Customer Review

114 of 128 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning stills, video will be a challenge to master, 1 April 2011
This review is from: Canon EOS 600D Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (Electronics)
Don't get rid of the camcorder yet.

I bought the 600d hoping that I could use it as an all-in-one camera on work and holiday trips, capturing video and stills of usable quality. I've been using the powershot range and had hoped that the 600d would provide, in functional terms, an enhanced version of this capability.

There's no doubt that the 600d is technically capable of doing that. The stills are far and away the best quality I have ever managed to get; portraits, landscape and action shots are stunningly good an the ease of use factor is very high. I'd hoped that it would be good for stills but it's so much better than good.

Getting high quality video is certainly technically possible, but getting usable video easily is more problematic. The first time I used it for video I get a shock when I played it back on the screen; the amount of grain visible was appalling; equivalent to the point-and-shoot powershot camera that we already have. And the old-fashioned mini dv HD camcorder had it beaten hands down for quality. It was caused by the 600d's automatic settings which had adjusted the F-stop and the ISO and the shutter speed to get the most usable footage with the available light. Not good. So that meant tinkering manually with the settings and learning - rather quicker than you might usually - all about the limitations of using DSLRs for video if you haven't first mastered the art of filming. It soon became apparent that one of the problems was using standard lenses - perfectly acceptable for stills but not always able to cope with reducing light for video.

So the next thing was to get was another lens - the 50mm f1.8 portrait lens from Canon, being the most affordable. That made things a whole lot better but still left a lot to be learned. A problem is though, that the bigger the lens in terms of f-stop, the more precise the focusing needs to be. So you'll need to master all kinds of handling techniques in order to get the best out of it, and it's not straightforward.

Focusing is difficult to accomplish easily. Using the shutter button to focus usually throws completely whatever focus you may have gotten to at that point, stops down the aperture briefly, so everything goes darker, and it makes the kind of noise that non-mortgage scale lenses usually do. The only way of avoiding this is to focus manually.

But you can't use the optical viewfinder and you have to rely on the live-view screen. It's good but still takes longer to set properly by hand and, if, like me, you have to wear glasses for close up work but don't need them for looking at your subject, this can be awkward, especially if you're not in control of the action in front of you or if you're on the move.

Interestingly the swing-out screen proves valuable in this respect; if you hold the body with the right hand and swing screen swung out tilted upwards resting on the left wrist leaves the camera very stable and the fingers of the left hand are free to deal with focusing and or zooming. You're looking down at the screen rather than in the general direction of the action, but it's producing reasonable results so far.

Then there's light sensitivity. The grain you get in lower light, especially indoors, can be quite a surprise compared to the sheer and undoubted quality you get outside in bright sunlight. If you want to use this for serious video, you'll need to invest in serious glass and think through in advance what you're going to film. You'll also need to learn much more about f-stops, shutter speeds, ISO settings and focus pulling than you might have expected. That said, if you want to do serious video you ought to do that anyway.

But when you get it right, and especially from a tripod, the quality is absolutely stunning. And the zoom facility in HD video takes the breath away. I shot the `super moon' in March , using a F8 500 mirror lens and zooming in x3 and x10 meant the moon more than filled the screen. Adjusting the shutter speed produced video with real detail and quality, spoiled only by the slight pollution haze in the air.

I'm now looking at other lens options for everyday use, including old Nikon, Pentax and Olympus lenses with adapters. I suspect - well I hope - that Canon will now be frantically developing dedicated lenses for DSLR video with quiet, fast autofocus, wide and controllable apertures and so on. But a word of warning; these need to be cheap; the 50mm F1.8 for around 90 is a good start; but what's needed is a 28-70 f1.8 with usm for under 300. I know, dream on. But the lens and focusing system of the Canon Legria camcorders is pretty good and adapting it for the EOS range couldn't, surely, be that problematic? I guess the next step might be future models having a lanc controller socket with an electronic focus wheel ... I know, I know, if you want that, buy a camcorder ...

In summary; for stills, the 600d is fantastic. Way, way better than the 300d that I've been using for couple of years. Versatile, crisp and clean handling and the colours and details are fantastic.

For video, you need to accept that you can't simply use the 600d as you would a compact cameras with video or a conventional HD camcorder. It doesn't do point-and-shoot that well and the standard lenses don't like low light much.

It's outstanding for video in terms of tripod work, set-piece filming and for any filming you'd want or need to use a specialist lens for. But it's not a point-and-shoot camcorder with SLR scale lenses and if this is what you want, there are souped-up hybrids in the range which might suit better. Or you could stick with an HD camcorder.

