The Canon EOS 70D is the latest mid-range model from the Japanese imaging company, replacing the EOS 60D. It comes four long years after the 60D, during which a huge amount has changed in the world of cameras.

As such, the EOS 70D isn't just a spec refresh, it arrives with new technology at its heart, as well as offering a range of essential and familiar features, along with a few added bonuses. In those terms, the Canon EOS 70D should appeal to those 60D owners who want a little more, or those with an entry-level Canon DSLR like the 600D, who want a lot more.

In the hand, the Canon EOS 70D feels instantly familiar and the layout of controls reflects those of the 60D with a rear dial and shoulder display, however things have evolved, so the placement of controls feels better than before.

Canon EOS 70D preview

On first picking up the camera, everything is intuitive enough to a Canon user and we're pleased to see that, although there's a huge focus on live view in this camera, you can still find your way around the controls without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

The viewfinder is bright and sharp and packed full of information, with additional features added to it. It's only 98 per cent field of view, which is a shame, but there's now a level as well as grid overlay to aid in composition, both in the viewfinder. We especially like the level, which can be made to illuminate in Terminator-style red when the frame is filled with a dark subject, as it saves time in post-processing if you can shoot level to begin with.

In addition, there's better indication of the autofocus points you're using, with a new AF area control located to the left of the shutter button that will let you switch in a flash. You can, like on all Canon DSLRs, select the individual point to use, but you can also quickly dial through groups points in the AF area, for example, if your subject isn't in focus as you'd like.

To aid with speed and accuracy, and enhance the tracking of moving subjects, there are 19 cross-type AF points spread widely across the frame.

Canon EOS 70D preview

Focusing is one of the key highlights for the Canon EOS 70D. The AF system, when using the viewfinder, is the same as the EOS 7D, but the real innovation comes from Canon's new Dual Pixel CMOS AF. This is a different system from all other Canon cameras; the first of its kind.

The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system puts two photodiodes in each pixel of the 20.2-megapixel sensor, sitting behind the pixel lens. That allows two different streams of information to be read, so the camera can use this for focusing, before it takes the shot.

READ: Canon EOS 70D videos show off Dual Pixel CMOS AF prowess

The result is a system that's much faster than previous live view focusing systems. We've yet to really put this through its paces, which we'll do in a full review of the Canon EOS 70D when we have more time with it. But in our quick play we found it to be faster and more reliable, with less time spent seeking and confirming focus.

In addition, you can use the 3-inch touch display on the rear to switch focus points, so you can achieve smooth transitions really easier. We initially had some concerns that this brand new sensor technology could result in increased noise, but Canon assures us that there's no drop in quality of the image captured. You'll also get up to ISO 12,800 in standard shooting for those low light shots. 

Canon EOS 70D preview

The Canon EOS 70D sits in on the Digic 5+ processor, so will give you 7fps shooting at full resolution. The buffer is generous too, giving you 16 raw (14 bit) or 65 jpeg images before there's any slowdown in the camera (using a UHS-1 card). That makes the 70D an ideal companion for sports or wildlife photography where you have to capture the perfect moment.

The Canon EOS 70D has another trick up its sleeve too. It's one of the few DLSRs at this level that will offer Wi-Fi, not only for sharing images with the wider world, but also offering Wi-Fi Direct so you don't need a network – just a compatible device. To aid wildlife photography, you'll be able to use the EOS Utility app for remote control.

So there's a lot on offer in the new Canon DSLR. Not only is there innovative technology that will make live view and video shooting faster and easier, but it offers a great level of specification for those looking for a camera that's versatile. Best of all, it isn't a huge camera, measuring 139 x 104.3 x 78.5mm and weighing 755g without the lens, but with the LP-E6 battery that's good for 900+ shots.

That Canon EOS 70D looks like a great new model in Canon's mid-range. It's due to hit stores in late-August, priced at £1,079 (RRP) body only, or £1,399 with the 18-135mm kit lens pictured here. Even better, if you pre-order from selected retailers, you can get a free camera bag, also pictured in the gallery below.