Equipment

Cracking Open the 7D II

Published November 3, 2014

OK, I have to admit I really like the Canon 7D Mark II. I didn’t want to because it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to see the new Canon chip foundry that would be cranking out high-resolution sensors. But despite wanting to hate the 22-megapixel APS-C camera, after a fairly short exposure to the autofocus system, I have to admit I like it. There’s just something about getting every shot in focus every time that’s appealing to me.

However, when I read that Canon claimed the 7D II has “4 times better weather sealing than the original 7D” I went mildly nuts. Most of you know I hate marketing drivel. HATE IT. Most of you know I’m generally not impressed with weather sealing claims. Unless something has changed in the last 30 seconds, weather sealing still means, “the warranty doesn’t cover water damage.”

So when I read the claim “4 times more weather sealing” my inner cynic just thought 4 times zero equals zero. But I wanted to be fair so I decided I’d open up the 7D II before I wrote a scathing article about making ridiculous weather sealing claims. Which results in me once again writing an article where I have to admit my assumptions were wrong less correct than I would have liked. (Sorry, I forgot for a moment this was the internet where no one ever says “I was wrong.”)

 

The 7D and 7D Mk II looking awfully similar in front view.

 

For those who want to take my word for it and skip on to some other blog, the Canon 7D Mk II may be the best weather-sealed camera I’ve run across. It’s excellent. For those who would rather see for themselves, gory camera dissection pictures follow!!

I’ll add, because someone always wants to comment about the poor quality of my dissection photos, that you’re welcome to try shooting with one hand while taking two cameras apart with the other hand under 4 tungsten hot-lights, making sure you have the camera back together by the end of your lunch break. We don’t do high-quality product photos back in the repair department. But better this way than if we let the product photo people try to take the cameras apart.

On to Some Dissection

The backs come off the cameras almost identically, but once they are off we start to see some differences.

 

Backs open on the 7D II (top) and 7D (bottom). The flex to the back assembly is disconnected already on the 7d.

 

The first thing we noticed were thick, flexible rubber gaskets (red arrows) sealing the back of the 7DII that aren’t there on the 7D.

 

The side panels (where the accessory connections live) look very similar at first glance.

 

But only the 7D II has rubber gaskets around the edges.

 

A Bit of Non-Weather Sealing Stuff

Let’s leave the weather sealing for a second. Looking at the back assemblies shows a minor change most of you won’t care about. If you own a rental shop, though, you really would care about it. There’s been some strong bracing (green lines) placed around the LCD on the 7D Mk II that aren’t there on the 7D (or the 5D series either). One problem with the 7D was that you could push the LCD hard enough with your thumb to make it sink into the camera a couple of millimeters. It required disassembling the back to put the LCD back in place. It’s nice to see the issue addressed even though it was a minor problem. While we’re looking at the back, though, you can see that the 7D II has thick gaskets around the viewfinder (red arrows), which weren’t there on the 7D.

 

Back assemblies of the 7D II (left) and 7D (right).

 

If you look at the back of the camera there’s another thick  gasket around the viewfinder, which makes this area doubly sealed!

 

After removing the shielding from the backs, it’s obvious the chip sets are completely different.

 

Canon 7D back with shielding removed.

 

Canon 7D Mk II with shielding removed.

 

Obviously, the big jumper flex that crosses the circuit board in the 7D is gone with the 7D II. We sort of hated losing that jumper flex in the center of the camera because we thought it was kind of pretty. But the new camera has an exceptionally cool flex in the bottom right corner that Aaron has named the argyle flex. It’s not quite as cool as the jumper flex, but it does somewhat make up for the esthetic loss. OK, camera geek turned off.

The argyle flex

 

For those among you who intend to double-check our results by disassembling your own 7D II, I will help you out by showing you the location of the official Canon-hidden-circuit-board screw. There’s one of these in every camera, I assume to keep some untrained person like me from removing the PCB.

