Canon EOS 70D Review – Part 2

Canon EOS 7D (Courtesy of Rodrigo Foggiatto @Flickr)

In part 1 of my review I covered how I was on the brink of purchasing a Canon EOS 7D until Canon announced the release of the Canon EOS 70D on the 2nd of July earlier this year.  This announcement caused me a little dilemma.  Both cameras were priced very closely and on paper the specifications of both looked very similar.  So how did I reach the decision of going for the new Canon EOS 70D over the old Canon EOS 7D?

The approach I took was two-fold.  Firstly I wanted to assure myself that the additional money I’d be spending would bring significant specification/feature uplifts from my Canon EOS 550D/T2i.  I was certain that this would be the case with the Canon EOS 7D so in order to compare the 7D and the 70D I highlighted some of the specifications and features of the 7D that I felt were critical for me with the aim of expecting the 70D to either match or exceed these specifications.  Key for me in terms of moving up from the Canon EOS 550D/T2i were as follows.

– Improved low light performance and ISO range

– Faster Shutter Speed (from the 1/4000 of the EOS 550D)

– Improved Auto Focus performance

– Increased Frames per second rate in both RAW and JPEG

– Remote Flash Trigger

Both the 7D and 70D passed all of the initial tests above.

The 70D has a greater ISO range than the 7D so that was a point for the 70D.  Both have a max shutter speed of 1/8000 and thankfully Canon decided to included the brilliant 7D autofocus system in the 70D as well as including the ability to remotely trigger external slave speedlights.  The 7D had the upper hand on Frames Per Second in RAW at 8 fps compared to the 70D’s 7 fps. So at this stage all square on what I felt were the most important factors for me.

So what else stood out?  Obviously the new Digic 5+ processor in the 70D was a very big plus, the Digic 5+ is reportedly 6x faster than the Digic 4 however given the 7D has dual Digic 4 processors and the 70D has to handle slightly more pixels (18mp v 20mp) I was assuming that the overall user experienced performance resulting from the new processor would probably not be that noticeable, after all the 7D was still quicker in processing RAW files with 8fps.

Canon Image Sensors (Courtesy of ~dgies @Flickr)

The new image sensor on the 70D, the very first dual-pixel sensor released by Canon, was also interesting.  On paper this looked to offer some significant performance benefits when shooting in Live view and/or video.  The question though was whether the image quality would suffer by having squash in all those extra photo diodes.  Test footage released by Canon of the new sensor in Video mode showed some very impressive autofocus improvements and whilst video isn’t my preferred medium the inclusion of this technology certainly gave the 70D much greater flexibility, and for me for the first time a DSLR that could balance video focussing capabilities more familiar on traditional video cameras. with the great quality video output we’ve come to expect from DSLRs.  So I was sold on the new dual-pixel technology although time would tell whether this lived up to the promises made.

One little niggling annoyance of the 7D was the storage medium.  I’ve amassed a wide selection of SDHC high performance cards and when I was solely looking into the 7D the thought of having to re-invest in a load of Compact Flash cards was bugging me.  No such worries for the 70D SDHC all the way and some additional cash to be saved.

In terms of weather sealing the 7D was much better than the 70D.  Whilst this would be useful my thinking was that I’m pretty careful with my kit and even with the better sealing on the 7D I’d still be likely to protect the camera exactly the same way I did for my old Canon EOS 550D, so I was happy that the weather sealing of the 70D would suffice especially as it still significantly exceeded that of the 550D.

As for the 100% v 98% viewfinder coverage, I wasn’t that bothered.  This is one of those specifications that I don’t think makes a great deal of difference for me so long as it is above 95%.

Canon EOS 70D Articulated Screen

Whilst both cameras were very closely matched on my key criteria I’d come to realise that the 70D had a whole host of other features not available on the 7D and whilst I’d initially not thought a great deal of these the reality was if I went with the 70D I’d be getting more for my money, but how much more?  I’ll talk about my actual experience of these features in part 3 but for now did any of these features grab my attention?  The WI-FI capabilities and Touch screen didn’t really make me think “wow” but the fully articulated LCD screen did get me thinking.  My very first Canon Digital Camera was a Powershot G2, it was this camera that got me back into Photography after a few years of absence and one great feature of the Powershot G2 was the fully articulated LCD screen.  I do recall after moving on from the Powershot G2 missing the ability to get down low or up high with the camera without the need for a ladder of having to get down and dirty with the bugs on the ground.  I had really missed this ability on the Canon EOS 550D.  So the 70D’s fully articulated and improved LCD screen was actually a plus for me even before considering the Touch capabilities that it also offered.

