Canon EOS 70D Review: Video Rock Star

by Jim Keenan Reads (4,091)
Editor's Rating
9.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 10
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Good still image quality
    • Good ISO noise performance
    • Latest generation processing engine and technology
    • Touchscreen monitor offers quick control response
    • Exceptional DSLR video performance due to continuous AF
  • Cons

    • 72 dpi still image output requires resizing for printing
    • Touchscreen monitor collects fingerprints and smudges, impairing legibility in bright conditions
    • Camera seems to lose highlights to a higher degree than the 60D at default settings

Quick Take

If you are looking for a DSLR that can shoot amazing video with seamless AF, look no further than the Canon 70D! It will not disappoint.


Announced in July 2013 and available in the marketplace this past September, the EOS 70D is Canon’s latest addition to its midrange  DSLR line, targeting “advanced amateur photographers and photo hobbyists”. The camera retains an APS-C sensor and 1.62x crop factor like its stable mate 60D; resolution increases an insignificant 2 megapixels to 20. More importantly, the new camera features a Canon DIGIC 5+ image processor and the 3-inch articulating LCD monitor acquires touchscreen functionality. The native ISO range extends an additional stop on the high end from 100 to 12800 and is expandable to 25600. The autofocus system features a new dual pixel CMOS phase detection design that permits continuous AF during video capture, and incorporates 19 focus points instead of 9 on the earlier camera – with all 19 being cross focus, including a high-precision f/2.8 dual cross-type AF center point. Canon claims the new AF system “…realizes shorter focusing times, exceptional tracking performance and smoother autofocusing during video shooting”. Full HD video is available and there is a built-in RAW image processing capability for still images.

The maximum continuous high-speed still shooting rate sees a nice gain to 7 fps (up from 5.3 fps in the 60D) and the new camera features a built-in wireless transmitter  that “…users can connect to both iOS or Android smartphones and tablets  to wirelessly transfer photos and videos from camera to device. Users can also control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO from their smartphone. This camera also has the ability to connect directly to Canon’s iMAGE GATEWAY4, making photos easily accessible and ready to share on social networking sites. In addition, the EOS 70D has the ability to connect wirelessly to computers, DLNA devices, Wi-Fi Certified Canon cameras and wireless PictBridge5 compatible printers.”

The 70D utilizes SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and is both UHS-1 and Eye-Fi Card compatible. Canon includes an eyecup, battery pack and charger, camera strap, USB interface cable, basic printed camera instruction manual and CD-ROM software, including an additional RAW converter and complete user’s manual with each camera. Compatible lenses are Canon EF and EF-S models. The camera is available as a body only with an MSRP of $1199; kits are available for $1349 bundled with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens or $1549 bundled with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.

While our review unit was still in the hands of site editor Laura Hicks, it got a once-over by one of Laura’s friends who owns and shoots a 60D:

Canon got rid of the amateur looking mode dial and replaced it with a traditional looking mode dial. This is a very good thing in her opinion.

Canon moved the “trash” or delete button to the spot where the play button used to be on the 60D. She kept hitting the delete button to review her images. The good thing however, is that if you actually want to delete an image you have to be in playback mode. So you can’t delete an image in shooting mode accidentally.

Looks like they made the Auto ISO mode to insure the camera’s shutter speed does not drop below 1/60 second. She sees this as a great feature. Now a user won’t end up with blurry images due to low shutter speeds when the lighting changes drastically while shooting (shooting weddings, for example).

There you have it, quick first impressions of the 70D from a 60D owner. Let’s take a closer look at the 70D and see what else comes up.

Build and Design

Our 70D review unit was paired with a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM zoom lens – IS indicates the lens is stabilized and STM refers to a stepping motor lens which Canon advertises as producing much less motor noise during video capture. Here’s a look at both ends of that focal range.

The body is constructed of composite materials and appears well-built; point of manufacture is Japan.

Ergonomics and Controls
The 70D features a composite body in typical DSLR configuration, with a pebble grain rubberized material in the exaggerated handgrip and rear thumb rest areas. The size and contours of the handgrip/thumb rest area along with overall camera size made this a very comfortable camera to hand hold. Paired with the 55-250mm zoom the camera/lens combination proved a bit nose heavy, a feeling that I personally don’t prefer when shooting handheld.

Controls are well placed so as to provide no conflicts with either shooting hand during image capture. The upper left portion of the camera body houses the mode dial and power on/off switch; the center of the body is taken up by the hot flash and built-in flash housing. An LCD panel and array of external control buttons extend across the upper right portion of the body: these include AF mode selector, drive mode selector, ISO speed setting, metering mode selector and LCD panel illumination buttons. The camera main dial and autofocus area mode selection button are positioned just forward of this button array, near the shutter button.

The camera back is dominated by the 3-inch articulating monitor and includes menu and info buttons at the upper left rear portion of the body. Moving to the right of the eyepiece (with its attached diopter adjustment knob), we find a live view shooting/movie shooting switch, AF start,  AE/FE lock and AF point selection/magnify buttons arranged horizontally on the upper right rear of the body. Extending down vertically from the live view switch are quick control and playback buttons along with a multi-controller incorporating a quick control dial and setting button; an erase button lies just below the multi-controller, alongside a multifunction lock switch.

