Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Canon 77D - First Thoughts

The Canon 77D camera
I bought a new camera body a while ago - a Canon 77D. Since I bought my previous body in June 2010, it was time for an upgrade.

In this article, I'll go through my reasons for upgrading, my camera selection process, general comments about the camera and my experience with low light photography with the 77D.

Why Upgrade?

Night photo with Canon 77D
My Canon T1i was and is a great camera. I've taken close to 60,000 photos with it, and I still use it on occasion for video or as a second camera. In fact, I just used it to shoot a half marathon.

However, it had a few weaknesses that were really bugging me. The biggest one was that it had poor low light performance.

When it's dark, you have only three ways to get a decent exposure for a photo:
  1. Open the aperture up (limited by your lens);
  2. Slow the shutter speed (need a tripod and a stationary subject); and/or
  3. Increase the ISO (increases digital noise).
The problem with the T1i is that above ISO 400, it got very noisy and was pretty much unusable above ISO 800. This meant that I couldn't take star photos, especially not Milky Way photos. Also, sports photography in dim rinks weren't really successful.

My Canon T1i didn't have a flip out LCD screen either. Beyond the obvious selfie potential, I could see that as being useful for composing shots when the camera was on the ground or other positions where I can't look through the viewfinder.

Choosing a Model

Top view of Canon 77D
I had decided to continue with a Canon body. If I was starting fresh, I'd pick a mirrorless camera instead of an SLR, but I have a big investment in good glass (lenses) so I am sticking with Canon.

I didn't want a full-frame SLR, because one of my two good lens isn't compatible and I had already decided that it was unnecessary for my needs. I had been lusting after a Canon 7D Mk II for a while, but after a little research, I found that the Canon 80D was a better camera for a lower price!

A little more investigation showed me that there were three very similar cameras in Canon's lineup:
  1. Canon T7i, consumer grade
  2. Canon 77D, prosumer grade
  3. Canon 80D, semi-professional grade
Here's a table comparing those three camera bodies, along with my old T1i on the left.

Canon T1i Canon T7i Canon 77D Canon 80D
Megapixels 15 24 24 24
Max ISO 3,200 25,600 25,600 16,000
Focus Points 9 45 45 45
LCD Fixed 3" Flip-out 3" Flip-out 3" Flip-out 3"
Frames/second 3.4 6 6 7
Video 1920x1080, 20 fps 1920x1080, 60 fps 1920x1080, 60 fps 1920x1080, 60 fps
Other features - - Built-in interval and bulb timers; top LCD panel Weather sealing; pentaprism viewfinder
Price Discontinued $ $$ $$$
Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon

You can see there are more similarities than differences between the three "7" cameras. I didn't want the T7i because I wanted a higher-end body to resist weather. The 80D seems like the superior camera but its ISO performance isn't as strong as the T7i or the 77D, because it has an older processor in the camera.

I went to Henry's and asked to look at the 77D and 80D. I held them for a few minutes then bought the 77D.

General Comments

Controls on the Canon 77D
So far I've taken a little over 3,000 photos with the 77D and I am very impressed with it. It operates very much like the T1i, being another Canon product, but it has some definite improvements.

The focusing performance seems better on the 77D, presumably due to the dual-pixel technology that these cameras have. I rarely have a focus miss now, something that I had fairly frequently when using my 70-200mm lens in lower light. I'm also impressed by how well it focuses in lower light, where my T1i would hunt and not focus.

One small thing is that the shutter sound is much quieter on the 77D. My T1i's shutter was super noisy, loud enough that it would sometimes turn heads if I took a photo in a quiet room. The 77D is by no means silent but the shutter isn't very loud.

A few controls have moved - notably, the power switch - but in general, it wasn't a big learning curve for me to move to this camera. I like that there is a separate button to change the ISO. I wish there was a button to change the focus type between "one shot" and "AI Servo".

The 77D has a touch screen. To be honest, I have not used this at all. I've locked it out for the moment, as I am afraid I am going to touch it and change settings that I don't mean to change. Maybe I should try enabling it, as I could change the focus type pretty quickly using the touch screen.

This camera has wireless (wifi and Bluetooth). I've used the app on my phone to receive photos from the camera, but I haven't played with it much. I think it will be more useful as a remote trigger for the camera. More to come.

