Canon EOS 70D: The Video Enthusiast

 
Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D

On the test bench, the Canon EOS 70D encounters a skeptic in K Madhavan Pillai, and gets him to convert… well, almost.

Canon, in the recent past, has been releasing APS-C DSLRs that have been minor upgrades of its predecessors, with features being handed down from higher end cameras to its lesser siblings.

The Canon EOS 70D breaks the trend by packing in a completely new 20.2MP sensor featuring Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Existing hybrid systems use several pixels directly on the sensor dedicated to phase detect AF, thus making AF in Live View much faster. What makes the EOS 70D unique is that 80% of its sensor pixels double-up for phase-detect AF, equipping it with much more powerful focus capabilities.

Features
The 70D gets WiFi capabilities (from the EOS 6D) and an excellent, fully articulated, touchscreen LCD (from the EOS 700D). The 70D now features a the 19-point crosstype AF system (of the EOS 7D) which works at a slightly limiting -0.5 EV.

Unfortunately, only three of five AF area selection modes of the EOS 7D makes its way into the 70D. These modes are Single AF, Zone AF and Auto. Action photographers will miss the AF Point Expansion mode and portrait and macro photographers will rue the loss of Spot AF. The remaining modes have a proven track record in most other situations. AF micro adjustment, which was missing in the 60D, is now back in the 70D and it is more advanced than the 7D.

The most exciting feature of the EOS 70D is in the way it handles AF in Live View, in combination with the touchscreen. The potential of this can be truly experienced while shooting videos with STM lenses. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system works all the way up to f/11. The four AF options in Live View are Face and Tracking, Flexizone Multi AF, Flexizone Single AF, and a Quick Mode.

India’s countryside can be so joyously quiet and idyllic. Colours came to life in the Standard picture setting with both contrast and saturation boosted, and a compensation of -2/3. Exposure: 1/200sec at f/8 (ISO 100). Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

India’s countryside can be so joyously quiet and idyllic. Colours came to life in the Standard picture setting with both contrast and saturation boosted, and a compensation of -2/3. Exposure: 1/200sec at f/8 (ISO 100). Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

WiFi opens up another range of options to remotely control the 70D. With laptops and computers, a WiFi router is needed to enable a connection. With iOS or Android smartphones, the EOS Remote App is quite thrilling to use in the field as well. Live View over WiFi is possible, but terribly slow. This limits it for remote monitoring and shooting in wildlife photography.

The EOS 70D has movie options similar to the EOS 6D. You can shoot in 1080p at 24, 25 or 30p, or in 720p at 50p or 60p. You can also choose between intra-frame (All-i) or inter-frame (IPB) compression formats, and add time code. There are built-in stereo mics and a jack for external microphones along with the chance to monitor and adjust audio levels. Pro videographers will appreciate these features greatly. What they will certainly not like is that there is no headphone jack.

Handling
So far, manual focus pulling was the only viable option for pro videographers. For the very first time, thanks to Dual Pixel AF, focus with almost no hunting is possible while video is being recorded! Videographers do not want focus to ‘snap’ from one point to the other or for the lens to hunt back and forth before locking. Speed isn’t as important as accuracy and smoothness. Coupled with touch focus across almost the whole of the touchscreen, focus effects with wide open apertures are now wonderfully attainable with the 70D.

Controls on the touchscreen have been intelligently designed primarily for videographers. For instance, servo AF can be disabled or enabled during video recording by simply touching the screen. The other part of the equation is using the new STM lenses, as they focus smoothly and in virtual silence.

Performance
Regular AF and subject tracking through the viewfinder is excellent. Face tracking, while flawless with slow subjects even if they are close to the lens, falters if the subject is moving quickly. In practice, Live View AF, while perfect for video, falls short of expectations for still photography. Even though other DSLRs cannot match the speed of the 70D in Live View, the EOS 70D is slightly slower than the newer Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless offerings.

In terms of image quality in video, the EOS 70D does well as compared to other DSLRs. The Panasonic GH3 showed slightly more detail in good light. With stills, Canon’s characteristic control over colour is apparent, but image quality does not match up to the Nikon D7100 in terms of dynamic range or noise, especially at high ISO.

Pictures settings can be preset, customised and dedicated to the center ‘Set’ button for easy, immediate access while shooting. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

Pictures settings can be preset, customised and dedicated to the center ‘Set’ button for easy, immediate access while shooting. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

The 18-55mm STM is sharper than other kit lenses I have tested. Its stepped, silent motor is excellent for video. But it does not make the best of the camera’s ability to use shallow depth of field for focus shift effects. Like most other kit lenses, it has visible distortion at the wide end, and lacks corner sharpness wide open. It deliver its best results at f/8, at 40mm, with still images.

Conclusion
To me, it is quite clear that this is certainly the camera to buy if you are looking for a enthusiast level video DSLR with excellent AF features. In that sense, it is an extremely capable camera. For those who shoot stills, the advantages of the 70D lie in its WiFi functions, more responsive AF, and increased burst shooting. The Canon EOS 70D costs Rs. 85,995 with the 18-55mm STM kit lens, or Rs. 79,995 for the body, which is a good price given its video AF features and touchscreen functionality.

However, if these are not the features you need, and if you are looking for the best quality from still images, I recommend the Nikon D7100. Alternatively, the price of the EOS 60D has now reduced to Rs. 47,995 (body only). Despite being three years old, it offers very good value for money.

Flash metering is quite accurate, and compensation can be easily dialed in if necessary. The importance of a good onboard flash cannot be overstated. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

Flash metering is quite accurate, and compensation can be easily dialed in if necessary. The importance of a good onboard flash cannot be overstated. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

Final Ratings
Features
Dual Pixel AF sensor, touchscreen LCD
12/15

Performance
Excellent video, average still imaging
35/45

Build Quality
Metal frame, polycarbonate body
12/15

Ergonomics
Fully articulated LCD, good button placement
18/20

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty with a wide service network all over India
4/5

OVERALL: 81%
Value For Money: 3/5 stars

Who Should Buy It?
This camera is perfect for video professionals or enthusiasts who want pro results.

Why?
It is the only DSLR that offers high quality video along with smooth, accurate, touchscreen focus.

Tags: canon 70d, canon cameras, canon eos 70d, canon eos 70d review, DSLR Review, K Madhavan Pillai, November 2013