The Canon 70D follows a long line of mid-range prosumer DSLRs that has been a decade in the making. The Canon xxD started way back in February 2003 when the 10D was introduced as a replacement for the D60. Canon has gradually updated these cameras over the years – with some years seeing larger jumps than others.
In 2010, the Canon 60D introduced HD video capture into the line and the 70D certainly steps up that game even further. At the same time, the 70D takes the still image capacity of the line a serious step further as well.
Canon 70D Key Features
- 20.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
- DIGIC 5+ Image Processor
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Live View
- 3.0″ 1,040k-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
- Full HD 1080p Video with Movie Servo AF
- Built-In Wireless Connectivity
- 19-Point All Cross-Type AF System
- Continuous Shooting Rate Up to 7 fps
- ISO 100-12800 (Expandable to ISO 25600)
- Scene Intelligent Auto Mode
Thoughts on Features and Handling
While the sensor is not a significant jump in resolution, it’s clear that the 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor inside the 70D is a completely different part than the 18.1MP sensor we have seen in so many Canon APS-C models in recent years. Canon also makes use of the new DIGIC 5+ image processor in the 70D, which is a couple generations removed from the DIGIC 4 in the 60D.
The autofocus system received a significant upgrade in the 70D – with 19 AF points, all of which are cross-type points; compared to 9 AF points in the 60D. Moreover, the AF acquisition just feels faster than the 60D. Notably, the 70D brings AF microadjustment back to the line after being greatly missed by many 60D users.
The 70D also inherited a feature from the Canon 7D that I absolutely love – AF Point Switching, which allows you to set different AF points to activate based on the orientation of the camera. I have found this to be a great tool when shooting portraits. I expect that many sports photographers will appreciate this functionality as well. There are 3 different orientation AF points to set – 1. horizontal, 2. vertical (grip on top), 3. vertical (grip on bottom). I loved it on the 7D and I am glad to see it arrive in the 70D as well.
The Canon 70D features a brand new Dual Pixel AF system that makes use of two photodiodes for each pixel, which allows 80% of the frame area to serve as phase detection AF sensors. The result is a very impressive video and live view AF system.
When shooting video, the 70D performs at or near the level of a typical camcorder’s AF. I spent quite a bit of time just shooting video with the 70D and treating it like a camcorder and was simply floored by how well the 70D performed.
The 70D also features an excellent touchscreen LCD, which works great for menu navigation and changing settings on the fly. However, the touchscreen really shines when shooting video and selecting AF points just by touching the screen.
The camera will also track subjects as they move through the frame while shooting video. I found this to be a little hit or miss. It’s not bad; however, sometimes subjects can get lost with busy backgrounds and multiple subjects in the frame. To be fair though, I’ve found traditional camcorders to be spotty with such features as well.
I used a number of different Canon and Sigma lenses with the 70D and all performed admirably. Notably, the Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM kit lens is excellent when shooting video – as is the great little EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens. The silent STM autofocus is a perfect combination for the new Dual Pixel AF feature. Other Canon lenses did a great job taking advantage of the Dual Pixel AF video focusing as well, including the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM (both were fast and accurate). You will notice a little lens motor noise from non-STM lenses; however, due to the smooth pull from the Dual Pixel AF system, it doesn’t seem to be a loud and wrenching as prior attempts at in-camera AF.
For a little taste of the AF performance and how I treated it like a camcorder, I shot the bulk of the following video with the 70D and AF enabled. I feel like it was pretty much spot on for all of these shots.
Other little improvements over the 60D also added up on the 70D. Things like the 360° rotating mode dial just make the experience better without much fanfare. The frame rate gets a not-so-insignificant bump to 7 frames per second (up from 5.3 fps). The electronic level is displayable inside the viewfinder at all times. The built-in mic is now stereo. You get audio levels while recording (but still no headphone jack).
All in all, the handling and operation of the Canon 70D is great. There is really nothing promised by the 70D that is not delivered. It truly feels and acts like a smaller version of the Canon 7D with some amazing new features.
The 70D includes built-in WiFi that allows you to do several things, most notably the ability to use your Android or iOS device as a remote or view images from and transfer images to your device. These features are great to include; however, the polish really hasn’t started to shine in this generation mainly due to the clunky connection process. It isn’t hard to connect a device to the 70D; however, it just isn’t fluid yet.
When you get the 70D connected to your device, however, the functionality really shines. When I handed my phone off to friends and family as we ate dinner at Disneyworld, they were very impressed that they could swipe through photos on my iPhone that I had shot throughout the day with the 70D. It’s also nice to be able to grab a shot or two and share it with friends on Facebook or Twitter without having to wait until you import and process your photos on your computer.
I hope that subsequent generations of wireless connectivity will improve in the “connection” process to make it virtually transparent to the user. Monkeying around with custom WiFi SSIDs is not something I enjoy.
Canon 70D Image Quality
I have been waiting for someone to really make a breakthrough in APS-C image quality performance and had my hopes high that the 70D would deliver. Unfortunately, the 70D offers only a mild improvement over the Canon 60D.
Of course, that’s not necessarily a statement that the 70D has “poor” image quality. It just didn’t ‘wow’ me the way the rest of the camera did when compared to its predecessor.
The 70D performs admirably for an APS-C camera; however, if you are expecting it to compete with the 5D Mark III or even the 5D Mark II, you will be disappointed. Image quality in the full frame Canon DSLRs remains head and shoulders above what the APS-C models are capable of delivering.
The 70D is still a better camera all around over the very popular 60D predecessor.
Below I have included several sample photos for your inspection. Note that several of these have been processed in Lightroom to my own personal preference; however, I have included several un-edited reference images showing the noise and low light capabilities throughout the ISO range.
Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
The following scenes were captured at all sensitivity settings to give us an idea of how the 70D handles noise throughout its ISO range.
Below are 100% crops near the center of the frame from the above scene and throughout the ISO range.
If you want to take a look at the full resolution files, you can grab them at the following links:
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 100
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 200
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 400
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 800
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 1600
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 3200
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 6400
- Canon 70D Soundboard Scene at ISO 12800
Here’s another scene where we perform the same close-up examination.
And below are the 100% crops from this scene.
If you want to take a look at the full resolution files from the above guitar scene, you can grab them at the following links:
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 100
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 200
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 400
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 800
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 1600
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 3200
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 6400
- Canon 70D Guitar Scene at ISO 12800
The Canon 70D is a fantastic prosumer camera. At present, the 70D is the overall class leader in APS-C cameras, especially when you consider your bang for buck value.
The image quality has improved slightly over the last generation; however, the overall functionality is head and shoulders above the 60D and Rebel cameras. If you have been using an APS-C camera other than the 7D and waiting for the right time to upgrade, that time is now. Even if you are using the 7D heavily as a video camera, you probably want to take a long hard look at what the 70D can do for you.
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