The pros and cons of merging the 80D series and the 7D series
There has been a lot of talk about the possibility that the 80D and 7D lines will merge or that that 7D Mark II will be the last of its kind. The merging of these lines is not an easy solution and is not as easy as one may think. When we mention the 80D or the 7D we are talking about the current lines that right now have the 80D and the 7D Mark II as their respective cameras.
An amalgamation between the 80D and the 7D Mark II would not be simple as just coming out with one camera body; both of these cameras have distinct ergonomic differences and features that make it difficult to combine the two. Without some clever engineering, it's nearly impossible to have the far left buttons of the 7D line with a fully articulating back LCD screen of the 80D line. Without having those buttons on the far left, a dramatic shift in camera back ergonomics would have to occur from the 7D series cameras.
If we wanted to maintain the size of the 80D, then to include an AF joystick would require drastic changes to the back ergonomics from either the 80D or the 7D series. This is apparent if you look at the backs of both the 80D and the 7D Mark II and attempt to imagine the combination of both cameras. It's almost impossible to put an AF joystick in the 80D camera back, without increasing the size of the camera. Simply put - where would you put it and shift other buttons around at the same time? how would you maintain the tactile ergonomics of the 7D series in an 80D series sized camera body? It's nearly impossible.
Canon could simply drop the 7D series and make the 80D replacement a higher end model still sporting the 80D current ergonomics with a fully articulating screen, no joystick and a simplified top button arrangement that it has now. However, for sports and birding enthusiasts that are used of the more tactile approach of the 7D series camera bodies, this would be a step backward. Many people prefer the ergonomic layout of controls on the 7D (or for that matter, the 5D series shares the same ergonomics), and for the new camera model to simply not have this would certainly disappoint more than a few customers.
We have other differences such as the larger pentaprism and viewfinder in the 7D series and the increased weather sealing and durability of the camera itself. These items make the camera bigger and heavier than the 80D, increasing both its size and weight over what it is now. Canon seems to put a great deal of importance on the size and weight of cameras, so it's possible that an amalgamated model would have to simply lose these features of the 7D line. This would certainly disappoint many that enjoy the ruggedness of the 7D series. As you can see in the above image, there is a dramatic difference in size between the 80D and the 7D lines.
Canon could do something clever such as what is I believe talked about in this patent application where some of the tactile buttons and the scroll wheel is sitting on top of the LCD panel on the back, and the LCD panel is made to be much bigger. (Japan Patent Application 2019-056856). WIth this much bigger LCD panel, your thumb could swipe the LCD panel instead of using a joystick for a similar response, and still have access to all the 7D-like tactile controls that are sitting on top of the LCD panel.
Of course, the problem with this is that you cannot necessarily have a fully articulating screen, as then you would lose all your back controls if you have the screen articulated. However, for instances where you have the screen articulating to the front of the camera, this actually may be a benefit as you would have access to all the controls since you are most likely standing in front of the camera. Some combinations of articulation would have the controls reverse either horizontally or vertically causing additional problems.
I have never really liked the re-merging of the 80D and the 7D series rumor (these two lines were originally split apart with the 7D and the 60D model), but also it just may be that there's not enough separation to justify two different camera models. If this happens it is going to make for unhappy Canon customers, as some want more 7D features, and some want the lighter smaller benefits of the 80D series cameras. There is simply no possible way of getting the benefits of both camera lines back into one line again. It could be that there's just not enough 7D customers and Canon doesn't care anymore. I find this unlikely, as Canon's mode of operation, the last 4+ years seems to be increasingly putting cameras into smaller and smaller niches.
There is another possibility. Canon will "merge" the features and performance of these two camera lines, and continue to separate them by ergonomics and fixed versus fully articulating LCD choice. This would be similar to what they did with the 800D (T7i) and the 77D Rebels, where the main differences are simply ergonomics between the two cameras. Even Canon has stated that the reason for the separation of the 800D and the 77D was simply because their controls and interface will see them appeal to different users. It could be that the 800D and 77D was a preliminary experiment to how Canon is going to adjust the 80D and 7D lines in the future, by simply changing the ergonomics to tailor them to specific use cases. This would make the rumors "true" and "not true" at the same time and maybe the ideal solution to a thorny problem.
Canon is extremely thoughtful when it comes to ergonomics and usability. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what Canon's decision is.
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