Canon 77D Field Test

Rebel in Disguise

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 05/16/2017

The 77D was announced alongside the T7i, and these cameras share a lot in common including the DIGIC 7 image processor, 45-point all cross-type phase-detect autofocus, and the same 24.2 megapixel sensor. In fact, the two cameras share so much in common on paper that it might be confusing to consumers what the differences are, and what makes the 77D worth the additional $150.

Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (31mm eq.), f/3.5, 1/640s, ISO 200.
Click for full-res image.

Canon 77D Body and Ergonomics

The 77D has the exact same body size and general exterior design as the Rebel T7i, save for a few minor tweaks, the addition of a top-panel status LCD and the addition of a rear dial. Aside from the relocation of a few rear buttons to make room for the lock switch for that aforementioned dial (which is a necessary add-on and common on all Canon cameras that feature a fully rotating dial in that position), the only other major difference between the two cameras is the relocation of the mode dial from the right side of the camera to the left (as viewed from the left) to make room for that LCD.

Basically, from a physical standpoint, the 77D body adds a scant few features and controls (which are expounded on in detail below) that make it look more like the higher-end DSLRs in Canon's lineup. It is otherwise largely identical, weighing in at only 8 grams more than the T7i.

As mentioned, the mode dial is located on the left of the camera (when viewed from the back), with the power switch accessible just below it and technically on the backside of the 77D. This allows you to access the switch quickly with your left thumb even if you are shooting, as opposed to the location on the top of the camera like on the T7i.

The option to switch between still and video mode is on that same switch, with OFF, ON, and VIDEO. This isn't the most desirable button arrangement, in my opinion. It is very easy to switch into video mode by accident, as pushing the switch from "off" all the way over to the next farthest option is normally how you switch the power "on" with any other camera or electronic device with a physical trigger.

The mode dial has the same knurled outer rim that all modern Canon DSLRs have and is easy to turn, despite being locked in place by a center button which must be pressed to rotate the dial. Some users will find the auto-locked dial to their liking (as it prevents accidentally changing the shooting mode) while others will find it to be a nuisance or inconvenience (since adjusting the mode takes a noticeable effort and finger dexterity). Since mid to pro-level Canon cameras all have this auto-lock dial, it is likely viewed as an advantage over the Rebel series (the T7i's mode dial does not have the auto-lock feature).

On the right side of the top panel of the camera you will find the status LCD screen, which is common on all higher-end DSLRs and is the first major visual difference you will see between this and the T7i. The screen allows you to quickly see shooting settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO as well as battery level, shots remaining on the card (estimation) and whether the Wi-Fi is on or off (the T7i has a dedicated Wi-Fi LED on the left top deck). As a note, once a photographer has a camera with one of these status LCDs, it's hard to go back to not having it. Seeing it on the 77D is then, therefore, quite welcome.

The other buttons available on the top of the camera are the autofocus area mode, ISO adjustment and LCD backlight illumination. The ISO button specifically has a raised bump, which is helpful in identifying it from the shooting position or in the dark. Speaking of the dark, the LCD backlight illumination button is of course handy when shooting where ambient light is minimal. The button can be pressed again to turn off the illumination, or it will shut itself off automatically after five seconds.

The 77D also has two command dials, one located on the top of the camera just behind the shutter button, and one accessible by thumb in the lower right corner of the back of the camera. Depending on your shooting setting, each dial does something different. While in manual mode, the top command dial adjusts shutter speed while the back dial adjusts aperture. While in program, aperture priority or shutter priority, the top dial controls the priority option while the back dial can be used to adjust exposure compensation. These controls are identical to how the pro-level bodies handle, and are a perfect step for beginner/intermediate photographers to attain a grasp of how a larger and higher-end camera will operate.

Differentiating itself a bit from the T7i, the 77D adds the AF-ON button, which by default in any camera mode will activate continuous autofocus for as long as the button is held. It can also be customized for the camera's autofocus activation (rather than or in addition to a half-press on the shutter button), a feature that many seasoned shooters swear by (using back-button autofocus assures that a given focus point will not change when using the shutter button, which is ideal for some landscapes and architecture photography).

