The main new feature of the 600D is, of course, the LCD swivel screen. Already seen and very much appreciated in Canon's 60D, this LCD flips out from one side of the camera and can then be swivelled into the position of your choice. It's also a logical addition to the brand's consumer cameras. The on-screen image is good quality with clear, sharp images (1,040,000 dots), excellent fluidity, wide viewing angles and good colour reproduction (Delta E 94 = 3.3) that's just a touch on the cold side (colour temperature approximately 7000 K). Naturally, the swivel screen comes in very handy in video mode or when using the camera on a tripod.
For the rest, the 600D is a very good camera. The build quality is much better than the 1100D and this SLR is also pleasant to hold and handle, notably thanks to the grip handle (which could be deeper) and its non-slip rubber coating. You'll find your way around the 600D in no time, and we like the fact that there are plenty of physical controls for fast access to the main settings, including ISO, white balance, AF mode and focus points, exposure correction and exposure save. There's not much missing on the 600D! A quick press on the Q (Quick) button allows you to quickly change (using the front wheel) other common settings such as shadow balance and image size. The menus are well laid out and a reasonably clear, but it's a shame there's no in-camera help or advice function to help inexperienced users get to grips with the huge range of settings.
Canon has included a customisable menu to which you can add your most frequently used settings. It's a good idea, but it'd be even better if some of the buttons or controls could be customised too. As it stands, you can only customise the SET button, but it would have been nice to be able to switch light metering to the DISP button on the top of the camera as this only serves to switch off the screen (the SET button could then be used to control the screen). Some users will also get tired of having to turn the exposure mode dial all the way round to get to the video mode, as there's no direct access button.
The optical viewfinder is nothing special. It's a bit too small and dark, but it does the job fine. Unfortunately there's no presence detector to automatically switch off the LCD when you bring the camera up to your eye.
The 600D autofocus behaves typically, in that although it's very fast in good light it slows down a fair bit in low light. That said, it's still perfectly acceptable. The camera starts up practically instantly and only the burst mode of 4 fps proved a little disappointing, as some competitors' models can shoot well over 5 fps (Pentax K-5).
Picture QualityThe 600D has the same 18-Megapixel CMOS sensor found in the 550D and 60D, as well as an identical image processing system (DIGIC 4). Picture quality with the 600D therefore holds no real surprises. In spite of its huge number of pixels (which means you can crop pictures without losing too much detail), noise is kept in check. Up to 800 ISO there's no visible granularity to the shots. Nitpickers will find a few purple blotches in black areas when viewing pictures at 100% size on a computer screen, but then that's not exactly something you'll do every day. A speckling of noise starts to show at 1600 ISO and increases with the ISO settings. At 3200 ISO, pictures are still suitable for use and at 6400 ISO shots can still be used for large-format prints without too much trouble (the resolution reduces the size of the granularity when printing). However, the highest sensitivity settings (12800 ISO) are best kept for exceptional circumstances only.
The new kit lens (18-55 mm IS II) is pretty good. It gives sharp results at almost every focal length, with just a very slight loss in quality in telephoto. The optical stabilisation is effective too. The only real problem is the visibly heavy distortion in wide-angle mode, which is really quite annoying and which should ideally be corrected by the camera's image processor. Unfortunately, the camera only takes care of vignetting for the moment.
VideoWith its swivel LCD screen, the Canon 600D should be a great camera for shooting video with. However, with its slow and noisy autofocus it's more suitable for experienced film-makers than the general public. It films 1080 HD video at 25/24 frames per second or 720 HD video at 50 frames per second. Picture quality is good, but it's let down by the mono sound. You're therefore best off putting the external microphone socket to use. The digital zoom is surprisingly good, zooming from 3x to 10x with no major loss in picture quality (resolution remains 1920 x 1080 pixels).
- Good picture quality
- High-quality swivel LCD screen
- Fully functional Live View viewfinder (image preview and settings)
- Good 18-55 mm IS II kit lens supplied
- Good software package included / Excellent battery life
- Optical viewfinder a bit narrow
- Autofocus in Live View and video too slow for use out and about
- Noisy shutter release
- No video mode button / No presence detection to switch off the LCD
- More custom controls would be nice
The Canon EOS 600D is a logical, if not strictly necessary, update of the 550D. It's not a camera that'll go down in history but it's a decent SLR that takes good pictures and has plenty of settings.