Canon EOS 70D Review - The Canon EOS 70D is the most eagerly awaited DSLR of the year so far. Find out how good it is in the What Digital Camera Canon EOS 70D review...
Since the 6.3MP EOS 10D back in 2003, Canon’s double-digit EOS DSLRs have been a firm favourite amongst enthusiast photographers. The EOS 60D currently bridges the gap between the EOS 700D and 7D in the Canon line-up and offers plenty of features that provides photographers with a natural upgrade option from their entry-level triple-digit EOS camera.
The arrival of the EOS 70D shakes things up a little, offering a specification that in many ways puts its highly regarded but ageing sibling the 7D in the shade, but at a more attractive price point. Is this the perfect DSLR for photographers looking to expand their hobby even further?
Canon EOS 70D Review – Features
Since the arrival of the EOS 7D back in late 2009, every Canon DSLR with an APS-C sensor has used an iteration of that 18MP sensor and it’s been a very solid performer.
It’s all change for the EOS 70D though, with a completely new 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor at the heart of the camera and the headline feature of the 70D. As the name suggests, this is more than a simple bump up in resolution to compete with ever higher-resolving rivals, with Canon’s engineers developing some very clever technology that promises to deliver a vastly improved AF performance in both live view and movie recording.
This is an area where traditional DSLRs have struggled to perform, with focus speeds often quite slow and hesitant when acquiring focus. This is due to a DSLR’s inherent design characteristics that sees a slower contrast-detect method of AF acquirement used during live view and video capture, as opposed to the snappier phase-detect AF system used when the camera’s raised to the eye and the mirror is lowered.
This contrasts sharply with most system cameras that that have a noticeable edge over their DSLR counterparts during live view focusing because despite relying solely on contrast-detect AF acquisition (with the odd exception), system cameras benefit from being designed specifically to use the sensor to provide AF information. Paired with lenses that have been optimized for this method of focusing, this is why system cameras in general focus a lot faster during live view shooting than a DSLR does.
On-chip Phase Detection
To overcome this issue the Canon EOS 70D’s new 20.2MP sensor accommodates on-chip phase-detection AF. Nothing new there perhaps, with this technology first being used on Fujifilm’s FinePix F300 compact back in 2010 and adopted by other manufacturers since then to improve the performance of systems during live view.
The big difference though is that the 70D’s sensor uses two photodiodes for each pixel, rather than pairs of pixels that are masked to get a rough approximation before contrast detect AF takes over to fine-tune focus. This results in the 70D’s phase-detect system being accurate enough to do away with the need for contrast-detect AF during live view, while it should work at apertures as low as f/11 and in lighting conditions as low as 0 EV.
Not only that, but the saturation of the 70D’s phase-detect photodiodes on the sensor is much better. In the past on-sensor phase-detect coverage has been quite sparse and offering very minimal coverage across the sensor. The 70D’s 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor on the other hand is active across 80% of the frame by width and height. Incidentally, every pixel features dual photodiodes but the coverage has been restricted to 80% to ensure greater accuracy.
But the 70D is not just intended to be used in live view mode or as a movie camera, and for possibly the majority of the time when the camera’s raised to your eye, photographers will have the added benefit of an advanced 19-point all cross-type AF system that’s been transferred across from the 7D and a big jump over the 60D’s relatively moderate 9-point all cross-type arrangement.
The Canon 70D’s image processing engine is the same DIGIC 5+ processor as we’ve seen in the EOS 5D MkIII, which helps to deliver a burst shooting speed of 7fps and an ISO range of 100-12,800, which can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of 25,600 is required.
The 70D’s optical viewfinder offers a coverage of 98% and a magnification of 0.95x, as well as offering an electronic level display and gridlines. The rear screen is borrowed from the 700D, with the 3in, 1040k-dot resolution touch-sensitive display hinged at the side, allows it to be pulled out, tilted and swiveled that’ll suit a broad range of shooting angles.
The built-in flash on the 70D offers a guide number of 12, while it also doubles as an Integrated Wireless Transmitter, offering off-camera flash control for compatible Canon-fit flashguns if desired. The 70D also offers a decent flash sync speed of 1/250sec and for general shooting, can shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/8000sec.
With the growing trend for Wi-fi connectivity in cameras, its no surprise then to see that the Canon 70D offers built-in functionality, offering photographers the freedom to control the camera remotely from a smart phone or tablet that’s running Canon’s EOS remote app, while images can be transferred and shared easily.