 

Before we get back to looking at seals, I’ll show you one other thing I really like. There’s a small fiberoptic cable in the 7D that tends to slip out of its holder on the circuit board (if you take things apart, not from just using the camera).  It’s held by the forceps in the picture below, with the red arrow pointing to it and the small white plastic slot it slides into (and out of).

The 7D Mk II has a much more robust snap-in connector. Another minor, but significant to me, improvement.

 

Accessory ports soldered to the PCB can be bad, because if they get tugged on enough to break you have bought yourself a new PCB. On the 7D the microphone port was soldered to the PCB (the round one on the left). Because microphone cables tend to get jerked, this was a problem for us. On the 7D II the microphone port is moved off of the PCB and connected to it by a flex.

 

One more thing about the internals, then we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled programming. A quick glance at the deep boards shows the CF card slot is on its own circuit board (the SD card is part of the main board). This is important because CF pins bend or break sometimes. Having a separate board makes replacement easier when that happens.

 

This was Supposed to be about Weather Sealing, Wasn’t It?

Oh, yeah. Well, there’s plenty more of that to show you. The bottom plate of the camera has another gasket around the edges.

And there’s even an internal one around the tripod mount. (Just to stop repeating myself, none of these were present in the original 7D.)

The front plate has gaskets around every edge (red arrows).

And on the outside of the camera body plates, under the grips, most of the joints are sealed with waterproof tape.

Of course,  there are gaskets around the top assembly.

Heck, there’s even a gasket around the diopter adjusting knob, something I’ve never seen before.

So there you have it. This is, by dissection at least, the most thoroughly weather-sealed camera I’ve ever run across. (I would point out that I don’t take apart every camera so please don’t change my wording to say it’s the most weather sealed camera. I don’t know that.) But this isn’t just market-speak weather sealing. It’s a thorough and complete attempt to seal every possible crack and crevice the camera has.

And yes, I know what you’re going to ask. Will I stick it under running water and see if it still works? I really think it would be fine. But I’ve already been wrong with one assumption today, so I don’t want to push my luck. Besides, it’s not my camera.

Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

Lensrentals.com

November, 2014

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • Manuel Pereira

    Mr. Roger

    Thank you for your time and reply.

    Manuel

  • Roger Cicala

    Manuel, that sounds like a bad circuit board in the camera, not something that we know how to fix. We’d send that to Nikon.

    Roger

  • Manuel Pereira

    Mr. Roger and Aaron

    I have learned lots of things from your teardown and tech. discussions. I am new in DSLR repairs.

    Please if possible can I get a little help if you are having time.

    I have Nikon d7000 for repair Rear LCD showing colour lines on every click of image, cross checking memory card shows same image with colour lines. On checking connectors all is well.

    I hope your knowledge will help.

    Thank you
    Manuel

  • Jim Delaney

    The chips where Canon says the dual DiGiC 6 are supposed to be says Samsung. I thought Canon made their own DiGiC 6 chips. Can anyone explain? The original 7D DiGiC chips are clearly labelled.

  • John McMillin

    Like Abe, I’d be interested in your deconstruction analysis on a Pentax. Weather resistance is their key sales argument these days. I was just cross checking your photos with a diagram of the seals on a K-50 review

    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k50/pentax-k50A.HTM

    And I found seals in all the same places except the diopter control. IR passes along a claim of “81-point weather sealing,” which to some of us might be as important as 91-point AF. And this is not the top Pentax model, but a midrange camera selling for under $400, or a measly hundred more with two weather-resistant kit zooms.

    I enjoy your disassembly reports. Reminds me of the teardown reviews done by Modern Photography in the ’70s and ’80s, which gave interesting information on the craftwork and materials under the skin.

