Canon EOS Insurgent T8i evaluation: there may be nothing to see right here

“Small changes bring the T8i towards the enthusiast, but it remains a high-profile DSLR in a mirrorless world.”

Great auto focus with live view

4K video is available

AF-ON button, rear dial

800-round battery

4K is cropped, only 24p

Not a high frame rate 1080p

Small, dark viewfinder

In 2017, I reviewed the predecessor to the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, the Rebel T7i, and found that this is a refreshing exception to the rule that entry-level DSLRs aren’t exciting. An “EOS 80D in disguise,” as I called it, referred to Canon’s upscale DSLR that won Digital Trend’s Editor’s Choice Award the previous year.

Unfortunately, the magic of the T7i has gone from the T8i. While Canon’s latest entry-level camera adds some enthusiastic updates, its upscale counterpart is now the EOS 90D – and a camouflaged 90D the T8i isn’t.

Instead of going for the 32-megapixel sensor on the 90D, Canon stuck to the 24-megapixel sensor on the T7i. While the 90D jumped 4 frames per second (fps) compared to the 80D – from 7 to 11 fps – the T8i only achieved 0.5 fps more than the T7i and was 7.5.

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i, front sideDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

The pragmatist in me says who cares? After all, those specs are perfectly fine for a mid-range camera, and the 90D’s extra megapixels don’t make an important difference in the real world anyway. While this is all true, the T8i doesn’t have much going for it. There’s little reason for T7i owners to upgrade. In the three years since this camera was released, DSLRs have become less desirable as mirrorless cameras keep getting better and dominate the market. I suppose the T8i is perfectly fine if you want a compact DSLR, but it really doesn’t help keep such a camera around.

The T8i retails for $ 749 for the body only or with the 18-55mm f / 4-5.6 kit lens for $ 899 (tested) and kicks off some strong mirrorless cameras like that Sony A6100. That leaves the T8i in an unfortunate position. It is an OK camera that will give you great results. However, given better alternatives, this is hardly recommended.

Enthusiastic design changes

From most angles, the Canon Rebel T8i looks identical to the T7i. I like the big, simple mode dial and the power button that also toggles the movie mode. The auto focus mode and ISO buttons right next to your index finger are great too.

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i taken out of the camera bag.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

You will find the only SD card slot on the right and all of the connectivity ports on the left, including mini HDMI (bleh), USB, remote control and microphone. Frustratingly, the camera still uses a micro USB Type-B connector instead of USB-C, which has been the standard for a few years.

A dial has been added around the four-way button cluster that gives a Rebel dual dial controls for the first time since the 2015 T6.

But things get more interesting at the back. A dial has been added around the four-way button cluster that gives a Rebel dual dial controls for the first time since the 2015 T6. This allows the aperture to be changed directly without using a modifier button, a feature that is important for photographers who like to take pictures in manual mode. Since the dial also handles exposure compensation, the exposure compensation button has been removed from the T7i.

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i, back with hidden screen Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i, top Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i, left side Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Product photo of Canon EOS Rebel T8i, back with screen revealed Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Canon also added an AF ON button for backspace auto focus, a shooting technique preferred by many enthusiasts and professionals. It almost seems out of place on a camera aimed at beginners, but I suppose it’s a nice feature that gives the T8i a little more room to grow compared to previous models.

Battery life has been slightly improved to 800 shots with the same LP-E17 battery. In practice, you should be able to get a lot more than that (I took almost 2,000 photos on a single charge in my T7i test, so there shouldn’t be any any way the T8i should perform worse).

Canon EOS Rebel T8i product photo in handDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

Otherwise, the T8i is in every way the rebel you know and love (or hate). It has a lightweight plastic casing that is not weatherproof, the optical viewfinder is just as uncomfortably small and still only shows 95% of the frame, and the LCD screen is the same at 3 inches and 1.04 million pixels is a touchscreen that is full articulated.

Video is hardly 4K

The few remaining upgrades to the T8i involve filming, starting with the jump to 4K resolution. In 2020, 4K is basically a requirement for all but the most basic cameras, and Canon hasn’t done much with it here other than checking the box on the datasheet. For most uses, sticking to 1080p is better. With the T8i, you get 4K / 24p – and that’s it.

As a cameraman, I appreciate the 24p option – personally, I rarely use anything else – but most casual shooters would probably prefer 30p for home videos and the like. Does the T8i simply lack the computing power for these additional six frames per second? Maybe. But at a time when our phones can easily record 4K / 30, it feels strange when a dedicated camera can’t.

It’s confusing that Canon continues to only enforce one frame rate in its cameras at 4K. Previous bodies only gave the option for 30p, and now the T8i only gives the option for 24p. It is frustrating.

