Another Epic Can Battle: The Canon 7D vs. 7D Mark II

Canon is one of the most recognizable brands of all of the digital camera manufacturers.  Like many of the other brands, Canon is constantly introducing new camera bodies at all price points, as the technology used in today’s cameras is constantly improving.  In some cases, these “new” bodies are not really new, but simply incremental upgrades to existing bodies.   Often photographers are torn between either upgrading to the newest camera or buying a previous version at a lower price point.

In 2014, Canon introduced the 7D Mark II as a follow up to the original 7D, which was introduced in 2009.  The 7D series is Canon’s “professional” grade camera based on the APS-C or cropped sensor format.  The 7D series is targeted towards photographers, who shoot sports, action, and wildlife and prefer the APS-C sensor due to the longer reach they have with their lenses.  Lets take a look at both cameras and see if the 7D Mark is really a “new” camera or an incremental upgrade to the original 7D.

The Similarities

As one would expect given that the 7D Mark II is an upgrade to the original 7D, the two cameras share a number of similarities beginning with the same rugged build.  Both cameras are “professional” grade working cameras featuring a magnesium alloy shell and extensive weather sealing.  While no camera should be abused, the 7D and the 7D Mark II are designed for professional photographers who shoot all day in the field and in all sorts of weather conditions.

Somewhat related to the rugged build is the excellent ergonomics of both cameras, which feel solid and great to handle even for extended periods of time.  While not exactly the same, the Canon 7D and 7D Mark II’s share a similar size weight, measuring approximately 5.8” x 4.4’ x 3.08” and weighing 28.9 ounces.

One of the best features of the 7D and 7D Mark II is the C1, C2, and C3 settings, which are found on the top dial of the camera.  They allow the photographer to store three preferred settings into the camera’s memory and instantly recall them by simply turning the dial.  The significance of this feature cannot be underestimated, because it is a huge time saver in the field.  Once you use a camera with this feature, you will never use another camera without it!

In addition to capturing still images the 7D and 7D Mark II both capture video as well in a variety of formats, including full HD.  In this format, the frame size is 1,920×1,080 and the frame rate is up to 30 frames per second.  Other formats are available in both cameras.  Video quality in both cameras is excellent, with the video files being captured in .MOV format.

Since both cameras are designed for primarily for sports, action and wildlife photography, the 7D and 7D Mark II both have very fast shutters, with the shutter speed ranging from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds.   A shutter speed of 1/8,000 of a second is critical with these types of photography where you need to capture a fast moving subject without blurring!

The 7D and 7D Mark II both have a fixed rear LCD display that measures 3.0”.  The screen is used to preview images and video, as well as to compose images using the camera’s built-in “live view” feature.  The LCD screen is also used to navigate the camera’s extensive menu system as well.

Other similarities include a built-in flash, as well as a hot shoe.  The built-in flash is great for low light situations or when a fill in flash is needed to reduce shadows.  The hot show can be used to attach a speed light or a variety of video accessories, such as microphones.

The Differences

While the cameras are very similar, there are a number of significant differences between the two cameras beginning with the total number of effective megapixels in their CMOS sensors, with the 7D having 18.0 megapixels compared to 20.2 megapixels found in the 7D Mark II.  Anyone considering either of these cameras should look at the overall specifications of the camera and focus on the megapixels, as both the 7D and 7D Mark II produce excellent image quality, with the images appearing identical, despite the difference in megapixels.

Another difference between the two cameras is the incorporation of a second memory card slot on the 7D Mark II.  The single slot on the 7D only accepts compact flash (CF) cards, while the 7D uses a compact flash in one slot and a SD, SDHC, SDXC or UHS-1 memory card in the second slot.  The second card in the 7D Mark II can be configured in a number of ways including backup, dedicated video and overflow.

The 7D Mark II is also slightly faster at 10 frames per second compared to the 8 frames per second found on the 7D.   This is the result of the newer DIGIC-9 processor found in the 7D Mark II, while the 7D uses the older DIGIC-4 processor.  Dual processors are used in both cameras to quickly process images to the camera’s memory card(s), resulting in a really large buffer in both cameras that is hard to fill up!

The final significant difference between the two cameras is their ISO range.  The native ISO range in the 7D is 100-6,400, while the 7D Mark II has a native ISO range of 100-16,000!  While both cameras can boost their ISO settings, the 7D is limited to 12,800, while the 7D Mark II can be pushed to ISO 25,600 at H-1 and ISO 51,200 at H-2.   While ISO range is important, it is important to keep in mind that at high ISO settings, image quality often suffers as detail is often removed by the camera’s noise reducing software as it reduces the noise in the image.  That being said, both cameras can produce acceptable image quality at moderately high ISO levels, especially the 7D Mark II.

The Pros and Cons

As with many other products, the 7D and 7D Mark II have their own set of positive and negative characteristics.  The significance of these characteristics will vary from consumer to consumer, depending upon the type of photography that they engage in.

The biggest positive or “pro” of the 7D is the strength of the original design, which resulted in an excellent overall camera.  This is evident in the fact that the 7D Mark II was not introduced for 5 years after the 7D introduction.  Often manufacturers, including Canon, are introducing incremental upgrades to cameras yearly.

