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Review Canon 70D: Phase detection during video

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The expectations with the introduction of the Canon 70D at the end of 2013 were high. This is the successor to the three-year-old and immensely popular Canon 60D, with more megapixels, modern features like in-camera HDR, a touch screen and Wi-Fi access and, last but not least, a sensational new AF system for video. The life cycle of digital cameras is getting shorter. A model from a year ago falls in today's dynamic camera world under the heading of "old." You can see how popular the Canon 60D was.
Does the new sensor of the Canon 70D with Dual Pixel AF solve the 'problem' of fast auto focusing in Liveview and actually filming?

Canon70D

Canon 70D versus Canon 7D versus Canon 700D

The Canon 70D is positioned in the Canon SLR range between the Canon 700D (entry-level consumers) and the Canon 7D (semi-pro), and is intended for the advanced casual photographer. Both in terms of design and ergonomics, as well as capabilities, the Canon 70D is indeed in the middle between its smaller and bigger brothers: very complete, but not complex. In the following link the specifications of these three cameras are presented side by side. (dpReview)

700pixelsflower70dCanon 70D + 100 mm macro @ f8, 100 ISO, 0.5 sec

Canon 70D vs Nikon D7100

Both cameras from the two largest SLR manufacturers come out even in many ways when it comes to specifications. The differences are in the details, such as:

  • The LCD screen of the Nikon is larger and has more dots, but it's not a touchscreen such as on the Canon 70D
  • Nikon has 20% more megapixels (24) than the Canon 70D (20)
  • D7100 delivers full HD video @ 60 bps, the Canon @ 30 bps
  • The 70D offers in-camera HDR, the Nikon 2 SD card slots
  • The Canon 70D offers phase detection for video (dual pixel CMOS AF)

Design

The Canon 70D is, like a traditional SLR camera, equipped with an optical viewfinder that lets you look through the lens. It's a nice clear image, but smaller than a Canon 5D MK3 or an Olympus OM-D E-M1.
There are many photographers who appreciate the structure of Canon camera menus. I belong in that group, but I realize that this depends on taste. The menus of the Canon 70D are clear, and all options are quick to find with the small mode dial, the multi controller and of course with the touch function. With "My Menu," six can commonly used options can be brought together and are thus readily available. It is also possible to establish a specific combination of settings for the camera – for example for action photography – under a Custom (C) menu on the program choice wheel.

Canon70Dtopview

Screen and viewfinder

The viewfinder image on this APS-C camera is, as I said, slightly smaller than onm a camera with a full frame sensor. It gives 98% of the framing of the subject with a magnification of 0.95, which makes it similar to, for example, the viewfinder image of a Nikon D7100. The bigger brother Canon 7D shows 100% of the viewfinder image. The focusing screen of the Canon 70D is not interchangeable, but a grid can be projected on it, as well as a digital level.
With its quick AF in Liveview, the LCD screen (3 inches) is much more important and more practical for framing the subject. The resolution is high (1040k) and the field of view is large (176°). And with the ability to tilt and to rotate the screen, it is always readable and creative perspectives can be chosen effortlessly. The touch screen shows its usefulness with the setting of menu options, when reviewing pictures (very handy) and even choosing the focus point and possibly taking a photo (Touch Shutter).
Canon70DLCDscreen

Resolution and image quality

Resolution is not the reason why you will switch from a Canon 60D to a Canon 70D. In both case, it's good. The new architecture of the sensor of the Canon 70D, with its Dual Pixels does not negatively affect the detail capture of this camera. The resolution of the Canon 70D with 20 megapixels is slightly higher than that of the well-known CMOS sensors with 18 million pixels, such as used in the Canon 60D or the Canon 7D. We see in our measurement results, but in pictures taken in practice, this small difference is actually negligible.

700pixmoonCanon70DCanon 70D, 400 mm, f/8, 1/50 sec, 400 ISO

Dynamic range

Neither does the dynamic range of the Canon 70D suffer from the use of the new sensor, and it's similar to that of, for example, the Canon 60D or Canon 7D. The sensor of Canon APS-C SLR cameras in practice bridges the lower contrast of, for example, a Panasonic GX7 or a Canon camera with a full-frame sensor. The Panasonic GX7 has a smaller sensor, but that doesn't translate to a lower dynamic range. Canon RAW files are 14 bits, and you don't find that with all camera brands. In 14-bit RAW, Lightroom can still pull a lot of detail out of highlights and shadows. If you prefer a significant increase in the contrast in JPEG, then you can use the highlight priority option or you can let the camera make an HDR out of differently lit shots.

