(Pocket-lint) - Canon is testing the water with its latest DSLR cameras. The EOS 750D, which updates the earlier 700D mid-ranger from 2013, is also joined by the ever-so-slightly higher specification 760D, giving more choice to customers. Or just adding more confusion.
So what's the deal? You want DSLR quality pictures, which will be the same whether choosing 750D or 760D. The difference is, for an extra £50, the 760D adds a top display and some minor design tweaks - supposedly for more advanced users. In short, the 760D is, in our view, the better deal.
But that doesn't make the 750D redundant. We wouldn't have written this review otherwise. As the sort-of lovechild borne of the 700D and 70D, it's very much a revered mid-ranger with plenty of performance positives for the price point. Is it still a logical purchase?
Let's take stock for a moment. The EOS 750D arrives from a solid family: the 70D, which it shares many features with, including a 19-point autofocus system, was one of our favourite DSLR cameras in 2013.
We've felt that in use too: having travelled to New York with the 750D in tow it's showed off why, even with a relatively basic 18-135mm kit lens (£899 for the kit, camera included), it's a great performer in a variety of situations and lighting conditions.
The niggling sensation in the back of the mind comes from knowing that the 760D exists. We've not been able to take one of those cameras out an use it in a similar fashion to the 750D just yet, but every time we've thought, "oh a top plate display would be nice to glance at" we realise we could have one in the 760D. And just for that fifty quid extra.
So let's knock this on the head. You can see where we're going with it: the 760D is well worthy of consideration, but even if that's the camera for you, mind made up, then keep on reading as the performance and image quality is one and the same for both those cameras.
If you're already familiar with the EOS line-up then the 750D's big new addition is its vari-angle screen. It flips out from the rear side, where it can rotate its way through almost any given angle for front-facing selfies, overhead shots, or waist-level work. We've often rested the camera on a ledge and been able to look down with it set to live view mode to compose a shot.
Now using the rear screen to compose isn't as fast in autofocus terms as a compact system camera, which is an inherent trait of a DSLR camera build, but Canon still delivers one of the fastest setups on the market. And that vari-angle screen has become an indispensable tool - we're not sure we'd buy a DSLR without one any more; a feeling instilled by using the Panasonic Lumix G-series extensively over the last year.
Next up there's a new 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor at the core, a new metering system, along with both Wi-Fi and NFC for sharing images for the first time in Canon's mid-range series.
One thing that Canon still hasn't advanced is the optical viewfinder in this particular range. It's a primary reason to buy a DSLR camera, and while the 750D is great to use when pressed against the eye, its 95 per cent field-of-view finder means you'll not see the outermost five per cent of the frame, which will be captured in the image. It means some framing precision lacks, unlike with the marginally more expensive Nikon D7200 competitor, which has a what-you-see-is-what-you-get 100 per cent field-of-view finder.
Unlike that same Nikon DSLR for comparison, the Canon EOS 750D also lacks a weather-sealed grade body. It's not badly built by any means, but if you want a bit of added longevity from your DSLR purchase then a hardier body may well be a temptation to protect it from the elements.
While there's 1080p video capture on board, its restricted to 30 frames per second, not 60fps like the Nikon D7200. But where other competitors, such as the Panasonic Lumix G7, really show their extra worth is by offering 4K capture, which is something reserved for higher-spec Canon cameras at present. That can be felt now the rest of the market is moving towards ultra-high definition, even at accessible price points.
Even so, it's hard to criticise the 750D for the most part when it comes to performance. The 19-point all-cross-type autofocus system, the same as that found in the 70D (albeit paired with a different sensor), makes for light work of snapping subjects into focus. It's not precisely the same system in the 750D, however, as this Hybrid CMOS AF III setup is a different arrangement compared to the Dual Pixel AF of the 70D. But blink and you'll miss it: both perform exceptionally well.
Just like the 70D the 750D has a top-positioned AF area button which can just about be reached during shooting. It's not as well placed as on the 70D, due to being pushed close to the 750D's mode dial, but its presence is still welcome. A single press brings up the various autofocus options within the viewfinder - 1-point, zone or all 19-points in auto - so you needn't remove the camera from your eye to make changes with relative ease. It's great for adjustment when shooting, once you get used to the button placement anyway.
The speedy autofocus setup is met with a 5fps (frames per second) burst shooting mode, which is swift enough, but not the fastest on the market. With the camera set to raw + JPEG (Fine) we were able to shoot six frames before the buffer filled and caused slowdown. If you don't shoot raw files, however, then there's seemingly no limit to shooting: with a UHS-1 (3) SD card in the camera we shot continuously without any letup of that 5fps speed.
Touch and go
However, some of the performance comes down to the lens on the front of the camera. With the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens used throughout this review, we've found that autofocus slows down at the fullest 135mm extension. No surprise, and nothing unusual compared to what else is out there, but it's very much middling rather than pro performance. You can, of course, invest in better lenses, which is part of the appeal of Canon DSLR cameras and the EF-S lens mount system.
If you're not a viewfinder user then pop the rear screen into use, which is where the Hybrid AF system comes into play. By using the phase-detection pixels on the sensor in combination with the more classic contrast-difference focus method, the camera can compare the two readings to speed up autofocus without excessive hunting. Like we said before, it's about as fast as things get in a DSLR: but there are non-DSLR competitors that perform better overall in this department.
