Hands on: Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D review

Could Canon's latest go straight to the top of the best entry-level DSLR charts?

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Our Early Verdict

A host of improvements, including a new graphical interface to help beginners, should see the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D quickly become a firm favourite with new users looking for a well-spec'd and easy to use DSLR.

For

  • User-friendly interface
  • Polished touchscreen control
  • 45-point AF system

Against

  • No 4K video
  • Burst shooting could still be better

The Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D outside the US) is the latest in a long line of entry-level Canon DSLRs that can chart their heritage back to the original EOS Digital Rebel (EOS 300D outside the US) that arrived back in 2003.

Since then, the various iterations and updates that have come and gone have been firm favourites with both new and more experienced users alike.

Canon's current EOS Rebel T6i (EOS 750D outside the US) has established itself as one of our favourite entry-level DSLRs. It's packed with a range of features perfect for the new user, while the polished handling makes it a pleasure to use. 

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But that camera is now two years old and beginning to show its age, and with Nikon updating its entry-level range with the likes of the D3400 and D5600, and with a slew of new mirrorless rivals from various manufacturers being thrown into the mix, an update from Canon was always on the cards.

Arriving this April with a new 18-55mm f/4-5.6 STM lens for $899.99 / £869.99 (Australian pricing still to be confirmed), the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D offers a number of improvements over its predecessor, although not all of them are obvious from a glance at the spec sheet. Let's take a closer look...

Key features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

While the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D sports the same 24.2MP resolution as the Rebel T6i / EOS 750D, the sensor has been overhauled, and uses the same technology that we've seen in the EOS 80D.

Canon wouldn't elaborate on what exactly has changed, but we can speculate that it uses the same on-chip digital-to-analogue conversion technology that we've seen in the EOS 5D Mark IV

The new sensor is partnered with a new DIGIC 7 image processor. We've seen a DIGIC 7 chip already in Canon's PowerShot G7 X II, but this is quite different. Canon claims it can handle 14 times more information than the DIGIC 6 processor, which should see better high-ISO noise performance and improved autofocus performance. 

We'll look at the autofocus a little later, but sensitivity-wise the Rebel T7i / 800D offers a range of ISO100-25,600 – that's an extra stop over the T6i – which can  be expanded to 51,200 if absolutely necessary.

Canon has opted to stick with the same 3.0-inch, vari-angle touchscreen display with a resolution of 1,040,000 dots. A slight boost in resolution would have been welcome here, although this is already one of the most polished touch interfaces out there, so Canon may have felt that improvements were unnecessary.

With 4K video capture becoming more of a standard feature on cameras, especially the mirrorless rivals that the Rebel T7i / 800D will be going up against, it's perhaps a little disappointing to see only Full HD capture offered.

Footage can be captured at up to 60p, but what's more interesting is that Canon has equipped the Rebel T7i / 800D with a 5-axis image stabilization system for shooting hand-held footage.

Designed to work with video but not stills, the system is counter unwanted camera movement, while IS-equipped lenses will also work in conjunction with the system. 

The T6i / 750D supported Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, and the T7i / 800D builds on this further. There's now the option to set up a low-energy Bluetooth connection so that you can always be connected to the camera, which enables you to remotely wake the camera from its slumber (provided you haven't turned the camera fully off), as well as browse photos and operate the camera remotely from your smart device.

Canon has also updated its Camera Connect app to make it more user-friendly, to help guide you through the controls.

Build and handling

  • Aluminum alloy and polycarbonate construction
  • Design little changed from previous models
  • 532g

Like the Rebel T6i, the T7i features a aluminum alloy and polycarbonate construction, which means it has a pretty durable feel for a camera of this class, although some of the smooth plastic employed on the exterior could be a bit more pleasing to the touch. Interestingly, Canon has managed to shave about 20g from the weight of the camera, which tips the scales at 532g with a battery and card.

While it's not going to trouble most mirrorless rivals when it comes to size the T7i / 800D is still pretty compact, while the textured handgrip is pleasingly deep, allowing you to get a firm grip on the camera.

