Canon T7i Field Test

Big improvements in autofocus and performance compared to T6i

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 05/01/2017

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 18mm (29mm eq.), f/8.0, 2.5s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Introduction

The Canon Rebel T7i was announced alongside the EOS 77D and shares many features with its larger, more expensive sibling. It offers the same 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor as its predecessor, however, the T7i is the first DSLR in Canon's Rebel lineup to include the DIGIC 7 image processor, which allows the new camera to offer a wider ISO range than the T6i. This new Rebel camera is straddling the line between being an entry-level or enthusiast DSLR more than ever. How does the new T7i handle in the real world?

Key Features and Info

  • 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Tilt/swivel 3-inch touchscreen LCD
  • Native ISO range of 100-25600
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Full HD video at 30 frames per second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • US$750 for body only
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 50mm (80mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 100.
Click for original image.

Camera Body and Ergonomics: Good handling for an entry-level DSLR

An aspect of the T7i that makes it feel more entry-level than enthusiast is its handling: no twin dial controls. That is not to say that the T7i doesn't feel good to use because it does. Its front grip is chunky and comfortable and the buttons and dials all feel nice and responsive. The Canon Rebel T7i has a normal DSLR design, although it isn't a big DSLR. It weighs 17.1 ounces (485 grams) body only and has dimensions of 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 inches (131 x 100 x 76 millimeters).

The T7i has an interesting command dial set-up, with the sole command dial being located on the top deck of the camera. The dial has a toothed, grippy texture and rotates well, offering distinct feedback and allowing precise settings changes. When you want to shoot in manual mode and control both shutter speed and aperture, the dial controls shutter speed unless you press the Av/exposure compensation button on the back of the camera while rotating the dial, which then adjusts aperture.

Other buttons on the top deck of the camera include autofocus area mode, ISO and display buttons. The ISO button has a raised bump on it, so you can tell which button it is (and thereby the buttons on either side of it as well) without having to look; I like this a lot. Having the ISO button there is great, in general, because it places all exposure controls within reach of your right hand.

On the rear of the camera, there is an excellent articulating touchscreen display. The 1,040,000-dot touchscreen LCD is very versatile and works well even in bright light thanks to its tilt/swivel design. The viewfinder offers 95 percent coverage and 0.51x magnification (35mm eq.). It's a bit disappointing that the viewfinder doesn't offer full frame coverage, but that is not unusual for an entry-level DSLR.

Overall, the T7i feels nice to use and has a good design. Its button layout is generally user-friendly and the touchscreen is particularly excellent.

Canon T7i Shooting Features and Experience

24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor performs well

With its 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (1.6x focal length multiplier), the Canon Rebel T7i can capture good images right in the camera. Its sensor produces images with good detail, although there is some noise reduction being applied even at low ISOs that can reduce very fine details.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 29mm (46mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/6s, ISO 100.
Click for original image.

Dynamic range has not always been a strong suit for Canon cameras, but the T7i performs well in this regard. The RAW files have good flexibility when recovering highlight and shadow detail. I was also impressed by its color reproduction at default settings. One aspect of the image quality that I don't like is how much contrast is applied to JPEG images in-camera at default settings -- it is excessive and removes some shadow detail. This can be adjusted, of course, so it is not a big deal. It's also a matter of personal taste.

ISO Performance

The T7i records images from ISO 100 to 25600 natively, but it can expand to ISO 51200. Unsurprisingly, given its sensor size, ISO 51200 is basically useless, I feel. However, the camera still performs well at other high ISO settings. While I was going to mention it later, now is as good a time as any to point out that the T7i's auto white balance tends toward bluer tones, as you can see in the ISO charts below. It's not a big issue, especially if you shoot RAW, but it is worth pointing out.

Canon T7i ISO Comparison
100% center crops from RAW images processed in Adobe Camera Raw with default settings and lens corrections applied. (Click to access the .CR2 RAW files.)
ISO 100 Full Scene
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
ISO 25600
ISO 51200

RAW images look good at ISO 100, as expected. Minimal processing can bring out quite a bit of fine detail here. In fact, through ISO 800, the T7i produces nice, easy to work with RAW files. The visible noise becomes much more apparent at ISO 1600, but it is manageable. ISO 3200 sees the sensor introduce quite a bit more noise, and ISO 6400 will require careful noise reduction processing and selective sharpening to bring out the best the file can offer. Beyond ISO 6400, the noise is excessive, shadow detail is lost, and the camera fails to capture much detail. Like most cameras, the extended ISO 51200 setting is not useful.

