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I really enjoy taking pictures at night, however my current point and shoot is not quite cutting it, so I'm looking to step up to a DSLR.

I've mostly been looking at Canon's Rebel line and have read that the sensor hasn't changed since the t2i except now with the introduction of the t6i. Looking at the models I can see that the t2i through t5i all have an 18MP APS-C size sensor, while the t6i has a 24.2 APS-C size sensor.

Since the sensors are the same size, but the t6i has more pixels crammed in, I know I should (all other things being equal) get better low-light performance from the t2i. I plan on installing magic lantern and shooting in RAW.

Might the older model actually perform better? What else is going to affect the image quality?

  • Neither camera is specifically made for low light. Related: vimeo.com/99893160 – null Dec 8 '16 at 13:40
  • In what way is your P&S "not cutting it"? And are you using a tripod or other form of stabilization? Just saying, this was shot at night using a railing for support and a 3MP 1/1.8"-sensored camera. If you're talking astrophotography, then yes, you may need a better camera. But you may just need better technique. – inkista Dec 8 '16 at 18:21
  • I use a tripod, but my camera limits my exposures to 4 seconds beyond ISO 400 and 8 seconds below that, and even at those settings it's noisy enough to be easily noticeable just as my desktop backgrounds (18MP scaled down to 1920x1080). It's a 1/2.3 inch sensor. It still manages some decent photos though. – James Dec 8 '16 at 20:43
  • Hi @James - I think you need to provide more information in your question. "What matters", "not quite cutting it", "perform better" - these are all subjective opinions on what constitutes "good". Usually "good" depends on purpose. If you can explain the kind of photos and exposures you are after and how your current camera fails to meet your desired standard of result then maybe people can help advise on which camera features will be important for your goal. – youcantryreachingme Dec 9 '16 at 3:58
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If you are genuinely serious about doing night photography you would be much better off with a full frame camera. A used 5D Mark II (or maybe even a well used 6D if you're willing to wait on a good deal) can be had for about the same price as a new T6i. The 5D Mark II is also the camera for which Magic Lantern was created. It is still perhaps the most mature version of all of the ML implementations.

Might the older model actually perform better?

T2i vs. T5i - Not better, but perhaps as well. The T2i through the T5i have basically the same sensor. It's the same sensor that was introduced in the EOS 7D way back in 2009. Any in-camera improvements to image quality as the models get newer are a result of processing and an improved jpeg engine. These improvements can be more or less replicated using any of the previous models that use the same sensor by saving the files in raw format and applying the improvements in post processing using the most current version of Cannon's Digital Photo Professional.

T2i vs. T6i - Probably not. The sensor in the T6i not only has higher resolution but is also more efficient than the previous 18MP APS-C sensor used by Canon. Even with the smaller pixels it still has slightly better performance regarding noise at high ISO.

What else is going to affect the image quality?

Your choice of lens. Roughly 2/3 of the hardware equation with regard to image quality is the lens. Only about 1/3 is the camera. Apart from the camera and lens: a sturdy tripod or other secure platform for your camera and a way to engage the shutter without touching the camera. For night photography I find a wired cable release works best for me. Some folks prefer an infrared wireless remote.

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Yes the sensor didn't change, but the processor has changed... that means that the iso performance on the t5i is better than on the t2i and it will "clean up" the image better... I owned both these cameras and I can say that I noticed a difference, specially when shooting at higher iso values... So i would recommend you pick up the t6i or the t5i for which i can say from personal experience is a fantastic camera for its price :) and on the subject what else is going to affect the image quality it depends on what you will shoot... you will definitely need a tripod, a fast lens and perhaps a remote to trigger your camera to reduce the camera shake if you are going to do long exposures... My answer is written on my experience and my varry on different situations and shooting style so keep that in mind :)

  • When you say the images from the T5i are "better" and "clean up better" are you referencing jpegs produced in-camera? Or jpegs produced by careful post processing of raw files? – Michael C Dec 8 '16 at 8:55
  • I noticed a difference at higher iso in jpeg and raw files... when i compared a raw image of an indor event shot with both of these cameras at iso 1600 the ones from t5i were much cleaner specialy in the shadows and when i brought up the exposure the differences were even more obvious... I hope this answers your question :) – weinde Dec 8 '16 at 9:01
  • What application are you using to convert the raw files? – Michael C Dec 8 '16 at 9:14
  • uhmmm... lightroom... – weinde Dec 8 '16 at 9:20
  • In other words - demosaicing algorithms reverse engineered by a third party. – Michael C Dec 8 '16 at 9:21
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The other answers have only mentioned it in passing, probably because they consider it too obvious to mention, but since you say you used a point and shoot previously you may not be aware of this:

The camera body and sensor are far less important to low light performance than the lens! Get a something with a 1.8 or even 1.4 max aperture (which will not be a zoom lens) and you will be blown away by what it can do.

  • The high iso response Is very, very important, in some cases, in my opinion, more important than 2-3 stops on the lens. – Rafael Dec 8 '16 at 19:11

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