Canon EOS 70D Digital Camera Review
Canon's flagship APS-C camera finally delivers on the video DSLR promise—with a catch.
Design and Handling
Fits like a glove
The Canon EOS 70D is the direct replacement for the EOS 60D, one of our favorite DSLRs from recent memory. While the 70D includes all sorts of new functionality on the inside, the physical design is very similar to its predecessor. Just like the 60D, the 70D features a large, accommodating grip, a flip-out rear LCD, a secondary LCD on the top plate, and a weather-sealed, durable body. While the mode dial and the controls for live view have been slightly refined, you'd be hard-pressed to guess that two and a half years have passed since the 60D was announced.
Still, there's a reason for that; shooting with the 70D is a pleasant experience for photographers of all skill levels, with a control scheme that's as simple or complex as you'd like to make it. The amount of control offered here will sate all but the professional crowd, with full PASM control, a user-savable custom mode, and dedicated on-body controls for focus, drive, ISO, and metering. While we certainly feel that the 70D will appeal mostly to advanced shooters, the inclusion of scene modes, a full auto mode, as well as Canon's new "Q" quick control menu keep the 70D approachable to those stepping up from simpler cameras.
The main additions to the body are mostly small tweaks, rather than wholesale changes. The mode dial now has an improved locking mechanism and turns completely around, the live view/video switch is now in line with the rest of Canon's lineup, and the grip has been altered slightly. There's also a new AF area selection button right by the shutter release, which lets you quickly change from single point AF to zone or auto AF. It's not nearly as robust as the AF controls on Canon's flagship EOS-1D X (no camera on the market is, really), but it's a smart addition that will help action shooters nonetheless.
Are you listening? Apparently not.
The Canon EOS 70D follows the same blueprint that Canon established with the 60D (and the 50D before it), with a pro-style durable body chockablock with novice-friendly controls and features like built-in WiFi. This allows the 70D to artfully toe the line between consumers and prosumers, meeting each group on their own terms without excluding the other. In practice this is most obvious in looking at the contrast between the body design and the menu. The body has a control layout on par with all of Canon's full-frame cameras save for the EOD-1D X, while the menu system is almost exactly the same as you'd find on any Rebel camera. While the body design may be intimidating to new users, this is an ideal camera for an intermediate shooter to learn and grow with.
On the one hand, you've got access to all the familiar auto and scene modes that all of Canon's lower-end cameras have. Love to pop things into landscape or portrait mode but don't fully understand aperture yet? The 70D has you covered. Always shoot in manual and insist on changing exposure by yourself? Well you'll feel right at home here, also. Worst case scenario, a novice can always utilize the camera's full automatic mode, which will make all the decisions for them. It's the best of both worlds and the best compromise in Canon's lineup.
Compared to the competition—namely the Nikon D7100 and the Pentax K-3—the Canon EOS 70D stacks up well for still shooters. It offers a similar layout to the full-frame Canon EOS 6D, though with a 19-point (19 cross-type) autofocus sensor and a 98% coverage viewfinder. Where the 70D falls short, ironically enough, is with higher-end video shooters. While the 70D includes a 3.5mm mic jack, it doesn't include a 3.5mm headphone jack. For most consumers this won't be an issue—they likely aren't using mics and headphones anyway—but for anyone looking to craft professional-quality audio alongside the 70D's video, the lack of real-time audio monitoring simply won't cut it.
Unfortunately, stepping up to even the next model in Canon's line—the $1,899.99 full-frame 6D—doesn't solve this problem. It's not until you get all the way to Canon's $3,399.99 5D Mark III that you'll find a Canon DSLR with both a headphone and mic jack. It's worth noting that Nikon, by comparison, has included a headphone jack in every DSLR from the D7100 and up, while even Pentax—which has all but ignored video in its DSLRs to this point—included one on the new K-3. Even for the least cynical among us, it's hard to look at the omission as anything other than Canon forcing professional-level video shooters to needlessly step up to more expensive models just to get a simple headphone jack. But, hey: WiFi!
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