Featuring an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, the EOS 70D is a breath of fresh air among Canon cameras. Its great performance, balanced ergonomics and the obvious improvements make it a very capable DSLR for both pictures and for video recording. Too bad its self-imposed shortcomings limit the potential of this 1000-Euro camera that is doomed to be shadowed by the Nikon D7100 or the Pentax K -50.
Just like we experienced when testing the EOS 700D, Canon’s classic formula seems to be making the manufacturer fall behind its competitors. The EOS 70D is, therefore, supposed to be a step up from what we’ve seen so far.
It is not just its 20-megapixel resolution, but also its revamped focus system, new Live View features and its vast improvements in regards to video recording what make this camera a truly solid one. Not that the EOS-60D was a bad camera, but we have to admit it does leave much to be desired.
The new features
This time, the list of new features of the EOS 70D is so big, it’s worth taking a look at before even testing the camera.
First, we have the aforementioned 20-megapixel sensor. But more important than the resolution is the Pixel CMOS AF Dual Focus system, which makes focusing much easier and faster.
The new focus system with 19 cross-type points is one of its most interesting features, which is also superior to its predecessor. The 9 focus points of the EOS 60D were simply not enough. The EOS 70D also features a touch screen and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Of course, its design has been completely revamped, has an improved viewfinder and a burst mode of 7 frames per second (the EOS 60D’s burst mode was 5 FPS); all of this makes it an excellent device.
The focus is definitely the best aspect about this camera, thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology it features, something we will surely see in the future in more devices.
The focus is lightning-fast whether we work with the traditional viewfinder or through the screen. To achieve this, the EOS 70D uses a rather ingenious system, dividing each of the photodiodes of the sensor into two parts and making them work as a focus sensor, similar to that used in the reflex mode.
But let’s leave explanations aside, as results are what matter. The EOS 70D’s focus system is fast and smooth while in Live View mode and recording video. Keep in mind, though, the full potential of this camera can only be achieved by using STM lenses, which aren’t exactly easy to find.
That’s why using the newest version of the 18 -135 mm f3.5 – 5.6 wasn’t such a bad idea, since it’s solid and versatile.
19 focus points
Although this is one of the most significant changes of the camera, we must not forget the revamped traditional focus system. Unlike the 9 points of the previous generation, the EOS 70D now features a 19-point mechanism that responds really well in terms of speed and accuracy.
There’s also a new button on the handle, near the trigger, devoted exclusively to control the focus system. This detail, though small, makes camera gain several points in ergonomics and handling. With this button, you can shift between the featured focus modes.
So there’s nothing to worry about? Well, the truth is that the coverage of these 19 points is quite limited within the frame, covering little more than just the central part of himself and his surroundings.
The good news is that in Live View mode, the coverage is extended to 80% of the frame thanks to that Pixel CMOS Dual AF system. The bad news is that this mechanism is not at all useful for shooting moving objects –though it’s excellent at recording video-.
Another flaw that is quite unexplainable for a camera of this price: no focus assist light. Even worse is the fact that the flash makes up for this.
Its viewfinder surpasses that of the EOS 60D in terms of coverage as it goes from 96% to 98 %. Sadly, 2% behind the Nikon D7100 or the Pentax K-3, both with 100 % coverage.
Since fans and consumers have been asking for a new version of the 18-megapixel CMOS APS-C for quite a while, this new version has been unsurprisingly well received. However, its pixels and use of the focusing system can also raise some further questions about possible effects on image quality. There’s no need to worry, though, since the image quality offered by the EOS 70D is excellent –though, we have to admit, it’s not for everyone-.
Does the new focus technology affect the performance of the sensor? Absolutely. This SLR achieves levels equal to or slightly higher than those seen in the EOS 60D in terms of detail, color, noise control and dynamic range.
Is it a big improvement compared to what Canon’s CMOS this size can normally do? The truth is that the improvements are small and only become noticeable after amplifying the pictures, in most cases.
Although the camera produces great-looking JPEG files, post-processing RAW files, though kind of tedious, gives much better results.
Its burst mode is capable of shooting at 7 FPS. The buffer, though, is somewhat limited, and even if you have a high-speed memory card, it won’t go beyond 20 JPEG files per second -16 in RAW and only 6 if you combine both modes-.
The EOS 70D also features a new silent shooting mode. Don’t expect something too sophisticated, though, it simply cushions the blow of the mirror for the shutter sound to be little more discreet. Is really is more silent than the normal mode, but not by much.
The big question I had with the video recording feature of the EOS 70D was referring to the behavior of the new Pixel Dual focus system. Well, the verdict in this regard is clear: with the permission of the Sony Alpha and its translucent mirror technology, the EOS 70D is the best SLR camera with autofocus on the market, and the only one that can compete in this area with mirror less cameras.
Whether holding the camera in continuous focus mode or using the function to choose the point of focus, the EOS 70D works quickly and efficiently. Maybe even too fast sometimes, we would appreciate a little more softness in the transitions. Like we said, using STM lenses will yield you the best results.
Apart from this, there is nothing revolutionary about the EOS 70D in regards to video recording. The camera has everything similar models also have: full HD video recording at 24, 25 and 30 frames per second, ALL-I and IPB compression, manual modes, touch screen and a mini-microphone jack. It only lacks a headphone output, something the Nikon D7100 does have, something that helps a lot if you’re using focus peaking.
Image quality-wise, the EOS 70D offers nothing less than the expected performance of an APS-C CMOS from Canon, with the features and shortcomings we already know thanks to older cameras or the Rebel T5i.
The image quality remains virtually unchanged, with the changes regarding the focus system being the most significant.
A matter of price
We have to admit Canon really did their homework with this new EOS 70D and its vast array of excellent new features and functionalities.
This SLR has everything you need, including, of course, the Wi-Fi connectivity; although it requires a little patience and time the first time you configure it, which is a common evil of all cameras.
Without a major change in terms of image quality compared to what was seen in previous generations, the Dual AF CMOS Pixel focus system is certainly the most remarkable fact about this camera. Those who are used to working with the rear screen and especially those who think of the EOS 70D as a camcorder will notice the difference. Does this justify the release of the new EOS 70D for you? Depending on what you’re looking for, yes.
But the long list of features and good results can not blind us to the reality of the market. The EOS 70D is quite pricey for what it offers, you can get a 1000-dollars camera right now that offers that and more. Without going any further, the Nikon D7100 has not only better image quality but also a better focus system, not to mention it has two SD card slots and an improved viewfinder.
Of course, if we talk about price and construction, the Pentax K-3 EOS 70D puts these two to shame, although the same cannot be said about it in regards to video recording.
Mirror less cameras are no longer a rarity or an exotic option, they’re the choice of many consumers. Although in this price range there are many good options (Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sony NEX-6), the EOS 70D is still an excellent camera. Users of the EOS 7D may wait for their new version while seeing this one with a little envy.