There is control redundancy between the buttons on the upper right of the camera body and camera functions that may be selected via the quick control button on the rear of the camera. Changing camera settings utilizing the buttons on the top right of the body involves using the top LCD panel, and this display is relatively small compared with the monitor on the camera back that is incorporated when using the quick control button. As a practical matter, I found it easier to use the quick control button and camera back to affect changes in camera settings rather than the external buttons on the top of the camera body. The quick control screen offers access to a number of settable functions including aperture, shutter speed, shooting mode, exposure compensation, picture style, autofocus operation, white balance, AF area selection mode, white balance correction, drive mode, white balance bracketing, metering mode, auto lighting optimizer, image recording quality, custom controls, Wi-Fi function, ISO speed, highlight tone priority, AE lock and flash exposure compensation. Here’s a look at the quick control screen in aperture priority mode.

Menus and Modes
70D menus can be somewhat substantial or quite modest, depending on the shooting mode chosen. Canon generalizes shooting modes available via the mode dial as being either “basic zone” (the fully automatic and scene modes) or “creative zone” (the semi-automatic/manual modes). Basic zone menus offer three-page shooting, three page playback and four page setup menus. Creative zone menus run six pages in the shooting menu, with the last two pages being live view related; playback menus are three pages, set up menus are four pages and there are single page “custom settings” and “my menu” entries not found in the basic zone offerings.

Here’s a rundown on the specific shooting modes available in the 70D:

  • Scene Intelligent Auto – a fully automatic mode in which the camera analyzes the scene and sets what it determines as optimum settings automatically, adjusting focus automatically by detecting whether the subject is still or moving. The user retains some inputs such as image quality, redeye reduction, autofocus method, flash setting and continuous versus single frame shooting rates, but for the most part advanced shooting function settings are unavailable.
  • Disabling Flash – essentially, scene intelligent auto with the camera’s flash capability disabled. User inputs are the same with the exception of flash-related settings.
  • Creative Auto – essentially, scene intelligent auto with added user inputs to produce ambience-based shots: photos may be captured at a standard setting or made more vivid, softer, warmer, more intense, cooler, brighter, darker or monochrome; there is also input available to produce a sharp or more blurred background.
  • Special Scene Mode – a fully automatic mode offering settings optimized for portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night portrait, handheld night scenes or HDR backlight control situations. Depending on the specific scene chosen user inputs may include those found in creative auto to produce the ambience-based shots along with the general inputs found in the other automatic modes.
  • Program AE (P) – an automatic mode with the camera setting aperture and shutter speeds while the user retains a wide variety of advanced shooting function inputs, including varying combinations of shutter speed and aperture consistent with what the camera determines to be an appropriate exposure level.
  • Shutter Priority (Tv) – semi automatic mode with user setting the shutter speed while the camera sets aperture; user retains a wide variety of advanced shooting function inputs.
  • Aperture Priority (Av) – semi automatic mode with user setting the aperture while the camera sets shutter speed; user retains a wide variety of advanced shooting function inputs.
  • Manual Exposure (M) – a fully manual mode with user setting both aperture and shutter speed while retaining a wide variety of advanced shooting function inputs.
  • Bulb (B) – a manual exposure mode with user setting the aperture and shutter staying open as long as the shutter button is fully depressed by the user – the user retains the full range of manual exposure inputs. Canon makes both a remote switch (RS-60E3) and remote controllers (RC-1, RC-5 or RC-6) to facilitate bulb exposures with minimal contact to the camera. The remote switch plugs directly into the camera much in the fashion of a traditional cable release while remote controllers have a range of about 16 feet.
  • Custom Shooting Mode – the custom shooting mode allows you to quickly recall a predefined set of camera settings utilizing the P, Tv, Av, M or B exposure modes.
  • Video – capture NTSC system MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 full HD 1920 x 1080 video at either 30 or 24 fps and low or high compression; 1280 x 720 HD video at 60 fps and low or high compression; 640×480 resolution at 30 fps and high compression. PAL system: full HD 1920 x 1080 video at either 25 or 24 fps and low or high compression; 1280 x 720 HD at 50 fps and low or high compression; 640×480 at 25 and high compression. Maximum clip length is 4 GB or 29 minutes 59 seconds; during video recording approximately 30 seconds before the 4 GB size limit is reached the elapsed shooting time or time code displayed with the video capture will start blinking – if continuous shooting exceeds the 4 GB size limit the camera automatically creates a new movie file and continues capture. Audio is linear PCM; there is a built-in stereo microphone.

Display/Viewfinder
The 3 inch LCD monitor on the 70D has a 1.04 million dot composition and is adjustable for 7 levels of brightness. More significantly, the monitor is articulating and can swing through 180° along its horizontal axis; it can rotate through 270° along the same axis. While coated with an anti-reflective/anti-smudge coating, the monitor’s touch screen feature can work against it in bright outdoor conditions despite the ability to adjust brightness and rotate the monitor to more favorable viewing positions – imprints from fingertips on the monitor can make viewing it a difficult proposition. The touchscreen operates via capacitive sensing and the use of a stylus or other artificial means to select items on the screen may damage the screen and is therefore not recommended. Monitor coverage is approximately 100%.

The 70D viewfinder offers .95x magnification, approximately 98% coverage and is diopter adjustable to accommodate varying degrees of eyesight acuity.


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