Its name might be a little unfamiliar, but Canon’s latest APS-C DSLR draws inspiration from two well-known and successful models in an attempt to make it the ultimate camera for beginners and upgraders. We put the EOS 77D to the test

Canon’s DSLR range is well defined, in Europe at least; the fewer numbers in a camera’s name, the higher up the family tree it sits. And anything with two or more digits is a model with an APS-C chip. Aside from the top-end models, ascending numbers also mean newer cameras. 

Despite an extra ‘7’ slipping in, the EOS 77D sticks to that script. Specification wise, it’s placed above the new 800D, and below the yearling 80D. You can see why they had to break convention with the name, but ‘77D’ actually trips off the tongue quite well. For the context of this review it makes sense to compare the 77D to the current models around, in terms of broad specification at least. 


Broadly then this is the same camera as the 800D, but with a couple of upgrades found in the 80D pushing it from beginners to enthusiasts as the target audience. 

The main thing is the use of a rear control dial, and a top plate LCD screen for camera settings, neither of which are found on lower-end models. The rear dial and top-plate LCD certainly make it handle more like a higher end DSLR, but the weight and button layout are closer to beginner models. 

The 77D uses the same 24-megapixel sensor, Dual Pixel autofocus system, and 45-area AF array as the 800D and 80D. Its Digic 7 processor outperforms the 80D’s Digic 6, but its burst mode is a frame fewer at 6fps. The ISO range of 100-25,600 (expandable to 51200), exceeds the 80D’s. Like the cameras around it in the range, the main LCD display is a vari-angle 3in touchscreen version and there’s Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity for uploading images and camera remote control (the latter missing from the 80D). It’ll shoot video at 1080p (maximum 60fps), but not 4K, and it has a mic input (good), but no traditional output for headphones (not so good). It takes SD cards, but only one, despite the slot appearing to have space for a second. Something for the ‘78D’ perhaps...

To get a proper feel for the 77D, I spent a week shooting with it in the Faroe Islands. I found it handled very well for a camera that’s only just out of the entry level arena. For starters it has a very deep and comfortable grip and a well-placed thumb rest. The layout is uncluttered around the grip, so you’re not in danger of hitting any buttons accidentally, which I find a problem on smaller bodies. That said, at 131x99.9x76.2mm (identical to the 800D) the camera is not exactly small. For me, that was a good thing, and combined with the rubberised coating on the body, it gave a solid hold. There’s no weather sealing though, so if you want a more rugged APS-C Canon, it’ll need to be the 80D.

The vari-angle touchscreen is a good size, pin sharp, easy to read in bright light, and feels robust. As it flips over, the screen can be protected and the top-plate LCD used for reading camera info alone. It also knows when it’s been flipped through 180º to the front; therein the picture flips, allowing easier ‘selfies’, if you’re that way inclined.

As it’s a touchscreen, you press to focus in live view, and select and set menu functions, but I preferred to leave the touch function off and stick to button inputs, partly as I find myself accidentally interacting with the screen due to my pointy face. That said, when reviewing images, the screen supports gesture controls just like a phone, so you can swipe through pics and or use two fingers for zooming in and out. In that regard, it’s welcome. 

The mode dial, top left, offers the usual MASP modes and Auto/Scene modes. It has a knurled edge and can be locked to avoid accidental moves. Below it is the on/off/movie lever. I found this a little too light, and it was easy to knock, especially when putting the camera in a bag.  

Composition via the optical viewfinder isn’t great, due to the size of the view, and the actual image area displayed relative to what’s recorded. Like many entry level DSLRs, the viewfinder feels quite cramped, a bit like you’re looking down a long tunnel, and though my eye adapted to that quite quickly, the 95% view is more of a problem. After shooting you’ll find slivers of stuff at the edge of the pic you didn’t expect. If you find you miss stuff out of a frame, maybe that’s a bonus, but in reality it’s not ideal, and means post-capture cropping is often necessary. Much of this comes from using a pentamirror design, rather than a traditional (and more expensive) pentaprism. In contrast the 80D has a 100% view. 


Button layout is straightforward, and very similar to the 800D. If you’re familiar with Canon bodies, it will be second nature, and if not, it’ll only take a couple of shoots to pick up. The addition of the AF-On button is welcome, and it sits within easy reach of the thumb, allowing you to separate the focusing from the shutter button. Next to this, the magnification controls for playback or live-view focusing double as auto exposure lock and AF point selection. 

Having a front (which Canon calls Main) and a rear (Quick Control) dial is a definite improvement over the single dial offered on the 800D, especially when working in manual mode. In shutter or aperture-priority, the Quick Control dial defaults to exposure compensation, as on other Canon models. Both or either dial can be locked using the switch of the back of the body. I found the Quick Control dial a little small and light to the touch, but it functions well enough. Click it up, down, left or right and it functions like the 800D’s four-way controller; you get control of white balance, drive mode, autofocus modes and picture styles.

Unlike the 80D, there’s no button on the body to set metering mode, so this is done in the Main or Quick menu (via the Q button). It works fine, but if you change modes a lot, switching to spot or centre, diving into a menu each time could grate. 

Next to the top plate LCD are buttons to control ISO, AF area and to illuminate the LCD. Helpfully, the ISO button in the middle has a different feel, so your finger knows where it is, even while composing. 

The 77D’s menu system is well laid out and easy to navigate. Again, if you’re a Canon user, it will be second nature. Basic functions are grouped, and you can put frequently used settings into custom menu, which I did with the exposure bracketing.

The AF system performed very well. The Dual Pixel AF feature makes use of a phase detection AF system on the sensor itself, rather than a separate AF chip, and worked well. It’s also meant to improve focusing in live view and when shooting video, and certainly seemed to. Performance was snappier than I’ve seen in live view focusing before.

