You don't get to unbox anything or have that new-camera smell, so how much does the Canon 7D v2 firmware really transform the now three year-old model? The answer depends a bit on what you do with it, but for most users the Japanese maker deserves kudos from bringing new functionality to the model. Two changes stand out in particular, the first being a bump in the number of burst RAW images from 15 to 25, a boon for action shooters. The other biggie is manual audio level adjustment, saving videographers from the whims of automatic audio levels. Other tweaks include in-camera rating, resizing and editing of images; a max auto ISO setting; GPS compatibility; file name customization; time zone settings; and faster magnification scrolling and control screen adjustment during playback.
To test the burst and audio functions, we got our own mitts on the firmware. Prior to updating, we put the rapid-fire 8 fps camera it through the wringer and grabbed about 16-18 RAW frames in a burst. With the v2 firmware we caught exactly 25 frames before it halted, and did it again numerous times with only an occasional stutter. As for audio, the new manual setting is still a far cry from dedicated sound level dials -- on the 7D you'll need to preset the audio before filming, and are stuck with that level until you hit 'stop' again. Still, it beats the previous automatic way, which was so unusable that it forced many pros into buying external audio recorders to get anything decent. A quick test confirmed the new adjustment worked well, giving usable audio in most conditions with both internal and external mics while requiring just a little fiddling beforehand to set levels.
While hardly turning your 2009-era beast into an all-new DSLR, the new functionality brings the software in line with newer models, and still keeps the 7D near the top of the APS-C heap in many categories. Swapping out the sensor would be the only way to bump the one area where it now lags, low-light performance -- but you can't expect everything from a $1,500 shooter.