I recently wrote an article about my experience hiking the Maine 100, the last 100 miles of the Northbound Appalachian Trail. One of my primary concerns about the back country hiking trip was carrying too much weight. My 5d III and lenses would have brought my pack to abput 50 pounds, with water. I just didn't want to have to deal with it, so I was looking at other options. I was ultimately able to get ahold of the Canon Rebel T7 kit (aka Canon D2000), which included two (count'em two) Image Stabilized lenses - the 18-55 (7.1 ounces) and the 75-300 Mark III (16.8 ounces). I have seen these kits retailing at Costco for about $550.00 US, which I think is a veritable steal. This gave me a total pack weight of less than 3 pounds of camera gear (not including filters and tripod).
The Canon Rebel T7 Specs:
Lens Mount: Canon EF/EFs
Camera Format APS-C (1.6x Crop Factor)
Sensor Resolution: Actual: 24.7 Megapixel (Effective: 24.1 Megapixel)
Maximum Resolution 6000 x 4000
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Sensor Type CMOS
Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm (1.6x Crop Factor)
Bit Depth 14-Bit
Storage Media: SD
WIFI Enabled: Yes
Battery: Rated at 500 shots
Weight (body only): 475 grams
LCD 3 inch, 920,000 pixel display
Before I start this review, let me give a bit of a preamle. I used this camera exactly as I would use any other camera in the fiield. Photographically, I am a bit of a ludite. Outside of Auto Focus, I like to do everything manually.. As I frequently shoot with Tilt Shift lenses, even that is often manual. I suppose that this will make this camera review a bit incomplete for many people who are reading this review, for which I apologize. I am sure that there are lots of very comprehensive reviews that go over all of the bells and whistles. I will say that at the pricepoint (a word that I will use frequently in this review), I don't expect so many bells and whistles. I want a camera that takes photographs. As I want to make sure I am controlling my exposure perfectly, I did not use the "P," "A," or "S" modes. I don't need a widget telling me what aperture I should be shooting, or what my exposure should be. If you cannot look at the sky and figure out about what your metering should be - well - that's not my problem. My experience has been that cameras don't know what I want to shoot or what I am trying to do with a composition. I also don't bother with in-camera jpegs. If I wanted a snapshot, I'd have used an iPhone.
I also don't mess with video - but in this case, not for the reason why you might think. I see video as an entirely different art than still photography. There are guys who are reallly talented at it, and I have never seen a good video long enough. I have also never seen a bad video short enough, and I am afraid that would be mine. I am satisfied to know that the camera shoots video in 1080p at 30 fps and 720 at up to 60 fps. I realize that we now have cameras shooting in 4k and 8k. However, at this price point, I am not asking for something that most human beings don't currently have the ability to view on their own TVs.
Unboxing the camera, my first reaction was that the camera was very small and super light. Coming from a camera with a magnesium alloy body, everything about it felt 'cheap.' However, I think that is ultimately an unfair characterization. This body costs a fraction of must magnesium alloy bodies. Using the camera on the trail, I found the polycarb body to be more than durable. For example, I took a couple of nice falls on the trail and there was zero evidence that I damaged the body. It took a licking and kept on ticking - or something like that. I am very pleased with how well the body stoood up during the time I was reviewing it - fit and finish was quite nice.
The kit lenses, however, were incredibly tiny and really cheap. To be fair, I am coming from L lenses, and they are all built to withstand the Armageddon. In the world of photography, I don't think it is a mischaracterization to say that your glass is the primary limiting factor, not your camera body. I was pleasantly surprised to see that both kit lenses were image stabilized, though because I almost always shoot with a tripod, I almost never use the Image Stabilization. Now that Canon is producing in body image stabilization in its mirrorless lens lines, I hope that they expand this technology to the rest of their cameras. It's about time, Canon!
I really wrestled about what to do about the glass. As weight was my first concern, I ultimately decided to forego using the lenses I know and trust and to bring the kit lenses with me. By foregoing my 24-70 F2.8L and my 70-200 F2.8L lenses, I was able to save myself at least three pounds. That is huge when you are backpacking. I was also hedging my bet that the 1.6x cropped sensor would be more forgiving of the lenses. One of the advantages of a cropped sensor lens is that they only use the center of a 35mm lens. This means that they are using only the sharpest pieces of the glass - and that making acceptable glass is also much more affordable to produce. I will admit in advance that assuming such things without testing them before doing something as big as I was about to attempt is potentially a big mistake. The battery was also super tiny, and I quickly ordered two additional ones just in case.
