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The Canon 70D Review, Pros and Cons (Mainly Pro’s)

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A few minor niggles but still a consummate all-rounder – still our favourite enthusiasts’ SLR

Pros
Excellent image quality
Articulated touchscreen
Impressive autofocus in video
Cons
Video quality could be sharper
No headphone socket

The Canon EOS 70D is the company’s latest enthusiast-oriented SLR. It replaces the Canon 60D, and has various enhancements that distinguish it from the likes of the Canon EOS 700D.

The viewfinder is significantly larger, there are lots of single-function buttons, a passive LCD screen on the top plate and a command dial and rear wheel for direct access to exposure settings. It’s faster than both the 700D and the 60D, with a 7fps continuous mode that lasted for 108 JPEGs or 16 RAW frames before slowing to the speed of the card.

Price, specs and rating based on the body-only package

Canon EOS 70D review: What you need to know

If you don’t want to wade through the details, the previous paragraph sums up the Canon EOS 70 pretty well. This is an enthusiast SLR that produces sublime 20.4-megapixel images and excellent video as well. It isn’t the newest SLR around anymore, having been replaced by the 80D, and it’s been discontinued by Canon, but if you can find one, it’s worth considering over some more recent models (see below).

Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D review: Price and competition

When we originally reviewed the 70D it cost £999 for the body only. It’s now been officially discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced by the Canon EOS 80D and Canon EOS 77D, but you can still buy one from various outlets for around £600 (body only), and for around £880 including an 18-55mm lens kit.

At that price, it’s worth picking one up over the 80D, because the more recent update didn’t move things on enough for us to give it a glowing review. We haven’t tested the Canon EOS 77D yet it looks like it might be a better option. It uses the same sensor as the EOS 80D, has more focus points than the 70D and a higher resolution, and the prices are closer together. The EOS 77D is more expensive than the 70D, though, and it loses the weather sealing of its predecessor as well.

Equally, though, now that the EOS 7D has been replaced by the newer 7D MKII, you can get the original as a body only for less than the 70D. While the 70D has more pixels, an articulated screen and is a newer camera, the 7D has more professionally-minded controls, an LCD display on the top of the body and a lower price.

If you’ve already bought into the Canon lens system and don’t need to buy a body with a kit, the 7D could be a bigger step up in terms of manual controls than the 70D. For everyone else, though, the 70D is a camera still worth considering, despite its age.

Canon EOS 70D review: Phase detect

The 20-megapixel resolution is Canon’s highest to date for an APS-C sensor, and the sensor design is radically different to anything we’ve seen before. Each pixel not only measures the intensity of light, but also the direction, with each one made up of two photodiodes facing left and right. This helps the sensor to perform phase-detect autofocus, determining not just whether the image is in focus, but also, if not, by how much. It means the lens can jump straight into focus rather than shuttle back and forth in search of a sharp picture.

Phase-detect autofocus is already available in all modern SLRs when using their viewfinders, but in most cases it’s disabled in live view mode. The 70D’s ability to perform phase-detect autofocus directly on the sensor makes it much faster than the 60D to focus in live view mode.

We’ve seen this technique a few times before, most recently on the EOS 700D. However, previous implementations have been limited to a few dedicated phase-detect points dotted across the sensor. What’s special about the 70D is that almost every pixel can contribute to phase-detect autofocus. The active area is quoted as 80 per cent of the frame, horizontally and vertically – you can’t place the autofocus point right at the edge of the frame.

Canon EOS 70D

Testing with the 18-135mm STM lens, the benefit was immediately obvious. It took around half a second to focus and capture a photo in live view mode, rising to around one second in low light. That’s twice as fast as the 700D, and about five times faster than the 60D.

