Canon EOS 600D review

Canon’s triple-digit EOS line has traditionally catered for those dipping their toes into DSLR photography, but as successive models have acquired more functionality, they’ve ventured further into enthusiast territory.

The Canon 600D sits somewhere in between the two camps, with a small form and entry-level styling, but many features inherited from the enthusiast EOS 60D.

Even so, it varies in only a handful of ways to the previous EOS 550D and arrives only a year after that model.

Features

Despite a number of other changes, the EOS 600D carries over the same sensor/processor combination seen on the 550D. The APS-C CMOS sensor still contains 18.7MP to give an effective total of 18MP, while the DIGIC 4 processing engine facilitates a burst rate of 3.7fps for up to 34 JPEG images, six raw pictures, or four simultaneous raw and JPEG captures.

The two allow a sensitivity span of ISO 100-6400 with an extension to ISO 12,800, and noise reduction is also on hand for both long exposures and high sensitivities, the latter in three different strengths.

HD video functionality is largely unchanged from that of 550D, with Full HD recording (1920 x 1080) at 24, 25 and 30fps, and 720p recording at 50 and 60fps.
There’s also a VGA option should you not require high-definition footage, and plenty of control on offer, from manual exposure control and the provision of Picture Styles, to adjustment of audio levels and application of a wind cut filter.

There is, however, the new addition of a Movie Snapshot mode, which captures movies in two-, four- or eight-second bursts, before stitching the separate files together into a single sequence.

Picture Designs comprise Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome modes, as well as a new Auto mode, which lets the camera decide on the best parameters for the scene being shot, and three user-definable options.

This is complemented by the camera’s Scene Intelligent Auto mode (which replaces the more standard Auto function) to take full control over many parameters such as focus, flash and Picture Style. The standard quartet of evaluative, centre-weighted, partial and spot metering patterns are provided, as are three levels of Auto Lighting Optimisation and a Highlight Tone Priority function.

In contrast to previous EOS models, which have shunned many novelties found elsewhere to deliver a comparatively sober feature set, the 600D shows its fun side by adding the EOS 60D’s Creative Filters, which allow processing effects to be applied to images post-capture.

Also from the 60D comes an image rating system, whereby images may be tagged with a number of stars, should you want to remember any particular images for later.

Another significant addition is the Wireless Flash option, which allows the camera’s pop-up flash to be used as the master for other Speedlite flashguns. While the subject of flash can be mysterious to beginners, Canon has gone to the trouble of including an EasyWireless flash setting to help simplify flash for new users, and has broken everything down step-by-step in the accompanying user manual.

Should users want to get more creative, or for those already familiar with flash handle, the 600D goes on to offer the usual sync options, flash exposure compensation and custom mode which places greater control in the user’s hands.

Next to the focusing modules found in competing models, the 600D’s wide-area nine-point AF system may seem a little lacking, but the system cover a healthy portion of the frame as the centrally placed cross-type stage promises an increase in speed and accuracy on the eight around it.

In good light, none of the nine points has any problems picking out the subject, and when all points are activated the camera does well to quickly bring subjects into focus.

In lower light, however, the better performance of the central point is appreciated, with it picking up low-contrast subjects reasonably well, while the other eight often run the lens through its entire focusing range, before pausing for a brief moment and fine tuning focus. Using a better-specified zoom lens shows this can be improved, and not just in velocity but also in sound, since the kit lens can be a little whirry.

Live View is always made more useful when coupled with an articulated LCD screen, and thanks to the Creative Filter systems and Picture Styles, it’s possible to achieve a range of effects from all manner of shooting positions on the 600D.

Focusing in Live View is could be carried out using the directional menu pad to guide to point over to the details, however the contrast-detection focusing system tends to match the uncertainty of its phase-detection partner, with the system taking a while to confirm focus once it has reached an approximate area.

This isn’t entirely uncommon for such systems, and the thoroughness is there for accuracy. However, in a handful of situations it may prove to be a little too slow and limiting next to the faster Quick AF setting, which flips the mirror up to temporarily blackout the picture.

The three-inch LCD screen boasts the same 1,440,000-dot resolution as the Canon 60D, and is primed with three anti-reflection and fluorine anti-smudge coatings. The level of detail it resolves is excellent, and both its default contrast and brightness are spot on, too.

