Canon 70D Wedding Photographer Review

Since 2005, I’ve photographed over 400 weddings, elopements and engagements with Canon APS-C Elan series of digital camera bodies. With multiple copies of the 20D, 30D, 40D, 60D and 7D I’ve captured joyous gatherings throughout the Rocky Mountain West of the United States. For the last four weddings, I’ve been using Canon’s latest successor in the series — the 70D. Following are some random reflections from my time in the field and a few processed final images as my clients will see them.

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Canon 70D | Canon EF-S 10-22 zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/200th | ISO1250

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Canon 70D | Canon EF-S 10-22 zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/50th sec | ISO1250

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Canon 70D | Canon EF-S 10-22 zoom | ƒ4.5 @ 1/160th | ISO100

Canon 70D Wedding Photographer Review

Until the 70D, I was a wedding photographer with two 60D and two 7D bodies with a range of zoom and prime Canon lenses. I preferred the handling and weight of the smaller 60D, but relied on the 7D’s for its significantly more robust auto-focus system. The new 70D appeared to be a mix of the best of both cameras, a lighter weight 7D with a great feature set borrowed from other Canon bodies both up and down the range. I’d prefer to shoot with consistent fleet of bodies with the same menus and controls, so the question is asked: Could 70Ds alone replace my mixed bag of 60Ds and 7Ds? My prime concerns are handling, auto focus, and high ISO shooting.

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 zoom | ƒ16 @ 1/250th | ISO100

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Canon 70D | left EF-S 60mm Macro ƒ4.0 @ 1/100th ISO 1000 | right 70-200 4 IS Zoom ƒ4.0 @ 1/250th ISO 100

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60mm Macro | ƒ4.0 @ 1/100th | ISO1250

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Canon 70D | 85mm 1.8 USM | ƒ2.8 @ 1/125th | ISO 400

Handling

With a schedule of 50+ weddings a year, it’s not uncommon for me to shoot for 2 to 4 days in a row and I really appreciate a lightweight camera system with great ergonomics. For example while most wedding photographers would simply choose a large 70~200 2.8 zoom for their telephoto tool (“big white” as I call it), my choice is a mix of three lighter weight lenses — the 70~200 4 IS, the 85/1.8 and 135L. To that end (lighter and less conspicuous), the 70D is a joy to shoot with. The size is a bit smaller, the weight is perfect, the grip is easy to hold like the 60D, and the thumb rest has evolved to perfection — akin to Canon’s excellent handling 6D. This is most comfortable camera I ever used, with one glaring negative — AF point selection. Since my first Canon camera — the 20D — I’ve loved the picking AF points with the little joystick next to the chimp screen. It was dropped on the 60D, in favor of a combo dial / multi-directional controller, which I didn’t mind because the the dial was fairly large and easy to manipulate. On the 70D however, the combo dial has gotten noticeably smaller and moving the AF point to the left of your composition is a very un-natural movement for your thumb. After my second wedding with the 70D, my right thumb was actually sore the next day. After the fourth wedding with the new camera, the pain was gone. My thumb muscles got used to the new movements and I discovered C.Fn II, page 10 in the menu set-up: Manual AF pt. select. pattern. Select it to 1, continuous. Now keep moving to the right to and the AF point will “loop” over to the left side. Works for me. I miss the joystick, but this isn’t a deal breaker.

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/60th | ISO 125

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60 Macro | left ƒ3.5 @ 1/160th ISO 100 | right ƒ5.6 @ 1/80th ISO 125

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ8 @ 1/250th | ISO 100

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/30th | ISO 640

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ4.5 @ 1/125th | ISO 200

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Canon 70D | left 85mm 1.8 USM ƒ2.8 @ 1/125th ISO 800 | right 70-200 4 IS Zoom ƒ4.0 @ 1/250th ISO 200

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Canon 70 | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/60th | ISO 1250

Auto Focus

Canon’s legacy 9-point AF system was mostly fine for a wedding photographer — until the lights went off. Shooting with an EF-S 10~22 on a 60D I never had an issue with auto focus until that point at the reception when the DJ would invariably turn off all the house lights. My choice to continue shooting was either a) mount a speedlight and incorporate the red assist beam or b) simply switch to a heavier 7D in my bag. The 7D, with it’s newer and more sensitive 19-point system could deliver reliable focus to the very last sing-a-long, even with a relatively slow zoom like a 10~22 (and no AF assistance). In order for a 70D to replace a 7D in my fleet, it would have to pass the dark, drunken dancing test. Good news! It’s an excellent evolution of the 7D system. Simpler to configure on the fly, very responsive and it will keep up with almost any lights off wedding reception to the very end. Canon rates the 70D as sensitive as the 7D (-.5 ev at center point) but I find low light support for a slow lens like a 70~200 4 IS to be better than the 7D and won’t hesitate to use “little white” for toasting coverage in the rare event that the prime lens 135L won’t get me close enough. There’s also great all around response with my beloved 10~22 and the new face tracking live view really works. A problem lens like the EF-S 60mm Macro (known for hunting) is whip fast and accurate. It’s a great system. Wedding worthy.