It’s a superb result, but we can’t help wondering if it could have been even faster. It typically took less than 0.2 seconds from when we pressed the shutter button to hearing a double-beep to confirm that focus was achieved, but then it took another 0.3 seconds for the shutter mechanism to kick in. Half-pressing to focus and then fully pressing to capture removed this shutter lag, though. We measured 2.1 seconds between shots in live view mode, which is much slower than the 0.4 seconds it achieved when using the viewfinder. It delivered 7fps continuous shooting in live view mode, but focus was fixed and the screen was blank during bursts.

Still, the bottom line is that live view mode is far more useful than on any other Canon (or Nikon or Pentax) SLR. It helps that the screen is articulated, with a side-mounted hinge that allows it to tilt up, down, to the side and right around for self-portraits – a feature that’s conspicuously absent from the Nikon D7100 and Canon and Nikon’s full-frame SLRs.

Canon EOS 70D

The 70D’s screen is touch-sensitive too, so moving the autofocus point in live view mode couldn’t be easier. Subject tracking is available but we weren’t bowled over by its reliability. The touchscreen also speeds up navigation of the Q menu, which gives quick access to a wider array of functions than are covered by the dedicated buttons. The touchscreen provides an alternative way to navigate the main menu, but we found it quicker to use the command dial and rear wheel to jump to a particular setting.

The 70D is fastest when using the viewfinder, so it’s good to see some improvements here too. The 60D’s 9-point autofocus sensor has been ditched in favour of the 19-point sensor first seen in the EOS 7D. All 19 points are cross-type for increased sensitivity, and they were fast and accurate even in extremely low light. There’s a new button next to the command dial for expanding the active area. The largest area encompasses all 19 points, and when used in conjunction with the AI Servo autofocus mode, allows for some basic subject tracking. It can’t match the sophistication of the 3D Tracking mode in the Nikon D7100, though.

Canon EOS 70D review: Wi-Fi and connectivity

Wi-Fi is built in, with the same functions that we saw on the Canon EOS 6D. They include remote control via the accompanying iPhone and Android apps, with access to exposure settings and the ability to move the autofocus point using the smartphone or tablet’s touchscreen. While the 6D had to make do with lethargic live view autofocus, the 70D was much more responsive when shooting remotely. The app can also access the camera’s card to view full-screen previews with EXIF metadata, apply star ratings and instigate transfers.

Canon EOS 70D

We appreciate how both the remote shooting and image browsing modes are accessible without locking up the camera’s controls. Photos appeared in the app within two seconds of being captured, letting us use an iPad to review shots in more detail that the camera’s 3in screen allows. However, previews and transfers are limited to 2.5 megapixels, so it’s not so useful for checking focus. Enabling Wi-Fi disables the USB port and video capture, so a tablet can’t be used as a remote video monitor.

The iOS app worked fine in our tests but we could only connect our Nexus 4 smartphone via an existing network rather than make a direct connection. We’ve heard others have made direct connections with different handsets, but if this is an essential feature to you it might be worth popping along to a retailer and testing it with your own device.

Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D review: Video

The new autofocus technology is great news for photographers, but it’s potentially even more exciting for videographers. The 70D’s video autofocus was the most responsive we’ve ever seen from a large-sensor camera, adjusting in less than a second when we moved the autofocus point using the touchscreen. There was no sign of focus hunting, and face detection and subject tracking helped us follow moving subjects – although once again, it was a little unreliable.

Even so, when we tapped on a subject to focus on, more often than not, focus would remain locked as it moved nearer or further. We’ve always maintained that manual focus is the only way to achieve polished results, but for the first time, here’s a video autofocus system that we can envisage being used in professional productions. With a choice of 24, 25 or 30fps capture at 1080p, clips up to 30 minutes and an All-Intra mode that encodes at 75Mbit/s to avoid compression artefacts, it all looks pretty promising for serious video production.

