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.

Image courtesy of Canon, shown with the 18-135mm kit-lens.

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 controls are - as with all Canon SLRs - consistent & familiar. The only major change comes at top left with the new OFF-ON-MOVIE switch. Though initially I thought this was a great idea, over time I found myself preferring the buttons on the 7D2 and 6D where movie mode and live mode are integrated together. It's not a bad system to do it this way, just personal preference. Moving it from the right to left hand side of the camera is annoying though.

Everything is pretty standard and self-explanatory. The only other control mistake I noticed is with the AF selection buttons. You can see top right here there is a combined AF mode and "zoom-in" button, this is fine and standard on essentially all Canons. However, next to the the LCD as seen on the image below is another AF button. The only purpose of this second button is to cycle through AF modes. So we have two buttons less than 2 inches apart doing fundamentally the same thing - one cycling through modes, the other letting you jump to a mode directly. I really can't see the point of the former, instead it'd have been better to use that button for something else.

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.

Here's a view of the new LCD screen, a first on any entry-level Canon DSLR. Long overdue in my opinion. It does the bare minimum, covering your exposure triangle settings, battery life, card capacity and an exposure indicator. Not quite as comprehensive as its bigger brothers but still, definitely welcome.

The buttons above are all standard too with the exception of the left hand button - this is the one which cycles through all three AF modes in turn and I feel is totally redundant because of the more flexible AF mode selector on the back of the camera.

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.

As is normal with the enthusiast/amateur cameras, the mode dial allows quick access to the dedicated scene preset auto modes rather than having dedicated Custom modes.

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).

Image Quality

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.

This is a 100% crop of an image shot at f8 to test diffraction. No problems at all here!

The same scene as above shot at f22 - it's ugly. From about f11 onwards diffraction starts appearing so I'd recommend keeping the 760D at or below this aperture for best effects. If deeper DOF is needed I'd recommend shooting at f8 then focus stacking your images where possible.

For the full size images check out this link

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!

A long exposure photo of the ocean shot at f8 on a bright, sunny day using a 10-stop ND filter. The mist-like appearance of the sea is offset by the sharp, crisp detail in the pebbles.

Processed, cropped & grain added in post-production. Just to be clear, this was shot at ISO 100, the grain I added in post production

Essentially straight out of camera with only light sharpening. I've never seen this bird before in Singapore so any clue as to what species would be appreciated, leave a comment!

*update* - it's a Long Tailed Shrike. Apparently it's the "Vlad the Impaler" of birds, skewering its enemies!

Colour enhanced & sharpened to bring out the detail.

Another almost-SOOC shot, colours are natural (and really well rendered, red can sometimes be an issue for Canon) only lightly sharpened. This poppy field stretched for hundreds of metres in every direction.

Taken in a quaint seaside town in the north of England, like stepping back in time.

Really impressed at the colour, clarity and sharpness in this shot and the AF did really well in tracking the plane as it left Changi airport.

Extensive post-production to convert to faux-infrared, this shows that a lot can be achieved from the RAW files and there's very little colour banding indeed. Converting to fake infra-red is something I often try as it makes problems like colour banding really really obvious. Dynamic range was fine for my needs, nothing noticeably different from most other Canon cameras I've used. Canon do still lag slightly behind Sony in this regard but for many everyday scenarios it's not a huge issue.

Shot about 5 minutes after the bird above, this beast is a pretty common sight here in Singapore. Absolutely unfazed by my presence, it was very willing to pose!

With it's cropped sensor, I did find the 760D was great for giving me extra reach to photograph wildlife, hence the greater-than-normal numbers of birds in this review!

I'm not sure what he's trying to find but he was fishing for something. Sadly it does show the limitation of the dynamic-range in the 760D and much of the storm-drain water is clipping out.

That said, when properly controlled, the dynamic range is great for the vast majority of cases as seen in this black-headed gull.

Another obliging kingfisher, this time in East Coast Park. I'm not sure what he's been eating but his beak is covered in some kind of unusual residue. I wondered if it was red soil, these kingfisher do tend to hunt grasshoppers and other insects on the ground.

Specificaitions

  • 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

For full specs check Canon's site here

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.