Canon 7DMII: The Ultimate Hobbyist Body

The ultimate hobbyist body
New flagship crop from Canon is the ultimate hobbyist body

After years of rumors, in late 2014 Canon finally refreshed their top-end of their APS-C crop sensor line of camera bodies with the 7D Mark II. Here is why it has the makeup to be the ultimate body for hobbyist photographers.

Crop Sensor

Many will think I am crazy in suggesting any photographer may actually be happier with a crop sensor (Jim talked about hating the term “crop sensor” in podcast 92 at about 15 minutes in) over those sexy full frame sensors everyone (myself included) pine for – but hear me out.  Forgetting costs for a moment (see below), I firmly believe the APS-C crop sensor makes the most sense for a hobbyist.  Photography is trending toward diversification with photographers doing a least a little of every type of photography.  No better way to learn about light and how to best capture it for different situations than to shoot in as many different situations as possible.  A professional is more likely to buy multiple camera bodies made for each type of photography and can get slightly better results because of it.  However, a hobbyist photographer usually has to live with one body (again back to cost) and the crop sensor is better suited to match all of those different needs.

Yes, the jack-of-all-trades master-of-none phrase would apply here. A full frame sensor will likely always have advantages in most situations over a crop sensor, but there are actually some situations where crop sensor can have a slight advantage. In fact, the new APS-C crop sensor inside the Canon 7DMII goes from 18 to 20 megapixels and handles higher ISO SIGNIFICANTLY better, closing the gap between it's full frame big brothers more than ever before.  With a crop sensor you have more lens choices (see point below), farther reach, and a little more room in the depth-of-field to be ready for anything you want to throw at it.

Build Quality

Beyond the size of the sensor, one of the reasons professional photographers tend to use full frame bodies over crop bodies has to do with the build quality. The crop sensor inside Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other brands is very capable, but historically has been housed in cheaper components.  This made it more susceptible to dust, water, and breaking down from constant use. The 7DMII boasts a dust and weatherproof (NOT waterproof) magnesium body, comparable with the quality of the full frame bodies that are far more expensive.  In fact, Roger Cicala of borrowlenses.com published a brief review of the build and says it may be the best weather-sealed camera he has run across.  For a hobbyist this makes it not only possible to shoot in conditions they never would have before, it lessens (doesn't eliminate) the need for a backup body.

Lenses

You have likely heard it before, and I'll say it again here, lenses are second only to the quality of light in affecting the quality of photos.  If you want to increase the quality of your shots getting better glass to put on the front of it will do far more than getting a better camera body.  True of all Canon crop sensor bodies, the 7DMII can use not only the lenses meant for a full frame sensor (Canon EF mount) but can also use those that won't work on a full frame body (Canon EF-S mount).  Yes, there is a reason the EF mount lenses are more money, they are worth it.  In the right hands they will produce better quality images.  But EF-S mount lenses can be very good.  The point here would be more choice (many of them cheaper) is better for the hobbyist.

Speed

Thus far the reasoning here could be applied to many different types of camera bodies from Canon, Nikon, and others.  Although the 7DMII takes the crop sensor and build quality to a new level, numerous manufacturers have offered bodies that would make great choices for the hobbyist.  But this is where the 7DMII makes some separation. It is the fastest crop sensor camera available today. It has 65 cross-type auto focus pixels, rivaling the focus system of many significantly more expensive cameras. The focus system is flat out fast.  Because they are focus pixels on the sensor they can also be used while recording video, which now supports 1080p HD at 60fps (sadly no 4K). It can burst shoot 10 pics per second, up from 8 per second in the predecessor.  This is also a number that rivals many bodies that are significantly more expensive. The storage writing speeds (if you have a fast SD or CF card) and the dual Digic 6 processor together means you spend less time waiting for that red write light to turn off so that you can resume shooting.

Cost

For everyone but governments, budgets are always a factor in making choices, but the hobbyist photographer is usually on a tighter budget than professionals.  The crop sensor is more budget friendly, and not by a little.  When you consider not only the cost of the sensor but also the cost of the lenses that are required with full frame bodies, it is multiple thousands of dollars difference.  The 7DMII isn't the cheapest crop sensor camera body – retailing at first release for about $1,800.  In fact, if you are just beginning your photography endeavor the Canon T3i or Nikon D5200 are very good crop sensor bodies at less than half that cost and you could add some good lenses (again, far more important than the body) for the cost of just the 7DMII body alone.

Some would argue that the Canon 6D, retailing at about $1,900, would give you a full frame body at almost the same cost.  This is true, but the 6D doesn't have a build quality that is as good as the 7DMII and can't touch the speed of the 7DMII.  Plus the 6D can only use those more expensive EF lenses, so you have a lot more investment to make there.

Bottom Line

A hobbyist can get 90% of what a full frame body provides in terms of image quality, build quality, and speed at a significantly less cost.  As a hobbyist photographer I am saving my pennies to get the Canon 7DMII.  It may end up being a speed bump on the road to full frame, but I think it will do more to up my photography than any other investment I can make right now (I already have some good lenses).

Update December 2014: Be sure to check out the comments below on this article for some good questions and answers on the topic.

19 thoughts on “Canon 7DMII: The Ultimate Hobbyist Body”

    1. Excellent. Let me know if you get it, would love to hear your experience with it. I was hoping this would be a 2014 holiday gift for myself, but alas the furniture in the house demands upgrading first 🙂

  1. I picked mine up early. I’m starting to get some photos up on my pages. I agree about the versatility of a crop. The focusing system and focus point coverage are fantastic. I’m planning to get a post out when I shoot some basketball games here soon.

