have to advise that you stay away from the 7D Mark II – despite how fantastic the body features and technical specifications are.
Click the images below to see a full-size in-camera JPEG taken with camera default settings plus mirror lockup and a timer. The camera was on a tripod, so this is as good as it gets. At first the ISO 100 results look fantastic so I thought I was going to be amazed, after ISO 800 things start to glide down hill with things getting downright ugly by ISO 6400 – by today’s standards.
f/4 @ 24 mm, 4s, ISO 100, No Flash
At ISO 100, the 7D Mark II looks identical to the 70D – which is a good thing!
After ISO 6400 the images become basically unusable in my opinion which is sad for a sports camera. Sports demands higher shutter speeds and the only way you get action freezing shutter speeds on overcast soccer fields and dark gymnasiums is by trusting that your highest ISO’s will give you a great image. The Nikon D3 paved a new road as to what was possible and great cameras like the Nikon D4s and Canon 1D X continue that tradition. Sadly a used Nikon D700 would outperform this lousy sensor.
To be fair, if you’ll only be viewing small images as shown in this article or you’ll only be using a high resolution display (i.e., a 4K UHD display) then you’ll have no clue of the suckage that exists when you view the image at 100% on a traditional 1080p display.
Real World Sample Images
The following unedited in-camera JPEG images were taken using camera defaults on a 7D Mark II with a 24-70 f/2.8L II lens. All images are copyright © Ron Martinsen and all rights are reserved. You may view the images in conjunction with this review, but you must not edit, link, print or otherwise redistribute them in any way without written consent.
Click the images to view the original.
f/5.6 @ 63 mm, 1/200, ISO 6400, No Flash
This one actually turned out better than the bookshelf shot at ISO 6400!
f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/250, ISO 5000, No Flash
At first glance this one isn’t too bad (once you get past the lady who jumped in my frame to take a shot). However at 100% you start to see a lot of detail lost. What isn’t shown though are the dozens of shots before and after this that were all blurry.
f/4 @ 44 mm, 1/250, ISO 5000, No Flash
This is one of the very few action shots that came out
during my one hour of shooting in the freezing cold.
This is representative of the best quality sports photographers
can expect in less than perfect light conditions.
f/2.8 @ 35 mm, 1/320, ISO 1600, No Flash
At first I thought “hum, not bad” until I viewed at 100%, then I
checked the front to make sure I wasn’t using a 7D Mark I
f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/125, ISO 3200, No Flash
I zoomed in on this one and just thought - yuck
In-Camera HDR Default - Base: f/4 @ 28 mm, 1/80, ISO 6400, No Flash
The light was almost gone so I couldn’t use more than f/4 and still shoot an HDR handheld
It was nice having the built-in HDR which seems to perform
just like the 5D Mark III including keeping the originals – woohoo!
In-Camera HDR Art Vivid - Base: f/4 @ 28 mm, 1/60, ISO 6400, No Flash
Same as above but this time using a different HDR preset which is more like Velvia film
Things get a bit wonky at the edges though so I don’t recommend it unless
you are using a tripod
f/5.6 @ 24 mm, 5s, ISO 800, No Flash
Again the cropped sensor gave more depth of field than you’d typically get with a full frame
f/4 @ 24 mm, 1/250, ISO 100, No Flash, Shade White Balance (at Sunset)
My apologies for the crooked horizon, but you can get a good idea of the shadow details here
f/4 @ 70 mm, 1/160, ISO 100, No Flash
The metering was excellent like the 5D Mark III
f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/160, ISO 6400, No Flash
Intentionally out of focus lights had some nasty artifacts
f/4 @ 67 mm, 1/40, ISO 6400, Popup Flash
The pop-up flash is better than nothing, but you still want to avoid it unless you like this shot
CLICK HERE to see the complete gallery of unedited images.
If you swapped the sensor in this camera with a 6D it would destroy the sales of the 1D X, because the body is excellent. However, the sensor seemed to be worse than the 70D when on paper it seems like it should be just as good or better (thanks to DIGIC 6). This would imply that DIGIC 6 isn’t quite perfected yet, so expect lots of firmware updates on this one to make it suck less.
My advice to those who must buy this camera despite my warnings is to turn OFF all noise reduction and let Noiseware do the job instead – it’ll give the best possible image you can get from this camera. I’d also advise showing your image small on high resolution devices like UHD and Retina displays – it helps to hide the poor ISO performance. When you do that you think it isn’t that bad!
Ultimately I can’t recommend this camera. Canon sports shooters with a big lens investment would be better served investing in a used 1D Mark IV which will outperform this camera both in terms of image quality and performance, and everyone else should consider a D750 (or a D4s if you can afford it). Sure you’ll get less frames per second on the Nikon, but nearly all of them will be in focus and you’ll have killer image quality too!
Where to order
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