The 77D has the extremely handy and bright flip-out articulating screen, a style of rear screen that I find to be superior to the simple tilt-only LCDs common with other camera manufacturers. The tilt/swivel nature of the screen allows it to be viewed from more angles, and Canon's design here is easy to control and feels solid and secure.

This flip-out LCD also has a touch sensitive overlay. You can use the typical "Menu" and "Set" buttons to navigate the menu, or you can simply tap anywhere on the screen to get to where you want to go. It is without a doubt faster to navigate with the touch screen, and it is both very responsive and very accurate.

Using the touch screen is even more beneficial in live view photo and video mode. While in live-view photo mode, you can tap an option in the lower right hand corner of the screen that will allow you to use "tap to shoot." In this mode, you can tap anywhere on the screen and the camera will immediately focus there and capture a frame. The speed at which it does this is quite impressive, even in lower-light environments: it is less than a second between tapping a location and the frame being captured in focus.

If you instead opt to not use "tap to shoot," when that mode is not selected, tapping the screen will focus the camera to the tapped point. As was the case with "tap to shoot," the speed and accuracy of this feature was extremely quick and nearly always accurate. I did however find it may not always be as specific as you want and may require multiple attempts to get exactly what you were wanting in focus. This is likely due to the size of the somewhat large focus area box or perhaps the size of my finger tip relative to the screen size.

The pentamirror viewfinder offers a claimed 95% coverage with an approximate 0.51x magnification (35mm equivalent) and a 19mm eyepoint; the same as the T7i. It's small and doesn't offer full frame coverage which is typical in the entry-level class, but it's the smallest optical viewfinder in an EOS XXD series. What you see is almost what you get with this camera, with just a bit more actually appearing in photos than what you could see in the viewfinder.

Overall, the 77D is light in weight but not on features and options. After handing it to a friend of mine who is just getting into photography, she commented on how good it felt to hold and thought that its light weight was a huge advantage. She also appreciated how it was laid out pretty much the same as my 5D cameras that I had given her a few days before to try out.

The 77D also adds an eye sensor over the viewfinder, something the Rebel T7i does not have. To set the stage on what this feature does, firstly you have to know how the 77D reacts when the rear screen is visible. When visible, the 77D's rear screen defaults to showing camera settings in more detail than the small status LCD gives. You can see everything from shutter speed and aperture all the way through your metering and image size/quality. You can directly access any of these features with the touch screen by pushing the "Q" button directly to the screen's right on the back of the camera (if you try and adjust any settings by going straight to the touch screen, the camera will prompt you to push that Q button). I imagine the "Q" button step was deemed necessary to avoid accidental settings changes thanks to the very sensitive touch screen.

The only thing the eye sensor does is it turns off the rear screen when your eye moves to the viewfinder, and this only works when the camera is in standby mode and it will not automatically close you out of the menu or image playback (if you tap the shutter button, that does remove you from any menu and therefore puts the camera back into standby, where the screen will then darken if your eye is near the viewfinder). In live view or video mode, the sensor does nothing.

On cameras with electronic viewfinders, this sensor tells the camera where to display the preview, in the EVF or on the rear screen. On a camera like the 77D with an optical viewfinder, such a sensor finds itself with much less to do. It is almost superfluous, but I can appreciate the screen going dark eliminating glare when I'm trying to shoot, especially if I'm trying to capture night scenes. It probably also saves some battery life. Speaking of battery life, the 77D's has been amazing during my time with the camera. I have not ever recharged it and through all my testing and use the battery level didn't even gone down one bar.

Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (31mm eq.), f/3.5, 1/1600s, ISO 200.
Click for full-res image.

