Canon EOS 800D review: A brilliant sub-£1000 DSLR
The Canon EOS 800D is the latest in a line of SLRs that has scored consistently well in our reviews in recent years. The EOS 750D didn’t excel in any particular area but a generous set of features, a sensible price and a consistently high quality added up to a camera that was perfect for home users looking for a proper camera.
We’re used to seeing subtle improvements with each update but the 800D makes some significant strides. The autofocus sensor is up from 19 to 45 points, leapfrogging the Nikon D5600 (with its 39-point autofocus) in an area that is usually Nikon’s stronghold. More autofocus points make it easier to focus exactly where you want to in the frame. It also — in theory — improves the camera’s ability to track moving subjects around the frame. Burst speed is up from 5 to 6fps and the faster processor means it can save JPEGs as fast as it captures them.
The sensor resolution remains at 24 megapixels but it now incorporates Canon’s Dual Pixel technology, which delivers significant improvements to autofocus performance when shooting photos in live view mode and for video capture. Canon SLRs used to be dire for video autofocus, but thanks to Dual Pixel they’re now better than any other brand of SLR or compact system camera (CSC).
Canon EOS 800D review: In use
The 800D looks and feels a lot like the 750D, with subtle cosmetic tweaks and one new button (to launch its wireless functions) separating their appearances. It’s small for an SLR but a comfortable fit in the hand, and its buttons fall under fingers. The single, vertical command dial isn’t my favourite design, though; CSCs at this price such as the Panasonic G80 and Fujifilm X-T20 offer dual command dials.
A new Guided interface encourages users to leave Auto mode and discover the benefits of shooting in program, priority and manual exposure modes. It shows graphics and simple text explanations to help users understand how to use exposure modes and settings. While it covers shutter speed and aperture settings well, it doesn’t explain ISO speed, white balance or autofocus modes. It also restricts the number of functions available via the Q menu button, hiding JPEG quality, metering mode and various other functions out of sight. I was relieved to find that the Standard shooting screen can be re-enabled, but Guided mode should be handy for beginners.
Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll appreciate the generous number of single-function buttons to access key settings including ISO speed, white balance, drive mode and autofocus mode. Moving the autofocus point involves pressing a button and then moving the point using the four-way pad or the touchscreen. The latter is quicker but there’s a risk of inadvertently switching to a different autofocus mode. With a bit of practice it’s not too hard to avoid this.
White balance presets are easily available but — as with all EOS cameras — calibrating the custom white balance is unnecessarily convoluted. I also got caught out by the need to adjust menu settings and then hit OK to confirm them; adjusting and then half pressing the shutter button to exit the menu abandons the changes. The Q menu works differently, and this inconsistency was the main source of my confusion.
Another frustration is the limited ability to customise the behaviour of the Auto ISO mode. The upper ISO speed limit can be set but there’s no control over which shutter speeds are used (except by setting it manually in shutter-priority or manual exposure mode). Nikon SLRs allow users to adjust the Auto ISO mode’s behaviour for moving or static subjects, and Panasonic cameras detect subject motion automatically. The 800D is oblivious to subject motion. It tried to manage camera shake intelligently, using slower shutter speeds for wide-angle shots and faster for telephoto, but the specific choices made were rarely optimal. It’s a good motivation to master shutter-priority mode but it’d be even better if users didn’t feel compelled to do so.
The new wireless button launches the Wi-Fi configuration page, and with both NFC and Bluetooth available to help manage the Wi-Fi connection, establishing a new connection to an Android phone and to an iPad was trouble-free — a notable improvement on my experience with previous Canon cameras. It helps that the app spells out what to do, but there’s still scope to simplify the procedure. Wireless transfers and remote shooting both worked well, with elegant control over autofocus and exposure settings. I was also able to use the app as a remote video monitor, complete with touchscreen-controlled spot autofocus.
Canon EOS 800D review: Autofocus and performance
The Nikon D5600’s 39-point autofocus was one of its major selling points over the Canon EOS 750D, so Canon’s jump to 45 points is a big deal. It’s arranged in a grid nine across by five tall, and the touchscreen makes it quick to select a single point, a group of nine or leave the camera to pick a subject to focus on.
There’s also an option to define a starting point but then for the camera to track the subject around the frame for as long as the shutter button is (half or fully) pressed. This worked well but not brilliantly in my tests. Tracking autofocus for fast-moving subjects is a big challenge for any camera, and the 800D is on the cusp of delivering reliable results.
Switching to live view mode, it showed itself to be much more reliable at tracking moving subjects, and autofocus was quick to update, too. It faltered in very low light, though, and in some circumstances the camera was unable to focus and capture a picture despite repeated attempts.
Performance was excellent in both modes. I timed 0.3 seconds between shots when using the viewfinder, and 0.4 second in live view mode. The later is a big improvement over the 750D, which took around one second in live view mode, and the Nikon D5600, which took over three seconds.
Continuous performance hit the claimed 6fps performance, and with a fast SD card it kept going until the card was full. It managed the same speed with continuous autofocus enabled, and also with live view, although with both selected it dropped to 4.3fps. This is a major breakthrough for consumer SLRs, which up until now have failed to deliver a responsive shooting experience in live view mode. It’s particularly significant here, as live view is likely to be particularly popular with people upgrading from a compact or smartphone camera.
Canon EOS 800D review: Video capture
The 800D is an excellent video camera, thanks largely to Dual Pixel. Autofocus is responsive and reliable enough to be used with confidence in critical situations such as wedding speeches where you can’t go for a second take. Subject tracking is reliable too, and the articulated touchscreen makes it easy to pick a moving or static subject to focus on. There’s a choice of automatic or manual exposure. Priority modes would have been welcome, but fixing the shutter speed and aperture and leaving the ISO speed in Auto mode means you can control motion blur but still benefit from automatic exposure. The exposure lock button is latching for video, making it easy to lock and release exposure levels on demand.
With so much going for it, it’s frustrating that video capture is limited to 1080p. Canon’s cheapest 4K camera is the EOS 5D Mark IV, but other manufacturers’ starting price for 4K is much lower. Keen videographers face a frustrating choice between superior details from the Panasonic G80 (for instance), superior autofocus from the EOS 800D or spending a lot of money for the best of both worlds.
However, for photographers who want to shoot the occasional video, the 800D’s reliability will probably be more valuable than the G80’s extra detail. It’s certainly the perfect choice for home videos, keeping kids in sharp focus as they career around the frame.
Canon EOS 800D review: Photo quality
We’ve learnt to have high expectations of Canon SLRs’ image quality, and on the whole the 800D didn’t disappoint. Colours were rich and clean without looking over-processed, and details were precise and natural.
Metering was generally accurate but the camera had a tendency to exposure for the darkest parts of the frame. Sometimes this worked to its advantage but other shots were slightly overexposed. There was also the issue with shutter speeds that failed to take subject motion or significant camera shake into account, which could significantly reduce the success rate in certain conditions.
Comparing our studio test shots with archived shots, the 800D showed a small improvement in noise levels compared to the Canon EOS 750D but couldn’t quite match the clean output of the Nikon D5600. The D5600’s advantage was slim, though, and only visible at ISO 3200 and above. More significant is the D5600’s greater dynamic range, allowing me to extract more shadow detail from its RAW files with radical exposure settings in Lightroom.
Overall, though, these criticisms are minor. Image quality was generally up to the high standards we’d expect from Canon.
^ Canon’s usual knack for rich yet lifelike colours is on display here, and there’s masses of detail in the 24-megapixel file. (1/320s, f/10, ISO 100, 43mm equivalent)
**CAPTION: ^ Details are pixel sharp and there’s no hint of noise. (1/400s, f/11, ISO 100, 56mm equivalent)
**CAPTION: ^ The automatic exposure has adjusted for the darker foreground, allowing the background to be over-exposed. (1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 320, 216mm equivalent)
^ This shot is similar but I’d have preferred a darker exposure here. (1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 100, 43mm equivalent)
^ Skin tones are detailed and lifelike but most of the shots in this sequence (at 1/80s on a moving boat) were blurred. Some other cameras would have detected the motion and raised the shutter speed automatically. (1/80s, f/5, ISO 100, 56mm equivalent)
^ Lots of detail and little sign of noise at ISO 1250. (1/400s, f/5, ISO 1250, 99mm equivalent)
^ Shaded skin tones at ISO 2500 are beginning to stress-test the EOS 800D’s noise levels. Once again, the metering system has exposed for the darkest part of the frame, albeit successfully in this case. (1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 2500, 32mm equivalent)
^ A passable snap at ISO 10,000. (1/100s, f/5, ISO 10000, 99mm equivalent)
^ ISO 25,600 is a step too far but it’s great to be able to shoot at all in such low light. (1/25s, f/4.5, ISO 25600, 56mm equivalent)
Canon EOS 800D review: Verdict
This is a strange time for SLRs. Compact system cameras have overtaken them for performance and video capture, and they’re generally on a par for image quality, controls and ergonomics. Meanwhile, SLRs such as the EOS 800D are increasingly behaving like CSCs with their significant improvements to live view mode.
There’s still a place for SLRs, though. Some people will prefer an optical viewfinder to an electronic one — even if the view through it is smaller — and Canon and Nikon’s SLR lens ranges are way beyond any CSC.
Choosing between the Canon EOS 800D and Nikon D5600 is a tough call. Both offer excellent photo and video quality, with Nikon taking the lead for photos and Canon producing more accomplished videos. Both have decent ergonomics, save for a few operational niggles. The Canon is faster, particularly in live view mode, while the Nikon has a longer battery life. We’ll call it a draw and leave you to take your pick.
|Sensor resolution||24 megapixels|
|Focal length multiplier||1.6x|
|Optical stabilisation||In kit lens|
|Viewfinder magnification (35mm-equivalent), coverage||0.51x, 95%|
|LCD screen||3.2in (1,040,000 pixels)|
|Photo file formats||JPEG, RAW (CR2)|
|Maximum photo resolution||6,000×4,000|
|Photo aspect ratios||3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1|
|Video compression format||MP4 (AVC) at up to 60Mbit/s|
|Video resolutions||1080p at 24/25/30/50/60fps, 720p at 25/30/50/60fps, VGA at 25/30fps|
|Slow motion video modes||N/A|
|Maximum video clip length (at highest quality)||29m 59s|
|Exposure modes||Program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual|
|Shutter speed range||30 to 1/4,000 seconds|
|ISO speed range||100 to 51200|
|Exposure compensation||EV +/-5|
|White balance||Auto, 6 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin|
|Auto-focus modes||45-point (cross-type)|
|Metering modes||Multi, partial, centre-weighted, centre, face detect|
|Flash modes||Auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction|
|Drive modes||Single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, HDR|
|Kit lens model name||Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS STM|
|Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths)||3x (29-88mm)|
|Maximum aperture (wide-tele)||f/3.5-5.6|
|Closest macro focus (wide)||25cm|
|Closest macro focus (tele)||25cm|
|Lens mount||Canon EF-S|
|Connectivity||USB, Mini HDMI, 3.5mm microphone, wired remote|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC|
|GPS||Via smartphone app|
|Accessories||USB cable, neck strap|
|Weight||532g (body only)|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||100x131x76mm (body only)|
|Warranty||One year RTB|
|Price including VAT||£869|