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Why YOLO v7 is better than CNNs

Nov 8th, 2023

Object detection plays a crucial role in computer vision applications, and over the years, various approaches have been developed to tackle this problem. Among these approaches, two have gained significant attention: YOLO (You Only Look Once) and CNN (Convolutional Neural Network). In this article, we will delve into the question of why YOLO v7, one of the latest iterations of the YOLO series, is considered superior to traditional CNNs for certain applications. We will explore the merits and capabilities of both methods and provide insights into their practical implications.

Understanding CNNs:

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs):

CNNs are the cornerstone of image processing and computer vision. They operate by processing images through a series of convolutional layers that apply filters or kernels to the input image, producing feature maps capturing hierarchical features. CNNs excel in tasks like image classification and object detection. However, their multi-stage architecture presents challenges for object detection, where the number of objects and their spatial locations within an image are not fixed in advance.


Traditional CNNs rely on multi-stage processes for object detection. They first generate region proposals using algorithms like selective search to identify areas likely to contain objects. The second stage involves a region-based CNN processing these proposals for object classification and bounding box regression. However, these multi-stage architectures have limitations when handling object detection in scenarios with variable object counts and spatial locations. The need for a predefined number of region proposals hampers adaptability to changing object sizes and positions. Additionally, the accuracy of region proposals depends on the quality of initial algorithms like selective search, which generate a fixed set of proposals that may not adequately adapt to dynamic objects and scenes.


In summary, while CNNs have greatly advanced computer vision, their architecture poses challenges for object detection tasks requiring adaptability to variable object counts and spatial locations. These limitations have led to the development of alternative approaches like R-CNN and YOLO, aiming to provide more efficient and adaptable solutions to real-world object detection problems.

Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (R-CNN):


In 2014, the computer vision community witnessed a significant breakthrough with the introduction of the Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (R-CNN). R-CNN was conceived to address the limitations of traditional Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) in image recognition. It tackled the problem of object detection by proposing a method that carefully selected a multitude of bounding boxes, which could potentially encompass the objects of interest. These selected regions were then subjected to advanced feature extraction using CNNs.


R-CNN laid the foundation for a family of models that aimed to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of object detection, a journey that led to the development of Fast R-CNN, and Faster R-CNN. In this narrative, we explore the evolution of the R-CNN family and how each iteration contributed to a deeper understanding of object detection, revolutionizing the field in the process.

Fast R-CNN:

Comparison between R-CNN and Fast R-CNN

In 2016, the quest for improved processing speed led to the introduction of Faster R-CNN, building upon the foundation laid by Fast R-CNN. The key innovation in Faster R-CNN was the introduction of an end-to-end Region Proposal Network (RPN), which proposed regions of interest without the need for the computationally expensive selective search. This breakthrough significantly enhanced processing speed and accuracy, making real-time performance on GPUs a reality. 

Faster R-CNN

While Faster R-CNN successfully addressed the inefficiencies of region proposal generation, the major drawback still resided in the considerable time taken for this step. The performance of the system was intricately tied to the performance of the preceding region proposal network.

YOLO: A Game Changer:

YOLO, short for You Only Look Once, introduced a paradigm shift in the world of object detection. The key innovation of YOLO is its ability to perform real-time object detection in a single pass through the neural network, making it incredibly fast and efficient. Unlike traditional CNNs, which use complex multi-stage pipelines, YOLO uses a single unified model for both region proposal and classification. This approach reduces the computational load significantly and offers substantial speed improvements.

Testing time comparison of R-CNNs

YOLO v7:

One of the latest versions of YOLO, YOLO v7, builds upon the success of its predecessors. YOLO v7 introduces various improvements in terms of accuracy, speed, and robustness. It incorporates advanced techniques like anchor boxes, feature pyramid networks, and attention mechanisms to enhance its object detection capabilities. These enhancements position YOLO v7 as a compelling choice for applications that demand high-speed and high-precision object detection.


YOLO has continually evolved to address the demands of real-time object detection, and YOLO v7 stands at the forefront of this evolution, offering even more accurate and efficient solutions for a wide range of applications.

YOLOv7 for real time object detection

Comparative Analysis:

To grasp the superiority of YOLO v7 over traditional Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and even the R-CNN family, it’s essential to conduct a comprehensive comparative analysis. This analysis takes into account performance metrics and architectural considerations, shedding light on why YOLO v7 stands as a game-changer for specific applications.


  • Single Shot Detection: YOLOv7 is a real-time object detection system that falls under the category of single-shot detectors. It processes the entire image in one forward pass, making it faster compared to some other methods.
  • Architecture: YOLOv7 has a more efficient and streamlined architecture compared to its predecessors. It utilizes a series of convolutional layers to predict bounding boxes and class probabilities.
  • Speed and Accuracy: YOLOv7 aims to strike a balance between speed and accuracy, making it suitable for various applications where real-time detection is crucial.
  • Object Detection: YOLOv7 is primarily designed for object detection, and it excels in detecting objects in images or videos with a single pass.


