Preview based on a pre-production Canon EOS 70D
During the early days of digital SLRs, Canon was pretty much the undisputed leader in CMOS image sensor technology. Almost every new EOS model came with an increase in resolution and high ISO range, and when the EOS 7D appeared in late 2009, the company had progressed from 3MP to 18MP, and ISO 1600 to ISO 12800, in just over nine years. But since then Canon’s APS-C cameras have all sported variants on the same basic sensor design, to the extent that you could be forgiven for wondering what on earth their engineers were doing all day. Now we know.
The EOS 70D is a mid-range SLR for enthusiast photographers that from the outside looks like a sensible, indeed desirable upgrade to the EOS 60D. It borrows many of the best bits from Canon’s existing SLRs, including the autofocus sensor from the EOS 7D, the fully articulated touchscreen from the EOS 700D (Rebel T5i), and built-in Wi-Fi from the EOS 6D. But on the inside it sports an entirely new sensor that is, potentially, revolutionary. It offers 20.2MP resolution, but uses a ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ design in which every single pixel is split into two separately-readable photodiodes, facing left and right. This means that in principle they are all capable of phase detection autofocus in live view and movie mode.
On-chip phase detection is nothing new – we first saw it in the Fujifilm F300EXR back in 2010. Since then it’s been adopted in one form or another by most manufacturers, with arguably its most successful implementation coming in Nikon’s 1 System mirrorless models. But because until now it’s used relatively few active pixels scattered sparsely across the sensor, it’s had practical limitations, often only covering a restricted area of the frame and struggling once the light drops below outdoor daylight levels. Canon says that its Dual Pixel AF system, in contrast, works across an area 80% of the frame width and height, in light levels as low as 0 EV, and at apertures down to F11. This means it could well be the most capable live view autofocus system we’ve yet seen on any type of camera.
We’ll look at the technology behind the EOS 70D’s live view AF in more detail later, but let’s not forget that it has to work as a conventional SLR too. To this end it uses the same 19-point AF sensor as the EOS 7D for viewfinder shooting, but with slightly simplified control options in firmware. It can rattle shots off at 7fps for up to 65 frames in JPEG or 16 in RAW, and its standard ISO range covers 100-12800, with ISO 25600 as an expanded option. Image processing is via the DIGIC 5+ processor first seen in the EOS 5D Mark III.
In terms of control layout the EOS 70D is a logical evolution of the EOS 60D, adopting many of Canon’s intervening updates and improvements. So it offers a full set of external controls to operate most key functions, and Canon’s well-designed Quick Control screen to cover pretty much everything else. It also adopts the superb touchscreen interface that debuted on the EOS 650D (Rebel T4i), which we’ve found to be more useful than you might at first think. The 70D also regains an array of features that disappeared between the EOS 50D and 60D, such as AF microadjustment.
Canon EOS 70D key features
- 20.2MP APS-C ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ sensor
- DIGIC 5+ image processor
- ISO 100-12800 standard, 25600 expanded
- 7fps continuous shooting, burst depth 65 JPEG / 16 RAW
- ‘Silent’ shutter mode
- 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic
- 19-point AF system, all points cross-type, sensitive to -0.5 EV
- 63-zone iFCL metering system
- 98% viewfinder coverage, 0.95x magnification, switchable gridlines and electronic level display
- Fully-articulated touchscreen, 1040k dot 3″ ClearView II LCD, 3:2 aspect ratio
- Single SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Single-axis electronic level
- Built-in flash works as off-camera remote flash controller
- AF microadjustment (can be set individually for up to 40 lenses, remembered by lens serial number)
- In-camera High Dynamic Range and Multiple Exposure modes (JPEG-only)
- ‘Creative Filter’ image processing styles, previewed in live view
Key specs compared
Canon EOS 70D
Canon EOS 7D
|Effective Pixels||• 20.2 MP||• 18.0 MP||• 24.1 MP|
|ISO Range|| • 100-12800 standard
• 25600 expanded
| • 100-6400 standard
• 12800 expanded
| • 100-6400 standard
• 50-25600 expanded
|No of AF points||• 19||• 19||• 51|
|AF in live view||• Phase detection||• Contrast detection||• Contrast detection|
|Screen|| • 3.0″
• 1,040,000 dots
• Touch sensitive
| • 3.0″
• 920,000 dots
| • 3.2″
• 1,228,800 dots
|Viewfinder|| • 98% coverage
• 0.95x magnification
| • 100% coverage
• 1.0x magnification
| • 100% coverage
• 0.94x magnification
|Continuous drive||• 7 fps||• 8 fps||• 6 fps|
|Storage||• SD/SDHC/SDXC||• Compact flash|| • SD/SDHC/SDXC
• 2 slots
|• 755g (1.7 lb)||• 860g (1.9 lb)||• 765g (1.7 lb)|
|Dimensions|| • 139 x 104 x 79 mm
(5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1″)
| • 148 x 111 x 74 mm
(5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9″)
| • 136 x 107 x 76 mm
(5.4 x 4.2 x 3.0″)
|Wi-Fi||• Built-in||• Optional||• Optional|
Size and design compared to the EOS 60D
The EOS 70D directly replaces the EOS 60D in Canon’s range, and is very similar in terms of size and design. It’s a bit smaller though, and has a sensibly-updated control layout. Here we take a more-detailed look at the two cameras side-by-side.
