The Canon 70D, The Empire Strikes Back

Olympus E-P5

Canon 70D

I’ve been critical of Canon lately, especially in the APS-C space. Until recently I owned the Canon 7D, before I upgraded to the 6D. The 7D was an excellent camera back 4 years ago when it was introduced, but I was surprised to discover Canon hasn’t improved image performance since then. The state of APS-C sensors at Canon was so behind that even the smaller micro 4/3 sensors equalled or beat it in high ISO image quality. The various Rebels and 60D, released over the last 3 years, did nothing to move the image quality ball forward.

With the 70D, announced today, Canon appears to have come back with a vengeance. It uses an all new sensor technology that combines image capture and phase detect focusing at the pixel level. This allows live view to focus quickly making true auto focus movies possible as well as allowing you to shoot with the back LCD, like a point and shoot. The test results are forthcoming but initial feedback seems promising. What’s the high ISO performance like with this dual pixel array? We’ll see.

DPReview has a nice writeup about the technology, If this does indeed work, the holly grail of combining a high quality still camera with a auto focusing video camera might be truly here. Some of the newest mirrorless cameras with fast contrast detect focusing are almost there but there’s still that slight in and out motion while focusing. Perhaps the closest so far in combining stills and video is the Sony SLT line.

I expect the full frame 5D Mark 3 and 6D will still have superior image quality. So for pure stills shooters, full frame is the way to go for DSLRs. But with this advance, there’s a reason to be excited again about Canon’s APS-C line. What really gets interesting is if Canon applies this technology to the next version of its mirrorless EOS M. The rightly criticized mirrorless EOS may move from laughing-stock to the top of the heap in one bold stroke. Interesting indeed.

Check out the movie below shot on the 70D. Make sure to catch the second half that shows the making of the movie. The captions indicate which lens was used and whether in manual or auto focus.

4 thoughts on “The Canon 70D, The Empire Strikes Back

  1. This new Dual Pixel AF is indeed very interesting. Canon says that it’s not quite ready for fast moving objects, so that is why the 70D still has the 7D focusing system (for when you are using the optical viewfinder). This new Dual Pixel AF only works in Live View mode, so right now I think it is targeted at the videographers more than the photographers. In the “Handmade” video, they did use a wide variety of lenses, but did not use the sound track – which make one wonder how much mechanical noise these older lenses make under this new focusing system. Certainly their new STM lenses address this, but I personally do not have any of the STM lenses…

    The guys over at Imaging Resource did a great job of explaining this new technology (better than DP Review, in my opinion), and they also have a separate “behind the scenes” movie that is certainly worth watching, if you are interested in learning more about how this AF works when shooting video.

    The Imaging Resource article can be found here:
    Scroll down below the “First Impressions” at the top to see the explanation.

    The link to the movie is here. Please be patient, as it takes several minutes to download.

    1. Gregg, thank you for the links and your insight. Indeed an interesting camera. I’m mostly glad that Canon is not standing still. This also puts pressure on all manufactures to innovate in this very competitive industry.

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