Low Light Performance

Ooooh, stars!
Here's the important part. I bought the 77D primarily to get better low light performance, and it delivers. I'm very impressed by how much better it is in low light, both when shooting at a low ISO and also how well it performs when I shoot at ISO 1600 or higher.

Here's a photo at a ridiculous ISO 25600 - something I would never ever attempt with the T1i. In fact, you couldn't even select it on the T1i.
ISO 25600 photo with Canon 77D
There's some quality issues, but it is still quite usable at such a high ISO. I was also shooting from across the rink!

In case you're wondering what's going on here, this was a little game they were playing in the stands during a curling competition in Portage la Prairie. The person who could get the most tissues out of the box won a prize.

Here's a more reasonable ISO - ISO 1600. My friend Jason Paul Sailer is giving the wave to a train at sunrise.
ISO 1600 photo of a train with Canon 77D
I'm very happy with the quality of this photo.

Another ISO 1600 photo - curler Kaitlyn Lawes' intensity is apparent as she is delivering a shot at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
Kaitlyn Lawes throwing a curling stone
I am super happy with the low light performance of this camera.


I love my new camera! The Canon 77D has met my expectations for low light performance and I've been impressed by its focusing capability and picture quality. I have very few complaints.

I was not compensated in any way to write this article. I just want to share my experience with the camera!


Don Janes said...

Hi Steve: I really enjoy you blog and especially you great photography. Your work is exceptional. As an armature photographer I was just curious what swayed you away from the Canon 7D Mk2. I just purchased the 7D Mk2 a while ago and had a 7D prior to that. I really like it overall and am mostly happy with the results. I bought a T6i between the 7D’s and find it OK but still not that good in low light. I do like the tilting screen but rarely use it and have never used the wifi yet. I use the built in GPS on the 7D Mk2 more often. I assume your 70-200 is the larger 2.8? I have the smaller f4 and am really happy with that lens which stays on the 7D most of the time.
So, just wondering what the 77D had that the 7D didn’t or at least what about the 7D you weren’t sold on? Just curious. I use a 5D Mk3 and so far nothing comes close in the Canon line that I could afford but the extra reach of the cropped frame camera is really nice.
Don Janes
Sarnia, ON

Chris Doering said...

Touch screens are a double edged sword. So many times I've changed a setting accidentally while not looking. Have the predecessor 70D, which has been a workhorse for Shoot up to 6400iso all the time with respectable results. Got a jammed lens mount, which may lead to it premature retirement, however. Canon seems to think its terminal. That's a bummer!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Don, thanks for your long and thoughtful comment. I'm glad you are enjoying the 7D Mk 2... I would like that built-in GPS.

This link shows a feature comparison between the 7D Mk2 and the 77D.

For me the selling features of the 77D over the 7D Mk 2 are: half the price, greater resolution, newer processor, flip screen.

The 7D Mk 2's benefits from my point of view include the builtin GPS, better viewfinder, silent shutter and more frames per second.

The deciding factor for me was the reviews and comparisons showing the low light performance of the 7D Mk 2 was inferior to the 77D/80D... probably due to the older processor in the 7D Mk 2.

Your 5D Mk 3 is no doubt a superior camera in most ways - I'd be glad to have one - but my pocketbook can't afford that. :)

Canadian Train Geek said...

Oh, Don, I forgot to answer your other question. My 70-200mm lens is the f/4.0 version. I looked at the f/2.8 but it was twice the price for one stop of exposure, so it wasn't worth it to me. Also, it is super heavy!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hey Chris, your 70D sure does help you produce some great photos. I know the photographer is by far the major cause of great photos, but a good camera is a good tool in the right hands. It's too bad that it might be unfixable!

Shane said...

Congrats on the new camera Steve. Are you keeping the old camera in your arsenal? My original digital camera was a Canon 20D. It stayed in my work bag until retirement. It now stays behind the seat in my truck for unplanned photos. My good camera only comes out for planned trips.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Shane! My old T1i has become the primary video camera, taking full HD video. It does a nice job of that.

I have used it once or twice so I could have two cameras to shoot an approaching train. I'd photograph with a camera with the 70-200mm lens, then switch to the other camera with the 17-55mm lens. I'm not completely satisfied with that approach yet. :)

JasonPaulSailer said...

Good upgrade Steve! I didn't realize you had the new camera on our trip in December.

Looking at the specs its very comparable to my Sony A7, so its a good time to upgrade! Looking forward to making it work this upcoming train season!