Design-wise, little has changed from its predecessor – the design is almost identical design, and the control layout doesn't appear to have been altered either. This is no bad thing, as the T6i / 750D is a nice camera to use.

The Rebel T7i / 800D is a DSLR, so there's a optical viewfinder here, rather than the electronic kind found on many mirrorless cameras.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types, and a lot will come down to personal choice. The T7i / 800D uses a pentamirror design that shows approximately 95% of the scene, so you'll need to take care when composing shots to avoid unwanted elements encroaching on the edges of the frame.

If you're going to be relying on the rear touchscreen more when composing shots, the good news is that you get 100% coverage. Clarity and sharpness are good, while the vari-angle display offers a useful range of movement to assist in a range of shooting situations.

Autofocus

  • 45-point AF, all cross-type
  • Sensitive down to -3EV
  • Dual Pixel AF for Live View

The EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D employed Canon's tried and tested 19-point AF system, which was starting to look a little dated even when it was launched a couple of years back.

Canon has overhauled this for the Rebel T7i / 800D, upping the coverage to 45 points – and that's not the whole story, as Canon has also made all 45 points cross-type for more accurate AF, especially when it comes to subject tracking and continuous shooting.

(Cross-type sensors are sensitive in both the horizontal and vertical planes, so when the camera's focusing it's more likely to lock onto its target than a sensor that's sensitive to one plane, which may mean you may have to rotate the camera to lock focus.)

As well as this, focusing is sensitive down to -3EV, so you shouldn't have any issues in poor light, while 27 of the AF points are sensitive even at wider apertures down to f/8 – perfect if you're planning to use a moderately slow lens and teleconverter together.

In the hands-on time we had with the camera the AF seemed very snappy indeed, even using the modest 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM kit lens – we'll be able to provide more informed feedback when we get our hands on a final production sample.

The Rebel T7i / 800D also gets Canon's Dual Pixel AF for Live View photography and video capture. It's certainly a welcome improvement over Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF III system, which was used in the older model. 

This new system is much improved, delivering smooth and fast focusing, especially when used in tandem with the touchscreen when selecting your desired point of focus.

Performance

  • 6fps burst shooting
  • User guide on camera
  • 600-shot battery life

Thanks in part to the DIGIC 7 image processor, Canon has managed to boost the continuous shooting speed to 6fps in the T7i, up from the T6i's 5fps. It's a modest jump, though, and with mirrorless rivals offering faster burst shooting, this is another area where it's a shame that Canon hasn't been tempted to try and squeeze out even more performance from the new camera.

Battery life has seen a big improvement though, and many mirrorless rivals would struggle to match the T7i / 800D's 600 shots – up from the T6i's 440. There is a caveat, though, as solely using the rear display will see battery life drop to 270 shots.

Getting to grips with creative photography can be daunting for new users, which is where Nikon's graphical Guide Mode on the likes of the D3300 has done well, so it's welcome to see Canon introduce something similar on the T7i / 800D.

Using learnings from its Camera Connect app, Canon has introduced a clean-looking graphical interface that helps users by explaining settings and offering advice on what effects they'll have on the final shot. More experienced users can disable this feature in the menu, and stick with Canon's more traditional menu system.

Early verdict

Canon is hardly rocking the boat with the new T7i / 800D – although with the T6i / 750D proving such as success it would have been daft to start from scratch.

We're looking forward to testing the new camera out in much more depth, but the new AF system looks very promising, especially with the addition of Dual Pixel AF for Live View shooting, while the new graphical interface will make the camera even more appealing to new users.

As we've said, it's disappointing not to see 4K video capture, but otherwise the T7i / 800D looks set to be another firm favourite with newcomers to DSLR photography who are looking for a well-spec'd entry-level DSLR.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photography Editor

With over ten years experience writing about cameras and photography, Phil is TechRadar's Photography Editor, writing and overseeing reviews of the latest camera gear, as well as looking after the photography tutorials and techniques you see here.

What is a hands on review?

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