The Canon EOS 60D and Canon EOS 7D represent the upper section of consumer DSLRs in the Canon range, with the EOS 5D Mark II satisfying more the professional and the EOS 550D (and new 600D) aimed more at the entry-level user. For existing potential and often the ultimate goal, while for new users still choosing a system they offer a lure of performance that may sway them to pick the Canon mount.
The EOS 7D is the senior of the two cameras both in positioning and in time on the market, having been released nearly a year before the EOS 60D. Being the newer of the two cameras, the 60D has certainly inherited some features and styling from the 7D and adds some extras that improve on it, despite being lower in the range.
There is quite a significant price margin between the two models, of around $600, so there has to be a considerable benefit to spend the extra money. Many of these benefits can be extracted from the features list but whether they make a real difference when using the two cameras requires a more hands-on approach. Nikon also offers two cameras in this market, the D7000 and the D300S, but the price difference between them is much slimmer and their features are perhaps less evenly matched.
Canon’s EOS 7D was launched to fill a gap between its unstoppable EOS 5D Mark II and a slightly aged EOS 5OD. It was a new design that had apparently come about though feedback from users, though most of its looks appeared to be based on the 5D Mark II. It added wireless flash to the body for the first time in a Canon DSLR and it also brought the 19-point AF system from the EOS-1D Mark Ill and Introduced a new Focus Colour Luminance (iFCL) metering system The 60D, the long-awaited replacement for the 50D, introduced the first vari-angle screen on a Canon DSLR, while boosting the resolution to an impressive 1.04 million dots. It introduced a more concise rear control system and, controversially, used a non-magnesium-alloy frame.
So does the 7D offer enough of an improvement over the 60D to justify spending the extra money, or are users better off opting for the 60D and spending the extra cash on a decent optic? We put the two cameras to the test to bring you the answers.
Both cameras feature a seemingly identical APS-C CMOS sensor and low-pass filter. This has an output of 18 million pixels, or 17.916 million to be more precise. A similar sensor also features on the EOS 550D but this features a different low-pass filter. This leaves only the new EOS 1100D with a smaller, 12-million-pixel sensor in Canon’s consumer DSLR range. When introduced, 18 million pixels seemed excessive for an APS-C-sized sensor but Canon has proved it is still able to successfully control noise and maintain tonal range at this resolution. In real image terms, this means that a 17×11.5 in image is possible at 300 ppi. Files are output as 14-bit raw data, in Canon’s native CR2 format, JPEG or MOV movie files. Both raw and JPEG files can also be saved in medium and small versions for lower -resolution images, and movie files are available in 720p and VGA, as well as Full HD, 1080p format.
The EOS 60D uses Canon’s proprietary Digic 4 processor, while the EOS 7D uses dual Digic 4 processors like the professional EOS-1D Mark IV. This means that the four-channel readout from each processor is doubled in the 7D, allowing an eight-channel total. It is this extra speed that allows the 7D to achieve its 8 fps burst rate. Both cameras have an equal ISO range, with 100-6400 standard modes and an extended high setting equivalent to 12,800.
Both models accept EF-S, digital-only lenses, as well as the full range of Canon and third-party EF lenses, with a 1.6x crop factor on the given focal length. The EOS integrated cleaning system features on both, with a fluoride coating to the low-pass filter, which also vibrates to remove dust particles that are collected on an adhesive surface below. Image stabilization is performed by Canon-fit lenses rather than any sensor-based method, which has the benefit of a stabilized viewfinder.
The metering systems are identical iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) 63-zone systems with a dual layer sensor. This offers Â±5EV of exposure compensation and a choice of evaluative, center-weighted, partial and spot settings. Interestingly, however, the weighting for the metering settings do vary. On the 60D partial metering uses approximately 6.5% of the view finder, while on the 7D it uses 9.4%; spot metering uses 2.8% on the 60D and 2.3% on the 7D.
The autofocus systems are where we start to see some real differences between these two cameras. The 7D’s system offers an extra ten AF points on top of the 60D’s nine-point arrangement. Both are entirely made up of cross-type sensors, and feature an f/2.8 sensitivity point in the center, for faster focusing with wide-aperture lenses. The arrangement of the points is a similar diamond formation, though the added points on the 7D provide a more populated area for more precise positioning.
The extent of the AF capabilities is far more extensive on the 7D; not only does it provide the regular choice of automatic and manual point selection but it allows points to be selected in zones, with point expansion to use the surrounding AF points, or in spot AF mode for a smaller, more precise focus at each location. When using the servo AF on the 7D in combination with the auto selection point, the camera allows the user to choose a starting point and will then adjust the point to track the selection as it moves in the frame. The menu offers a choice of tracking methods with main focus or tracking priority, but this is not as extensive or as advanced as the system in the EOS-1D Mark IV. The 60D offers servo focusing but not the tracking options Neither camera features a dedicated AF illumination lamp, instead using intermittent firing of the flash or a beam from a Speed light flashgun.
