Camera head-to-head: Canon EOS 7D Mark II vs Nikon D500

April 17, 2017

Can the Canon EOS 7D Mark II hold its own against the newer Nikon D500? Antony Henson finds out

Canon EOS 7D Mark II vs Nikon D500: Features

Canon EOS 7D Mark II: Features

Inside the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a 20.2MP APS-C- format sensor, which unlike the D500’s has an optical low pass filter (OLPF). This should ensure moiré patterning is kept at bay, but it could mean it’s less able to capture really fine detail. However, its Dual Pixel CMOS technology enables much-improved AF in live view and video mode.

The sensor is coupled with a DIGIC 6 processing engine, and together, they enable a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10 frames per second (fps) for up to 31 raw files when a UDMA 7 CompactFlash card is used. This burst depth can be extended to 1,030 JPEGs if you can do without raw files.

When it was introduced the 7D Mark II had the highest native sensitivity setting of any Canon DSLR, (ISO 16,000), but that and the highest expansion setting (ISO 51,200) seem low in comparison to the D500’s native maximum of ISO 51,200 and uppermost expansion setting of ISO 1,640,000. Nevertheless, the low-light capability, fast frame rate and high-specification AF system (which will be covered later on) make the 7D Mark II a great choice for enthusiasts who want to get serious about shooting sport, action and wildlife.

As its LCD dates back to before the time when Canon really embraced touch-control, there’s no point in tapping on the (fixed) 3in 1.04-million-dot screen. But most experienced Canon users will find they quickly get to grips with the camera’s operation. On the back there’s a sprung selection lever around the multi-controller. This acts as a controller for the main dial on the top-plate, enabling it to be used to adjust a setting selected via the Customisation menu. I prefer to use it to allow me to change sensitivity quickly, but it can also be used to set the AF point, AF point-selection mode, AE lock, AE lock hold, switch to a registered AF point or access exposure compensation. Meanwhile, I like to use the multi-controller to adjust the AF point directly.

Helpfully, in shooting mode the creative photo button provides a quick route to the picture style, multiple exposure and HDR options. In review mode it allows you to compare two images side-by-side for rating using the Rate button. It’s a really useful way of spending ‘downtime’ between shots because the ratings allow you to find your best images quickly once they are downloaded.

Nikon D500: Features

With 20.9 million effective pixels on its CMOS sensor, the Nikon D500 has a slightly higher resolution than the 7D Mark II that’s hardly worth mentioning, save for the fact there’s also no low-pass filter that could also give it a slight edge for recording detail. And as mentioned earlier, there’s a phenomenal sensitivity range topping out at the equivalent of ISO 1,640,000 made possible by the new sensor and Expeed 5 processing engine. However, the top ISO settings give poor quality.

Like the 7D Mark II, the D500 can shoot at a maximum continuous rate of 10 frames per second for up to 200 14-bit lossless compressed raw files. This therefore enables more of the action to be recorded in one blast of raw files, giving greater scope for adjustment post-capture.

Unlike the 7D Mark II, the D500 has a tilting screen that’s touch-sensitive. Measuring 3.2in across the diagonal and with 2.359 million dots, it’s bigger and more detailed than the 7D Mark II’s. That’s not to say the Canon screen is bad – far from it – but the D500 shows just a little more detail, while the tilting mechanism is especially useful for anyone making use of the 4K video capability.

Disappointingly, Nikon has restricted the use of the touchscreen to setting the AF point in live view and video mode, scrolling through images with a swipe and double-tapping to zoom in to check sharpness. It would be nice to be able to navigate the menu and make setting selections with it as well, but it’s not possible.

Nikon D500

Using the two cameras interchangeably, it doesn’t take long before you start to become a little frustrated by the comparative slowness of the 7D Mark II. The D500 just seems a little more responsive, and unlike the 7D Mark II there’s no need to press the shutter release to activate the AF system before you can move the AF point; instead, just nudging the Nikon controller is enough. And if you want to move the point right across the frame you just need to push and hold the controller across instead of the nudge-and-release, nudge-and-release action that is required by the Canon camera.

One irritation with the D500, however, is that the options revealed by pressing the i-button seem rather random, and it can’t be customised. In addition, the information screen activated by pressing the Info-button isn’t interactive.

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