When Canon released the 550D we thought there was little more the company could do to improve it, apart from increasing the size of the viewfinder and giving photographers selectable RAW sizes. The 600D is almost a carbon copy of the earlier award-winning camera with the addition of a flip-out LCD screen, wireless flash control and creative filters. But, as we'll see, these similarities actually make for a better camera as a result.
Design and features
Shaped in the same vein as all other baby Canon SLRs that have come before, the 600D sits comfortably in the hand with all main controls within easy reach. The button configuration hasn't really changed at all from the 550D, with the same four-way directional pad, playback and quick function access buttons there as well as the dual-purpose Live View/record button. The only real difference is the display button which has migrated just above the mode dial, replacing the sensor that flicked the LCD display on and off underneath the viewfinder.
Click through for images taken on the 600D. (Credit: CBSi)
Elsewhere, the 600D also gets an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor and the Digic 4 image processor, the same as the 550D. Full HD video recording at 30, 25 and 24fps is almost Canon standard now, and the 600D also comes with video snapshot mode, which borrows elements from the company's camcorder range. It lets photographers take a small snippet of footage (two/four/eight seconds) and piece together the clips in a montage with background music if desired.
Click through for a complete photo gallery of the 1100D and 600D. (Credit: CBSi)
The 600D is simple enough for beginners to use with the inclusion of scene intelligent auto, which determines the best settings for focus, brightness, flash and colour tone according to the shooting situations. This is on top of the regular Creative auto mode on recent Canon SLRs that helps newbies get to grips with adjusting settings like background blur and colour mode. Of course, there's the standard portrait, landscape, macro and sports modes on the dial too.
Like the 60D, the 600D also has creative filters that apply different effects to images after shooting, including grainy black-and-white, toy camera and fish-eye.
From top: black-and-white, fish-eye, toy camera, miniature.
Where the 600D really starts to leap ahead of other competing SLRs is in its video implementation. While the 550D provided full manual controls for videographers, the 600D couples this with an articulating LCD screen at 1.04 million dots and the inclusion of what Canon is calling "digital zoom". Rather than mounting an extensive telephoto lens on the front of the camera, or if you're stuck in situations where you are unable to use a longer lens, you can turn on the digital zoom, which provides an extra 3-10x equivalent length. It samples the centre portion of what the image sensor sees and uses that to crop in on the image. This is possible as the full resolution of the 18-megapixel sensor exceeds the dimensions of full HD so the camera can crop in to the centre portion at 1920x1080 pixels. A full assessment of this feature can be found further down in this review.
Connectivity is similar to the 550D with an external microphone input (3.5mm), mini-HDMI, remote control and an AV/Digital out port. The 600D is slightly heavier than the 550D, by about 50 grams.
|Nikon D5100||Canon EOS 600D||Nikon D7000|
|16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS||18-megapixel APS-C CMOS||16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3.0-inch, 921,000-dot articulating LCD screen||3.0-inch, 1,04K-dot articulating LCD screen||3.0-inch, 921,000-dot fixed LCD screen|
|Full HD video (1080p, 24/25fps)||Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps)||Full HD video (1080p, 24/25fps)|
|No wireless flash control||Wireless flash control||Wireless flash control|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Canon 600D0.20.40.70.1
- Nikon D70000.30.20.30.1
- Canon 60D0.30.40.40.1
- Canon 550D0.30.60.60.2
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Nikon D70006
- Canon 60D5.3
- Canon 600D3.7
- Canon 550D3.4
We tested the 600D primarily with the kit 18-135mm lens but it also comes in a range of other kit configurations including a more standard 18-55mm.
As the sensor and image processor of the 550D and 600D is identical, image quality is exactly the same. What this means to photographers who haven't experienced the 550D is excellent colour rendition and noise control at high ISO levels.
Dynamic range is very good, though there can be some highlight clipping in contrasty situations when using automatic exposures. JPEG processing is very good through most ISO levels. ISO 3200 and 6400 (the highest of the native ISO range) produce acceptable levels of noise for reduced or web resolution use. Colour noise at full magnification is quite pronounced though.RAW vs. JPEG comparison
A comparison of the RAW and JPEG files produced by the 600D, 100 per cent crop inset at ISO 6400.
Wireless flash control is an excellent addition to this camera, which lets the 600D control a number of external flashes. At the time the 600D was launched, Canon also introduced two lower-end speedlights, the 270EX II and 320 EX, though the feature also works with the existing 430 EX and 580 EX II flashes.
To activate it, turn the mode dial into one of the PASM options and press the Q button until the wireless flash control setting is selected. You can set the option to easy wireless shooting or custom shooting. A full video tutorial on how to use this feature will follow this review soon.Video quality
Video quality, as with the 550D, is excellent. It's simply the best you can get on any SLR in this particular price bracket. Colour rendition is superb and the video image is smooth. Even the internal microphone seems to produce better audio than on the 550D. The 600D also gets manual audio levels (though still no method to monitor the audio before recording apart from referring to the visual meter).
The digital zoom feature is actually really useful for obtaining just that little bit of extra focal length when filming video. At 3x zoom the image is clear, as it's sampling the true 1080p resolution of the sensor. When zooming in any further, you can see a degradation in quality which is brought about by the interpolation. There's some artefacts present, particularly at the furthest extent of the zoom. See our video below for an example of the digital zoom in action. Note: these sample videos were shot on the 600D with the 10-22mm EF-S lens.
Exposure: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/200, f/9, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/30, f/5.6, ISO 1600
When we first saw the specifications of the 600D we were underwhelmed by the overall similarities to the 550D, which snagged an Editors' Choice award. But, when we put the 600D through its paces, we found these extra features like wireless flash control and an articulating screen to be excellent additions to an already-great formula.
This is a superb example of a consumer-level digital SLR that gets its video implementation right first time. We're sure that all users, regardless of skill level or interest in videography or stills photography, will appreciate it.