Canon T7i ISO Comparison
100% center crops from JPEG Fine 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 12800
ISO 25600
ISO 51200

When considering JPEG images straight from the camera, images at ISO 100 and 200 are similarly sharp and detailed. At ISO 400, when viewing the images at full size, you can see a very slight drop in detail, but this wouldn't impact image quality unless making large prints. At ISO 800, detail drops a bit again, but images still look good. ISO 1600 is where noise starts becoming noticeable, but images still look quite good and have sufficient detail for many uses. ISO 3200 is considerably softer, but still usable for smaller prints. Noise is very visible in JPEGs shot at ISO 6400 and fine details are lost due to noise reduction. Beyond ISO 6400, images get very soft as the camera must perform a lot of noise reduction. ISO 25600 and 51200 are particularly bad with no visible fine detail and considerable blotchiness; they're not worth using, in my opinion.

Overall

Overall, despite some aggressive contrast using the default automatic Picture Control setting, the T7i produces nice images straight from the camera. Images are detailed and sharp through ISO 800 and quite good through ISO 3200, allowing for considerable flexibility while shooting in different situations.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 135mm (216mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 250.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
A good autofocus system through the viewfinder and during live view

The Canon Rebel T7i is the first Rebel camera to include a 45-point, all-cross-type autofocus system. Of the 45 AF points, 27 of them support f/8 (9 cross-type), the rest support f/5.6 aperture lenses. This means that 27 points would work well even when using teleconverters on slower lenses, which is great for wildlife and sports shooters looking for extra reach.

Overall, I found that when shooting through the optical viewfinder, phase-detect autofocus was quick and accurate. I had no complaints with how the autofocus system worked, although on the usability side of things, changing the autofocus point location is slightly tedious on the T7i. To change the AF point, you must press the dedicated AF select button to the right of the thumb grip and then use the directional buttons to move the point around. If you want to change the autofocus area mode itself, there's a dedicated button on the top deck of the camera you can press to cycle through modes. It's not a bad setup, but it isn't quite as fast or as direct as some other DSLRs I've used.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 50mm (80mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/4s, ISO 100.
Click for original image.

When using Live View, autofocus changes and the camera utilizes Canon's excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. The T7i is the first Rebel camera to offer this focusing system. By default, it is set to Face + Tracking and you can also use Smooth Zone AF or Live 1-Point AF, and you change these settings through the Q menu on the touchscreen rather than using the dedicated focus buttons. Using the touchscreen for moving focus points is great -- really quick and convenient. Live View autofocus performance is impressive for a DSLR, proving to be fast and accurate, much faster than non-Dual Pixel CMOS AF cameras have been in my experience.

Speaking of the touchscreen, it should be noted that if you press the autofocus buttons while shooting through the viewfinder, the display will come on and you can use the touchscreen to move focus points around.

Overall, the Rebel T7i, thanks to its new autofocus features, is a quick-focusing DSLR and certainly faster and more sophisticated than either the T6i or T6s cameras I tested last year.

Metering and Exposure

Relying on a 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor divided into 63 segments, the T7i meters exposure quite well most of the time. I found that it tended to underexpose, but that isn't unusual. Exposure compensation is available up to +/- 5 EV, and there's a dedicated button you can hold while rotating the top command dial to quickly adjust compensation. Metering modes include evaluative (linked to all autofocus points), center-weighted, partial and spot. However, the spot metering is not linked to the active autofocus point.

The T7i has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/4000s. It has an Auto ISO mode as well, which works pretty well but isn't customizable beyond selecting a maximum allowable ISO.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 18mm (29mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image.

Canon T7i's DIGIC 7 brings nice performance gains over the T6i

Continuing their DIGIC 7 rollout, the Canon Rebel T7i is now the first Rebel-series model with this latest-generation chip. The faster processor results in very good overall performance for a consumer DSLR with notable improvements over its predecessor, the T6i.

Looking first at continuous shooting speeds, the T7i can record RAW and JPEG images at about six frames per second. Compared to the T6i, this is over a frame per second faster. While that gain is good, the increase in buffer depth is more impressive. The T6i topped out at just six RAW frames. The T7i quadruples that with a 24-frame buffer depth. The buffer is only three seconds slower to clear despite capturing four times the number of RAW images.

The T7i is also faster to start up to first shot, about a half second improvement over its predecessor -- great for a consumer DSLR. Focus speeds are very good for an entry-level DSLR as well, nearing professional DSLR speeds.

Miniature Creative Effect
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 24mm (38mm eq.), f/4.0, 1/80s, ISO 640.