  • General Purpose: CNNs are a broad category of neural networks used for various computer vision tasks, including image classification, object detection, and image segmentation.
  • Architectural Variability: CNNs come in various architectures, including LeNet, AlexNet, VGG, and more. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Training and Inference: CNNs typically require more training data and computational resources compared to YOLOv7. They may not be as suitable for real-time applications.


  • Region Proposal: R-CNNs are known for their two-stage detection process. They first generate region proposals using methods like selective search and then apply CNNs to these proposed regions for object classification.
  • Localization Accuracy: R-CNNs tend to have good localization accuracy as they operate on region proposals. However, this multi-stage approach can be computationally expensive.
  • Object Detection: R-CNNs were initially designed for object detection tasks and have evolved into Faster R-CNN and Mask R-CNN variants to improve speed and accuracy.


YOLOv7 is designed for real-time object detection and is efficient for this specific task.
CNNs are more general-purpose and can be used for various computer vision tasks, but they might not be as fast as YOLOv7 for object detection.
R-CNNs are effective for object detection, especially in terms of localization accuracy, but their multi-stage approach can be slower and requires more computational resources.

The choice between YOLOv7, CNNs, and R-CNNs depends on the specific requirements of your project, such as the need for real-time processing, accuracy, and available resources.

Performance Metrics:

Performance metrics serve as a pivotal yardstick for evaluating object detection algorithms. YOLO v7 consistently emerges as the frontrunner in this comparison, surpassing CNNs in both accuracy and speed.

YOLOv7 compared to previous versions


YOLO v7’s superiority in terms of accuracy is a defining feature. It excels in achieving precise object detection results, often matching or even surpassing the performance of CNNs. 


  • YOLO v7: YOLO v7 excels in accuracy due to its advanced architecture, incorporating techniques like anchor boxes, feature pyramid networks, and attention mechanisms. This model consistently achieves precise object detection results across diverse object classes.


  • CNNs: Traditional CNNs are renowned for their accuracy in image recognition tasks but often entail more complex multi-stage pipelines for object detection. While they can achieve high accuracy, they may lag behind YOLO v7 in terms of speed.


Where YOLO v7 truly shines is in its speed. This model has the unique ability to process images in real-time.



  • YOLO v7: The hallmark of YOLO v7 is its exceptional speed. It processes images in real-time with a single pass through the network, making it ideal for applications that demand swift decision-making based on accurate object detection.
  • CNNs: Traditional CNNs, despite their accuracy, frequently rely on multi-stage processing, which can be significantly slower, potentially compromising real-time requirements.

In conclusion, YOLO v7’s competitive edge over R-CNN and other traditional CNNs is clear. It offers a harmonious blend of precision and efficiency, making it a compelling choice for applications that demand rapid, accurate object detection. Its real-time capabilities and advanced architectural innovations position it as a game-changer in the field of object detection, setting new standards for both effectiveness and speed.

Challenges and Limitations:

While YOLO v7 showcases remarkable advantages in terms of accuracy and speed, it is essential to acknowledge that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Certain applications demand a different approach, particularly those requiring the utmost precision and fine-grained object recognition, such as medical image analysis. In these scenarios, more complex CNN architectures may still hold a competitive edge. Key Takeaways:


  • YOLO v7 excels in real-time object detection, offering a unique balance of accuracy and speed.
  • For applications prioritizing precision and fine-grained object recognition, more complex CNN architectures may be preferable.
  • YOLO v7’s architecture and innovations position it as a game-changer for a wide range of real-time object detection tasks.

Future Trends:

As we look to the future, the realm of object detection is continuously evolving. YOLO v7 serves as a testament to the ongoing innovation in this field. Researchers are exploring ways to further enhance the speed and accuracy of object detection models. The evolution of YOLO and similar approaches promises even more exciting developments in the years to come.


One of these  newcomers has arrived on the scene, YOLOv8. While this model doesn’t come with a published research paper, it has taken the computer vision community by storm with its remarkable performance. With an impressive mean Average Precision (mAP) of 50.2% on COCO and outstanding results on Roboflow 100, it leaves us with a tantalizing question: Could YOLOv8 be the future of object detection? Its innovative architecture, streamlined developer features, and a burgeoning community of enthusiasts certainly make it a compelling contender.


In conclusion, YOLOv7 presents a compelling case for why it is considered superior to CNN for specific applications. Its real-time object detection capabilities, high accuracy, and efficient design make it a powerful tool in various domains. While CNNs continue to hold their place in the world of computer vision, YOLOv7’s advancements represent a significant step forward in the quest for faster and more accurate object detection solutions.