Studio Comparison

By Rishi Sanyal

Our latest test scene is designed to simulate both daylight and low-light shooting. Pressing the 'lighting' buttons at the top of the widget allows you to switch between the two. The daylight scene is shot with manually set white balance aimed at achieving neutral grays, but the camera is left in its Auto setting for the low-light tests (except Raw, which is manually corrected during conversion). We also offer three different viewing sizes: 'Full', 'Print', and 'Web', with the latter two offering 'normalized' comparisons to more fairly compare cameras of differing resolutions by ensuring equivalent viewing sizes.

For simplicity, we'll limit our image quality discussion to the T6s (760D), but the T6i yields identical results. Please note that all in-line hyperlinks in the text below change states of the widget above, so please refer back to the widget as you read.

Resolution

The first thing you'll notice is the increased resolution the new Rebels bring to the lineup. The 6 extra megapixels of resolution over the previous Rebels bring the new bodies in-line with what's offered by the competition. Examining the Raw files, the anti-aliasing filters on the T6s/T6i appear to be relatively weak, which allow these models to offer comparable sharpness levels to the Sony a5100, while falling ever so slightly behind the filter-less D5500. Edge sharpening can lead to slightly more obvious sharpening halos around edges, but this is unlikely to negatively impact your image at anything but the pixel-level, and will generally help with perceived sharpness at the image-level. All in all, the sensor update in the new Rebels now make them competitive in terms of resolution and sharpness against peers.

High ISO Performance

Canon's latest additions to the Rebel line not only make them competitive with respect to resolution, but low-light noise performance as well. JPEGs at ISO 6400 (upper left) show an improvement in noise characteristics relative to the Rebel T5i (bottom left), with lower overall noise (chroma noise in particular) and better detail retention. The Rebels holds up well against even the Nikon D5500 (upper right), one of the best APS-C performers we've tested to date. The Rebel T6s and T6i both show a tad less noise reduction compared to the D5500 which allows for slightly better detail retention, not to mention far more detail preservation than the overly-aggressive noise reduction Sony's JPEG engine allows.

Switching to Raw to get a closer look at actual sensor performance, it's clear the Rebels are competitive against modern peers. Despite the smaller pixels of the T6s/T6i, even pixel-level noise performance is on par with the older T5i, which of course means that a normalized comparison at the same viewing size pushes the new Rebels ahead of their predecessors.

Still, the new Rebels don't quite match the noise performance of the Nikon D5500 at bottom right, which is probably more evident at the pixel level. They do, however, slightly edge out the Sony a5100. Admittely, though, we're splitting hairs at this point, quite literally. The fact that the new Rebels are only the slightest bit behind cameras like the 7D Mark II and D5500, even in our tungsten-balanced scene, should make Rebel purchasers - and upgraders - happy, and certainly not left wanting.

Summary

The new Rebels bring solid image quality improvements to the popular line. Increased resolution (24MP, up from 18MP) makes the T6s and T6i competitive against most APS-C offerings from competitors, and a weak anti-aliasing filter in both models offers the potential for sharp images. Low-light noise performance is also now competitive against peers: better than some offerings while only slightly behind class-leaders. Tie in these considerations with a well-performing JPEG engine that yields pleasing results, and you've got solid performers on the image quality front.

Next, we'll look at the Raw dynamic range capabilities of the Rebel T6s/T6i.