The original Canon 7D was a hit with video-makers, which is why the biggest question surrounding its successor, the 7D Mark II, has been what the video quality looks like. With our beta sample unit in-hand, we mounted a casual comparison with Canon's other video-forward DSLRs.
Canon's current DSLR lineup offers a range of quality in terms of video. At the top is the 4K shooting 1DC, which costs $10,000 and is out of most people's reach. Below that is the 1DX, and the uber-popular 5D Mark III, whose image, despite a lack of sharpness, is fairly clean of moire and great in low light.
At the mid-range, you have the 70D, which has great video features like Dual Pixel autofocus and a swiveling display. However, its video quality is mired by moire and is even softer than the 5D.
The 7D Mark II features a brand-new sensor and super-powerful dual Digic 6 processors. By all accounts, its video quality should rock. What we found in our brief test, however, was telling.
Note: All 7D Mark II footage was shot with a beta sample unit. Image quality could be tweaked for the production model.
Basically the 7D Mark II inherits the video quality of the 5D Mark III. It lacks moire, and its sharpness is almost equal (maybe every-so-slightly softer). However, it's a whole lot better than the 70D, especially in low light. While its noise levels don't quite reach the standard of the full-frame sensor on the 5D Mark III, it's still terrific in the dark.
That all sounds good, right? Well, it does—sort of. But let's put it in this context. The 7D Mark II is a brand-new, cutting-edge (supposedly) machine. Yet it has the video quality of a two-year old camera in the 5D Mark III. Low light will probably prove to be near best-in-class for a crop-sensor camera, but the detail is still nowhere near the quality of the Sony A7s, or the Panasonic's GH4 with 4K resolution. Take from that what you will.
Click Expand to blow up the side-by-side comparisons below to 100% scale. Everything was shot with a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens, with sharpness, contrast, and saturation dialed all the way down.
Many of our readers are quick to point out that the 7D Mark II isn't intended to be primarily a video rig. It's intended for sports and wildlife photography, and so we shouldn't complain when the video quality isn't up-to-snuff. But even if the camera is suited to that niche, it's still a reality that there is a huge contingent of Canon customers who are in it for the video, and who buy these devices for that purpose. It's peculiar for Canon to completely ignore those customers, when better options are cropping up from its competitors.
The video quality of the 7D is surely a step up among its own family of APS-C sensor cameras, but mix in other brands, it is nowhere near the top of the pile.