Canon T6i Field Test

A great launching pad into the world of DSLR cameras

by Jeremy Gray | Posted

EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm, f/8, 0.3s, ISO 100
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Introduction

The Canon Rebel T6i (EOS 750D) was announced alongside the Canon Rebel T6s (EOS 760D) and the two DSLRs share many important features with one another; both represent significant upgrades from the earlier Canon Rebel T5i. The T6s has some features that the T6i does not, but the T6i body-only costs $750 USD, $100 less than the T6s camera body. The Canon T6i can be purchased with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens for an estimated retail price of just under $900 USD. At these prices, the T6i is an excellent value.

Key Features

The Rebel T6i brings a variety of improvements compared to the T5i, including an upgraded APS-C sensor that stands now at 24.2 megapixels rather than 18MP. The autofocus sensor has seen improvement, moving from a 9-point AF sensor to a 70D-like 19-point AF sensor in which all 19 points are cross-type phase-detection points. The metering sensor is improved as well, as it is now a 7,560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor with skin tone detection. The T6i has a fully articulating 3" LCD with touchscreen capabilities and 1.04 million dots. The native ISO range is an impressive 100-12,800. The Canon T6i is fairly quick as well, capable of continuously shooting at up to 5fps (IR measured just over 4.8fps in the lab).

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 500
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Camera Body and Handling

The Rebel T6i is a more traditional successor to the T5i than the T6s, which introduced some new features from more enthusiast-oriented models not previously seen in Rebel cameras. The T6i, on the other hand, follows the Rebel tradition of not having a top LCD or a 'Quick Control' dial -- both of which the T6s now includes. The exclusion of a top display means that the T6i is slightly narrower than the T6s and also marginally lighter (about 10 grams lighter). The Canon T6i is quite small, but it fits nicely in my hand. In my opinion, the T6i would be better if the camera grip was deeper, but it is still a comfortable camera to hold. The body is not weather-sealed, just like other Rebel models, but it does feel sturdy.

There are also some differences in the layout of buttons between the T6i and the T6s. The mode dial, which does not have a locking mechanism like the T6s, is on the right side of the camera. The power switch is also on the right side. I consider these two differences to actually be an advantage for the Canon T6i because you can adjust the camera's mode and switch the camera to movie mode with your right hand while still operating the lens with your left hand. I never accidentally moved the mode dial, so the lack of a locking mechanism does not appear to be a problem in my experience. With that said, it is still unfortunate to not have a top LCD, as that information is great to have at a quick glance. Personally, I like Canon's Quick Control dials and would have preferred to have this feature on the T6i. In the absence of the Quick Control dial, the T6i does have a button to quickly adjust aperture and exposure compensation on the back of the camera.

The Canon T6i's articulating 3" touchscreen LCD display looks great, but is quite reflective, so shooting outside during a sunny day can be difficult. However, with the option to articulate the screen, it is usually possible to position the display in a way that reduces glare. The touchscreen works well and registers touches accurately. Fingerprints on the display are also an issue in bright light, but some degree of fingerprints and smudges are to be expected with a touchscreen. Using touch controls works well both when shooting and when navigating the menus. Without a Quick Control dial, I found myself utilizing the touchscreen more and more as I used the T6i.

The Canon T6i has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities in addition to USB 2.0, mini-HDMI out, a remote control terminal, and a microphone port. The lack of built-in GPS is slightly disappointing, although there is the option to attach Canon's GPS GP-E2 accessory to the camera.

Overall, the Canon T6i does not offer the plethora of physical controls as you might find on a larger DSLR camera body, but it handles and operates well nonetheless. The menu system is organized well, and the touchscreen makes navigation and changing settings quick and easy.

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 50mm, f/5, 1/500s, ISO 100
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Shooting Experience

Shooting with the Canon T6i is a pleasant experience overall. The sensor delivers sharp and vibrant image files. The autofocus system works quickly and accurately in a variety of situations, and the updated RGB + IR metering sensor helps the T6i to consistently expose images well. Live view shooting is also great, although the T6i does not include Servo AF for burst shooting in live view mode like the higher-end T6s.

Like the T6s, the T6i offers silent shooting modes for both single-shot and continuous burst modes (which drops the burst rate to about 3fps from 5fps). While the idea of this function is nice, especially if you often photograph in sound-sensitive scenarios, however, I found the silent modes to be only negligibly quieter than the standard shooting modes, negating much of the benefit.

The 24.2 APS-C sensor is Canon's highest-resolution sensor ever put in their Rebel line (along with the T6s), and the camera delivers high-quality, sharp JPEG files. I felt that RAW files were slightly soft straight out of the camera, but were easily sharpened in post-production and contained a lot of information for various adjustments. The T6i's dynamic range is not bad for APS-C sensor, and RAW files offer leniency for adjustments to shadows and highlights. Increasing exposure can introduce quite a lot of noise to shadow areas, however.