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/60th | ISO 1600

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | both images ƒ3.5 @ 1/60th | ISO 1600

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ4.0 @ 1/160th | ISO 500

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ4.0 @ 1/160th | ISO 160

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Canon 70D | left 10-22 | right 85mm 1.8

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ4.5 @ 1/250th | ISO 500

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Canon 70D | 85mm 1.8 USM | ƒ2.8 @ 1/125th | ISO 800

High ISO

Processing and delivering over 35,000 images a year to clients, I’ve determined that while both the 60D and 7D could both shoot at ISO 6400, the color fidelity from the 60D was noticeably better over 3200 (particularly in skin tones). The new 70D has a native high ISO range of 12,800 and I’m happy to report it holds passable skin tones up to that mark. Thanks to a consistent use of off-camera strobes, the ratio of images I shoot over ISO 1600 is fairly low, but it’s nice to know I can shoot into severally dark conditions (even if the mixed color temperatures in those conditions are often unflattering). As for overall image quality, the new 20 megapixel sensor delivers a subtle evolution to the signature Canon look. Colors are pleasing and detail is great. My office is filled with awesome two and three-foot canvas prints from the lowly 10-megapixel Canon 40D, so I’m pretty easy to please in this area. More pixels for cropping and higher resolution editing is a good thing but dSLRs have been able to deliver great jumbo prints for years.

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ4.0 @ 1/160th | ISO 12,800

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60 Macro | ƒ4.0 @ 1/100th | ISO 8000

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60mm Macro | ƒ3.5 @ 1/100th | ISO 5000

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60mm Macro | ƒ3.5 @ 1/50th | ISO 5000

Little Surprises

So much of the international press attention at the 70D’s debut concentrated on the video-centric new Dual Pixel CMOS auto focus sensor that many of its new niceties for still photography got overlooked in internet coverage about the new camera. I was delighted to discover the 70D includes a silent shooting mode (like the 6D and 5DmkIII) which is a big plus at weddings (especially during bride preperation and quiet church ceremonies). It’s a beautiful low and lush sound, as opposed to a hard “slap” dSLR users are used to. Additional surprises are the auto-switching orientation linked AF point (like the 7D — different AF point / mode for horizontal vs. vertical shooting), a little viewfinder camera level (that I leave on all the time), plus an iPad -esque touch screen for configuring all the menus and modes. Under pressure, making fast mode and menu changes is a dream. Any other interface now seems second-class.

Another nice thing about the 70D is full radio wireless group control in Canon’s 600 series speedlights (and the Youngnuo clones). I’m making plans to move my aging fleet of Canon 500 series and third-party speedlights (triggered by Phottix Strato II) over to the new integrated system so this inclusion is a big plus for me.

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60mm Macro | ƒ8.0 @ 1/100th | ISO 1000

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | ƒ4.0 @ 1/250th | ISO 500

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Canon 70D | EF-S 60mm Macro | ƒ3.5 @ 1/100th | ISO 500

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | left ƒ14 @ 1/250th ISO 100 | right ƒ5.6 @ 1/160th ISO 100

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ4.0 @ 1/40th | ISO 400

Where the 7D Still Shines

The 7D has a noticeably larger 100% viewfinder, versus the the 70D which is 98% (not a big deal) but is also smaller (could be a big deal). Smaller viewfinders can actually aid in composition (taking in the whole scene more like a thumbnail) but make it more difficult to judge fine focus adjustments on the fly. I never felt the 70D viewfinder was inadequate, until I grabbed a 7D for a few shots. The difference is noticeable. A much bigger deficit of the 70D is the smaller continuous shooting buffer and slower card write speed. In well over a hundred events with the 7D, I’ve never hit buffer limit shooting RAW on medium speed Sandisk Extreme cards (it will shoot on Continuous High for a very long time). But at my first 70D wedding, I hit the ceiling on the burst memory (also shooting with a Sandisk Extreme). It’s not an issue during general shooting for 90% of the day, but high frame rates such as recessionals and wild dancing it’s noticeable and takes an adjustment in shooting. You’re forced to either a) shoot more selectively b) switch to JPEG for those moments. The fix was upgrading all of the memory cards to Sandisk Extream Pro 95mb/sec. Finally, on the list of 70D deficits, Canon Professional Services has just announced they will no longer allow the Elan series of cameras (“60D and it’s successors”) to contribute to a user’s points for qualification in CPS. They’ll still repair the camera at your service level, but your qualification into membership won’t be based on 70D ownership. A small thing really, as most photographers enough more than enough Canon lenses and speedlights to qualify at the level they desire.

Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ4.5 @ 1/160th | ISO 500

Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ4.5 @ 1/160th | ISO 500

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Canon 70D | left 85mm 1.8 USM ƒ2.8 @ 1/125th ISO 500 | right 70-200 4 IS Zoom ƒ4.0 @ 1/125th ISO 2000

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Canon 70D | 135mm L | ƒ2.8 @ 1/1000th | ISO 100

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | both ƒ4.5 @ 1/250th | ISO 320

Summary

Within a couple of days of receiving my 70Ds I sold my 60Ds on the used market — replacing them was a no-brainer. In a few weeks, the 7D’s were gone as well. I will miss the larger viewfinder and and AF-point joystick of the 7D but the lighter weight, improved High ISO images, and 600 series speedlight control are too compelling to pass up.

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/50th | ISO 1250

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Canon 70D | 70-200 4 IS Zoom | left ƒ4.0 @ 1/125th ISO 200 | right ƒ4.0 @ 1/200th ISO 500

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Canon 70D | EF-S 10-22 Zoom | ƒ3.5 @ 1/60th I ISO 2500

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Canon 70D | left 85mm 1.8 USM ƒ2.8 @ 1/125th ISO 100 | right EF-S 60 Macro ƒ2.8 @ 1/100th ISO 2500

All images were converted from RAW with Adobe Lightroom release candidate 5.2 and a web sharpening / resizing routine in Photoshop CC.

These weddings photographed entirely on Canon 70D

  • rahul ranadive - September 13 - 12:49 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the 70D. I am a photographer/film maker from India. I was close to buying the 5D3 as my one camera, still/video option (the 6D is great for stills but bad on moire?!)It looks like i will go for the 70D for now and look for the next FF from Canon.

    Are you happy printing 24×36 at lets say ISO 400-1600. That will be range I will be working on for a documentary project(without additional lights) with a print exhibition and a 10min video as the output.

    I hope you have the time to respond inspite of the busy schedule.

    Best Wishes!
    Rahul

  • tomK - September 13 - 8:35 am

    Thanks Rahul — I prefer canvas printing for large output, and have excellent 24×36’s from the 60D and 7D … the 70D would offer a touch more resolution. Best wishes on your project!

  • Dean Pearson - September 13 - 9:00 am

    Great review of the Canon 70D Tom. You have a great eye and very good writing skills. I just received my Canon 70D from Mike’s Camera in Denver this week to replace my Canon 60D. The 70D will back up and be my second camera to my 1DX. I mainly wanted improved auto-focus which I already amy seeing from the 70D and improved FPS. I started 10 years ago with the 10D,then 20D then to the 5D 1, 5D 2 and I really like the size of this 70D. The new capacitvie touch screen was a nice surprise as well. Like you, disappointed that Canon removed the XXD line from the qualified list of cameras on CPS.
    Dean Pearson – South Dakota

  • John Herron - September 19 - 4:50 am

    Hi, |I was thinking about changing my 60D for the 70D and you have made up my mind for me many thanks for you views, great photos

  • Steve - September 22 - 7:52 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Brilliant work and thanks for the review. My only question is, I have noticed several different lenses used in these images. How many lenses do you take on a shoot?

    Hope to hear from you!

  • Canon 70D Real World review by a Wedding Photographer. | F-Stop - September 25 - 6:01 pm

    […] Just click on the following link: to read Tom’s Canon 70D Wedding Photographer Review. […]

  • Luke Oman - September 29 - 5:29 pm

    CPS USA will still service the XXD line of cameras if a CPS member owns them, they just no longer count for CPS points.

  • Sarnim Dean - October 20 - 12:41 pm

    Enjoyed this review. Spot on in many respects. I’m considering getting the EF 50 1.4 with my 70D for portraits. Have you had experience with this lens? Wondering why you don’t use it.
    Thanks

  • tomK - October 21 - 1:22 pm

    Thanks Sarnim. I’ve had a heck of time settling on a 50mm lens. Rented a 50L that I loved but had issues with two copies I purchased (and returned). I love the Sigma 50, but it has focus issues in low light. Canon’s 50 1.4 varies so much from copy to copy. The one I purchased (and returned) had horrible bokeh and couldn’t focus well in wedding reception (dark) light. My search for a 50mm lens could be a Hollywood movie, lol.