So the 70D won it.  It was a close fight but for me the 70D edged it primarily on the fact it was newer and offered the same if not slightly improved capabilities of the 7D.  I think if Canon had plumbed for anything less than the auto focus system from the 7D the 70D would have fallen out of my options list.

In the third and final part of my review I’ll give you some insight into how the 70D has performed in the 10 weeks that I’ve owned it.  Again this won’t be a lab exercise in comparing IQ but real world opinion and experience.

Thanks for reading.

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A Photo Each Day, Everyday, for a whole year.

Water Droplets Macro

… welcome to the photographers challenge of choice, the 365 Project.

I mentioned in my first post that I would soon follow-up with my views and experiences (so-far) of undertaking a 365 Project, well here it is.

First off, what is a 365 Project assuming you don’t already know? Essentially the clue is in the blog title, a photo each day for the whole year, how hard can that be? We all have a phone/smartphone with a camera in-built and it’s conveniently by our side almost 24 hours per day so all we need to do is take a pic each day job done. Technically I guess that would fit the bill but for me you need to have an objective in mind before starting such a project.

So what was my objective? After re-igniting my interest in photography a few years ago I thought I should look to set myself a challenge that would develop my skills.  I’ve never taken any formal photography training but I do understand the basics and have invested time thoroughly understanding my camera and settings. However one area that I think really makes the difference for most things in life is practice and for me a 365 Project was the perfect challenge.  You rarely hear photographers talk about practicing their art but you’d never envisage a sports professional, musician etc not investing their time practicing in order to develop and enhance their skills.  It’s quite obvious when you think about it, the more you get out there to take some photos and try new styles and techniques the more you will develop “your eye” and gain a greater understanding of your equipment.

Sunset at Duck Key

Are there any rules?  I’m sure some will suggest there are specific rules to completing a 365 project for me though I think it is best to keep it simple.  Set the rules yourself and align them to your initial objective whilst avoiding rules that could ultimately constrain your progress.  My own rules were simple, a picture per day for the whole year.  I didn’t constrain myself to the equipment used, particular subjects or styles.  If I didn’t have my DSLR with me I’d use my Smartphone.

How’s it going? Currently I’m 72% into the challenge (day 265 of 365).  I’ve shot using my Canon EOS 550D, Canon EOS 70D, Canon SX210 IS and my Samsung Galaxy S3. I’ve not limited myself to a particular style and have tried a number of new techniques that I’d never tried before including macro, astrophotography and frozen time.  I’ve also taken shots at my first wedding gig (for a friend… that’s another blog subject in its own right)  and had a few of my pictures published. So all in all I think it is going pretty well.  But am I achieving my initial objective?

In terms of developing “my eye” I’ll leave that for you to decide.  My 365 Project Photo’s are being published on my Flickr Site under my Project 365 Set so feel free to take a look, feedback is always welcome.  With respect trying new styles and techniques I’ve attempted some nightscape shots including a fly-by of the International Space Station, frozen water droplet shots and many macro shots using the relatively cheap method of using extension tubes.  Making the effort to learn new techniques has certainly been enjoyable and has increased my technical understanding of the art.

Water Drops frozen in time

What have I found difficult? Staying true to the challenge is not easy. As I mentioned above it would be quite easy to simply take a picture each day and leave it at that. But as you develop you also need to be critical of your own work.  I try not to post any old picture, I want to keep my images fresh and I found that as time goes by you get more critical of your own work. One early frustration for me was that it wasn’t practical to have my DSLR with me each day.  I wanted to get the best quality images when I was out and about but ultimately fell into the trap of thinking it was the gear that was giving me the best pictures and not my own skill.  As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you and I now know that by being limited sometimes to my smartphone and point-shoot camera was no reason for not getting a good shot.  In some ways this limitation actually helps you develop a better “eye” as you need to think more about the shot and work with the limitations of your equipment.  The other frustration is one that hits us all…. the dreaded creative block.  Trying to find something new and different everyday can sometime seem to be an impossible task.  The best advice is to change you perspective, look at common everyday things from a different angle, get in close, at ground level or close and wide to get a completely different view.

Would I recommend it? In a word yes. If you want to set yourself a challenge that will help you improve and is essentially free, give it a go.  Set your own rules and if 365 is too daunting why not go for a 52 project e.g. a picture per week?  Also why not have a read of the many others blogging about 365 projects in the related links section below.

All photos show are available to license and buy via my website www.8dcphotography.co.uk.  The continuing story of my 365 Project is published to my Flickr pages. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment and provide feedback…… in my next blog I’ll give my first impressions of Canon’s latest DSLR the Canon EOS 70D.