Making sense of Canon’s entry-level DSLR line (known as Rebels in the U.S.) is not exactly easy. While the nomenclature is generally simple enough to understand — the higher the number, the newer the model — identifying the actual differences between generations can be somewhat difficult. This is especially true when specifications may read the same but are, in fact, different, as is the case with the 24-megapixel sensors found in the two cameras we’re comparing here: The EOS Rebel T7i and EOS Rebel T6i.
Both of these models are likely to show up on the radar of a beginner photographer looking for his or her first “real” camera, but their similarities may lead to some head-scratching. After all, from the outside, they look nearly identical. Each has the same viewfinder, same 3-inch touchscreen, and (almost) identical control layout. For some potential customers, the decision could be made with a coin flip. Others will likely gravitate toward the cheaper one. But as similar as the T7i and T6i are, there are several important differences worth taking note of, and there’s a reason why we called the T7i Canon’s most refined Rebel to date in our review.
Being the older of the two, it should come as no surprise that the Rebel T6i makes due with some underpowered hardware compared to the T7i. The image processor — the part responsible for actually reading the data off of the image sensor, tweaking color and tone curves, applying noise reduction, and sending the image file to the memory card — can make a big difference in performance, and the T6i uses the older Digic 6 processor while the T7i has the newer Digic 7.
One thing this means is that the T7i can shoot at 6 frames per second continuously, as opposed to just 5 on the T6i. That 1 fps increase may not sound impressive, but that’s a 20-percent improvement and could mean the difference between nailing the perfect action shot or missing it entirely.
If you do want to shoot any action, from kids’ soccer games to air racing, the real benefit of the T7i is the autofocus system. It has 49 points compared to the T6i’s 19, offering quite a bit more flexibility.
By and large, the two cameras share identical interfaces. As far as exterior buttons go, there is only one notable difference: The addition of a wireless connectivity shortcut key on the back of the T7i. Both cameras offer Wi-Fi and NFC, but the T7i also uses Bluetooth for hassle-free connections to Canon’s mobile app.
On the software side, the T7i offers something very unique: A guided menu system that Canon calls the Feature Assistant. It is designed to help get new users up and running as quickly as possible, and replaces the standard Canon user interface with a simplified version that illustrates the different shooting modes with pictures and plain-English explanations. It’s designed specifically for the touch interface, making it very approachable for the new generation of photographers who grew up with smartphones.
Experienced users can turn the Feature Assistant off and the T7i will revert to the standard interface, so you’re not giving anything up by having it.
Both cameras have the same resolution — roughly 24 megapixels — but the sensor in the T7i is actually a completely different unit, inherited from the EOS 80D. Combined with the new processor, it boasts improved low-light shooting, with a higher maximum ISO setting of 51,200 compared to 25,600 on the T6i. It also offers increased dynamic range, helping to preserve detail in high-contrast scenes (think sunny days with bright skies and dark shadows on the ground).
However, in practice, these differences may have little effect on perceptual image quality in the majority of situations. To truly take advantage of the sensor in either of these cameras, you’ll need to shoot in RAW, but most beginners may find it easier to simply stick with JPEGs. A RAW file can be altered to pull out the maximum detail of an image, but a JPEG just isn’t as malleable. So unless you’re willing to put in the extra work, you might not notice the difference between the two sensors.
Both the T6i and T7i shoot Full HD 1080p video, but the T7i can do it at up to 60 frames per second, compared to just 30 on the T6i. Neither is going to win awards for video quality, especially at a time when so many other cameras have already embraced 4K resolution. So instead, the debate between the video modes in these two Rebels comes down to which is the more functional, and the T7i wins easily.
This is again thanks to the new sensor, which employs Canon’s improved on-chip phase detection technology called Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF). Traditionally, when in live view mode (as is required for shooting video), DSLRs are notoriously slow to focus. DPAF changed the game. It is so smooth and accurate that you’ll feel like you’re shooting video on a camcorder. It makes the process of recording home movies nearly effortless, and if you shoot a lot of video, this may be reason enough to pick the T7i over the T6i.
At the time of writing, the T6i 18-55mm lens kit retails for just $599, while the T7i with the 18-55mm lens goes for $799. That $200 premium for the newer model is a significant chunk of change, particularly for novice users for whom photography is more of a hobby than a profession.
For many users and in most common situations, the T6i will probably also yield equally good results as the T7i. That makes it the better buy for casual photographers on a budget, but those with the money to burn will find more to love in the T7i.
For beginners, the new Feature Assistant and streamlined wireless connectivity are great, while DPAF makes shooting sharp videos a breeze. Aspiring enthusiasts will also appreciate that the T7i leaves much more room to grow into, with a higher-density autofocus system, faster performance, and higher maximum ISO. It also has a modest image quality edge that will please pixel-peepers looking to push their gear to the limits.
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