Can the Canon EOS 7D Mark II hold its own against the newer Nikon D500? Antony Henson finds out
Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Nikon D500: Autofocus
Both cameras are billed as being for serious use, and with sport/action photography being high on the agenda they have high-specification autofocusing systems.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II has a 65-point system with all the points being cross-type and individually selectable. For extra sensitivity, the centre point is dual-cross type when lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger are used.
With lenses or lens and teleconverter combinations that have maximum apertures between f/2.8 and f/8 this point is cross-type.
Meanwhile the Nikon D500 has a total of 153 AF points, of which 99 are cross-type. However, only 55 of them are actually available for selection by the photographer.
The other 98 points are support points that the camera can choose to use if it needs to – they help with tracking moving subjects. Of the 153 points, 15 are capable of functioning with maximum apertures as small as f/8, giving teleconverter users more chances of getting the subject sharp and the camera keeping it that way.
Nikon scores another point from Canon as its AF system is claimed to be sensitive down to -4EV, 1 EV lower than Canon’s, indicating that the D500 is better able to cope with low light.
Each camera has a collection of AF point selection modes that are designed to help you hit a moving target, whether it’s travelling along a predictable path or shifting erratically. In the default settings the D500 makes these options easier to select because the 7D Mark II’s M-Fn button can be hard to locate when you’re looking through the viewfinder. However, the customisable selection lever can be used instead.
Like the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X before it, the 7D Mark II has a dedicated autofocus section in the menu with a key page giving control over tracking sensitivity, acceleration and deceleration tracking and AF point switching. Their aim is to enable you to tailor the system’s response in AI Servo AF (continuous autofocus) mode to suit the circumstances. Their use is aided by a series of Case Studies, but despite the sporty icons, some photographers can find the descriptions rather confusing, so it’s important to read them carefully to select the best option for any given subject.
The D500 offers similar controls under menu option a3 (focus tracking with lock-on) and although the screen looks less impressive, the two controls are easier to understand. ‘Blocked shot AF response’ determines the speed at which the camera reacts to a change in subject distance while ‘subject motion’ allows you to specify whether the subject is moving erratically or steadily (or half-way between).
The two autofocus systems perform very well in the field, getting moving subjects sharp and tracking them accurately in most situations. However, when comparable lenses are used, the D500’s AF system is just a little quicker, and I find I get a higher hit rate using it.