  • Shejin - February 22 - 7:49 pm

    One of the best Reviews about Canon 70D. The pictures are really amazing. So I too bought a 70D for Pro Wedding Photography. Could you please provide more links to see the pictures that you shot.

  • Anonymous - April 14 - 2:20 pm

    […] […]

  • Oscar - April 15 - 12:42 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Great picture. I have Canon 70D and sigma 18-35 1.8 Lenses. Should I replace my sigma lenses with canon EF-S 10-22 Zoom ? the sample picture that you show is really nice.
    Thank you.

  • tomK - April 15 - 12:45 pm

    At ƒ1.8, your Sigma will offer a unique shallow depth-of-field wide angle look for APS-C you can’t get anywhere else. The 10-22 goes very wide, but isn’t very fast (ƒ3.5) so that creamy wide angle look just isn’t available. That said, it’s a super sharp ultra wide angle with low distortion. Maybe you can rent/hire one to see if it’s to your liking.

  • Allan - May 19 - 8:53 am

    thanks Tom for the perspective.
    I bought the 70d instead of the 5D3 and was kind of regretting the ff crop, low light iso issues, but thanks to posts like yours reminded me of my reasoning for getting the 70d….
    I will keep my 70d and later 5d3.
    I was also drawn the 70-200 but not liking the price tag on the f2.8is-II, but research showed similar IQ from the f4is which was much better than the f2.8 vrsion1. I am now caught between the f4is and the Tamron f2.8 VC(also because of the none intrusive black case.WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    thanks again.

  • tomK - May 19 - 8:57 am

    Thanks Allan. I use the 70-200 ƒ4 IS in well-lit situations and love it. Perfect Summer afternoon ceremony lens on the 70D. The maximum ƒ4 will have the camera hunting in after-sunset reception moments. Then I go to the 85/1.8 and 135L. Those three lenses cost as much as the 2.8, but now you have back ups and options. Good luck!

  • Allan - May 19 - 9:11 am

    hi OSCAR, this this would help, I have the tamron 10-24 which is just as brilliant as the 10-22, I am getting the Sigma 18-35 in addition, because that range is more versatile that the wide(i use mine 20% of the time and 17-50mm.f2.8/50mm and 18-135(video) the rest of the time)

  • Robert Johnson - September 3 - 7:22 pm

    Truly amazing photos. I have a 70D and it inspired me to look at these. Everything about this was perfect…until the 7D was mentioned. It seems all I have heard when ever the 70d is reviewed or showcased; “the 7D is always better.” I know it is not your intent to do that, but what is not mentioned is that the 70D is a very unique caliber of a camera. I wish that people would stop comparing it to the 7D or any other professional line of camera because it is taking opportunities away for people to sample this incredible camera. So many people are waiting for the much anticipated “7D Mark II.” I agree that the buffer is not like that of the 7D, however the 70 D is much lighter, has a newer sensor and much more innovative. This summer I did photo shoots of osprey and bald eagles in my kayak and I never would even think about carrying any camera because it would be to risky!

    Once again the photos are prize winning; please give the 70 D the credit it deserves; a prosumer mid grade professional quality camera.

    Thank you,

    Robert J

  • JOe - September 22 - 11:48 am

    I have to say as a wedding shooter myself you’re extremely talented. It just goes to show you don’t need my 1dx to get great wedding shots. Thanks for sharing a unique review!

  • Kiron - October 4 - 4:54 pm

    Hi Tom,
    I was reading some reviews on Canon 70D + 10-22 combo and landed up here. I must say these are the best shots I have ever seen with this combination. I too own the same but to be honest I have not been that satisfied with the results till now. Most of the time images are soft. I have 70-200 lens which has been tack sharp and no issues so far. I am wondering if it is my lens issue or did you do something different other than being awesomely talented!

    Thanks and keep clicking!

    Cheers,
    Kiron

  • tomK - October 5 - 9:21 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Kiron. I’ve had two 10-22’s and both were very very sharp (center image) wide open, especially on the wide side. It’s hard not to like that lens, though the current high-megapixel APS-C censors do highlight the purple fringe CA in high contrast scenes (which I shoot a lot). That lens has been my constant companion for over 300 weddings. If you see a wide image on my website/blog, chances are 99% it was shot with the 10-22.

  • Karla - November 23 - 5:56 pm

    Wow! These are awesome!! Quick question, do you force the flash on most of your photos? Thanks so much :)

  • tomK - November 23 - 6:02 pm

    Thanks Karla — not sure what ‘force the flash’ exactly means but there’s a lot of strobist-style speedlight work at play here. Most of it is off-camera flashes fired remotely. Currently I have a fleet of Canon EX600-RT’s.

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