• Price: £603.23 inc VAT

  • Company: Canon

  • Pros: Excellent sensor and great high-ISO quality, articulating LCD screen is bright and detailed, some improvements over the EOS 550D

  • Cons: Some menu options hard to find, layout of controls could be better

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

Updates to Canon’s popular range of consumer-level digital SLRs always make waves, and the new EOS 600D is no exception. Slotting in at the top end of Canon’s entry-level line-up, it ‘makes capturing exciting, fun and creative images easier than ever’, the company brags. Is it another great leap forward?

Boasting an 18-megapixel sensor and 1080p video capture, the EOS 600D is small and light for a digital SLR. It’s a great size if you have smaller hands, but if you don’t you may find your little finger overhanging the camera’s grip.

Like most entry-level digital SLRs, the EOS 600D has a single control dial, whereas the midrange EOS 60D and Nikon’s D7000 have two. This means that if you’re shooting with the EOS 600D in Manual or Program mode, you’ll need to hold down the ‘Av’ button to change the aperture – which slows down changing settings. You may not need to fuss over the settings as much as you think, though, as we found that the camera’s automatic modes do an excellent job.

All mode cons

It’s also easy to choose between the various picture modes. Switching from Monochrome to Vivid to Landscape while previewing with Live View nicely demonstrates the effects of each mode on sharpness, contrast and colour saturation, helping you decide what would work best.

This low-angle shot was taken using the EOS 600D’s fold-out screen

Unfortunately, the controls aren’t very logically laid out, so they can be hard to comprehend at first glance. We think a more traditional, grid-based layout would be more intuitive. Similarly, the menu system is a bit disappointing. Canon’s menus pack a lot of options on to each screen, which is great for power users – but the less experienced may fail to get to grips with all the options.

One excellent upgrade this camera has over its predecessor, the EOS 550D, is the three-inch fold-out LCD screen. Identical to the one on the EOS 60D, it offers extremely wide viewing angles, great brightness and good colour saturation. It’s also invaluable for using the camera to capture video in Live View mode, since you can angle it upwards and cradle the camera at waist level. Last but not least, the screen is fantastically sturdy – even with the whole weight of the camera twisting against it, there was nary a bend or quiver in the screen’s hinge.

At its longest focal length, Canon’s 18-135mm IS lens does a good job of macro shots

The 18-megapixel sensor is the same as used in the EOS 60D and the pricey, professional-class EOS 7D, but less powerful image processing has brought the continuous shooting rate down to 3.7fps (which is still pretty impressive). The EOS 600D’s buffer is able to store around three dozen photos, so there’s little chance of having to wait for the camera to write data to the memory card before you can take another shot.

For an entry-level camera, the EOS 600D offers good high-ISO performance. Visible noise doesn’t begin to creep in until around ISO 3200, and even images taken at ISO 6400 don’t show chroma noise (coloured specks), luminance noise (dark and bright specks) or excessive smearing. Should you need it, there’s also an ISO 12800 option available via a custom setting.

This detailed image, free of grain or colour noise, was shot at ISO 2500

Movie capture is another highlight. Besides 1080p full HD video at 30, 25 or 24fps, the camera can capture 720p video at 60 or 50fps. With Auto-ISO enabled, we didn’t notice any significant noise when shooting with Canon’s 18-135mm IS lens; even videos shot in dim conditions contain a great deal of detail.

Talking of lenses, while all our tests were performed with the 18-135mm lens, the EOS 600D can be ordered with Canon’s equally new 18-55mm IS II kit lens.

In-camera effects

One other development is that the camera can apply a range of art filters to whatever you’ve shot – for example, a fisheye effect or soft focus. It’s a definite novelty, but it’s good to see Canon keeping up with competitors.

Only a few reservations prevent us wholeheartedly recommending the Canon EOS 600D. The buttons do take a while to get the hang of and the menu system can be labyrinthine at times. It’s an excellent choice for shooting in automatic mode though, and the photos and video it produces are impressive given that the EOS 600D still sits within the entry-level range in Canon’s digital SLR line-up.