Canon 77D Shooting Features and Experience

Shooting with the 77D felt pretty good, especially considering its place in the hierarchy of cameras Canon offers. Like we found in the T7i, the 77D does apply a heavy dose of contrast in camera to images taken in JPEG, but I don't find it to be off-putting. For landscapes, the colors became more vibrant and the differences between highlights and shadows more defined. For portraits, skin tone pops stronger with red/orange tones and colors in general feel more "realistic." Overall, the argument on if Canon's choice in JPEG rendering is good or bad is rather moot, as it can be adjusted in camera to your liking, and most who will shoot with the 77D will be looking to adjust the RAW files in post rather than fiddling with the JPEGs.

Speaking of color rendition, I was particularly impressed with how the 77D captured colors across the spectrum, more so than I generally have been with Canon cameras in the past. Though greens and blues are not as vibrant as perhaps you will find on a Sony camera, the nuances in color and contrasts between them are well represented. Reds and oranges in particular look spectacular, which is not surprising given the Canon sensor, but they work extremely well when cast against blue, green or dark surroundings. Sunset colors against crisp clear blue skies look beautiful, skin tones are excellent and overall colors feel more pronounced than I expected.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 69mm (107mm eq.), f/5.0, 1/250s, ISO 100.
Click for full-res image.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 50mm (78mm eq.), f/5.0, 1/320s, ISO 100.
Click for full-res image.

ISO performance is about par for the course when it comes to modern cameras in this segment. Below you can see a 100% crop from a photo taken at each ISO increment starting at 100 and going all the way up to the expanded 51,200. You can view and download each file in either JPEG or RAW in the Gallery here.

Canon 77D ISO Comparison
100% crops from Fine JPEG images with default settings. (Click for full-size images.)
ISO 100 Full Scene
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

In my opinion, the image is relatively clean all the way through ISO 800. ISO 1600 starts to introduce some noise, but it's very minor and the image is still quite usable. After that though, we start to see some noise appear across the frame and serious sharpness degradation occur. The default maximum of ISO 25,600 is not particularly good, and I wouldn't recommend going that high. Needless to say therefore, it's pretty unnecessary to even activate, let alone shoot at, the expanded ISO 51,200.

The actual shooting experience is pretty great with the 77D, thanks largely in part to that DIGIC 7 processor. Though it might not write the images to cards super quickly if you're shooting in both JPEG and RAW, it will stack a decent buffer so that it doesn't interfere with your shooting rhythm. Canon specs claim that the 77D can fire unlimited frames at 6 frames per second in JPEG format when using a fast UHS-I card, and up to 27 frames in RAW format. If you are shooting in JPEG+RAW, they say you can expect 23 shots before the buffer slows you down. In our lab testing we confirmed the burst rate of 6 frames per second no matter the file type, however we found somewhat shallower buffer depths: 167 JPEGs vs unlimited, 23 frames in RAW vs the claimed 27, and 21 frames in RAW+JPEG vs the claimed 23 when using one of the fastest UHS-I cards on the market. (See our Canon 77D Performance page for details.) The target we use for testing burst mode in the lab was designed to be difficult to compress, though, so typical real-world scenes should result in buffer depths that agree with Canon's numbers.

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 62mm (96mm eq.), f/5.0, 1/500s, ISO 200.
Click for full-res image.

One technical cap worth noting is that the 77D does limit your maximum shutter speed to 1/4000 of a second, which is what is expected of the Rebel series cameras (and is what the T7i is capped at, and every other Rebel in my recent memory). The next step up, the Canon 80D, is capable of 1/8000 of a second. Flash x-sync speed is also lower at 1/200 versus 1/250 for the 80D. So although the 77D is designed to look like a step up from the Rebel, that step up is mainly in body design and additional buttons/options like the top-panel LCD and does not extend to most shooting functions. The 77D does however include interval timer and bulb timer functions that the T7i does not.

Strong Autofocus Performance

The 77D uses a 45-point, all-cross-type autofocus system that does a pretty good job at tracking and keeping subjects in focus even in dim lighting environments. Canon states that the 77D's autofocus system using a central AF point (as opposed to face tracking or zone AF) is capable of focusing down to -3.0 EV, which is impressive. There aren't many configurations for the autofocus points in live view, just the three mentioned above (central, face tracking/tap area and zone). There also aren't many choices for general AF configurations either, with just single AF point selection, zone AF with nine zones, large zone AF mode with three groupings, and a fully automatic mode. There may not be a lot of options, but for the target market of the 77D, these should suffice.