As for HD video on the 600d, you'll have to work at it to master its undoubted capabilities, and until you succeed, you'll have to live with the way it reveals your own limitations.
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Comments

Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Apr 2011 01:30:12 BDT
James Hayman says:
nice review, very helpful! i was wondering if you could link me to the kind of lens you mention would be better for video with these, i've had a look but can't really seem to find the one you mention?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2011 06:32:10 BDT
J. Jennings says:
The one I mention as using is the Canon EF1.8, which is around 90:

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens. It is a fixed focal length at 50mm (no zoom) and is mostly used for portrait photography. It's criticised on forums for being lightweight and having a flimsy feel to it; I haven't experienced problems with it on that score to date, and the light it gets is good.

I haven't tested the kit lens that comes with the 600d: I have an earlier 18-55 kit lens without the image stabiliser. I don't expect the IS makes that much difference; it's the amount of light that reaches the sensor that counts.

The other lens I mention - the 28-70 f1.8 for around 300 - is a mythical one; It's the specification of a lens I think Canon ought to be making for this kind of video filming with the EOS range. Canon haven't made it yet. (They're invited to be in touch and I'll gladly field test a prototype for them ... )

Oh: a word of warning: if you need to change lenses when doing HD filming it is vital that you switch out of video mode and make sure you're not in live view mode. If you pop the lens off without doing that, the actual sensor is open to the sky during the process and is not protected by the mirror. You don't really want that ... I found myself staring at the sensor whilst doing this at a child's party and the thought that a party popper going off behind me might have taken the whole camera out was salutory, to say the least ...

Posted on 4 Apr 2011 23:35:34 BDT
C. Street says:
I don't think this is a particularly helpful review at all actually. You've stared at the video feature for ages and barely taken a glance at the still photographic capability, for what is the cameras main purpose.

You might as well review a shovels capability to be used as a spider killer rather than as a digging implement.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Apr 2011 06:22:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Apr 2011 15:36:12 BDT
J. Jennings says:
That's a fair comment; I have majored on the video capability, but then this was the main reason I chose this model as opposed to the others. I had wanted to upscale from the powershot. I found no problems at all with the stills - they're fantastic - but the video has proved problematic.

In my defence, the review supports your view; adding HD video to a DSLR has not turned it into a versatile camcorder and I'd hoped to post something of a counterbalance to and clarification of the advertising and promotion material which has certainly allowed this impression free rein.

POSTSCRIPT: the specs for the new NIKON D5100 suggest that it's got continuous autofocus, which would, in my view, knock the 600d out of the running for HD video.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2011 20:25:35 BDT
A. Morley says:
cheers for all that, it's helped me, and reassured me that it's good for what i want.
i'm going to use it mainly for video but will invest in a decent 700+ lens and take time to master its many capabilities.

peace be

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2011 20:26:23 BDT
A. Morley says:
cheers for all that, it's helped me, and reassured me that it's good for what i want.
i'm going to use it mainly for video but will invest in a decent 700+ lens and take time to master its many capabilities.

peace be

Posted on 14 Apr 2011 09:28:53 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 14 Apr 2011 09:33:08 BDT]

Posted on 15 Apr 2011 00:06:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 Apr 2011 00:08:40 BDT
The Sony A33 or A55 are a better choice for 99% of people. Video autofocus in those cameras is very fast and accurate. Video autofocus in the Nikon D5100 isn't going to be as good. People who've seen it in the D5100 were not too impressed. It's still better than Canon's though.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jul 2011 16:53:59 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jul 2011 17:01:42 BDT
K Smith says:
Excellent review of the video limitations of this camera. As far as grain in concerned, I have shot full HD video with the 600D at ISO 400 and ISO 800 with no noticeable grain, although I did shoot some still photos at ISO 800 and they were completely ruined by grain. You can limit the auto ISO range to 400 maximum in the menu settings. The 50mm lens seems a little on the telephoto side to use with this crop sensor camera, being roughly equivalent to an 80mm lens on a full frame camera. I've just bought a 28mm f2.8 EF lens to use with video, although the 35mm f2.0 EF lens or 28mm f1.8 EF lens would be even better. I'd recommend using one of these fixed focal length lenses rather than a zoom lens because when you zoom while filming with the 600D the brightness level will fluctuate slightly, although this doesn't make the footage unuseable...

Posted on 21 Jul 2011 18:38:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jul 2011 18:39:05 BDT
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