Canon 760D - Rebel T6s
Real World Review
Canon's entry level series cameras have always been popular and capable with many photographers cutting their teeth on these models but with the overall decline in camera sales worldwide and the increase in capability & popularity of smaller micro four-thirds models, many people have commented that the days of the entry-level DSLR are perhaps numbered.
The response from Canon is the most emphatic of late, releasing not one but TWO new entry-level DSLRs, specifically the 750D and the 760D reviewed here. I'm using the phrase "entry-level" as it reflects their position in the overall Canon lineup - I'm NOT using basic for this 760D because as you'll see in the review, Canon have made some of the biggest updates and improvements in this line of cameras that I've seen in a LONG time...
Although known as the Rebel T6s in the USA, I'll be referring to it by the name it's known internationally - the 760D.
Out of the Box
Camera, all the usual Canon cables & CDs (inc. USB to enable live-view on a computer), strap, charger and batteries. Yep, Canon have included TWO batteries with this camera which is a very welcome touch.
My review box also came bundled with the 18-135mm EF-S lens but in this review I've used a range of different lenses. I didn't explicitly cover the lens and focused instead on the core camera.
Useage & Handling
Having reviewed the 7D mark 2, Sony's A7II and of course using my own personal full frame cameras I was surprised at how small and light the 760D felt when unboxing it. It's all relative of course, compared to mirrorless options it's still fairly chunky & a little on the heavier side, but feels comfortable in the hand. Adding lenses does shift the centre of balance forward noticeably, especially so with the larger EF L models so even though it's lighter than say a 7D2 when both have the same lens fitted, the overall balance of camera + lens is nicer on with a large DSLR to balance a large lens. If you mainly will be using EF-S lenses then you're likely to not notice this at all.
Canon have stuck to their tried and tested control & menu layout in almost all areas but with the 760D have added controls and features typically only found on their larger cameras. I've outlined all the controls and what they do in the images below but there are some great new features that definitely warrant further discussion, sadly not all the changes are necessarily for the better.
The most immediate & obvious addition is for the quick-view LCD screen on the top side of the camera as shown below. This is definitely an improvement and even though it's smaller and shows fewer settings than on larger models it's still a hugely welcome addition. It means you can shoot with the rear LCD screen flipped around to stop it being scratched in many situations, relying instead on just the information available through the viewfinder and on the top panel. Very nice indeed! Though it's not one of those things you need it's definitely something you miss when it's not there.
A less appealing change is where Canon have moved the power switch, away from the right hand side (where the 750D and older models in this class have it) over to the left underneath the main mode dial. Personally I find the ability to switch on and use a camera one-handed very beneficial. I'm assuming that it's the addition of the LCD panel that prompted the shift which is a shame. Sticking with the power switch, Canon have now used the OFF-ON-MOVIE control from the 700D as you can see in the control overview diagram above but moved it across to the left of the camera.
I was worried initially this would lead to accidentally powering on into movie mode, or the switching moving in my bag leading to recording movies or draining the battery. I'm happy to say this didn't happen and the switch has just the right level of friction. It's a neat design and one that I think works well on a camera body this size. Personally I do prefer the integrated live-view/movie mode button on the bigger cameras but it's splitting hairs really and probably just a personal preference. The LOCK switch rounds out the new additions to the controls.
Aside from control upgrades the 760D also has packed in some new features internally. It shares the same anti-flicker mechanism seen in the 7D Mark 2, a feature that works really well at giving stable lighting results under flickering fluorescent lighting. The biggest improvement is the new 19 point AF system, a noticeable upgrade from the 700D and outclassing some of the AF systems on bigger & more expensive models still in production! With multiple AF modes & a lot of flexibility in terms of point/zone selection, it's by far the most capable AF system on these cameras to date. Just like with the Canon 7D mark 2, I found the enhanced AF capability did give me the confidence to move away from the centre-AF point method I normally adopt and letting the camera take focus control. It's much better than I expected, not perfect nor on a par with the aforementioned 7D2, but it's certainly very capable. Tracking across and into/out-of the plane of focus was also generally quite impressive. With a burst mode of 5ps and the AF working together I was able to get a number of "keeper" images of birds and wildlife while shooting... you'll see below, I sort of went crazy chasing birds at one stage! :)
Another internal change is a revamped metering sensor which combines colour & infra-red sensors to more accurately assess the scene. I must confess, despite trying all of the available metering modes I didn't notice any substantial differences - eventually I still tended to use centre-weighted metering by default, switching to point metering when the scene was more complex.
Using the 760D for a protracted period of time let me assess the battery life. It uses the same smaller form factor battery as in the 700D and though Canon rates it at approx. 440 shots, I found in practice to be nearer 500, likely because the review unit was brand new. This isn't great and is only slightly higher than comparable mirrorless models but Canon have recognised this and included a second battery in the box - a very nice and very welcome addition.
The rear touch-screen continues to impress, Canon's implementation is definitely one of the best around. Combined with the same standard of intuitive menus and an eye-sensor which actually works (unlike many!), I found myself naturally just setting the camera quickly & easily using the rear LCD screen.
Rounding out the slew of new features are wifi & NFC (a first in this class of camera).
As I alluded to before, paired with a decent lens it was an absolute pleasure going out shooting with the 760D. You can see some sample images below but first I've included images highlighting the very few areas of image quality that weren't quite to my liking.
The first is diffraction. With it's 24.2MP sensor at APS-C sizes, diffraction was a concern. For those unaware of what diffraction is, broadly speaking it's an optical effect which occurs when using narrow apertures. Your scene starts to blur in a distinctive way, one that's near-impossible to correct in post processing. The exact aperture where diffraction effects are visible depends on the size of your sensor and the number of megapixels, so a high MP count on a small sensor would in theory be more prone to diffraction at relatively larger apertures.
I tested this at a range of apertures and found that f/11 was the highest aperture I'd ever use in the real world - in fact, if I was shooting an incredibly detailed landscape, I'd probably shoot at a larger aperture and focus stack images to get enhanced depth of field across the entire frame.
Shown below are two 100% crops of images shot back-to-back. The first is shot at f/8 and is fine, no problems. The second is shot at f/22 and you can see how it is noticeably less sharp. Attempts to sharpen this did not really improve the image.
Another area that can be negatively impacted by cramming megapixels onto a small sensor is the ISO sensitivity performance. I've included some full size images so you can see the image quality yourself - click here to view the image samples, I've taken them off this main review page to ensure the review is quicker to load and if you want to see the image samples you can load separately.
In summary, just like the 7D mark 2, I found that ISO 1600 is probably the limit I'd choose to shoot at and only push to 3200 if necessary. 6400 and above are ugly, even with all of the high ISO noise reduction features enabled.
With the only minor image quality drawbacks I encountered covered, onto the pretty pictures!
- 24.2MP APS-C sensor
- EF-S mount (EF compatible)
- 5fps burst mode
- 19 AF points with enhanced AF modes & tracking
- 63 zone colour & IR metering
- ISO100-12,800, expandable to 25,600
- 3" 1.04mp LCD touch sensitive screen
- New AF system is a significant improvement from predecessors, outclasses some pro-grade models
- Improvements & refinements to controls and handling
- Very good image quality at or below ISO 1600
- Higher ISO speeds (3200 and above) still "muddy", sensor sensitivity still lagging behind competition
- Cramming more megapixels on a sensor reduces the maximum "useable" aperture down to approx f/11
- Bigger & heavier than the competition, albeit not by huge amounts.
I like the 760D, a lot. Being totally honest, I haven't been this impressed with a Rebel-series camera since the 550D and each previous release has felt like a minor iteration rather than tangible improvement. Canon seem to have changed that with the 760D and as an overall package, it's definitely one of the best beginner-level cameras I've seen in recent months. It's not perfect, and the one area I feel is lacking the most is the sensor technology. Sony are the major competitor in this regard and their recent sensors have now "caught up" with Canon in many ways and are starting to exceed them. For Canon to remain in the race they need to show some radical innovation in this area. My worry is that the 760D will be the last of a few great APS-C cameras before they could end up being eclipsed by cameras that may not handle as well or have so many features, but do have sensors that outperform what Canon has.
Still, putting my personal "future-fears" aside, what we have here and now is great and if you are a beginner looking to get your first "proper" camera then I'd recommend the 760D without hestitation. It's a very capable camera. I shot a huge range of subjects, from a wedding, landscapes, wildlife - it proved to be up to the challenge wherever I used it. For what is in theory a "beginners" DSLR it's great!
The 760D is available now for approx. US$849, £647 or S$1099.