Although the camera market, including the DSLR camera segment, in a sort of freefall, there are still a lot of serious photographers who want a shooting machine that is versatile. And when it comes to versatility, DSLR cameras still rule. For a long time, Canon DSLR cameras have been the favourite among the hobbyist photographers who are looking to step up from the entry-level cameras. Canon 650D, Canon 700D, Canon 760D… all have found takers. Now Canon has brought the 800D to the segment.

The Canon 800D (also called Canon EOS Rebel T7i) sits below the Canon 77D but above the Canon 760D in the company’s product line-up. Unlike the Canon 1300D, this is not an entry level. It is a mid-ranger, although still using the APS-C image sensor. In other words, with a price of Rs 56,995 as body-only option (with kit lens of 18-55mm it costs Rs 62,995), this is a camera mostly for those who are already using a cheaper camera like the Canon 1300 or a point-and-shoot camera. Given its position in the line-up, the Canon 800D is also a camera quite loaded with features.

Although overall, it turns out to be a win-some, lose-some. The 800D is a pretty update to the EOS line but when compared to rivals in the market, it seems to lack the kind of punch that may elevate over the others.

What is inside the Canon 800D

As noted earlier, the Canon 800D is a crop-factor camera. It has an APS-C sized image sensor that clicks 24-megapixel images. Compared to the 760D, this image sensor has the same resolution. But apparently, this one is a new sensor and offers improved performance. The camera is powered by a Digic 7 processor, which is fast enough to allow it to shoot at the speed of 6 frames per second when you are using the viewfinder. In live view the speed goes down to 4.5 frames per second. These numbers may seem low but they are actually pretty standard for a camera that costs around Rs 60,000.

The faster Digic 7 processor also helps 800D offer higher native ISO sensitivity of 25,600. The ISO range means the camera can deal with the low-light scenes in a better way.

Although in terms of image sensor and features like the ISO range, shutter speed (30 sec/bulb to 1/4000) and shooting speed etc, the 800D seems quite similar to the 760D, it is in the auto focus where the big changes have been put in by Canon. The 800D comes with a new 45-point auto focus, with all points being cross-type. This makes Canon 800D, at least one paper, a camera that has top notch auto-focus performance. The sensitivity of autofocus points too has been improved to -3EV. In other words, even in very low light — think of moonlight on a beach during full moon — the Canon 800D should reliably focus as soon as it finds some contrast on the focus point.

Being an mid-ranger, the 800D also boasts of special features and a decent body, which is made of metal and plastic parts. The grip of the camera is deep, and it is light enough at around 500 grams when lens is not attached to be a camera that you can carry whole day in your bag. In the 800D, given that it is a camera targeted at mainstream shooters and not professionals, Canon also throws in features like support for Wi-Fi, which can be used to share images on social media sites using a companion smartphone app. Support for Bluetooth and NFC too has been provide, although not everyone will find them of any use.

Finally, there is the touchscreen in a frame that can be tilted. This 3-inch touchscreen has a resolution of around 1.04 million pixels. It is bright enough and shows sharp colours, although in sunlight it does get a bit reflective.

The only part that I don’t like about the 800D package is its bundled lens. Not only the new kit-lens is slower (F4 compared to F3.5) compared to the previous one, it also turns in lacklustre performance. On the bright side, it is comparatively very small lens and helps in making the 800D a more portable camera.

Using the Canon 800D

(For higher resolution image samples click on thumbnails below in the article. All the images have been lightly edited in Adobe Lightroom)

In the recent months, Canon has been putting out a hit after hit. It’s new mirrorless cameras are fantastic for their prices. It’s new 1-inch sensor camera is best in the class. And at the higher-end the company  managed to keep fans happy with the 5D IV and 7D Mark II. Given the last few glorious months for Canon, I picked up the 800D for review with some newfound excitement. Unfortunately, the 800D turned out to be a mixed bag. It is a solid camera, right up there with its EOS peers. But compared to some of the offerings from Sony and, particular Nikon, it still lacks the kind of image sensor and metering system that can make it an outright winner.

The 800D is also a not-so-easy camera for the beginners. It is the kind of camera where, if you are not already coming from a Canon DSLR camera, you will have to spend a few weeks figuring it out. And even then its metering, the way it deals with light and shadows, and the way its ISO behaves will demand your utmost attention when you are shooting with it.

Now, before we talk about the performance in somewhat more details, let me make one thing clear: The camera was tested with the kit lens, and that too I think is something that held the 800D back. I have feeling that this camera is capable of better images than what you see in the image samples here once it is paired with a better lens.