Click for full-size image.
Shooting modes

In addition to the standard program auto, aperture priority, shutter speed priority and full manual shooting modes, the T7i offers a good Scene Intelligent Auto mode and a variety of creative shooting options. There's also a Creative Auto mode which allows you to create ambience-based shots by selecting one of the following settings: Standard, Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense, Cool, Brighter, Darker and Monochrome. On the mode dial, there are also specific portrait, landscape, close-up and sports modes. There is a scene mode, which includes: Group photo, Kids, Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene and HDR backlight control. Further, there's a Creative Filter mode. The filters available are: Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Fish-eye effect, Water painting effect, Toy camera effect, Miniature effect, HDR art standard, HDR art vivid, HDR art bold and HDR art embossed.

In all its modes, the T7i does a lot of handholding by default, which could be redundant for experienced shooters, but very useful for beginners. For example, when shooting in aperture priority (Av) mode, the camera shows a diagram for your aperture. On the left, there's an illustration showing a blurred background and on the right, where the aperture is smaller, it shows the background being sharper. When shooting shutter speed priority mode, the illustrations show blurred versus frozen motion as you move your shutter speed from a slower speed to faster. This information is overkill for someone who has shot in these modes a lot, but are nice and illustrative for new photographers or those trying manual modes for the first time. The camera also warns you when manual settings won't deliver what it considers to be the intended results. If there isn't enough light for your current settings, the camera will warn you that the image will be underexposed.

Wireless features

Using the Canon Camera Connect app on a compatible smart device, you can connect to the Canon Rebel T7i via Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. The connection process is straightforward. Once connected, you can transfer images and remotely control the camera.

Screenshots from Canon Camera Connect application on iOS.

The remote control functionality itself is impressive. Not only can you adjust a lot of settings on the smart device, the app recognizes changes made on the camera body itself without requiring you to reestablish the connection. The live view image sometimes freezes for a short time before starting back up, but this is a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

Video: No 4K video, but still nice video performance

The Rebel T7i can capture nice video, but its resolution does top out at 1920 x 1080. It can record at up to 60 frames per second in normal video recording modes, which is good, although additional fast or slow-motion video recording would be welcome.

Canon T7i Video Sample
1920 x 1080, 30 fps, Auto settings
Download Original (69MB .MP4 File)

I like that the camera has a dedicated movie record button and that the touchscreen display can be used quietly and quickly to move the focus point. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF pays dividends as well -- the autofocus performance is impressive.

Canon T7i Video Sample: Autofocus Testing (Servo AF, touchscreen used)
1920 x 1080, 60 fps, Manual, ISO 100, 18-135mm lens
Download Original (292MB .MP4 File)

The T7i can record video in a variety of modes, including full manual mode, which is nice. But the camera also includes a few special video recording modes. There is an in-camera time-lapse movie mode, which produces a 30fps output, and there's an HDR movie mode. The HDR movie mode doesn't offer the stark difference that an HDR photo does compared to a single image, but it could be useful in high-contrast scenes. The way that the HDR movie mode works is that the camera records at 60 frames per second, but combines every two frames into a single frame, leading to a final output of 30fps.

Canon T7i Video Sample: Non-HDR
1920 x 1080, 60 fps, Auto
Download Original (77MB .MP4 File)

Canon T7i Video Sample: HDR
1920 x 1080, 30 fps, Auto
Download Original (35MB .MP4 File)

The Rebel T7i includes a microphone jack, which is nice for users looking to capture better audio than the built-in stereo mic can record. There is also composite video out and an HDMI connection.

Canon T7i Video Sample
1920 x 1080, 60 fps, ISO 25600
Download Original (40MB .MP4 File)

Overall, video quality from the T7i is good thanks to generally reliable automatic exposure, autofocus performance and a useful array of video recording modes.

Canon T7i Field Test Summary
T7i is a solid, improved addition to the Rebel lineup
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 18mm (29mm eq.), f/8.0, 3.2s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

What I like:

  • Comfortable, user-friendly camera body
  • Awesome articulating touchscreen
  • Good autofocus performance
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF for live view and video
  • DIGIC 7 processor contributes to very good overall performance

What I dislike:

  • Image quality is fine, but not great
  • Optical viewfinder doesn't offer full frame coverage

The Canon Rebel T7i brings several improvements over its predecessor, including better autofocus and higher overall performance. The camera can capture nice images, and it is very user-friendly, making the Rebel T7i is an appealing option for photographers looking for a good entry-level DSLR.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM at 76mm (122mm eq.), f/8.0, 2s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

 

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