It also boasts a perfectly respectable viewing angle, although zooming into and around images is almost always followed by a short but noticeable pixelation because the digital camera catches up. Furthermore, with no ambient light sensor, the display tends to suggest that certain images may be underexposed outdoors when in fact, under more subdued lighting they appear balanced and accurately exposed.

Build and Quality

Just as many of the Canon EOS 600D’s specifications mirror those of the EOS 550D, so does the design of its body. From the front it simply looks like the newer model has bulked up a little, while on the top-plate the only changes are to the look and functionality of the mode dial, and the addition of the display button, whose former space on the rear is now taken by an Info button.

The mode dial is sufficiently tall to be easily turned and the new texture around its side makes it easier to grip than before, but it’s a shame it doesn’t rotate all the way around, particularly because the movie option is right at the other end of the dial to all creative settings. For the most part, though, if you only tend to stick to either creative or the scene modes, this shouldn’t be too great an issue.

Most other alterations concern the rear of the camera; the eye sensor used to help conserve battery life is nowhere to be seen, having been displaced by the larger articulated LCD screen, while the menu pad and thumb rest are each a shade smaller for the same reason.

The LCD screen moves freely about its hinge, although accessing the Menu and Information buttons above it can be awkward when the screen is pulled away from the camera’s body, because in most positions it’s directly in the way.

Despite the smaller thumbrest, it still provides just enough room for someone with averagely-sized hands, although only just; some will no doubt find it a little too cramped.

The body maintains much of exactly the same style as the 550D, with the same stainless steel chassis and polycarbonate resin casing, but a slightly more matte finish. A number of buttons have, however, been subject to minor aesthetic revisions, while slight changes to overall dimensions have added a little more entire body to the camera’s grip. Even so, the grip still feels just a little lacking even with average hands, with the lack of room meaning the user’s fingertips often feel pushed against the body.

The menu system offers little by way of surprise, adhering to exactly the same tabbed and colour-coordinated format that has graced many former EOS models. Those new to Canon’s system should easily pick up its operation; while the left hand brings up the menus and alternates between screen information, the right uses both the command dial and directional buttons to move across and down each menu tab respectively.

The less experienced also benefit from Canon’s helpful Feature Guide, which explains all features succinctly, while those with a bit more shooting time behind them can personalise their camera’s with 11 custom functions and file commonly used options under a My Menu tab.

Performance

With a formatted Class 10 SDHC card, testing the camera on its burst mode showed it to manage average of 19 high-quality JPEGs before slowing down, and about six Raw frames at a continuous speed. Somewhat disappointingly, only around six or seven Raw and JPEG captures may be taken at a much slower rate of around one per second, before the camera prohibits images from being shot without needing a few seconds of breathing space in between exposures.

Speed is no doubt compromised by the digital camera creating such larger files; when opened, JPEGs measure in at over 50MB, while TIFF documents converted from Natural files typically double this. It’s a shame there’s no option to shoot at a faster rate but at a reduced resolution, which would no doubt be preferable when such huge data files aren’t required.

Once the setting dial has been turned to the relevant position, video recording could be started by pressing the dedicated button on the rear. The Quick AF mode, which uses the same phase-detection system as in standard shooting, is indeed very quick, although the contrast detection setting (dubbed ‘Live’ mode by Canon) has the advantage of a continuing feed, although is much slower at bringing subjects into focus (just as in live view).

Playing back movies shows good, fluid movement, and a gradual but swift transition in exposure as the scene changes, but the inevitable wobble introduced by panning does make itself known. Audio quality is adequate for general use, but it’s not particularly great for anything else and isn’t reproduced well by the camera’s speaker, either. Fortunately a stereo microphone may be plugged into the camera’s side should you wish to improve on this.

The Movie Snapshot mode is a curious addition, but one with the potential to force users shoot video more selectively. It seems particularly useful for those travelling, who may want to record a brief summary of where they’ve been without needing to trawl through various clips of different sizes.

The camera automatically stitches all footage in exactly the same album together, and watching it back makes for an undoubtedly more interesting experience than watching a single long video.

The feature is relatively simple to use, and footage may be played back before it’s saved to an album, while it’s also nice that Canon has allowed basic editing, so that footage could be trimmed from either end of a recording.

The metering system does very well to balance shadows, midtones and highlights, and many situations in which other cameras would err one way or the other fail to outfox the 600D – although now and again the camera will sometimes create the odd error of judgement.