As you’d expect for a camera that’s had a lot attention applied to the AF performance during live view and movie recording, the video specs shouldn’t disappoint. Full HD video can be captured at 30, 25 and 24p as well as 60 and 50p at HD. The 70D provides full control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO, while there’s also connectivity for an external microphone.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Design
The look and feel of the Canon EOS 70D hasn’t strayed too far from the 60D, but the body design is all new and actually a little less wide than its predecessor. The body itself is constructed from aluminum and polycarbonate resin with glass and conductive fibre, and feels well put together.
In fact, it feels very similar to the 7D in the hand, but it would probably be unfair to expect it to perform to quite the same level in demanding shooting conditions as it lacks the magnesium chassis and weather resistance of the 7D.
Those upgrading from a triple-digit EOS body will instantly notice the bulkier size and more pronounced grip. This makes the 70D feel better balanced over its smaller siblings when using a larger optics, while the increased size is also welcome when shooting with the bundled 18-55mm or 18-135mm kit lenses.
Looking at the Canon 70D’s button layout compared to the 60D, and changes to the front of the camera are pretty much cosmetic tweaks. Moving to the rear and differences become a little more obvious. There’s now a dedicated AF area selection button positioned between the shutter button and command dial.
In conjunction with the 70D’s intelligent viewfinder, it’s designed to allow you to quickly toggle through AF area modes without the need to lower the camera from your eye, with mode icons displayed directly above the AF points in the viewfinder.
The controls on the 70D’s mode dial have also been streamlined, with dedicated scene modes having been bumped off in favour of a more focused set of controls, reducing the overall amount of positions from 16 to 10. Photographers will no doubt still appreciate the dedicated quick access buttons to AF selection, Drive, ISO and Metering running along the top of the LCD display.
The biggest changes are at the rear of the 70D, with the control layout revised somewhat. Menu and info buttons have moved to the top left of the camera similar to the 700D, while live view activation and video control is now the more refined live view/video switch with a start/stop button in the centre as we’ve seen with the 5D MkIII and 6D. Quick menu access, playback and delete controls run to the right of the display, while the multi-directional control dial and scroll wheel remain.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Performance
Let’s start with the big one and look at how the Canon EOS 70D performs while shooting in live view. There’s no denying that the AF performance during live view is a massive leap forward over what we’ve seen previously on a DLSR, though it’s not perfect.
Compared to a comparably priced system camera such as the Panasonic GH3, it’s not quite as polished. This is evident when light levels drop and the 70D’s AF system slows and becomes hesitant when attempting to confirm focus. Overall then, the new Dual Phase Detect sensor is a huge jump in AF live view performance for DSLRs, but not quite as good as the best system cameras.
While the way we’re shooting with DSLRs is changing and more of us are using live view, for lots of shooting situations, having the camera raised to the eye is still preferable so the upgrade to the 7D’s phase-detect system is welcome. The 19-point system is a little over-shadowed by the Nikon D7100‘s 51-point AF set-up, but the 70D does have the luxury of all 19 AF points being the more sensitive cross-type variants as opposed to the D7100’s 15.
In use and it really does perform very well, locking on to subjects quickly without any hesitation. Even in very poor lighting conditions it continues to focus competently while the 70D’s tracking system can be relied upon to track fast-moving subjects.
A slight issue that’s not unique to the 70D is the relative bias of the AF points towards the centre of the frame, with off-centre subjects possibly requiring you to focus before recomposing. It should also be said that when combined with either Canon’s USM or STM lenses, focus is near silent.
Canon was the first manufacturer to embrace touch sensitive controls on a DSLR with the EOS 650D and the 70D’s touchscreen display doesn’t disappoint. The capacitive touchscreen offers a very polished user experience, with light touches and gestures required to interact with the camera in a similar way you would a smartphone.
As we’ve seen with both the 650D, 700D and 100D, the touch sensitive display offers a host of quick access controls, including the ability to touch-focus when using live view – thanks to the improved AF in this mode, this feature becomes of much more use to the photographer.
The level of control offered by the touch sensitive display is impressive, and while its possible to pretty much have total control over the camera and its settings like this, I found that I used the touchscreen in tandem with the 70D’s body mounted controls. The 70D’s Quick Menu is particularly suited to touchscreen use, while reviewing images is much more intuitive, offering quick swipes as well as pinch-to-zoom control for zooming in on images.