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm, f/7.1, 1/320s, ISO 640

The built-in Wi-Fi and NFC allows you to connect a smartphone to the camera and remotely capture and transfer images. The process to connect my iOS device to the T6i was slightly more complicated than it has been with other cameras and applications. After entering the camera's menu system and turning on Wi-Fi, I went into my device's Wi-Fi options and had to enter an encryption code as shown on the camera's screen. After entering this code, I had to go back to the camera's menus to enter a command. I then left the phone's settings menu and opened up Canon's Camera Connect application, and was finally all set.

With the camera connected, the amount of control from the application is fairly limited. Depending on the shooting mode of the camera, you can adjust drive mode, AF mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. It is not possible to change white balance, metering, or file recording settings, however. Additionally, you cannot remotely change the shooting mode of the camera via the app, and doing so on the camera body itself disconnects the application from the camera.

Remote shooting itself is quite nice. I like that the application has a separate focusing button to tap so that you can focus the camera without capturing an image. There is a slight delay when moving the focus point around the screen, but it is not severe to point of being frustrating. The application is useful in certain situations, but it could certainly be improved by offering more remote adjustments to the camera and its settings and modes.

With the sharp, articulating touchscreen display, live view shooting with the Canon T6i is a good experience, although the lack of Servo AF in live view makes shooting moving subjects difficult. The camera is able to continuously autofocus while in live view, but without Servo AF functionality, you can't continuously autofocus during a burst of shots. The T6s, on the other hand, does offer Servo AF in live view, greatly increasing the usability of live view for still photography, in my experience.

The T6i has an exposure simulation feature that gives a live preview of the scene given current settings. Exposure simulation works well in most lighting conditions, struggling only in very low light. There are numerous view options, such as a grid and a live histogram overlay when doing live view shooting. There is no focus peaking feature, however, but you can zoom in on the image in 5x and 10x increments for accurate manual focusing. Live-view shooting works well with the touchscreen. When live view shooting, many important shooting settings can be quickly adjusted using the touchscreen by just tapping on the corresponding icon. There is tap to shoot and tap to focus options, the latter of which also allows for subject tracking.

While live view shooting is generally pleasant, shooting through the viewfinder is not great with the Canon T6i. The viewfinder has only about 95% coverage and 0.82x magnification. It is a fairly small viewfinder -- and feels as such -- and the lack of 100% coverage can cause issues with items like tree branches and other peripheral objects creeping into an image without being able to see them through the viewfinder. On a more positive note, the text in the viewfinder is bright and clear, and there is a lot of information contained within the viewfinder.

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 152mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 1000
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Autofocus Performance

The T6i's new 19-point all-cross-type autofocus system performs quite well, and making the jump up from the T5i's 9-point AF system is a big improvement. Like other Canon DSLRs, the T6i offers three autofocus modes when shooting through the viewfinder: One-Shot AF, AI Focus AF, and AI Servo AF. When using AI Focus AF, the more fully automatic AF mode of the three, the camera utilizes One-Shot AF the majority of the time, and then if it detects the subject moving, switches to AI Servo AF. Unfortunately, the camera can be slow to detect if a subject is moving before switching to AI Servo AF, thus making it easy to miss the shot.

For AF point selection modes, the Canon T6i offers the standard set of Single-point AF, Zone AF -- of which there are five AF point groupings -- as well as a full 19-point Automatic Selection AF area mode, in which the camera automatically determines the best AF point or zone for the shot. Both manual single-point and manual zone AF modes require pressing the AF point selection button to choose a new point or zone. I often used the 19-point automatic selection AF area mode first to see if the camera could quickly focus the correct subject rather than have to regularly go through the process of changing the AF point. Oftentimes, 19-point automatic selection AF worked well. When shooting moving subjects using AI Servo AF, the 19-point automatic selection starts focusing using a manually selected AF point and then if the subject moves outside of this point, the camera starts using the full AF sensor to track the subject.

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

The Canon T6i's continuous autofocus performance through the viewfinder is good. In good lighting conditions and with less complex scenes, the camera rarely loses focus between frames and is quick to reacquire focus. For subjects that move predictably, using a single AF point or AF zone is preferable to the automatic selection AF mode because the automatic selection AF mode can struggle to maintain focus on the subject in complex scenes -- so you need to be sure to keep the your AF point or AF zone over your intended subject. Given the price point of the T6i, it is a very capable camera for photographing action in terms of its autofocus performance.