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 135mm (210mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 200.
Click for full-res image.

Using the viewfinder, the autofocus on the 77D is more than adequate, reacting quickly and snapping with high accuracy to focus. I tested it in low and harshly varied lighting conditions (with strong shadows or backlit images) and did not find it to particularly struggle to focus in any condition I threw at it, though it would occasionally miss a frame or focus on the foreground instead of the subject. Only in very dim settings trying to focus on the reflective objects therein did it fight me a little, but this is to be expected.

I was able to follow a bounding jackrabbit as it made its way across the dunes in front of me, and most of those 30 shots are in focus. It's not the best autofocus on the market, but for its price tier, it does a very good job.

In live view shooting mode, the camera switches to rely on the Dual Pixel AF image sensor, and the focusing doesn't seem to give up much in return. Though ever so slightly slower than focusing through the viewfinder, the Dual Pixel AF was incredibly reliable in any of the three aforementioned modes. Of course, the darker the environment the more the camera has a chance to struggle, but this is to be expected. Even in those dim environments, however, I thought the camera performed quite admirably.

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 135mm (210mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/1600s, ISO 200.
Click for full-res image.

As a note, the Dual Pixel AF is great, but only as good as your optics. I tested on the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM and it performed very well. I imagine that any STM lens would be even better, and most modern quick-focusing lenses will likely also do just fine.

Canon 77D Shooting Modes

The 77D offers nine shooting modes in what the company calls the "Basic Zone" on the mode dial, plus the usual program (P), aperture-priority (Av), shutter-priority (Tv) and manual (M) shooting modes you'd expect on a DSLR in the "Creative Zone." The Basic Zone contains positions for Scene Intelligent Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Special Scene and Creative Filters.

The Creative Auto mode offers the ability to shoot images with a "specific ambiance" like vivid, soft or black and white. The options within simply change how the camera saves the JPEG. The other settings, like the "background blur" slider, simplify what the photographer might want to happen instead of relying on their knowledge of how f-stops work. It's actually a pretty nice way to present the idea of what photo someone might want to take, and having the camera do as much as possible to achieve that without getting too confusing to newcomers.

The Special Scene mode lets you choose among a set of possible scenarios and aligns the camera settings for the highest chance to succeed with them. The built-in options are Group Photo, Kids (specifically when they are in motion), Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene and HDR Backlight Control (which takes three shots and combines them to better preserve highlights and shadows in high contrast scenes).

What I like about the Special Scene mode and Creative Auto mode is that when you navigate to them, the camera doesn't just explain in words what each setting is good for, it provides example images of what a scene might look like that you are trying to capture. For any new shooter, this is incredibly helpful. You may not know what settings your camera is using, but the 77D can do all the calculations internally so that you don't miss the shot. These modes won't teach you why they work, but they will assure that you don't miss what you wanted to capture. In the end, that's all many people will care about.

Additionally, the 77D also offers multiple Creative Filter modes that apply select filters on images you take. There are ten here, and they are:

  • Grainy black and white
  • Soft focus
  • Fish-eye effect
  • Water painting effect
  • Toy camera effect
  • Miniature effect
  • HDR art standard
  • HDR art vivid
  • HDR art bold
  • HDR art embossed
Water Painting Effect: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 115mm (179mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 200. Click for full-res image.

Each of these modes produces images that are, in my opinion, pretty heavy handed. The aforementioned contrast that the 77D adds to JPEGs is ramped up yet another notch, especially in the miniature effect. The modes with low contrast like the water paint effect and soft focus are also rather strong, and I can't seem to think of a use for the water paint look.

Miniature Effect: EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 85mm (132mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/400s, ISO 200. Click for full-res image.