It’s a shame, then, that details in the 70D’s videos aren’t a little sharper. Its footage looked decent enough in isolation, but the Panasonic GX7 and Panasonic GH3 were able to resolve fine details with greater fidelity. We also noticed a tendency for moiré interference on repeating textures such as fabric and bricks. The full-frame Canon 5D Mark III showed big improvements in video detail compared to previous EOS cameras, but it seems that these advances haven’t been built into the 70D. We achieved better results by selecting the Neutral Picture Style and sharpening up the footage in software, but this didn’t get rid of the moiré interference.

Canon EOS 70D sample shot

^ It will bother some more than others, but the Panasonic GH3 (left) has a clear advantage over the 70D (second from left) for details in videos. The 70D’s details can be improved by rolling off the sharpness and contrast and then sharpening in software, but it still can’t quite match the GH3 – click to enlarge

Another hurdle for serious video production is the lack of a headphone socket, which limits the usefulness of the microphone input. The HDMI output can stream a live feed but it’s not a clean feed to send to an external recorder. Despite the 70D’s superb autofocus performance, the Panasonic GH3 remains our top choice for video production. The 70D isn’t too far behind, though. For more casual users who still demand high quality, its more responsive video autofocus may tip the balance in its favour.

A lover of all things tech, love all things that uses creative juices (not an innuendo) an avid blogger and part time vlogger, now stop reading and go check out some awesome posts on this site.

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Inside JD.com, the giant Chinese firm that could eat Amazon alive

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Pujiang Pu is a smiley, medium-built man in his mid-forties with stylish glasses, a bling gold watch, and a red JD lanyard around his neck. Along with many of the 150,000 employees of JD.com – a city-size e-commerce store sometimes referred to as the Amazon of China – he lives in a free dorm near one of the company’s 500 gigantic warehouses. The warehouse I visit is in Jiading, 30km north-west of Shanghai’s city centre. Hundreds of people work here, and at 100,000 square metres in size it sits on a JD complex so big it would take at least 45 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

I am allowed here as part of a rare, highly supervised press visit, and warehouse manager Pu is our tour guide. I am not shown everything, but enough to impress – or, as some analysts believe, to show that JD is a kind of company Amazon ultimately wants to become.

JD wasn’t always that big. It started out as a small brick and mortar store in Beijing, founded in 1998 by Richard Liu. Then in 2004, Liu moved it online and JD.com, short for Jingdong, was born. Fast-forward to today, and the firm is worth more than $55 billion. In February, logistics magazine DC Velocity called it “the biggest company you may not know all that much about”. Not for much longer though – JD is so growing so fast at home in China and expanding so rapidly into other markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam and most recently Europe, that even the most devout Amazonians will soon sit up and notice.

The main reason Pu stays in a dorm on site, and away from his family, is to ensure he can meet key performance indicators set by the firm. Sometimes, especially during JD.com’s annual shopping event, he has to work late into the night.

But the future of these dorms is uncertain. Many traditional warehouse jobs like stacking shelves and packing boxes at JD are likely to go to robots in the coming years, as the company starts to automate everything that can sensibly be automated. The tech giant is now busy retraining some staff to take on new roles that machines can’t yet do. Pu’s warehouses have some of the firm’s most advanced robotics – and he gets really excited talking about the autonomous forklift trucks and delivery drones.

These drones have been in the news a lot lately. Remember when Amazon’s boss Jeff Bezos made claims that his firm would soon drop parcels off at your doorstep? Well, that was in 2013 – and, some small-scale trials aside, it’s still not happening. But it’s very much happening at JD – since March 2016, its drones have been delivering products across China, having clocked over 300,000 minutes of flight time. “Today we have over 200 people working on our drone programme,” says Zheng Cui, director of the firm’s drone R&D centre in Xi’an.

The drones come in various shapes and sizes, but the quickest ones can fly up to 100km/h and have a range of 100km. So far though, the furthest delivery has been 15km and that drone flew much slower than 100km/h – but you have to start somewhere. What the drones can’t do yet, JD does with its 65,000 van drivers and couriers.