When it comes to still photography, the 800D excels at three things: producing fabulous colours even in JPEGs, capturing brilliant amount of details, and in focussing quickly and accurately. The first one is typical Canon. Photographers, especially the hobbyists, swear by the kind of colours Canon DSLR cameras produce. There is something special about the yellow, orange and greens that 800D captures. In other words, most of the time you get beautiful colours in the images shot with the 800D without the dark undertones that we occasionally see in Nikon or Sony cameras. The skin tones with the 800D are perfect and the images have the kind of white balance that gives them a bit oomph. But all of this colour magic happens when you get the exposure right.

And getting the exposure right is somewhat of a chore with the Canon 800D. The camera calculates the exposure on the basis of the focus point — focus is very fast, by the way — then accordingly meters the image. But this approach also exposes the biggest weakness of the 800D, which is average dynamic range. Just like most of the EOS cameras in its price range, the 800D too struggles in scenes that have very strong contrast between the light and dark areas (see for example the photo of the bulldog). To avoid getting smeared and noisy shadows, the camera exposes for the shadows. In other words, the highlights are often blown.

This all happens on the auto mode. If you use manual, you have more control on how the 800D exposes an image. However, even there you have to deal with the limited dynamic range problem and margin of error is very low. Your only option is to get the exposure right to the dot, shot after shot and that is not always easy for hobby shooters or beginners.

The limited dynamic range also means that you can’t pull shadows up while post-processing images, although the 800D does well enough to keep the noise level low most of the time.

Overall though, the Canon 800D is a competent shooter. But it won’t surprise you with pure image quality in pictures. It does basics right without dazzling a user. It is fast enough for some casual wildlife photography. Its clean ISO performance ensures you will be able to shoot easily with ISO 6400 if the scene demands it. It produces brilliant colours. It has a deep grip and ample buttons to set the direct controls for most of the shooting options. And it is light enough and fast enough to be a versatile shooter that you can carry whole day.

But its performance when it comes to shadows and highlights is average, and that holds it back from realising its full potential.   

What about the video?

— The video performance review is by Rahul Sethi, the video expert for India Today Tech

Canon 800D is has a 24.2 megapixels sensor which, specs wise, might appear similar to the EOS 750D. But there is a big change when it comes to the auto focus system accompanying it. And this auto focus change is what makes it a stellar performer when it comes to capturing videos.

Overall though, the Canon 800D is a competent shooter. But it won’t surprise you with pure image quality in pictures. It does basics right without dazzling a user.

The sensor on EOS 800D uses Dual-Pixel autofocus. It is called that because not just 5 per cent of the sensor has focus-related pixels like other cameras, but whole of the sensor is covered. Simply put, there is roughly one focus pixel for every one pixel that makes up the photo. Focus pixels are used to get subject information for quick and accurate focus.

While in still image performance this doesn’t have much of an effect, it is something that makes the 800D a superb video shooter. In effect, when the shutter is rolling, to say metaphorically, Canon 800D does have a great auto focus that even works wonderfully in low light and matches the likes of high end EOS 5D Mark 4. The video footage shot with the 800D has none of the lag or focus anomalies that are usually seen with footage shot with other DSLR cameras. Touch to focus is quick and the results are sharp.

Should you buy Canon 800D?

The answer to this question is kind of yes. But only if you are coming from a Canon DSLR camera. For the beginners, the 800D may not be the best option. Compared to the rest of the EOS line in this price range, the 800D is a fabulous camera. But compared to DSLR cameras from Nikon and Sony in this price range, in terms of absolute image quality, the 800D falls little behind.

But then the 800D has some redeeming features too. If you combine the still photography performance with the video performance, the 800D is unbeatable in its class. It is also a very balanced camera, which may not have a class-leading image sensor but has a better lens ecosystem and a better auto-focus performance to offer to users.

Unfortunately for the 800D, the competitors are better, even when they come from Canon itself. Overall, for new users the Nikon D5600 is a better deal at similar prices. In fact, for price of around Rs 63,000, you can get the Nikon D5600 with a 300mm telephoto lens. Not only the D5600 is a more capable camera in terms of image quality but it also comes with a better kit lens. For Canon users looking to upgrade from something like the 1300D, the 77D is a better camera at a slightly higher price. If you do end up getting the Canon 800D, most likely you won’t be disappointed. But it’s just that there are better options out in the market.

Canon 800D7.5/10

  • Good stuff
  • Fantastic video performance
  • Good autofocus
  • Great colours in images
  • Bad stuff
  • Dynamic range in average
  • Pricey
  • Slower kit lens



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