Bear in mind that shooting with these modes will prevent you from recording a RAW file. For those who actually like these kinds of effects, it may be smarter to do this in post in something like Photoshop than to rely on the camera, as there are many downsides to doing so.

These are generally "fun" ways to shoot, and the HDR modes will actually take multiple exposures to create one finished image in camera. Anyone without experience with Photoshop might find these useful, but those who are more advanced will likely shy away from them.

Wireless Features

The 77D features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and is strikingly easy to operate from my iPhone 7+ running the latest OS (10.2.1). The Canon Connect app does a very good job at walking you through steps to connect your device, with Bluetooth being the easiest and quickest, and Wi-Fi taking a bit more time (at least on Apples since they don't support NFC for automated pairing), but offering more functionality.

Speaking of that "more functionality" bit, though Canon says that images can be accessed and transferred to a mobile device via Bluetooth, I was unable to do so. It also didn't allow me to do any camera control without sending me a Wi-Fi connect prompt. The only function that I was able to operate with Bluetooth was "location services," which I assume will allow the camera to embed location into the EXIF data of images. When I tried to get to images or camera control however, I was instructed to connect to the camera via Wi-Fi. I was able to quickly and easily do this, but therefore found the addition of Bluetooth to the 77D underwhelming. It doesn't really expand much on what you could do with Wi-Fi, and is in most cases pretty useless unless you really care about embedding geotagging in images (which you can also do via Wi-Fi).

That said, using Wi-Fi, the wireless control is really handy for setting up a camera in a hard to reach location, or even holding it above your head in a crowd to get a higher-angled shot. The speed and refresh rate of the app is really pretty amazing, and there is very little lag between where you move the camera and what is shown on the app.

You can also use Wi-Fi to send photos from the camera to your smartphone, and it does this remarkably fast. It takes only a few seconds to send a high resolution image directly from the camera to your smartphone for social sharing. This feature was expressed to me to be high on the list of "wants" from friends who this camera is specifically designed to cater, so the fact that it does so rather quickly and painlessly is a huge plus.

As a final note on wireless features, I found the app, connecting and interacting with the 77D to be overall, painless. I have no complaints about the app itself, despite the very much "hand holding" nature of the prompts that regularly come up, and would trust it often to transfer images or take remote control of the camera.

Canon 77D Video Features

Click here to read our Canon 77D Video Features, Specs & Analysis

Canon 77D Field Test Summary

What I like:

  • Very light and easy to handle
  • Omni-directional screen is always welcome, and the brightness and clarity of that screen very good, enough to use even in bright sunlight.
  • Autofocus performance is good
  • Live-view shooting in video and photo is excellent thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Shooting and operating the camera feels snappy thanks to that DIGIC 7 processor
  • Quality of images is pretty impressive for such a small DSLR
  • Top-panel status LCD

What I dislike:

  • I wish the ISO performance was better, as starting to see image quality degradation as low as ISO 1600 is lackluster.
  • No headphone jack
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM at 56mm (87mm eq.), f/5.0, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Click for full-res image.

The 77D is a very slight step up from the Canon T7i, but offers a few improvements and "prosumer" features that make it stand out for some users. As mentioned, the biggest differentiators between the 77D and the Rebel T7i are the top-panel LCD, a second command dial, button additions, and an eye sensor, with most every other feature looking to be a carbon copy of the Rebel T7i. This is not a problem as the 77D is only a $150 upgrade over the T7i, but those who pick up the 77D might feel like it's not quite as powerful as they had hoped. As such, it doesn't give you what its bigger brother the 80D does such as a more robust body with weather sealing, a larger 100% pentaprism viewfinder, faster burst rate, more physical controls, headphone jack, increased battery life, optional battery grip, AF microadjustment, etc. But with nearly identical image quality and very good all-around performance, the 77D stands as a good go-between for those looking to get out of the Rebel line even if only in name, without breaking the $1,000 mark.

I would still absolutely qualify the 77D as an entry-level DSLR, but meant for those who might have more faith that their photography hobby will blossom into more than just capturing snapshots of the family.

 



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate