Canon EOS 600D review

Is Full HD video capability and an articulated screen enough of an improvement on the 550D?

Canon EOS 600D Review
The Canon EOS 600D offers plenty of features for the beginner photographer to grow with the camera. But is it too similar to the EOS 550D to justify a new model?

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Canon 600d screen

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 camera creating such larger files; when opened, JPEGs measure in at over 50MB, while TIFF files converted from Raw 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 files aren't required.

Once the mode dial has been turned to the relevant position, video recording may 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 mode (dubbed 'Live' mode by Canon) has the advantage of a continuous 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 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 may 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 does sometimes make the odd error of judgement.

Something that does become apparent when examining the 600D's images is the effect of the iFCL metering system; 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 subject 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 images. During the test the camera coped perfectly well 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 button, can be done in little time).

Canon eos 600d rear controls

JPEGs are noticeably sharper than corresponding Raw files, but it's still possible to tease out a little more detail without degrading the rest of the 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 remove the coarsest red and green speckling from Raw files, and even 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 system, 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 such results are generally only 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 both Raw and JPEG images. The boost in contrast in the latter doesn't particularly help here, often making chromatic aberrations 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 a little.