The Canon EOS 800D (also sold as the identical EOS Rebel T7i) is one of a pair of DSLRS launched in early 2017. As well as the EOS 800D there’s also the more enthusiast-orientated EOS 77D. Both use Canon’s latest 24MP APS-C Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor, and offer the same continuous shooting rate and ISO range. But where the EOS 77D offers more hands-on control for serious enthusiasts, the 800D cuts back on the complication to appeal more to novices.
At first glance, the EOS 800D might not look that different to Canon’s EOS 750D, which was released in 2015. Both cameras have 24-megapixel APS-C sensors and the same general look and feel. There are, however, some major changes.
First, there’s the sensor. This is the 24MP Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor used in the Canon EOS 80D, not the lower-spec Hybrid CMOS AF III sensor in the 750D. This should deliver improved autofocus for Live View stills photography and movies – Canon claims a response time of just 0.03 sec, and further says that this is currently the fastest-focusing APS-C interchangeable lens camera using sensor-plane autofocus. Real-world autofocus response will also depend, however, on the conditions and the lens being used.
The regular autofocus system gets a boost too, going from the 19-point AF system in the EOS 750D to the 45-point autofocus of the EOS 80D. The 800D may be designed for beginners, but it packs some of Canon’s latest imaging technology.
This includes a Digic 7 processor, a higher ISO range (up to ISO 25,600 without expansion), 6fps continuous shooting and a decent buffer capacity of 27 raw files – or as many JPEGs as your memory card can hold.
There’s also a modest boost to the video recording performance: the 800D doesn’t offer 4K video, but it can shoot full HD at 60/50fps for half-speed slow motion at full video resolution.
You might expect these advances to affect battery life, but the 800D is more frugal with its power than its predecessor, offering up to 600 shots on a single charge. That’s 160 shots more than the EOS 750D using the same LP-E17 battery.
On top of all that, there’s a new, faster, quieter smaller kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. This impressed us a lot when we tried it at Canon’s press launch event – although it was unavailable for this review, which was carried out with the existing EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens instead.
The EOS 800D offers some convincing improvements over its predecessor, then, but it’s got tough competition from other brands. The Nikon D5600 offers similar user-friendliness at a lower price; the Pentax K-70 is tough and versatile; the brilliant Fujifilm X-T20 is barely more expensive; and you can get the Sony Alpha 6000 at great knock-down prices. All of these cameras have 24-megapixel sensors too.
Build and handling
Technically, the 800D is very impressive, but in the flesh it’s mildly disappointing given its price. In classic EOS style, the body is nicely contoured and easy to grip, with few sharp corners, but the plastic finish feels a little cheap.
Corners have been cut with the viewfinder too, which uses a cheaper ‘pentamirror’ design rather than a classic pentaprism. In practice, it’s clear and bright, and you’re unlikely to notice any difference.
One of the 800D’s key features is Canon’s new guided user interface, which uses easy-to-understand graphics and information to explain the effects of different camera settings. For example, when you’re using the Tv (Shutter Priority) mode, the screen shows a scale with slower, ‘flowing’ shutter speeds on the left and faster ‘frozen’ speeds on the right; as you turn the dial, a caption below indicates the situations where the current speed might be used.
This interface is both attractive and informative, and you can disable it in favour of a regular menu system once you feel you don’t need it.
The vari-angle touchscreen display works really well. It gives you the flexibility to shoot at all sorts of awkward angles – and the 800D’s responsive Live View performance makes it something you might use all the time rather than just keeping for emergencies. Touch control on camera screens isn’t always good, but the 800D’s is light, reliable and responsive – just about perfect, in fact.
The single-dial control system might prove an irritation for more experienced Canon users, but the 800D does have a large number of external buttons for adjusting everything from the ISO setting to the drive mode, AF point selection and Picture Style.
The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections are easy enough to set up and use via the Canon Camera Connect app. You need the Wi-Fi for camera control, however, and if you’re using an iOS device that means connecting manually to the camera’s Wi-Fi network each time you want to use it, since Apple’s operating system won’t let the Bluetooth connection launch the Wi-Fi connection automatically. (Nikon has the same issue with its Bluetooth/Wi-Fi SnapBridge system.)
The 800D’s autofocus is fast and reliable, both in regular viewfinder shooting, which uses the 45-point phase detection AF sensor and in Live View, which uses the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. This proved crisp and mostly positive, even with the older non-STM kit lens.
The results from the 800D’s exposure system are more variable. It places a lot of emphasis on the area under the active autofocus point: this means that even a small reframing of your shot can produce a big shift in the exposure.
You notice this most in high-contrast scenes such as sunsets, where the camera will veer from exposing for the foreground to producing a silhouette, depending on where the AF point is. More experienced photographers will quickly learn to find their way around this, but novices may well end up wondering why they’re not getting the same exposure twice, when the scene itself hasn’t changed.
The auto white balance system performed perfectly, though; we left it set to Auto throughout the test. If you shoot raw, of course, you can correct it later.
The in-camera JPEGs are crisp and colourful, but you need to be wary of blown highlights, not least because the Evaluative metering is so sensitive to the position of the autofocus point. The raw files reveal very good dynamic range, however, and the latest versions of Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom can now open them directly.
The image quality at the maximum ISO 25,600 setting is substantially reduced, as you’d expect, but if you need to grab an image at all costs, the results are really quite acceptable. In fact, you can shoot in conditions so dark the camera’s autofocus struggles to find anything to lock on to.