When it comes to consumer level DSLRs, no branding is better known than the Canon Rebel line. Potential buyers still walk into stores and say "I want a Rebel". Good on Canon for getting the marketing right and remaining consistent in their messaging. With the latest release cycle, the Rebel lineup forks, so it's worthwhile to take a look at what's happening.
While the lineup in North America is called Rebel, in Japan it is called Kiss and elsewhere referred to as nnnD. So for the purposes of this article I will talk about the Rebel T6i, aka the Kiss T6i or the 750D. The Rebel T6s is aka the Kiss T6s and the 760D.
I did ask Canon Canada if they could supply evaluation units for the purposes of this review. They were very nice but had nothing current available and the T5i they did have was not pertinent to this article. I was disappointed being a Canon user given that Nikon Canada will send me pretty much anything I ask for. So this review is based on available data, and specifications along with some very limited hands-on experience in a store.
While I will typically ignore JPEG centric features such as SCENE modes or Picture Styles, the target buyer is far less likely to want to do significant post processing and will be shooting in JPEG most of the time. The cameras can shoot in RAW of course, but the average buyer will only get there as photography becomes a deeper interest.
Canon Rebel T6i
The Rebel T6i directly supersedes the still in market T5i and it's a pretty good step up. Whereas the Rebels have had mostly the same sensor for several model iterations, the T6i now has a 24MP CMOS sensor. While the megapixel argument is pretty lame, Canon understands that the general buyer in this price space STILL thinks that the megapixel count is most important and so have released a 24MP sensor to compete more directly with both Nikon and Sony. The new sensor is rated from ISO 100 to ISO 12800 with a push to 25800. Experience with this sensor says it is good to 1600, decent to 3200 and caps realistically at 6400. After that it's digital noise-land.
In addition to the new sensor, there is a new CPU, the Canon Digic 6. The new processor helps with the higher ISO performance and of course helps with video performance and encoding. One can even now record video in HDR mode.
The CMOS III autofocus system is also a step up. It has 19 cross-type focus points. Cross-type points improve focus accuracy because they can do contrast detection in multiple planes as opposed to horizontal only as found in non-cross type focus points. It's also faster, pleasing to parents of hyper children. When paired with a Canon STM lens, focus is both fast and quiet. There are three focus methods available. Single point uses a single user selected focus point. Zone AF uses one of five user selected focus zones, and automatic selection uses all 19 points but the camera decides what should be in focus. Canon says that this mode is good for sports. If true this will be a first because experience has shown that when the camera picks, it tends to pick not what I would want. In lower light, the presence of phase detection also improves AF performance. Focus modes are Single Shot, Continuous (Ai-Servo) and AI-Focus that purports to auto select between Single Shot and Continuous. Perhaps it works better than in the past where it was very hit or miss. Notable that none of Canon's pro or near pro cameras have AI-Focus at all. Be clear, this is NOT the dual-pixel AF found in the 70D and 7D Mark II. It's purported to be close in performance but not equivalent.
The expected buyer of this camera wants to get his or her photos onto social media quickly. As noted before, the average buyer is not going to post-process seriously and is more inclined to shoot in JPEG. Consequently, the T6i has built-in Wifi and NFC for pairing to Android devices. There is a free Canon app for your smart device on the iOS App Store and on Google Play. You can also connect the camera to Canon's CS100 Connect Station, not that I have ever seen one in the real world. The Camera Connect App allows for remote wireless control of the camera from smartphone or tablet. Owners can also print wirelessly to wireless Pictbridge capable printers such as Canon's own portable dye-sublimation printers.
The T6i shoots Full HD video as expected. Canon says that the new AF will focus continuously in video mode even on moving subjects. Videos are recorded in MP4 format as opposed to AVCHD MOV so while still compressed may not require transcoding by your chosen video editor. Compared to other offerings, the video options are very basic. 1080p at 30, 25 and 24fps, 720p at 60 and 50 fps as well as VGA mode. Given Canon's prior leadership in DSLR video the lack of 60fps at 1080p is disappointing.
