Life Gets Easier – Canon EOS 600D
Starting with a modest 6-megapixel EOS 300D in late 2003, Canon has gone a long way in becoming a market leader in D-SLRs.
Their current push is towards higher megapixel models like the EOS 550D, 60D, 7D, 1Ds Mark III, and 5D Mark II. Joining the ranks is the new 18-megapixel APS-C size sensor model, the Canon EOS 600D. Smart Photography brings you India’s first review of this mid-range model. But don’t let the words ‘mid-range’ fool you; the camera is packed with features you’ll love!
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
Though designed as a mid-range model, the EOS 600D is born tough. The body is made of a stainless steel chassis and glass-fiber reinforced polycarbonate. It sports a deeper hand grip, making it very comfortable to hold. The viewfinder sports a penta-mirror arrangement similar to the 550D, rather than penta-prism..
The EOS 600D is a 18-megapixel digital SLR from the Canon stable. It’s built on the DIGIC 4 image processor and sports an APS-C size (22.3 x 14.9 mm) CMOS sensor. I am not sure whether to slot the EOS 600D as an improved 550D or scaled-down 60D! Like the 60D, but unlike the 550D, the lightweight 600D has an articulated LCD screen that makes shooting at awkward angles (very low-angle / high-angle) much more comfortable. And of course, Live View shooting, which is now a standard on all Canon D-SLRs, is available. The 600D further adds some features found on the 60D.
The smaller APS-C sensor means that the lenses will have a 1.6x field of view crop factor. The camera can use EF as well as EF-S lenses. To combat dust, the 600D offers 3 methods: (i) An anti-static coating on the sensor surfaces prevents/reduces the build up of static electricity which causes dust to be pulled towards the sensor surface (ii) Vibrating low-pass filter during start-up, which drops down any dust (onto a sticky pad at the bottom) that may have clung to the sensor (iii) using the provided Digital Photo Professional software (the camera maps the dust; the software clones it out).
The Mode Dial is divided into two zones: Basic Zone (for beginners and those who do not want to get in to technicalities) and Creative Zones (for advanced users). In the Basic Zone, you just point-and-shoot – the camera takes over. And so that you do not make a hash of it, certain settings cannot be changed in the fully automatic modes.
Let’s have a further look at the Basic Zone.
Scene Intelligent Auto: In this fully automatic mode, the camera analysis the scene in front of you and sets the optimal settings for a perfect picture. What’s more, even if the subject is moving, the AF will follow the subject.
Flash off: In low light, the flash may be auto activated. This may not be permitted in some situations or may not be desired, for example, when trying to capture low-light ambiance. This mode, as the name suggests, will force the flash to stay off.
Creative Auto Shooting: This mode is somewhat like the Scene Intelligent Auto mode but improves on it by letting the user have control over the depth of field, drive mode, and flash firing.
Portraits: Use this setting to make the skin tones and hair look softer, and control DOF.
Landscape: Automatically sets a narrow aperture for greater DOF. Also saturates blues and greens for a saturated color landscape.
Close-ups: The camera selects a wider aperture to control DOF.
Sports: This setting automatically sets the Drive to Continuous for a maximum of 3.7 frames per second. AF will be set to Continuous too.
Night Portraits: For a balanced exposure (at night) between the subject and the background, use this setting. The built-in flash will fire automatically if so required to illuminate the foreground subject.
The EOS 600D provides four metering modes: Evaluative (all round metering for most subjects, including portraits and backlit subjects); Partial metering (effective when the background is brighter than the subject); Spot metering (for metering a specific area of the subject); and Center-weighted average metering (scene brightness is measured at the center of the focusing screen and then averaged for the entire screen). Exposures can be compensated up to +/- 5 stops in 0.3 stop increments. Auto Exposure Bracketing is possible up to +/-2 stops in 0.3 stop increments.
A feature that we very much appreciated was the ‘Shoot by Ambience’ that allows you to create the ambience (mood or the environment) you prefer. (Note that this will not work when using the Scene Intelligence Auto and Flash off in the Basic Zone modes). In the Live View mode, you can see the ambience changing as you change the settings. The settings are: Standard, Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense, Cool, Brighter, Darker, and Monochrome.
Another quite similar feature is the Shoot by Lighting or Scene Type, that includes Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, and Sunset. So if you are photographing a sunset for example, just select Sunset from the Lighting or Scene sub-menu in the Basic Zone mode. Of course, such settings may seem frivolous to the advanced user, but remember, a beginner needs all the help he can get.
The Creative Zone offers Program (with Program Shift), Av (Aperture value; same as Aperture Priority), Tv (Time value;
same as Shutter Priority), and Manual exposure modes.
Ten image recording qualities are available: High quality (Large file, 2 settings), Medium quality (Medium size file, 2 settings), Low quality (Small file, 4 settings), RAW, and RAW+High quality Large. ISO sensitivity range available on the 600D is from ISO 100-6400 but when in Basic Zone modes, ISO sensitivity is set automatically between ISO 100-3200. When in Creative Zone modes, the ISO sensitivity can be set to Auto and the user can limit the maximum sensitivity between ISO 400-6400.
The 600D offers 9 Picture Styles (available on all current Canon D-SLRs): Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome and three User Defined settings. These are useful settings that let you optimize your images to your liking. Note that in Basic modes, you cannot opt for these settings. Picture Styles can be customized to suit the scene requirements by adjusting sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone.
White Balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent, Flash or Custom. As you change the WB settings, the 600D displays the approximate Kelvin temperature. Advanced users can fine-tune the WB to create the effect of using color conversion or color compensating filters.