The biggest negative feature of the original 7D is the autofocus system.  While still very capable, the 7D Mark II uses a system that offers more autofocus points and is a tad bit quicker and more accurate.  This is not to say that the 7D’s autofocus system is poor, but that the 7D Mark II’s is just better because it is newer.

As one would expect, the biggest “pro” of the 7D Mark II is the superior technical specifications, which are clearly superior to the older 7D.  This is especially true as far as the autofocus system, number of card slots and the ISO range.  While the 7D Mark II has a higher megapixel count, most people would be hard pressed to notice any differences in the image quality from 18.0 to 20.2 megapixels.

The biggest “con” of the 7D is the price, which at $1,799 is expensive, especially for an APS-C sensor camera.  In addition, while the 7D Mark II is Canon’s most advanced professional grade APS-C, the price is the same as the full frame Canon 6D.  Although the performance differences between APS-C and full frame sensors are minimal, most people regard full frame sensors as superior.  At this price point, I would believe that Canon is pushing many consumers away from the 7D Mark II to the 6D.  This is especially true for those that do not solely shoot sports, action and wildlife.  A lower price point may appeal to more consumers looking for a professional grade APS-C camera.

Just the Facts, A Side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Canon 7D and the 7D Mark II both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Canon 7D Canon 7D Mark II
Year Introduced 2009 2014
Format APS-C APS-C
Megapixels 18.0 20.2
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor Dual DIGIC-4 Dual DIGIC-9
Image Format RAW or JPG RAW or JPG
Sensor Size 22.3mm x 14.9mm 22.4mm x 15.0mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points 19 Cross Type 65 Cross Type
Scene Modes Yes Yes
Creative Exposure Modes No No
Exposure Modes Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M), Program (P), Shutter Priority (S) Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M), Program (P), Shutter Priority (S)
Metering 63-Zone SPC TTL Metering With Selectable Modes EOS ISA System, With 252 Zone Metering
View Finder Type Eye-Level Pentaprism Eye-Level SLR With Fixed Pentaprism
View Finder Coverage 100% 100%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 8 10
ISO 100-6,400 100-16,000
Lowest Expandable ISO N/A N/A
Highest Expandable ISO 12,800 H-1 (25,600); H2 (51,200)
Shutter Speed Range 1/8,000 – 30 Seconds 1/8,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes Yes
Card Slots 1 2 (1 CF and 1 SD)
Card Type CF Card Type I & II CF Type 1 and SD, SDHC, SDXC And UHS-1
LCD Size 3.0” 3.0”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Fixed
Video Yes, Full HD Yes, Full HD
Video Type 1,920 x 1,080 At 23.98 –

29.97 FPS; Other Types

As Well

1,920 x 1,080 At 23.98 –

29.97 FPS; Other Types

As Well

Video Format ,MOV .MOV
Internal Autofocus Motor No No
GPS No Yes
Wireless No No
WIFI No No
Battery LP-E6 LP-E6N
Battery Life 1,000 Shots 1,000 Plus Shots
Body Construction Magnesium Alloy Magnesium Alloy
Unique Features C1, C2, C3 Settings.  Although Older Still A Relevant Camera & Great Value! C1, C2, C3 Settings; Low Cost For A Professional Grade Camera.
Size Without Lens 5.8” 4.4” x 2.9” 5.85” x 4.43” x 3.08”
Weight Without Lens 28.9 Ounces 28.92 Ounces
Manufactured In Japan Japan
Body Only or with Kit Lens Both Options Available* Both Options Available
Included Accessories Battery Pack LP-E6, Battery Charger LC-E6, AVC-DC40ST Stereo AV Cable, USB Interface Cable IFC-200U II, EOS Digital Solution Disc, Wide Neck Strap, Eyecup. Battery Pack LP-E6N, Battery Charger LC-E6, Cable Protector, USB Interface Cable FC-150U II, EOS Digital Solution Disc, Wide Neck Strap.
Cost, Body Only $868.00*  (Check out the latest prices here.) $1,799.00** (Check out the latest discounts and prices.)
Cost With Kit Lens (Lens Varies) Varies Depending On Lens Selected* Varies Depending On Lens Selected

 

*  The Canon 7D has been discontinued but is still widely available.

**Information from the Canon USA websites, including pricing.

My Overall Recommendation

The Canon 7D and 7D Mark II are both excellent cameras that are capable of producing excellent image quality, especially if decent lenses are used.  In my opinion, the 7D Mark II is definitely a major upgrade to the original 7D, but not a “new” camera.  That being said, I actually prefer the original 7D to the 7D Mark II.  There are a number of reasons for this preference; first I find the specifications of the 7D to be sufficient for the type of shooting that I do.  This is especially true in regards to megapixel count, ISO range and speed as measured in frames per second.  The second reason for this preference is the great value the 7D represents.  Although discontinued, a new 7D body can be found as low as $868.00.  This is a significant savings when compared to the cost of a 7D Mark II and leaves plenty of money for new lenses!  Anyone looking for a very capable, professional grade APS-C camera should take a look at the original 7D, because it is still a very relevant camera even after 7 years!

The Camera Guide Team
 

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