Canon 7D Mark II Digital Camera Review
The flagship APS-C 7D Mark II renews Canon's focus on its strengths.
By the Numbers
Time to talk turkey—the hardware under the hood of this camera is befitting a flagship APS-C camera. The kit lens it comes with is a little soft, but that's something you can easily avoid by getting a body-only kit.
If you're looking for the high points of this camera, these are unquestionably its great color and video performance. However, you may want to look to grabbing a different lens if you want the sharpest shots possible. While the 18-135mm STM kit lens is a decent starter option, enthusiasts will want something a little higher-end to bump their sharpness to the next level.
Color & White Balance
After taking a custom white balance measurement in the standard shooting mode, we recorded a ∆C 00 Saturation error of 1.81—outstanding. Usually, anything below 2.2 is functionally perfect and this is one of the best results we've ever seen. The best part of this result is it's almost exactly in line with all the higher-end Canons we've tested, meaning the 7D Mark II can accurately replicate the image (save for the sensor size difference) from, say, the EOS-1D X.
The camera does tend to oversaturate colors a bit by default, but not enough to be distracting or anything. We measured a total saturation of 109.3%, which is enough to make pictures pop a bit, but not quite enough to make colors clip. You can always adjust this by shooting RAW, but it's always nice to know that your camera has your back even if you shoot in JPEG.
White balance is another story, however. While you can take a manual reading with a grey card and get good results, the automatic setting struggles with different lighting conditions. In incandescent light, you can expect a color temperature error of about 2000 kelvin on a good day, but that's typical of most auto white balance systems.
However, if you were to shoot in daylight or around fluorescent lights, the story is a better one. There's still the odd color casting issues here and there, but errors top out at 300 kelvin at the worst. Again, shooting RAW will help fix this in post.
Using the Canon 7D Mark II's default noise reduction settings will net you a fairly junk-free image, even in higher ISO shots. Like many DSLRs with an APS-C sensor, ISO 6400 is where things start to get a bit dicey.
With NR turned off, the noise level breaches 2% at ISO 6400 and rockets up to 3.5% at 12800. That's not terribly surprising, and a fair performance for this type of sensor. If you leave the default noise reduction enabled, you'll never see 2% noise in your shots, and fine detail is mostly kept unless you shoot at ISO 6400 or above.
We definitely suggest keeping NR to a minimum unless you absolutely need it for your snaps. Though Canon's algorithm is great for keeping junk data at bay, the more aggressive your NR, the more detail you lose from your shots. We found that even with the setting maxed out, the difference between noise levels in standard vs. high NR was so small that it could easily be attributed to sample variation had we not run the test a few times.
The kit lens is a bit soft around the edges, but for the most part the Canon 7D Mark II's stock setup is decent enough to handle a wide range of tasks. Fortunately, very little of that was due to aggressive oversharpening, and more to do with a good sensor.
I will say that you can expect some serious barrel distortion (~3%) at full wide, and pincushion distortion (~2%) at full telephoto. While that's not much of a problem given the fact that an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens gives you a huge range of focal lengths to choose from, you may elect to grab different glass if you want to avoid this altogether.
Shots are reasonably sharp at the maximum aperture of each focal length, and stopping down will bump sharpness up a little bit. While it's not very exciting to note this, building a zoom lens with this much zoom is very difficult from a manufacturing standpoint, so give credit where credit is due—this is an acceptably good option for a starter lens.
Much like last year's 70D, this camera has strong video chops. It doesn't give you 4K or oversampling, but it does seem to do fairly well shooting 1080p/60p.
In bright light, the 7D Mark II was able to resolve 675 LP/PH in horizontal movement in horizontal motion, and 650 vertically. That's right in line with most other Full HD cameras we've tested that use H.264 compression. Newer 4K cameras and most high-end camcorders can achieve sharpness numbers that are nearly 50% higher, which is why DSLR videos tend to look "soft" by comparison.
In low light the Canon 7D Mark II's larger sensor shines. Not only is the Canon 7D Mark II able to maintain a 50 IRE video in lighting conditions as dim as 3 lux, but it can also resolve 600 LP/PH of sharpness in 60 lux environments. That's pretty impressive, even if the performance ceiling isn't incredibly high. Videographers will appreciate the extra flexibility this grants in changing lighting conditions, especially as the autofocus system also continues to function quite well despite having limited light.
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