Canon introduced three new cameras today that will go on sale in April: the $749 entry-level Rebel T7i; the $899 prosumer-focused 77D; and a new $779 mirrorless camera, the M6. And while they appear to be very capable still cameras, they are also each missing a key feature that videographers have been clamoring for from Canon: the ability to shoot in 4K.
Not everyone needs to shoot in 4K. But in the video world, it’s becoming more important. Shooting at 4K resolution now helps people future-proof their video projects, which is a smart thing to do since an increasing number of monitors (and even some phones) have 4K or near-4K-resolution screens. Shooting in 4K is also a creative tool if you know that the video will only be shown in 1080p — that extra resolution can be used to create different crops, or even zoom and pan in post-production.
If you prefer Canon but you want a camera that can shoot 4K, your only options are the $3,499 EOS 5D Mark IV, the $4,999 EOS 1D C, the $5,999 EOS 1DX Mark II, or one of Canon’s cinema cameras. That 4K is absent from any reasonably affordable Canon DSLR is conspicuous because it was a Canon camera that led the charge into DSLR videography in the first place. The 5D Mark II, which was released at the end of 2008, wasn’t the very first DSLR capable of DSLR. But its full HD video was so much better than what Nikon offered at the time that it helped spark a revolution.
Now, if you can live without 4K, Canon’s new cameras do have a lot to offer. Despite its embrace of video over the last decade, Canon has kept its DSLR and mirrorless cameras primarily focused on stills, and these models — especially the T7i and the M6 — significantly extend those capabilities. All three are equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, and they all make it easy to just pick up and shoot.
Let’s start with the T7i. Canon replaces its entry-level Rebel cameras often, but the T7i is a relatively big jump when compared to the T6i or the T6s. The T7i has Canon’s latest image processor (DIGIC 7), and it’s the first Rebel camera to use Canon’s new Dual Pixel autofocusing system. That gives the T7i the ability to focus in just 0.03 seconds, according to Canon, and it does this with 45 cross-type autofocus points — almost triple the amount of its predecessors.
It also has a swiveling 3-inch LCD touchscreen, which is home to what I think is the most interesting thing about the T7i: an all new graphical menu system that is supposed to educate new shooters on the basics of photography.
The new menu system, which more seasoned users can turn off, explains different photographic fundamentals depending on which mode you’re shooting in. For example, if you set the camera to aperture priority mode, the screen shows two cartoon drawings: one of a subject with the background blurred out, and another with everything in focus. A slider moves between the two as you change the aperture dial, and other helpful tips pop up as you change modes.
It’s a smart way to teach beginners the implications of changing settings like aperture and shutter speed, and it’s an excellent use of the big, bright touchscreen. It’s also a shrewd decision considering the Rebel is one of the most popular cameras for first-time photographers.
The 77D, for the most part, is the T7i’s guts stuck in a slightly bigger body. The camera has an additional small LCD screen on the top for quick access to settings, an extra control dial, and also has a more robust metering sensor and an anti-flicker mode. Canon considers this camera an option for people who want something a bit more professional than a Rebel, but don’t yet have the deep pockets to buy something like the 80D or the 5D Mark IV.
The M6 is basically Canon’s M5 in a slightly smaller body. Like it’s predecessor, the M3, it’s a rectangular camera that works with Canon’s meager EF-M lineup of lenses for its mirrorless cameras (and others via a $200 adapter). It can shoot 9 frames per second with fixed AF or 7 frames per second with continuous AF, just like the M5. The big differences are really the lack of an external viewfinder, and the M6’s screen flips up 180 degrees — not down, like on the M5.
Canon’s new cameras illuminate the company’s current product strategy in a few ways. One is obvious: Canon doesn’t think 4K is a priority for most consumers, and it’s betting that the people who need (or want) that capability are willing to spend a lot for it.
The other is more subtle: at the beginner and prosumer levels, Canon would rather iterate (the T7i and the M6) and plug perceived gaps in its own camera lineup (the 77D) than innovate. That’s not likely to change any time soon, either. As we saw with Nikon’s discontinuation of the DL line of cameras this week, trying new things — even ideas that make sense — is considered a risk.