A great entry-level DSLR
Editor’s note: In August 2018, we re-tested the Canon EOS 800D to see how it stacks up against today’s DSLR and mirrorless competition and to find out if we still recommend it. We’ve edited this review to reflect our findings.
What is the Canon EOS 800D?
Launched in the early part of 2017, the Canon 800D is the successor to the 750D, which was Canon’s upper entry-level, or ‘step up’, DSLR.
It isn’t a complete overhaul by any stretch of the imagination, but it did introduce Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel AF technology to the company’s entry-level DSLR models for the first time. This increases autofocus speed and accuracy in Live View, as well as when shooting video.
Another improvement came in the form of the Digic 7 processor – something which Canon is still using in some of its current cameras (the most recent is a Digic 8, seen in the likes of the Canon EOS M50). This processor enables 6fps shooting, which is a decent rate at this price point, even by 2018 standards.
To date, the 800D has not yet been replaced by Canon, although some would argue that some of its compact system cameras, particularly the EOS M50, are targeted at the same kind of photographer. For beginners looking for their first ‘proper’ camera, it’s still a good option, particularly if you like the weight and feel of a full-size DSLR.
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Canon EOS 800D – Features
The Canon 800D is built around a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, which you’ll also find in Canon’s more advanced EOS 80D (£840 body-only). While the 750D/760D also sported 24.2-megapixel sensors, neither included Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology, so while effective resolution remains identical to the 800D’s sensor, it represents a fairly big step forward.
Likewise, the 800D also employs Canon’s Digic 7 processor (which has since been superseded by the Digic 8). Canon claims that the Digic 7 is able to process data 14x faster than its predecessor, which not only enables the 800D to provide a higher maximum burst speed of 6fps (compared to 5fps on the 750D/760D), but also to fire off a higher number of consecutive images when burst shooting.
In addition, the new sensor and processor pairing also allows the 800D to offer a higher maximum native sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600, along with the equivalent of ISO 51,200 in expanded mode. By way of comparison, the 750D/760D both offer a maximum native sensitivity setting of ISO 12,800, with the equivalent of ISO 25,600 available in expanded mode.
Perhaps the most notable enhancement the 800D enjoys over its predecessors is the addition of Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology. Introduced with the EOS 70D in 2013, Dual Pixel AF is the name given to Canon’s proprietary on-sensor phase-detection technology.
In practical terms the main benefit of Dual Pixel AF is that it greatly speeds up focus acquisition times when the camera is being operated in Live View (in real-time on the camera’s LCD screen, rather than through the viewfinder). The way it works is that each pixel on the sensor’s surface is split into two individual photodiodes – one left and one right. Each of these can be read separately, thereby allowing them to be used for phase-detection AF purposes.
Prior to the introduction of Dual Pixel AF, Canon DSLRs relied on contrast-detect technology and were renowned for providing fairly sluggish AF performance.
The move to Dual Pixel AF therefore represents a big step up in terms of performance. Indeed, Canon claims that its latest iteration of Dual Pixel AF is the fastest on-sensor phase-detection technology currently available to DSLRs owners. Until recently, the technology has been confined to models higher up in Canon’s DSLR range – the EOS 80D and 7D Mark II (£1250 body only), for example. The 800D was the first time the technology trickled down to Canon’s mid-range models.
In addition, the 800D’s viewfinder-based phase-detection AF system also saw a major revamp and now employs 45 individual AF points across the viewfinder, all of which are of the cross-type variety. This is a notable improvement from the 19-point system employed by the 750D/760D.
In terms of exposure modes, the 800D is well served by a generous range of options including the standard PASM quartet for more experienced users, alongside Scene Intelligent Auto mode and 10 individual Scene modes (some of which can be selected directly from the Exposure mode dial) for point-and-shoot duties.
Those wanting to get creative in-camera can take advantage of ten built-in digital filters (including old favourites such as Toy Camera, Miniature effect and a trio of HDR options), or choose one of nine Creative Auto settings, each of which is designed to capture images with a unique ambience.
JPEG processing options extend to Canon’s proprietary Picture Styles, of which there are eight presets and three User Defined slots to customise as you wish. In addition, the 800D also provides a range of in-camera lens-correction tools for minimising unsightly effects such as purple fringing and distortion, alongside the company’s longstanding Auto Lighting Optimizer tool to auto-correct image brightness and contrast.