  • Rasmus

    Personally, I believe (mainly for mirrorless cameras for various reasons) that one very useful sealing would be to seal off the part where the sensor is from the rest of the camera. Ideally one would be able to remove the body cap and pour water straight onto the sensor without (assuming that there are no moving parts) having to do much more than clean the sensor afterwards. Sealing the camera off this way would make the seal between body and lens a lot less critical.

    Of course lenses might still be damaged by water if the body-lens seal leaks unless there is a seal around the rear element.

    Oh, by the way, how are weatherproof external zooms built? To me, anything with tubing that extends seem very hard to seal off effectively unless it has twist locks like tripod legs tend to have.

  • Aaron

    @Tony
    Ah, I see about the IPxx ratings. I hadn’t familiarized myself with them to know they even rate down to basically very low levels of tolerance. I always thought of them as going from somewhat dust/water resistant all the way to extremely resistant. Thanks for enlightening me 🙂

  • Abe

    Nice to see weather sealing getting better for other mfg. It would be nice to see you compare the weather sealing on this 7Dmii to a pentax K3. Pentax is the leader in weather sealing imo.

    Great work on this write up!

    Cheers!

  • Tony

    At present many DSLR bodies would generally be understood to perform at a rating of IP40 (small solid chunks like sand will be excluded but not dust, earning the “4”; call them “0” for no water protection). The 7D-II looks like it might squeak by at IP51 (it might exclude dust fairly well, and maybe dripping water from exactly straight above).

    The Nikon AW1 interchangeable lens camera family looks like it would be IP68 (dust proof + immersion beyond 1 meter).

    A decent target for a rugged workhorse DSLR (what is popularly labeled a “pro” body) might reasonably shoot for IP54 (dust protected + water splash from any angle). But as you say, lenses themselves need some rework to get there, especially at the mounting interface. It can be done but it will need more than a simple rubber skirt that is in casual contact. The gasket will need to be compressed into firm contact. And then, we’ll be facing having to replace those gaskets occasionally. That would be our end of the deal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

  • Aaron

    @Tony
    IPXX ratings are probably prohibitively expensive for SLR/ILC due to the interchangeable lenses. Not that they can’t do it, but that it probably would expensive. Those snorkeling compacts that are natively water proof (ignoring the housings) don’t seem to have a zoom that extends out from the body, which effectively means they don’t have any external movement to have to seal up like you would on most SLR/ILC zoom lenses. Plus, they aren’t interchangeable so you don’t have that additional point of leaks. In short, as I said, it’s not that they can’t, but that it’d be too expensive and too limited of a market. Which is why there are housings for them.

    Now, as for “splash proof”, I do think they need to do a better job, especially for lenses & lens-body interface, which I think is the weakest point for water leakage. I’d love to see how actually effective the weather sealing on zoom lenses are when it comes to dust and water.

  • Tony

    It’s nice that Canon is moving in the right direction here. But I’m scratching my head over their choice to not use full-perimeter gaskets. Those cut ends (even with the overlaps) are a 90% effort. This is more like an umbrella than a seal. Maybe the DSLR mechanical engineers should take a look at what their counterparts for the snorkeling-compatible compacts have been doing. This is not new stuff, it’s only new to DSLRs.
    I’m curious about the 1DX and the D4S now.

    We’re all ready for the manufacturers to start stating IPxx ratings. Then customers will be able to set aside their wishful thinking.

  • Roger Cicala

    Paul, it probably is. We haven’t dissected one of them yet.

  • Paul

    Thanks for doing this Roger. Where do other cameras rank? I thought the EM1 was supposed to be very good

  • Snakez

    Yeah, I’m with you Dr Croubie.
    Did you notice the reduction of heat-sink-surface-area…
    So all sealed up now, where is the heat venting ? nothing worse than handling a hot camera, not to mention the heat induced noise.
    And whats with the, 20th century, construction materials ?
    Its all a bit ‘ordinary’ imo…

  • Jim Thomson

    Great comment over at Canonrumors.

