Canon EOS 600D test
Digital SLR Photography test: June 2011
Daniel Lezano puts Canon's latest entry-level model through its paces
Significant new features make Canon’s eos 600d a very attractive entry-level digital SLR. Daniel lezano reports...
Body only: £680 (Guide) / £660 (Street) with 18-55mm IS: £770 (Guide) / £750 (Street)
IMAGE sensor: APS-C CMOS (22.3x14.9mm)
IMAGE RESOLUTION: 18-megapixels
LCD: 3in 3:2 (1,040,000 dots)
STORAGE: SD (SDHC & SDXC)
WEIGHT: 515g (without battery and card)
PHONE: 08705 143723
Canon has a major presence in every area of the digital SLR market, but has a particularly strong hold on the entry-level sector. This isn’t a big surprise, considering it opened digital SLR photography to the masses with the launch of the EOS 300D in 2003. More or less every year since then, Canon has brought out a new entry-level DSLR, which has gone on to enjoy major popularity, despite increasingly strong competition from other DSLRs and more recently hybrid cameras too.
The EOS 600D is the latest incarnation and it looks set to continue Canon’s trend for delivering compact, feature-packed and popular DSLRs. It doesn’t replace the EOS 550D, released last year, but rather occupies its spot, with the EOS 550D dropping in price to fit between the EOS 600D and Canon’s other new model, the EOS 1100D.
As revealed during the course of this test, the EOS 600D isn’t radically different to the EOS 550D. It’s more an update than an upgrade, but that’s no bad thing. The EOS 550D is a brilliant camera and so this new model already has a successful foundation on which to build. This test therefore isn’t going to discover if the EOS 600D is any good or not, but rather just how good it proves to be.
Handling & ease of use: 24/25
At first glance the EOS 600D is a near-identical twin to the EOS 550D. While it has added a couple of millimetres to its dimensions, it remains a neatly designed and compact DSLR that doesn’t look much different to the older model. A well-sized handgrip with rubberised texture affords a good hold and the camera feels reassuringly well made. Sure, it feels a little plasticky where the body isn’t covered by the textured skin, but as time has shown, its polycarbonate shell is durable and tough. What will be particularly appealing to DSLR newcomers is the beautifully simple layout of controls. As we’ll discover, the EOS 600D boasts a comprehensive set of features, but that isn’t at the expense of ease of use. The general layout is similar to the EOS 550D, with most buttons on the rear and a four-way control helping fast access to key features. The position of the ISO button close to the shutter release is excellent and it is joined by a DISP button that lets you control whether the LCD remains on or off. The Q (Quick Control) button, used in combination with the LCD to give quick access to key functions, really simplifies and speeds up operation and is a welcome inclusion. A subtle improvement is how some of the buttons sit a little higher to make them easier to press – a bonus if you are wearing gloves.
To appeal in particular to beginners, the EOS 600D boasts a number of modes that help users get accustomed to various functions, as well as enjoy fuss-free in-camera image manipulation (see Modes to help beginners panel). While similar facilities are available on rival models (and the EOS 60D), it’s the first time Canon has included them on an entry-level model.
The main difference between this model and the EOS 550D is that like the EOS 60D, the LCD monitor is now set into a hinged mount, which allows you to view the screen from a multitude of angles, which would prove particularly useful if you regularly use LiveView or shoot video. The excellent 1,040,000-dot 3in screen is retained, which offers bright colours and sharp resolution. The standard menu system is included, which is nicely colour-coded, fast to access and logical to navigate.
The EOS 600D refines an already successful camera, adding the excellent vari-angle LCD and adding subtle changes that improve overall handling and ease of use. This along with a neat, well put together body design, makes this one of the easiest and best cameras in its class to operate, particularly if you’re new to DSLRs.