Canon EOS 800D – Build and design
As with previous ‘triple-digit’ Canon DSLR models, the 800D is a compact, lightweight and neatly styled DSLR. While it does feel a little plasticky (a common trait of entry-level Canon DSLRs over the years), overall build quality is actually pretty much on par for a camera of this price and specification.
Inside the polycarbonate outer shell, the internal electronics of the 800D are protected by an aluminium alloy chassis. This should provide ample protection against the kind of gentle knocks and accidental scrapes most cameras experience at some point in their lifetime.
However, unlike models further up the EOS range, the 800D’s body isn’t weather sealed – so you’ll need to keep it as dry as possible when shooting in wet weather.
For a DSLR of such modest overall proportions, we found the 800D’s handgrip to be surprisingly deep and pronounced. With our averagely sized hands we were comfortably able to wrap three fingers around it, while the contoured thumb grip on the back of the body offers something to brace your thumb against for a secure grip.
The 800D may have been technically succeeded by mirrorless models like the EOS M50, but there’s still something to be said for stability and handling of a full-size DSLR, particularly with larger lenses. It’s well worth trying both to see which you prefer.
With the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens attached, the 800D feels exceptionally well balanced. The camera’s physical buttons and controls are all clearly labelled, well spaced and have a reassuringly responsive ‘clicky’ feel about them when pressed.
Canon EOS 800D – Viewfinder and screen
The 800D’s optical viewfinder employs a pentamirror design that provides 95% scene coverage at 0.82x magnification. The viewfinder itself isn’t overly large but it does provide a pin-sharp view through the lens.
In real terms, offering only 95% scene coverage means that there’s a good chance that something could creep into the edge of your frame. This is one area where electronic viewfinders have the advantage over their optical counterparts – even the most basic electronic finder shows you 100%.
These days, almost all electronic viewfinders are pretty good to use too – so while optical viewfinders still have plenty of fans, it’s something that’s starting to feel a little bit old-fashioned in the current climate.
Below the main viewfinder window, the 800D displays a range of key settings including shutter speed, aperture, ISO and a metering/exposure compensation bar.
Underneath this is the 800D’s 3-inch, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD panel. The Clear View II TFT screen is of very good quality and displays captured images with great clarity, showing vivid colours and good levels of contrast while the camera is being used in Playback mode.
The touchscreen is nice and responsive, too, never missing a beat when it comes to inputting commands through the screen with your fingers. As with previous models, the screen is side-hinged to allow it to be extracted fully 180 degrees from the camera body, from where it also rotates through 270 degrees. This enables the screen to be positioned so that it faces the rear of the camera for regular shooting as well as the front for self-portraits and suchlike.
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Naturally, you can also rotate the screen to accommodate overhead and hip-level shooting. One small improvement the 800D does enjoy over the 750D/760D is the addition of an electronic level that can be used to get perfectly straight horizons when using a tripod. This is activated via the Info button that sits just to the left of the viewfinder.
Canon EOS 800D – Autofocus
While the introduction of Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology represents a significant step forward for those who like to work in Live View mode, the 800D’s viewfinder-based phase-detection AF system also sees notable improvement from previous triple-digit EOS models.
More specifically, whereas the 750D/760D both used 19 cross-type AF points, the 800D inherits the same AF system used inside the EOS 80D, which benefits from 45 cross-type AF points across the central portion of the viewfinder. While there’s still a sizeable gap around the edges that isn’t covered, focusing remains speedy and precise, with a working range of -3 to 18EV at ISO 100.
Switching to the 49-point Dual Pixel AF Live View system, the working range drops slightly from -2EV to 18EV. Either way, that’s still pretty good and enables the camera to attain focus even in dim conditions. My only minor gripe is that the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens can be quite noisy while focus is being adjusted. If you’re shooting video in a quiet environment then you can expect the 800D’s built-in microphones to pick up on this.
When used in Live View mode you can set the active AF point via the rear touchscreen, simply by tapping on the subject on which you want to focus. Canon also provides a Touch Shutter function that takes things one step further by automatically capturing an image once the camera has attained focus on the chosen subject.
