Some photographers get a bit worked up about Canon's choice to use polycarbonate rather than metal for some of its camera bodies - including the Canon 70D' - but the new camera feels nice and solid and seals ensure that it should survive some exposure to the weather.
Not surprisingly there are no major changes to the overall shape and feel of the replacement to the Canon 60D. The buttons and dials are sensibly arranged and the deep grip has a textured coating that makes it feel secure in your hand.
As with the Canon 700D and Canon 100D, the brand has opted to use capacitive technology for the Canon 70D's touchscreen, and this ensures that it's very responsive. We suspect that even those who don't intend to use the touchscreen will find that they do gradually, starting with swiping from image to image in review mode, perhaps progressing to pinch-zooming to check images' sharpness, and then eventually progressing to taking more control over the camera via the screen.
One downside to a touchscreen is that the screen inevitably gets covered in fingerprints, and this makes the image harder to see, especially in bright light. Nevertheless we found that the Canon 70D's screen provides a pretty decent view in most lighting conditions. Although they are often present when shooting outside, it doesn't suffer too much from reflections.
The touchscreen is particularly useful for quickly setting the AF point in Live View and Movie mode, It can also be used to set the AF point when shooting with the camera held to the eye, just press the AF point selection button and then tap the desire point on the screen (or use the navigation keys). However, you need to be careful that your nose doesn't pres the screen when the AF point options are displayed otherwise there's a good chance that you'll select the wrong AF point.
Because the Canon 70D has a new, faster AF system in Live View mode, we think that users are far more likely to compose images on the LCD screen than they may have been in the past. But it's quite bulky compared with a compact system camera (CSC), and it doesn't feel totally natural to hold it away from your face to compose images on the screen.
However, it's very useful when shooting with the camera on a tripod or composing images at awkward angles - it's here that Touch-shutter mode comes into its own, since it enables you to set the AF point, focus the lens and trigger the shutter with a single touch on the screen.
No matter how good the LCD screen may be, there are times when it just seems more natural to compose an image in the viewfinder. It's much easier to follow a moving subject with the camera held to your eye, for example, than when it's held in front of you. Because it's a DSLR, the Canon EOS 70D has an optical viewfinder, and it's a nice bright unit. However, since it 'only' covers 98% of the frame (the 60D's covers 96%), you may still find the odd surprise around the edges of your images.
One advantage that electronic viewfinders offer is the ability to display the image as it will be captured. Naturally as an optical finder the Canon 70D's viewfinder can't do this, but it does have an electronic overlay that displays key settings.
There are also three new icons at the top of the viewfinder that indicate the AF point selection mode. In the past we have found some of Canon's icons difficult to interpret, but these three make it clear which option has been selected.
It's also easy to change the mode, because Canon has introduced a new button just to the side of the shutter release. A single press activates the system, and subsequent presses toggle through the selection mode options. Alternatively, a single press of the new button followed by presses of the navigation keys selects the AF point to use. It's a great system.
The viewfinder can also display an electronic level to indicate whether the camera is on an even keel or not. In the past, Canon has used the AF point display for its electronic level, but this has the disadvantage of switching off the minute the shutter release button is pressed.
While this level is still available, Canon has also given the 70D the option to display a new icon at the bottom of the viewfinder, and this remains visible even when the shutter release is pressed. It's a much better system, but it takes a little while to get used to how sensitive the level is. Because the level icon isn't illuminated, it's also quite hard to see when shooting dark subjects, or when shooting at night-time.