Shooting Experience

By Dale Baskin

Auto ISO

Both Rebels support Auto ISO, but the implementation doesn't offer much flexibility. Basically, your only option is to select the maximum ISO you want the camera to shoot at.

With Auto ISO enabled I was frustrated by the camera's insistence on using the absolute slowest shutter speed possible for any given lens. The system seems to follow the one over focal length rule of thumb, so it's aware of what focal length you're shooting at, but I often wished that I could get it to shoot at a higher shutter speed in aperture priority mode.

Auto ISO on the Rebels works well, but both cameras lack advanced settings such as the ability to specify a minimum shutter speed. As a result, almost all images shot using Auto ISO in aperture priority mode will use the lowest recommended shutter speed for the focal length being used, down to 1/30 sec.

By way of example, when shooting with the EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM lens I was pretty much relegated to shooting at 1/30 sec in aperture priority mode (except for the occasional shot where I was generously granted a shutter speed of 1/40 sec). Unfortunately, that's a bit slow for many real world situations such as a parent trying to photograph moving kids. I would have been happy to let the ISO creep up a bit in exchange for faster shutter speeds, but there's no mechanism to do that. As a result I often found myself using manual ISO.

An alternative would have been to shoot in M mode with Auto ISO, where I could select both the shutter speed and aperture. Unfortunately, the Rebels don't support exposure compensation via auto ISO in M mode.

Live View

There aren't a lot of surprises when it comes to live view shooting. Both cameras have touch screens with the usual array of features, including tap-to-shoot functionality. The big improvement from previous models is the inclusion of Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF III focusing system, which includes more sensor-based phase detection AF points than previous Rebel iterations. Canon claims the AF system's performance should be close, but not quite up, to cameras using its dual-pixel AF system.

I think Canon's claim is reasonably accurate. Live view focus is not quite as buttery smooth and natural as on Canon bodies with dual-pixel autofocus, such as the EOS 70D and 7DII. However, AF is generally more pleasing than on systems that rely only on contrast detect autofocus. The Rebels still have a tendency to ratchet focus a bit at the last moment before focus is achieved - a common side effect of contrast detect AF systems - but this effect will probably matter most when shooting video.

One AF feature worth calling out is subject tracking. When shooting in live view, both Rebels offer face detection as well as a tap-to-track feature that draws a box around your desired subject. It works really well. Find a face or tap a subject and the AF system sticks to it like glue. Not only is it better than the T5i, but it's at least as good, and possibly better, than the same feature on the relatively recent 7D II. Subject tracking may not work well when using the Rebels' optical viewfinders, but live view is a different story.

For this photo of the fire dancer I placed the T6s on a tripod and pre-focused the camera on him in live view before he started dancing.

Where the two cameras differ significantly in live view is support for AI Servo focusing, which is included on the T6s but not the T6i. This has a very real impact on how well live view shooting works. On the T6i the camera tries to keep the subject in focus, however when the shutter button is pressed the camera needs to reconfirm focus before taking the shot. This means that by the time the camera has actually taken the photo, your subject may have moved. Basically, live view focusing doesn't really work for moving subjects on the T6i.

In contrast, the T6s offers a very different experience. Thanks to AI Servo focusing the T6s has much better subject tracking than the T6i. Since it keeps your subject in focus the camera is ready to shoot right away when you press the shutter button. It's much more useful, and in fact may be the most compelling difference between the two cameras. If I planned to use live view often, particularly for moving subjects such as kids, this feature alone would steer me to the T6s.

Finally, its worth noting that unlike the 7D II and other Canon bodies, the Rebels' screens don't black out during continuous shooting in live view. I'm glad to see that change.

Image Quality

Let me preface this section to set expectations. Undoubtedly, the biggest question on a lot of people's minds regards the performance of the new 24.2MP Canon sensor. We're still performing lab tests on these cameras, all of which will appear in the final review. Everything included in this Shooting Experience article is a purely subjective overview of what I've seen following several days of shooting.

In general, I'm happy with the images from this camera; they have the pleasing color and natural skin tones that I'm used to seeing from Canon cameras. As expected, they deliver more resolution than previous Rebels, and this this additional resolution finally brings them on par with mid-range APS-C cameras from the likes of Nikon, Sony, and Pentax.

The Rebel T6s and T6i deliver pleasing colors and natural skin tones.

Despite the increased resolution, the new sensor appears to outperform the 18MP sensors that have been the mainstay of the Rebel line for many years. In fact, from a noise perspective the Rebels appear competitive with similar 24MP APS-C models from other manufacturers, even at high ISO. They may not be quite as good as the class leaders, but there's not a lot of difference when looking at Raw files.

OK, I can practically hear the voices screaming by now. "Dynamic range! Just tell us about dynamic range!!!"

You'll have to wait for us to complete our lab tests for a truly objective analysis of dynamic range, but for anyone hoping that these new sensors would be Canon's answer to Sony's excellent dynamic range sensors, you're probably going to be disappointed. However, based on informal image comparisons it does appear that Canon is continuing to make small, incremental improvements to the DR of their sensors, so at least the trend is moving in the right direction.

Out of camera JPEG Adobe Camera Raw
The photo I took of this fish stand at the market was significantly underexposed. I was able to recover quite a bit of detail in Adobe Camera Raw by increasing exposure 2.3 stops and adding +66 to the shadows

Final Thoughts

I didn't expect a lot of surprises on these cameras, and I didn't get any. The Rebel series has has been a reliable bookend to Canon's EOS line of cameras for many years. Each new model tends to involve more evolution than revolution, most of which is understandably reserved for Canon's more advanced cameras. That said, they bring some nice additions to the series.

Most notable is the additional resolution from the 24.2 MP sensor. While it may not have the dynamic range we've come to expect (and desire) from recent Sony sensors, the new Canon is capable of providing very nice results. Even with the additional resolution, overall image quality appears to be an improvement compared to previous Rebels.

The biggest question some people may have is which Rebel to get. From a practical standpoint there's not a lot of difference between them, but in my opinion two things stand out.

The first is whether you prefer to adjust settings on the fly with buttons or a thumb wheel. I generally prefer a thumb wheel, but the awkward position of the wheel on the T6s (awkward for me, at least) made this choice a bit less obvious. This is one where you may need to try it out in person to know for sure.

Second, if you plan to do a lot of live view shooting the T6s is the obvious choice thanks to its support for Servo AF in live view mode. It speeds up shooting by keeping your subject in focus, doesn't require the camera to reconfirm focus on every shot, and is much more pleasant to use. In fact, this may be the single biggest reason to choose the T6s over the T6i. If it's a feature you'll use, it's easily worth the extra $100.