It's taken five years for the EOS 7D Mark II to supersede its original top-spec Canon APS-C model - and in current product cycles that feels like a long stretch of time. Many 7D users have been hungry for the update, so has the Mark II been worth the wait?
In short, yes. Within that time scale Canon has been busy launching plenty of other DSLR cameras, in addition to bolstering its high-end compact camera line and even launching a whole new system camera, the EOS M. Maybe the 7D Mark II was sidelined during all that planning and production going on, seeing 2014 as the year to set it for launch.
Crammed into the 7D II is an updated 20.2-megapixel sensor, a brand new 65-point autofocus system, burst shooting to a maximum 10 frames per second, and other top features such as faster processing and Full HD video capture. It's a DSLR that does what it did before, only even better in round two.
Saying that there's nothing particularly fresh about the EOS 7D Mark II. It's not as thoughtful as, say, the Samsung NX1 system camera, nor as leftfield as other non-DSLR creations like the Fujifilm X100T (hardly comparable, but interesting nonetheless).
READ: Samsung NX1 preview
In one sense that's because Canon's user base isn't going to want anything out of the ordinary. Make a product that just works and does a sterling job and what more need be done? And in the hand the 7D MkII is a beast of a DSLR. It fits like a glove, everything falls into the right place and - you guessed it - it just works.
The body isn't drastically different to its predecessor. It's still made from magnesium alloy and is both dust- and weather-sealed, but to an even better standard than before so says Canon. The finish on top looks plain and plasticky though, not like a £1600 pro tool, while the textured panels around the front and thumb rest of the camera look considerably better and, of course, serve the practical purpose of making grip easier in all conditions.
Small new tweaks such as a mode dial lock now feature, while internally the 7D II's shutter has a life to 200,000 cycles, there's a dual SD and CF card format, and built-in Speedlite transmitter for controlling off-camera flash.
It's actually hard to align huge criticism at such a camera. If you're in the market for a DSLR system then few can match or better the 7D II's new 65-point autofocus system. Each point is cross-type which means heightened sensitivity in both portrait and landscape orientation. We snapped trampoliners bouncing around at pace outside of Messe in Cologne no problems.
Whirring shots off at 10fps was a joy and, again, no problems there. The autofocus system zipped into focus at pace and happily tracked our fast moving subject. Just like the Canon EOS 1D X full-frame DSLR - which is exceptional - the 7D Mark II utilises the same Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Auto Focus (iTR EOS) technology.
The arrangement of these autofocus points covers a significant portion of the frame, with 25 of them to the centre in a square formation. Some cameras can feel too heavily weighted to the centre of the frame, but the 7D II doesn't ignore the edges either.
If you do want to jostle through the AF area selection modes then a new thumb switch means you needn't take the viewfinder away from your eye. This lives around the edge of the joystick control on the rear and is easy to reach and thumb in order to adjust plenty of other settings, including focus lock and centre/current AF point toggle as two of our favourites. As the joystick sits above this switch, it's easy to define the two without the need to look. Sounds like a small change, but it'll make a big difference to experienced shooters we suspect.
In terms of sensor, the EOS 7D MkII adopts the same 20.2-megapixel chip as its 70D cousin. If shots are the same or even better then, well, it's job done from Canon. Even the live view mode, again fairly quick like the 70D, makes for enhanced autofocus during video capture. Shoot in bright light, shoot in low light, shoot practically forever: the 7D MkII's ISO 100-16,000 range puts most lighting conditions at your fingertips - or push this to ISO 51,200 extended if you really need.
If there's criticism to be had it's the 7D II's lack of Wi-Fi (come on Canon, it's 2014), no 4K video capture - Panasonic GH4 is already out and the Samsung NX1 due soon, both capable of 4K - and the rear LCD remains fixed without touch-sensitivity or a tilt-angle mount. Some will see those final points as gimmicky throwaways, but if they were available we think it would push the 7D Mark II from good to an even greater accomplishment.
Overall Canon has taken the APS-C camera concept and, from the limited amount we've seen, delivered a model no competitor can quite match in this class. It might not reinvent the wheel or be "exciting" per se, but it builds from a strong foundation and solidifies that into an even more concrete photographic tool.
The EOS 7D Mark II will be available from November with an RRP of £1,600 for the body only.