    “About weather sealing and build detalis

    http://wordpress.lensrentals.com/2014/11/cracking-open-the-7d-ii

    This is why I don’t buy used stuff from them :P”

    Now tht you’ve admitted to rushing the re-assembly I guess he might have a point. 🙂

  • Dr Croubie

    Wow, all those gaskets are reminding me of my Nikonos V (although, I still wouldn’t submerge the 7Dii).

    More importantly, from an electronics point-of-view, is that a Spartan-6 FPGA that I see directly behind the sensor on the 7Dii? Placing it so close is probably one step that they’ve taken to reduce read-noise from the sensor, get the signals to the processing chip ASAP before they traverse the length of the PCB.

    Interesting that they’ve gone for an FPGA though, with all of Canon’s R&D they could have made it into an ASIC to be faster and less noise. FPGAs do do one thing better than ASICs though, and that’s be software-upgradeable.
    Flashing firmware on the 7Dii thus may have the possibility to improve things like reduce read-noise and increase colour depth and such from improved algorithms (if they improve them in a few years).

  • Regarding the “argyll flex”: I suspect it’s either for shielding or providing a low impedance ground for the high speed digital signals on the traces on the other side of the flex (or both).

  • A

    Excellent article as ever Roger; thank you!

    Please could you link a high-res image of the circuit board, I can’t quite read the chips in this one…?

    Also excellent work Canon engineering team 🙂

  • Aaron

    I think my real question is, how does this compare to the 1DX? Or previous 1D-series cameras in terms of weather sealing?

  • Roger Cicala

    Carvac, there were gaskets around the edges of each. The battery door was actually gasketed on the original 7D.

  • CarVac

    How about the card and battery doors?

  • This, along with the performance indications I’ve read so far, makes me think about selling some of my older gear and adding a 7DII for sports and wildlife. Thanks Roger and Aaron!

  • Wally

    Nice to see some effort put into weather sealing. As far as hot tungsten lights go, get yourself some nice LED floods, I did for my copy stand and what a difference. Instead of setting up then turning the lights on for a few seconds to set the exposure and take the picture, I just flick on the lights and leave them on till done, never even gets warm. Also my Canon 5DmII which never got the white balance correct under tungsten does very well in auto WB with the LEDs.

  • Great job as always Roger – love your reaction to marketing drivel but dang, they did a good job. Funny how that works – make a good product, get good reviews!

    While Canon may not admit it, they should be real happy about your Blog post because you have a LOT of credibility and your side-by-side dissection clearly shows the differences … although I still wonder how they *measure* 4x weather sealing … 😉

  • NancyP

    Thank you, this is pretty interesting for me because I do bird photography, and have been considering upgrading to the 7D2 from the 60D. Weatherproofing is a good thing, particularly if this camera is used with one of the Big Whites, which are more or less “weatherproof” enough to not wilt in light rain (I see rain covers on the lenses at sports events). My current Little White (EF 400 f/5.6L) is not weatherproof, I use a rain cover on it.

  • Roger Cicala

    Matthias, we did but that’s mostly because Aaron did it. He’s way faster than I am — he is young and I am old.

  • Magnús Birgisson

    Thanks…very comprehensive…

    One question though…or a few:-)

    For the 7d2 to be the camera to take along on long hikes in inclement weather conditions like here in Iceland I guess you would need the right lens to complete the weather sealing? No use having a weather sealed camera if you leave it wide open through the lens mount. I’ve heard the L glass from Canon is weather sealed but it’s just to heavy to carry around all day. So what would be a good substitute to L glass?…the kit lens 18-135?..any other?

  • Gerd

    Question: what about the flash …

  • I am pretty sure you didn’t get it re-assembled before the lunch break was over 🙂

  • Wow! Thanks! You are a friend to photographers everywhere because you don’t sit around and spout opinions, you get in there and see what’s really going on (just like the great camera mags used to do).
    Please take your Lipitor, exercise regularly, and eat all the okra you can—we need you around for a long time.

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