That screen happens to be touch-sensitive too, so should you prefer to tap a finger on the panel to make quick selection of options, or prefer to press a subject for focusing purposes, it's all-round responsive.
We found this touchscreen particularly useful in continuous autofocus mode, where the tracking AF did a good job of following moving subjects (encased in a white square tracking point). Switching over to continuous AF (AI Servo in Canon talk) is easily accomplished by pressing the AF button on the right of the four-way d-pad. We prefer the front-of-camera AF-selector arrangement of Nikon, but that's simply a matter of taste.
With smartphones now so prolific, it's hard for a more traditional camera to keep up when it comes to sharing pictures at speed. Which is where on-board Wi-Fi comes in, an area that the EOS 750D handles better than earlier iterations of the Canon application and sharing software. But it's still not quite perfect.
Found within the main Menu, the Wi-Fi function is split into camera-to-camera, smartphone, printer, web services, and DLNA (digital living network alliance; think home network, TVs, etc) categories. It still lacks direct share to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc, but once images are loaded onto a smartphone via the Canon Camera Connect app (iOS and Android) it's possible to handle such uploads via independent apps.
The location of Wi-Fi within the menus is somewhat sloppy, given that from the camera's playback menu it's not possible to share an image via the touchscreen, nor combination of button presses. Instead the main menu has to be loaded. Even with the smartphone app open, the camera has to be handled separately.
However, finally Canon has made it possible to connect via a network rather than just direct from one device to another (we've never been able to make this work prior to now). So whether you want to create a private network between smartphone and camera, or have both devices talk via your home router, for example, that's possible. It's easy to setup and once the app is open it's simple to view and download images from camera, remotely shoot using the app as a real-time live preview screen, or adjust some basic camera settings.
So the app is solid. All Canon really has to do now is integrate Wi-Fi sharing in a smartphone style with fewer hoops to jump through direct from the camera itself. It's getting there, though.
Wi-Fi will also have some battery-limiting implication, but it needn't always be on, plus we've found the 750D to cope well for long periods of use. With the three-bar battery level dipping to one-out-of-three we managed to fire off 450 shots over the course of a week without recharging the camera, which shows greater longevity than its quoted 450-shots-per-charge life. It's not quite on course to make it to the 1100 shot capacity of the Nikon D7200, of course, but it's fairly good innings from this Canon.
One of the biggest reasons to buy into a DSLR camera is for the resulting image quality. Despite Canon pushing beyond its self-imposed 18-megapixel limit for the first time in this particular series, sporting a new 24-megapixel sensor, we're still thoroughly impressed with the image quality. Indeed, it's pretty much ace throughout.
If we're splitting hairs then the Nikon D7200's absence of an optical low-pass filter gives it greater scope for heightened sharpness by comparison, but otherwise the difference between the two is slight to nothing. It's hard to get into the Canon versus Nikon wars here as it's too close to call.
Which is great news really. The ISO 100 - 6400 auto range can be pushed to ISO 12,800 manually, or extended into ISO 25,600 if you really want. We would advise against it, but the given auto range is impressive even at the higher numbers. Detail does diminish as the sensitivity rises, but even at ISO 3200 there's plenty of colour and enough detail to not worry too much.
A shot of the neon Burger Joint sign in New York, sat against a deep black backdrop, shows just how rich ISO 3200 shots can be, for example. The JPEG processing is perhaps a little strong, considering how well controlled any colour noise is, making for a slightly softer appearance for the sake of compensating for the grain that reveals itself in the raw file equivalent.
As we pointed out earlier, lens selection is a critical part of any DSLR camera. And the 18-135mm doesn't handle particularly well when it comes to distortion: a shot of onlookers viewing Picasso paintings in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, shows the barrel distortion prevalent from this lens, which isn't just restricted to the widest-angle setting. Some post-production lens correction makes a world of difference, which goes to show what can be done (we've got a before and after in our gallery) with a little added time and patience (and Photoshop).
Canon EOS 750D review - sample image at ISO 1250 (post-production distortion correction) - click for original, with barrel distortion
Move down the sensitivity range and in the middling ISO 800 area and below sharpness is ample, results are colourful and well exposed thanks to the new metering system. We've shot landscapes. cityscapes, singers, and various trinkets - never being disappointed with the results. So if it's quality that you're after then, once again, this Canon won't let you down.
We're rather fond of the Canon EOS 750D. It's proven a solid companion for a variety of shooting scenarios and capturing some great travel shots, particularly thanks to that vari-angle LCD screen. Great performance and great image quality combine to tick two major boxes many will be seeking from a DSLR.
If anything one of the main problems the 750D has is its 760D cousin. To us it makes more sense to spend a smidgen more for a better feature set. Then there's the likes of the Panasonic Lumix G7 with its 4K capture, or the Nikon D7200 which, while it lacks a vari-angle LCD screen, has a 100 per cent field-of-view finder and weather-sealing that the Canon lacks, plus a better battery life.
So it's all about context and expectation. Fond as we are of the 750D and its vari-angle screen, this revered mid-range DSLR camera could polish itself up in a few areas to be the most stand-out inspirational model of the bunch. It doesn't quite achieve that accolade. Saying that, buy one for its fair asking price and you won't be disappointed. The EOS 750D is a great all-round mid-range DSLR.