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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
Nikon D7100
 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
• Fully-articulated
• Touch sensitive
 • 3.0″
• 920,000 dots
• Fixed
 • 3.2″
• 1,228,800 dots
• Fixed
 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
 Weight
(inc batteries)
 • 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. comparedto60dfront-001

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).comparedto60dback-001

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.comparedto60dtop-001

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

specpage

All specifications are available HERE

Body & Design

allroundview-001

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.

Top of cameratop-001

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.

Weather sealing

sealing-001

In your handinhand1-001 inhand2-001

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.

Articulating Touchscreen

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.touchscreen-001

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.

Viewfinder

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).

Battery Grip BG-E14grip1-520

The grip replicates the main control set for portrait format shooting, including the dedicated AF-area expansion button. The camera is designed so the rear dial is reasonably accessible when using the grip.
The grip replicates the main control set for portrait format shooting, including the dedicated AF-area expansion button. The camera is designed so the rear dial is reasonably accessible when using the grip.
It will take either two LP-E6 batteries to double the camera's endurance, or six AA batteries (via a second tray included in the box). There's also a storage slot for the camera's battery compartment door.
It will take either two LP-E6 batteries to double the camera’s endurance, or six AA batteries (via a second tray included in the box). There’s also a storage slot for the camera’s battery compartment door.

Body Elements

The mode dial has a central lock button, and rotates freely through 360 degrees. The SCN position consolidates the various scene modes, and there's a single user-programmable position (C). Underneath it is a large power switch of the type now found across most of the EOS range.
The mode dial has a central lock button, and rotates freely through 360 degrees. The SCN position consolidates the various scene modes, and there’s a single user-programmable position (C).
Underneath it is a large power switch of the type now found across most of the EOS range.
Here's a closer look at the 70D's AF area button. It's placed in the same position as the 7D and 5D Mark III's 'M.Fn.' buttons, but isn't customizable. Pressing it repeatedly cycles through ever-expanding groups of AF points, so you can quickly switch from a single point, through a grouping of points around it, to using all 19 points with automatic selection by the camera.
Here’s a closer look at the 70D’s AF area button. It’s placed in the same position as the 7D and 5D Mark III’s ‘M.Fn.’ buttons, but isn’t customizable.
Pressing it repeatedly cycles through ever-expanding groups of AF points, so you can quickly switch from a single point, through a grouping of points around it, to using all 19 points with automatic selection by the camera.
There's an IR remote control receiver on the front of the handgrip, where it's reasonably accessible when working from behind the camera. The recessed lamp beside it is the visual indicator for the self-timer.
There’s an IR remote control receiver on the front of the handgrip, where it’s reasonably accessible when working from behind the camera. The recessed lamp beside it is the visual indicator for the self-timer.
The 70D gains Canon's usual live view / movie controller. With the switch in the stills position (as shown), pressing the central button engages and disengages live view.  Flick the switch into the movie position and the camera enters movie mode live view, with the corresponding controls and 16:9 preview display. The Start/Stop button then starts and stops recording.
The 70D gains Canon’s usual live view / movie controller. With the switch in the stills position (as shown), pressing the central button engages and disengages live view.
Flick the switch into the movie position and the camera enters movie mode live view, with the corresponding controls and 16:9 preview display. The Start/Stop button then starts and stops recording.
The 70D has an 8-way multi-controller within its rear dial, which is used for moving the autofocus point, navigating menus, and scrolling around images in playback, etc. In addition to the usual left/right and up/down keys, the diagonals are also active.
The 70D has an 8-way multi-controller within its rear dial, which is used for moving the autofocus point, navigating menus, and scrolling around images in playback, etc. In addition to the usual left/right and up/down keys, the diagonals are also active.
The built-in flash is released by a button on the side of the lens throat, and pops up high above the lens axis. It has a guide number of 12m at ISO 100, and offers coverage for lenses as wide as 17mm.  It can also act as a commander unit for wirelessly controllable external Speedlites.
The built-in flash is released by a button on the side of the lens throat, and pops up high above the lens axis. It has a guide number of 12m at ISO 100, and offers coverage for lenses as wide as 17mm.
It can also act as a commander unit for wirelessly controllable external Speedlites.
As usual there's a hotshoe on top of the pentaprism, that accepts Canon's EX series flash units from the tiny Speedlite 90EX to the top-of-the-range Speedlite 600EX-RT.  On either side of it, and behind the housing for the pop-up flash, you can see the paired grilles for the built-in stereo microphones.
As usual there’s a hotshoe on top of the pentaprism, that accepts Canon’s EX series flash units from the tiny Speedlite 90EX to the top-of-the-range Speedlite 600EX-RT.
On either side of it, and behind the housing for the pop-up flash, you can see the paired grilles for the built-in stereo microphones.
The 70D's card slot is positioned on the side of the handgrip, behind a sprung plastic cover. It accepts a single SD / SDHC / SDXC card.
The 70D’s card slot is positioned on the side of the handgrip, behind a sprung plastic cover. It accepts a single SD / SDHC / SDXC card.
The camera's various connectors are placed under rubber flaps on the side of the body. On the left are sockets for the RS-60E3 remote release and a stereo microphone.
The camera’s various connectors are placed under rubber flaps on the side of the body. On the left are sockets for the RS-60E3 remote release and a stereo microphone.
Beside them under a separate cover are the USB and HDMI ports. The 70D is CEC-compatible, and supports control of playback using the remotes of most modern TVs when connected via HDMI.
Beside them under a separate cover are the USB and HDMI ports.
The 70D is CEC-compatible, and supports control of playback using the remotes of most modern TVs when connected via HDMI.
Meanwhile the speaker for sound during movie playback can be found on the side of the camera, above the covers for the connectors, hidden behind an artfully-designed grid.
Meanwhile the speaker for sound during movie playback can be found on the side of the camera, above the covers for the connectors, hidden behind an artfully-designed grid.
The 70D uses the same 7.2V, 1800mAh LP-E6 battery as the 60D, 6D, and 7D. As with most Canon SLRs, it's housed in the handgrip. The compartment is sufficiently far from the tripod socket for the battery to be changeable on many heads.
The 70D uses the same 7.2V, 1800mAh LP-E6 battery as the 60D, 6D, and 7D. As with most Canon SLRs, it’s housed in the handgrip. The compartment is sufficiently far from the tripod socket for the battery to be changeable on many heads.
The tripod socket is positioned in-line with the lens axis, surrounded by a ridged area for a quick release plate to grip.
The tripod socket is positioned in-line with the lens axis, surrounded by a ridged area for a quick release plate to grip.