From the front the EOS 70D looks almost identical to the 60D. But it’s slimmed down a bit, being fractionally narrower. Look a little closer and you can also see that the 60D’s front-facing mono microphone has gone (replaced by stereo mics on the top plate).
The two cameras are pretty similar from the back too, with the 70D retaining the same basic layout. It gains Canon’s improved live view/movie mode controller, and has a physical switch to lock the rear dial against accidental operation rather than a button. Other than that it uses all the same buttons, just not necessarily in the same order.
From the top, again the 70D is very much a sensible evolution. The mode dial is simplified and now rotates continuously rather than having hard end stops, and there’s a new AF area expansion button next to the shutter release. But the rest of the controls are all essentially the same.
Kit options and pricing
The EOS 70D will be sold body-only for £1079 / $1199 / €1099, as a kit with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM for £1199.99 / $1340 / €1249, or with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens for £1399.99 $1549 / €1499. The BG-E14 battery grip will cost £229.99 / $270 / €215.
Canon EOS 70D specifications
All specifications are available HERE
Body & Design
The EOS 70D looks very much like the EOS 60D, although it’s actually a little smaller. Body construction is mainly plastic, but in this case that’s not much to worry about – it still feels nicely put together. All of the main shooting controls are in essentially the same places, but some of the secondary ones have been moved around or revamped. Overall there’s not a lot of space left on the camera where more buttons could realistically have been placed.
The top of the 70D very closely resembles that of the EOS 60D. The buttons along the top of the LCD screen each serve a single purpose rather than doubling-up, giving direct access to autofocus and drive modes, metering and ISO (which is easily changed with the camera to your eye). The exposure mode dial has been simplified to group the various automated scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports etc) under a single position, and a pair of stereo microphones placed behind the pop-up flash housing replace the mono mic that was on the front of the 60D.
The small button between the shutter release and the front dial is a dedicated focus area expansion control. Pressing it allows you to expand the AF area from a single point to progressively larger groups of points – useful when tracking a moving subject.
The EOS 70D has a good-sized grip and sits solidly in your hand; anyone who’s used a recent twin-dial Canon EOS should be able to pick it up and feel right at home.
Most of the key controls are well-placed for operation with the camera to your eye, but if you want to move the focus point using the multi-controller, this requires a fairly large movement of your thumb downwards. You can also move the AF point with the front and rear dials, but have to press the AF point selection button first.
The EOS 70D uses a fully articulated touchscreen that’s very similar to that used in the EOS 650D and EOS 700D. This means it’s substantially improved on the one in the EOS 60D, as the air gap between the cover glass and the screen itself has been eliminated; this should improve visibility in bright light.
The screen can flip out and rotate to point directly downwards, upwards or even forwards for shooting self-portraits (in this position the camera handily mirrors the live view display). It can also be folded up with the screen facing inwards to the camera for added protection (or if you somehow prefer an old-fashioned film-camera experience).
The screen is also touch-sensitive, and as on Canon’s recent entry-level models, absolutely every aspect of the camera’s interface can be controlled by touch. In concert with the camera’s Q button, it means a wide range of settings can be changed quickly and intuitively. This doesn’t make so much difference while shooting with the optical viewfinder, when you’ll probably want to use conventional ‘hard’ controls as far as possible. But it’s genuinely useful in live view or when shooting from a tripod, allowing the focus point to be selected (and, if you like, the shutter to be released) simply by touching the screen.
In movie mode you can also ‘pull’ focus to a new subject by tapping the touchscreen, with the camera shifting focus smoothly in a controlled fashion. We’ve seen this before on Canon’s Hybrid AF cameras like the EOS 100D / Rebel SL1, but with the 70D’s new AF system it promises to be a particularly neat trick.