Servo AF is also available in Live View mode for shooting moving subjects alongside One Shot AF for stationary subjects.
Canon EOS 800D – Performance
The Digic 7 image processor is certainly very capable, even by 2018 levels, when it comes to burst shooting. With a 16GB SanDisk Extreme Pro Class 10/U3 SDHC card inserted into the camera, I was able to record approximately 25 consecutive Raw images at the maximum 6fps with AF-S employed. By way of comparison, the 750D could manage only eight frames at 5fps before slowing down.
Shooting at 6fps should be more than enough for most relatively slow moving action, but if high-speed shooting is your thing, it’s worth taking a look at some of the mid-range mirrorless models currently on the market for the same kind of asking price as the 800D. For example, the Panasonic Lumix GX9 can shoot at 9fps at full-resolution, or at 30fps by using 4K Photo modes.
Switching to Raw+JPEG capture, the number drops to around 22 images. In JPEG capture there appears to be no upper limit, aside from the size of your memory card and the amount of battery charge remaining of course.
JPEG image quality is, as we’ve come to expect from Canon DSLRs, very good indeed. Even with the camera set to its “Standard” Picture Style setting, colours are deep and vivid, with good levels of contrast. Of course, if you want to boost saturation then there’s a “Vivid” Picture Style to choose from, whereas if you’re looking for something flatter, the “Neutral” option will give you precisely this.
Matrix metering from the 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor proves consistently accurate in all but the most extreme high-contrast situations, resulting in evenly lit images that are neither too dark nor too bright. Likewise, Automatic White Balance also serves up consistently accurate colour.
Canon EOS 800D – Guided User Interface
Another handy feature on the 800D is its Guided User Interface. This is a purely optional feature that can be accessed and switched on/off via the Display Level tab in the main in-camera menu.
Once the Guided UI is activated, the rear LCD panel will change from a standard display of key camera settings to a more animated one that also provides some basic information and practical advice specific to the exposure mode selected.
For example, with ‘aperture priority’ mode selected, the rear LCD shows an intuitive slider graphic that displays whereabouts in the aperture range the aperture is currently set to, along with a brief description of what kind of photo the chosen aperture value would best suit – and with how much it will blur or bring into focus the background behind the main subject.
The information and advice supplied by the GUI doesn’t go into any great detail, but is useful if you’re just starting out with a DSLR and aren’t sure how changing key camera settings will affect your images.
The Guided UI can also be applied to the in-camera menu. Here it essentially just simplifies the standard in-camera menu, by grouping all four sub-menu tabs – Shooting, Playback, Function and Display Level – together on a single introductory screen, with a brief description of what you can expect to find within each.
Canon EOS 800D – Video
At the time of the 800D’s launch, 4K video was not a standard feature on entry-level DSLRs. It still isn’t, but the EOS M50, Canon’s entry-level mirrorless model has it (albeit with limited applications).
Just like all other entry-level DSLRs, the 800D is limited to 1080p Full HD capture. How much this bothers you very much depends on the type of shooter you are, but even cheaper mirrorless rivals, such as the Panasonic Lumix GX800, incorporate 4K shooting (as does your phone, in all likelihood).
That said, Canon did improve the video capabilities of the 800D over the 750D/760D, bringing it into line with both the EOS 77D and the EOS 80D via the inclusion of 1080p Full HD video recording at 60fps. The highest video setting on the 750D/760D was 1080p Full HD at 30fps.
Even more impressive was the 800D’s introduction of in-camera image stabilisation. This is only applicable to video recording and can’t be used for still image capture, but it can be activated to ensure smoother video capture when shooting handheld.
There are three settings to choose from: Off, Regular IS and Enhanced IS. The Regular setting can be used to counter basic handshake, while the latter is intended for use in more extreme circumstances. Either way, the difference is clear to see, not just in recorded footage but also in the rear LCD panel while recording is in progress.
As with previous triple-digit models, the 800D also sports a dedicated microphone jack in addition to the twin stereo microphones on the front of the camera body.
Canon EOS 800D – Image Quality
Overall, the 800D produced a solid set of test results. Resolution was the clear standout, with the sensor returning an excellent set of images despite Canon’s decision to retain an optical low-pass filter.
