Canon EOS 600D review
A superb digital camera, but a botched attempt to appeal to HD video buffs mars the 600D’s appeal
Review Date: 3 May 2011
Reviewed By: Barry Collins
Price when reviewed: £567 (£680 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
With even entry-level DSLRs boasting enough megapixels for poster-sized prints, camera manufacturers are being forced to find new ways to tempt upgraders. HD video recording is the current teaser.
The EOS 500D first introduced 1080p video recording to the Canon DSLR stable, but the standout new feature of the 600D is a 3in camcorder-style flip-out screen. It’s bright enough to see what you're shooting even in the fiercest of sunlight, and you can overlay a grid on the screen to help you keep the horizons perfectly level on those sun-drenched beaches.
However, the 600D is far from the perfect camcorder. Although the Full HD footage (recorded at 24fps) is perfectly sharp and well exposed to start with, there's no continuous autofocus. Instead, you have to semi-depress the shutter button to force the camera to refocus, or test your skills with manual controls.
Using the autofocus creates an awkward, blurry second or two as the camera struggles to lock on to the subject, but that's not the worst of its crimes. The integrated microphone picks up the screeching whine of the autofocus motor, making it sound like your idyllic beach scene is under attack by a flock of pterodactyls.
An external microphone (connected to the 600D’s 3.5mm microphone input) or a willingness to substitute the soundtrack are a must for anyone relying on autofocus.
The video features disappoint, but the 600D really begins to shine in conventional camera mode. The flip-out screen isn’t only a bonus for videographers: it encourages photographers to experiment with creative angles too, allowing you to accurately compose a shot with the camera held above your head amongst the crowd at a wedding, for example, or down at ground level.
For those who prefer to leave the creativity to the camera, there's a new Scene Intelligent Auto mode that hands full control of the autofocus points, exposure, flash and other settings to the camera. It did a remarkably good job in our tests, automatically adjusting focus with a group of children running towards the camera, and adeptly balancing exposures in shots containing both sun and shade.
Indoor shots were sometimes a half-stop under-exposed in this fully automatic mode, but it was nothing that couldn't be corrected in photo-editing software, especially as the 600D allows you to shoot in RAW, even in automatic mode.
It's NOT a camcorder, let's get that straight. Its video recording ability is quite superb but, as with all DSLRs, it's aimed at the more advanced user who understands that manual control of all settings, and the fact that continuous autofocus isn't part of the deal, is the way in which it's meant to be used.
People who want a standard camcorder wouldn't buy this amazing camera. Horses for courses.
The review could have done with a little more balance.
By Bureaunet on 3 May 2011
Thanks for your comment. I agree, it's not a camcorder, but Canon is making much of its video-shooting capability, and so we are compelled to review it on that basis.
I disagree that "it's aimed at the more advanced user who understands the manual control of all settings". With new features such as the Scene Intelligent Auto mode and on-camera Creative Filters, Canon is clearly pitching this device towards the novice, and thus the novice user might reasonably expect features such as pervasive autofocus, which appear on other DSLRs.
As I wrote in my conclusion, the 600D is a terrific digital camera - but the video side (and consequently the price) lets it down.
By Barry_Collins on 3 May 2011
Horse for courses
Personally I wish Canon et al would stop adding video capabilities to their DSLRs, a reduced price is far more likely to tempt me to switch cameras than video.
By cartmellbrowne on 3 May 2011
I own a 7d which is very much a pro camera... It also has Creative modes and filters on board! That doesn't make it a consumer camera!
However, generally speaking- Canon works like this:
xxxd is consumer
xxd is prosumer
xd is professional
The 600d is basically half of what the 60d is- they have incredibly similar features but the 600d has slower continuous shooting speeds, Less cross type focus points and half the fastest shutter speed than the 60d (1/4000 vs 1/8000)
To be honest, unless you want the articulating screen, go for the 550d and spend your £100 saving on a 50mm 1.8 lens!
