Canon EOS 600D review – first impressions

The new Canon EOS 600D should appeal as much to the advanced enthusiast as to the beginner that Canon is pitching it to. We get our hands on pre-production model of the Canon 600D to review its features, looks and build…

Canon EOS 600D reviewCanon EOS 600D body

The Canon EOS 600D (Rebel T3i), which sits at the head of the traditionally enthusiast class of Canon?s DSLR range, has been designed with multiple automatic functions, as well as the semi-automatic A,S,P modes and fully manual operation, to make compact camera users feel more at home.

Despite the financial hardships of the planet, interchangeable lens cameras seem to be continuing to sell well and camera manufacturers are keen to expand their markets. It seems the only free space is at the entry level, which is why we are seeing so many cameras that proclaim they are easy to use.

Canon has provided ?easy-to-use? in its entry class for some time, arguably since the Canon EOS 300D, but now the company is concentrating on making cameras further up the line simple for new-comers to get to grips with.

Canon EOS 600D bodyCanon EOS 600D body

Canon EOS 600D features

What was ?green square? mode has, in the Canon EOS 600D, become Scene Intelligent Auto ? a mode that analyses the brightness and colours of what it is looking at to determine what the subject and setting is, and which then enhances colours, white balance and exposure accordingly.

While most manufacturers will link this kind of analysis to a collection of fixed landscape, portrait, sunset etc modes, David Parry, the UK?s EOS product manager tells us that Canon says the range of combinations the Canon EOS 600D uses is infinite. In essence, he says, if the camera identifies a blue sky it will enhance it, as it will saturate the green of the grass when it is detected, it will soften the contrast and saturation of a portrait and so on.

When a person is detected in a landscape scene the camera can reduce the contrast and saturation of the person while enhancing the saturation of the scene in which that person is based. So the camera can identify different elements of a single frame and treat each with different processing. Picture Styles and Basic + menu, which allows the user to make creative adjustments without having to understand technical terms or photographic concepts.

Canon EOS 600D Scene Intelligent Auto mode Canon EOS 600D Scene Intelligent Auto mode

The idea is that advanced looking results can be achieved with little input from the user. Each of the settings the camera offers is accompanied by a feature guide that explains, in a sentence or two, what that setting does, again as a welcome note to those new to these things. This is the first EOS Camera to feature such a guide.

Canon EOS 600D aperture priority modeCanon EOS 600D aperture priority mode

To those that learnt their craft the hard way, by understanding the principles of apertures, film types and printing, this might all sound like the work of the devil, but the fact is a great many users like to make the most of even a DSLR?s ability to work out the hard bits, while they concentrate on getting the subject in the frame.

Whether you consider this dumbing-down or making the joys of DSLR photography more accessible to new comers, and thus more encouraging, is up to you. I?m inclined to welcome anything that brings people into photography, in the hope they once in they will begin to investigate the more manual functions the camera provides.

See video of Canon’s David Parry discussing the new Canon EOS 600D and Canon EOS 1100D:


Canon EOS 600D review advanced features

Advanced features

Beyond the beginner?s mode the Canon EOS 600D offers exactly what you would expect from a mid-to-high end enthusiasts camera. It has the same APS-C sensor as the top-end 7D and a very impressive number of pixels. All of the principle specifications have taken a step up from the model which has been replaced ? the EOS 500D. We now have a wider ISO range, a slightly greater frame rate, full HD 1080p video and the 3in LCD screen now features 1,040k dot resolution and comes mounted on a hinge for vari-angle viewing.

From my own point of view one of the more exciting improvements comes with the built-in wireless flash system. Canon did away with the need for a hotshoe-mounted IR trigger some time ago, and now we have wireless capability streaming down the range into more popular models. A new aspect of this system is what Canon calls ?Easy Wireless? which makes using wireless flash dead simple.

The mode is activated in the menu and the camera automatically connects to any flashes nearby that are in wireless mode. Channels are automatically set to ?1?, and the camera controls everything remotely and automatically. It makes creative flash very straight forward. As an alternative, manual control of group ratios is also available for those of a more advanced nature, and for those who grow out of the ?easy wireless? set-up. Connected to the 320EX and 270 EX II flash units the pre-production Canon 600D I was using worked very well and with little user input.

Of course cameras are getting better and better all the time and more and more advanced functions move down the chain to enhance of appeal of more entry-level models, but it seems to me that the Canon EOS 600D offers a massive amount in a very easy to access package for a more than reasonable price.

Canon describes this camera as entry level, but I suspect that is more to appeal to the new-comer than as a true mark of what the product is. From a specification point of view there is little missing that an advanced amateur might want, but of course we have yet to see what sort of image quality it produces. David Parry says we should expect quality on a par with that which is produced by the EOS 550D, but we?ll wait and see how the jpegs are processed and how the low pass filter and noise reduction works for ourselves.

Canon EOS 600D review looks and build

Looks and build

It is easy to forget how small and light the cameras of the triple digit EOS series are, and when picking up the camera after reading the specification it is surprising that so much can be crammed into such a tight space. I like the new satin finish of the shell very much, and the grip is comfortable to hold. The viewfinder is somewhat small, but that pales into insignificance once the shutter button is half pressed and the speed of the AF reveals itself. My experience with the pre-production camera was somewhat limited, but in the time I was impressed with the AF and the auto-white balance in mixed lighting. The vari-angle screen seems very solidly put together, with a strong hinge and a good protective frame about its edges. The screen provides a good clear impression of what you are going to shoot in Live View mode, and a detailed view of what you have just shot. The new resolution also allows a crisp and easy-to-read menu system.

It is difficult to form a full idea of a camera?s characteristics in just a couple of hours, but my first impressions of the Canon 600D are very good. Canon wants to promote it as a beginner?s camera, but there is no reason the AP reader need to take any notice of that. What the company has produced is a fitting upgrade of the EOS 500, and a camera that will suit the enthusiast photographer. On paper it offers everything needed, and with the upgraded features combined with the new it should prove to be a very flexible and creative beast indeed.

Canon EOS 600D news story here

Canon EOS 600D full specification here