I think Canon is on a Roll: The last three bodies I have looked forward to from the Canon stable have all been better than expected. I know I might be biased, but this time it’s a body that I didn’t buy for myself, so I have nothing to justify, and no reason to. I have been looking forward to the new 70D from Canon for a while. The rumours about what it is supposed to be able to do, and the technology we saw in the last cameras coming out (EOS-M, 100D, etc) made me think that something is coming, and indeed, so far I am not disappointed!
I haven’t been able to play with the 70D as much as I wanted, and will surely put some more pressure on it, but right off the bat I can say that this is camera that is extremely good value for money and technology wise a major upgrade, not just incremental.
It’s slightly smaller than the 60D that it replaces, although it sits nice even in my big hands, it’s a plastic body, and you feel the difference coming off a 5DmkIII but since the beginning I have said (and proven) that Magnesium alloy or plastic, both break if you drop them, so don’t!
But essentially you most probably want to know what is the fuss about?
So, the quick highlights:
1. Completely new 20mp sensor (but formed from 40mp worth of Photodiodes!)
2. Completely new AF system in Live View modes
3. 7D’s 19 point Contrast Detection AF sensors: ALL Cross type!
5. Digic 5+ processor (from big brother 5DmkIII)
6. Touch screen interface
7. Wifi Control
8. Built in buffer for 65 JPEG files or 16 RAW
9. 63-zone metering system
For number 10 I wasn’t sure if I should put in the mini spirit level that is now simply on screen (very handy now that you don’t have to switch to it with button presses) or the fact that it also has the 40-Lens Individual Micro Adjustment?
Ok, just to be fair, the 70D has less AF feature sets than the 7D but the ones it does have has worked pretty much flawlessly in our tests. Really much better than we expected. It only has a 98% coverage viewfinder, but again, you’d hardly notice after the first week if you used to shoot 100% and definitely not if you are upgrading from an xxxD model SLR. AF has been solid throughout, and even when light levels started dipping it picked up and locked pretty solidly.
All in all, this is a very good upgrade for 60D shooters and smaller, there really is very little a 7D can do that this body cannot (remember, the 7D ran dual Digic4 processors, this camera’s Digic5+ is 17x faster than a digic4) It completely outperforms the 60D and is very close in MP range to the 6D at a fraction of the price.
So should I get this camera?
Here is what is critical for me? I don’t like crop sensors much because I work indoors a lot (interior locations) so losing out on the wide side has always pushed me to Full Frame Sensors. The second benefit of the full frame sensor is just how much better it handles low light noise. That said, I am spectacularly impressed with how well the high ISO noise cleans up on this sensor! My favourite RAW converter could not at the time of writing read the 70D files, so I was stuck with ACR8.1 in Adobe Photoshop, but even just with that, we cleaned up ISO3200 files amazingly well! I am very impressed – This is truly a new sensor! Is it better than my 5DmkIII? nope, but it’s a third of the price and very little can touch it right now.
If you made a total stuff-up, and underexposed your shot by 3 stops or so, then the Nikon D7100 will give you a better recovery “save-my-behind”, file to edit. But if you shoot well and pay attention to what you are doing, the 70D Canon seems to have better core RAW files, and clean up better than pretty much any APS-C sensor currently on the market (who knows what tomorrow brings though) I don’t think I would think twice about shooting at ISO1600 and would be comfortable to shoot at ISO3200 as long as you stay inside the lines (that means, don’t shoot at ISO3200 AND underexpose, meter right and shoot right!)
The video functions ARE NOT Handycam functions! It just isn’t. This is a camera that is going to make Indie film makers very happy though!
I think the technology in this camera is going to shift expectations just as much as the 5DmkII did when cinematographers started playing with that body.
The LiveView Phase Detection AF works extremely well. It can lock focus anywhere you touch on the screen (it has 80% coverage of the sensor!) and it locks focus and shifts focus smoothly, like a focus puller, soft, smooth shifts. It doesn’t change the aperture to try and generate contrast, it doesn’t shake the lens around. It doesn’t hunt unless you are pointing it at a white paper lit up by a floodlight.
That said, it’s still going to take some getting used to to get the best out of it, but if you spend the time to get to know the camera, I think you will also like it. Low Light video quality, really depends on how low your light levels are. Personally I wouldn’t push it too far, but if you use it within reason, the results should be good enough for most shooters. Some reviewers have complained that the video footage is “soft” I don’t think it’s any softer than my XA10 and maybe a bit noisier than my 5DmkIII (which is to be expected) I think we will see some more improvements there after a firmware update or two. The Noise from the sensor is definitely better than the previous APS-C sensors from Canon, a lot more pleasant when it shows up, so I cannot think the video quality would be any less of an improvement.
I still need to spend more time with this camera to figure out where things go wrong, which button sticks or what part of the viewfinder I can’t easily see, but out of the box I think this is a great cam whose features will be transported to all the new models we see from here on out.