For high-speed shooting the 7D has the edge, with its 8 fps burst rate compared with the 60D’s 5.3 fps. It can also maintain its speed for a greater number of JPEG files. Using SanDisk Extreme Pro memory cards in both cameras, the 7D stacked up 631 frames in JPEG compared to the 60D’s 97, while for raw the 60D slowed after 17 shots, while the 7D managed 28.
The difference in intended audience between these two cameras becomes apparent in the range of shooting modes available. Both provide the usual array of program, aperture priority, shutter priority, auto, bulb and manual, but while the 7D adds two additional custom settings and the Creative Auto mode, shared by the EOS 5D Mark II, the 60D adds a series of scene modes covering five of the main subjects, plus movie and no flash options.
One of the 60D’s trump cards over its stablemate is the LCD screen. The vari-angle feature, allowing it to be rotated for easy viewing from almost any angle makes it very useful for video and live view composition. The 60D also has the higher screen resolution to boot, making it the more appealing viewing solution, at least on paper.
The cameras also take a different stance on memory cards – the 7D sticking with the preferred professional option of CompactFlash, while the 60D opts for the more consumer-focused SD card. Currently, neither option has any real downsides, though if you already have a stack of one of these types of card it might sway you a little.
With the cameras side by side there is a significant size difference between them. The EOS 7D is taller and chunkier, but the grip is very similar and it features the same curves and feel, with the textured front and rear grip. Due to the hinge for the EOS 60D’s screen, it lacks the bunons to the left of the rear plate and loses the small thumb joystick in exchange for a new command wheel, which encompasses a more standard D-pad multi- direction controller.
One major difference dwelt upon by many photographers is the make-up of the two chassis. The 60D has opted for an aluminium and polycarbonate body, while the 7D remains a magnesium-alloy build. The weight difference between the two is less than 100 g, and considering the 7D is larger, it isn’t that significant. The magnesium alloy will ultimately be the harder wearing – there’s a reason why it is the choice for all professional bodies – but ultimately the aluminium structure of the 60D is still very solid and is more than adequate for nonprofessional users.
The layouts of the two cameras are very much based on the same principles, with the 60D adapting the 7D’s design for a slightly cleaner and easy- to-use feel. Most of the changes have been seen as improvements, though some have divided opinion. The new lock button on the shooting mode dial of the 60D is certainly an improvement, as it saves the mode being changed by accident, though it does slow operation slightly. There’s also a lock for the rear wheel that can be enabled in the menu, to save rotating this by accident too. The benefits of the 60D’s ali-in-one control dial versus the individual wheel and joystick of the 7D is more of a sticking point. Some users prefer the combined method, though hardened Canon fans may not like the change and find it a little fiddly. The depth of field preview button has also swapped sides, from just left of the lens mount on the 7D to just right of it on the 60 D, which does make it easier to press.
One advantage the 7D has over the 60D is in it’s movie/live view operation. The 60D features the movie mode on the shooting dial, whereas on the 7D it can be accessed in any shooting mode via the switch on the live view button.
The vari-angle screen is a great part of the 60D’s design and it is one reason, repeatedly stated by photographers, for considering the camera. Given its success I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appearing on more Canon DSLRs in the future, including higher-end models.
The menu systems are identical on the two cameras and can be easily operated using the front and rear dials. The D-pad and joystick can also be used in much the same way for browsing through the various sections.
In practice, the autofocus is the biggest difference between the two cameras, and the complexity of AF you require is likely to be one of the key components of whichever camera you end up choosing First, it is worth pointing out that for standard shooting, both cameras perform exceptionally The crosstype sensors are accurate, allowing fast focusing even in difficult lighting. However, the 7D has distinct advantages when it comes to continuous focusing, focus tracking and precision.
For most photographers, those who concentrate on landscapes, city scenes, still life or even portraits, the number of AF points is almost irrelevant For the most part, one will do the job, and just requires a repositioning of your composition after half-pressing to achieve focus lock. Even if you do use manual point selection you are likely to stick to those on the third, for the eye of a portrait, or foreground detail in a landscape, and if you shoot from a tripod then live view allows an almost limitless number of positions on most cameras.
Where multi-point AF systems come in most useful is for those looking to capture fast-moving objects, using focus tracking – or at the other extreme, those looking to shoot in fully auto and let the camera find the right point in the frame for them. For either of these uses the 7D has the distinct advantage. The extra points mean your focus can be closer to where you want it in the frame, and it also allows the focus tracking to work more effectively. The professional Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera, with its 45-point autofocus, is far more capable.
The spot AF focus on the 7D allows for a smaller area of focus to be used, for more precise selection, and the camera also allows micro-adjustments to be made and saved for individual lenses to achieve the optimum results, which is lacking in the 60D.
The two cameras perform equally well when it comes to white balance and color. JPEGs are bright and punchy in their standard settings straight from the camera, and there are a range of picture styles that can be set if required, including portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome and three user-defined settings.