Product photo of the Canon EOS Rebel T8i in selfie mode.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Switching to 4K also clips the sensor significantly, which isn’t particularly good considering it’s already an APS-C camera. It’s especially frustrating when trying to log with the T8i because the 18-55mm kit lens won’t get you a wide enough shot. I don’t think a vlog-style shoot has to be in 4K, but the mode just feels like an afterthought.

The problems don’t end there. While 4K produces significantly more detailed footage than 1080, the rolling shutter distortion (or “jello cam”) is much worse. This is compounded by the fact that the image is being cropped, which means that the optical stabilization of the lens is less effective. You can activate the additional electronic image stabilization, but this cuts off the footage even more.

1080p video image recording from Canon EOS Rebel T8i Full HD 1080p, lens at 18mm.

4K video frame grab from Canon EOS Rebel T8i shows the effect of cropped 4K Cropped 4K, lens at 18mm.

And while you might think that the move to 4K has opened up processing space at lower resolutions, you are wrong. Just like the T7i, the T8i still achieves 60 fps in Full HD 1080p. This feels more like an artificial than a technical limitation. I don’t want to knock too hard on Canon here as I think the camera still lives up to most people’s expectations for this price point, but even the cheaper Fujifilm X-T200 can record 4K / 30p and 1080 / 120p.

The T8i has another trick: vertical video. Yes, you can now record vertical videos in the camera. Impressive. Finally. This is not a separate mode. The camera simply detects when you hold it in a vertical orientation and then rotates the video file automatically. This is nothing more than manually rotating the video while editing, but I suppose it could be a useful feature for the busy influencer who doesn’t even have a second to spare for post-production.

The T8i has another trick: vertical video. Yes, you can now record vertical videos in the camera.

What is strange is that while recording a vertical video, none of the information overlays realigns to display them upright. When you play the video on the camera, the clip continues to display horizontally. Neither during recording nor during playback will there be any indication that the camera recorded vertical video correctly. Only when you transfer the file to your computer or phone will it appear vertically.

Not a rebel anymore

For a camera line with such a bold name, the Canon Rebel has grown tired and old. The Rebel T8i is no longer a brave, risky, adventurous outsider and has lost its youthful vigor. Now it’s hard to remember the “good old days” instead of trying to keep up with the times.

And that’s fine. All is well. The 24MP sensor is fine. A burst rate of 7.5 fps is fine. The 45-point viewfinder autofocus system is perfectly fine. Canon’s dual-pixel autofocus in live view is even better than okay – capturing sharp video is a breeze. (Of course, there is still a huge disconnect between a DSLR’s performance through the viewfinder and live view, and it can be a frustrating experience for new photographers.)

There is nothing wrong with the T8i itself. It’s functional enough and the image quality is basically as good as you’d expect from the APS-C format, as long as your goal is nothing more than winning the DPReview test card. I also really appreciate the control improvements.

The T8i is perfectly fine … but it really doesn’t do anything to prove the case that such a camera still exists.

But it’s just so boring. Canon hasn’t really updated the Rebel’s core DSLR component – the optical viewfinder – since the original Digital Rebel. There has always been room for improvement there, and given Canon’s new focus on professional mirrorless cameras, it doesn’t seem important to maintain this imbalance between the low- and high-end DSLRs, the latter of which offer larger ones. brighter viewfinder with full coverage. If you want to keep making DSLRs in 2020 and beyond, the actual DSLR parts should be the best they can be, even on entry-level models.

Our opinion

When it comes to that, the Canon EOS Rebel T8i is still the best Rebel – but only. The new controls are worth improving, but the half-hearted 4K video mode isn’t enough to keep the camera up to date. This is a T7i with minor modifications and after three years that is not enough.

If you really want a DSLR and your budget is under $ 1,000, the T8i is the best option – but nothing interesting. The small, relatively dark optical viewfinder doesn’t offer the true DSLR experience, and you can find better specs on comparable, smaller mirrorless cameras. The T8i has better battery life than the mirrorless, but that’s about it.

Is there a better alternative?

Certainly. You can cover your eyes, throw a rock, and hit a mirrorless camera in the $ 700 to $ 1,000 price range that outperforms the T8i in just about every category. I would check out the Sony A6100, Fujifilm X-T200, and Fujifilm X-T30, the last of which increases the price over $ 1,000 if you add a lens but is a much more powerful camera.

In terms of a direct DSLR competitor, the Nikon D5600 is the closest thing. It’s now under $ 600 for the body only, but the T8i has the better specs.

How long it will take?

Despite the plastic construction, Rebel cameras have no problem surviving for years. But the T8i comes onto the stage already surpassed by competitors, which means the technology that powers it is far from, even if it doesn’t break.

Should you buy it?

No. I can only recommend buying the T8i to people who really know this is what they want and what they need. This may include owners of pre-T7i rebels who are casual photographers and don’t want to learn a new camera, or just those who have a tendency towards mirrorless. Most novice photographers and first-time camera buyers will be more comfortable with a mirrorless camera.

Editor’s recommendations

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