The Canon 70D in review

This might be a long one. The Canon 70D in review.


New toys!

First up, the disclaimers...

Firstly, I'm not a photographer. What I mean is, I do take pictures, it's true. And they are used to promote things I do. But I'm not a paid, professional photographer. And I also also very bad at grammar and starting sentences with 'and', and 'but'. But ( hehe) the other members of a photography forum I'm a member of are very interested in this new camera - so here we go. That forum is ostensibly for 550D owners, so they'll be alot of comparison there.

Secondly, I don't shoot that much video. Which raises an interesting question. Why buy a new camera, whose primary new feature is video-related, when I don't shoot that much video. All will be explained....


The camera - general-ness. 

My previous camera was a Canon 550D (T2i for those of you in the US), and there a few main reasons for the new purchase. One of which was that actually the 550d felt a little small in my hands. The grip wasn't quite as large as I wanted. The 70D certainly resolved that problem! In fact, my first thought when unpacking the camera was that it was pretty heavy! There's only an extra 200g in it, to be honest - but it does feel much stronger, more hefty and more 'pro'. In a good way. After taking it on a three week tour, it was only when I picked up the 550d to take a timelapse that I really noticed. The 550 actually felt a little like a toy camera! A strange thing to say about a DSLR, but in comparison it felt that way. 

The 70D also boasts a top LCD screen, which the 550D doesn't. Having not used one before, I wasn't really sure how useful it would be but in actual fact it's really very handy. A top LCD screen means that I can leave the rear LCD turned off for most of the time. Not only does that save battery very well, it also helps - because the 70D doesn't have a rear proximity sensor. The 550d has a rear sensor to detect if you have your face against the screen (in which case it turns off). However, because the 70D has a tilty-swively screen, there's no such sensor. But, a combination of the top LCD screen and setting the camera to auto-off the rear LCD when the shutter is half pressed resolves that.

Other items of note? Well, the camera is big enough that a quick-release plate doesn't cover the batter compartment to start with!  

Vari angle tilty-flippy-screen

Ah yes, the tilty-screen. Point 2 on the list of 'things that I want in a new camera'. Well, it's tilty and flippy. Which means - most importantly for me - that you can see yourself whilst videoing. For the little video work that I do, much of it is to camera. ie, I'm talking to the camera, which is really bloomin hard if you can't see what you're doing. With a tilty-flippy screen, it's much much easier! 


I've taken a few shots from high and low angles where the screen has been great too, but not to the point where that would be a big deal. The other benefit I noticed of the screen though is for time lapse videos. With the camera mounted on a friction arm, it was really - really - easy to make a good, well composed timelapse. Bonus points there! Talking of the timelapse, that leads me nicely into the;


Point 3 on the plus list ;-) The wifi implementation on the camera is interesting. If you're read reviews it is exactly the same implementation as the 6D, but there are a couple of caveats. First up, when Wifi is enabled, you can't shoot video. At all. It's time to go back into the menu, disable WiFi completely and then you can shoot video. That seems very strange to me and to be honest is a bit of a pain. Even a popup option when you start recording video to disable wifi would be better.

The Wifi implementation has a few benefits. Firstly, you can tether the camera and use the EOS Utility on your PC/Mac remotely. For timelapses? Brilliant, love that alot. The best part is that a 600 picture timelapse, transmitted over WiFi used about 1/4 of the battery. Nice. It's also possible for the camera to act as an access point, though that implementation seems a little buggy. It works well for the smartphone app, but not so much for the PC utility which limited my ability to transfer pictures. You also need to configure all of the Twitter/Facebook etc sharing from a PC or the Canon website. So, good marks for effort - just not there quite yet. However, for my timelapse use alone, well worth it.


Focus, FPS and Camera type stuff

One of the things that the 70D has inherited is the 7D's focus system. The 70D has 19 AF points, versus the 550's 9. To be honest, this wasn't a massive draw for me. Most of the time I use 'focus and recompose' so really, it's only the central focus point that matters. Or so I thought. One of the tasks I've had to do recently is some macro photography. Small (LEGO, of course) images, blown up very large. I sadly can't show you the images. Yet. Anyway, working this close, the multiple focal points really made a difference and one that I can see. Result :-)

The other focus mode that the 70D has is zone AF. I can't remember if the 550D does, but I never used it, whereas out and about I used it alot on the 70D. Good stuff. ALSO.... The 70D has a built-in spirit level AND viewfinder grid overlays!!! I can now take pictures that are level. That's almost worth the price of admission alone! 

Frames Per Second - this camera has lots :-) Again, a feature I thought I'd never used, until I tried to take pictures of a Geysir erupting. 7 FPS is pretty useful for that! It also sounds bloomin awesome. One thing I have had to do is to retrain my finger to press very briefly indeed. Initially I was taking alot of duplicate pictures!

Silent shooting.... yeah, that kinda works. Well, it works - but I'm not sure it's 'silent'. It's certainly quieter in live view mode. Outside of that, it's a small difference. What I'd *really* like would be an ability to take a still from the video stream (again, for timelapses) which would be totally silent. Hey ho. 

Other clever stuff - multiple exposures, micro focus adjust, RAW conversion in camera, etc, etc I've yet to really use. But they're nice to have. Oh, you can also select more picture modes - JPG Small+Fine for instance. And mix'n'match any of these with a RAW file of multiple sizes too.

One big feature that I have used, and will use, is the 'Custom' mode. Selected like Av, Tv or M, the C mode lets you pick a complete set of settings that can easily be recalled. In my case, JPG small, no RAW, fixed WB, flat picture style, fixed aperture and shutter speed. Perfect setup for a quick timelapse ;-)


And finally... that fancy dual pixel focus system

Well, yes, it's fancy and it focuses! When shooting video, it focuses quickly and accurately on whatever you press. Face tracking works and does it automatically. In fact, it's so straightforward and simple that you don't really worry about it. Though, as I said - I shoot very little video so I'm not best placed to comment!

I suspect in the longer term that this sensor will become standard on the next entry level DSLR and maybe the 7D mk II as well, followed by, well, everything else. Which makes me wonder if if was only this sensor you were after then it might be worth waiting for a 750D / 800D. It's bound to happen at some point, but for me it's not the 'killer feature' yet. 


In summary

The 70D is a great camera. All in all, it's a big step up from the 550D, but without leaving me feeling lost and confused like I did when I moved up to a DSLR! It feels a more professional tool and whilst it won't make my pictures any better, I at least feel much more in control of them.

Is it worth the money? Now there's a good question. It's certainly not cheap and of course, it's a business purchase, the directors need convincing! However, as it's given my a second camera body that means I can dedicate one camera to timelapses and another general picture taking. That's a big step up for me and should improve the results I get. Hopefully the quality of video that I produce increases too. All of these things (and potentially the ability to charge for some of the shots!) will make the investment worthwhile to me. I need to share what has been built to make sales!

Am I happy with the purchase? Yes, absolutely.