Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review
Despite exciting additions like Dual-Pixel autofocus and clean 4:2:2 HDMI video out, we're disappointed that Canon has not significantly improved the quality of the video on the 7D Mark II. Both in our studio test, as well as in real world experience, it represents an incremental jump from the 7D and is fairly similar to the 5D III, and tends to be soft with poorly resolved details.
We'll take a deeper look at the Mark II's video quality, and also compare it directly to one our our current top performers for video, the Panasonic GH4. All videos were recorded at each camera's highest quality setting using default recording parameters unless otherwise noted. (Since the 7D II does not support 4K video we limited our shooting on the GH4 to 1080p as well.)
We encourage you to download the original video files to avoid the compression artifacts typically present in the YouTube versions.
General Video Quality
The first video was shot with the 7D Mark II and GH4 mounted on a dual-head tripod in order to maintain a similar field of view. Beginning with just the Mark II footage we can see that colors are generally pleasing, though viewed at 100% it feels soft.
Adding the GH4 side by side for comparison makes the 7D II footage look downright murky. The GH4 side of the screen simply looks more crisp and detailed. Details are visible in areas such as the brick walls of the buildings and tree branches that are simply lost by the 7D II. Looking at these areas at 200% magnification we see how much less detail the Mark II is getting.
7D Mark II with 16-35mm F4 L lens at F8 and ISO 1250, GH4 with Panasonic 12-35mm OIS lens at F8 and ISO 1000. Shot at 23.98 frames per second at 1/50th second.
For the second video we chose a scene that's often challenging to DSLRs when shooting video, with diagonals and tightly packed lines. The image again looks soft, particularly when the right side of the screen is replaced with footage from the GH4. Even at 100% it's possible to see that the 7D II is losing lots of detail on the aluminum walkway. The tightly packed diagonal lines of the walkway are almost completely lost while they remain more distinct on the video from the GH4.
At 200% magnification we see much less detail in the Mark II footage. That's not to say that the GH4 is perfect; it's having a few issues with star-stepping on diagonal surfaces such as the handrails and even on the walkway itself, but there's a lot more detail there to work with.
7D Mark II with 16-35mm F4 L lens at F8 and ISO 800, GH4 with Panasonic 12-35mm OIS lens at F8 and ISO 800. Shot at 23.98 frames per second at 1/50th second.
In order to put the three levels of video compression (All-I, IPB, and IPB-light) on the Mark II to the test we shot a scene of moving water. While not the most artistically compelling subject to shoot, moving water tends to be a good challenge for video compression because there's lots of movement, primarily random movement, between frames. One would expect compression methods such as All-I, in which each frame as captured distinctly, to perform better on a test like this.
Given that we're actually challenging video compression, it's not surprising that the YouTube stream for this video generally looks bad even at 1080 resolution (due to YouTube adding its own compression on top of everything else). We recommend downloading the original file and playing it back locally for best results.
7D Mark II with 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 lens at F8 and ISO 2000. Shot at 27.97 frames per second at 1/60th second.
If you watch carefully you'll likely notice that the All-I footage is better than the IPB footage, which is in turn better than the IPB-light footage. If you don't see the difference, that's OK. Sometimes looking at a single frame from the video can be more useful.
|Moving water has lots of complex and random movements, challenging compression algorithms. Click through for the full size frame from the video to see more detail.|
Looking at the still image it's much easier to see the differences, especially between the All-I and the IPB-light. The differences may not be too obvious watching the video straight out of the camera, but these compression artifacts have a tendency to become more obvious when you start doing things like adjusting contrast and color grading.
Our recommendation is to use All-I when shooting subjects with significant motion; it should give the most editable results. For shots where little motion is present, such as an interview subject sitting in a chair, there probably won't be a noticeable difference between All-I and IPB. In our experience, compression artifacts seem to rear their ugly head much more easily when using IPB-light; we'd recommend avoiding it unless you're really short of memory cards.
In our low light shot, featuring our resident studio manager, Sam, we see how the camera responds when shooting at high ISO in low light. It's not bad for ISO 6400, though as with other Canon video DSLRs it tends to crush the dark areas a bit and doesn't leave much detail to recover. On the plus side, the Dual-Pixel autofocus system locked onto Sam's face and never let go, insuring that he stayed in focus for the entire shot.
7D Mark II with 16-35mm F4 L lens at F4 and ISO 6400. Shot at 23.98 frames per second at 1/50th second.
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