Oh an pervasive autofocus? Whats that- I think you mean continuous autofocus in video mode. I agree that Nikon are ahead in that section- however, and here is the big however there is a reason that Canon have almost a 50% marketshare of Nikons 30%
The most important part of a camera system is the glass you put infront of it. And canon make high quality lenses for cheaper. The 50mm 1.8 is a prime (excuse the pun) example of this at about £80 whereas the equivalent Nikkor is £150
Oh- and I know this has become an absolute rant... but I think the time has come to start reviewing camera's here at PC Pro with a known good lens... for all the major manufacturers. Your reviews will be instantly skewed if you receive a bad copy of a kit lens (which happens because they are extremely cheap) and as a result poor image quality.
Hope this helps
By willdamien on 3 May 2011
I looked at the 600D, but the hinged display and the extra creative modes weren't enough to swing me to get the latest and greatest. I saved about a third of the price buying a 550D, plus an 18-250mm zoom lens.
The update from 500 to 550 was enough to make you look at the 550D's higher price as justified, but in this case, the extras on the 600D just didn't warrant the extra money, for me at least.
I tried the Nikon 5100D as well, but ended up with the Canon, I found the menu more intuitive and the controls I used most were at my fingertips, whilst things like ISO were buried deep in the menu on the Nikon.
I think at the end of the day, for the hobbyist, the difference between the Canon and Nikon range is down to which one feels better in the hand, which has the better controls and menu layout for the way you work.
By big_D on 4 May 2011
Thanks for the feedback.
I did in fact test the 600D with a variety of lenses, including the 50mm prime lens you mention. The picture of the horse grazing in the review, meanwhile, was taken with Canon's EF75-300mm lens. So we do test with a range of optics.
That said, we obviously have to test the camera primarily with the supplied stock lens, as that's the lens that the vast majority of buyers will use - at least initially.
By Barry_Collins on 4 May 2011
To be fair to Canon...
The noise you recoded and the slow autofocus hunt is because (I assume) you were using the kit lens. A better lens with a USM motor will snap into focus really quickly, and silently too.
I've got a 60D here, and if you shove Canon's excellent 17-55mm lens on it (not to be confused with the 18-55 or 17-85!) it becomes really good for video work. Same with most of the recent L series lenses, although they are probably out of the price range for anyone buying a consumer dSLR.
By PaulOckenden on 4 May 2011
Paul, I also have the 17-55 lens- Its an L lens in disguise with the two Super UD coated elements in it and low dispersion glass- pure quality- a bit of a dust monster if you don't put a filter on it. However even with the superior autofocus the IS will still create some noise as it balances when you hit the release.
Barry- I'm glad that you do test with a variety of lenses- it makes complete sense! But invest in something of red ring quality aswell- the EFS 17-55 (about £700) or the 17-40 F4L (about £500) and most definately the 70-200 F4L (also about £500)... One of these types of lenses will give you a very different colour set to the standard EF lenses.
By willdamien on 4 May 2011
To be fair, I actually see a swivel screen as quite a boon, even just for normal photography. I used to have swivel screens on my old Nikon non-SLR cameras, and it came in very useful for taking shots of near-overhead things.
I dislike the inclusion of video on normal cameras to be honest. It is always too tempting to just take a bit of video - and at the end of the day, it is just a waste of storage space in most instances.
I currently have a 450D - and I think my next will be a 7D.
By sexyjw on 5 May 2011
I still have the 400D and Canon MVX 35i camcorder, but I'm afraid this upgrade curve seems to be getting faster and more expensive every time. HD is just about the de facto standard now, its everywhere, and I'm afraid for this amateur the upgrading has come to a halt, I just cannot afford it any more.
By Inquisitive on 10 May 2011
Still using my old faithful an EOS20D with a 17-50 F2.8 Sigma Lens.The Body has Fantastic Build quality.It Produces superb photos.Has done for the last 6 years.Still don't see the need to upgrade.
By Jaberwocky on 30 May 2011
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