The 70D’s screen itself delivers a wide angle of view with good levels of contrast and saturation, while the optical viewfinder performs well too. The 98% coverage improves on the 96% covered by the 60D, though its not quite a match for the D7100‘s 100% field-of-view.
The magnification doesn’t make it feel tunnel-like and allows the scene to be viewed in its entirety without needing to look around the viewfinder itself. There’s a useful electronic overlay that includes the ability to toggle through the AF modes (only displayed when the AF area selection button is depressed) as already mentioned as well as an electronic level display.
There are a couple of annoyances when using the 70D’s Creative Filters. The first is that it’s JPEG only shooting mode, so if you like the idea of shooting both JPEG and Raw files simultaneously (JPEGs for the filter effect, Raws should you wish to edit later), you can’t.
For other manufacturers such as Olympus, this isn’t a problem, so it’s disappointing to see this omitted from the 70D, while it’s a feature only accessible while it live view too. While I can appreciate that the optical viewfinder doesn’t offer a real-time feed of the filtered scene, it seems strange to be restricted in this way. The Creative Filters themselves are pretty solid, though possibly a little too conservative compared to some rivals.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
The Canon EOS 70D produces accurate, pleasing colours straight out of the camera, but those looking for punchier JPEG files may be tempted to swap to one of the 70D’s more saturated Picture Styles. As well as this, the 70D’s Auto White Balance also performs well, with well-balanced and neutral-looking images delivered under a range of lighting conditions, though I did experience times when it was a little cool for my liking.
Every Canon DSLR since the 7D has used the same 63-zone Focus Colour Luminance (iFCL) metering system and the 70D keeps this tradition going. The 70D’s Evaluative metering work’s by collecting information from the AF system, as well as the colour and luminance of the scene, to then calculate the correct exposure.
If you’re using spot AF, then it can behave a little like spot metering. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and results from the 70D were generally found to be nicely exposed. In some instances though it can deliver an incorrect exposure should you happen to be focusing on an extremely bright or dark area of the frame, but as long as you’re aware of this then you’ll know how to manage it and, overall, I rarely had to use the exposure compensation control.
With Canon’s most populated APS-C sensor to date, the 70D’s 20.2MP sensor doesn’t disappoint in the resolution stakes. At the camera’s base ISO of 100 in our technical testing, the camera manages to resolve around 26lpmm (lines per mm) on our resolution test chart. This is just a little less than the 24.1MP D7100, which achieved 28lpmm at the same ISO.
This decreases to a still strong 20lpmm at the 70D’s top end ceiling of ISO 25,600, while in real-world tests, detail rendered in images was very good as lower sensitivities, especially when a top optic was used.
With a highly densely populated sensor, there’s always a concern how it will handle higher sensitivities, but the 70D performs very well.
Looking at the JPEG files first and results at low sensitivities displayed not signs of noise and good levels of detail. It wasn’t until ISO 1600 that a very faint hint of luminance (grain-like) noise became apparent in the shadows of our test scene, with chroma (colour noise) following at ISO 3200, though again, this was very faint in appearance.
Results at ISO 6400 are still very strong and while chroma noise is more noticeable, it’s not to the detriment of the image. It’s also worth noting that detail remains very good even at these high sensitivities, delivering very useable results that many would be happy with.
Raw files are just as strong too – even at ISO 6400 results displaying hardly any evidence of chroma noise. Luminance noise, while in evidence, is very well controlled and allows files to retain good levels of detail, with ISO 12,800 and 25,600 still more than useable provided you’re prepared to control luminance noise in post-processing.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Verdict
There’s no doubt that live view use (as well as movie capture) is becoming more widespread amongst DSLR users. Until now though its always felt like a bit of compromise in use, with most systems offering a relatively clunky user experience that’s easily overshadowed by system cameras in this area.
But with the arrival of the Canon EOS 70D’s 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS sensor, I have to say I’m generally impressed with its swift performance in live view. It’s not quite on par with the best system cameras though, but it’s now a pleasurable user experience that can be relied upon, rather than a clunky mode that’s only often used out of necessity.
