What’s the difference between the Canon EOS 70D and the EOS 7D Mark II?

If you're upgrading from an entry-level Canon digital SLR, these two options are serious contenders

The Canon EOS 70D (left) and EOS 7D Mark II (right).

The Canon EOS 70D (left) and EOS 7D Mark II (right).

If you are making the step up from an entry level Canon digital SLR to something a little more substantial, you are likely to be confused with the vast range of cameras that are available to choose from. The general rule for Canon cameras is: the lower the number, the more advanced the camera.

For someone who owns an EOS 700D, for example, the next logical step up might be an EOS 70D, or you could jump directly to an EOS 7D Mark II. But what’s the difference between these models and how can you decide which one is the right one to go for?

We’re bringing up the EOS 70D and the 7D Mark II since they are currently a couple of the cameras that we have in for review and can point out some physical differences in addition to specifications and usage models. Both cameras are 20 megapixels and use what is known as an APS-C sensor (or crop sensor), which means it’s not a full-frame sensor (or 35mm sensor) like the one found in Canon’s EOS 6D, 5D and 1D cameras.

That doesn’t matter though, because the chances are that the lenses you have for your current Canon EOS are designed for the smaller sensor anyway: EF-S lenses are for the APS-C sensor, and EF lenses are for the full frame sensor. EF lenses work on the the 70D and 7D Mark II cameras, so you could start investing in them if you foresee yourself buying a full-frame camera in the future. They do cost a bit more than EF-S lenses due to being larger.

The main difference between the EOS 70D and the EOS 7D Mark II is that the 7D is designed to be a speed demon. It’s the camera to go for if you are particularly keen on capturing plenty of action shots and Full HD video. It has a continuous shooting rating of 10 frames per second, and this is three frames better than what the 70D can achieve during the same burst. It just gives you that little bit extra and could mean the difference between capturing the shot you’re after and missing it by a hair. Furthermore, the 7D Mark II includes 65 autofocus points for greater accuracy, compared to the 19 autofocus points provided by the 70D.

The 7D Mark II relies on a dual-processor configuration (two Digic 6 processors) to drive the focusing performance and process the images that it captures, and it’s part of what allows the camera to capture images so quickly. They can be stored either on a CompactFlash card, or on an SD card. The original version of the EOS 7D only had a CompactFlash slot. Recording of the same image can be undertaken to both storage formats. The EOS 70D, on the other hand, has one processor (Digic 5+) and saves its images to one SD card.

Physical differences are more obvious between the cameras, with the EOS 70D possessing a smaller body than the 7D Mark II, and offering a hinged, 3in LCD screen rather than a fixed, 3in LCD screen. The hinged screen on the 70D could be of benefit to those of you who regularly shoot from peculiar angles. The fixed screen of the EOS 7D Mark II gives it a slight advantage in the thickness stakes, but it’s negligible. Mainly, if you’re already used to shooting with the screen at an angle, then you will find the 7D Mark II limiting.

Button layout and control is a little different on both models, with the 7D offering a more comfortable user experience. It has a separate stick for navigating the menu system, whereas the menu navigation on the 70D is done by pressing a multi-directional pad that sits inside the rear control ring. The lack of a hinge on the 7D Mark II allows for more playback controls to be placed on the camera body, so you can do things like bring up an in-camera edit menu.

Which of these cameras should you go for? If you’re strictly into action photography, then the 7D Mark II is definitely the one to choose, mainly because it’s so fast (10 frames per second). It’s also well suited to capturing Full HD video (at up to 60 frames per second), and it’s better rated at working in low light conditions (up to ISO 16000 compared to 12800 for the 70D). Retail pricing was $2200 for the body only at the time of writing.

The 70D cost $1250 at the time of writing, and is still plenty of camera for the price. It’s quite fast at seven frames per second, and you get the added benefit of the hinged screen. Indeed, if speed and also versatility in terms of the angles you shoot are important to you, then the 70D is the one to choose. It’s also the safer option for your finances, and gives you a bit more to spend on lenses.

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Elias Plastiras
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