Operation and controls

Top of camera controls (right)topcontrols-001

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.

Top of camera controls (left)topleftcontrols

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.

Rear Controlsback-001

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 flash activation button is conventionally placed on the side of the lens throat, and activates a motorized (as opposed to mechanical) release.
The flash activation button is conventionally placed on the side of the lens throat, and activates a motorized (as opposed to mechanical) release.
The depth of field preview button is on the handgrip side of the lens throat, designed to be operated by your left hand. It can be customized to access a number of different functions. We're not huge fans of this position to be honest - it can be awkward to reach when shooting in portrait format, or with the camera on a tripod.
The depth of field preview button is on the handgrip side of the lens throat, designed to be operated by your left hand. It can be customized to access a number of different functions.
We’re not huge fans of this position to be honest – it can be awkward to reach when shooting in portrait format, or with the camera on a tripod.

Built-in Wi-Fi

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.

Canon EOS 70D – First Impressionsimpressions

It’s become increasingly rare for any manufacturer to show us technology that’s genuinely innovative and unique, but that’s exactly what Canon has done with the EOS 70D and its ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ sensor. It’s fair to say that on-sensor phase detection AF has so far shown lots of promise without necessarily being truly transformative to the shooting experience of most the cameras that use it, with Nikon’s 1 System cameras being the most obvious exception. But while these offer exceptional focusing performance in good light, especially with regards to tracking moving subjects, the AF system can struggle the moment you try shooting indoors with a zoom lens.

Canon’s approach of splitting every single pixel on the sensor into two separately readable photosites promises, in theory at least, to overcome the biggest problems that have afflicted on-chip phase detection systems to date. We’re certainly excited by what it claims to offer in principle – the ability to work across a large area of the frame, at apertures down to F11, and in low light is a pretty compelling combination. Throw in such goodies as face detection and tracking, and focus point selection by touch, and on paper the EOS 70D looks like it could offer the best live view autofocus of any camera on the market, bar none.

We’ve only had limited time with the 70D, though, which means it’s too early for us to say how well its live view AF system works in practice. But based on what we’ve seen so far we’re pretty optimistic – it’s certainly streets ahead of anything Canon users have experienced so far. If it works consistently in a wide range of real-world shooting situations, and with the majority of popular lenses, then we think Canon could well be on to a winner.

We’re also pleased to see Canon cramming in all the best features from its other cameras. The touchscreen interface that the 70D borrows from Canon’s Rebel series is, we think, just about the best in the business. It complements the new AF system in offering focus point selection by touch, along with the ability to ‘pull’ focus from one subject to another during movie recording simply by touching the screen. Meanwhile the on-board Wi-Fi offers genuinely useful features, including the ability to use your smartphone as a remote control (complete with live view), and to browse and rate your images on a tablet. These may not be features you use all the time, but they expand the possibilities of what you can do with the camera.

Ironically, those who choose mainly to shoot the EOS 70D as a conventional SLR using the optical viewfinder will benefit least from all this technology. But even then it’s a pretty compelling update to the EOS 60D – indeed despite how similar the cameras look externally, in spec terms the 70D now comes very close indeed to the EOS 7D. It has the same AF and metering sensors, and at 7fps shoots almost as fast. It also regains certain features that were lost in the step from the EOS 50D to the 60D, for example autofocus microadjustment. This all promises to make it one of the most capable all-rounders in its class.

Until we get a fully-shootable 70D, however, much of this remains conjecture. But there’s a real chance that it could be the first SLR which genuinely works just as well in live view as it does using the optical viewfinder. And however much purist photographers may scoff, it’s clear that this is how a great many people use their cameras. Quite simply, the smartphone generation has become used to composing on big LCD screens.

Finally, we’re also really interested to see what happens when Canon – as it inevitably must – puts its new AF technology into a mirrorless camera. An ‘EOS M2’ with Dual Pixel CMOS AF and more enthusiast-oriented controls could completely transform Canon’s fortunes in this sector, after the lukewarm reception received by the EOS M. This could also substantially negate one of the biggest disadvantages of mirrorless cameras so far – their relatively poor focus tracking capabilities – raising further questions about why you’d still bother with the bulk of an SLR. But that’s an argument for another day.

(With thanks to DP Review)

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