The auto white balance on both cameras is highly effective giving rich colours in most conditions. It does err on the warm side on occasion and will leave a warm tone under tungsten light rather than remove it. For more neutral effects the presets can be relied upon, with six lighting presets, a color temperature setting and a custom white balance. There is also a white balance shift, to manually adjust the values of any chosen setting.
As is to be expected from two such similar sensors, the noise and resolution is identical from the EOS 60D and EOS 7D cameras.
Luminance noise starts to appear in the image from ISO 800 but doesn’t become visible until values above ISO 1600. It remains well controlled in the JPEG images even at ISO 6400 and the High ISO 12,800 sees an increase in colour noise but is still very usable on both cameras.
Both cameras use the same iFCL (Intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) 63-zone metering system with dual layer sensor (with each layer sensitive to different wavelengths of light), and therefore perform identically in terms of their metering, with the smaller spot area adding precision on the 7D. This system is very effective and performs well in most conditions, avoiding blown highlights while maintaining detail In some trickier lighting conditions using evaluative metering, it is necessary to underexpose by between 1/3 and 2/3 stop, or switch to centreweighted.
As previously tested, both cameras reach the 12EV mark for dynamic range. According to DxOMark.com, the dynamic ranges do vary slightly as the ISO increases, with the 60D showing some improvements at lower ISO values but losses at higher values. Overall, though, the differences are minimal The Auto Lighting Optimizer system allows a pseudo extension of the dynamic range by lifting detail in the shadows. This features various levels of strength and can be applied pre-capture or post-capture for raw images.
The EOS 7D provides a full 100% field of view from its pentaprism viewfinder with a 1x magnification for a nice large view. The 60D, however, gives a slightly reduced 96% coverage and a 0.95x magnification. When placed side by side, the larger view from the 7D is noticeable and the fuller coverage certainly adds weighting for those looking for a more professional tool. The focusing screen on the 60D is interchangeable and there are three options, with the standard matt screen provided. The 7D screen is not interchangeable as it uses a transmissive LCD to project onto the viewfinder. This is an advantage as it can display a range of options from the AF points to the spot circle and grid, or even the electronic level.
Although both screens are stated as 3 in, the ratios are different, with the 60D opting for a more widescreen 64×43 mm compared with the 7D’s 60×45 mm. Both displays are very high in resolution, with 920,000-dot and 1.04-million-dot displays respectively on the 7D and 60D, though it is difficult to see any difference between them with the naked eye. Both have controls for brightness, although the 7D also features an ambient sensor to automatically detect brightness. The 60D does have the edge thanks to the vari-angle mount, which allows a 180 deg. horizontal and 270 deg. vertical rotation.
The live view settings are seemingly identical, with both offering a dedicated button by the thumb position with which to activate it. In addition to the regular shooting information that can be displayed on screen, both offer the ability to show an electronic level for roll and pitch correction, which can be superimposed on to the live view or shown separately. Focusing options allow basic contrast detection, a face detection mode and a quick view, which flips the mirror back down to briefly use the phase detection sensor. Contrast detection focusing is fairly decent but not lightning fast on either model.
Although the two cameras offer movie selection in different ways, the operation and range of options is the same. There is a choice of fully manual or auto exposure with exposure compensation. Both use the MOV QuickTime format with H.264 compression to offer Full HD, 1080p recording, with 30 fps, 25 fps or 24 fps options, and 60 fps or 50 fps options at 720p. Both cameras quote a maximum record time of just under 30 mins or 4GB, which at 1080p works out at around 12 minutes apiece.
Amazing image quality and outstanding performance are just two of the many benefits photographers, from beginners to professionals, will experience with every interaction with a Canon EOS digital camera.
As we stated in advance, it is clear that both of these cameras are very strong models. Despite the year gap in their releases and around $600 price gap, there is a lot of similarity between the two models due to a duplication of features. Certainly in terms of image quality, noise levels and metering, both cameras perform Identically. If this is your priority, and it should definitely be high on your list, then it would be wise to save yourself some money and buy the EOS 60D.
However, as always, there is much more to consider, and it is clear from this test that there are still some big benefits for spending that extra cash. More than anything this comes from the focuSing system The 60D’s AF is very capable but is left looking amateur in comparison to what the EOS 7D can offer. If you enjoy photographing moving objects, whether it is people, animals or vehicles, the 7D is the natural choice. Its tracking and zonal options allow a much wider scope for those looking for fast focusing, aided by the extra focus points For those looking to shoot in a semi-professional capacity, the 7D also goes that step further to offering the features you would expect of a professional camera, including the micro-adjustment for lens AF, the 100% viewfinder coverage, and not forgetting the magnesium-alloy build. In many ways, despite the similarities of these two cameras, the EOS 60D sits more with the consumer range as a big brother to the EOS 550D and EOS 600D, while the EOS 7D sits more like an APS-C version of the professional bodies. The 60D does offer much of what the 7D does, and its added features such as the mode locks and the vari-angle screen are things I would love to see on the next version of the 7D and EOS 5D. However, for overall performance and for any photographer looking to try their hand at some tougher subjects, the EOS 7D definitely has the edge.