The results from the new sensor don’t disappoint either and while it doesn’t quite have the same headline grabbing resolution as the Nikon D7100, its still very good, while image noise performance is handled extremely well for both JPEG and Raw files.
Comfortable to hold, the 70D is nicely put together and the touch-sensitive display works seamlessly with the camera’s on-body controls to deliver a very well rounded and satisfying camera to shoot with.
To sum-up then, the 70D is a very impressive piece of kit that does so many things very well, while the Dual Pixel AF sensor will no doubt revolutionise the way AF performs on a DSLR.
For the enthusiast photographer, the EOS 70D is one of the most complete DSLRs available.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample images taken with the Canon EOS 70D. For a full range of images, including a full range of ISO shots, visit the Canon EOS 70D review sample image gallery.
Canon EOS 70D Review – First Look
Three months after refreshing their enthusiast range of DSLRs with the EOS 100D and 700D, Canon has announced the EOS 70D – a new model that’s designed to replace the EOS 60D and slots into the company’s advanced lineup of DSLRs.
Unlike DSLRs that sit below it in the EOS range, the Canon EOS 70D features a higher resolution 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor that’s partnered alongside Canon’s DIGIC 5 image processor and provides a wide ISO sensitivity range of 100-12800 that’s extendable to an equivalent of 25,600.
The EOS 70D’s new 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor provides a native ISO range of 100-12,800.
Implementing the same 19-point all cross-type AF system as found on the Canon EOS 7D, the Canon EOS 70D becomes the world’s first DSLR to feature Dual Pixel AF technology, which is designed to improve the speed of autofocus when shooting Full HD video and acquiring focus in Live View mode. This latest technological innovation allows two photodiodes to be mounted within each pixel, both of which can be read independently to achieve autofocus, or alternatively together for image capture. To ensure a perfect balance between image quality and performance is achieved, the Dual Pixel AF technology covers 80% of the sensor area and is fully compatible with 108 Canon EF and EF-S lenses.
At the rear, the Canon EOS 70D shares a similar design to the recently launched Canon EOS 700D
To further enhance the autofocus operation, the Canon EOS 70D features a new dedicated AF area selection button that’s conveniently positioned behind the shutter. The idea of this is to tie-in with the EOS 70D’s intelligent viewfinder to provide a way of showing the autofocus modes without having to pull the camera away from the eye. Autofocus mode icons are displayed directly above the AF points in the viewfinder and after depressing the new AF area button, these can be toggled through using the top plate scroll dial. Compared to the EOS 7D’s 100% frame coverage, the Canon EOS 70D has 98% coverage and 0.95x magnification.
The new AF area selection button that’s located behind the shutter button offers a heads-up view of the AF modes through the viewfinder and is controlled with the scroll dial.
Set to continuous shooting, the Canon EOS 70D can rattle out a burst of high resolution images at 7fps – equivalent to 1fps faster than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, but 1fps slower than the Canon EOS 7D. Loaded with an Ultra High Speed SDXC or SDHC memory card, Canon claim that 16 Raw files, or 65 large JPEGS, can be shot before the 70D’s buffer requires a breather before it can shoot again.
The Canon EOS 70D’s 3in, Vari-angle display is the same as the Canon EOS 700D’s.
The rear of the EOS 70D is taken up by a 3in, 1040k-dot resolution touch screen that’s identical to the display as found on the recently launched EOS 700D. Being the Vari-angle type it can be pulled out, tilted and swiveled and has the advantage of being able to be touched to acquire focus in Live View mode or when shooting HD video. On the subject of HD video, the Canon EOS 70D shoots at a variety of frame rates, including 30,25,or 24fps, with the option to shoot at 60 and 50fps when the resolution is lowered to 720p. Full control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO is also available for videographers, as is a built-in external microphone input port.
The Canon EOS 70D uses the rechargable Li-ion LP-E6 battery and has a battery stamina that’ll last for 920 shots.
Much like the Canon EOS 6D, the EOS 70D becomes Canon’s second DSLR to feature in-built Wi-fi functionality. It offers photographers the freedom to control the camera remotely from a smart phone or tablet that’s running Canon’s EOS remote app. In addition to its wireless functionality, the Canon EOS 70D features a host of creative modes, which allow photographers to experiment with the style and appearance of images prior to sharing or uploading.
