The term entry-level is often used to describe a camera that sits towards the bottom of a range. Canon’s latest DSLR offering – the EOS 600D – fits that label, but at £750 with a lens it’s arguably more of an enthusiast offering. This latest redesigned model brings an 18MP sensor into the compact DSLR arena, making the Canon 600D a rather special camera. Not only does it raise the bar on pixel count, it also introduces a new generation of automatic modes with Auto+ appearing on the command dial. And there’s more – the 600D has a 3in vari-angle LCD and HD video, along with a serious helping of impressive technology to deliver high quality images.
Looking at the outside of the camera, the most obvious feature is the large 3in LCD located on the back of the camera. This panel is hinged to the side that enables it to be flipped out from the camera and rotated. This has a number of advantages, for example you can flip the screen flat against the camera body to protect it from being scratched, but the biggest advantage is that you can use the screen along with the Live View mode to get alternative viewing angles. Be it getting down nice and low or holding the camera above your head, the screen enables you to compose your images in some extreme situations. This great feature can also be used when capturing HD video. Moving image capture is becoming a common feature on DSLRs, but Canon has yet to introduce the continuous AF for video that exists with Sony and Nikon offerings, which is frustrating. This camera does add a jack plug socket for an external mic though, and there’s a snapshot mode that restricts the length of time you can shoot individual clips for. This may sound rather odd, but it’s a great way to make you think more about what you video and prevents long dreary clips being captured.
For the novice photographer, the EOS 600D has a wealth of useful tools to help you pick up the basics, or just point-and-press with some intelligent internal systems doing the hard work for you. If you are familiar with the green auto mode found on some Canon DSLRs, Auto+ has replaced this on the 600D. This is a more advanced system that can cleverly recognise individual elements like skin tones, the sky and assess white balance. Using this information, the camera can automatically set the optimum camera settings for almost any given scene. If you would rather help the camera get a better idea of what you are shooting, you can use the auto picture style function that has been added to the creative auto modes (the little icons on the command dial for portrait, landscapes etc), to give a more intelligent result. Canon has also introduced a guide that can be viewed on the LCD to help users learn what settings do as you use them. Add to all that a Basic+ feature that takes you down the route of controlling aperture and shutter speed without having to understand the numbers, and the 600D is the perfect training aid. Also on the creative front, the 600D has built-in wireless flash control and there’s a set of post-capture creative filters that include toy camera, fisheye and grainy film effects.
Away from the creative stuff, the 600D is full of serious shooting tools too. The camera is blessed with the latest 14-bit DIGIC 4 processor and has a broad sensitivity range that spans from ISO 100 through to an expanded offering of ISO 12,800. The 600D is not the most rapid DSLR at 3.7fps, but it’s still pretty good for an entry-level model. The metering is very comprehensive, with the Canon 63-zone system being utilised to give accurate exposures, while for focusing there are nine selectable points.
Handling & performance
This camera has received a serious cosmetic makeover when compared to its predecessor. This new look is quite a notable departure, as the three-digit DSLR series had followed a similar form for a number of generations. The 600D is a lot more pleasing to hold, and actually feels a great deal better made. The camera is marginally chunkier as a result of the hinge mechanism that sits alongside the LCD screen. All the buttons are a great size, and we didn’t find any issues selecting the modes and setting the camera. The viewfinder gives 95% coverage and within the viewfinder you can see the nine focusing point indicators. These are shown as small dots that illuminate red when selected or activated. We found these rather hard to see, especially when compared to the larger squares used on the more advanced Canon models, which are a lot easier to use. We’re not a fan of having to manually focus for video capture, so the one-touch focus with the shutter button was nice, until the subject moves, in which case you need to refocus.
For still images, the focus is fast and accurate, even in servo mode. The creative tools are pretty self-explanatory and it takes little effort to get a well-exposed image. The built-in flash was very useful as a fill-in light and at GN13 (M/100ISO) it was quite useful for the odd party shot too. The general metering impressed us, as it handled some very tricky lighting well. The tonal range was very good, especially when it came to handling extreme bright and dark areas in the same shot. The 600D also managed to get some very natural skin tones and general colours weren’t oversaturated.
There’s not really a great deal wrong with this camera. We would like to see the continuous AF for the HD video, but from a purely photographic perspective the 600D does a superb job. The LCD screen is a great tool, thanks to the versatile hinge that allows you to get some alternative viewing angles. Exposures are accurate and, despite the AF point illuminators being hard to see, focusing is quick and sharp. We couldn’t resist a play with the creative filters, and for the less experienced user the 600D is a wonderful teaching aid.
- Street price: £345 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Effective resolution: 18MP
- Sensor type: 22.3x14.9 CMOS
- Crop factor: 1.6X
- Lens mount: EF-S
- Metering: 63-zone TTL
- ISO range: ISO 100-6400 (12,800 expanded)
- Shooting speed: (max.) 3.7fps
- Card type: SD/SDHC
- LCD size: 3in vari-angle
- Video: HD 1920x1080
- Live View: Yes
- Built-in stabilisation: No
- Weight: 570g
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the May 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.