While JPEGs returned decent enough results, I found that using Adobe Camera Raw to sharpen raw images ourselves yielded better results. Dynamic range has been improved from the two-year-old 750D/760D models, too, with the 800D returning slightly higher figures than its predecessors across the camera’s sensitivity range.
Using Adobe Camera Raw to sharpen raw images produced much better results than leaving the 800D to sharpen JPEGs in-camera. For example, at ISO 100 JPEGs processed in-camera returned a figure of 3,400l/ph, whereas with some careful sharpening of raw images, I was able to stretch resolution to 3,600l/ph. This trend continues as you move up through the sensitivity range, and while JPEGs dip just below 3,000l/ph at ISO 1600, raw resolution figures remain above 3,000l/ph up until ISO 6400.
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 100. Multiply the number below the line by 200 for the resolution in lines/picture height
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 3200. Multiply the number below the line by 200 for the resolution in lines/picture height
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 12,800. Multiply the number below the line by 200 for the resolution in lines/picture height
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 51,200. Multiply the number below the line by 200 for the resolution in lines/picture height
At ISO 100, the 800D returned a dynamic range of 12.5EV, which is nearly a full stop higher than the 750D’s figure of 11.6EV and almost identical to the 80D’s 12.6EV.
It performs well against the Pentax K-70 (12.3EV) and Sony A68 (11.9EV), although the Nikon D5500 produces the best results of all with a maximum dynamic range (at ISO 100) of 13.3EV.
Moving up through its ISO range the 800D remains a strong performer, with figures of 11.7EV at ISO 200, 11.3EV at ISO 400 and 10.4EV at ISO 800. Beyond this figures start to drop off, with 8.5EV available at ISO 3200 and 7.4EV at ISO 6400.
As with resolution, our testing revealed quite a difference between in-camera JPEGs and manually processed raw images. Raw was again the clear winner, with manually processed images showing noticeable gains in image quality over in-camera JPEG processing.
While JPEGs do display very low levels of noise all the way up to ISO 3200, the effects of in-camera noise reduction led to a noticeable loss of fine detail. While this isn’t quite so apparent at ISO 100 and ISO 200, by ISO 400 the effects of in-camera noise control begin to produce a smearing of fine detail. With careful raw processing, however, it’s possible to retain this fine detail.
That said, for most users, the overall image quality of JPEGs remains pretty good and is eminently usable until about ISO 6400.
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 100
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 6400
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 25,600
Canon EOS 800D, RAW, ISO 51,200
Should I buy the the Canon EOS 800D?
Canon’s excellent upper entry-level DSLRs are still a great place to start for anybody looking for their first camera.
To date, the 800D remains in Canon’s line-up, but it some senses it has been superseded both by the smaller and lighter EOS 200D, and the mirrorless EOS M50 model. Both are just as worthy of your attention if you’re looking to move up from a smartphone and get a little bit more serious.
These days, DSLRs are of course not the only option, either. As well as Canon’s own range of compact system cameras, there are plenty of entry-friendly models from other brands, too. Given the reasonably hefty asking price of the 800D, it pays to do a little bit of research to make sure your heart is set on a DSLR.
However, if you’re keen to stick with tradition and like the handling of DSLRs, the 800D is a good option. You can pick up the 750D for a cheaper price, but for the extra cash you get a better sensor, newer sensor, and better autofocusing – all things which are almost always definitely worth paying for.
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For those who prefer the handling, balance and usability of DSLRs to more advanced mirrorless cameras, the 800D remains an excellent first-time choice.
Canon EOS 200D
Featuring much of the same spec as the 800D, but in a slightly smaller body, the EOS 200D is an ideal option for anybody trying to keep their kit bag on the light side. As a sacrifice, you get a slightly reduced burst shooting speed – but as neither this nor the 800D are speed demons, most users won’t notice the difference.
Panasonic Lumix GX9
For roughly the same price as the 800D and the kit lens, you can pick up Panasonic’s diminutive Lumix GX9. The ideal companion for travelling due to its small size, it’s got 4K Video and Photo, as well as access to an ever-increasing number of Micro Four Thirds lenses.
Additional testing and copy by Amy Davies
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