Canon’s triple-digit range of advanced entry-level digital SLRs has come a long way since the 6.3-megapixel 300D exploded onto the market in 2003, ushering in the era of the sub-£1000 consumer DSLR. Since then, every new model introduced to the range has seen an increase in overall resolution, along with ever more advanced processing engines.
In many ways, the 600D is the first model in the series to buck this trend. While the latest model does undoubtedly add to the strengths of its predecessor with a number of hardware upgrades, new features and design tweaks, the core specification remains largely unchanged from that of the 550D it supersedes, but not altogether replaces.
Indeed, Canon has already confirmed that the 550D will remain in the line-up for the time being, essentially offering consumers the option of a stripped-down 600D for less money.
Looking more closely at those aforementioned specs, the 600D is built around an 18-megapixel, APS-C sized CMOS sensor and the same Canon DIGIC 4 processor as the 550D. Sensitivity remains pegged at a useful, if not class-leading, ISO 100-6400 with ISO 12,800 available in expanded mode.
The similarities between it and the 550D don’t end there, either. The 600D’s nine-point autofocus module and 63-zone metering system also remain unchanged from the 550D, as does the maximum continuous shooting rate of 3.7fps.
So, what’s new then? Well, the most obvious upgrade over the 550D is the addition of a high-resolution, tilt-and-swivel LCD monitor that extends 180 degrees out from the camera body and swivels 270 degrees on its hinge.
This flexible arrangement makes it especially useful for shooting from high or low angles, or to compose self-portraits with. And of course, you can choose to fold the screen back in towards the camera body for extra protection when it’s not in use.
While the 600D’s standard aspect ratio when through the viewfinder remains at 3:2, using the camera in live view mode now offers a choice of alternative aspects – 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1 – that can be used when recording either still images or movies. Again, this is something that the 550D didn’t offer.
Unlike its predecessor, the 600D also offers a number of Creative Filter Effects that can be applied to Raw and JPEG files post-capture. Accessed via the Quick menu button while the camera is in playback mode, the effects include: Toy Camera, Soft Focus, Miniature, Grainy Black and White and Fish Eye. Within the same editing menu you’ll also find options to protect, rotate, rate and resize your images.
As might be expected the results obtained by these digital filters are a bit basic compared to what can be done using proper image-editing software. We’d also have to say that some competitor models (we’re thinking primarily of the Pentax K-r here) offer a greater range of digital filter options, along with more scope to fine-tune your settings. Nonetheless, they're a useful addition for if you're caught short without your normal editing software to hand.
One other notable new feature, inherited from the 7D and 60D but absent on the 550D, is the ability to use the pop-up flash as a wireless commander unit to trigger off-camera flashguns with. This opens up all kinds of creative fun for off-camera lighting enthusiasts and is good to see in an advanced entry-level model like this.