Studio Comparison

Our latest test scene is designed to simulate both daylight and low-light shooting. Pressing the 'lighting' buttons at the top of the widget allows you to switch between the two. The daylight scene is shot with manually set white balance aimed at achieving neutral grays, but the camera is left in its Auto setting for the low-light tests (except Raw, which is manually corrected during conversion). We also offer three different viewing sizes: 'Full', 'Print', and 'Web', with the latter two offering 'normalized' comparisons to more fairly compare cameras of differing resolutions by ensuring equivalent viewing sizes.

The Canon 7D Mark II replaces the 7D with a tweaked version of the 20 MP sensor first found in the 70D from last year. The Mark II's improvements over the 7D and 70D are largely based around functions of the camera, such as a faster shutter, more processing power, and a beefed-up autofocus system. Sensor-wise, the most obvious improvement over the original 7D is the slight increase in resolution, though it is not enough to make too noticeable of a difference in super fine details. Canon has also refined the Mark II's JPEG processing engine. JPEG images from the Mark II have just a bit more contrast and clarity than its predecessor, most likely due to slightly stronger sharpening algorithms - evident in the increased halos around high contrast edges

The greatest sensor difference compared to previous models is seen in high ISO abilities. The 7D Mark II is able to go all the way up to ISO 51200, two stops higher than the 7D and one stop higher than the 70D. Take the ISO down to the highest even playing field, 12,800, and the 7D Mark II shows less noise than the original 7D in Raw. However, it doesn't show any improvement over the 70D, and consistently comes up a little short of one of the best APS-C low light cameras out there: the Nikon D7100. Admirably the 7D Mark II performs better than the Sony a6000, which goes to show that despite the 40 million photodiodes required of the Dual-Pixel technology, noise performance is well controlled. We'd venture to guess that this is due to a smart implementation of pixel-binning and other optimizations.

Turning to a couple more of the 7D Mark II's direct competitors, we see the 7D Mark II falls slightly short of the NX1 in high ISO performance, which is a credit to the NX1's BSI design that allows it to catch up to the class-leading Nikon D7100. The Pentax K-3 might also be seen as a competitor to the 7D Mark II, and here the 7D Mark II performs ever so slightly better in our studio tests - which is a notable feat given the extra photodiodes. Note we're sort of splitting hairs at this point, and a user would likely be happy with the ISO performance of any of these three cameras. Finally, the 7D Mark II comfortably outperforms the Sony A77 II in high ISO performance, with the A77 II suffering from the translucent mirror in the light path that robs the image sensor of approximately half a stop of light compared to traditional cameras that swing the mirror out of the way. Still, the difference (~1/2 EV) is not completely damning for the A77 II, and should be weighed against the potential benefits of Sony's SLT design: communication between the AF system and image sensor, as well as the ability of the dedicated phase-detect AF system to always take measurements even during continuous shooting, can have serious implications for pro-grade AF and subject tracking.