Shooting Video

As with other recent EOS DSLRs, video is activated by rotating the Live View/Movie switch to the right of the viewfinder. Recording can be initiated with either the dedicated video button or the standard shutter button.

Video shooting is where the magic of Dual-Pixel autofocus really comes alive. The system is very good at tracking subjects as well as adjusting focus without hunting. We were often able to trust it in situations where we wouldn't have trusted autofocus on most video cameras.

The below shot with Jeff walking toward the camera is a very simple example. The initial AF point was set right on top of Jeff, and as he started walking towards the camera it smoothly followed him, without hunting, the entire way. Watch the large green tree right behind his head and you'll notice it slowly sliding out of focus.

We've tried similar tests with cameras using contrast detect autofocus, and they almost always run into a problem somewhere along the way. Either they start hunting at some point, or another subject briefly enters the frame and the AF system goes crazy. The 7D II was quite tolerant of other subjects entering the scene and generally did a great job of ignoring them, even if they were much closer to the camera. Consistent with live view shooting, a new subject had to convincingly take over the frame, or completely obscure the primary subject being tracked, before the AF system would lose the primary subject.

This type of shot highlights the benefit of Dual-Pixel autofocus. With a lot of cameras, pulling focus on a shot like that would require the videographer to focus manually as the subject approached, or rely on a focus puller to do it for him. In the video below, we see an example of the AF system tracking a subject for the better part of a city block, generally sticking with him even when another person briefly passes in front.

A lot of people using DSLRs to shoot video, such as documentary filmmakers, frequently don't have a lot of equipment or a crew. They're often a one-man show or close to it. For someone like this, a camera that could reliably follow a subject on its own really opens up the types of shots they may be able to get.

As good as the autofocus is, there are times when it's just screaming for a touch screen, which would allow videographers to leverage Dual-Pixel autofocus in some very useful situations, such as racking focus between subjects. Ironically, the Canon 70D handles this really well; a light tap on the touch screen can switch the focus point from one subject to the other. On the 7D II, the process involves pressing the joystick to to move the AF point. It's difficult to do without causing noticeable camera movement, even on a very sturdy tripod.

One useful technique when using autofocus for video employs AF lock. Pressing the AF-ON button will lock focus at it's current position, allowing you to recompose your shot to a new subject. Releasing the AF-ON button will smoothly transfer focus to the new subject. With Dual-Pixel AF the transfer is smooth and precise. With creative creative framing this can be an effective tool.

Who's it for?

Whether the specific video controls on the 7D II appeal to you will likely be a function of how you shoot. "Run and Gun" shooters, such as wedding videographers or documentary filmmakers who are focused on a single subject or trying to follow the action will likely appreciate the silent touch controls, especially if they're using an attached loupe or viewfinder over the LCD that would preclude the use of a touch screen.

On the other hand, indie filmmakers or anyone directing the action may find a touchscreen much more useful, particularly the ability to rack focus between subjects using a touch screen in lieu of having a dedicated focus puller.