Pricing & Availability
Available from the end of August, the Canon EOS 70D will cost £1079.99 body only or £1199.99 with Canon’s 18-55mm STM kit lens. It’ll also be made available in kit form with the Canon 18-135mm STM lens for £1399.99 and the new BG-E14 battery grip will cost £229.99.
The new BG-E14 battery grip has been designed for the EOS 70D and doubles the shooting stamina by holding a pair of rechargable Li-ion LP-E6 batteries.
Read our first impressions of the camera in our Canon EOS 70D hands on preview.
Canon EOS 70D Review – Hands On
Prior to the launch of the Canon EOS 70D, we visited Canon’s headquarters to find out more about the camera, and more specifically, how the new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology works. Although the sample we laid our hands on was a pre-production model and may see minor revisions, it gave us a good idea of what to expect when the full production samples arrive at the end of August.
The first thing we noticed when we picked up the 70D is how familiar it feels in the hand to previous EOS models – most notably the EOS 60D. Little has changed in terms of the size of the body and the rear controls are laid out in a similar fashion to the recently announced EOS 700D. Unlike the Canon EOS 7D, which features a highly durable body that’s constructed from magnesium alloy, the Canon EOS 70D’s body is made from aluminum and polycarbonate resin with glass and conductive fibre.
Although we wouldn’t say the 70D feels any less robust than the EOS 7D, the build quality of the latter would undoubtedly be able to shake off heavier impacts and survive more demanding shooting situations thanks to its weather resistance. Bulkier in the hand than the EOS 700D, the 70D feels slightly better balanced when it’s attached with larger lenses and offers more for you to wrap your hand around.
The advantage of the larger grip also benefits the 70D’s shooting stamina. Compared with the 700D, the 70D shoots approximately 480 more frames and also allows any 60D, 7D or 5D Mark III users to use any LP-E6 batteries that they may already own.
Keen to test how effective the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology really is, we lined it up alongside the Canon EOS 5D Mark III before setting both cameras to Live View. Focusing between near and far subjects at the extended end of the zoom range clearly revealed differences in speed and how effective the introduction of Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology is going to be, not only for the EOS 70D, but for the future of Canon DSLRs.
In the past, the speed of AF in Live View has often slowed the speed at which photographers and videographers would like to work. Although we’d say the focusing speed isn’t as fast as when you’d compose through the viewfinder, it’s a huge improvement and makes the 5D Mark III’s Live View AF speed look sluggish by comparison.
Mounting two photodiodes within each pixel is clever technology indeed and seems to be the way forward from our brief hands-on session. Asking the question as to whether this technology could affect the quality of images in any way, Canon responded by saying ‘there will be no compromises in image quality.’
The new viewfinder graphics on the 70D also received a warm welcome during our brief hands-on. The new AF area button that’s located just behind the shutter button is easy to find with your index finger without having to pull your eye away from the viewfinder. It results in a much faster way to access to the 70D’s three AF area modes and saves you hunting through the menu or quick menu.
It does make you wonder why this hasn’t been introduced on Canon’s advanced DSLRs before now and we half expect it to be rolled out across all of Canon’s advanced DSLRs in the future.
The electronic level icon that’s displayed in the viewfinder is also a useful addition for those concerned about getting their verticals and horizontals perpendicular. As for the capacitive touchscreen, it operates in an identical way to the Canon 700D’s. Bright, vibrant images were displayed on the pre-production model, and though you might think it’s difficult to navigate through the menu with fairly small icons, it’s not at all. It remains one of the most responsive and sensitive touch screens we’ve used to date.
Overall then, our first impressions of the Canon EOS 70D are very positive. Given that the firmware is not yet final, there could be some further improvements and modifications, but from our first try we found very little to fault.
The main question many consumers will want answered is; why pay more for the 70D when the more advanced Canon EOS 7D is cheaper? Though the EOS 7D has a larger buffer, shoots 1fps faster and features a magnesium alloy body, the fact remains that it’s getting on for being four years old and doesn’t feature the very latest Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology that makes the 70D so special. Ok, the 70D may not be quite in the same league as the 7D in terms of build quality and performance, but nevertheless it gets extremely close to what the 7D offers and we expect it to fall below the asking price of a new 7D (£1079) very quickly after it goes on sale at the end of August.
What we can expect to remember the Canon 70D for in years to come is the way it transformed the speed of autofocus in Live View – something that’ll be very well received by both photographers and videographers.