When the Canon EOS 70D was announced, it wasn't just as a replacement for the aging 60D, it was also as a direct response to Nikon's D7100. Both cameras use APS-C sensors and are aimed squarely at enthusiasts with better build quality and more features than entry-level models. Let's take a look at how the two cameras stack up against each other.
Size / Weight
Both cameras are exactly what you'd expect for enthusiast-focused DSLRs. While larger and heavier than entry-level DSLRs, they'll be a lot more comfortable to carry around than professional models. There's so little to call between the two in terms of size or weight, that it's going to be more about how they feel in your hands.
With 24.1 megapixels, the Nikon D7100 has the advantage over the Canon 70D. However, its 20.2 megapixel count is more than enough for most photographers, unless they are planning on printing their images very large or cropping heavily.
At first glance the Nikon D7100 appears to have the edge with a 51 point focus system, with 15 cross-type. But the Canon isn't far behind as all of its 19 focus points are cross-type. Then there's the little matter of its Dual Pixel CMOS AF, this makes the 70D much faster and smoother when shooting video with autofocus, and even improves focus speed when shooting stills in live view.
FPS Burst Rate
Both cameras are capable of more than respectable continuous burst rates. The Canon is the slightly quicker of the two with its seven frames per second, but the Nikon isn't far behind with six frames per second.
While the Canon 70D has the wider ISO range, covering 100-12,800 to the Nikon's 100-6,400, you really need to ask yourself whether your will be using the higher settings anyway. Yes it can be handy to know you can get a shot in dark conditions, but once you get past a certain ISO level, images are always going to suffer from noise levels and loss of colors.
Viewfinder / LCD
When you look through the optical viewfinder of the Nikon D7100 you are going to see the exact framing of the image you are taking thanks to its 100 percent coverage. Meanwhile, the Canon 70D has 98 percent coverage, meaning your resulting photograph will always be that little bit wider than what you see in the viewfinder.
While the LCD monitor of the 70D is smaller and has a lower resolution than that of the D7100 (3 inches with 1040K dots compared with 3.2 inches and 1229K dots) it more than makes up for this. Its vari-angle ability means it can be easier to compose shots in awkward positions, and it's also a touchscreen, which gives users a different way to navigate menus and take shots.
Storage Media / File Types
SD memory cards are the storage media of choice for both cameras and both are UHS-I compliant, meaning they can work with faster cards. However, the Nikon has the ability to take two cards while the Canon only has one slot. This can be useful not just to know you've got extra storage at your disposal, but to backup shots on the second card, or to shoot RAW files on one and JPEG on the other, or even stills to one and video to the other.
Both cameras shoot both JPEG and RAW stills, but the Canon 70D has the option of shooting different size RAW files which could be useful if you want to reduce storage size and don't mind giving up a little in image quality.
Though you're not going to be using them to hammer in any nails, both cameras are well constructed and feel a lot more sturdy than entry-level DSLRs in your hands. The Nikon features magnesium alloy covers while the Canon opts for aluminum and polycarbonate.
Nikon says the D7100 offers a level of weather and dust sealing equivalent to that of the professional Nikon D800, which means it can be safely used in a range of weather conditions. Canon is typically a little more coy about the weather sealing of the 70D.
On paper the D7100 and 70D are both capable of shooting Full HD video (1080p) at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50 fps. However, if you're going to be using autofocus when recording video it's worth remembering the Dual Pixel CMOS AF of the Canon as it should vastly improve resulting footage.
More and more cameras are gaining wireless capabilities, for things like copying images to smartphones or tablets and remote shooting, and this pair are no exception. Where they differ is that the Canon has all of this wireless goodness built-in, while the Nikon requires an optional WU-1a wireless adapter. In addition to the extra cost, this also means you have to plug in the adapter whenever you want to use the wireless functions.
The Nikon D7100 is frequently bundled with a 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, while the 70D can come with a 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. While both lenses offer image stabilization, and variable aperture, the Canon has the advantage with its extra focal length reach making it more versatile.
The cameras each take the lenses you'd expect from their respective manufacturers with the D7100 using the standard Nikon F-mount and the Canon the EF mount.
Both cameras come in at US$1,200 body only, with the kit lenses raising the Nikon to $1,600 and the Canon to $1,550.
While there's no substitute for shooting side by side, this spec comparison provides a good starting point for those tossing-up between these two enthusiast-level DSLRs. Nikon and Canon seem to be taking these models in different directions compared to their predecessors (the Nikon D7000 and Canon 60D).
Nikon is sticking to what it does best, with the D7100 it's produced a quality DSLR which is designed to make it easy to take quality images. For photography purists it arguably has a slight advantage over the 70D because of its higher resolution and better autofocus system.
However, taking photos is only part of what modern DSLRs are called upon for, and the Canon 70D is a more all-round multi-media device. For many people the improved video focusing and built-in wireless capabilities for sharing images will instantly make a compelling argument in favor of the 70D.
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