The drone efforts haven’t gone unnoticed though, and other companies are keen to replicate JD’s air delivery success. Cui says more and more firms are getting in touch to buy their drones. “We’ve just got an order for 1,000 at the beginning of this year,” he adds.

Those drones are still fairly small, but JD is busy developing larger ones that can carry up to five tonnes. “They’ll transfer inventory from one warehouse to another,” says Cui. “Within three years we’re looking at having a couple of thousand,” he says – and they will take off right from existing small airports near the company’s warehouses.

It’s not just the drones that make the Chinese behemoth different from Western e-commerce stores, though. Robots at JD are everywhere. In the warehouse I visit, machines stack tens of thousands of products on 24-metre-high shelves. Over the road from where I am, another fully automated warehouse can pack and ship 200,000 products a day. Robots are not alone yet, though: the fully automated warehouse has four human helpers.

Automation, growth, scale – the mega but still relatively unknown giant seems unlikely to slow down. Its revenues are growing 40 per cent a year, up to $55.7 billion in 2017. The company’s spokespeople tell us proudly the firm is the third largest “internet company” in the world by revenue after Google and Amazon, but ahead of companies like Facebook, eBay and Alibaba, its biggest rival.

It has major backers such as Tencent — the largest internet company in China by market cap and the owner of WeChat. Other investors are Walmart, which has a ten per cent stake, and even Google, which last month announced it was investing $550 million into JD to help it expand further outside China.

And the e-commerce giant is busy doing just that. In January, it opened its first European office, in Paris. It now aims to open another one in Milan, and is actively partnering with Spanish and other European brands – especially luxury ones. In 2017, Chinese made up 32 per cent of the worldwide luxury market.

JD’s response: last October, it launched Toplife, a platform for luxury buyers that can benefit from same-day deliveries and premium services, such as ultra-clean and secure warehouses with special air filters. Over just a few months, Toplife has already signed up 20 brands, including Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. Amazon beware.

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LG G7 ThinQ Is Now Available In the US for $750

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LG waited longer than normal to announce its big 2018 flagship phone, but it finally took the wraps off the LG G7 ThinQ a few weeks ago. Today, the phone is available for purchase on most US carriers. While LG has had trouble competing with the likes of Samsung, it’s still targeting the same premium space. Although, it’s got an iPhone-style screen notch now. That’s what consumers want, right?

The LG G7 ThinQ is the epitome of all things 2018 in smartphone design. It has a glass back, dual cameras, and a display notch that isn’t done particularly well. The missing bit of screen provides a place for the camera, earpiece, and some other sensors. It does seem a little excessively large for how compact these components are, though. In addition, the G7 has a “chin” at the bottom with a larger bezel than the top and bottom. This asymmetric look isn’t as striking as the iPhone X it imitates. The 6.1-inch 1440p display is also an OLED, which lacks the vibrancy of modern OLED panels.

Inside, this phone has all the current flagship hardware you’d expect with a Snapdragon 845, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. Unlike many other current smartphones, the company has opted to keep the headphone jack for the G7 ThinQ. LG also touts the G7’s unique speaker design that uses the entire chassis as a resonator to boost sound output.

You may be wondering about the name — specifically the “ThinQ” bit. Well, that’s LG’s expanded brand for all its AI technologies. What that means for the G7 is that there’s an AI mode in the camera that looks for objects it can identify and offers possible filters. It’s not very accurate or useful, but LG didn’t even develop any AI software or hardware for this phone. It just licensed a machine vision library from a third-party.

The LG G7 ThinQ is available from all major carriers in the US except AT&T. Apparently, AT&T chose to sell the LG V35 instead of the G7. This marks the third variant of the V30 that LG has sold since it debuted last year. At other carriers, the G7 ThinQ will run you $750, give or take a few dollars. Carriers offer payment plans to split the cost over two years. It will launch on Google’s Project Fi soon, as well. If you don’t want to go through carriers, the phone is also available from Amazon.

 

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