The screen has a high-sensitivity setting which Canon says allows operation with (thin) gloves. Alternatively you can turn the touchscreen off altogether if you don’t like it.
The EOS 70D uses a glass pentaprism viewfinder with 98% coverage and 0.95x magnification. This is an improvement on the 96% coverage offered by the 60D, and places it much closer to competitors like theNikon D7100 and Pentax K-5 II, which both offer 100% coverage and slightly higher effective magnification. Of course it still can’t match full-frame cameras like the EOS 6D.
The 70D’s viewfinder also gains a switchable gridline overlay, along with the neat trick of being able to use the AF array indicators to display a single-axis electronic level in the viewfinder to help keep your horizons straight (both features lifted from the EOS 7D).
Operation and controls
The EOS 70D’s right hand top-plate has almost exactly the same control layout as the 60D, with the sole addition being the AF area expansion button between the front dial and shutter release. The front dial changes the primary exposure parameter for the selected mode: program shift in P, aperture in Av, and shutter speed in Tv and M. Behind it is a strip of buttons giving direct access to autofocus and drive modes, metering pattern and ISO (the latter being markedly better-placed for operation with the camera to your eye than the Nikon D7100’s), along with one that illuminates the top-plate LCD.
Three buttons are placed on the camera’s shoulder for operation by your thumb. The AF-ON button activates the camera’s autofocus, and the ‘Star’ button next to it is a customizable auto exposure lock. Beside it is the AF point selector – press this and you can move the focus point around using either the front and rear dials, or the directional pad inside the rear dial. The latter two buttons are also used for playback magnification.
On the other side of the pentaprism you’ll find the power switch and mode dial. This has the familiar four exposure modes – Program, Aperture priority, Shutter Priority and Manual – plus Bulb shutter mode and a single user-definable Custom position. There’s also ‘Auto+’, ‘Flash off’ and ‘Creative Auto’ modes, the latter offering results-oriented creative control, along with a SCN position that consolidates Canon’s long-running scene modes (sport, landscape etc.) in one place. The mode dial rotates freely though 360 degrees, with no end-stops.
Below these, there are two buttons to access the camera’s menus and change the amount of information displayed on the rear screen.
The rest of the 70D’s major shooting controls are on the back, mainly arranged for operation by your right thumb. The combined live view / movie mode controller is beside the viewfinder; with the switch in the stills position, pressing the central button engages and disengages live view. Flick the switch into the movie position and the camera enters movie live view with a 16:9 preview display. The Start/Stop button then starts and stops recording.
The Q button brings up an interactive control screen while shooting, allowing you to change camera parameters that can’t necessarily be accessed directly through external buttons. It also brings overlaid option menus in Live View and Playback modes, offering rapid access to features such as in-camera RAW conversion. The playback button is immediately below, with the delete key towards the bottom of the camera.
The rear dial is used to change exposure compensation in P, Av and TV modes, and change the aperture in M. Set within it is an 8-way controller that’s used for such things as changing the focus point, navigating menus and scrolling around images in playback. The rear dial can be locked against accidental settings changes using the switch that’s beneath it.
Front of camera controls
The EOS 70D becomes Canon’s second SLR to include built-in Wi-Fi, and not surprisingly it’s essentially the same system used by the EOS 6D. It offers a useful range of functions, and unusual flexibility in setup; you can connect to another device either directly or using an existing Wi-Fi network, and save up to three setup profiles for quick recall (for example one to connect directly to your smartphone for use in the field, another for your tablet, and a third to connect to your personal computer over your home Wi-Fi). One advantage the 70D offers over the 6D is that the touchscreen should help make setup easier.
In brief, the 70D offers the following functions:
Transfer images between Wi-Fi enabled Canon cameras
Connect to smartphone or tablet (via EOS Remote)
Remote control from PC (via EOS Utility)
Print from Wi-Fi enabled printer
Upload to web service (e.g. Canon iMage Gateway)
View images on DLNA-enabled devices (e.g. TVs)
When the camera is connected to a smartphone or tablet (via the free EOS Remote app), you can use your device as a remote control, with streaming live view, the ability to specify the desired focus point, and control over the key exposure parameters (shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation and ISO). You can also browse and rate your images, and copy them over at reduced resolution for viewing and sharing.
One point worth noting is that turning on Wi-Fi disables movie recording; naturally it will also have some impact on battery life.