The LCD panel is of the articulateable type capable of selfie style mode. It has over 1M pixels and offers 100% sensor coverage. This is a lot better than the 85% coverage of the optical viewfinder. There's also a new anti-smudge coating. I did not find any difference between this coating and prior versions when it comes to nose grease, a common foe of left eye shooters.
The T6i is powered by the LP-E17 battery offering just over 500 images in viewfinder mode and 200 images in Live View. So buy at least one spare if shooting a lot in a single day. PLEASE NOTE - Canon Canada's specifications state that the LP-E8 battery is used. I've been advised that this is not an accurate statement.
Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus bulb. Flash sync is 1/200. There is a built in pop up flash of course and fortunately there is full control of off camera Canon compatible flash via Canon's IR control system from the camera.
To accommodate JPEG shooters, in addition to the usual PASM modes, there are a number of scene modes available, including Intelligent Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports and Special Scene that includes Kids, Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene and HDR Backlight Control mode. Picture Styles are Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome and three User programmable modes. There are also a number of social media friendly (read that as YUCK) filters including Art Bold Effect, Water Painting Effect, Fisheye Effect, Soft Focus Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Grainy Black and White Effect and Miniature Effect.
Images are stored on an SD sized card, with capacity up to the SD-XC family. The camera can shoot up to 5fps in burst mode so ok for some fast moving subjects, probably ok for the majority of buyers. Metering is based on a 7560 pixel metering sensor with 63 segments. Metering range is EV 1 to EV 20 which is pretty basic for a camera released in 2015.
So I would say that the T6i is a good step from a T3i or even a T4i but if a client owns a T5i, the T6i is not a justifiable upgrade. The camera is sold with Canon's 18-55/3.5-5.6 STM kit lens. It's a good lens, sharper in the corners than the competitors from Nikon and Sony. Here in Canada, the T6i with the 18-55 sells for about $899.99
Canon Rebel T6s
The T6s is built on the same frame as the T6i but has a different layout, more similar to a 70D than a T6i. And the layout is really the home of the biggest differences.
There is an LCD readout on the top deck with settings made using buttons and dials. On the rear of the camera is the rotating wheel seen on the 70D and higher end models. Users who tend to play with settings while shooting much prefer the rear wheel to the rocker on the rear of the T6i. There is also the Horizontal digital level and the HDR movie capability, although that last one is also listed in the sheet for the T6i even when Canon says the T6s is the first DSLR to have HDR movie. I am really curious about the dynamic range of these cameras, because when one looks at the dynamic range of the latest Nikon sensors, the need for HDR is pretty much gone. There is also an eye sensor to turn off the LCD when an eye is placed to the viewfinder. Interestingly while Canon says that the T6i can continuously focus in Live View, they also specify that ONLY the T6s can do AI-Servo in Live View. Confusing as hell.
Canon charges about $100 more for the T6s than the T6i. Buyers will have to decide if the LCD top deck and multi-function rear wheel is worth the difference because internally the cameras are pretty much identical. You won't see that $100 in the stores though because the T6s is bundled with Canon's 18mm-135mm/3.5-5.6 STM zoom lens and sells as a kit for $1149.99 as I write this.
These are evolutionary follow ons to the preceding Rebels. They are not revolutionary in any way. In comparison images (admittedly shot very quickly without a lot of setup) the Sony sensors in Nikon, Pentax and of course Sony have superior dynamic range, better low light performance, better high ISO performance and may weigh less.
If the reader has an older Rebel with an investment in glass, the T6 family may be the best route for a new more powerful body. However, the new buyer with no particular brand allegiance should shop around. For $1149.99 you can buy a Nikon D5500 with Nikkor 18-140 VR lens and that camera's sensor outperforms the sensor in the T6 family.
While low light, high ISO are often perceived as being the realms of the "serious" photographer, I think that this assumption is BS. I find lots of folks shooting Rebels in JPEG mode in crappy light locations like school gyms, hockey arenas, and indoors at family events. Most of these folks don't own separate flash units, but have figured out early that the look of a pop-up flash photo is never pleasant so they look to the auto modes to get them good shots in crap light without flash that will not be post processed other than some horrible Instagram or Google Auto-Awful treatment.
Click the links below for the full specifications provided by Canon.