DSLR Showdown: Canon 70D vs. Nikon D7100

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Written by Josh Fate - Steve's Digicams Staff Reviewer

Mid-level DSLR cameras are starting to take on features from all other cameras; including features from point-n-shoots, ILCs and all levels of DSLRs, making them more powerful and easier to use at the same time. We have put together a side-by-side comparison of two of the top mid-level DSLRs, the Canon EOS 70D and the Nikon D7100 to help show you some of the advantages and differences between the two. 

Sensors

Both the Canon EOS 70D and the Nikon D7100 feature APS-C sized image sensors. Both systems feature a sensor cleaning system to remove dirt and dust. Although they are the same size, there are some very big differences between them. The Nikon features a higher pixel count, with a 24.1-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor, for a higher resolution image than Canon. 

On the other hand; Canon's 20.2-Megapixel, Dual Pixel CMOS imaging sensor provides larger pixels and greatly increases the AF performance in several ways, which we will talk about more under the AF system. Even with the differences, both cameras produced excellent images in all lighting conditions. 

Processors

Powering these two cameras are two of the top image processors on the market. Both the Canon DIGIC 5+ and Nikon Expeed 3 image processors are capable of providing the power to handle the Intelligent Auto and multi-shot shooting modes and the continuous AF systems in both still and video shooting. 

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In the end, the advantage goes to Canon as the DIGIC 5+ is capable of providing 7.0fps high speed shooting compared to the 6.0fps that the Expeed 3 is capable of (which is still very good). During our shooting tests for each camera, the Canon also came in just a little faster in all of our other test categories as well.

AF System

The Auto-Focus systems for the two cameras both rely on TTL phase-detection when shooting with the optical viewfinders and are both incredibly fast. Canon features 19 cross-type sensors while the Nikon features 15 (out of 51 total AF points). The biggest difference comes when the user is shooting stills or video in Live View mode. Here both cameras feature Continuous AF Servo and face detection modes, but the difference is the hardware that does the work. 

Nikon uses a 2016-pixel RGB sensor to control its contrast-detection AF. Canon's new Dual-Pixel CMOS sensor allows for phase-detection AF on 80% of the 20.2-Megapixel imaging sensor. This greatly increases the speed and accuracy of shooting in Live View. Continuous AF in both still image capture and video capture is more accurate and it even allows the camera to automatically change and adjust focus while the videos are recording. 

Mount/Lenses

Both Canon's and Nikon's mounting systems, the EF Mount and F Mount, are very well known and neither has any distinct advantages over the other. They feature two of the largest collections of lenses available, so whether you are a Canon or Nikon fan, you will have no problems finding a lens for any shooting situation. Currently Canon offers over 100 compatible lenses and Nikon offers over 80.
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Video Recording

Video recording is probably the biggest overall difference between the two cameras. Canon has gone above and beyond when it comes to the capabilities of their video capture and movie modes. Both cameras feature full 1080p HD video capture with on board stereo sound. Nikon allows for up to 60fps at the full 1080p while Canon tops out at 30fps. They both offer lower frame rates like the cinematic 24fps as well as lower resolution shooting as well. 

Full-Time or Continuous AF is present on both cameras as well, but Canon's new sensor has been designed specifically to keep moving subjects in focus. It also allows you to change the focus of your movies just by touching a point on the touch screen. They have also created a special line of "STM" lenses to reduce noise from vibrations and keep the autofocus smooth and unnoticeable when playing back your movies. 

Memory Cards

SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards are the medium for both cameras, but Nikon has one distinct advantage over Canon here. Nikon offers two SD cards slots where Canon offers one. The two slots offer several advantages starting with the ability to buy smaller capacity cards which are often cheaper and a better deal. 

Nikon also allows you to choose what you record two both cards.  For example, if you shoot in RAW+JPEG, RAW images can be stored on one card and JPEG images on the other, or still images on one and videos on the other. Both cameras are compatible with the fastest UHS-1 memory cards and with the full 1080p HD video capture modes talked about above, these are required for the best results.

Wireless / Wi-Fi

With just about everyone having access to the internet at all times thanks to smartphones and wireless capable tablets, the ability to connect your camera and view and share your images is becoming a very popular and useful feature. Both cameras feature WiFi capabilities that allow you to easily share your images with the world. 

Canon features a built-in system that you will always have with you. Nikon relies on the WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. This optional adapter will run you an additional $60 and has to be attached to the camera whenever you want to use it vs. just turning the feature on with the 70D.

DSLR Showdown Winner: Canon 70D

While both the Canon EOS 70D and the Nikon D7100 are fantastic cameras, the Canon has a few more advantages that would be great for anyone looking to purchase their first DSLR, or for those who already have Canon gear and are ready for an upgrade. 

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