Something that does become apparent when examining the 600D’s images is the effect of the iFCL metering program; because this uses the AF point among other factors to judge exposure, the camera will prioritise exposure for the subject on which the user focuses.

As a consequence, such images may appear either over or underexposed, depending on the brightness of the topic in relation to the rest of the scene. This can be beneficial when shooting against backlighting, for example, although for print-ready results it’s advisable to experiment with either the Highlight tone priority option or the Auto Lighting Optimiser (or both).

Most of the time, the camera’s auto White Balance system helps to produce colourful but faithful pictures. During the test the digital camera coped perfectly nicely with standard natural lighting and even managed to render to warm glow of sodium vapour streelights against twilight with aplomb.

Only a couple of occasions proved problematic: under tungsten light, where it recorded the warm yellow lighting as a more rosy magenta, and outdoors when the scene contained little colour detail, which caused noticeably cold casts. In both of these cases, selecting the appropriate white balance preset proved to be a better match (which, with the direct WB switch, can be done in little time).

JPEGs are noticeably sharper than corresponding Raw files, but it’s still possible to tease out a little more detail without degrading all of those other image using a sharpening tool.

With regards to noise, texture begins building up at around ISO 800, and continues to rise steadily up the maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800.

The in-camera noise reduction options do well to remove the fine-textured chroma noise which appears over darker areas, and even the strongest setting manages to do so while leaving images relatively intact.

The Digital Photo Professional software works a treat to eliminate the coarsest red and green speckling from Natural files, and also images shot at the highest sensitivity of ISO 12,800 remain detailed after careful processing, particularly if just a touch of luminance noise reduction is applied.

The new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens is said to be optically unchanged from the previous version (which it now supersedes), with just slight revisions to its outer design.

Once again, it offers a four-stop image stabilisation program, although in practice it managed acceptably-sharp results down to around 1/8 sec at 55mm, equating to around a three-stop improvement.

No doubt it’s possible to reach the four promised stops, but like results are generally just obtainable with flawless technique and the optimum conditions.

Once the lens is stopped down a little, sharpness is excellently maintained to both edges and corners of the frame, but sadly plenty of magenta and green chromatic aberrations are easily spotted throughout each Raw and JPEG images. The boost in contrast in the latter doesn’t particularly help here, often making chromatic aberrations even more apparent.

There’s also a touch of purple fringing noticeable in high contrast areas, although this tends to be due to the camera’s microlens formation, and there’s also a little barrel distortion at the lens’s widest extremity, which disappears once zoomed in just a little.

Specifications

  • Sensor
    22.3 x 14.9mm (APS-C) 18.0-million effective pixel CMOS sensor
  • Focal length conversion
    Approx 1.6x
  • Memory
    SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Viewfinder
    Optical pentamirror, 95% coverage with 0.85x magnification and approx. 19mm eye point
  • Video resolution
    MOV format, 1920 x 1080 (at 29.97, 25, 23.976 fps), 1280 x 720 (at 59.94, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (at 59.94, 50 fps). Mono sound.
  • ISO range
    ISO 100-6400, expandable to ISO 12,800
  • Autofocus
    9 points (1 cross-type)
  • Max burst rate
    3.7fps
  • LCD screen size
    Three-inch articulated Clear View LCD, 1,040,000 dots (346,666 pixels)
  • Shutter speeds
    1/4000-30sec, bulb
  • Weight
    570g (including battery and memory card)
  • Dimensions
    133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm
  • Power supply LP-E8 (supplied)

Check Out: Best Canon EOS 600D LensesĀ 

Verdict

Although the 600D’s focusing speed is generally good, the meagre burst rate and slow down upon processing mean that it’s perhaps not the ideal camera for action photography. It’s also probably not ideal for larger handed users, but otherwise there’s little to complain about. The various changes bestowed upon the 600D perhaps make a little more sense here than they do in the enthusiast EOS 60D, and what results is a model that provides plenty of growing space for beginners but enough to keep the more adventurous happy from the off.

When the LCD screen, wireless flash capabilities and numerous other improvements are considered, the premium EOS 550D isn’t entirely unreasonable, but the 600D is nevertheless a minor upgrade to an already-acclaimed formula.

Check Canon EOS 600D Price

 

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