I bought my first DSLR, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, in September of 2012 and as I was expanding my equipment, skills, and ideas, I quickly out-grew the camera. I had my eye on the Canon 7D for a long time because of its 8 frames per second burst and its reputation. But something happened. Canon announced they were going to release a revolutionary new DSLR comparative to the 7D in specifications, abilities, and cost.
Enter the Canon EOS 70D. Trailing just behind the 5D Mark II’s 21.1 megapixels and the 5D Mark III’s 22.3 megapixels, the 70D packs a powerful 20.2 megapixels for a 4/3 crop APS-C CMOS sensor, passing up the 18 megapixels of both the 7D and T3i. The sensor also has the newest Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system, but that will be covered more in video. The LCD screen opens out and swivels exactly like the T3i, but is now touch screen which can make it easier for navigating menus and even autofocusing in live mode. Another similarity to the T3i is that the 70D uses SD cards as opposed to the 7D’s compact flash card. Personally, this is a plus because my computer (and most new ones) has a built-in SD card reader and I didn’t have to buy new cards when I bought the 70D.
Another key feature is the 7 frames per second versus the 7D’s 8.
External Features – The scene selection mode includes several options, but mine has found a permanent home on manual. The camera doesn’t display what the different modes are when switched to them, that’s why I am not listing them. Although, one option is bulb mode, or B, which is its own option as opposed to being at the end of the shutter speed selection on the T3i. It also requires the pressing of a button to unlock the wheel before it can be turned, so that way it doesn’t accidentally get switched. On the right side of the body is the shutter release, the auto-focus focal point options button, the auto-focus options for live mode tracking, drive button for selecting shutter options, the ISO button, metering button, and a convenient LCD backlight button that times out after five seconds.
Wi-fi Mode – The Canon 70D comes with a feature that enables you to create a wireless network that a smart phone can connect to. Using the EOS Remote app, photos can be viewed, texted, or emailed right from your smartphone. Your smartphone can also be used as a wireless remote. There are also ways to connect the 70D to an existing network for the purpose of transferring photos to a computer or printer.
Manual Specs – The shutter speed winds down to 30 seconds and maxes out at an impressive 1/8000. When shooting, the shutter speed can be adjusted using the wheel by the shutter release, and the aperture can be adjusted using the thumb and the aperture wheel next to the LCD screen. Along with the shutter speed is a fast 7 frames per second and max ISO of 12800, which makes the 70D a great sports or action camera.
The drive mode has an impressive variety: Single shooting, high speed continuous, low speed continuous, silent single shooting, silent continuous shooting, and options for remote/self-timer with 2 or 10 seconds.
The other buttons around the shutter speed wheel allow you to adjust just about every setting without requiring you to look at the LCD screen and scrolling through each option until you get to the one you want. Not a good idea when trying to get sports and action shots. But you can do it if you want. You can also use the touch-screen feature to select options, which makes it a little easier, but still, probably better for in between shots or downtime.
Another useful feature is the 70D’s three different RAW sizes as well as nine different JPEG size selections: two large, two medium, and three small. There is also the option of RAW or JPEG only.
Photography Auto-focus – The auto-focus options on the 70D are also rather impressive. There are three modes for focal point selection: Selective auto-focus, grouped auto-focus, and auto auto-focus. The selective auto focus has 19 total focal points to choose from; the shutter speed wheel moves the selector left and right, while the aperture wheel moves the selector up and down. This allows you to use your trigger finger and thumb to simultaneously move the selector versus taking your eye away from the view finder to use the four arrows with your thumb. Again, another plus for the sports and action enthusiast.
The grouped focus can be handy. Sometimes. It divides the focal points into groups, four on the top, left, right, and bottom, then nine in the middle. The camera then chooses which of the four focal points in the group to focus on. I was photographing a college football game and the auto-focus would sometimes focus on a person in the audience rather than the players, ruining my shot.
The auto auto-focus allows the camera to have full control over all 19 focal points and choose for itself. I really don’t know why this option is even available in Manual mode. When switched to Auto mode, the auto auto-focus is permanently set which gives the 70D the option of being an extremely over-priced point and shoot. And of course there is the usual one shot, AI focus, and AI servo features.
Live Mode and Video Focus – This is where the Dual Pixel CMOS auto-focus comes into play. 🙂 + tracking (yes, that’s the official name) focuses on the subject then follows it. This is extremely handy for shooting video, whether the camera is stable on a tripod or is moving among a crowd while zooming in and out, it will follow the focal point. Sometimes if something gets in front of the subject and is in the relatively same depth of field area, the focus will switch to that instead. A simple tap on the touch-screen will get the focus back on the appropriate subject.
The Multiple Flexizone option displays a square on the screen either on the left, right, or center, which the camera will then attempt to auto-focus within. After it focuses on one subject, the camera has difficulty recognizing subjects if the camera is moved around and the shutter release button often needs to be held to manually force another auto-focus attempt. It is not a smooth or quiet process.
The Single Flexizone option displays a small box which can be placed anywhere on the touch-screen with a tap. The focus transition is quick, smooth and quietly. The end result is a real profession-looking effect.
Other – Speaking of shooting video, the built-in microphone is no better than a camera phone or Go-Pro. If video is a serious endeavor, I recommend mounting a microphone (like a Zoom H4N) to the hot shoe and running an audio cable to the microphone jack in the camera.
The 70D also shoots in a newer RAW format which will require an updated version of Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. Using CS5 and possible CS6 versions may cause problems.
In summary, the 70D is a robust and flexible camera capable of fast action shots, long bulb stills, and high-definition 1080 videos. While it might be a little pricy and a mess of complicated features for a first DSLR, it provides high-quality, professional photographs for anyone who doesn’t have the budget for expensive glass and a full-frame body.
Brian Fore is a current journalism student at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism as well as a United States Army Veteran where he had several articles and photos published in local military newspapers. His work can be seen at www.facebook.com/bforephotography