The Canon EOS 70D ($1,199 direct, body only) is the first traditional D-SLR we've seen with an on-chip phase detect autofocus system that doesn't have to hand off to contrast detection in order to confirm focus. That gives it the ability to deliver quick, smooth autofocus when recording video, but there's still some room for improvement in dim lighting. The 20-megapixel camera is a solid option for Canon shooters looking to move up from a Rebel body, but don't want to go full-frame. Despite its video prowess, it doesn't manage to oust our Editors' Choice for midrange D-SLRs, the Nikon D7100. The Nikon may not focus as quickly in Live View mode as the Canon, but we liked it slightly better overall.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
The 70D is a bit bigger than the next camera down in the Canon's APS-C SLR lineup, the Rebel T5i. The 70D measures 4.1 by 5.5 by 3.1 inches and weighs 1.7 pounds, compared with the 3.9-by-5.2-by-3.1-inch, 1.1-pound T5i. Extra physical controls and a larger, heavier pentaprism viewfinder help account for the added girth and heft. The pentaprism viewfinder is a step up in quality than the pentamirror that you'll find in a camera like the T5i. It's a solid piece of glass that, along with the reflex mirror, directs light captured by the lens to your eye. It doesn't quite provide full-frame coverage; Canon claims that it shows you 98 percent of what the lens is capturing, cutting off some information at the edges. The Nikon D7100 and the Pentax K-5 II do better; they both deliver 100 percent of the frame to your eye.
As you would expect from a serious D-SLR, there are plenty of controls squeezed into the 70D's body. There's a depth of field preview button on the front, at the edge of the lens mount. On the top plate you'll find a mode dial to the left of the eyepiece; it's locking, so you'll need to depress the center button in order to turn it. The power switch is directly below that dial. There's a monochrome information LCD to the right of the finder, and ahead of that you'll find buttons to adjust the autofocus mode, drive mode, ISO, and metering pattern. There's a control in front of that, a small button that allows you to adjust the active focus points, and the shutter.
The rear of the camera is a bit more basic with Menu and Info buttons, as well as a toggle switch to change between still and video capture with an integrated button to toggle Live View. In the top rear right corner, just behind the information display, you'll find an AF-ON button that activates focus (by default, a half-press of the shutter does the same, but some shooters prefer to disable that and dedicate a control to the task), an exposure lock button, and a button that lets you select from any of the camera's 19 focus points. The latter will only function if you've got the focus set to manually select a point. The 70D doesn't offer as many focus points as the D7100--it has 51 to choose from--but all of the 70D's points are the more precise cross-type; the D7100 only has 15 cross-type points, and they're all bunched in the center of the frame.
You also get a rear control dial with a center set button; in most modes, the dial grants direct access to exposure compenstation adjustment. The Q button, a common feature on Canon SLRs, activates a touch-sensitive menu on the rear LCD. It provides quick control over the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compenstation, flash compensation, picture style, white balance, focus mode, metering pattern, drive mode, image quality, and over a few different image optimization settings. Many of these duplicate on-camera controls, but there is something to be said about seeing all of your control options in one place.
The rear LCD is a vari-angle design; it's hinged so it can swing out to the side of the camera, and it can tilt so it can be viewed with the camera above your head, at your waist, or facing you. The 3-inch display packs an excellent 1,040k-dot resolution, and is touch sensitive. The Sony Alpha 77 also features a hinged display, but it's not a touch screen, and the hinge mechanism is a bit different. It's viewable from all of the same angles, but it rises up above the viewfinder in order to twist and face forward.
Like the full-frame 6D, the 70D integrates Wi-Fi (but there's no GPS like you'll find in the 6D and Sony Alpha 77). The implementation is similar to other Canon cameras: You can transfer photos to your smartphone or tablet via the free EOS Remote app, beam them to another Canon camera, print to a Canon Wi-Fi printer, view on an HDTV via DLNA, or upload directly to the Web. The latter requires you to connect the camera to your computer and configure the Web services that you'd like to use via the Canon Image Gateway service.The EOS Remote app also supports remote control. A Live View feed appears on the screen of your phone or tablet, and you'll be able to set the focus point, adjust exposure compensation and fire the shutter; but that's it, there's no full manual control available. Canon has disabled video recording when Wi-Fi is enabled, so you'll need to disable Wi-Fi from the menu when you want to utilize the video recording function.