Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D

Just as a caveat to what I will say below: the 70D is a great camera and is certainly capable of amazing photographs (the camera is probably better than this photographer deserves). It is amazingly sharp, fast to auto-focus and generally user-friendly. It’s low-light shooting is so-so, but with natural light, it can render beautiful images. My negative comments below come hot on the heels of shooting with the mirrorless Olympus OMD E-M1 which, all things considered, I prefer. That being said, there will always be a time, place and scene to use the 70D !

In retrospect, I may not have bought this camera. It was only after shooting with a mirror-less camera that I began to loathe the weight and immense size of the DSLR. It’s not just the size, but also the experience of shooting with such a bulky piece of machinery; here are the two main reactions you may get when you wield this beast wrought of metal and high-quality plastic:

1) You’re a professional photographer and people give you a wide berth. Your camera is big and black and, with a mammoth lens attached, looks like a monster (my 70D with 35mm Sigma f/1.4 lens attached weighs a grand total of 1,420 grams – that’s 1.4 kilograms!). People are intimidated and uncomfortable. People also expect you to take awesome photographs with each shot and give you quizzical, stunned and/or disappointed looks when your photos (or the preview) turn out like shit. I mean look at this!

November 15, 2013  20131115_095633 GT-I9505 4.2 mm 1-30 sec at f - 2.2 ISO 50

Ok, so I may have attached the lens hood for dramatic effect, but still.

2) You’re someone pretending to be a professional photographer / Someone with too much money to spend (although I admit that I may fall into this latter category 😛 That’s because I’ve been spending all my disposable income on my cameras/lenses!!). Everyone has a DSLR and now you’ve got one too, welcome to the club of pro-sumers!

Now who really cares about what people think? Most of the time I don’t. But the problem with the above reactions is that they may alter the mood and situation, affect your subjects and/or create an unnecessary distraction from the scene itself. It is nearly impossible to take discreet, incognito photographs with a huge DSLR pointed at you. People are either primed ready for the photo or are suspicious and/or uncomfortable.

All in all, the 70D is not the ideal camera for the photographer who wants to go incognito; street photography becomes extremely difficult when people can’t help but notice the huge camera.

The 70D, however, is the perfect camera for situations like studio and event shooting, i.e. situations in which people know you are there to take photographs and/or need photographs which are incredibly sharp from back to front (but this, of course, depends almost entirely on your lens). Where the 70D struggles, however, is in low-light shooting where the E-M1 smacks it down big time (check out my first shots with the E-M1 in low-light conditions and on manual focus – I know, they aren’t great, but it was my first time!).

It is also worth noting that the 70D has an APS-C sensor, which means that  it has a crop-factor of 1.6x. So, for serious, professional portrait shooting, it will never match up to a full-frame camera. Well, I’m nowhere near to taking photographs where that marginal quality difference is going to matter, so I am entirely happy with the APS-C sensor. If anything, the crop factor makes buying telephoto and mid-telephoto lenses cheaper = )

That being said, after shooting with the E-M1 for slightly more than two weeks, I doubt that the 70D will ever be my main piece of equipment again. The E-M1 is simply lighter, faster, has better noise control, fantastic low light shooting and is all-round a better camera than the 70D. Comparatively, the only real advantage I feel that the 70D has is that it is produces sharper images (although it struggles in low light). As such, the only situations where I imagine the 70D would be my go to choice would be where (a) I am taking studio portrait / food shots (and even then, for portrait shots the choice isn’t all that clear); (b) if I intend to do video work; or (c) if my E-M1 breaks / is borrowed.

Pros

– At a maximum resolution of 20.2 megapixels, your images will have a great deal of detail. The downside to this is that if the lens you are using does not have image stabilisation, camera shake may cause blurred photos

– AF-acquisition and AF-tracking is generally fast and accurate. The addition of live-view on a flip out screen makes this quite an ideal camera for video work, particularly as the sensor boasts Canon’s latest “Dual Pixel CMOS AF” sensor. From what I understand, this means that each pixel on the sensor is tuned to both contrast detection and phase detection, which greatly helps with video work

– Paired with the right lens, the APS-C sensor is perfectly capable of rendering images with impressive bokeh and shallow depth of field. My recommendation is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 which, in light of the 1.6 crop factor, gives a field of view of 56mm on a full-frame.

– In-camera HDR allows you to take multiple exposures and let the camera blend them for you into a single image

– The battery life is decent and Canon says each full charge is capable of taking up to 1000 shots. I have no reason to dispute this as I’ve shot until my 32g memory card was filled up and the battery kept on tickign

– The camera body is “weather resistant” although Canon does not go so far as to say it’s weather sealed.

– The fully-articulated touch screen is a joy to use and shooting in live view is user-friendly and easy

– Build quality is decent and the grip has a solid feel to it

Cons

– It’s big, it’s heavy and it screams CAMERA. This is not necessarily a good thing. The weight is also a significant problem if you are on holiday / on a full-day photo assignment

– Low-light performance is average at best; images taken at ISOs of more than 5000 suffer from severe noise and significant post-production may be necessary to make them usable

– Did I mention this beast is heavy? Together with my Sigma 35mm lens, it weighs approximately 1.4KG. Or maybe I’m just spoilt after shooting with a mirror-less camera

– Despite its hefty price tag, it’s not a full-frame camera – For all that bulk, this is only Canon’s “mid-range” DSLR. For most of us, including me, the difference between a full-frame and APS-C sensor is unlikely to make that big a difference but still, for the amount you’re paying you might as well pay a little more and get a full-frame (or buy a second hand 5D Mk.II)

– It’s not a fun camera to use. What I mean by this is that the overall experience is not that enjoyable. I never noticed this until shooting with the Olympus. Perhaps this is not so much due to the flaws of the 70D, but the fact that I am personally fascinated by the compact brilliance of mirror-less cameras

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