Canon70DdynamicRange

Color reproduction

 

The color reproduction of modern SLR cameras is today very similar. In addition, the accuracy of the color reproduction strongly depends on the lighting conditions and the selected color profile. Even in direct comparisons between pictures made with different brand cameras, it's difficult to spot the differences. With automatic white balance and default image style, the colors of JPEG photos are appealing, and they have a clear Canon-signature, especially in the reds. The colors can be highly personalized in JPEG using a white balance correction or a private image style. It's even possible to use the included software (Picture Style editor) to create private profiles for specific subjects.
If you shoot in RAW, then the colors are even more manageable. There is a small difference depending on whether the RAW files are developed in Lightroom or in Canon's own Digital Photo Professional.

miniCanon70D-color-accuracy

Color reproduction in daylight (faithful picture style)

miniTungsten colorerror Canon70D
Color reproduction in artificial light (faithful picture style)

700pixel-druppels-70dCanon 70D + 100 mm macro @ f3.2, 100 ISO, 1/80 sec

Noise

As long as the architecture and the pixel size on a sensor from a specific brand do not change dramatically, the amount of noise at high ISOs is also not significantly different. Canon has delivered with the new sensor of the Canon 70D a fine performance, because despite its slightly smaller pixels than those of the 18 Mp cameras and the extra lenses of the Dual Pixels, the signal/noise ratio does not deteriorate. There is in RAW even a bit less noise than with the Canon 700D (image).
The amount of noise in JPEG is greatly determined by the degree of noise reduction (NR), which with the Canon 70D can be set separately to None, Weak, Standard and Strong. The Digic 5+ processor does its work well with NR = Standard, and photos at ISO 3200 then – if properly exposed – are fine for use in larger displays and for printing on A4. If you want a bit less loss of detail and you're more enamored with an analog range, then NR = Weak is preferable.
vergelijk ruis 700px

Autofocus

The auto focus on the basis of phase detection as framed with the viewfinder is, with its 19 AF points, capable of grabbing a subject quickly in sufficient light and contrast. Also with less light, it can still find something to catch onto, but then it's clearly inferior to a mirrorless camera with contrast detection, such as the Panasonic GH3. The tracking is again though very good (much better than cameras with contrast detection) and a moving object is easily followed, and different tracking options can be chosen, as with the Canon 7D.

The unique feature of the Canon 70D is of course phase detection AF in Liveview and during filming. We noticed that it's slightly less quick than standard AF, but in comparison with older Canon models and other cameras, it's very fast in finding the focus point and also in its moving subject retention. It's thus in video no problem to keep the face of an approaching person automatically in focus.
In the clip below we show the difference in the AF speed in Liveview between a Canon 70D and Canon 700D.

DualPixelAF

DAF illustratie-700px

Video

 

Canon put a lot of emphasis in its latest generations of cameras on the ability to shoot video. And that is also possible with the Canon 70D. Thanks to the Dual Pixel technology and the combination with STM-lenses, filming is a lot more user friendly. Also the choice in video compression contributes to the quality, but the lack of focus peaking, an audio output, HDMI output and a clean 1080p with 50 fps are still small flaws if you have big dreams for shooting video with this camera.
A nice option is that, while filming, you have a digital zoom option at your disposal from 3x to 10,x and thus birds and such can be brought very close without too much loss of quality.
The Canon 70D offers a host of modern features not covered fully in this brief review, such as Wi-Fi and in-camera HDR capabilities. Thanks to Wi-Fi, the camera can be remotely controlled from a smart-phone. With the in-camera HDR mode, it is unfortunate that the RAW files are not also be stored. That can be bypassed, of course, if you choose bracketing and create an HDR shot in post-production.  

video-digitalzoom-700px

Conclusion Canon 70D

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Look in our list of tested cameras for specifications and to compare this performance with that of other cameras.

Amateur
Year:2013
Overall score:6.8
Resolution:7.0
Dynamic Range:6.6
Noise:7.5
Color:8.8
Whitebalance:7.0
Megapixels:20
Sensor:APSC
Sensor magn.:0.37
fps:7
Weight (gram):455
MSRP NL (Euro):1099

 

Advantages

  • Phase detection AF in Liveview and video
  • High image quality also at high ISOs
  • Very good hand-fit and operation
  • Wi-fi with remote image capture
  • Tiltable and swiveling LCD-screen with multitouch

Disadvantages

  • No GPS
  • No WB and RAW/JPEG in the status menu
  • Lower dynamic range in JPEG than the competition
  • No RAW-share files in HDR-mode

The successor of the Canon 60D was three years in coming and in terms of image quality clearly puts forward a better performance. But that's not the reason to switch to a Canon 70D. The Canon 70D is a very good all-round SLR with innovative sensor technology, which offers the advanced leisure photographer everything you would expect from a system camera in the year 2014: fine hand-fit and operation, good video, wireless options, fast AF and 'motor drive' and high image quality. Add to that a comprehensive range of accessories (lenses, flash units) from Canon and other brands, together with your own creativity, to get a great result with the Canon 70D for each project.
If you have a Canon from the xxxD-segment, such as the Canon 650D, and you aspire to broaden your photography, then the switch to the Canon 70D is certainly justified, and you'll have years of enjoyment from this camera. If you're the owner of a Canon 60D, then the Canon 70D on almost all fronts is better, but if for you it's mainly about the image quality in RAW, then a switch is not necessarily needed.
Personally, I would choose the Canon 70D over the Canon 7D from september 2009, but since a successor to this camera is expected in 2014, Canon 7D-photographers can also and switch directly when its successor is presented. If you still want a Canon 70D at that time, then it's sure to be even more attractively priced.

 
Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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