Budget shooting with a Canon t6 Rebel

I received a Canon Rebel t6 camera outfit as a gift during Christmas. Yes, that’s right, a Canon t6 – no “i”. A total beginners outfit consisting of the red Rebel, an EF-S 18-55 IS kit lens, an EF 75-300 f4-5.6 III telephoto lens, and a nice matching red Canon bag. It is an attractive little beast but, as I mentioned, it’s totally geared for the beginner and I am not a “beginner”.

So, did I scoff and say that this camera is beneath me? Of course not, I happily accepted the gift. As a guitarist I enjoy playing cheap guitars alongside my higher end guitars so I thought I could find at least some use for it. Although it certainly will not be replacing my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon lenses I figured I could use it for some casual family shooting and around the house stuff, such as product shots for my ebay selling.

I am fully aware of the cameras limitations. Take away the “i from Canon Rebels and you take away a lot.The well worn Canon 18mp sensor isn’t known for a wide dynamic range and having used the same sensor in a Canon EOS M camera I knew that the RAW files don’t allow for too much processing – lots of noise and the shadow turn to ugly mush if you try to push them too much. The AF is a couple generations old and doesn’t match up to current higher end Canon aps-c cameras such as the 80D or 7D MkII. But I’m not an action shooter kind of guy so that shouldn’t worry me much.

What I did know was the Canon 18-55 kit lens is capable of decently sharp photos and that was not a problem. A couple quick test shots around the house confirmed that. The 75-300 on the other hand was questionable. First of all it wasn’t equipped with stabilization (IS), which is hard for me to go without in a telephoto as I am not a patient tripod shooting kind of guy. I shoot handheld almost all of the time. I know, it shows in my work, but I often shoot while going about my daily business and I have to travel light. If I was going on a photography specific trip to the Rockies it might be a different story. Anyhow, after a few test shots the 75-300 confirmed my fears, it just wasn’t consistent enough for my use, as casual as that may be. I have read reviews where people like this lens, and it may well be good enough when used on a tripod at longer focal lengths, but it just didn’t work for me, so it had to go.

While the 75-330 was on the auction block I did some research and found  just about everybody liked the Canon EF-S 55-250 4-5.6 IS USM lens and I found a Canon refurb for practically free, in my opinion, and made the purchase. The other issue I had with the 75-300 was the slow focusing and the 55-250 took care of that with it’s fairly quick and silent STM focusing. The 55-250 is an aps-c format lens so it’s smaller than the full-frame compatible 75-300, thus it was more fitting for the Rebel. It and the 18-55 have plastic mounts so, although not durable, they make for a very lightweight, wide-ranging kit.

End of story? Well, not quite. Since my initial test shots around the house with the 55-250 proved it was a very sharp lens, I though I would take it with me on my daily work and take some more “out in the wild” shots to further tests it’s capabilities. That’s where things went a little haywire. Being January in Pennsylvania the days were dark and miserable all week and throwing in some snowy days the light was never ideal and the Rebel failed to come through. It’s dated AF system couldn’t handle the low light and when I did get a subject in focus, usually cows, horses, or trees, the images never really came out sharp enough. I wanted to blame the 55-250 and the IS system but thought I would wait for brighter days to try again.

With a very cold (13° F) but sunny day in hand this past Saturday I swung by a local reservoir to further test the 55-250 lens. The water was partially frozen and although I had hoped to see a few ducks there weren’t any to be found. Regardless I just shot away at the trees and ice to see how the lens and Rebel performed under better conditions. I shot with the Canon alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 equipped with the Fujinon 55-200 lens just for comparison. In the end I am happy to report the Canon lens did fine. The comparison shots were very close to the Fuji but the Fuji handled way better and was a dream to shoot with compared to the Canon. Again, I’m not giving that camera up anytime soon. The canon? It looks like it will stick to being a fair weather fan. And who knows? I may add a 7d MkII to the arsenal just for kicks because I think the plastic fantastic 55-250 deserves it.

Here are a few shots from the Canon. There wasn’t much to see beyond ice and snow and I couldn’t help trying to shoot abstract instead of straight test shots, but I have to try stuff in my natural way of shooting.

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