  2. I would argue that this camera is also a great camera for a pro as it relates to wildlife and sports photography. The improved focus capabilities, low light performance, speed and the fact that it is a 1.6 crop factor giving significant more reach, makes it a real option for a pro photographer as well.

    1. Totally agree John! I don’t yet have hands on experience with it, and as the Hobbyist Editor here at improvephotography.com my focus is on the beginner and hobbyist photographer. Based on the information I have read about the camera body, I think this is going to be an appealing body to professionals as there could be some advantages over full frame. Sports and wildlife in particular, but it could even be helpful for landscape as the depth of field of the crop sensor makes it easier to get the entire scene in focus.

      I can’t wait to get this camera body. I think I will be getting it by February 2015, at which point I will be able to do a much better review and share with readers my view on it being worth the cost from the “lesser” crop sensor bodies in the Canon lineup.

  3. I have the original 7D, my first camera and shoot 95% sports in doors boxing, MMA, etc….The 7D above ISO 1600 images are unusable and full of noise.
    How does the 7D ii compare to the canon 1 DX ? Especially for sports ??
    i want a new body for sports but unsure if i should just save for the 1 dx ?
    It appears that this mark ii is a baby 1dx?
    Thoughts?
    Thank you!
    John

  4. Can u compare the canon 1Dx to the 7d mark II and if the 1dx is that much better to justify about a $5,000 difference if they are essentially the same just the 7 d mark II being a crop sensor with a higher megapixel count and the 1 Dx being lower 18 Mp count etc…

    1. John, thanks so much for getting involved with the improvephotography.com community. I am the Hobbyist Editor here and I am so glad you took the time to comment. I can’t compare the two cameras myself because I don’t have access to either at this point. I am seriously interested in upgrading my Canon 60D crop body for the 7DMII so I have been reading every review I can as it has come out. The 7DMII shares a lot of characteristics with the 1Dx with weather sealing, improved high ISO performance, fast and high numbers of focus points, etc. But in general I think the consensus so far is that there is still a reason the 1Dx is so much more expensive. As with nearly everything, you get what you pay for. Is the significant price difference between the two worth the difference in quality? I think that is very subjective and depends a lot on both your personal situation and the type of photography you do.

      For me the 1Dx isn’t something I can even dream about (although it is the 5DMIII that I would dream about right now). The thing that is most appealing to me about the 7DMII is the fact that I get a lot of pro quality features yet can continue using my EF-S lenses while I save up for better glass. It is an incremental step that is within reach.

  5. Just upgraded from a 60D to the 7D Mark II which seems perfect for the kind of photography I enjoy. Dog sports are often fast action in horrible lighting, with unpredictable movements and quick changes in speed. YOWZA! The fps rate is astounding and it’s much quieter than the 60D which is nice. The Autofocus system is awesome.
    It’ll take me a while to learn to use it to greatest advantage but I’m loving it!

  6. Jeff I am glad that I got my 7D Mark II. I tried my hands on Canon 70D, Canon 6D prior making the call towards 7D MK II. I am not saying they are bad cameras but I like the feel of 7D MK II with professional look and well built as you have mentioned in the article and image quality as good as the Canon 6D full frame. Autofocus feature mainly made me to switch to this from Canon 6D. My needs may not be same for others but I am glad I made the right decission at the end buying Canon 7D Mark II.

  7. Jeff Any advice on 7DMII vs the 70D? I am a hobbiest living in Colorado shooting landscapes and wildlife and travel a great deal. Thanks
    Dave

    1. @David,

      I don’t think there is any question about this one, if you are shooting wildlife then the 7DMII is the one for you. That is very specifically the target audience for that camera.

  8. I own the 7d MKII and love the camera. I previously had the 7d from it’s inception as well it has moved to the back up. The custom functions in the speed shooting section are second to none. I shoot everything from nature to sports and the camera met or exceeded my expectation. When was the last time you shot ISO 8000 and got a useable picture from a crop. The functions are great take a little getting used to if you have never used a 5D MKIII but it has been compared to the 1DX for sports. Filter in the 1.6x crop and you have an 800 mm lens for wildlife photography.

    I shoot pro lacrosse (NLL) and FIFA soccer as well as minor sports but I also saw a major inprovement in quality and hits in low light concert photography with 7d mkii over the 7d. Shooting artists like Usher and Santana really put the camera to work I shot Sanatan with the 7D and got some amazing shots, but the lighting in the Usher concert was quite a bit different and really put the 7D MKII to work with amazing results.

    http://www.demotix.com/news/6386677/usher-puts-dance-moves-edmonton#media-6386609

    But even in Sports the camera kicks it up a notch:

    I was lucky enough to get the 97th model off the line, and received it 2 days before release 7 days later I was out shooting indoor Rodeo for the Canadian Finals Rodeo: this is the result the lighting is a combination of stage spots and sodium and florescent lighting:

    http://www.demotix.com/news/6240064/canadian-finals-rodeo-crowns-2014-champions-day-5#media-6240060

  9. The 7Dmkii crop is close in price, in fact a bit more than a 6D entry full frame body, a great option as a generalist camera. I would only nudge people to the 7Dmkii if they primarily like to shoot sports/action/wildlife. Otherwise, those who also and perhaps like to primarily shoot portraits and landscapes should really look into a 6D. It’s what I see as an enthusiast’s family camera. I have no trouble using the centre focus point on my 6D capturing my children’s sports, moreover, 5fps is quite adequate.

    And if people want lighter options, Sony has evolved some pretty neat mirrorless cameras. Look up youtube sports photography using the A6000. For the more budget conscious who are entering the DSLR world, the new T6i is 24.2 MP, and T5i’s will be clearing out, both much less than a 7D or 6D.

  10. With the 5DM3 only being $400 more , I’m not sure that the 7DM2 is worth as much now.

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