In the field, I was very pleased with the operation of the camera. The view finder is admittedly small(ish), but not smaller than what would be expected at this price point. I was surprised to see the Diamond 9 Point Auto Focus design that was similar to what I had in my old Canon 20D and in my old Canon 5D Mark II. That autofocus mechanism must be 20 years old at this point - if not older. However, on the smaller sensor, the 9 point array covers much more of the display and is suprisingly adequate for shooting 1 Shoot scenes, even in low light. I normally photograph in "One Shot" mode. As I was not photographing BIF or other moving objects, I decided to keep to the stauts quo. Switching to the Live View, which usually use only when I am working with Tilt Shift Lenses, I found the autofocus to be slow and unreiable and I very quickly moved back to the optical viewfinder. Using the optical viewfinder, I found the Auto Focus to be more than adequate for the purposes I was using it.
The LCD display on the rear is a nice sized display - at 3 inches and 920k pixels. Chimping images, I missed the joystick on my 5d series camera. Some might not like the fact that the display isn't touch screen. Personally, I don't like touch screen displays. I find that buttons and dials are a far cleaner and more efficient way of going through images (though again, I do miss that joystick!!). As the purpose of getting this camera was to take me out onto the Appalachian Trail, where I was doing some hiking, I knew that it was possible that I would be a bit sweaty at times. In my opinion, touch screens are more of a distraction than they are worth. One of the (many) reasons why I chose a Garmin smartwatch over the Fruit is that the buttons are just a better fit for folks who exercise.
The Rebel T7 is rated at 3 frames per second, which while slow, is just fine for those of us who are looking to photograph landscapes. The only time I used bursts of images was when I was taking group photos with the timer. My recollection is that my original Canon D30 (yes, the original) photographed at 3 frames per second - and I used that successfully for years.
If you are familiar with any Canon menu system, you will feel quite at home. The display is super easy to use. Controls for ISO (which allow from 100 to 6400), shutter speed, aperture and other commands are all really easy to access. They are so simple that I was able to figure it out - without using the manual. The timer delay offers a nice feature of shooting multiple images, which I did on multiple occasions when we were taking a group photo. The manual control face is really easy to use. The two big differences that were apparent was (1) the lack of a dedicated aperture control, and (2) the lack of a Depth of Field Button. The Depth Of Field Button is a huge loss. I use that to help determine where I am to place my ND Grad cards...and it meant that using cards requires a bit more of a guestimate while shooting.
Battery life on the camera is surprisingly excellent. I racked off about 375 images before the camera dropped to the 50% energy mark. As Canon advertises 500 images on a charge, I think that is probably right on target. I charged the camera with my battery brick that I was carrying with me through it's USB port.
Now for the important stuff. What's under the hood? The 1.6x 24 megapixel sensor definitely delivers the goods. Image quality is excellent., particularly at lower ISOs. You can certainly be the judge, but I think that the images look really - really - crisp. Noise looks well controlled all the way up to ISO 3200. It is amazing what a few years will make in regards to controlling noise. At ISO 3200, images began to look soft and highlights were definitely getting clipped. The one thing to note is that when I initially looked at all of my photos in Capture One, I had thought that there was a problem with highlight clipping. I believe that was wrong - at least based upon objective comparisons. The website, DxO Mark, rates the 5d Mark III and the Canon Rebel T7 as virtually identical - with about 11.7 stops of dynamic range at ISO 200. My guess is that the problems I was having with clipping highlights had more to do with the metering modes that were used. I normally use a center weighted mode - but on the Rebel I was using their dynamic mode.
I am attaching some images below, with 100% swatches for photos taken at ISO 400, 1600 and 3200. The ISO 3200 Image looks a bit soft, and the image is definitely struggling to not clip the highlights. However, they are all really usable. I would even suggest that at ISO 1600 that I prefer the images that were taken with the Rebel over images I have taken with my Canon 5d Mark III at the same ISO. To be fair. I bought that 5dIII nearly a deacade ago - and I am contemplating an upgrade because the sensor is kind of 'muddy' compared to the current generation of dSLRS. It gives me a lot of hope that more pixels are not necessarilly worse pixels.
Conclusion: I picked up this camera on a lark because I wanted something small and light. I am definitely pleased with the output from the camera. If you cannot get good images out of this camera, in my opinion it is user error. While I don't love the kit lenses (I find them soft, even stopped down), given the price point, they are more than adequate. They sharpened up well enough in Capture One when I processed the RAW images. I could easily see myself getting a camera like this just to keep on my bike for when I am community back and forth to work. I cannot count the number of times that I have kicked myself for not having a small camera available when I was biking either to work or coming home.
Last edited by James Morrissey; 09/13/20 10:09 AM.