Some cameras are packed with attention-grabbing features, but we reckon the average SLR owner would prefer to be dazzled by the quality of their photos than by the camera itself. That seems to be the thinking behind Canon’s mid-price consumer SLRs, of which the EOS 750D is the latest example. Its predecessor, the Canon 700D didn’t have anything that blew the competition away; rather it was its consistent high quality throughout that made it our top choice for budding enthusiasts.
The 750D arrives two years later, and while there’s not much to separate them externally, there are some significant changes inside. The sensor is new, with a 24-megapixel resolution to match its main rival, the Nikon D5500. There’s a new metering sensor that measures the brightness of the scene at 7,560 points – a big step up from the 700D’s 63-zone metering.
The autofocus sensor has been upgraded too, up from 9 to 19 points, all of which are cross-type for increased sensitivity. It appears to be the same autofocus sensor used in the Canon EOS 70D and the Canon 7D before that. It’s still short of the 39 points offered by the Nikon D5500, and its diamond-shaped array of points covers a smaller area in the centre of the frame.
Continuous shooting matches the 700D and D5500 at 5fps, with a modest amount of buffer memory that maintain this speed for seven RAW frames before slowing. Battery life is rated at 440 shots, far short of the D5500’s 820 shots. The viewfinder has regressed slightly, going from a 0.85x to a 0.82x magnification. That equates to 0.51x magnification on a full-frame camera, which makes it marginally the smallest viewfinder currently offered by an interchangeable-lens camera.
The new metering and autofocus systems conspire to deliver subject tracking autofocus – something the 700D offered in live view mode but not when using the viewfinder. We weren’t overly impressed with it on that model, though. We saw some evidence of it working but not enough to convince us to rely on it.
The 750D’s subject tracking is far more responsive and accurate in live view mode, although it seemed to need to wait for the subject to stop moving before focusing on it. Enabling live view also meant we were able to position the static autofocus point freely in any part of the frame. At a time when consumer SLRs are under threat from increasingly sophisticated compact system cameras (CSCs), it’s ironic but perhaps inevitable that the 750D’s live view mode is beginning to overtake its viewfinder-based operation.
The 750D is still faster for shot-to-shot times when using the viewfinder. We measured 0.4 seconds, compared to around one second in live view mode. This live view performance is a big improvement on the 700D, though, which took over four seconds between shots.
Controls, Wi-Fi and video
There are a couple of new buttons on the top plate. DISP switches the LCD screen on and off. An autofocus mode button cycles through the single-point, zone and auto modes and lets the user adjust the autofocus point. It’s a surprising addition seeing as there’s already a button on the back for this, although the new one is better in that it cycles around the three modes with repeated presses. The selected autofocus point can be moved using the touchscreen while looking through the viewfinder. This proved to be quicker than using the four-way navigation buttons.
As before, there are dedicated buttons for drive mode, ISO speed, exposure compensation, white balance, autofocus mode, AE lock, Picture Style preset and depth-of-field preview, plus a Q Menu for additional settings such as JPEG/RAW quality and metering mode. The touchscreen makes this Q Menu a breeze to navigate.
Wi-Fi makes an appearance. It uses a different app to previous Canon SLRs and compacts, but once again we had difficulty getting it to work with our Nexus 4 phone. NFC is there to simplify configuration but the reality was anything but simple. Each time it failed it generated a new encryption password, which made troubleshooting pretty exasperating.
We had more joy with the iOS app. It connected first time and gave us responsive full-screen previews of the photos stored in the camera. It’s also possible to apply star ratings to photos but not to sort them by rating. A remote viewfinder mode is included too, with the ability to move the autofocus point and adjust exposure controls.
The app doesn’t support video capture or playback, but in other respects the video mode is well specified. 1080p clips are encoded in AVC format at 24, 25 or 30fps with a choice of automatic or manual exposure. There’s a socket for an external microphone but no headphone socket to monitor it with. We’ve often complained about coarse details in videos from Canon’s consumer SLRs. The 750D was a little better than the 700D in this respect but it still fell short of the standards set by Nikon SLRs. Moiré remains a problem in videos, with multi-coloured swirls of interference over dense, repeating patterns.
The 750D beat Nikon SLRs hands down for video autofocus, though. When paired with an STM lens (including the 18-55mm kit lens), focusing was responsive, smooth and virtually silent. The touchscreen made it easy to adjust the autofocus point while recording. For most people this will be far more appealing than the Nikon’s crisper video details.