When the Canon 7D came out in 2009, it soon became one of the most popular DSLRs ever. It was fast, rugged, with great video features, all for a whole lot cheaper than the more pro-oriented 5D Mark II. Five years later, the 7D Mark II makes its debut with plenty of powerful specs, yet it's not likely to be the same wide-reaching hit as the original.
The 7D Mark II, which costs $1,800 for just the body or $2,149 with an 18-135mm kit lens, is a high performance camera. Its 20.2 megapixel APS-C size sensor is relatively humble in resolution, but the sheer computing power that drives it is staggering. It has many of the same guts as the uber-souped up $6,800 Canon 1DX. That's some impressive tech to squeeze into a device meant largely for advanced amateurs. This power is mainly used to drive the camera's two main selling points—autofocus performance and burst speed. It's tailor-made for shooting fast moving subjects like sporting events or wildlife. That's the niche Canon is chasing.
Please note that the unit we tested was a pre-production sample. After speaking with Canon, we are confident that the production units will be almost identical, but keep in mind that there could be tweaks in the version that is available for purchase.
On the outside, the 7D Mark II is just another Canon DSLR. If you remove the camera's little "EOS 7D" badge, good luck identifying it in a lineup. Not much on the exterior has been altered except for some button positioning tweaks and a new lever for shuffling between focus modes. It's a stubborn approach that defies the current hunger for newness in gadgets, but it does show confidence in the camera's tried and true form. If you're a longtime Canon user, you'll be in familiar territory. If you're new to DSLRs: relax and get comfortable with one of the most sensible control layouts in the camera world.
The 7D Mark II's magnesium alloy exterior is built tough as nails to withstand rain, wind, dust, and other inclement weather. In fact, Canon states that it's four times as weather-resistant as the original 7D. As long as you have an equally rugged lens attached, it should be able to withstand everything you throw at it. I took it out in the rain a few times with no problems, but I'm sure I didn't test the limits of its durability.
The tough exterior isn't without tradeoffs though. Many have hoped for a long while that Canon would introduce new exterior features like a swiveling display or touch-screen, both of which appear on lower end models like the 70D. These are perfect examples of features that add utility, but the general assumption is that they can't be implemented without compromising the camera's weather-resistance. That is the best explanation for why they have historically been limited to Canon's lower end cameras. In any case, what you have with the 7D Mark II is the iconic black brick that is a DSLR.
And a brick may not be good enough any more. I've been toting around a Sony a7 for the past year, and carrying the 7D for my review process honestly felt like a burden. The thing weighs almost two pounds without a lens, which immediately makes it something I don't want to carry unless I absolutely have to. But DSLR owners generally know what they're in for, so the weight of the 7D Mark II won't necessarily be a surprise.