Besides manual focus, three autofocus modes are available: One-shot AF (suitable for still subjects), AI Servo AF (suitable for moving subjects), and AI Focus AF (which automatically switches between One-shot AF and AI Servo AF, if the subject starts moving). Nine user-selectable AF points are available in Creative Zones but in Basic Zone, the camera normally focuses on the closest subject. If you wish to fire a burst, the 600D can shoot up to a maximum of about 3.7 frames per second. Images can be viewed on its 3-inch LCD having a resolution of 1.04 million dots.
Movies can be recorded in MOV format – Full HD (1920×1080), HD (1280×720) or Standard definition (640×480 pixels). Movies can be recorded for a maximum of 4GB, though you can resume the shooting by pressing the movie button again, which will create another file. A Remote Controller RC-6 (sold separately) is available for movie recordings. Canon suggests to use SD cards rated as Class 6 or higher to ensure that movies are recorded (and played back) properly.
A built-in flash (E-TTL II capability) having a Guide Number of 13 meters provides the needed illumination in low light situations. The maximum flash sync is 1/200 sec. Another very useful feature found on the 600D (this is also available on other models) is the Flash Exposure Lock. When using flash with off-centered subjects, the subjects may not be exposed correctly. When the FE Lock feature is enabled, you aim the spot-metering circle at the subject and press the FE Lock button. The flash fires a pre-flash and the required flash output is stored in the camera’s memory. Now you can compose the shot and take the picture. Compatible dedicated external flashguns (Canon labels them Speedlites) can be attached to the 600D if greater output is needed. Flash output can be compensated by +/-2 EV in 0.3 or 0.5 EV steps. Flash exposures can be bracketed if an external flash is used. The 600D’s built-in flash can be used as a Master Unit for wireless flash photography with Canon Speedlites having a wireless slave feature that trigger external Speedlites.
Some other useful features of the Canon EOS 600D are Auto Lighting Optimizer (which automatically corrects brightness and contrast in JPEG images), Peripheral Illumination Correction (which offers correction for corner darkening for about 25 lenses; more can be added); White Balance Auto Bracketing, and Mirror Lock-up to reduce minute vibrations that rob us of critical sharpness that lenses are capable of.
The 600D, like its predecessors, is PictBridge compatible. It also offers direct printing with Canon’s Selphy, Bubble-Jet (with direct print function), and PIXMA printers that support PictBridge. The camera is powered by battery pack LP-E8. Accessory battery grip BG-E8 which uses AA/LR6 batteries, is available. The camera can also be operated via accessory adapter kit ACK-E8. The 600D’s body dimensions are 133.1 (w) x 99.5 (h) x 79.7mm (d) and weighs approximately 515g.
Compared to Canon’s earlier entry-level / mid-level camera bodies, the 600D is very comfortable to hold, mainly because of its improved (deeper) hand grip and the indentation at the thumb position. The buttons on the camera back feel very responsive. Using Live View is very easy. The user interface is easy to follow. The Menu is clearly defined but you still need to know what each function does; thankfully the EOS 600D comes with a printed Instruction Manual! And what’s more, some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) are also answered. Even better, page 165 of the instruction manual lists handy features of the 600D and the corresponding page numbers as to where you can read further about them. Good work Canon. I hope you will continue with this tradition in all your future models. Your users will surely thank you for this!
JPEGs shot using the supplied kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II) were sharp and with good colors. The sweet spot of the lens was around f/8 at all focal lengths except at the 18mm setting, when the sweet spot was between f/5.6 and f/8. F/22 and above showed prominent softness due to diffraction of light at narrow apertures. Autofocus was quite fast and latched on to the target without any fuss. The new Image Stabilizer worked well, allowing us greater number of acceptably sharp images at much slower shutter speeds. Canon’s exposure metering was generally on the dot.
Autofocusing when using Live View was slightly slower but that didn’t really matter since LV is basically for non-moving subjects. Barrel distortion was noticeable up to 56mm focal length (35mm format equivalent). Mustache distortion was seen at approximately 29mm focal length (35mm equivalent). Some corner darkening was also seen (but acceptable) in spite of the peripheral correction feature being enabled. White Balance performance in Sun and Flash were very good while that in Shade was acceptable. Flare was noticed in strong against-the-light shots, as also purple fringing. Considering that the lens used was an entry-level lens, we consider this a good performance.
The Canon EOS 600D’s digital Noise control was very good. At its native print size (11.52 x 17.28 inches at 300ppi), we could see no noise at any ISO sensitivity, but ISO 3200 and 6400 appeared very slightly ‘soft’. This could be because of the noise reduction being applied. At 25 percent screen size, again, noise control was very good at all ISO sensitivities, but ISO 3200 and 6400 appeared slightly ‘soft’. At 50 percent screen size, ISO 3200 and 6400 showed some noise but in all fairness, the noise was equivalent to the grain seen on ISO 100 films.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Canon EOS 600D is available at an MRP of Rs.50,990 inclusive of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens. (Also included in the package are 3 very nice learning booklets from Canon: Great Photography IS Easy, Do More with Macro, and Flash Classroom). At this price and performance, and with very useful features, we say that it is good value for money.
+ Very good image quality
+ Vari-angle LCD
+ User friendly
– 4-way controller rather small
Design and Build Quality 16/20
Key Features 18/20
Performance Autofocus 4/5
Noise Control 4/5
Extra Features 4/5
Value for Money 8/10
Grand Total 83/100
Without a shadow of doubt, the Canon EOS 600D, with its easy-to-use features and simple user interface, makes life easier for newbies. Combine that with a great price, and you have a winner in your hands. Best Buy!