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t much new in terms of features in comparison to the EOS 550D. The sensor is the same tried and tested APS-C 18-megapixel CMOS, which works with the DIGIC 4 14-bit image-processing chip to handle still images at 3.7 frames-per-second, with an ISO range of 100-6400 (Hi 12800). It also offers Full HD (1920x1080 pixel) video and movie makers will find plenty of options and new modes, including a digital zoom of 3-10x and a video snapshots facility for short clips ranging from two to eight seconds.
There is no shortage of exposure modes, with a full set of creative and scene modes, as well as Canon’s A-Dep, which aims to calculate enough depth-of-field to keep everything in the frame sharp based on information from the AF system. The 63-zone Evaluative pattern is supported by Partial, spot and centre-weighted average options, while overrides include AE-Lock, bracketing and exposure compensation. To boost dynamic range, there is an option to activate the Auto Lighting Optimizer, which offers three settings.
The pop-up flash offers adequate fill-in but like all integral models has its limits in terms of power. However, it boasts literally every flash mode available, from slow-sync to second-curtain and you have the option to slip one of the sophisticated Speedlite units on to the hotshoe. One notable inclusion for flash photography is wireless control for off-camera flash (see panel).
The nine-point diamond-array autofocus system (with one central cross-type sensor) from the EOS 550D is retained, as is the use of the iFCL (Focus, Colour and Luminance) system that shares information from the autofocus and metering systems to aid exposure accuracy. You can have all AF points active or select them individually, with a choice of three modes: One-Shot, AI Servo (continuous AF) or AI Focus, which combines the two.
LiveView is included but traditionalists may favour the depth-of-field preview facility over LiveView. There is no PC socket, which is not a major omission as wireless triggers are increasingly common. Overall, the EOS 600D has pretty much everything an amateur photographer could want.
With so much of the EOS 600D based around the EOS 550D, it’s no surprise to find that its results match what was produced by its predecessor. The AF in normal use proves fast, quiet and reliable in virtually all shooting conditions. However AF when using LiveView or shooting movies proves slow, especially when compared to rivals like Sony, Nikon’s D7000 and Panasonic’s GH2.
The Evaluative metering system is consistent and accurate, so switching to one of the other patterns shouldn’t be needed unless you’re shooting in difficult lighting conditions. The flash operates well too.
Images show very good levels of detail, with JPEGs from Raw delivering slightly more detail than in-camera JPEGs. Colours have a slight boost to saturation, rather than being natural and accurate in tones, while noise isn’t a concern until you reach ISO 1600. While the movie mode wasn’t examined in depth, recordings showed good resolution and will suit anyone wishing to enjoy and develop their video technique.
With the exception of the aforementioned issues with AF in video and LiveView, there is very little to complain about the EOS 600D. Fast in operation, reliable and with a wealth of options at its disposal, the EOS 600D is an excellent all-round performer.
The Canon EOS 600D is destined to be a major success. Despite being laden with the kind of features you’d expect to find on an enthusiast-level DSLR, it retains its compact size and ease of use and manages to deliver a very high success rate in terms of well-exposed, sharp results. But there is another reason why the Canon deserves to do well. It’s an incredibly enjoyable camera to use: fast, reliable and fun to take pictures with. Lacking frustrating handling quirks or serious performance issues (LiveView/Movie AF aside), the EOS 600D is a DSLR that you’ll want to use time and again. It’s without doubt one of the best packages available. Best of all is its guide price, which could easily have been set higher. A brilliant Best Buy.
Handling & ease of use: 24/25
Value For Money: 24/25
Like all Canon models, the EOS 600D is supplied with a comprehensive software bundle. Digital Photo Professional is the most useful and is used for editing and converting Raw files. You could try Image Browser for reviewing shots and Picture Style Editor to create your own Style, but these aren’t essential. Another good option is Photo Stitch for creating panoramics from a series of images.
In the box:
The Canon EOS 600D kit is supplied with the following accessories: battery charger (LC-E8), Li-ion battery (LP-E8), wide strap, USB and AV cable, body cap, software CD and instruction manual.
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