Canon 7D MK II Review

We have been testing out the new Canon 7d Mark 2 for a few weeks now to put it through its paces and to see if it lives up to the 7D name.

The things that interest us most on this new camera are the new 65 point auto-focus system which is borrowed from the top of the range Canon 1DX and how the camera performs at high ISO settings.

The original Canon 7D is a bit long in the tooth now and a lot of photographers find that they are limited to using ISO 400 or below to get the image quality that they are happy with.

By looking at who the 7d mk 2 is aimed at we can start to test out the relevant features to enable you to see if it is a worthy upgrade and if it will allow you to capture the images that you need.

The Canon 7d mark 2 is squarely aimed at wildlife, sports and photojournalists where excellent tracking, fast FPS and the extra reach of Canon’s APS-C sensor all help to get the shots that nothing else under £3000 will get you.

A quick look at the specs and the body tell us that this camera has a level of weather sealing that is not found on any camera body below the top of the range 1DX and Nikon D4s. There are seals and gaskets covering every possible weak point as far as dust and water are concerned and indeed in our testing we have found that the camera handles torrential rain in its stride. The weather sealing is top notch so have no fear in taking this body on safari, to the Arctic or using it in terrible conditions. It will keep going all day long.

7d mk2 dragonfly webpic

In terms of ergonomics the 7d mark 2 is very similar to the original 7d. If you have previously used that camera or any of Canon’s higher end models then you will have no problem whatsoever switching to the new 7d mark 2.

What the 7d mark 2 does have now is a dedicated auto focus switch that allows you to quickly and easily flick through the auto focus settings. It is located around the joystick control. Here’s how it works. You press the auto focus selection button, then you can flick the selector switch to change between single point AF, group AF and 65 point AF selection. You can then press the joystick in whichever direction you choose to specify which af point or group you wish to use.This allows you to quickly and easily change your auto focus mode to suit the intended target. I personally found this to be a really intuitive system to use and I have been shooting Nikon bodies for the last few years.

So how does it work in practise? Is the AF system as good as they say? 

In short, yes. A big resounding yes! 

We have tested the Canon 7D Mark 2 out on a huge variety of subjects from stationary portraits through to erratically moving birds in flight and found that the new 65 point auto focus system gives you an incredibly high rate of keepers. This is coming from someone who can remember trying to shoot birds in flight on a Canon 40d many years back and all the frustrations that involved.

However this is by far and away the most responsive, accurate and customisable auto-focus system that I have used on any camera now with the exception of the 1DX but that camera is way more expensive.

7dmk2 focus points

Below I shot a series of images of oncoming motorbikes travelling around 40-60mph. The camera was set to AI servo (tracking af), high speed burst and the centre group of AF points.It was recording both raw and jpeg files.

I started with the camera at my side and raised it to my eye before firing off a burst.  Out of 32 shots only 2 were out of focus and to be honest that could well have been user error.

7d mk2 Auto Focus7d mk2auto focus

7d mk2 auto focus7d mk2 auto focus

What also impresses me with this camera is the depth of the buffer. With jpegs you can shoot all day long and with a fast card not fill the buffer. We are able to shoot 18 raw files before the camera slows down. That is shooting on a Sandisk Extreme 32gb 120/mbs compact flash card.

If you head over to Cotswold Cameras TV channel you can see a quick clip of the canon firing off a burst of jpegs. Not only does this kind of shooting rate make you feel all warm inside, it’s also great for capturing action where a slower camera might miss the critical shot.

ISO performance

We have shot a bunch of different shots at all ISO settings and while the 7d mk2 might not quite be up to par with the full frame sensors in the Nikon d750 and D810 in terms of high ISO performance it is certainly no slouch. We think the ISO performance of this crop sensor is definitely the best we have yet seen from this size of sensor. ISO 1600 is clean, at ISO 3200 there is a small amount of noise creeping it but it is not at all objectionable and even at ISO 6400 noise is incredibly well-controlled. We are talking about unedited raw files that have had no noise reduction whatsoever applied. Now just think about how good they will look if you use Lightroom’s noise reduction capabilities on them.

The shots below are straight raw to jpeg conversions using Canon’s DPP software. They suffer a little from the jpeg conversion and show some jpeg artifacts due to file size restrictions, so to see the high resolution versions please head to our Flickr page.

7d mk2 ISO 100 crop
ISO 100 Crop
7d mk2 ISO 800 crop
ISO 800 Crop
7d mk2 ISO 3200 crop
ISO 3200 Crop
ISO 16000 Crop
ISO 16000 Crop

Even at ISO 16000 you are still getting plenty of detail and the noise levels are manageable. We are really impressed with what Canon has done with this sensor in terms of noise performance and we think you will be too. But of course you don’t just need to take our word for it as we have shot some sample images which you can see below. We also have the full resolution files available on Flickr for you to download so you can have a play around with them and see for yourself.

Is the 7d mk 2 just for wildlife and sports photographers? 

While the Canon 7d mark 2 is undoubtedly a fantastic camera for wildlife and sports it is not just a one trick pony. With the excellent 20mp sensor along with in-camera HDR and the ability to capture time lapse images it is also a great camera for landscapes and general photography. The auto focus makes getting sharp images, no matter what the subject easy and intuitive.

In camera HDR shot with the 7d mk 2
In camera HDR shot with the 7d mk 2

We get to test and play with a lot of cameras here at The Cotswold Photographer but the new Canon 7d Mark 2 is something that we are really excited about. It allows photographers to access the very best auto focus system available, an excellent 10 FPS shooting speed with a deep buffer and all at a price point that was previously unthinkable.