Through the viewfinder, the system offers 45 points, all of which are the more sensitive cross-type. 27 of these, grouped towards the centre, will work at up to f/8 , so you can shoot with slower lenses, teleconverters or extension tubes without too much worry. The central point is a dual cross-type for even greater accuracy.

There’s a good selection of AF areas and modes, so you won’t be caught out by any subject. The usual Canon AF modes; One Shot, AI Servo and AI Focus are on board, the latter switching between the first two, to deal with unpredictable subjects. 

Performance ISO:

With modern cameras, ISO performance should improve in each generation. Unlike the days of film or early digital, you should be able to shoot at middling ISOs, like ISO 400 or 800 without much noise, meaning shutter speed can be faster. The lowest ISOs can then be reserved for lengthening the shutter or shooting in bright light. 

The 77D performed very well in our noise tests. At ISO 100 images are very clean, and this level extends to ISO 800, so you can rely on decent results without keeping to the lowest settings. Even at higher settings like 1600 and 3200 luminance noise (grain) is good, and pictures very usable.  

Colour noise does start to creep in above ISO 1600, but it’s not offensive unprocessed and easy to remove in a Raw conversion. From 6400 onwards, colour artifacting is much more obvious and detail really begins to suffer.

 

Click the images to see a larger view

 

Performance exposure latitude:

To look at the 77D’s exposure latitude with its Raw files, I shot the below scene, which contained plenty of highlights and shadows. The original scene was captured well, showing the 77D’s excellent on-chip dynamic range (TIPA testing measures it at 11.9 stops, which is impressive for an APS-C camera).

In manual mode the correct exposure was determined at 1/3sec at f/14 and ISO 100. Raws were exposed at +/-5EV to see how the files would respond when corrected using the Adobe Camera Raw interface in Photoshop, with the Exposure slider used to match the original exposure. Underexposed Raws recovered well, bar at -5EV which showed a colour shift and banding. For the others, results were good, albeit with expected increases in noise over the correct exposure. At -4EV there was lots of grain, but -3EV was a marked improvement with a decent level of detail retained. -2EV was quite usable.

Tolerance to overexposure is limited to about +2EV, wherein recovered shots look much like 0EV. Any further, and the overexposed highlights look grey. I also noticed a slight loss in highlight saturation.

 

Click the images to see a larger view



Performance noise reduction

The EOS 77D’s high ISO noise reduction (NR) options are split into five settings: Off, Low, Standard, High, and a Multishot NR mode wherein four exposures are taken and merged to reduce interference. NR is only applied to JPEGs, of course, but in all but the Multishot mode, you can shoot Raw+JPEG.

To test performance, I shot a series of identical exposures, using the Large Fine JPEG setting, with the ISO set to 6400, and compared them at 100%.

The Low setting removes mostly colour noise, leaving a fine grain structure. As you can see, it’s okay if you don’t mind a little speckling, as it has quite a natural, film grain look. 

The Standard mode offers a good balance; therein the noise reduction is not so heavy that it sacrifices too much detail, but grain is mostly eliminated. 

The High setting is pretty good, too, though textures did seem to flatten a bit too much for my taste. That said, it’s nowhere near as waxy as many High ISO NR results on other cameras, so if you want smoother shots, it’s fine to go down that route.

Best results were from the EOS 77D’s Multishot mode, with the camera comparing four separate frames and averaging the noise out of the final result. However, even though the frames are in quick succession, shooting this way still leaves you susceptible to camera or subject movement, which may cause blur or ghosting in the image. Therefore, the Multishot mode is ideally used on static subjects and when shooting from a tripod.

 

Click the images to see a larger view



Performance sharpness and colour:

In an age where many cameras are removing the traditional optical low pass filter (OLPF) in search of improved sharpness, results from the OLPF-equipped EOS 77D, were still very good. 

The 24.2-megapixel sensor provides lots of detail, especially when using higher quality lenses, but shots from the provided 18-135mm IS USM lens were perfectly acceptable, too. 

The default sharpening level on JPEGs was a little harsh and some haloes were visible, but overall the effect is positive.

The colours produced in default JPEGs were also good; bright, true-to-life and well saturated, especially the blue and reds.

 

Click the images to see a larger view



Verdict

I started off the test with an immediate dislike of the EOS 77D’s cramped and inaccurate viewfinder, but after a week’s testing, I had to return a camera that I had really enjoyed using.  

Despite shooting with full frame DSLRs, I got used to the small ’finder quickly, and while the 95% coverage isn’t ideal, it didn’t cause too many problems that minor cropping couldn’t fix. 

The 77D handles really well, too. It’s very comfortable in the hand, and not at all heavy. In shooting, although there’s point-and-click simplicity for beginners, it has just enough features borrowed from the higher end 80D, like manual and creative features for enthusiasts to grow into. With the top-plate LCD, you don’t spend ages with the screen, either, though you still need to dip in for some modes like metering. 

Performance is good, too. 27 Raws at 6fps plenty for most subjects, and the AF is quick and accurate. The only time it stutters is with fast-moving subjects.

Video options are limited though, with no headphone jack and only 1080p rather than full 4K.

Pros Image quality, ISO performance, tilting touchscreen, and general handling 

Cons Small optical viewfinder and no 4K video

Features 22/25 There’s not much lacking here for beginners or enthusiasts
Performance 21/25 Good image quality, speed of shooting and decent AF 
Handling 22/25  Offers an excellent grip, twin dials, and plenty of manual inputs
Value for money 23/25 You get several features from the pricier 80D, for £50 over the 800D
Overall 88/100   The EOS 77D is a camera with plenty to offer both serious beginners and upgraders from older bodies

 

As featured in Photography News, issue 45.

 

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