Autofocus performance with live view is also quite good. The T6i has a new Hybrid CMOS AF III focus system for live view AF. Despite being excellent at live view AF when photographing stationary subjects, the T6i struggles with moving subjects. The T6i has to refocus every time the shutter is pressed halfway. If the subject moves while the shutter is depressed halfway, the camera cannot refocus continuously; you'll have to release and press the shutter halfway again to refocus the subject. Without Servo AF operation, I found the Canon T6i is not well suited for photographing moving subjects in live view mode. For some people, this alone may make the T6s worth the extra cost as the T6s includes Servo AF in live view for precisely this purpose. For others, it may not matter at all, particularly if you're accustomed to shooting a DSLR through the viewfinder. It really comes down to how an individual intends to use the camera.

Metering

Thanks to its new 7,560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor with skin tone detection, I found the Canon T6i to meter accurately and consistently. Spot metering is not tied to the active AF point, unfortunately, but is instead stationary in the center of the frame. By utilizing the AE lock button on the back of the camera, spot metering can work well, nonetheless, when the light in a scene is highly varied. At times when none of the metering modes are working well enough at default exposure settings, which was a rare occurrence in my experience with the T6i, exposure compensation can be set in 1/3 stop increments for +/- 5 stops. In live view shooting, the same metering mode options exist and metering works well. With exposure simulation during live view shooting, it is easier to predict the final image's exposure and make any necessary adjustments before capture. The T6i has an aperture/exposure compensation button above the directional buttons that allows exposure compensation to be set by holding the button and rotating the main dial.

The Canon T6i's auto white balance setting worked well, too, in all of the conditions I shot with the camera. In situations where auto white balance does not deliver the expected results, the T6i offers numerous white balance presets to choose from.

Shooting in Automatic Modes

While it is nice to have the control and flexibility of the creative zone modes (M, Av, Tv, and P) when shooting with the T6i, it is important that an entry-level DSLR camera can perform well in automatic modes. The fully-automatic Scene Intelligent Auto mode works well at determining the subject you are shooting and what settings are best for it. There are also Creative Auto (CA), portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, and Special Scene (SCN) modes. Special Scene Mode offers an HDR shooting option that works quite well.

HDR Backlight Control Scene Mode
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 6400

With good autofocus and metering performance, the Canon T6i allows you to capture great images without having to take a lot of control of the camera's settings. The camera's auto ISO feature works well too. Auto ISO is set to 100-6400 by default, although the maximum allowable ISO can be changed. Unfortunately, you cannot set a minimum shutter speed through the Auto ISO menu, but the camera does consider the focal length of the lens when selecting the shutter speed. It would be nice to be able to customize a minimum shutter speed when using auto ISO, which can be especially helpful in lower light situations to avoid too slow a shutter speed and protect against camera shake.

Speed

With the ability to capture images at close to 5 frames per second, the Canon T6i is a moderately quick camera. However, the T6i can be slow to process RAW image files when shooting a burst of frames. Using a Class 10 SD card and shooting at ISO 100, I found the T6i captured 7 RAW images at 5fps before slowing down to capturing images at roughly 0.5fps. Processing the burst of RAW files took slightly longer than five seconds. Buffer depth and processing speeds depend on the SD card and certain camera settings, so others may get different results than I did when capturing RAW image bursts. See our Canon T6i Performance page for timing results from the IR lab.

Despite the slow processing of RAW files, the T6i is a fairly fast camera when shooting JPEG files and can capture action for a long period of time at 5fps. The camera's manual states that up to 940 high quality JPEG files can be captured in a burst when recording to a UHS-I SD card. The camera also processes a burst of JPEG images much faster than RAW files, taking only a couple of seconds to finish buffering a burst of JPEG images. Overall, the updated DIGIC 6 image processor handles most tasks well and makes the T6i a capable and quick camera for many kinds of photography.

EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 37mm, f/8, 10s, ISO 800
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Shooting in Low Light

The Canon T6i's low light autofocus performance is not excellent, but it is not bad either. The autofocus sensor is rated to autofocus from -0.5 EV to 18 EV. When shooting around dawn and dusk, the T6i was generally able to achieve autofocus, but it was noticeably slower. When shooting in live view, the low light autofocus does not noticeably drop in performance, however. The AF assist feature uses burst firing of the built-in flash rather than a dedicated light, so the flash has to be up for AF assist to work. I found AF assist does not dramatically help the autofocus performance in low light as it has an effective range of only 4m at the center of the frame.

The built-in flash has a flash guide of 12m, a maximum flash sync of 1/200s and a flash exposure compensation of +/- 2 EV. The flash provides plenty of power for fill-flash, but for more flexibility and creative options, the T6i is, of course, compatible with Canon's Speedlight external flash system. The built-in flash can also act as a master for wireless control of compatible slave flash units.

EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm, f/4, 10s, ISO 6400
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

On a more positive note, I was impressed by the Canon T6i's high ISO performance. The native ISO range of the T6i is 100-12,800, with the ability to expand the ISO up to 25,600. Noise levels get moderately high at ISO 1600, but the noise was not distracting to me, and it did not drastically reduce the detail in the image files. Throughout the default auto ISO range of 100-6400, I consider image files to be usable. Images captured at ISO 6400 do have a lot of color noise and some loss of detail, but they're not bad files. On the other hand, images captured at ISO 12,800 do not look good to my eye. Images lose a lot of detail at ISO 12,800, and there is a lot of color noise and false color, particularly in shadow areas. The built-in noise reduction does a good job at low and normal settings, but high noise reduction reduces the detail in images too much for my taste, though it does do a great job at reducing noise. When recording only JPEG image files, you can also use a multi-shot noise reduction option and this works well to reduce noise, but can soften a lot of fine detail.

Canon T6i Noise Reduction Comparison: ISO 12,800 (Click images for full-res)
NR "Off"
NR Low
NR Standard
NR High
Multi-shot NR (Stacked)

Shooting with the kit lens

The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens that can be purchased as a kit lens with the T6i performs well and provides a decent focal length range for landscapes and general photography. The lens' optical performance is decent, but the lens is a bit soft when shooting wide open at both extreme ends of the focal length range. When shooting backlit subjects, the lens is also prone to fringing issues around fine details. The lens is small, lightweight, and balances nicely with the smaller T6i camera body. The autofocus performance of the lens is quick, and the image stabilization works well. While the lens does not provide much reach, it is a good lens for those purchasing their first Canon DSLR and is a great value.

Scene Intelligent Auto
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm, f/4, 1/50s, ISO 100

This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Shooting with Other Lenses

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens pairs nicely with the T6i and provides good reach. Considering its focal length, the lens is rather small and lightweight. Like other STM lenses, autofocus performance is quick and very quiet. The lens is also quite sharp even at 250mm. Like its autofocus, the lens' image stabilization is also quiet, effective, and a great feature to have, especially at the longer focal lengths.

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 640
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

With the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens, it is possible to capture a very wide angle of view. Vignetting and distortion can be problems across the focal length range, particularly at 10mm and at f/4.5, but the camera does a good job of handling these issues with its built-in lens correction. Sharpness does fall off slightly in the corners when shooting wide open. Overall, the lens provides unique shooting opportunities and impressive performance.

EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 400, -0.6EV
This image has been retouched slightly. Click for original image.

Video

The Canon T6i records good quality video, although there are some limitations. One of the more significant limitations is that there is no 1080/60p video option. To get video at 60fps, you can only record at up to a 720p resolution. There is also no slow motion video recording option, either, which is disappointing. Video is recorded as MPEG-4 files using the H.264 codec, with a choice of compression between 'standard' and 'lightweight.' The 'Lightweight' compression option records video at a lower bitrate, resulting in roughly 2.5x smaller file sizes at the expense of some image quality. The T6i also has a built-in stereo mic, as well as a jack for an external microphone, but no headphone jack. There's also no real support for clean HDMI output, contrary to early reports. The camera can output a preview in live view mode, however overlays cannot be eliminated unless you switch to manual focus, not record or adjust anything, and hope no warnings such as low battery pop-up.

Continuous AF Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, 30 fps, Standard Compression
Download Original (71.1MB MP4)

The Canon T6i cannot record HDR video or use digital zoom like its higher-end T6s sibling. Despite the limitations of both HDR video and digital zoom on the T6s, these are disappointing omissions on the T6i. Beyond that, video performance on the T6i is identical to that of the T6s. Continuous AF is available for recording video, which works really well. The camera is quick to acquire focus and does a good job of maintaining focus. Automatic selection AF can struggle with complex scenes, but the manual point and zone AF options work well in many situations. You can also tap on the touchscreen to move the focus around as well as choose a subject for the camera to track focus on while recording video. When manual focus is necessary or desired, you can magnify in at 5x and 10x increments before recording video to check focus. You can also zoom in when using AF point and AF zone selection.

Canon T6i 1080p AF Servo Sample
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, 30 fps, Standard Compression
Download Original (48.2MB MP4)

Light Compression Version
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, 30 fps
Download Original (16.8MB MP4)
720/60p Version
1,280 x 720, H.264, 60 fps
Download Original (32.3MB MP4)

Field Test Summary

What I like:

  • The 24.2 megapixel sensor performs well
  • The articulating touchscreen is great
  • Fast and accurate autofocus performance in most situations
  • Impressive high ISO performance

What I dislike:

  • The optical viewfinder is small and provides only ~95% coverage
  • Slow processing of RAW files when burst shooting
  • No Servo AF in live view
  • No HDR video
  • No 1080/60p video

The Canon EOS Rebel T6i is a great camera for the price, and its performance is good across the board for most subject matter. The T6i is a good choice for photographers stepping up to the world DSLR photography and are looking for a small, entry-level camera that allows for flexibility and controls as desired while still being able to capture good quality images in fully-automatic shooting modes.

 



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate